Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell has paid tribute to his late friend and peer, Vinnie Paul, who died last week at the age of 54. In a new interview published by Rolling Stone, the musician shared several stories spanning his thirty-three-year friendship with the late Pantera drummer and his equally legendary brother, guitarist Dimebag Darrell.
Cantrell begins by recalling the first time he met the Abbott brothers 33 years ago, back in 1985. The eventual grunge guitarist had just dropped out of college and was working in Texas, removing asbestos from houses in the Dallas and Houston area. "We got paid really well to do it because it's a shit job, but what we would do is we'd work all day, and then we'd go to clubs at night and check out bands," he recalls.
One of those bands just so happened to be Pantera.
"I loved their band," Cantrell gushed. "I was mesmerized by Darrell, and I loved how Vinnie played — I remember we talked a little bit after their show and we just hit it off. So, actually, I knew Vinnie and Dime longer than I've known the guys in my own band," he noted. "I didn't meet Layne [Staley] and Sean [Kinney] and Mike [Starr] until I was 21. I was 19 when I met Vinnie. That's a long time, man."
The two musicians drifted apart until the early Nineties, when they reconnected. Before long, they were inseparable: "We were brothers," he said. "I'd also see Vinnie and Dime when I was off the road. My dad is from southeast Oklahoma, and I'd always visit him for the holidays. It's easier to fly into Dallas than it is Oklahoma City, so every Thanksgiving, every Christmas, like clockwork, I'd roll in and hang out with Vinnie and Dime in Dallas before I headed to the ranch in Oklahoma. And then I'd hit 'em again on the way out!
"Even after Vinnie moved out to Vegas he'd come back to Dallas for the holidays and we'd get together. I'd go deer hunting with my dad, and we'd get a deer at Thanksgiving. By Christmas we'd be into sausage, and so my dad would always have me drop off some deer sausage at Vinnie's before hitting the airport."
Following a few Paul-related anecdotes (including that one time the drummer put cow horns on the hood of Cantrell's car — a prank truly befitting of a "Cowboy From Hell"), the Alice in Chains axeman capped off his remarks with a short eulogy.
"Vinnie was a guy who was extremely driven. A smart guy who could think on a lot of different levels – not just rockin' out, but also about business. I think early on he was probably the guy who handled a lot of that stuff. He was a smart cookie. And he was a true fan of rock & roll, like myself. That's why we both wanted to do it. We wanted to do what our heroes did, and do it well, at the top level you could do it at.
"And Vinnie did that. Pantera were a revolutionary band for metal, and he completely influenced a whole generation of drummers. The way he played, the way he sounded – he had a kind of industrial sound to his drum – nobody else was like him. And the motherfucker's meter was just spot on. I never heard him get off the groove or miss a beat, ever. He was a fucking machine," he concludes.
Earlier this week, Alice In Chains honored Paul with a dedicated performance of their song "Nutshell."
For more on Vinnie Paul and his legacy, head here.