As anyone who's watched the Pantera home videos knows, the Cowboys From Hell weren't just the kings of Southern power groove, but they were also master pranksters, always looking for a laugh at anyone's expense — but preferably the expense of one of their tour mates while onstage.
The new book Raising Hell: Backstage Tales From the Lives of Metal Legends, by rock author and longtime Revolver contributor Jon Wiederhorn, has chapters devoted to sex and drugs, vomiting, blasphemy, onstage and offstage injuries and, of course, pranks. Pantera looms large across this section, with everyone from band members Philip Anselmo, Rex Brown and the late Vinnie Paul sharing hilarious tales of mischief and mayhem, to their victims in other groups, such as White Zombie, Crowbar and Prong, recalling their experiences being the butt of the joke. We have the exclusive excerpt below.
Raising Hell, which features a forward from Exodus and Slayer guitarist Gary Holt, is out now through Diversion Books. Get your copy here.
We toured a bunch with Pantera over the years and everything with Dimebag [Darrell] was crazy. One time we were playing in St. Louis with Pantera at the beginning of the Far Beyond Driven tour and they had just taken off. This was right before they started playing arenas. We were at this really old theater and we were jamming. Normally, people pull stunts at the end of a tour. This was just some regular Tuesday evening gig. But that's the way it was with Pantera. They had this huge PA and monitoring system on tour with them that was really loud. We were onstage jamming and all of a sudden, I feel like something's come off the roof. These things were falling all over.
"Man, there's so much fuckin' low end in the mix the paint is literally coming off the ceiling," I thought.
I'm rocking out and getting into it. Then I glance off to my left and there's Dimebag with a fuckin' VHS video camera filming us. I thought that was peculiar, but I keep playing and then the ceiling really started flaking off.
"Damn, this place is getting ready to cave in," I thought without realizing what was really going on.
Pantera had gotten a bunch of plastic garbage bags full of little, bitty Styrofoam balls. And they got the guys up in the lighting rig to cut open the bags and pour these things on us. It got to the point where I couldn't play the guitar because the entire fretboard and neck and strings were covered. Every time our drummer would hit a drum Styrofoam would go flying everywhere.
We just ended up stopping the show and cracking up. "Oh, you got me again, motherfucker," I said. We played in Kansas City the next day and our crew had to get a dryvac and clean out all our instruments. This Styrofoam was everywhere. It was inside the guitar pickups, stuck under the strings. You can't believe how much of that shit there was.
Vinnie Paul Abbott
When we toured with White Zombie, both of us were blowing up at the same time and we had a lot of fun. We butted heads a few times with Rob, but that's kinda normal. They had this big devil's head and Dime would go up there and put black duct tape over one of its teeth so it had a black tooth. Shit like that would piss Rob off to no extent.
One night he got mad because somebody took his bagels out of his dressing room. So the next night we got a bunch of bagels and duct taped them to the sink in his dressing room. He didn't find that funny, either.
Pantera were constantly trying to entertain us. They played for the audience, but if you were in the wings watching they'd play to you the whole time, too. Sometimes Dime or Phil would point at me and then fall down and I'd stand there cracking up.
Phil was constantly streaking for no reason at all. We'd be in our dressing room ready to go onstage and he'd run in and streak around the room butt naked with a big grin on his face. He used to do this thing where he'd pull his dick around into, like, a coaster, and he'd put his beer on it and come into the wings and show everyone, "Hey, look how I'm balancing my beer." He would do that all the time during the show — anything to make us laugh.
Pantera, Down, Superjoint, Scour
At the end of the tour, we were playing our last song and everyone in White Zombie and Trouble came running out in bald caps with their shirts off and stupid shit written across their stomachs and these big dildos between their legs.
Rob Zombie came onstage in a fuckin' ape suit and [bassist] Sean [Yseult] was dressed up like Dimebag. She had a fuckin' fake beard and a cowboy hat and shorts. I guess that was their way of trying to get back at us.
It was almost like we were attempting to destroy each other's shows all the time. In St. Louis, those guys rigged a snow machine above the stage so it was snowing during our set. And at the same show, we had found life-sized cardboard cutouts of movie stars and we had them up above their backline so it looked like there was a giant puppet show going on during their whole set.
When we were in Tokyo with them, we brought a huge banquet table filled with food out in the middle of the stage and ate dinner while they were playing. It turned into a huge food fight. The promoter was furious and he said, "You have disgraced this stage."
We toured with Type O Negative when they were doing well. Pete Steele was a big muscular ladies' man at the time. I used to catch him in the middle of singing the most romantic bullshit, and I'd hit him in the head with asparagus.
And we had this big old rubber alligator that we'd throw at [guitarist] Kenny [Hickey] and trip him up with it. He'd grab that motherfucker and hum it back at us. This thing weighed about three pounds and was sharp as fuck.
We were playing Vegas, and at the end of the tour they got us back so bad. They gave kids in the audience rolls of toilet paper. So we started playing and the next thing we knew, mountains of toilet paper were flying all over us. It was getting wet and it felt like plaster. We were falling down and getting covered up in the shit. I think we made it through a song and a half. Poor people in Vegas.
Any of the pranks that we played in Prong weren't that good and when bands did shit to us we just got angry. When we were touring with Pantera in 1994, we got destroyed a bunch of times. We played this place called Johnnyland in Corpus Christi. It was an outdoor gig in this giant sandbox and Pantera rolled out barbecue equipment during our show and they would not leave. Dimebag had a chef's hat on and they were grilling hotdogs. Their whole crew was up there completely destroying our set. This wasn't even an end-of-tour prank. It was right in the middle of the tour.
And they continued doing shit like that. They would throw marbles out on the stage while we were playing. And we were just idiots anyhow so we could never do anything to top them, whether it was the band itself or any of their pranks.
Dime would prank the fuck out of everyone. He always had something up his sleeve that would make us laugh. And if he was down about something, we would pick him up. That's the way we were. We were a family. If somebody was down, well, either they deserved it and you would kick them even harder or you would bring them back up.
Excerpted from Raising Hell: Backstage Tales from the Lives of Metal Legends by Jon Wiederhorn. Copyright ©2020. Available from Diversion Books.