Pantera's 'Vulgar Display of Power': The Epic Story Behind a Hostile Masterpiece | Revolver

Pantera's 'Vulgar Display of Power': The Epic Story Behind a Hostile Masterpiece

Inside the album that made Pantera legends and changed heavy music forever
pantera vulgar cover BRADSTREET, Tim Bradstreet
illustration by Tim Bradstreet

This feature was originally published in July 2012. 

On February 25th, 1992, the word "heavy" got a new definition. For that was the day that Texas metal upstarts Pantera dropped their second major-label album, third record with singer Phil Anselmo, and sixth release overall, Vulgar Display of Power, onto an unsuspecting world. The impact is still being felt 20 years later.

"They put out that album, which I consider one of the top 10 thrash albums of all time, in 1992, and at least six of the songs are as valid today as they were back then," enthuses Anthrax's Scott Ian, who counted Pantera's late, great guitarist, Dimebag Darrell, as the "sixth member" of his band due to his many guest solos. "They still hold up, and you still hear them every day, whether it's on the radio or at a concert before another band is playing. And how many times have you gone to see a band and they start jamming on 'Walk'?"

Black Label Society's Zakk Wylde agrees. "I used to goof with Dime, Vulgar is like with the Spinal Tap album, except instead of it being, 'You can't get none more black,' it's 'You can't get none more heavier.' It was just the most brutal thing. I remember hearing it and going, What the hell are these guys smoking?"

"That's a very, very important record," concurs Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford, who collaborated with Pantera the same year they released Vulgar, on the track, "Light Comes Out of Black" off the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie soundtrack. "The band suddenly shifted gears in a really dramatic way. Cowboys From Hell was a heavy record, but Vulgar was the defining record. That really was the Pantera that we all know and love so much today."

Pantera's own vocalist Phil Anselmo, bassist Rex Brown, and drummer Vinnie Paul agree. "When you slice it all up," Paul says, "Vulgar was the most cohesive and unified Pantera ever was." "The album was the absolute stripping away of all the bullshit and letting everything come out emotionally and going for the money riff right off the bat," Anselmo adds. "Vulgar Display of Power truly encapsulated the Pantera sound and that's where it absolutely came to fruition."

That sound has influenced almost every metal band to crank it up to 11 since, from Slipknot and Five Finger Death Punch to Lamb of God and Avenged Sevenfold, the last of whom have covered "Walk" many times over the years and even jammed on Vulgar's opening track, "Mouth for War" with Paul on drums at the 2011 Revolver Golden Gods award show. "Those guys are gods to us," says A7X vocalist M. Shadows of Pantera. "The first time I heard them, I couldn't believe how great this band was. The way Phil was singing with such intensity but also tone. It was unlike anything I had ever heard. Pantera will always be one of the greatest of all time in our book. Hands down."

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the greatest album by one of the greatest bands of all time, Vulgar Display of Power has been remastered and reissued with a bonus track, the previously unreleased "Piss," recorded during the Vulgar sessions.

"That riff is mine. I wrote the son of a bitch," Brown says of the song. "We were sitting around and I started tinkering around with something that was half-beat time. But we left the song off the album because we had too many other strong ones."

"It's got a cool little shuffle to it," Anselmo says. "When we decided not to use it, the main riff became the Sabbed-out breakdown riff of 'Use My Third Arm' [off the band's follow-up to Vulgar, 1994's Far Beyond Driven]. I'm still not sold on it, but it should be an interesting look back for anyone that's a Pantera fan and wants to hear everything."

Paul's a little more positive about the song: "That one, I remember, was about the sixth or seventh track we wrote for the record. It was a little different than the rest of the tracks and that's mainly the reason it didn't make it on there," he says. "We used one of the riffs in the middle of 'Strength Beyond Strength' [off Far Beyond Driven]. But on its own, it's a really cool song. It's got a trademark Pantera groove, but it just didn't fit. And honestly, that's the only complete Pantera song that never made it on a record. We always believed in quality instead of quantity."

In our own celebration of 20 years of Vulgar Display of Power, Revolver talked in depth with Anselmo, Paul, Brown, producer Terry Date, Dimebag Darrell's longtime girlfriend Rita Haney, his father Jerry Abbott, and his friend Zakk Wylde and many others to discover just how Pantera made an album of such historic quality.


VINNIE PAUL On Cowboys, we got the opportunity to tour with some really kickass bands, including Judas Priest, Exodus, Sepultura, Suicidal Tendencies, and Prong. And that really drove us to another level. We saw our music kicking ass and I think that really catapulted us into what we did with Vulgar.

PHIL ANSELMO On that Cowboys tour, every night for us was a challenge. We just knew we needed a heavier attack. Plus, I had just had it with the norm in all facets of heavy music. I had thrown myself into the underground so much and respected it so much and really wanted to bring that across.

PAUL When we got off the road for Cowboys, we literally sat at home for two weeks at the most, and then we said, "C'mon guys, let's go do this [next album]," because we were so fired up. Our mentality was, "Give us the ball and well get a touchdown."

REX BROWN Around that time, Metallica came out with the "Black Album." We listened to it and went, "Oh, no!" I heard the first single and it didn't sound like Metallica at all. We just went, "Oh, Jesus Christ. Man, we gotta do something heavier than that. We gotta blow some people's minds!" Now I listen to the "Black Album" and I think it's fuckin' great, but back then we were young, dumb, and full of cum, and we went, "Fuck that, let's make a masterpiece!" In terms of heaviness, it seemed to us like the "Black Album" created a big, huge fucking gap to fill.

PAUL Although it was a great record, Metallica had moved away from being a total metal band. I love those guys, but I remember thinking, Wow, we can step up to the plate and move up with the likes of Megadeth and Anthrax and these bands we eventually toured with.

ANSELMO We wrote everything for Cowboys From Hell prior to the recording except for one song, which came together directly in the studio, "Primal Concrete Sledge." You can hear, right then and there, that bridge. "Primal Concrete Sledge" could easily have been on Vulgar Display of Power and paved the way for where we wanted to go.

BROWN We went right into Pantego [Sound] studios, which was the place owned by Vinnie and Dime's Dad, maybe a month after doing 250 dates for Cowboys with hardly any breaks at all. Philip and I found these really cheap loft apartments that were right across from the studio. We made this little hole in the fence so we could walk right from our apartments to the studio. Rita had one of these loft apartments, too, and Darrell and Vinnie were still at their mom's house, but they had vehicles. Me and Phil were still broke, so I bought myself a bike. I'd ride up to this place that was like a 7-11. We knew a guy that worked there who would leave us beer and sandwiches behind the back of the place so at least we had something to eat when we were working.

PAUL We had "A New Level," "Regular People (Conceit)," and "No Good (Attack the Radical)" demoed before Terry [Date, producer] came in because we wanted to get a head start. We had started getting the tones, and they were pretty good. When Terry showed up, we really honed it in and created this special sound that people would know as Pantera. We got real close to it on Cowboys, but for Vulgar we honed the guitar sound to what it ended up being. And we really focused on the drums to make them really percussive with a nice attack. Terry was a big part of that. He was always willing to go that extra mile. Once we got the tones dialed in, we started writing the rest of the songs in the studio. We never were big on doing pre production or demos. We always wanted to capture the initial vibe of a song, and the only way to do that was to record it as you're writing it. A lot of bands would record demos for everything, but we never wanted to overthink anything and then do it again. We just caught the natural aggression that was there.

TERRY DATE (PRODUCER) There were two things they wanted to do with Vulgar. One, they wanted to get a little heavier than they were on Cowboys From Hell. And two, they wanted to make the heaviest record of all time. They didn't need to prove anything at that point since they had already established themselves, so they went in with that perfect combination of confidence and security.

PAUL To us, heavy metal had to sound like a machine. We worked really hard to be this abrasive saw, so to speak. The guitar had to have a ripping sound, the drums had to have an edge. Dime and Terry spent many, many hours in the studio being very meticulous about getting the guitars "ass-tight," as they put it. Once we got the tones dialed in, we wrote the rest of the songs in the studio. We never were big on doing preproduction or demos. We were more interested in capturing the initial vibe of the song, and the only way to do that was to do it as you're writing it.

DATE Both Dime and Vinnie were perfectionists. We doubled and sometimes tripled Dime's rhythm guitars, and he wanted the double to be perfectly tight with the first guitar. That meant every down stroke, every attack of the pick, and every palm mute at the backside of the riff had to be exactly on time with the first track. And to do that took hours and hours.

PAUL We were really focused during the day, but when we finished doing the music then it was our turn to go out and party. We used to play this game called Chicken Brake where you suddenly grab the fuckin' emergency brake and the whole car would come to a screeching halt. One night we took Terry's rental car and we were hauling ass down the highway in the pouring rain and all of a sudden Rex thinks it would be funny to reach over and hit the chicken brake. I was doing, like, 60 miles per hour, and when he hit it the car went into a 360 spin, and spun and spun and spun, and then it just came to a stop in the middle of the highway. We both just looked at each other pale white and went, "OK, that didn't happen," and kept going. Later that night, we went out for drinks, and we were really ripped when we got back. We went through this neighborhood and ran over every fuckin' mailbox. I don't know how we didn't go to jail or blow the radiator out, but we pulled up in front of the studio. And Terry comes running out and sees the headlights on his car all busted out, the fucking front end was all bashed in. There was steam coming off the motor. And he never yelled at us like he did that night. He's going, "Man, I'm gonna have to pay for this and the fuckin' label's gonna fire me." And we were like, "Dude, just chill. We'll take care of it. We'll make enough money on this record to pay for it."

pantera lineup illustration BRADSTREET, Tim Bradstreet
illustration by Tim Bradstreet


PAUL We were in the studio for two months max, and five weeks into actually recording, [in September 1991], we got a call from our A&R guy, Mark Ross, and he goes, "Hey guys, we got a big opportunity. How would you guys like to open for Metallica and AC/DC in Russia?" We were like, "Well, we're in the middle of recording." And he goes, "Dude, don't sweat it. Take a break." We had been off the road and in the studio, so we were kinda worried that our chops might not be there, it ended up being the most amazing thing ever. It was the Monsters of Rock festival and it was the first time there had been a Western concert over there.

JOE GIRON (PHOTOGRAPHER) Since he had never been to Russia, Dimebag wasn't sure he would be able to get whisky, so he brought a bottle of Listerine mouthwash and filled it up with whisky. He didn't know if he'd be able to find anything to drink over there.

ANSELMO We went on at 2 in the afternoon and it was the most unbelievable, huge stage we had ever been on. Staring out into the crowd was blinding. It wasn't a crowd, it was a fucking ocean. And once we got onstage, man, we fucking clicked. We were a fucking machine. We were ready for war and we were bringing it to you.

PAUL We were as good as anybody that played that day, and the crowd treated us like Led Zeppelin even though most of them had never heard of us. They hadn't even heard of Metallica and AC/DC, because their music was only available on the black market at the time. I was walking around Red Square, and I bought a whole Russian army outfit from some dude for $10. Rubles were worth nothing. It was ridiculous how poor and corrupt and wrecked the whole country was. They gave us a tent to stay in and a half a bottle of tequila, and that's all we got that day, and that was fine with us. We were just so happy just to be there. They made a rock documentary about it called For Those About to Rock, and every time I see it, I get goosebumps.

BROWN That was a big boost and it gave us a taste of where we wanted to be. But the thing is, we always kicked ass live. We weren't one of these flukey studio bands that got popular. We had grown up in the clubs and played every cover tune you could imagine before we landed a deal in '89. So we really had our shit together when we jumped on this big stage and did our thing. And I'm still getting people telling me how intense that show was. And it was a short set, but I remember coming back and then we got back into the studio ready to rage.


ANSELMO Knowing that we had really fuckin' jammed to a bunch of people who had never heard of us before definitely put a bit more swagger in our step. We flew back home and went back in the studio and the music just bled out of us. At the time, I was on the most positive kicks I've ever been on. When I wrote lyrics like "a new level of confidence," it was fuckin' true, man.

PAUL Everything else came out of us. It flowed real nice. "Walk," Dime just came up with that riff one day and it was so simple and so cool. "Fucking Hostile," "Mouth for War." It was all just so natural.

DATE They knew what kind of sounds they wanted and we always tried to listen for other things that were new and unique that we could do, too. The distorted vocals on "Fucking Hostile," was inspired by Nine Inch Nails' "Head Like a Hole." We were messing around with different techniques to get the right distorted sound, and Dime goes, "Oh, wait a minute. I gotta go back to my house. I got the perfect thing." He comes back with this old Tascam 4-track cassette recorder. And he says, "Just run the mic through this and turn the preamp up really high. It distorts really great." So that's what we used for that vocal. When we were doing that vocal, Vinnie and Dime's dad came running into the control room. And he goes, "You can't record a vocal like that! They'll never master it."

JERRY ABBOTT (DIMEBAG DARRELL AND VINNIE PAUL'S FATHER, AND OWNER OF PANTEGO STUDIOS) That was the first time I had ever been around the type of music where you recorded something distorted with a purpose. It seemed strange to me, but I guess they proved me wrong. [Laughs] And then, I guess, a lot of bands started doing that.

PAUL It was a very focused, collective effort. A lot of the basic parts would come from me and Dime because we were always together and when we felt inspired, we'd call the other guys to come over. We'd all start jamming and everybody would put their ideas in. Me, Dime and Rex wrote the music during the day, and then Phil would come over from his apartment and hear something and be like, "Wow, dude, that is so badass!" And then we would finally take a break and go out to a nightclub and then come back and hear what Phil had done on top of it. We worked together as a team.

RITA HANEY (DARRELL'S LONGTIME GIRLFRIEND) The energy that went through all of them together was undeniable – just that raw determination. There'd be a tad of hallucinogenics involved for some of the recordings, and that would lead to giggly nights. But at the time, Philip and Darrell were really, really close as far as their creativity levels went and the way they connected. Them two together were such a lethal combination that they stood strong together. They shared something and were tight, and that's was why when things happened they way they did years later, Darrell was so caught offguard.

ANSELMO Those were great days — some of the very best. They were days before chronic pain was even a part of my life. Our bodies were still made of fuckin' rubber and we could bounce all over the fuckin' place and drink cases of beer and bottles of whisky and just jump back up the next day. With Dimebag around, there always had to always be some sort of tomfoolery, but it was a pretty serious motherfuckin' session, man. I was getting in there and doing the fuck out of what I did all day long and then I'd go home. And I knew I'd better get a good night's fuckin' sleep, 'cause the next day I had to get up and start working on the next fuckin' song.

BROWN After we recorded something, Dime would put his guitars down and then I would put my bass down and we'd sit there for hours and microscope each individual note. This was before the days of ProTools. After I thought I'd played something real intense, we'd take all the drums out of the mix and listen back and realize that wasn't the case. So we'd start punching in, which means we had to cut the tape [and splice it back together]. Back in the day, you had these big-old machines and it was a pain in the ass to do, but we had to make sure everything was as tight and intense as possible. I was playing the same stuff that Dime was, and that's the reason that sometimes you don't hear the bass. I'm playing just dead on the money with Dime and it just makes the guitar seem like it has this lower frequency to it, but that was my bass. That's what made us a machine and set us apart from bands like Megadeth.

DATE Vinnie really loved the spiky kick-drum sound that was very attacky and super scooped out. He and I worked together really hard to get that tone. We taped quarters to the kick-drum heads and we used all kinds of weird mic techniques. A lot of people think we sampled those drums, but we never did. We just EQ'd them really drastically. Those were all his ideas.

BROWN When we weren't working, Dime just had pranks up the fuckin' ass. He was nonstop, either to fuck with the other guy or just to get a laugh. He'd be real serious when he was playing, then when he finished his parts he'd let loose. We always wanted to stay and contribute to the whole production, but we'd get so fucking stoned and be such jackasses that we couldn't tell what was good and what wasn'' anymore and we'd have to leave.

DATE They would buckle down and work, but it wouldn't be too long before some kind of hell would break lose. We had some darts in the studio and one of their buddies was in there, barefoot. They had him stand there and we played darts around him. Somehow his foot became a target for the darts. He got hit at least once. I remember many rental cars getting trashed. Vinnie took a car and drove through a field and a bunch of ditches and came back with the thing completely covered in hay. When I did those records with the guys, it was just me. There was no assistants or extra personnel. So it was a lot of work. And the majority of the work from me was trying to keep them from straying and having too much fun. I was constantly going, "OK, c'mon. Let's get to work." And of course whenever you do that, they take it one step further and do whatever they can to keep the fun going.

PAUL One of our favorite things to do at the studio was this game called Twist and Hurl. You'd drink one of these little bottles of beer and guzzle it until you finished it and then you had to spin and throw it at this stop sign and if you hit it you won. We'd play that just about every night. We'd drink tons of these little beers so we had ammunition. One night while we were playing, these flashlights popped up through the trees and there were five cops there ready to arrest us. I don't know how we talked our way out of it.

ANSELMO Dime and Terry were playing it cool, man. But I was always a paranoid cop kid 'cause I was the only one that smoked weed daily. We had just come home from doing that show in Russia. And I think I said something like, "Man, we just got back from Russia where we played a show for America. We're the good guys." And Terry and Dimebag where just like, "Dude, shut up." I don't even know what I was trying to get across and I think even the cops started laughing.

PAUL The cops were always coming by and telling us to keep the music down and trying to bust us for something, but they weren't too smart about it. This cop would come down during the day with his cop outfit on. And then one night he came back in plainclothes, and said, "Hey, lemme hear what you guys are doing. Oh, and you wanna go smoke some dope, man?" And we would go, "No, man" because we knew he was an undercover cop.


PAUL I think the sound the Dime had and the style back then was untouchable. He played with a lot of taste, a lot of heart. He wasn't one of those dudes that just wanted to go fast or make noise. He had soul and he felt like he could play solos that were like a song within a song.

HANEY There was always a song going on in his mind. Even when he brushed his teeth, it was to a song. I asked him one day, "What are you doing? You're roughing your gums up pretty good." And he goes, "Ohh. I brush my teeth to Metallica's 'Whiplash.'"

NICK BOWCOTT (GRIM REAPER) I think Dime learned to edit himself a bit more on Vulgar Display of Power. His leads on that album really stand out. He understood that it was about the song and not about the chops. The solo in "Walk" is one of the hardest ones to ape. There's a feel there and a maturity that belied his age and the type of music he was playing. Most people would have gone out of their way to do pyrotechnics. But you can actually hum that goddamn solo. He made every note of the solos an integral part of the songs. "Walk" is one of the all-time great metal riffs, right up there with [Metallica's] "Enter Sandman" and [Deep Purple's] "Smoke on the Water." And it's basically just an open string and a bent note. But the funny thing about that song is, as simple as it is, it's one of the hardest riffs to play correctly. To actually get the feel is really, really difficult.

ZAKK WYLDE (BLACK LABEL SOCIETY) Dime wrote simple riffs, but they were so effective. As heavy as it was, Dime's playing was blues-based. He had feeling. As fast as it was, and as technically slamming as Dime could play, he was always saying something with his playing. It's wasn't just fuckin' loud for the sake of being loud.

HANEY A lot of the riffs from Vulgar came about in Dime's 4-track room in the garage at his mom's house. I remember when he wrote "By Demons Be Driven," we had come in from bowling and a couple of people came back to hang and have drinks. We were all in the garage when he laid down the riffs and his friend Russell sang on it, completely different lyrics. I still have the original 4-track. He even used the original version in a mini movie that he and [longtime friend and Pantera crew member] Bobby Tongs did called "The Silver Thang" — he loved making videos. He wrote a lot of his riffs spur of the moment, just hanging out in the garage and making up shit for his friends to sing on, whether it was a parody of someone else's song, or he'd just track something out real quick. I think we all have 4-tracks we've sung on with Dime.

ABBOTT Darrell slept with his 4-track [recorder], which he was always recording new stuff on. Music was so important to him.

BROWN Everybody had a nickname in those days. Vinnie Paul was Riggs, but I can't remember why. Philip was just Phil, and they called me any number of things just depending on the day, [including T-Rex and Rexx Rocker]. At first Darrell called himself Diamond, then Dime, then Dimebag. [Darrell is credited in the Vulgar liner notes as "Diamond Darrell," though he was already going by Dimebag in everyday life.]

HANEY The Dimebag name was just starting to catch on then, so it wasn't in full effect yet. I don't think Dime even thought twice about [the credit in the liner notes]. To him, he was still the same person no matter what he was called. Philip is the reason why Darrell is named Dimebag. "Diamond" is the name he picked when he was 13 or 14. But when Philip first joined the bad, he and Darrell connected really well. Phil moved here from New Orleans and he really didn't know many people at all and he smoked weed. And shit, that was the time when Darrell would sometimes wake up and hit the bong in the morning. Phil would always hit Darrell up going, "Hey man, you know where I can get some weed?" Nobody had any money, but Darrell was like, "Dude, I got a couple joints on me." And he would always share and give Philip half of whatever he had, which was two joints—about a dime bag. Now, Vinnie and Rex always called Darrell "Dime" for short, and one day we were all sitting around getting stoned and it just came out. It was just one of those stoner moments. Darrell was bringing weed over to Philip, and instead of Dime it became Dimebag.


SCOTT IAN (ANTHRAX) Phil really became Phil on Vulgar. Dime and Vinnie were already the sickest guitar player and drummer who could lay down this groove like nobody else in metal. But they were missing their David Lee Roth. And I truly believe Phil came into his own on Vulgar by incorporating his love for hardcore and more extreme metal, and that was the quantum leap. I remember Phil shaved his head at some point. Up until then, I was the "bald guy," and now there was another bald guy. And I remember sitting backstage with him, and he turns around to me and goes, "You were always the first." And I went, "What are you talking about?" And he grabbed my head and started rubbing it, and I was like, "Oh, yeah. It's about time you got rid of that fuckin' hairdo!"

ANSELMO We stripped away all the raw, non-songs like "Shattered" and "Cowboys From Hell" [both off Cowboys from Hell]. To me, "Cowboys" is an anthemic statement that's a little bit cheesy, lyrically. So we threw that stuff out the window and I just sang from the ravaged gut. I didn't know it at the time, but I can see where I brought something different. I was bellowing my fuckin' throat out, but there was some semblance of melody there. Take the chorus for "Walk." There's a sing-song feel, but it's hard as shit and it was different than what other guys were doing at the time. This was real, man, because life had become real. After going out on tour for Cowboys and being the band that's stared at, and not the main attraction, and fighting for recognition, I realized that, man, I am no different from any motherfucker out there in the audience except that I had a microphone in my hand. And if I had a microphone in my hand, I was going to speak the language of the people out in the audience. I was gonna be at that level in-depth.

HANEY On songs like "This Love," Phil had a voice and could sing melodies. It wasn't just, "Rar-rar-rar-rar." So many people come up and express how Vulgar got them through hard times, and it does. It wasn't about the doom thing or the grunge thing or any of that. The message was positive and it was driven, and it lasted.

ANSELMO I had a fuckin' neglectful childhood. Mom was great; dad was aloof. They were both terribly young. I was born with mom's heart and dad's diseases. I had a stepfather I resented. I fuckin' split from my house when I was 15. Then I came back and left for good at 16. And within all that, I've got temper issues and trust issues, and they were worse when I was a young man. In a lot of relationships, I could never give all of myself. At the time, there could have been a dozen different girls the song "This Love" could have been about, because none of it was real to me. Love came from a different place, not from a relationship between two people because I never saw it as a kid, man. And when I did, I just didn't believe it or I resented it. That's not the way I am anymore, obviously. I've learned some lessons here and there. But that's how I felt then.

I've had healthy, healthy doses of loss from early in my life — in New Orleans, especially. There was a punk-rock band there called Shell Shock, [which featured future Crowbar frontman/Down guitarist Kirk Windstein and future Eyehategod guitarist/Down drummer Jimmy Bower] that set the bar for the local scene. And in 1988, their guitar player, Mike Hatch, one of my good friends, committed suicide. I had pretty much just moved to Texas. I couldn't attend his funeral because Pantera was playing. And I was devastated. I also had a former high-school friend, named Roman, who had taken his life. I had a friend named Henry, who had taken his life so tragically. So "Hollow" is not a specific song about any one of them. It's a collective. I think even then, when I was writing it in 1992, I knew that people were going to take the lyrics and make them their own. I tried to make it a heart-throttling gut-wrencher for everyone to relate to.


ANSELMO Dime figured out the beauty of the video camera right before we got signed. And once that happened, it became his toy. He'd film everything, but I think he got more intrusive or creative around the time of Vulgar.

PAUL He always made sure he had Bobby Tongs around — that was his right-hand man and Dime pretty much taught him to be a videographer.

BOBBY TONGS (PANTERA TECH/VIDEOGRAPHER) Dime was always putting me to the test. One time, we were driving to Shreveport, and he was behind the wheel. He throws the camera to me and says, "Get that road sign," and it's 20 feet in front of me. The camera's not on or anything, so I'm scrambling to turn it on and film the road sign going by at 55 miles an hour. And he's just sitting there laughing going, "You gotta get that shit. You gotta be quick."

ROB ZOMBIE (EX–WHITE ZOMBIE) If Darrell came up to you for any reason, there was always a camera there, usually so he could make you look like an idiot. Those guys were so funny. Half the show was backstage.

HANEY Darrell was very perceptive and he was willing to see all sides and angles to things. When you explained something to him, he would circle around you and above you and under you. He could assess a situation so quick and I think that's what gave him such a great eye for a camera. If he didn't play music, he could have been an amazing director.

DATE Metallica's "Enter Sandman" video had a scene where a semi was coming at a kid in a bed. Dime decided he was going to recreate that by putting his video camera on one of these little remote control trucks that we were playing with in the parking lot. He strapped the camera to the roof of this remote control truck and had tiny armymen doll figures out there. He spent all kinds of time videotaping that until the camera rolled off the street curb. Once he got into one of those zones where he was going to make a serious video about this totally ridiculous idea, he got completely into it.

HANEY Those home videos were so great. I was hanging out with [Jackass star] Johnny Knoxville one night outside of the Viper Room, and I said, "C'mon, you have to admit to me that the birth of Jackass came from the Pantera videos." And he admitted it. He goes, "Well, of course we watched those." I just remember when we would watch Jackass, Darrell would go, "Dude, I'd do a guest appearance on this thing. I could show them how to do it." Because his stuff was actually funny.


PAUL We went to master the record in New York at Masterdisk. Back then, you had to master the songs one at a time and then you'd get a tape of all the songs so you could listen to the sequence. I remember Dime was sitting there on the couch and he was crying all the way through it. I went, "Dude, are you all right?" And he said, "It's perfect. It's exactly what I always wanted and always dreamed of. It's fuckin' perfect."

ANSELMO As far as the record company having any influence on the music, I would have none of it. They knew that and they didn't say a fuckin' thing. And we always had freedom and control over anything we fuckin' did.

PAUL The first time [East West Records executive] Derek Shulman heard the record, his only real comment was, "Can we put some samples on the drums? We could make it more like Metallica." And we went, "No, dude. That's not us. That's another band."

HANEY When Derek came down to the studio, they pretty much scared him and said they didn't want to have anybody down there trying to tell them how to do anything. They were gonna do it how they wanted to do it. And I think that's because they had done [four] independent records before Cowboys From Hell, so it was just them on their own with their daddy in the studio. There was no one to tell them, "No."

ANSELMO The phrase Vulgar Display of Power jumped out at me, and where it came from didn't hit me until later. And then I was like, "Oh, it's from The Exorcist!" Nice line there, William Peter Blatty [who wrote the novel and screenplay].

BRAD GUICE (PHOTOGRAPHER) I had shot the cover of Cowboys From Hell, so they called me again and said, "We want you to do this incredibly powerful album cover of a fist hitting a face." I was like, "What?!" but I knew I had to pull it off. We looked for a longhaired male model to play the part of the guy being hit. We ended up using this guy from L.A., Sean Cross, and he's still a friend of mine. We got a real stronghand to be the guy punching and we did it all in studio, straight shot. We had a red light behind his hair because they were originally going to run it in color. So I thought the red was powerful and the motion of the hair was really interesting. We had the fist move in slow motion and then Sean moved his head to get it to look right. And then this rumor started about this guy having to get hit in the face over and over until we got the shot right. That's not true at all. It was a controlled situation. No one ever got hit.

SEAN CROSS (FORMER MODEL) I had never done any modeling before that. I owned restaurants and a consultant company and my wife was an actress. A friend of hers told me [Brad] needed someone who fit my description and I should go up for it. The guy who did the punch was a professional hand model. He would put his fist up against my face and I would push against his fist so my face would mush up against it, and that's how we would start the shot. And then he'd move so that my hair would move. After that shoot, I dabbled around with modeling, but then I went back to my consulting company working with different Wall Street firms.


PAUL After we finished the record, we toured with Skid Row. And that tour came about by me hanging out with Sebastian Bach and becoming really good friends with him when they played here with Guns N' Roses. And of course, he was a fan of Cowboys From Hell, and I was like, "Dude, we gotta do a tour with you guys." And when we first brought it back to the rest of the guys in the band, I think they might have thought it's not the right tour for us. They're more of a radio rock band and it's different for us.

ANSELMO I've gotta say, I was very leery of ol' Sebastian at first. I'm sitting there like, "Oh, my God. I have to meet this fuckin' rocker?" I was a real metal motherfucker and at the time there was a real division. Sebastian was pretty as a girl and dressed not to far away from one. But he's actually a super-cool motherfucker.

BROWN We finally got the mastered copy of Vulgar during that tour, and we were sitting in our tour bus playing it for the guys in Skid Row and it literally blew their socks off. And every time we played it for someone new, they were speechless.

PAUL That was the first gold record we ever had. And of course, it's double platinum-plus now. But all I can say is it was one of those unique times when the band was still so hungry. We were making $150 a week [per diems]. We weren't making a paycheck. We were just doing it because we loved music and we had fun jamming together. We were a team. We were brothers.

BROWN The album finally came out [on February 25, 1992] and it was so gratifying to see it get to No. 44 on the album charts. I had sat for years in the studio reading Billboard magazine, and now to actually see one of our records on there was a dream come true.

PAUL Skid Row were amazing to us. I think that tour was one of the things that helped catapult Pantera. They gave us an opportunity to play for a mainstream audience in the United States, which was something that those kinds of bands back then didn't do. But they took us out and we did a whole leg with them, and then we did a stint with them and Soundgarden.

ANSELMO One night Skid Row invited me and [Soundgarden vocalist] Chris Cornell onstage to sing "The Train Kept A-Rollin'" with them. I didn't know a fuckin' word. I still couldn't hum it if you pointed at it. And I don't think Cornell knew the song. So we just went out there and chased each other all over the Skid Row stage and up the ramps and jumped around. Whenever the chorus would come by, we would scream, "Train Keeps Rollin." So Sebastian started chasing us, and I don't know where this came from — it must have come from the primordial jelly in our brains — but I stopped and squatted and Cornell leapfrogged over me and squatted. And Sebastian leapfrogged over both of us. Now, to pull off a fuckin' leapfrog out of nowhere in midstride in front of more than 10,000 people was really something. But, man, there were so many stupid fuckin' stories with Skid Row. We'd play a hockey arena, and me and "Snake" [Skid Row guitarist Dave Sabo] would go out on the ice with table clothes tied around our necks as capes. It was absolute lunacy of the most childish, juvenile sort.

TONGS We were on the Skid Row tour on Monday, May 11, in Evansville, Indiana, in 1992, and Dime got this idea to make some weed plants for their stage show. So we went to this Home Depot and bought a bunch of chicken wire and plaster and papier-mâché. We sat there the whole day on our day-off and made these papier-mâché weed plants that were about five-feet tall each and spraypainted them green. And we made this big joint with a smoke bomb on the end of it that we would bring out onstage every night, which was hysterical.

BROWN We had our fun, for sure. We were just learning the ropes of debauchery and we studied hard. It was all alcohol-driven. We used to take a lot of acid, but that had calmed down a little bit, so we'd just take a chip off the acid just to keep the buzz going.

ANSELMO Everyone knows there was a lot of sex. Everyone knows there was a lot of drinking. Everyone knows there was a lot of drunken sex. Yeah, I was pretty single then and there were some incredible times where I caught myself in the middle of a situation and I'd look around me and put my arms in the air and say, "I'm the fuckin' king of the world." But Dimebag was with Rita, so when everyone else was playing the lay around with the ladies, he would be building a robot suit out of cardboard boxes or hiding in closets and scaring people.

TONGS Occasionally, Vinnie would bring some chicks on to the bus and they'd act like they owned the place. We really didn't appreciate that. Vinnie would do his thing and then pass out in the back lounge and we'd have these chicks riding with us. Me and Darrell would have to sit there and listen to them all night. Sometimes we'd put black tape on these drunk chicks' teeth and we'd shoot a little skit about a Black Tooth. Finally they'd pass out, and usually they'd leave their stuff in the front lounge. So we'd microwave their shoes and then bend the little buckles every which way. And we'd fill the pockets of their jackets with chili or put a chicken wing in there. We'd be crying with laughter for hours, passing the camera back and forth and filming this shit.

GIRON A lot of dressing rooms got destroyed. Lightbulbs got busted up, ceiling tiles got punched in with anything possible. Beer bottles got thrown around. That was a daily occurrence to let off steam and have fun. And fireworks were always a big part of the day, especially around July 4th. The band and Dimebag just loved lighting those things indoors, outdoors, wherever it was possible and scaring the heck out of everybody. They'd throw firecrackers in your bunk and make you jump 10 feet. And they'd film it and laugh their asses off.

TONGS One day in Grand Rapids, Michigan, me and Darrell got to the hotel in the morning. We had been drinking all night, so we went up to the room for a few hours making silly, drunken 4-track recordings and ordering beers. We had this toy fish that a fan had given us that you mount on the wall and it sings [Al Green''] "Take Me to the River." We were playing with that, and we realized there was a river outside our room and the windows opened pretty big. So we were throwing that fish out the window and filming it. And there were big stand-up lamps. Our tour manager was down in the restaurant having lunch. And he saw a couple lamps fly out the window into the river. And he goes, "Hmm, third floor. Yup, yup. That's Darrell's room." So he comes running up and gets us to stop. And the hotel never even found out about it. There was no evidence because I went and got a lamp out of my room and put it in his room, so we both had one lamp each.

PAUL After the Skid Row tour ended, we did a European tour with Megadeth, and we smoked them off the stage every night. [Megadeth frontman] Dave [Mustaine] was pissed off. Pantera had just caught on in Europe, and our fans were bleeding for us. Then we played some shows with Megadeth in the States and it was the same story. We butted heads with Dave here and there a bunch of times. He was trying to get sober, but then he would sneak off and disappear and no one could find him for a while.

ANSELMO Dave Mustaine was on this anti-drinking crusade at the time. He was not drinking so no one should be drinking, and that never worked with Pantera. So there was a little bit of a fence there — the sober side, where everybody in Megadeth had to do what Dave said, and outside, which was a big ol' party. On this particular tour, my boxing coach could not come and Dave had a karate sensei with him. So me and this guy started talking and working together a little. I started boxing with the guy, and he showed me some of his karate shit. We got tighter, he started hanging out with us more and partying with us a little. And the next thing you know, he's drunk with us almost every fuckin' night. Oh, my God! I stole Mustaine's trainer away from him and got him drunk. It was a little dramatic there for a little while, but I had a smile on my face.

PAUL That tour was the tour where Dime got the idea for the Black Tooth Grin. It's from a line in [Megadeth's] "Sweating Bullets" ["Some day you, too, will know my pain/And smile its black-tooth grin"]. It was Dime's idea to call a drink [Crown Royal with a splash of Coke] that. He would look at Dave and go, "Smile a black tooth grin! Here have a shot." And then all of a sudden Dime goes, "Wait a minute. Have a shot. Let's put these two together. That's a Black Tooth Grin right there!" It just became his name for this drink and it became really popular. I actually see it in bars now. He made that thing famous.

HANEY The thing that kind of got crisscrossed through the years was the original Black Tooth Grin was made with Seagram's 7, not Crown Royal. Even though it's still a Seagram's product, 7 is bottled here in the States and Crown's Canadian. 7 is cheaper so that's what was on the rider. They'd get those big plastic half-gallon bottles of 7. And that's also why Darrell has "Seagram's 7" tattooed on his arm. That was the original Black Tooth. And then Vinnie started drinking Crown because we used to drink these things called Three Legged Monkeys, which was a splash of Coke and a splash of 7-Up. And then they became Crown Tooth and Black Tooth.

BROWN We toured with Megadeth for, like, nine months and killed. We were like, Dave, what are you thinking, man? But that was another jumpstart for things to come. We felt like if we could take this aggressiveness and knock Megadeth out of the way, and Metallica's playing this Appetite for Destruction music, we were setting ourselves up for something really great with our next album.

PAUL After Megadeth, 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.

ZOMBIE There was always some kind of insanity with them. It's like they toured with the state of Texas. All their roadies were their friends and it was this weird bubble of craziness that they existed within at all times on and offstage. When we were in Japan, Darrell came out of the hotel dressed like a cartoon Japanese guy with a bald head wig, glasses with slanty eyes, and big buck teeth wearing a kimono. It was ridiculous, but that was Dime.

SEAN YSEULT (EX-WHITE ZOMBIE) They were constantly trying to entertain us. They're playing for the audience, but you're in the wings and they're playing to you the whole time, too, pointing at you and then falling down and you're just 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.

ZOMBIE 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."

ANSELMO At the end of the tour, we were playing our last song, and everyone in White Zombie and [opening band] 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 Sean is dressed up like Dimebag. She has a fuckin' fake beard and a cowboy hat and shorts.

ZOMBIE We toured with Pantera on Cowboys From Hell, and you could tell they had talent. But then we went out with them again on Vulgar, they had really defined who they were. They clicked and just had the magic of the four people together. Rex, Darrell, and Vinnie seemed like they wanted to be Van Halen, and Phil wanted to be Henry Rollins. It was such a weird contrast of stage persona and I think that's why it was so great.

ANSELMO We also 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 Kenny [Hickey, Type O guitarist] 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 start playing, and the next thing we knew, mountains of toilet paper were flying all over us. It started getting wet and feels like plaster, so we're falling down and being covered up in the shit. I think we made it through a song and a half. Poor people in Vegas. 


PAUL To boost sales in Europe, our label wanted to put out an EP of industrial remixes of songs from Vulgar [done by Godflesh's Justin Broadrick]. We though they were pretty cool, but they didn't maintain the integrity that we were about. So listening to them left us with a weird feeling and we looked at each other and went, Well, let's not play it anymore and pretend like it didn't happen.

ANSELMO I had so much respect for Godflesh and what Justin did when he was in Napalm Death. I was all for him remixing the songs, but for the life of me, I can't remember what they sounded like.

PAUL When we did "Light Comes out of Black" [off the 1992 Buffy The Vampire Slayer film soundtrack] with Rob Halford, he was about to leave Priest and was gonna put together Fight. His favorite heavy band was Pantera, and I think he kind of modeled Fight after that. He wanted to go more in that direction than the traditional metal he was doing with Priest. So he called us up and asked us if we'd do the music for this song. He sent us a demo. And we went over it one time at the house before he flew in. Then we went to a studio in Dallas called Dallas Sound Lab. [Producer] Toby Wright came in and engineered it. We knocked the whole thing out in about two hours. We were all the biggest Priest fans ever and we were just in awe to be working with this dude.

ROB HALFORD (JUDAS PRIEST) I was having the first moment of my solo career, and Sony Pictures had a movie coming out. They asked me if I was interested in writing a song for it, and I said I would, but I didn't have a band. So I wrote the song in a couple of days, and since we were on a deadline, my first thought was to have Dimebag play on it. I gave him a call in Dallas, and he said, "Yeah man, c'mon down. Let's do it." I went down there and played them the song and, literally, it was done in a matter of hours. They picked it up instantly. Phil came by later on in the day and I said, "Do you want to drop in a few vocals towards the end of the song," and he said, "Yeah, I'd love to." So that was that.

ANSELMO I love Halford, but I gotta say Dimebag Darrell was the motherfuckin' MVP of the whole fuckin' deal. Rob sent him this real rough demo of what the song should be, and it was so fuckin' vague that Darrell had to rewrite the motherfucking song. He took the key the song was in and wrote the thing from the ground up.


Anselmo When we did Vulgar, I never said, "OK, I'm out to make one for the books." Of course, we wanted to set personal goals and make ourselves as a band happy, but I guess I'm still finding out what kind of an impact that album had. Two whole generations have gone by since then and so many variations of music have come and gone. And I still see kids 14 to 20 years old who are just rabid Pantera fans because their dads were rabid fans, and that's what they grew up listening to in the house, and that just blows me away.

BROWN I hear a lot of bands today and they sound just like one of those Vulgar riffs. It's flattering to know that you did make a mark like that. But at the same time, a lot of those bands are currently on big tours and they rip us off blatantly. It's like, "Son, you'd still be in the garage if it wasn't for us." We paved the road for a lot of the fuckin' shit.

PAUL I never ever realized how much that record meant to people until the band was over, and even more so recently. Back in 1992 when it came out, you couldn't hear "Walk" on the radio. It didn't matter where you went. Radio wouldn't touch us. And now I can walk into any sports venue when there's a football game, hockey game, that song's played all the time. I hear it on radio all the time. I hear it in bars all the time. It's like, What happened? Is this the new Pantera album 15 years later? 'Cause they sure play it like it is. It's just crazy that it sometimes takes that long for people to accept something or appreciate it. And I don't think any of us realized the magnitude about what Pantera was all about until it was over.

Almost every engineer, producer, band that I've ever come across that's part of this genre has always told me, ""Vulgar Display of Power, we use that to A/B our album against in the studio." Everyone wants that glassy high end on the kick and the cut on the guitar and the edge on the vocals and everything we did on that album. That's just the record to beat.