Pantera: A Wild Photo History With Phil Anselmo, Rex Brown
“These photos have brought back so many memories,” former Pantera bassist Rex Brown says, looking at pictures taken from the upcoming coffee-table book A Vulgar Display of Pantera. “It’s like half your life right there.”
The book, which comes out September 13th and features a foreword by Brown, contains 400 pages of photos by a person Brown calls the “fifth member of the band,” Joe Giron. It chronicles each step of the group’s history, from its origins as a Texas club band in the mid-Eighties – when singer Terry Glaze was their frontman and guitarist Dimebag Darrell went by Diamond Darrell – to their final tour in 2001 when they were supporting Reinventing the Steel. It presents arresting photos from several turning points in the band’s career – including their tours with Skid Row and White Zombie and their performance in Russia just after the fall of communism – and shows their playful side both on and offstage.
The photo above was taken in 1990 on the Santa Monica Pier around the time the group put out its major-label debut, Cowboys From Hell. “We were serious about the music and at other times we were a bunch of cutups,” Brown says in reaction to the shot.
“There is myself and one Dimebag Darrell with the tip of my mohawk and his hair entwined as one,” says Phil Anselmo looking at the same photo. “At that age we were probably thinking, ‘I hope this is the last picture, because it is absolutely Beer:30.'”
Pantera broke up a couple of years after their final tour and brothers Darrell and Vinnie Paul went on to form Damageplan. Darrell was killed onstage during a concert with the latter group in 2004. Now, Anselmo is fronting a number of bands including Down and Scour. Brown is working on a solo album – which he likens musically to Foghat, Tom Waits and Tom Petty – that will feature a number of guests including members of Lynyrd Skynyrd. And Paul is playing drums with Hellyeah.
Here, Anselmo and Brown look back on Pantera’s history.
Pantera With Original Singer Terry Glaze (1985)
Rex Brown: Look how skinny Dime is. We weren't a glam band. We had to put on that kind of stuff to play the clubs.
Philip Anselmo: My first reaction is, "My God, look at these beautiful women." It's a picture of Pantera with their old lead singer Terrence Glaze, who himself was a very talented man in his own way and his own style. He has an excellent voice.
Brown: Back in those days in Texas, you really couldn't play anywhere unless you had some following and you had to fit in with the trends that were going on. In the Eighties Texas club days, it was all about cover songs. I was probably 19 or 20 when this photo was taken. I think Dime was 17.
Anselmo: This is what I was walking into when I joined. This was the band I was stepping into, and yep, I had to play by the rules, too, because I needed to belong early.
Brown: The look is just a sign of the times. When I got in the band, I was like, man, I'm not wearing things like that. Then finally jumped into a pair of camouflage pants and a bullet belt and it was, "No you got to wear this." No, I don't, but I did anyway.
Pantera Welcome Phil Anselmo to the Band (1987)
Anselmo: Sweet Jesus. Let me say once again, my first gut reaction is, "Who are these beautiful women?" My second gut reaction would be, "Yup."
Brown: That's probably one of the first pictures we have with Philip in the band. We still had the fucking stupid looking hair. I mean, look at Vinnie on the right. What the hell? All of us had those stupid shades on. It's almost Steel Panther–ish.
Anselmo: Dimebag is pouring a beer in his mouth, wearing a jean jacket that has stuff I wrote on his jacket. I was so desperate to get these fellows on the right path that I bespoiled his denim jacket, for which I was berated at first but then lauded later, by scribbling in black ink, "Kreator, Slayer, and Celtic Frost." He did get mad at me, I will say that, but he forgave me. But he's pouring beer into my hands as I am posing like Bon Jovi in a black leather jacket, with bullet belts wrapped around my hips and no tattoo across my stomach. What a debacle that is. And then there's Rex looking like Rex, and then there's Vince looking like Roseanne Barr with a beard with black gloves on.
Brown: That was taken in Dime's mother's living room. He put some black tarp behind it and put some lights up and we took some pictures. That's just the way we were. We didn't like fancy joints or anything like that. We just tried to get the raw emotion.
Fishing, Pantera-Style (1988)
Brown: This is a boat Vinnie had in Arlington, Texas, where we lived and we'd go fishing with a case of beer and have some fun. Good ole boys. We used to catch 10-pound large-mouth bass. It was insane. I don't know how he got this boat, but I remember that it sunk. He didn't put the plug in. Anyways, Joe [Giron] is even scared to get on the boat. Anyway, it was just some old dive boat with a terrible motor on the back. We watched it sink. As it sank, I said, "Vinnie, did you put the plug in?" He goes, "No," as the plug starts bobbing to the top. Apparently not.
Cowboys From Hell Unwind (1989)
Anselmo: I'm sure we're absolutely joking around completely. I am very tanned. Dimebag has rolled his eyes back in his head showing the whites of his eyes. Vince is wearing a Prong shirt; he always loved Prong. And Rex is in a King's X hat; we've known the King's X guys for a very long time. This picture was taken probably in the midst of or towards the end of the touring cycle for Cowboys From Hell.
Brown: That was Cowboys at our home base club, the Basement in Dallas. We shot three videos in one day that day: "Psycho Holiday," "Cemetery Gates" and "Cowboys From Hell." The videos that were coming out in those days were real glitzy, glamorous shit, so we wanted to show what the band was all about: the fans and jumping offstage and shit like that. We all just kind of changed pants or whatever the fuck between songs. The pants in that picture … I think my friend turned me onto those pieces of shit and they were fucking comfortable as hell. This is the wrap picture for the day, and I was trying to get comfortable after shooting for, shit, 12, 13 hours of the day.
The Iron Curtain Falls (1991)
Brown: This is literally two weeks after the coup happened. I don't know why Vinnie is wearing shorts, because I remember it was cold as fuck that day. The rest of us have leather jackets and he's sitting there with a Cowboys shirt and shorts.
Anselmo: We were in the middle recording Vulgar Display of Power, and we were asked to play in Russia when the U.S.S.R. dissolved. They decided to show how the government had changed by having this big rock event, which AC/DC headlined, Metallica played as co-headliner and the Black Crowes played. We opened the show, and this is a picture of us in our younger days standing with the Russian police force. Believe it or not, it was them who prompted the picture-taking. At first we were very intimidated by this group of people, because they were very violent towards their citizens whilst the show was going on. But I guess one of the head guys made eye contact with me and made this hand gesture like, "Take a picture." And I was like, "Absolutely, sure." So we drug everybody over there, and we took a picture with these nice fellows.
Brown: They wanted to get in a photo. It was new to them. These guys didn't know what was ahead of them the day after, I guarantee it.
Pantera in Japan (1992)
Anselmo: This would be our first trip to Japan ever.
Brown: That's at our favorite noodle shop in Roppongi. It was around the corner from the hotel. They were open 24 hours. All you could hear were slurps.
Anselmo: I recognize our main interpreter, the guy who took us around. His name might have been be Spike or something. Totally awesome guy. And then I see our bloated, disgusting … Oh, we're still recording? Good. Our bloated, disgusting and reprehensible manager from back in the day, stuffing his face full of whatnot. There's Rex with his mouth full of noodles, with a Coca-Cola nearby. Vince Paul is looking directly into the camera, whilst I'm obviously turned toward him, engaged in some type of back-and-forth banter, whilst wearing a shirt I have never seen me wear ever, to my knowledge. It's a purple striped shirt, purple and black shirt. I don't know where the hell I got that shirt. And I'm sitting next to some strange gentleman. All I can remember whilst looking at this picture is this being our first trip to Japan, which was incredible and awesome. I just didn't realize, nor did I remember that our absolutely grotesque manager was present at the time.
Pantera and Skid Row Get Kissed (1992)
Anselmo: This is a picture of everybody but me on tour with Skid Row, doing a Kiss cover song. This was a very memorable night because Rex dressed up as Ace Frehley, I did the old Paul Stanley star-on-the-eye thing, and Vince did the Peter Criss.
Brown: Dime always had makeup with him on the road. We played "Cold Gin" with Skid Row every night of that tour. I think I played lead on that. That was one of the funnest tours we ever did. Plus, in this photo, you get to see Sebastian Bach's ass, which is always a pleasure.
Anselmo: Dimebag, obviously, dressed up like Gene Simmons, spitting blood, all that stuff. He wanted to actually make his own body armor [like Gene Simmons], and as you can tell in this photograph he made it out of duct tape and Coors Light boxes. He could turn a boring time into a fantastically memorable, bizarre, insane event at the drop of a hat. My God, look at the Coors Light boxes extending from his shins, wrapped around his arms like gauntlets. You've gotta fucking love it.
Dimebag Darrell and Friend (1992)
Anselmo: This looks like the early days of Pantera, when the audiences were very loud and close. This is a pretty awesome picture of a be-mohawked young fellow headbanging right in front of Dimebag, standing on the stage merely a foot away from him. As it should be, and as I miss terribly.
Brown: The whole thing with Pantera is phenomenal. It was all about the fans. Every night after shows, we'd sign things until we literally had to leave town. Sometimes kids would get onstage, do their little bit and jump off or whatever the fuck. It was all about interacting with the fans. So it's not uncommon to see pictures of something like this; it's just an intense moment.
Vinnie Paul, Rex Brown and Friend (1994)
Anselmo: Sweet God almighty. The PC culture is going to go up in arms at the cultural appropriation of this picture. How dare they! But Vince and Rex are sitting with what looks like a native-type fellow, perhaps this is New Zealand or something like that, but it's an indigenous man with a didgeridoo. I think the guy was selling them, and Rex and Vince bought one and probably made that guy's entire afternoon. So all joking aside, it looks like our first trip to New Zealand, which was awesome.
Brown: I want to say we were in Australia. I think we had either gone to the kangaroo sanctuary or something like that. I saw that guy and said, "Man, we got to get one of those sticks and fucking have a photo with this guy." It was pretty insane if you look at his makeup and everything else. He was making these sounds out of these rain sticks or whatever they're fucking called. We were just checking them out and I told Joe, "Dude, bust your camera out – let's take a photo." That's just all there is to it.
Pantera With White Zombie (1996)
Brown: White Zombie were managed by one of the partners at our management firm, and we did this tour in '96. I could go on for days about that fucking tour. But I won't. We'd known these guys since back when we were playing L'Amour in '88. We'd come and showcase in `89, when we first put the record out. We used to showcase there, booking agents and stuff like that. We knew White Zombie when they had Marshall amps with Christmas lights on them.
Anselmo: I would say that Robert Cummings-Zombie looked bored, but honestly he doesn't. He actually looks like he's kinda into it, as Dimebag's screaming at the top of lungs right next to him. God knows what he's yelling right there. I've got my Jeff Bridges haircut going on there, and I'm standing next to Sean-o, who looks exactly the same still today. Rex has got short hair in this picture; we were freaking out. And the toughest-looking guy in this whole picture is Jay [Yuenger], the guitar player for White Zombie. He looks like he's ready to mix it up a little bit, man, get down to business. Rock some knuckles. Excellent, fun times.
Brown: They used to have this big, huge backdrop of this green-meanie-looking thing. Every night, we'd get some spraypaint and paint one of its teeth black, because Dime had this drink called a Black Tooth Grin that he'd make. So they would have to go in and repaint over the black every night. The teeth were about six or eight feet tall.
Dimebag Darrell and Kerry King Drink Shot as Phil Anselmo Gives a Thumbs-Up (2001)
Anselmo: Obviously, this picture is from the Pantera/Slayer/Morbid Angel run. Here we have a hippie-haired version of myself in the background, giving the thumbs-up to what looks like some other shot-holders, Dimebag and Kerry King. It looks like a lot of fun.
Brown: Every night, we'd have one of the roadies come out and hand us a drink. That was a ritual at that point. We've known Kerry since probably '87 or '88. He found out about us through a fanzine. He was in Houston for a couple of weeks and him and Philip became really good friends, and he stayed with us. That was when we were still playing the clubs and we were doing our first record with Philip, Power Metal. He loved what we were doing and became a solid friend. In this photo, Kerry must have been playing with us that night. He came up with us all the time so I have no idea what he would have been playing. We'd always said that the one band we don't want to follow is Slayer; they're just insane live. And it worked out that we had to follow them on that tour. It was two of the finest bands in the genre of music that we do in one package. You don't see that much anymore. That ended up being the final tour.
Pantera With Dave Grohl (2001)
Brown: Back in those days, Dave would come to every damn show if he could. I don't know how we met him but he would ride on the bus with us and shit. Dave is the king of cut-up. Here you can see he's taking a Coors Light can in his piehole, or mouth.
Anselmo: He's got his entire mouth wrapped around the top of the beer can. That is a talent, I guess.
Brown: We had after-parties that would last fucking six hours. We would play dice or cards or whatever, and we had a lot of fun with Dave, man. To this day, he's one of the most genuine people you can possibly ever want to know.
Reinventing the Steel (2001)
Anselmo: This is the Reinventing the Steel tour, where I was warned beforehand, "Man, heavy metal's kinda going down the drain. There's this nu-metal kinda moving in, which has different elements and heavy metal's on its way out." Yeah. And I'm looking at a sold-out stadium right here. This just goes to show once again that Pantera has the greatest fans in the world.
Brown: You see what it's all about. I think we were definitely at the top of our game, because we were following Slayer. If there's a way to go out, there it was. The whole Pantera logo lit up in flames. It was the biggest production we ever took out. Usually, if it was up to us, we would have hung 60-watt light bulbs and just flung them over the stage, which we did in the "I'm Broken" video. But we went over the top in the production. I hate to call it the very end, but it was.
Anselmo: If we're really going to get into commentary here, yes, I see the projected Confederate flags. Well, for one, I've always said, "Flags don't mean a damn thing to me." Two, by using the Confederate flag, despite what anyone says – and I don't give a shit, because no matter what I say, I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't – but the truth of it all is, it was about as innocent as innocent could be. We weren't confessing to any clandestine power of structure or however you assholes wanna put it these days. I think we used the Confederate flag merely because of Lynyrd Skynyrd. We had learned from people before us. And it was never about anything other than that.
Brown: The Confederate flag is on the back cover of [1996's] The Great Southern Trendkill. That was the "Southern" part of it. There were still states that had that on their state flags. Nowadays it's forbidden to use it. It's not so politically correct. But it had nothing to do with racism. None of us were like that. It was just a tie-in to the artwork on the back cover. Even back then, I said, "This is not the way to go." Lynyrd Skynyrd used one for years and still do. Now people confuse it with racism and hatred. That's not what this band is about at all; quite the opposite. But it's the only thing I would say in the P.C. days that I have any regrets about.
Anselmo: Of course they wanted that little buzz shot at the very end, and I hope you're still recording me. I know what you're doing, media. I do. I know what you're doing. And I hope you get a whole lot of clicks out of it. I really do. There's your headline. Thank you.