On February 25th, 1992, Pantera released Vulgar Display of Power, catapulting themselves to heavy metal royalty. Twenty years later, the album is being reissued with a never-before heard track –”Piss,” recorded during the original Vulgar sessions – and a DVD bonus disc consisting of live footage and classic videos.
For drummer Vinnie Paul, working on the reissue brought back memories of the chemistry between Pantera’s members – “Four vibrant personalities that made a really special and unique band.” The group was mostly inactive by the early 2000s, and any chances of a reboot were sadly destroyed in 2004, when guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abott – Paul’s brother – was tragically shot and killed onstage by a deranged fan during a concert in Ohio.
Paul spoke with Rolling Stone about revisiting the band’s Vulgar period, honoring their legacy and more.
In the liner notes for the reissue, you say that Metallica abandoned thrash metal when they released The Black Album, and that you guys saw that as an opportunity. How explicitly was that talked about in the studio back then?
I think the biggest goal of the whole record was to top [Pantera’s 1990 album] Cowboys From Hell. We thought that with Cowboys From Hell we got really close to getting the definitive Pantera sound that we wanted. We felt like the songs were really moving in the direction that we had grown into as a band, and we just were really, really hungry. We got in there and we worked so hard. Our intention was just to be a heavy metal band. When Metallica put out The Black Album, it was kind of a letdown to a lot of fans and we felt like that was a window of opportunity for us to go ahead and step up to the front of the heavy metal plate.
Let’s talk about the previously unreleased track, “Piss.” How was the song forgotten and then rediscovered?
Well, it was definitely forgotten about. Pantera was always a band that was about making quality songs, not quantity, and so we always made the 10 or 11 best songs that we could. For some reason – I don’t know why – we left it off the record, man. I think it’s just as good as everything else on the record. It might not be quite as edgy as the other stuff, but it still has the same Vulgar attitude, sound, tone and everything.
When these 20-year anniversary things come around, they start asking if you remember if there’s anything there that we could add to really make the package special. And I just seemed to remember that we had a track – I couldn’t remember if we had finished it or not, but I remembered it was called “Piss.” Anyways, the people at Atlantic Records or Rhino or whatever were digging around through the vaults and came across it. And they sent me the tape. I popped it up, and everything was there. I couldn’t believe it. It was complete, all the way from start to finish, and I was just like, “Wow!”
With a lot of these things, there’s a verse there, maybe a chorus, the song is maybe halfway done, and producers and engineers go in and they have to finish it, put it all together. And this song was truly finished in its true form that we left it in, in 1992. So I think it’s really special, man. And anybody that’s a diehard Pantera fan, to get a new song after everything that’s happened, 20 years later, I think it’s pretty fresh and pretty kick-ass and I think that people will appreciate it. And it is special, because I truly don’t believe there’s any more unheard Pantera tracks out there.
Did the atmosphere in the studio lean more towards work or play?
Always work first and party later. It wasn’t like anybody was showing up blasted or anything. We would get serious and kick some fucking ass, and then at about two o’clock in the morning, three in the morning, four in the morning, five in the morning – whenever it was when we finished, we’d crack open a bottle of whiskey and start hitting the beer really hard and just sit back and listen to what we’d been working on. We’d think about what we were going to do to make it better and really just get excited about it as it came together.
Now that two decades have passed, do you feel differently about the album in any way?
Not really, man. I just remember at that point in time, we truly were an army. And if you fucked with one of us, you fucked with all four of us. We pulled the very best out of each one of ourselves, and with each record that we made, that mountain got taller and taller to climb. After Vulgar, we had to make Far Beyond Driven; it was just another level to go to, and that was [reflected in] the title.
We learned a lot during Cowboys From Hell. We took all our experiences from playing live on the road, we knew what parts in which songs moved people and we really made sure that we incorporated lots of those kinds of parts in Vulgar. We just did our thing, man.
In preparing this re-release, were you in contact with the other surviving band members?
We were indirectly in contact. We all worked really hard to make sure it was very special to the fans. Our manager, who still manages the estate of Pantera, as I’d guess you call it, is always very involved with anything that has to do with Pantera. We’re trying to still make new shirt designs and stuff that keeps the band alive and gives it a legacy. She’s very important and everybody still has their input, and it still is Pantera three-quarters of the way.
What lies ahead for the band’s legacy? Is there any chance of performing the material live in any configuration, or putting out additional archival material?
Stuff has always come out every two years consistently, so two years from now you’ll be looking forward to the 20th anniversary of Far Beyond Driven, and four years from now the 20th anniversary of The Great Southern Trendkill, and on and on. So it will just keep building and keep growing.
And the music will be untouched. It stands the test of time. It’s better left as it is. It really was a great time and a time period, and it’s time for all of us to move on with all of the other things that we’re doing. And we’re all doing our own thing and happy about it. But Pantera definitely was special.