In 1990 the Arlington heavy metal band Pantera broke out with its major-label debut, Cowboys From Hell, which spotlighted “Diamond” (later “Dimebag”) Darrell Abbott’s pyrotechnic guitar playing and Phil Anselmo’s overdriven vocals. A little more than a decade later, the band had a particularly ugly breakup, largely due to tensions surrounding Anselmo’s heroin addiction. Much worse was to come: In 2004, while Darrell and his brother, Vinnie Paul, Pantera’s drummer, were performing with their new band, Damageplan, a crazed fan stormed the stage and shot and killed Darrell.
On the occasion of Cowboys’ twentieth anniversary, Rhino has released an expanded edition of the album, available in two- CD and three- CD formats, as well as an $85 Texas-shaped box set and a $100 Ultimate Edition. The 46-year-old Vinnie Paul splits his time between Arlington and Las Vegas, where he has become “really good friends with Carrot Top and the Amazing Johnathan and all the top entertainers out there.”
Before Cowboys From Hell, you guys were a typical eighties glam metal band—you had the teased hair, the spandex, the makeup—and then on this record your sound got a lot heavier and your look got a lot grimier. Which change came first? The look or the sound?
It was a combination. Megadeth called Dimebag up and pretty much offered him the world to come play guitar with them, but he turned them down. And we all went, “Wow, we gotta do something here to turn this band into something special.” Our independent releases were kind of mimicking the bands we were listening to at the time, so basically we said, “Let’s get rid of these magic clothes—they don’t play music for us. Let’s strip this thing down.” We were ready to do something new—keep the hillbilly roots that we had from Texas but kick it up a notch.
What do you mean by your “hillbilly roots”?
My dad was a country musician, so we had David Allan Coe and lots of other country music playing around the house