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PANTERA – Kings Of The Night Time World
Dave Reynolds
Metal Forces, Issue 16 (1986)

Pantera (l-r): Diamond Darrell, Rex Rocker, Vinnie Paul and Terrence Lee

Onward we rock! Certainly words to warm the collective hearts of each and every person who consider themselves a heavy metal fan. Let me ask you a question though. How many of you have heard of Pantera?

Pantera are an awesome beyond belief heavy metal band from the heart of Texas, but as yet they remain shunned by major labels and ‘major’ music press. Pantera, you may be surprised to learn, have however released not one, but three top quality albums on their own Metal Magic label. The most recent being I Am The Night.

I Am The Night is a record that had those heads bangin’ here at Metal Forces in a manner not seen since, say, Metallica’s Kill ’Em All. So what’s so special about Pantera? A great deal I say, but you’ve really got to check ’em out on record before you read any further.

Ah, there you are! Back from the Metal Magic Mystery Tour. Good. Now let’s give you some serious background info for your delectation from none other than Pantera’s own Vinnie Paul and Diamond Darrell, who play drums and guitar respectively. I Am The Night comes hot on the heels of 1984’s superb Projects In The Jungle album. A record that oozed with all the talented excellence that ’83’s Metal Magic debut had promised.

So let’s begin with asking a very silly question. Are Pantera pleased with how it turned out? Vinnie: “Yeah we’re pretty happy with it. Obviously we could all still do better, but I think we’ve created a great atmosphere. It’s really raunchy, so it’s okay.”

What I can’t understand is why you haven’t struck up a major deal yet? Vinnie: “We can’t understand it either! But we’ve finally got some inside connections with major labels. Gold Mountain are really taking an interest and so are Jet, Geffen and Atlantic, so we’re still waiting. Hopefully, by the summertime we’ll have got a deal.”

Darrell: “Nothing was really happening until Loudness and Keel played here a few months ago. I gave a tape to Marc Ferrari of Keel of our stuff, and he’s been a great help ’cos he liked the stuff and he must’ve let somebody at Gold Mountain hear it.”

So hopefully you’ll be recording you next record for a major? Vinnie: “Well, if we haven’t signed a deal by summertime then we’ll put another album out on Metal Magic. We’re just gonna keep going, and we’re writing new material at the moment.”

If you are lucky enough to get a deal I hope they don’t wimp you out like, say, Geffen have done to Black’N’Blue! Vinnie: “If we do get a deal it’s gonna be only to play heavy metal. There will be no wimping out. When Black’N’Blue’s first album came out it was okay, but that last one was pretty bad. There will be no Top 10 stuff from us!”

You seem to have a good situation with The Eld’n producing at Pantego Studios. Will you be changing all that when you do get that elusive deal? Darrell: “We’d like to keep The Eld’n as producer. We would like to record at, say, The Record Plant! The Eld’n knows what Pantera is all about, but our studio isn’t as top quality as the ones in LA for instance. If we could record a Pantera album in somewhere like The Record Plant we’d be able to get a real monster sound!”

Diamond Darrell

As if they haven’t got a monster sound already! By all accounts they’re pretty hot stuff live too. Have you just been limited to playing shows in Texas so far? Vinnie: “We’ve played only in a five-state area that includes Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico – there’s a tremendous heavy metal following in Texas and Louisiana. It’s just real sad that the radio stations and people don’t support it… they try to keep it down. Texas is perhaps the biggest market for heavy metal in the United States.”

Is a tour of Europe a priority, or do you want to hit Los Angeles first? Vinnie: “We’d love to do a tour of Europe, but we really wanna tie up a major deal first so we can get the backing to do it. We get an unbelievable amount of fan mail from The Netherlands, Germany and Britain, so hopefully once we get that deal we’ll be able to go to Europe and Japan too. We should be touring from June / July and do some East Coast dates. We also might have something working with Keel, but it does depend on getting the deal.”

Do you feel you can stay in Texas rather than move to LA? Vinnie: “We don’t wanna move to LA unless we have to. However, we have created the biggest market we can for ourselves in Texas by playing Houston, Dallas, Austin etc. in the last three years. We could do with a change of face just to see how our music stands up in Los Angeles or New York. We wouldn’t mind moving to New York.”

Darrell: “We’re really glad we are from Texas and we’re a radical metal band! We’ve never been influenced by what’s happening in LA or started playing out with Motley Crüe or Ratt. We really kick some ass and always get the audiences to get down the front and rock.”

Who do you see as your immediate competition? Vinnie: “It’s kinda hard to say.”

Darrell: “We’ve a really different sound, but we always seem to be put into that Crüe or Ratt category. We wanna be in a league with Judas Priest who are really heavy yet retain that certain something that makes ’em so good.”

Vinnie: “Our biggest influences are bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. It’s that raw energy that comes from British music. I suppose we retain an American sound too.”

Yeah, you seem to have got a really heavy edge, yet still retain the melody that even Crüe and Ratt can’t compete with. Vinnie: “We’re grinding! Our music is what makes us heavy, but our vocalist (Terrence Lee. The line-up is completed by bassist Rex Rocker, but you should know all this already!!) is what makes us melodic. We’re really into thrash, but there’s too many bands that sound like that. So we want to be more in a Van Halen / Judas Priest-mode, which is what we first got into years ago, but metal’s just got heavier. We don’t listen to death metal, but we aren’t pussyin’ out. Metallica is our favourite band and there’s some other really good bands in that vein.”

I noticed there’s some Metallica-style riffs on ‘I Am The Night’ and ‘Valhalla’ on your last record! Darrell: “Don’t blame that on me! I recently got into Metallica, but every riff I’ve ever written I’ve never ripped it off anybody. I just play what moves me. In actual fact, we jammed with Metallica when they came through here and we had one helluva time.”

You seem to be developing a pretty flashy image I’ve noticed too. Vinnie: “I guess it’s because we started out listening to Van Halen, but we don’t really want a flash image and we don’t have anybody telling us to look like this or that. Maybe when we get a deal we might work on a look or something, but really it’s the music that matters. We don’t wanna look like any other band and we certainly aren’t glam.”

That’s funny ’cos we have a sort of bet going here as to when you’re gonna shave off your beard Vinnie! “Ha! Ha! I did do it one time but I looked just like Blackie Lawless from W.A.S.P., so I quickly grew it back!!”

What about that Ace Frehley belt buckle you’re wearing on the album cover Darrell? I thought my brother was the only one to still have one of those. I haven’t seen one in years! “Well, I grew up with Kiss. They provoked me to grow my hair long and I went down and got a perm! Kiss provoked me to rock and I don’t really give a fuck what anyone says about that. Kiss got me rockin’ and they’re still a great band.”

Vinnie Paul

Do you plan on putting a new record out in your usual manner just after the summer? Vinnie: “If we put it out on Metal Magic it’ll be out at the end of the summer, yeah. If we sign to a major we’d have to do it to their schedule, but we don’t wanna mess around for six months getting it out. We’re writing material for it right now – we don’t like hangin’ around. What would you like to see on Pantera 4?”

Well, more of the same really. Pantera heavy metal. No wimping out. “You got it!”

Have you ever considered licensing your Metal Magic albums in Europe? Darrell: “We’ve had a lot of offers but we’ve held out because we don’t want any connections before we get a major deal. We don’t want to sign contracts whereby we have to give 20% to this company and so on ’cos they have the rights to our stuff.”

Vinnie: “Nobody owns anything of Pantera. Anyway, all our records are distributed through Important and Greenworld and they get to Europe. So people can get the records, so it’s no big deal.”

There is just one more question concerning I Am The Night. What do the initials to the song “D.G.T.T.M.” mean? Vinnie: “Can I tell him? Okay, it means ‘Diamond Goes To The Movies’. It kind of sounds like the sound effects from movies like Friday The 13th and Rocky IV.”

Darrell: “I wanted to do a raw guitar solo. Really let rip. It definitely sounded weird!”

Does all of this satisfy your lust for Pantera info? I certainly hope so, for I honestly believe that this band, above all others, are going to make the biggest mark on American heavy metal in a long, long while. If I were in the likes of Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Keel, Judas Priest or Def Leppard, I’d certainly be very worried. Pantera are out to kill. As Vinnie told me: “We’re a heavy metal band and we aim to stay that way.” You got it!

Interview taken from Metal Forces, Issue 16 (1986). All photographs by Joe Giron.