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RITA HANEY – Rolling With It
Anthony Morgan
November 2017

‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott onstage with Damageplan in 2004

May 2006 DVD Dimevision, Vol. 1: That’s The Way I Have Fun paid homage to the memory of late Pantera and Damageplan guitarist ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott, the DVD culled from footage Dimebag had shot with a camcorder over a number of years on the road and at home. The label of Pantera drummer and brother Vincent ‘Vinnie’ Paul Abbott, Big Vin Records, oversaw its release. Successive DVD Dimevision, Vol. 2: Roll With It Or Get Rolled Over will be issued in November 2017 via Metal Blade Records.

“I would say with the Dimevision volumes we are doing, our first intentions on it – and as far as with this volume, as well – were to let people see Darrell outside of being onstage or on the road,” shares Rita Haney, long-time girlfriend of Dimebag. “See how he was at home, the way he lived. The one thing about Darrell was he was a character. It wasn’t just a stage presence, or just a rock ’n’ roll side to him; he was that way 24/7, and he just was always comical, always creative. There’s just so much footage of him at home entertaining himself that I really wanted to share that with people, so that they knew that what you saw was what you got.

“Hopefully that lets people even more into the behind-the-scenes of living at home, and living with Dime. Plus with the Dimevision releases, it gives us a chance to release music that he recorded on his own, even if it was parodies and just for fun – just as four-tracks. He had so much fun with the music, even when he was off, and with music that had nothing to do with Pantera. It gives us a place to get to share that as well. It’s coming together.”

Dimebag happened to be a character personality ever since the day the long-time couple first met. “He had kind of big ears and braces…,” Rita remembers. “Well, no… He didn’t have his braces yet – just big teeth. We were eight-years-old (laughs), and little bratty kids – the both of us. I pushed him off of his bicycle. I don’t remember what he said to me, but we used to play in the neighbourhood together. When I first met him, that’s how he was (laughs). Even back then, he was still that comedian, even if he didn’t know it yet. He was just somebody you wanted to be around.”

As Pantera’s profile skyrocketed, Dimebag arguably maintained that same personality. “With me, I wouldn’t say that he changed,” Rita submits. “He evolved of course, because with that comes larger responsibilities as far as finances and behaviour. Just things that you’re supposed to take care of, and growing up. As a person though, no, he never really changed. He was still that prankster, still that kid that made you laugh. He didn’t change; he just had more things at his disposal which he could create debauchery with, I guess.”

Albeit a prankster, Dimebag nevertheless still took his respective craft quite seriously. “Absolutely,” Rita seconds. “He was one of those people that when it came to playing, I wouldn’t come out and say it came naturally, but it almost did in a sense. When he was a kid, he practised; he practised all the time. He wasn’t somebody who went and took a lot of lessons. He had a lot of help from his father (Jerry Abbott) who showed him some things, like when he wanted to play a song or this or that.

“Yeah though, he wasn’t big on reading music or theory, or anything like that. It just kind of came from within. In his heart and soul, he had a lot of… Like Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) was one of his favourite guitar players, because Billy could take one note and hold it for eight bars. He didn’t need to noodle, or to pack in so many notes or riffs into one thing. He could just make it sing with one note, and he respected that so much. That was a lot of his style as well, too.”

As a musical child of the vinyl age, Dimebag would slow down long-players during his formative years and play alongside his favourite artists at the time. “And like I said, if he didn’t quite get something…,” Rita begins. “Because his dad owned a studio. Still does, I believe in Nashville. He grew up around musicians, down there recording and things like that. He got to experience that. His dad was really good about that; when he would grab a record and go ‘Hey, dad. I wanna learn this song,’ he would show him the notes, and Darrell would just take it from there. He started really playing his music I guess by ear, learning that way.”

Learning the craft of guitar and evolving both musically and mentally through the years, Dimebag learnt to roll with it or get rolled over, hence the title of Dimevision Vol. 2. “Darrell had a lot of little sayings that he would latch onto that he heard somewhere, that he would make his own,” Rita shares. “Like the term ‘getcha’ pull’; that’s an old moonshine term. You’d pass the jug around and getcha’ pull. That means to take a swig off of it, to get your drink, but he took that and just ran with it. It became to getcha’ pull out of life; get your slice, get you some of it – as much as you can. That was his whole meaning.

“One of his terms that he was saying a lot I would in say 2003, 2004 was ‘Roll with it or get rolled over.’ He was pretty much not happy with the things that had gone wrong with Pantera. He had always been Pantera; even if he called himself another band, in his heart he was still Pantera, and that’s pretty much how he meant it. That you roll with it, or get rolled over. It’s like ‘Take the punches.’

“He had left a voicemail… On the first part of the DVD, you’ll hear a part where it’s him. It’s a really horrible voicemail recording, but we tried to clean it up as best as we could. It was left on my answering machine, and it’s him saying ‘Roll with it or get rolled over.’ He was laying in his bunk, and it had been a hell of a day. He was like ‘Man, I’m so beat up,’ but that was the highs and lows of rock ’n’ roll. You’ve got to roll with it or get rolled over, and I just thought it would be appropriate for this volume since there’s a lot of rolling over and getting rolled over in it (laughs).”

Footage included on Dimevision, Vol. 2 was selected by Rita with the assistance of videographer Daryl ‘Bobby Tongs’ Amberger, Rob Fenn subsequently editing said footage. “It was really, really great,” she enthuses. “Bobby Tongs is a brother to me. We’ve known each other a long time; even when he was just a kid in the neighbourhood, he would come by Darrell’s house and watch him practice in the garage, or jam, or come by and get picks, or a couple of autographs. He’s a few years younger than us, but he’s been around a really long time. He was Darrell’s best friend out there on the road; they shared that whole thing with the camera. Bobby captured tons of stuff, and it was really a lot of fun. He got taught by the best. He knows his Dimevision; he sees it that way. It was smooth, it was funny.

“We laughed so much that we were both just crying over different things that we came across, whether it be just a photo of Vinnie and Darrell being small and holding this doll called Big Josh. We Googled it online to see what it was, because I’m going ‘I’ve never even heard of this.’ I’ve heard of all of your other little action figures, but never Big Josh. We laughed so hard about it. We came across this audio CD when we were looking for music tracks that had Darrell doing this whole thing in a Gene Simmons voice (Kiss bassist). It’s just an outtake where he’s laughing at himself, going ‘Hey, this is Gene Simmons.’ He just kept repeating it, and he just started laughing. Of course, we used it throughout the video. Anything with dollar signs or money, ‘Hey, this is Gene Simmons’ (laughs). It was different things like that, but yeah, we had a really good time.

“As far as us three coming together and getting in the groove, we all can’t wait to get started on Pantera Vol. 4 and Dimevision, Vol. 3. We’re ready to go; there’s footage that has been catalogued and put aside. I know that there’s so much that there’s no way that only Pantera Vol. 4 can come out, because it just won’t all fit in there. We’ll have to work some magic on that thing and maybe put out a few volumes of that, because they toured… Gosh, after home video Vol. 3 came out, it was just ‘Welcome to Pantera home video, Vol. 4’ from all of the kids with the double devil horns. That went on for three to four records, I think, and the live one. So, there’s a lot of footage. A lot of tours that will make it into Vol. 4, but there’s no way that all of it can fit (laughs). Hopefully that just means more for everybody. The way the digital age is, trying to get all of the clearances and stuff for all of this is pretty crazy. Hopefully the old school format people will come out and support. If it does well, then we’ll be able to put another one out.”

Dimevision, Vol. 3 might be shortly imminent, but a time period of 11 years separates the releases of volumes one and two. “We all had plans to make it a yearly thing, but gosh, I think a lot of it was grieving and just time getting away,” Rita ponders. “I know for me, it was just like ‘Boom, boom, boom.’ The next thing you know, three years had gone by. We started working on it, because I’ve got stuff that dates back all the way to 2007 and 2008 that we edited. Like I said though, time just got away. I know with Vinnie, he had started a band, and was trying to move on with the musical side of things. He’s gotten busy, and then Bobby was touring a lot between Manson and Slipknot. When my schedule permitted, his didn’t. He was on the road, and then we would be out on the road in the summertime with Dimebag Hardware and so on. And just yeah, the next thing you know, time just got away.

“Finally, things have slowed down. Everybody’s just gotten into that groove and agreed ‘Hey, let’s get this thing done,’ and it’s time. I think a lot of us have had time to, like I said, grieve. That’s a process that I don’t think ever stops. I know that it doesn’t for me, but you learn to work it into your daily routine I guess you would say.”

A difference in tone separates the respective pair of volumes. “With the first one, like I said, with what had just happened and what we were going through, it was more of a memorial piece,” Rita reasons. “I don’t think that was really our intention when it was coming together, but that’s just how it came together. I know that there are solos and things in there that were longer and things were more drawn out and at a slower pace, but at that time, I know it was the way we were feeling and the fans were feeling about that whole thing. What we did this time was to get back to that groove of moving it along and keeping it at a fast pace, like the Pantera home videos do. It’s got a lot of that kind of feel, to where we don’t want you to get bored. We want you to watch it a bunch of times to catch everything – stuff gets lost in there. And yeah, it tries to keep you uplifted. Really, where we were going was to get back to the basics of what a great Pantera home video should be. Even though it’s not Pantera, it’s Dimevision, he was still the creator of those videos. We have to follow that recipe, I guess you would say.”

‘Diamond’ Darrell Abbott in 1986

As well as being the creator of the video footage featured on Dimevision, Vol. 2, the late axeman was the creator of the five demo tracks which accompany its release. “I would say it was tough to pick through all of the tracks and decide which ones we wanted to get out there, because there’s a lot,” Rita divulges. “The five we narrowed it down to just for this first release though, I think people will dig. There’s a track on there, like I said earlier, called ‘True’. He did that track back in 1986. We included some descriptions and things. I think the regular DVD package comes with a 16-page booklet; it’s got a cool photo collage that doesn’t come in the deluxe package, which is a photobook and stuff.

“Fifty pages with unreleased photos and things like that are in there, but it gives you little descriptions and things that come from me, and from Sterling (Winfield) who was also on the road with them, who also engineered in the studio with them, and did several records. Sterling’s family was part of the crew. We took everybody’s memories and thoughts when it was all going down and being recorded, and this and that. Hopefully when people read it, they understand when they hear the music. Maybe it will settle them into that right vibe of what they’re about to get and that feeling of where he was at that time, so they can have fun with it.

“That’s pretty much what the music is, is for you to have fun with it, and to see a side of him that’s not that heavy. He does all of the singing, had a good old time with it, and wrote the lyrics. A lot of it is about things that he was going through at the time, and what was happening. The ‘True’ song has some terrible keyboards on it – it’s from 1986. It was influenced by George Michael.

“I used to work at this dance club and bartend, and he would come up. I remember coming home from work one night about 3am, and getting in. He had been working on it out in the garage, and just started talking about what the words meant and stuff. Yeah, it’s just such a wide range. There’s a lot of different things in there. I think people can… I don’t want to say learn life lessons or learn anything from, but there’s some pretty good lyrical content in some of these that makes good sense. Some of it I live by, and hopefully everybody else can get something out of it like I know I have.”

The vault, as it were, contains a multitude of material that was left behind. “Darrell’s first four-track I got for him for Christmas,” Rita tells. “I got him a Tascam; that was back in ’84, ’85, and he had made music since then. He even had a 16-track. As time progressed, he even had his own little road mini-studio that Bobby would haul up to his room for him and set up, so he had been making four tracks for a long time. You’re talking… Shit… There’d be almost 25 years of stuff there, so there is a ton of it. Like I said, some of it is just parodies of him writing different lyrics to other people’s songs, and it’s usually something about that person. It’s pretty funny, so hopefully we get to share some of that stuff too as far as working on getting clearances for it and so forth. Yeah though, it’s really hard to tell you a number. Honestly, I just know what it looks like, and there’s a lot of it.”

Should the inclination exist, one has to wonder if a fresh Pantera full-length could be fashioned out of pre-existing guitar parts Dimebag left behind. “I think we’re reaching there,” Rita feels. “Anything’s possible, but sticking all of that stuff together and ProTooling the hell out of it, it would just lose its authenticity. Its vibe. There was a piece that Darrell did on the piano that I actually sent to Philip (Anselmo, ex-Pantera vocalist), because I think he could write some really cool lyrics over it. There was another instrumental thing that I thought was pretty cool, and there’s still a few tracks that they had laid down that were going to be the next Damageplan record. That’s if it was going to be Damageplan, past all of the nonsense. Those tracks are still there.

“Me personally, I would love to see Philip and Rex (Brown, bass) play on those and have those come out as Pantera, just because I think they’d be so powerful. They’ll pop on, because I’ll forget that they’re in my library, in my iTunes. They’ll come on on shuffle out of nowhere, and I’m like ‘Oh shit, what is this?’ Then I remember, and go ‘Oh, damn. So powerful.’ There’s some music there, but who knows? It would be really cool, though. Like I said, I know Darrell will always be and always was Pantera in his heart. I would just love for that to be some of his final music, for that to be Pantera.”

Should a fresh Pantera full-length fashioned out of pre-existing guitar parts Dimebag left behind be a realistic possibility, one would assume the man’s brother Vinnie Paul would be against such a project. “I don’t know,” Rita muses. “Vinnie’s come a long way compared to when everything happened back in 2004. I don’t want to say you fall out a little bit I guess, but you have time to think about things. I’m not really sure, because I don’t live in his head. I know for me though, when you carry around something so hard and hurtful, it just tears you up inside. At a point, you do have to let go of things so you can breathe. Now, that doesn’t mean that you’ve gotta talk to anybody ever again, but I think as time goes by, things change. I would like to hope that that’s a possibility. Never say never (laughs).”

Had the fatal shooting not occurred on December 8th, 2004 at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio, the four members of Pantera might have resolved their differences perhaps, and ventured on to create further records and tour yet again. “I think absolutely, the reason being Darrell was the most forgiving person that I knew,” Rita argues. “I know that myself included had all been in the hot seat with him one time or another over something. His father, me, Vinnie – like I said, anyone close to him. He was not one to just walk away or forget about something, even if he got angry. It ate at him until he got it figured out, confronted it, solved it. He was just that kind of guy, especially if you mattered to him. No matter how sideways shit got, which was lack of communication and people in the middle just not…

“Gosh, it’s easy to… What’s the saying?… Divide and conquer. And there were people that were dividing and conquering, and it should never have gotten like that. Like I said, it was lack of communication personally with them, and drugs. I can’t leave that part out, because drugs made them into different people. Yeah though, all of those factors, I think most definitely. I’ve seen Darrell forgive for some pretty horrendous things, and I know that he loved Philip and definitely loved…

Pantera 1997 (l-r): Phil Anselmo (standing), Dimebag Darrell, Rex Brown
(standing) and Vinnie Paul

“Like I said, he had spoken to Rex on his birthday. Rex was pretty tanked, and wanted to go out for steak dinner. We already had plans. Darrell was like ‘No, dude. I’m not going out with you today, tonight or tomorrow for steak dinner, but we have history. You used to live on my couch. My mom was your mom so we will talk, but just not today,’ and he meant that. I know he did. He wasn’t happy with his situation; with Patrick’s attitude (Patrick Lachman, Damageplan vocalist), and things that were going on with Damageplan. I have several voice messages from him saying ‘Dude, you’re not gonna believe what this dude is doing now. I just wanna fire him, but I don’t want people to think we’re difficult to work with.’ He was that bad to him already, and yeah, I think definitely they would’ve worked things out. They would’ve figured a way out, and they’d be jamming.”

The four members of the 1986-2003 incarnation of Pantera can never reunite of course, though Ozzy Osbourne and Black Label Society guitarist Zakk Wylde has been suggested multiple times to occupy the vacant position in the event of a potential Pantera reformation. Rita is aware of such suggestions. “I find it pretty comical (laughs), the only reason being is you could never call Pantera Pantera without any four of those members,” she stresses. “The magic just wouldn’t be there. They were brothers; they knew each other for a long time, and it just wouldn’t be right.

“I would love to see those guys jam onstage together and play some of the old tunes, and jam with the likes of Zakk, but you couldn’t just put that burden on one person. You’d have to bring in quite a few of his friends, like have Kerry King (Slayer) play a few songs, have Zakk Wylde play a few songs. You’d have to bring in some buddies, and make it healthier with a jam. You would be paying tribute and homage to a fallen brother, but those guys would never call that Pantera. They wouldn’t. I just know how they feel and thought about each other when it comes to that, which was a mutual respect.”

A farewell concert in the vein of what Rita outlined would be apt. “But you still wouldn’t call it Pantera,” she underlines. “You’d have Pantera in there, but you’d have to have a better way of wording because it just wouldn’t be right. I just don’t think any of them would feel right inside. If it was Pantera paying homage to a fallen brother, then maybe something like that. It wouldn’t be some touring band or whatever, though. Like I said, I’d love to see them jam together. Yeah, though. I just don’t know how hard that would be – to stand onstage without him – especially for Vinnie.”

Rita has individual relationships with each of Pantera’s former members, Vinnie Paul included. “Phil and I email,” she cites. “Rex and I get on the phone and talk; when you get on with Rex, it’s hard to get off (laughs). He’s as long-winded as me (laughs). Vinnie and I email. There for a while, he and I were estranged, and not really talking to each other or keeping up communication. People get in there, and divide and conquer. We’ve managed to overcome that, though. He’s trying to live his life and have his person, and I totally respect that. I understand that. I’m sure that when he looks at me, he thinks of his brother, and he doesn’t have him. I totally get it. Actually, I would say that this year has been a good year with all of us.”

Although Rita and Vinnie no longer remain estranged, him and vocalist Phil Anselmo still remain estranged. Rita hopes the former bandmates resolve their differences. “Gosh, I hope so,” she discloses. “I know what it is to carry something that hurtful inside of you, and just let it tear you down and not let you live. Hopefully somewhere, sometime, there can be some forgiveness some place. I know that there are still some things that I resent, some things that happened that were hurtful to Darrell that I couldn’t prevent. It’s like when you love somebody; you want to protect them, and you want to go to battle for them. When you see someone that hurt though, and it’s just out of your hands, you feel helpless. I know that there are things that made him feel that way, things that I will never see eye to eye with Philip or Rex on. I don’t know, though. You know those things about each other, and you figure out where you can continue to be family at.”

A book documenting the life and times of Dimebag and Pantera through Rita’s perspective seems like a viable proposition. “I’ve had a lot of people ask me that,” she chuckles. “I don’t know. I think it could be kind of fun. I know that there are a lot of things that I have; from postcards to letters to notes, to just little things that Darrell would mail me when he was on the road in Europe, and little packages. It’s stuff that I think would be fun to share with people, because they were always comical – little drawings, stick figures, and stuff. I think it would be fun for people to see that side of him, of how he was personally and in his heart too, that you might not see through the videos. I don’t know, though. You never know. Maybe I’ll find myself with nothing to do one day, and get on it (laughs).”

Bassist Rex Brown penned a book, the tome being titled Official Truth, 101 Proof. The book arrived in April 2013 via Da Capo Press. “Good lord…,” Rita says. “It’s not good to write a book when you don’t remember things, and you have other people telling you in your ear ‘This is how it went down’ when it didn’t. I got to chapter three, and I felt like I needed to get a highlighter out for things I knew were incorrect (laughs). I know where Rex is today, and where his head is. I know he regrets a lot of the things that are in that book. It’s kind of a… I don’t know. How can you write a book when there’s shit you don’t remember?”

‘Dimebag’ Darrell onstage with Damageplan in 2004

Official Truth, 101 Proof arguably seemed to paint Vinnie Paul in an unfavourable light, in particular. “It seemed potshot, like ‘Let’s try to take some potshots and stab at you,’” Rita critiques. “And yeah, it was pretty hateful. It’s the pot calling the kettle black. How can you throw stuff out there when you’re just as guilty or guilty of worse things? Some of the stuff is not yours to tell, or yours to judge. And yeah, it was pretty shitty, I would say. I know he has regrets about that. If he doesn’t, he needs to.”

Positive, negative, or otherwise, Official Truth, 101 Proof remains the only book to be penned by an individual belonging to Pantera’s inner circle. “Yeah…,” Rita agrees. “And, yeah. People think things that I know are fantasy about the guys, so I get you asking about a book. A book is a touchy thing. I would have no problem writing about mine and Darrell’s relationship, and we weren’t perfect. We had some pretty rough times a few times, but I also know in the end, the last few years of his life we were the happiest we ever were.

“I would not trade going through those mistakes because of where we wound up, and it took the horrible mistakes to get where we were. To tell someone else’s business is just not yours to tell though, unless it directly affects you, and they didn’t tell the truth or something. Yeah, then I can understand defending yourself. A book about this is a touchy thing to write, especially with all of the history all of us have together, without hurting somebody.”

For now, Pantera fanatics can placate themselves with the likes of Dimevision, Vol. 2, and the impending Dimevision, Vol. 3 and Pantera Vol. 4. “We were told that there’s no demand for DVDs any more, that even your biggest, hugest sellers can barely sell 5,000 copies,” Rita explains. “Nobody wanted to do this – even our own label passed (laughs). Luckily, a really good friend of ours – Brian Slagel (Metal Blade Records owner and CEO) – knows the potential and I would say the cult following that the Pantera home videos and Darrell has as far as in our home community of metal music. He knows absolutely what we’ve got to do, and he was there for us.

“Pretty much, this one is kind of laying the groundwork. If we prove the industry wrong, there’ll be more of them. If we don’t, and the kids don’t just go out and support the old school packaging, then yeah: most likely it’ll probably be something that goes away (laughs), which I hope doesn’t. Hopefully everyone gets out there, and shows how much they want it, and we can bring more. I would love to have more. Like I said, we’ve already started on Pantera 4, so it could easily be put out next year if we have the support of the fans and they want it. That’s what it boils down to, I guess.”

Dimevision, Vol. 2: Roll With It Or Get Rolled Over will be released on November 24th, 2017 via Metal Blade Records.

Interview published in November 2017.

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