Earlier this month Billboard announced that Pantera’s surviving members, vocalist Philip Anselmo and bassist Rex Brown, signed with Artist Group International and agreed to a reunion tour in 2023. Most metal fans thought that with the deaths of brothers “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott and Vinnie Paul, that any chance of a Pantera reunion and/or tour was over. The band split up in 2003, and Abbott and Paul formed Damageplan. Abbott was tragically shot and killed onstage in 2004, and Paul died of heart complications in 2018.
It was also announced that the vacancies in the group would be filled by Black Label Society/Ozzy guitarist Zakk Wylde and Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante. According to Billboard, the lineup was given a green light by the estates of the Abbott brothers.
On Thursday, Wylde and Benante appeared on Sirius XM’s “Trunk Nation” and spoke about the tour with host Eddie Trunk. “It’s gonna be awesome,” Wylde said. “The fellows have always… When Vinnie was still with us, it was always rolling around that, ‘Zakk, would you honor Dime and all of us get together and do this thing?’ And I said, ‘Fellows, whenever you wanna do this thing, I’ll be over here waiting in the dugout and in the bullpen. And just call me when you need me and I’ll learn everything and we’ll go do this.’”
Wylde continued: “Throughout the years, there’s always been rumblings about it, so it wasn’t until, obviously, now… I was speaking on the phone with Phil — we might have been all on a group call — but Phil was just, like, ‘Zakk, would you honor Dime and would you play?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, Phil. Of course. I’ve always said I would. Of course.’ I said, ‘If you guys wanna go do it, then let’s do it.'”
Wylde also commented on how he would approach playing the parts originally written and recorded by Darrell. “You approach it the same way as you do when I’m playing with Ozzy,” he said. “Obviously I’ve gotta learn [Randy] Rhoads’s stuff and I’ve gotta learn Jake’s [E. Lee] stuff, and when I was doing the [Black] Sabbath stuff, you learn it and do it as faithful as you can. Charlie’s gotta learn all of Vinnie’s parts. You approach it as if you’re in a cover band. When we do the Zakk Sabbath stuff,” referring to his Black Sabbat cover band, “I don’t start changing lyrics midway through ‘War Pigs’. You learn the songs — so that’s what you do.”
Benante also commented saying: “I can’t go do this as the drummer from Anthrax because it would be a different sound completely. So the way I’m gonna do that is if you close your eyes, it’s gonna sound like it’s Vinnie, basically. And that’s how it’s gonna be… The sound is gonna sound exactly like him.” Benante also elaborated on when he was first approached about taking part in the tour. “Oh, man,” he said. “December [of last year. End of December. I was talking to Philip, and then he just mentioned this. And I said, ‘Oh, yeah, sure. Whatever.’ And then it became real about January [or] February… To this day, if it happens, if there’s one show that’s played, great.”
Both Wylde and Benante reiterated that the tour is a celebration of Pantera music. “Absolutely,” Benante said. “And I think everybody in [Anthrax] feels the same way about those guys. We go back a long way [with Pantera] — ’86, maybe even ’85. We played a show at a place called Cardi’s in Houston, and Pantera were the opening band. It was in [April] ’86. Helstar was on the bill. It was the first time we met them. My friendship with Darrell goes a long way, and I love both of those guys so much. So, for me, it was a very emotional thing to do this. That’s what it’s all about — it’s all about those two guys and doing it… I don’t wanna see anybody else doing it but me, ’cause I’m gonna do it right.”
Wylde added: “Whenever [the idea of doing a tribute has] come up, you’re celebrating the guys and you’re celebrating all their achievements and their greatness. And that’s what it is. ‘Cause everybody was just, like, ‘How can they call it a Pantera reunion?’ And I go, ‘Well, it’s Phil and Rex getting back together,’ ’cause they haven’t played together for a while. I go, ‘It’s a Pantera celebration.’ That’s what it is.”
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