PANTERA Drummer CHARLIE BENANTE – “Philip And Rex Said, ‘There’s No One Else We Wanted But You’”
November 29, 2022, 11 months ago
This Friday, December 2nd, marks the first ever Pantera reunion / tribute show since the passing of the Abbott brothers – guitarist Dimebag Darrell, who was assassinated in 2004, and drummer Vinnie Paul, who died in 2018. Vocalist Phil Anselmo and bassist Rex Brown will take the stage alongside guitarist Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society, Ozzy Osbourne) and drummer Charlie Benante (Anthrax) in Texicoco, Mexico at Hell & Heaven Metal Fest.
Just prior to embarking upon Pantera’s year-ending run of shows in Mexico, Columbia, Chile, and Brazil, drummer Charlie Benante took part in an exclusive Q&A session with BraveWords scribe Aaron Small. (Note: BraveWords will be covering Pantera's reunion at the Monterrey Metal Fest!)
Take me back to when you first got the call. This reunion / tribute had been rumored for quite some time.
“I’ve always talked to Philip throughout the years… then Phil called me up, and we just talked on the phone. When he said it to me, I said, ‘Absolutely!’ I was ready to do it with them because, as I explained it to him, this was more emotional to me than anything else. It wasn’t about financial gain, or anything like that. I know what those guys meant to me; especially Darrell, I was very close with him. And the same with Vinnie too. But I would talk to Darrell a lot. The one thing that made me feel good about Philip and Rex, they said, 'There’s no one else that we wanted to do this but you.' Not just because of my ability, it goes back to my friendship with these guys throughout the years. That hit me on an emotional level. I wouldn’t want to see anybody else up there but me doing this. After I got off the phone with Philip, I was like, that’s it. I’m getting my sh*t together and I’m doing this the right way. And that’s exactly how I approached it.”
How have the rehearsals been going?
“We were down there for over two weeks – Rex, myself and Philip. We got together in September. So, we had more hours just playing, before Zakk got there. We were pretty much in sync with each other. By the time that second week came around, we were grooving. People who were there, there’s some old Pantera crew members that are coming out with us. To hear them say things to me like, ‘Dude, I close my eyes, and it sounds like Vince is up there.’ That was my goal. When someone said that to me… that’s what I wanted to hear. That made me feel really good.”
Are you feeling a lot of pressure, leading up to that first show on December 2nd in Mexico?
“Hell yeah. I’m a nervous wreck dude. I may – not I may – I will have a few shots before I go up there, just to f*cking loosen up and take that edge off. I know those two are going to be watching me. So, I want this to go so great. I just want to be in the moment.”
Did anything surprise you as you were learning Vinnie’s drum parts?
“Oh yeah. I’ve watched Vinnie play, cause we were on tour together. I know Vinnie’s style and how he approached things. But I was a bit wrong about how to approach it when I was going to play it; I was trying to do more, because I thought that’s what was going on. But it turns out it wasn’t going on like that. So, I really studied it. Vinnie is great at his feel and his triplets. He just has this knack and this certain sound. When a drummer does a triplet on a normal kit, okay, it sounds like a triplet. But when Vinnie does it with the tones that he has, it sounds like a f*cking monster! It sounds ferocious because his drums were tuned very low. And they have this certain frequency that, when you hit them, it f*cking makes your stomach move. You just feel it inside. A lot of these parts, especially this one song called ‘Use My Third Arm’, that they used to do. Vinnie has this awesome drum pattern, and he’s hitting this big floor tom within the beat, as these accents. It’s one of my favorite parts that he’s come up with. It’s just so heavy. The reverb and everything about it, I wanted to recreate all of that and make it sound just like that. So, that was one tune. But there’s the song ‘Becoming’. It has this great pattern with the kick drums, and I was playing way too much. I figured out how he was playing it; it just sits so nice now. There’s a bounce to that song that you’ve got to have.”
Is there a big difference between your Anthrax drum kit and the kit you’ll be playing with Pantera?
“Oh yeah! So, with Anthrax, my configuration is different. I play with three rack toms in the front that are smaller than the ones I’m playing with Pantera. I’m playing with two big toms in the front like Vinnie had because I wanted to challenge myself. And I felt that if I set the drum kit up the way he did, I would then approach it in that way, and I would play like that. So, that’s my goal.”
Yesterday’s announcement that Pantera will be opening for Metallica on the North American leg of their M72 Tour floored everybody. Previously, Pantera only had European shows booked for next year. Now, Pantera is opening for Metallica in the round, in the middle of the field at stadiums across The United States and Canada. You must be really excited!
“Oh, I wish it was happening tomorrow. I wish it was not so far in advance; but, of course, I understand why. This was like a birthday gift… I didn’t know anything about it. This was kept very quiet by the Metallica boys.”
The final show Pantera currently has scheduled with Metallica is August 30, 2024. That is so far away. With all that time, is there any chance of a new Pantera song, EP, or maybe even an album from yourself, Phil, Rex, and Zakk?
“Oh man… who knows? Creatively, if we are just flowing and getting going, and things are starting to be really good, musically speaking, you never know what could happen. I’ve got tons of riffs. But we’re putting the cart before the horse. I like the positivity there, but I don’t know how people would react to that either at this point. I think first, let’s get out there and establish that we can play. I’m always open to the future.”
Looking at the tour schedule, Metallica is doing two nights in each city, with different opening bands each night. For Pantera, when it starts next summer, the first concerts are August 4th in New York, August 11th in Montreal, August 18th in Arlington – that equates to a lot of down time. Will there be any Pantera headline shows to fill in the gaps?
“I have no idea about that, I really don’t. With this announcement, maybe now we can plan something here and there. I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ll see how it goes.”
How many songs will Pantera be playing on Friday in Mexico? How long is the set list?
“We know… we have about 16, 17 songs. Out of that list, I’m sure we’re going to be playing at least 13, 14 of them.”
This first Pantera reunion / tribute show has the potential to break YouTube. Everyone in attendance at Hell & Heaven Metal Fest will be filming on their smartphone and uploading video; with the rest of the world incredibly anxious to see it. There really isn’t anything that can be done to prevent that, but will Pantera issue an official high-res clip to counteract all the fan-filmed videos?
“I hope so. We’ve been filming rehearsals and stuff, but you can’t stop that. It’s going to look like a sea of iPhones.”
Is that filming of rehearsals archival footage in case there’s a proper release one day?
“I would hope that some day it would be put out as a companion piece to something, a little documentary – here’s how it started. When I first went down to New Orleans in September, and it was just me, Rex and Philip playing – and we had a friend of ours there too, just helping out on guitar. After that week was done and I was leaving, we all got kind of melancholy. It was weird saying goodbye, because we had such a good time together. I think, for those guys, they’ve been put through a lot. I always tell people; I love these two guys! I love them as much as I loved Darrell and Vinnie. All the sh*t that people like to talk, is just sh*t. It means nothing. The thing that means the most to me, is when people come, and they just want to hear music, hear these songs that they haven’t heard in 20-something years. Some people have never even witnessed Pantera. So, put all your bullsh*t aside, and come. You may be turned around.”
To view Pantera’s complete tour schedule, visit this location.