Former PANTERA drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott says that he has “found peace” 10 years after witnessing the murder of his brother while they were both playing at a club in Ohio.
Dimebag was shot dead on December 8, 2004 while performing with his band DAMAGEPLAN at Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. The shooting that night claimed three other lives and seven more were injured as the mad gunman opened fire on the crowd at the small club north of downtown Columbus.
One of heavy metal’s most influential and beloved figures, Dimebag was a larger-than-life guitarist and a genuine, amusing human being who was rarely spotted without his favorite drink, the “black tooth grin” — a splash of Coca-Cola and two shots of whisky.
During a recent chat with WWE wrestling superstar and FOZZY singer Chris Jericho for the “Talk Is Jericho” podcast, Vinnie spoke about how he feels that Dimebag’s spirit and energy is always with him and inspires him to be the best that he can be.
“The funniest thing that’s ever happened to me… I turned 50 this year, and it was the best birthday party I ever had in my entire life. It was absolutely incredible,” Vinnie said.
“I still feel like a 19-year-old kid, man. Everything I do, I approach the same way. I’m not married. I don’t have any kids. I’ve been married to music my entire life. I’ve been dedicated to it. I know what it takes to do it. And ever since my brother has been taken from me, I feel like I have to live for both of us. And I bring it everywhere I go, everything I do, and I think he’s here with us, watching us and enjoying everything that’s going on, man.”
Vinnie also talked about how his brother cherished being a rock star, was always “on,” and lived to have a raucous good time. And he always made sure everyone around him was as pumped up, comfortable and/or inebriated as he was.
“The thing that turned him on the most in this world was putting a smile on other people’s faces,” Vinnie said. “It didn’t matter where it was, when it was, how it was, whether it was playing his guitar, whether it was shaking a hand, signing an autograph, giving him a pick, just saying hi. That was the most important thing in his life — making other people smile.”
He continued: “I remember the last show we ever played together with DAMAGEPLAN, we played in Buffalo, New York, and I wanted to… Actually, we wanted to go to the casino in Niagara Falls and he was really smoked. We had two more shows left. We were gonna do Mancow’s show in Chicago the next day. And I said, ‘Dime, man, let’s go to the casino, man.’ And he was, like, ‘Man, Vinnie, I’m really, really tired. I wanna kill these last two shows. I’m gonna go home and make the next DAMAGEPLAN record. I wanna kill this.’ He goes, ‘You go have a good time, man. I’ll see you in a little bit.’ So me and Mayhem, our security guy that got killed that night [in Columbus], went with me, and we went to the casino and we had a great time. And the bus pulled up about 3 o’clock in the morning to get us, and I came on the bus, and there was a full party going on in the front lounge. And I’m, like, ‘What is going on in here?’ It was Dime and there was, like, 12 people I’d never seen in my life. And I said, ‘Dime, I thought you were [tired].’ And he goes, ‘Dude, I couldn’t let these people down, man. They wanted to party tonight, man.’ And that’s how my brother was. He just would not let people down.”
Asked if he always shared his brother’s fun-loving approach to life, Vinnie replied: “I always had that attitude, he always had that attitude. That American Express commercial, ‘You can’t take it with you,’ was always special, but it never was real until that happened.”
He continued; “Me and [Dimebag] used to joke with each other all the time. We’d be on a plane and [we’d say], ‘Hey, man, if we’re going down, we’re going down in a plane crash together.’ It was always, ‘We’re gonna do this together.’ ‘Cause we did everything together. And we didn’t get to do that together [that night in Columbus]. And… when I say ‘we didn’t get to,’ I don’t mean to say that.
“It was a really hardcore, tragic event, and the guy [Nathan Gale] wanted to kill me too. And somehow or another, I was lucky enough to escape that, and I’m still here, and I will do everything and anything I can to carry on the legacy and the tradition that my brother always had.”
Even though it’s been a decade since his brother’s murder, Vinnie still gets flashbacks of the day’s events “every night.” He says: “I don’t wanna remember it, I don’t wanna think about it, I don’t want anybody saying, ‘Hey, man…’ You know…
“It’s hard. It’s hard. But I’ve found peace.
“I’m really happy with what I do with [my current band HELLYEAH], and I’m glad that we’re moving forward and things are really good, man. Really good.”