The latest issue of Total Guitar is on sale now, paying tribute to Dimebag Darrell and his profound influence on metal guitar. Here, The Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan looks back fondly on a couple of his experiences hanging with the Pantera legend.
"I was listening to the radio the other day, and I heard a Pantera song. It reminded me of going to one of their gigs in Chicago, in the '90s. I knew them socially, enough to where I could hang out backstage. After the gig, I was hanging out with Dime, and we ended up going to a bar. I have my own version of celebrity, and so my thing is to go in and pick a corner. Dime walked in and everybody whirled around – you know, he had the beard and the look, so there was no mistaking who it was. First thing he did was raise his arms and go, 'Drinks for everybody!' [Laughs]
"Everybody was like, 'Cool!' He was just the sweetest guy, and he was so great with fans. While this was happening, I was standing there thinking, 'This is the complete opposite experience of fame that I'm having.' But that's who he was. I'm a nerd misanthrope who doesn't want too much attention; he was a guy who celebrated the moment. And he played like that, too.
"Another memory that comes to mind is hanging out with the band backstage before one of their shows at the Aragon Ballroom. The way those guy were, they were like, 'You've gotta drink with us.' They had this drink, I think it was called Black Tooth. God only knows what it was; it was rum or Jack Daniel's, or maybe both and something else. For all I know, it could have been cough syrup – it wasn't good. [Laughs] So Dime is drinking shots, I'm drinking shots – basically, everybody's drinking shots. By the time they took the stage, I was feeling pretty toasted.
"Very few people I would put up in that high category, the Eddie Van Halens of the world."
"I was on the side of the stage to watch the show. Dime said to me, 'I want you right here.' And, of course, as a guitar player, I was watching his hand, and I'm thinking, 'He's gotta be drunk.' I mean, we just drank about 20 shots. So he's playing to the crowd, he's doing his thing, but every so often he would come over to where I was, standing about one foot in front of me, and he was laughing like mad.
"But the whole time he's playing the most insane shit. I'm talking the craziest, wildest stuff, as only he could play it. And he was laughing. I knew he was drunk, but he wasn't even looking at the guitar – he didn't have to. He's right in front of me, like, 'See? See, motherfucker?' [Laughs] It was like a guitar player conversation.
"I thought it was unbelievable. Very few people I would put up in that high category, the Eddie Van Halens of the world. Or even a George Lynch, who plays at that other level. Only another guitar player can spot that, and Dime had it. When you're one foot away from him and you see him do that, you know: 'OK, you got me, buddy.' But he wasn't showing off; he was celebrating it. That was his personality.
"The way he went down, which was so counter to his life – that's what's so tragic. He wasn't that guy. He didn't court darkness. He was somebody who was in life."