How to play Vinnie Paul's biggest beats

Combining groove and power, the metal legend's way

DRUM EXPO 2014: In 1992, Pantera redefined the sound and future direction of metal with the seminal classic Vulgar Display Of Power, an album that proved it was possible to be brutally heavy without sacrificing the ability to groove. Vinnie Paul and his gifted guitarist brother Dimebag Darrell exemplified a new musical mentality in playing metal, locking the drums like glue to the guitar riff rather than to the bass line.

Still laying it down with his customary power and thunderous drums, Vinnie walks us through his groundbreaking approach from its origins in Pantera, right up to the present day with Hellyeah. Here he chooses six songs from his back catalogue, dissecting them in terms of gear, technique, feel and inspiration.

Becoming - Pantera

Technique: "That's something I came up with when we were doing Far Beyond Driven. I was messing around with bouncing the right foot, creating a double stroke in between each 16th note. The minute my brother heard it he said, 'Man, we've got to write a song around that.' People make it more difficult than it really is - it's just a bounce with the right foot on every other note."
Gear/sound: "It was the Pearl drum set I had back then. They were all super big drums: 24" x 24" kick drums, then 14" x 14", 15" x 15" and 18" x 18" toms. I used this Sonor snare that I picked up a long time ago at a pawn shop. It was my most favourite sounding snare I've ever had. I still have it, it's a 12-ply birch wood snare and I used Remo K Flam heads and regular pinstripes around the toms. I've been using Sabian from day one."

Walk - Pantera

Feel: "It was one of the only shuffle feel things we did. My brother came up with the groove and there really wasn't a whole lot to play around with. It needed to be really straightforward. The hi-hat was quarter notes right on the downbeat so it was almost like an AC/DC beat. Just stay in the groove, stay in the pocket and be the backbone for everything in that song."
Gear/sound: "I used Remo drums. That was the first company I ever had an endorsement with."
Influences: "Simplicity kills, man. Phil Rudd is the classic example of laying the groove and if there is a place where the drums need to do something, do it. My philosophy behind drumming was always to play enough to keep other drummers interested but not so much that it goes over the head of the average listener."

Say When - Hellyeah

Technique: "It's probably one of the most thrashy sounding drumming things I've done. I call it the rolling bass drums. The snare is almost like a blastbeat straight-timing, and then the bass drums roll underneath the snare."
Gear: "I used my custom ddrum kit. It was the first time my producer on this record, Kevin Churko, had ever worked with the bigger drums. I love the way they came out."
Feel: "You've got to turn on the pressure, turn on the heat. It's just one pattern but the pattern has to be very consistent and the meter needs to be really solid straight through. It took me a couple of tries in the studio and I was huffing and puffing when it was over but it's a killer track live."

Mouth For War - Pantera

Technique: "The front part of that had a really cool floor tom/snare part. It followed the guitar where the drums are part of the song."
Influences: "We'd done our first tour ever with Suicidal Tendencies and Exodus, and there was a little bit of an influence from them so that when we got to the hardcore part, we really wanted to take it up another notch and give the fans something to go crazy over."
Gear: "Back then most people used regular Sennheiser [microphones]. I took what people would use for overheads and for acoustic guitars, the AKG 414, and I put it in the kick drum with a figure-8 pattern that allowed the microphone to pick up from both sides. It got a nice attack from the batter head but also the depth from the front head. I used Massenberg EQs which were top of the line. The drum had very little muffling and I used silver dollars on the batter head and hard wooden beaters. You get that nice, glassy attack and that thick low end. That microphone really captured the sound. It was unique and a lot of people have tried to emulate it but it's difficult."

Primal Concrete Sledge - Pantera

Technique: "It's really built around the drums and [Primal Concrete Sledge] wasn't originally part of the record. We were starting the mix process, I had put some mics inside the toms for live and I wanted to test them out. I'd already taken my snare drum down and I just fell into that groove because the snare was gone. My brother comes running out, 'Man, we've got to write one more song. That's just too cool.' I'd never done anything with that kind of a jungle beat with the upbeat on the hi-hat and the kick drums going straight sixteenth notes. It was really different."
Feel: "It was definitely one where the crowd lost it from start to finish. We opened with it many times, we closed with it many times. It didn't matter where it was in the set, it was a homerun for us. You have to really lay it at the right tempo, otherwise if it gets too fast it doesn't sound right."

War Nerve - Pantera

Technique: "Once again, its built around a shuffle to start with and then it has a breakdown section where I did the ride cymbal to hold the time. Once it got to that middle part everything was kind of a set up to get to that slamming part to really take the audience to another level."
Gear: "I was with Pearl then. I really haven't deviated with set-ups a whole lot over the years. After Pantera I experimented with different sounds, bigger, deeper snares on certain records, but we had what we called 'The Pantera Sound'. People expected it and we were happy with that."
Feel: "I would just say that it's got a couple of meter changes to it. That middle section picks up and when it comes back down you've got to be sure to bring it back down to tempo. That would be probably the most important thing about tackling the song."

Interview: David West

Hellyeah's Blood For Blood album is out now.


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