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Dimebag day: "He was like Santa Claus with a pink beard" - Zakk Wylde remembers his friend

Dimebag day: To mark the 15th anniversary of Dimebag Darrell’s passing, we’re revisiting archive interviews to celebrate his legacy

With their fearless approach to guitar and shared reverence to ‘Saint’ Randy Rhoads, it’s no surprise that Zakk and Dime were 101 per cent proof kindred spirits. Zakk remembers meeting the man who would become one of his closest friends, and how he now celebrates his life with every show he plays.

When did you first meet Dime?

“It was when we did Donington [Monsters Of Rock] with Pride And Glory in ’94. I obviously knew how badass Dime was because of the Pantera records, but I had never met him. We met backstage and hooked up then and started shooting the shit about the guys we loved, like Randy and Lord Iommi.”

Dime, to me, is the Tony Iommi of that genre. Hands down, there isn’t even an argument

What was it like seeing his playing up close?

“I sat on the side of the stage watching Pantera. Everybody always asked what Dime’s legacy is, and in that extreme metal genre of music, they were the Sabbath and the Zeppelin of that music, they were the undisputed kings. Dime, to me, is the Tony Iommi of that genre. Hands down, there isn’t even an argument. 

"He created a style and a genre. With Dime’s lead playing, if you took Eddie and Randy, King Edward and Saint Rhoads, blended them together and poured a cocktail, that would be the Dimebag drink.”

What made Pantera so innovative?

“The wall of guitar is so massive, so you couldn’t have a Led Zeppelin mix, it’s more of a Sabbath mix. They changed the game with the production of their records, with the guitars cutting through. When Lamb Of God and Meshuggah came along they could use those Pantera records as a blueprint of how to make that car and how the engine is made. 

"It’s not just all guitar, you can hear Rex, Dime and Philip. They changed everything. Dime will always be the King Edward and the Saint Rhoads of that genre.”

What was he like off stage?

“If you were having a crap day, Dime was like Blutarsky in [National Lampoon’s] Animal House, he would light up the room. Everything about him was positive, he loved living life and having an ass-kicking time. 

He loved seeing other people happy. He was like Santa Claus with a pink beard, because he loved helping people and hooking them up with guitars, pedals and amps. He loved the expression on people’s face when they go, ‘Man, this guitar is cool,’ and he says, ‘It’s yours.’ He was a beautiful soul. He was the coolest dude.”

You often dedicate Black Label Society song In This River to Dime. That must make that song especially emotional for you…

“It is expected that we perform that song at every Black Label mass. It’s part of our set so we get to celebrate Dime every night. He’s there every night.”

Dime had a Razorback made for you shortly before his death. How did that come about?

“When Dime had gone back to Dean he made a 21st Century version of his signature guitar. It became more angled, he just modernised it. The one that I have, he never had the chance to give it to me. 

"He signed it ‘To Zakk Wylde’ on the headstock, but he never got the chance to give it to me. He was super-psyched about the guitar. They have the images of him making the sketches of how he wanted it. It was another beautiful Dimebag moment.”

Did you work with him on the spec of the guitar he had made for you?

“No, it was all him. I didn’t do anything to it. He did it all, the whole nine yards. It’s the only one on this planet, and I’ve got it.”