Launching his own record label and releasing an album's worth of material that had been in the can going on three years was imperative for former Pantera/ Damageplan drummer Vinnie Paul.
Big Vin Records and the upcoming self-titled debut from Rebel Meets Rebel restored meaning to his life. The album is a dozen tracks of countrified metal featuring controversial country singer David Allan Coe and the guitar prowess of Paul's late brother, "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott.
It has eased some of the pain Paul's been grappling with since his brother's onstage slaying at an Ohio nightclub in December 2004 (see "Dimebag Darrell, Four Others Killed In Ohio Concert Shooting").
"It's something that me and Dime really wanted to do a long time ago, but we were so busy with everything, we never could," Paul explained. "When Atlantic [Damageplan's label] passed on the Rebel Meets Rebel record because they didn't know what to do with it, I was like, 'I'm not gonna go shop this. This just fell right in my lap, and it's time for me to start this record label that I've been thinking about and, you know, put it all together.'
"It is a lot of work, trust me," he continued. "Getting on a tour bus and riding around the United States and playing for an hour and a half a night is a lot easier than this stuff. But it's fun to be able to learn both sides of the business."
There was also Dimebag's legacy to consider. His work on Rebel Meets Rebel isn't merely a footnote — it's yet another chapter in the life of one of the guitar's greatest advocates, Paul said.
"His guitar playing on this record is incredible," Paul said. "The cool thing about this record is, a lot of times when you're making metal, everything operates kind of like a machine. It's like chung, chung, chung — it's just power. And with this kind of record, it has a Rolling Stones vibe. Everybody can kind of cut loose, play what they want, and all the people really interact instead of it all kind of being one big gigantic tank moving in one direction.
"So [there was] a lot of freedom involved in making this record," Paul said. "And it gave me something to look forward to and to live for because I've never done anything without Dime. ... It's been a long road for me to get to this point where I feel I can move on in my life. And that's what I'm doing, man."
Rebel Meets Rebel, which also includes Paul behind the kit and erstwhile Pantera member Rex Brown on bass, will hit stores May 2, as will "Dimevision, Volume 1," a DVD culled from footage Dimebag had shot with a camcorder over several years on the road and at home. Paul said there will be other "Dimevision" releases down the road — it's just a matter of sifting through the tapes and organizing the material.
"It's in the total spirit of the Pantera videos," Paul said. "I mean, he's the dude that pretty much — in my opinion, a lot of people's opinions — created 'Jackass.' He never got any credit for it, but it's him, his stellar guitar playing and just being the clown that he is."
Rebel Meets Rebel and "Dimevision, Volume 1" are only the beginning for Big Vin Records. Paul said he has about 5,000 demo tapes to listen to. "I haven't really heard what I'm looking for yet," he said. "I want something that's out there. I want something that's different."
For now, though, he's focused on Rebel Meets Rebel, the closest fans are going to get to another Pantera record.
"This record, when you put it on, there's a lot of fun there. And with Rex, it has our trademark [Pantera] sound. When the three of us get together and play, there's no other band that sounds that way. It's just us performing with a different singer, especially not only a different singer but a different genre totally," he said. "It's out there, but it's cool. I don't think hard-core country fans are going to like it. I don't think hard-core metal fans are going to like it. But I think anybody that listens to a wide variety of music will totally dig it. ... I think all of our Southern roots really came together on it."
Even without Dime around to play guitar, Paul said there's a chance Rebel Meets Rebel could tour — so long as he can tap someone gifted enough to tackle the riffs. "I have a couple of people in mind that were really close to Dime and would be perfect for it," he said. "But we're just going to put out the record first and see how that goes. And then if the fan response was really, really good, I think it'd be fun to go play those songs live because they'd be killer songs live."
At the time of Dimebag's death, Paul said Damageplan had finished recording the band's sophomore disc — it sits in his house, mixed, but still needs vocals. The drummer said he has no intention of letting the songs collect dust. He's just not sure what to do with the tracks next.
"What we recorded was really, really kick-ass," Paul said. "With every band, their first record is kind of them getting settled, and their second record becomes the one that really blows up. Me and Dime just recorded all those songs ourselves. He played bass on them and guitar, and I played drums. We produced them together. They're really kick-ass. I really haven't decided what I want to do with them. I've thought about having a bunch of Dime's favorite singers sing on all the songs, which would be really cool. Or have Pat Lachman sing on them and have them be the [second] Damageplan record."
Paul said he's also looking forward to "Six-String Masterpiece: The Dimebag Darrell Art Tribute," which is being sponsored by Dean Guitars, "the kind of guitar my brother made famous."
More than 50 musicians and artists — including Marilyn Manson, Derek Hess, the Deftones, Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell, Linkin Park's Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda, Dave Grohl, Slayer's Kerry King, Moby, James Hetfield of Metallica, Billy Corgan, Audioslave's Tom Morello, Zakk Wylde, Rob Zombie, Tommy Lee, Ted Nugent, Sum 41, and various members of Korn and Slipknot — were presented with a Dean Guitar and asked to paint it. The finished guitars will go on tour as a mobile exhibit, and next year they'll be auctioned off, with the proceeds earmarked for charity. One of the guitars even features the artwork of Kelly Clarkson.
"A lot of people went, 'How does she fit into this picture?' " Paul said. "True story: She used to wait on me and Dime at a comedy club in Fort Worth, Texas, back in the day before she made it on 'American Idol' and all that. So we didn't really know her, but we had met each other, and it was really cool that she did a tribute."
For more on the life of "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, check out the feature "Remembering Dimebag."