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Today (Wednesday, December 8) marks the six-year anniversary of the death of PANTERA and DAMAGEPLAN guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott. Abbott, one of the most beloved and respected musicians in hard rock, was shot onstage during a DAMAGEPLAN concert at the Alrosa Villa club in Columbus, Ohio by a 25-year-old ex-Marine named Nathan Gale. Gale murdered a total of four people and wounded three others before being killed himself by police officer James D. Niggemeyer, who arrived on the scene minutes after Gale began his rampage.
Gale seemed to deliberately target Abbott, leading to speculation that the young man, who had a history of mental illness, held a grudge against Abbott and his brother, drummer Vinnie Paul, for the break-up of PANTERA in 2002. Columbus police closed their investigation in October of 2005 without establishing a motive for the shootings.
AOL's Noisecreep spoke to former PANTERA singer Philip Anselmo about the murder earlier this year, and he said the memory still haunts him. "I will say that with each passing year, it gets harder and harder and harder. This year was really rough," he said of his contribution to the reissue of the band's classic 1990 album, "Cowboys From Hell", without Dimebag's help. "When I look around today and see what an impact that we made, and where heavy metal is at today, and I think of what could have been? What should have been? It's very hard. It's hard to come to grips with it."
Abbott and Paul formed PANTERA in the mid-Eighties in Texas. The band recorded four independent albums before their 1990 major label debut, "Cowboys From Hell", introduced a heavier sound and made them a favorite with metal fans. 1994's "Far Beyond Driven" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 without benefit of a commercial hit single.
The group splintered in 2002 following the departure of volatile lead singer Philip Anselmo. Dime and Vinnie, as they were known to their fans, regrouped with DAMAGEPLAN, releasing the band's debut album, "New Found Power", in February of 2004. The group was touring in support of the record at the time of the shootings.
Abbott's death was a devastating blow to the close-knit hard rock and metal community. He was known to his fellow musicians for his hospitality, friendship and partying spirit, and was a legend among fans and peers for his powerful, innovative and unmistakable playing style.
Several of Dime's final projects, including a country-metal album called REBEL MEETS REBEL and a DVD titled "Dimevision - Vol. 1: That's The Fun I Have", were issued in the years following his death by Big Vin Records, a label started by Vinnie Paul. Paul told The Pulse of Radio a while back that activities continue to keep Abbott's memory alive. "It's very important to me to make sure that Dime's legacy lives on forever, and I think without anybody even tryin', it will, you know," he said. "But I just want to make sure that the things that are still here that he was part of, can increase that and just be one more thing that lends credence to his legend, you know."
Vinnie Paul told The Pulse of Radio in early 2004, before Dime's death, that he had the utmost respect for his brother as a musician. "I tell people all the time, he's the most talented person I ever met in my life," he said. "Not just 'cause he's my brother, but it's just, that's how I feel about it. On this DAMAGEPLAN thing, Dime gets out there and rips a solo every night and I can't believe how much of a rush it is just still to hear him get up and play and then hear the crowd start chanting 'Dimebag' and all that. It's a good time, man."
Dime also spoke about his relationship with his brother. "Our brotherhood is a true brotherhood and we both have the same goal," he said. "You know, it wasn't like in somebody else's family — 'Well, Johnny got a A-plus this week, you got a C-minus, up yours,' you know. It was never a competition kind of thing with us, you know, we both had the same goal. And we're like best friends more so than brothers, you know."
Dime and Vinnie Paul were known as two of the hardest-partying rockers around, and Dime told The Pulse of Radio that their motto was "everyone is welcome." "You know, we don't judge people for what kind of music they play or what kind of people they are or what kind of haircut they got, or anything," he said. "We're just into hangin' and cuttin' up, you know, and there's always gonna be a nut to find in somebody, you know. And hey, if they're ever wantin' to hang and have a good time, we're open to it, man, any time, and we're gonna have a good fuckin' time and they don't forget it."
Other musicians on Dimebag:
Corey Taylor (SLIPKNOT): "Every time I hung out with Dime, dude, it was just laughing. I just remember laughing my ass off, 'cause he was just one of the funniest guys, you know. And he was just one of the best dudes, man, and probably one of the best guitar players I've ever seen. Not only live, but just everything, you know. He just made it look fuckin' effortless."
Rob Halford (JUDAS PRIEST) on Abbott's legacy: "His music will live forever, and that's the wonderful thing about what we do as recorded musicians — our music will be around a lot longer than we will. So we have his music to cherish, and he still will be an inspiration to guitar players, as he was with PANTERA and with DAMAGEPLAN. So, you know, we'll miss him dearly."
David Draiman (DISTURBED): "During our second Ozzfest, we were holed up in Dallas for about two or three days … hanging out at Dime's place — it was an eclectic house. There's all kinds of PANTERA memorabilia and Dimebag memorabilia all over the place. But you could never make the mistake of falling asleep at Dime's. He'd wake you up the way he always did: with firecrackers. He'd always set off an entire chain of firecrackers not two inches from my head. One time … Dime took us to a strip club where we all judged a bikini contest. There was never a wrong time in the day for Dime to hit a strip club. … Dime was just this character who was very easy to love. He didn't have a bad bone in his body, and was ready to give you the shirt off his back at all times. It was his mission in life to make sure every single moment you spent with him was the best moment of your life. He was selfless."
Zakk Wylde (BLACK LABEL SOCIETY): "Whenever you were around Dime, there was never a boring moment. He was the coolest guy on the planet. He was an even better person than he was a guitar player, if that's even possible. Whenever me and him would hook up, forget about it, bro. We'd always have to have a spare kidney, liver and pancreas on ice."
Brian Fair (SHADOWS FALL): "Dime seemed to have a real problem with the clock on our tour bus. It all started with his tour manager trying to tell him it was time to leave. … We were having a good old time and Dime didn't want to go to bed. So, as soon as he was told it was time to leave, he grabbed the clock off of the wall and screams at the top of his lungs, 'There is no time!' and he smashed his hand right through it. The clock was made of glass and metal, and shrapnel flew everywhere. He went through three clocks on our bus like that. Anytime anyone tried to tell him it was time to go, he'd destroy the clock. He didn't want to end the party — he wanted it to keep going. We kept replacing the clock because we wanted to see what happened next."
Kerry King (SLAYER): "One thing we were going to do — me and Dime and I think Vince was going to play drums — we were going to do this tune together. They were going in to record the DAMAGEPLAN record, and I said, 'Dime, there's a song we need to do. I've always dug this song, and it always makes me think of you. I think we need to do it.' It was 'Snortin' Whiskey, Drinkin' Cocaine' by Pat Travers. We were all geared up to do it. He's like, 'Well, you know, they're busting my balls for press for the new record.' And I said, 'Well, what are we rushing for, dude? We've got all the time in the world.' And then something like that happens, and the harsh reality is, we could have done it then. It probably wouldn't have been as good as it could have been, but at least it would have been done, 'cause now it'll never get done. Maybe me and Zakk will do it and dedicate it to Dime."
Howard Jones (KILLSWITCH ENGAGE): "He was just a good guy, and he created some songs and some albums that were instrumental in inspiring me and the rest of this band. 'Vulgar Display' was an album that changed me, in a lot of ways. He was a huge part of my life, whether he knew it or not."
Joel Stroetzel (KILLSWITCH ENGAGE): "We were at the Metal Hammer Awards in London, where Dime won the award for best guitarist and threw it into the audience. I was walking by and I see Dimebag and [MÖTLEY CRÜE's] Nikki Sixx sitting on a couch together. Dime yells over to our other guitar player, Adam [Dutkiewicz], and says, 'Hey, you. Get over here.' So we walk over and he tells Adam, 'I haven't seen someone who's as big an asshole as you since Gene Simmons.' Then he hands Adam his bottle of Jack Daniel's. Onstage, Adam's just a nutcase — always jumping around and dancing, wearing short shorts and capes. He's a lunatic and Dime called him on it. It was pretty funny. … I learned to play guitar from old METALLICA, MEGADETH, TESTAMENT and PANTERA riffs. I wouldn't be playing this style of music if it weren't for him."
Vinnie Paul eventually joined a new band called HELLYEAH with members of MUDVAYNE. The group's debut album was recorded in the Dallas studio co-owned by Paul and Dime. MUDVAYNE and HELLYEAH singer Chad Gray told The Pulse Of Radio that it was a strange experience to work there. "It was bizarre," he said. "It really bothered me to kind of be there because, you know, there's a lot of greatness that happened in that room but there's a lot of pain that goes along with that. And you see it in Vin, like, going in there the first couple of times, it was hard for him. One night I think we were just kind of standing outside and I'm like, you know, there was just parts of me that kind of wished I wasn't there, because the only way that I wouldn't have been there is if Dime was still around."
Christina Rowatt from Sydney, Australia has produced a four-minute video featuring interviews with Dino Cazares (FEAR FACTORY), Sebastian Bach (SKID ROW), Vinnie Paul Abbott (HELLYEAH, PANTERA, DAMAGEPLAN) and Zakk Wylde (BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, OZZY OSBOURNE) in which they remember "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott. Watch the clip below.