Download festival 2004. This photo was taken right after Dimebag and I had been hanging out in our dressing room before their show, this is us walking to the stage before Damageplan was going on.
It was kind of nuts how the whole story came to be.
It was the last time I ever hung with Dime.
Now Machine Head was originally going on before Slayer on the main stage of Download, and Dime's new band Damageplan was set to headline one of the smaller tent stages much later in the day. But something happened with Slayer‘s equipment truck or bus, and their gear was not gonna gonna arrive in time for their show. The promoters decided to move Slayer to the later slot on the tent stage (to allow time for their gear to arrive), move MH up to the Slayer slot, and move Damageplan to the significantly earlier slot under us. The Damageplan camp made a valiant attempt to take the Slayer slot (and bump us down a slot) to which we said “yeah, uh, no”
The hilarious part in all this is that Dimebag, ever the rager, had done the math, and realized "hey, I'm not playing til 9PM tonight." So when they got on the 6 AM ferry boat over from Calais France to the UK, he decided it was time to get wasted and he could sleep it off for 10 hours. Unfortunately for him, while passed out, the stage switch happened and he was rudely awoken a mere 3 hours later and told he had to get up and play.
As the Damageplan "bus" (more like airport van with bunks) pulled up, a fantastically HAGGARD Dimebag stumbled off with an equally haggard Vinnie Paul behind him and they were due to be onstage in 20 minutes. Dime took his lay of the festival dressing room world saw me, and groggily walked over and said, "hey brother, can I warm up on your Flying-V... and get a shot?" I howled with laughter! It was so fuckin' classic! Me: "dude, of course, it would be my honor, hopefully you'll leave a little of that "Dime Magic" on there for me." He laughed.
We chatted for a while and he told me the story of his ill-planned drinking trip aboard the ferry. Because I let him warm up on my guitar he promised me that he'd send me another case of vodka (Dime used to buy cases of Ketel One vodka and randomly send them to my hotel rooms on days off; I'd open the door and a delivery guy would hand me a box of vodka with an often-hilarious note from Dime... fuckin' guy). I told him he'd better not "waste the fuckin' money sending me anymore fucking vodka, fucker!”
He told some of the struggles he had about the end of Pantera, and how happy he was to be out playing shows again. He really liked our new album Through the Ashes of Empires, particularly the song “Elegy”. "Album of the year" he kept saying, and he raved about the record. Looking back, I think Ashes was the first MH record Dime really "got." He liked that we were adding a bit more “guitar shred” to the mix. For some strange reason I got tongue-tied, I couldn’t say anything back to him and show that gratitude…
Damageplan went over well, the crowd was subdued but receptive, but the intro to “Walk” slayed Download and with his one-two punch of over-the-top guitar pyrotechnics and larger-than-life presence, they won the crowd.
You'd never even know he felt like utter dogshit!
We played, and a little later on after the show Jamey Jasta and I hung out with him and did some shots of vodka, but I had to leave. Those of you may remember, this was the legendary show where Lars from Metallica didn’t arrive in time, and Dave Lombardo and Joey Jordinson from Slipknot played with Metallica.
We missed Metallica show, as we had a very early flight home and had to drive back to London. My wife was two weeks out from having our first child, and it was so close to delivery date it could happen at any moment.
So I flew home, and luckily, Zander stayed put.
I thought a lot about Dime when I got home.
I thought about the 2 tours Pantera and Machine Head had done (Ozzfest 97 and the "Live 101" tour), about sharing the stage with them at the very last Pantera show ever, (Beast Feast festival in Tokyo Japan), about his influence on me as a guitarist. From his lead playing, to his absolutely devastating guitar tone, the dude had left a mark on me. Dime and I had always bonded over guitar players, as the first eight years of my touring-life was just solely as a guitar player, and not a frontman.
I realized that in all the years I'd known him I'd never let him know any of that. Maybe I was too insecure, or maybe I was just too busy playing it "cool", but I had never told him how much he influenced me.
So the day after getting home, I wrote him an email and said "all of that" to him. I added that I was "too insecure" or "too cool" to say those words before, and that "I really wanted him to know these things." I told him what a blast it was hanging with him all those years, and reminded him NOT to send me anymore vodka!
I ended the email by wishing him and Vinnie the best in their new band Damageplan.
I “printed" it up and "faxed it" to the London Astoria where Damageplan was doing their first headline show that night.
I still have the letter.
I'm glad I sent it.
In late September we held a band meeting. It was stressful before the meeting even started. I was fried, partly because our newborn Zander hadn't let my wife or I sleep for the last 12 weeks and we were beginning to crack. The band had recently received news that there was a very good chance that even after the success of TTAOE in America, Roadrunner US might not release the next record.
Our sales had stalled in the US, and after 5 months we were still a good ways away from reaching our "sales plateau" that would guarantee them releasing the next record. After hearing this, I lost it. I wasn't going thru being unsigned again in the US. If we didn't reach the sales and they passed on our next record, I was going to do something else.
Or at least in my, I-haven't-slept-for-3-months-and-I'm-wiped-out state that sounded like what I was going to do. I had a meltdown followed by a full on crying breakdown and the meeting ended chaotically.
As I drove home from the meeting at midnight, mentally exhausted and frustrated, my cell phone rang. I answered it assuming it was my manager Joseph calling to try and calm me down, and on the other end I heard, "CAR JACKER!!”
Me: "What the fuck...?... Dimebag?"
Dime: "YOU KNOW IT! I got someone here who NEEDS to talk to you!"
He passes the phone to someone, and the voice on the other end goes "uh, Robb?... Is this Robb Flynn?”
Me: "Uh, yeah…"
Dude on the other end: "HOLY FUCKING SHIT DUDE!!!! OH MY GOD!!!"
You see; Dime had ran into a Machine Head fan at a Mexican restaurant he'd been drinking at and they got to talking about Machine Head. They got to talking about how good "Through The Ashes..." was and the fan said it was his dream to meet me, so Dime said, "LET'S CALL HIM UP!!”
I rapped with the fan for about 15 minutes driving home, mostly about how much we both loved Pantera, and then he passed the phone back to Dime. I let Dime know he was "a fucker," and that ”dude, that was awesome" We talked about the letter I'd faxed him at the Astoria, man, he was really blown away by that. It meant a lot to him.
It was a rad conversation on the drive home.
Sometimes you get something in your life, right when you need it the most.
We promised to rage with one another soon.
We said our goodbyes.
He said "I love you brother.”
I was a little stunned...
It was the first time he’d ever said those words to me...
I said “I uh… I love you too, man."
It was the last time we ever spoke.
This day is always a little sad for me, it’s sad for all of us metalheads, but I’m also reminded of so many crazy, fun, wild times, and the sincere touching moments like these, and that always brings a smile to my face.
RIP brother. I miss you.
- Car Jacker