Dream Theater's John Petrucci on the 'Major Talent' of Dimebag Darrell

Christie Goodwin/Redferns

John Petrucci of Dream Theater performs on stage at High Voltage Festival in Victoria Park on July 24, 2011 in London, UK.

Ten years after the onstage shooting of Pantera legend “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, Billboard spoke with the guitar god’s friends, family and fellow rock icons about the hole the 38-year-old shredder’s death left in metal and in their lives. Here, Dream Theater's John Petrucci discusses the axeman's strengths as a musician.

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When was the first time you saw Dimebag play live?

I don't exactly remember where we were; it might have been [at a festival] in a Scandinavian country. Then I saw them again in New York, which was actually an influential show. I think it was at the Hammerstein, and I remember going there with [former Dream Theater drummer] Mike Portnoy. We were watching it, and we were blown away by this whole scene and how heavy the music was and how the riffs were so infectious. It inspired us to approach our album Train of Thought in a kind of a heavier way.

What do you think it was about Dimebag’s playing that made people connect with it, even if they didn't play guitar?

First and foremost, I think that his strength was coming up with those signature riffs. Such a great riff writer and in metal, that's such a big part of it. He obviously had a major talent for doing that. Then, his whole sort of persona and the way that he wore the guitar and looked and presented it, it was very honest, and I think people related to that. He was just [like], "This is the way I am," and embracing the culture that his music was a part of and created, so it was very congruent with what the style of music was.

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In the immediate aftermath of his death, were you worried about going out and performing?

No. I didn't think that way. I realized that the situation was, unfortunately, isolated to him. I guess I was able to think rationally enough to know that it wasn't some sort of movement against guitar players onstage. [As a performer], you're subjecting yourself to these situations when you're out in the open and really anything can happen at any time, but in this situation that kind of violence should never happen. Absolutely ridiculous. So sad, and such a big loss, and he was way too young. It sucks.

Do you think his death changed the course of metal in any way?

Whenever somebody dies who is a musician [and] their life ended prematurely and they would have had the opportunity to continue to create music, I always think about that. What would have happened if Stevie Ray Vaughn never died or Randy Rhoads never died? What kind of music would they have been creating, and how would the world have been different? You can't deny they would have continued. Obviously at that point Pantera wasn't together anymore, but Dimebag would have continued writing and being an influence in metal and music.

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Any final thoughts about Dimebag?

As much as Dimebag was a star in the metal community and a living legend in that community, he was also into the guitar subcommunity. He would do guitar clinics and workshops. He would have signature instruments and signature amps and be all about the sound and the tone. He was way into that, which is good. A lot of times you see guitar players that are in larger bands, having success, they won't do stuff like that, and he was unabashedly into that scene. It's the fun kind of guitar club community, and it was great that he was part of that as well.


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