DAVID ELLEFSON On PANTERA’s Return: ‘It’s The One Thing That People Probably Never Thought They’d Ever See Again’

Former MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson has once again weighed in on the fact that PANTERA‘s surviving members Philip Anselmo (vocals) and Rex Brown (bass) have united with guitarist Zakk Wylde (OZZY OSBOURNE, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY) and drummer Charlie Benante (ANTHRAX) for a world tour under the PANTERA banner.

Anselmo and Brown, along with Wylde and Benante, are headlining a number of major festivals across North America, South America and Europe and staging some of their own headline concerts. They are also supporting METALLICA on a massive stadium tour in 2023 and 2024.

According to Billboard, the lineup has been given a green light by the estates of the band’s founders, drummer Vincent “Vinnie Paul” Abbott and guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, as well as Brown, who in 2021 said Wylde wouldn’t tour with PANTERA if a reunion were to happen. It’s unclear what changed his mind.

Ellefson discussed his views on the PANTERA comeback in a new interview with IndiePower.com. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “I saw those guys over [this past summer] in Europe, at [the] Graspop [Metal Meeting in Dessel, Belgium, where PANTERA and Ellefson‘s new project DIETH both performed]. And I’m happy for Phil and Rex, that they’re having this second chance. I got that when I went back to MEGADETH in 2010 to play ‘Rust In Peace’, man. It’s like the world just celebrated. That was our big moment again, to really have this celebration and doing the ‘Big Four’ [shows with METALLICA, SLAYER and ANTHRAX]. So it’s nice to see those guys getting to have that same thing to revive the PANTERA legacy right now… And look, whether it’s forever or it’s for a while, whatever, they’ll figure that out. But, yeah, for now it’s a great thing. It’s the one thing that people probably never thought they’d ever see again. And they’re great. And for Charlie and Zakk to be [involved] — I can’t think of two other guys who would do the thing justice like those guys do. So it all feels good.”

Ellefson previously talked about the PANTERA reunion in July in an interview with Sense Music Media. At the time, he said: “It was great to see Phil and Rex at Graspop. I’ve stayed in touch with those guys. Phil has jammed with us with METAL ALLEGIANCE, and I’ve seen Rex around quite a bit. So it’s nice to see those guys land well, end well. They, too, were super supportive to me a couple of years ago, [sent] some nice messages to me and really had my back,” he added, apparently referencing the fact that he was fired from MEGADETH in May 2021, just days after sexually tinged messages and explicit video footage involving the bassist were posted on Twitter.

“I mean, look, any of us who have been in rock and roll more than a minute or two, we’ve all been through some shit, man. As has everybody, man — it’s called life, man.

“But it was great to see them,” Ellefson repeated. “They are doing that very respectfully, I think. Fans love hearing those songs again. So I’m happy for ’em. They’re handling it very well.”

Ellefson first talked about the PANTERA reunion in October 2022 in an interview with “The Chuck Shute Podcast”. At the time, he said: “Look, I just went and did KINGS OF THRASH,” referencing his project with fellow ex-MEGADETH members Jeff Young and Chris Poland. “We played early [MEGADETH] songs that people haven’t heard in many years and may not ever hear again if someone like us doesn’t go play ’em. People love ’em. They love ’em. There are some original members in the organization, so they love it.

“Look, there’s no replacing Dime and Vinnie. I mean, on one level, PANTERA as PANTERA, with the brothers, that’s set in stone, never to be replicated again. And can’t.

Charlie is one of the best in the business and a great dude,” David continued. “He keeps his head down, keeps his mouth shut. He’s a man on a mission. I can’t say enough great about the guy. And I think Zakk — you could almost see it coming. There’s no heir to the throne, if you will, for Dimebag, ’cause it’s a throne uniquely his own, but if there was ever anyone who could go out and do that justice, it would be Zakk. And I think that’s kind of a ‘thumbs up’ from everybody on that one.

“Look, people wanna hear the songs. At the end of the day, they wanna hear the songs. And the voice is still there. Rex, he’s an original member, so… Why not? Try it. [Laughs]”

Ellefson also spoke in more general terms about bands sometimes reuniting or carrying on with only one or two original members

“I think as a fan, for me, I don’t wanna just see a corporate cash grab,” he said. “I wanna hear and feel it be authentic. I want to see it be authentic. ‘Cause let’s face it — people listen with their eyes too. I was using an example, CHEAP TRICK. When I go see CHEAP TRICK, I wanna see Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen. And for me, Tom Petersson and Bun E. Carlos, that’s no longer. But as much as you can, I wanna see some original guys up there. Gene [Simmons] and Paul [Stanley of KISS]. To me, it’s a good start. I wish all four of ’em were there, but the reality isn’t that. I’m a fan too, so I probably have the same opinion as other people.”

When Dimebag was murdered in 2004, Ellefson issued a statement in which he recalled that he first met the PANTERA guitarist in 1987 while in a Dallas, Texas “watering hole.” He added: “Dime was a regional guitar hero who went under the name ‘Diamond Darrell‘ and his band was making some big waves in Texas. That night Darrell raved to me about how MEGADETH‘s ‘Peace Sells But Who’s Buying’ album forever changed his life. The next night PANTERA played a nearby club and they invited me on stage to jam ‘Peace Sells’ with them, which was kick-ass! They certainly knew their metal, alright. A bond was formed between me and the band which as the years passed was always like seeing good friends again. In fact, I remember calling Darrell years ago asking him if he would join MEGADETH as we were regrouping before ‘Rust In Peace’. However, as cool of a musical fit as that might have been, there was no way anyone could split up the brotherly onslaught of him and Vinnie Paul, nor would you want to!

“Years later PANTERA played often with MEGADETH but I specifically remember a funny incident when we did a show together in Hamburg, Germany in the red light district known as the Reeperbahn. Dime‘s tour tradition was to get a tattoo in honor of his favorite bands he toured with. Right before the show, he walked into the club and showed us his brand new black-and-white tattoo on his lower leg of a black tooth grin. We were like, ‘No fucking way, that’s insane!’ to which he replied, ‘Yeah dad, Black Tooth Grin, just like in ‘Sweating Bullets’.’ Funny thing is I’ve seen other people get that same tattoo over the years, all in honor of Dime, and it always brings a grin to my face remembering how nuts he was to go out and get a tattoo in that part of town in our honor.

“In closing, Dime truly lived, breathed and played metal like no other guitar slinger out there.”

Up until his passing, Vinnie remained on non-speaking terms with Anselmo, whom the drummer indirectly blamed for Dimebag‘s death.

Vinnie Paul and Dimebag co-founded PANTERA. When PANTERA broke up in 2003, they formed DAMAGEPLAN. On December 8, 2004, while performing with DAMAGEPLAN at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio, Dimebag was shot and killed onstage by a troubled schizophrenic who believed that the members of PANTERA were stealing his thoughts.

Vinnie passed away on June 22, 2018 at his other home in Las Vegas at the age of 54. He died of dilated cardiomyopathy, an enlarged heart, as well as severe coronary artery disease. His death was the result of chronic weakening of the heart muscle — basically meaning his heart couldn’t pump blood as well as a healthy heart.

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