Dimebag’s Guitar Tech Explains What Some Pantera Fans Don’t Get About Zakk Wylde, Reveals If Zakk is Using Dime’s Old Gear

Grady Champion, who made his name as a guitar tech for Pantera’s late guitar legend Dimebag Darrell, recently sat down with Guitar World to chat about the current incarnation of the band, as well as their history. During the interview, Grady recalled getting the chance to witness the rehearsals for Pantera’s current lineup in late 2022. Asked about the whole thing, he replied:

“It was weird. Because I did shows for so long after Pantera, half of me was in ‘It’s just another show’ mode. But then when I started absorbing what was actually going on, the gravity of it would start to hit me and I’d be trying my damnedest to get back to being ‘show mode’ guy. It was a pretty mixed bag.”

PANTERA - Cowboys from Hell , Domination / Hollow - Toluca, Mexico - 12.02.2022 - 1st reunion show

For Grady, one of the most important moments at those rehearsals, when he realized how great it’s going to get, is when the band kicked into Black Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan” — a song that the classic Pantera lineup covered back in the day. He said:

“They started ‘Planet Caravan‘ and I went out front so I could soak in the whole vibe. I sat on a couch watching them play while the tribute video came on and I just started crying really hard – not just tearing up and stuff, but uncontrollable sobbing for at least 30 seconds. I literally couldn’t stop myself.

“Things changed for me after that. It was always a good vibe with everybody at rehearsals up to then, but it wasn’t ‘the full Monty.’ That was definitely a defining moment. I’ll not forget that one.

Pantera - Planet Caravan - (Live at Berlin 2023) 4K

Looking back on the occasion, Grady also recalls actually thanking Zakk Wylde for doing this thing:

“When everyone was leaving, I just grabbed Zakk, hugged him, and went, ‘Thank you, man. Thank you so fucking much for doing this and representing your brother – it means so much.’”

It was also an emotional moment for Zakk:

“He just looked at me like I was crazy and smiled as if to say, ‘You don’t gotta thank me, bro. I know why I’m here.’ All I could say was, ‘You don’t have any idea what this means to me. I guess I’m basically thanking you for myself.’”

Pantera live in Dresden 2023 - Full show

Going more into it, Grady also pointed out how Zakk Wylde is the only guy who could really replace Dime as his passion is there and it’s visible:

“You can see his passion, his ‘want’ to be there, and his deep love and respect for Darrell – and that’s the reason I’m there too. It’s really refreshing to know why Zakk’s there.

“He comes in every single day, laser-focused, ready to work with a ‘Let’s do this, let’s kill this’ attitude. It’s amazing to me; there’s no wavering with the guy. He comes walking up to the stage, we hug, I put the Ultimate Warrior next to Godzilla, we all high-five, and then, man, he just goes to work.”

Zakk Wylde Plays Dimebag Darrell's 'Walk' solo

One of the most important things that guitar-focused Pantera fans were curious about was whether Zakk will be using old Dimebag’s gear. When reminded about some of the rumors of “Zakk possibly using some of Dime’s backline gear” and that this seems that it’s not actually the case, he replied:

“I heard that one too! [Laughs] I actually did make a Dime rig that I took to New Orleans for rehearsals. I hooked it up for a little bit, Zakk tried it, and he was like, ‘Bro, I don’t know.’

As he explains further, they did try some of the old stuff but, for whatever reason, it just didn’t feel right:

“I also tried one of Dime’s MXR Six Band [graphic] EQs in his signal chain, but that didn’t work for him either. He was super cool about everything; he’s just gonna do Zakk. Imagine that! [Laughs]” 

Dimebag Darrell's rig

One of the things that he reflected on is how some of the fans feel like Zakk is not playing it entirely the same way as Dime did. According to Grady, this isn’t a bad thing — Zakk is just being Zakk and he will never be Dime. He said:

“I hate all those internet ‘experts’ expecting Zakk to clone Dime note for note, sound exactly like him, use his guitars, blah, blah, blah. So many people think that’s the way to go, but it’s not.

“That’s not what this celebration is all about. It’s having fun, playing Pantera’s music to a crowd, and doing it your way. People have to understand it’s a tribute, it’s a celebration, and he’s there for the brothers.”

“Zakk’s got enough fame and he’s also got a bunch of other irons in the fire. The fact he’s put it all on hold to do Pantera is an amazing tribute to Dime and Vinnie.

Pantera - Cowboys From Hell! Crazy crowd @ Knotfest Chile 2022!!!

He also adds”

“He’s doing what he wants to do and it’s totally genuine. There isn’t anyone Dime would rather have doing this, either. And he’d want Zakk to play like Zakk because of the mutual respect those two had for each other as players and as people. 

One of the things that Grady also discussed is how playing Dime “note for note” is not as simple as it might seem. Sure, countless players around the globe could pull it off technically. But there’s always something missing:

“What’s funny is the few people I’ve seen who can supposedly do Dime note for note still miss the mark for me. Even if you’re nailing every riff and solo note for note, in time and at the right tempo, I can always tell. People think they’ve got it nailed, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, it’s good, but it’s not Darrell.’

Pantera - The Art Of Shredding (Live 1990 HQ)

“Zakk’s made other sacrifices to do this too, like when it comes to me doing stuff for him while he’s playing. He’s always done all his effects switching; he’s never had anybody controlling anything.

“So for him to have me switching and changing stuff back there, that’s a huge adjustment for him. He’s just gotta have complete faith and go, ‘Hey, I’m out here jamming – I hope Grady gets it!’”

Photos: Rik Goldman (Dimebag Darrell with Pantera), MorganaPhotolive (Black Label Society (26643606944))


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.