Pantera Producer Reveals How Long the Reunion Was in the Works, Reveals Why Mark Tremonti Didn’t Join the Lineup

Recently, Pantera’s longtime engineer and producer Sterling Winfield appeared on the Is Breakfast Included? podcast. During the chat, Winfield, who’s also believed to be one of the people in control of Vinnie Paul’s estate, looked back on how the current version of Pantera was planned. He offered (transcript via Blabbermouth):

“We’ve been talking about [doing this] probably for the last two years — something like that. It really started to take shape about two years ago on my end.”

Not long before Pantera’s tour started in late 2022, Winfield attended the band’s rehearsal which took place in New Orleans. Joining classic members Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown were Zakk Wylde and Anthrax’s Charlie Benante.

Talking about his first impressions of this rehearsal, he admitted that he had some doubts about the whole thing. The producer said:

“Listen, I came in the door with my doubts — I had my doubts — but they were silenced. The production is off the hook.”

“I personally think Phil is at peak performance; he’s singing better than I’ve heard him sing in years. They’re all in good shape. Rex is still doing his thing and in good shape.”

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

“And they couldn’t have asked for two better people to fill those shoes. I know that they can’t be filled, but to jump in and take up that responsibility, which is pretty heavy, they could not have picked two better people than Charlie and Zakk. I walked out of there just dumbfounded. Seriously.”

And, of course, Winfield also confirmed that there have been other musicians considered to fill in for the late Abbott brothers, Vinnie Paul and Dimebag Darrell. Speaking about the matter, he offered:

“There were no auditions — I’ll put that out there — not that I know of. And there were just names tossed around, put in a hat. And I’m not gonna name names. Of course there were other people suggested; of course there were other people brought up.”

Pantera Knotfest Chile - Cowboys from hell

To any Pantera fan, it’s obvious that Zakk was the most obvious choice to replace Dimebag. But aside from him, a few other names were prominent as well, including Mark Tremonti of Creed and Alter Bridge. However, Sterling explained why that just didn’t happen:

“But Zakk, he’s the obvious choice. Him and Dime were like brothers; they were so close. And as one guy — I believe it was Mark Tremonti, who is an outstanding, one of my favorite guitar players — said that his name was tossed about.”

“But the reason he declined was because there is a certain personality, I think, it takes to fill that position or try to convey those things onstage. And he didn’t feel that he was the guy.”

Zakk Wylde Plays Dimebag Darrell's 'Walk' solo

He also added:

“And well, again, coming back to that obvious choice, he and Dime had very much alike personalities. So they really vibed together in that respect. And so, yeah, very obvious choice, perfect choice.”

Discussing the issue further, Winfield also looked back on some of the criticism that Zakk Wylde has gotten over his interpretation of Pantera songs. He said:

“People keep bitching about, ‘It doesn’t sound like Dime.’ Of course it doesn’t sound like Dime. It’s Zakk. It blows my mind that people are that picky. But whatever… Instead of picking it up apart, listen to the song, man. Don’t just listen to Zakk, okay?”

Pantera (pit camera) - Strength Beyond Strength - Monterrey Metal Fest 2022

In a last year’s interview, Tremonti discussed this matter, revealing that Rex Brown did give a hint or two that he’ll be considered as a replacement for Dime. But when asked whether he’d like to be there now instead of Zakk, Tremonti replied:

“Hell no! [Laughs] A number of years ago, I was talking with Rex [Brown] at the Download festival, and he was talking about a possible Pantera reunion.”

“He looked at me and said, ‘You should put your name in the hat’, and I was like, ‘No way, man.'”

Mark Tremonti solo.mp4

And it turns out that Sterling is now just confirming what Tremonti had already said — there’s got to be a specific kind of attitude for Pantera. Alter Bridge guitarist continued:

“You have to be a certain type of personality to take on that role. It’s not just about the playing, it’s very much the personality, and Dime had a huge presence.”

“Put it this way, nobody’s gonna flip off Zakk Wylde onstage. They very well might do that to me, but there’s just no way I would put myself in that situation.”

Pantera - Domination (Official Live Video)

In early January this year, another interview with Sterling Winfield was released where he cleared things up concerning the whole “reunion” label added to the current version of Pantera. He explained very clearly that “this is not a reunion” and added:

“It is not Pantera 2.0, at least not at this point. Whatever you wanna think, that’s fine; go ahead and make your assumptions. But it was the media that called this a reunion; it was the media that called this the reformation of Pantera — not them.”

“They never put this out there as that; they put this strictly out there as a tribute to the brothers [Vinnie Paul and Dimebag Darrell] and for the fans and for the music and for the legacy of this music, to bring it to another generation of people.”

Pantera - Live in Los Angeles, CA (1992) [8mm Master + SBD Audio]

“There’s little kids out there wearing Pantera shirts, and it’s amazing to watch, because, yes, since Dime got killed, there’s a whole generation of people that have been born on this earth.”

He was also very happy about Zakk filling in Dimebag’s spot, as well as Charlie Benante filling in for Vinnie Paul. He explained:

“I cannot think of anyone better to handle the duties of Dime and Vinnie than Zakk and Charlie. I’ve known both of those dudes for a very long time.”

“And Charlie is just a model human being himself and a monster drummer and loved the brothers like you wouldn’t believe. And same goes for Zakk.”

“They’re not trying to be Dime and Vinnie, guys; they’re not trying to be that. That would be disrespectful. But they are being themselves and they are having fun. And I think you should come out and do it too.”

“Even just watch some of the videos. You’ve seen ’em on YouTube. These crowds are insane, and I think you’re gonna be missing out if you don’t come check it out.”

Photo: Tilly Antoine (Phil Anselmo Hellfest 2022), Antje Naumann (14-06-06 RiP Alter Bridge Mark Tremonti 3)


  • 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.