Zakk Wylde Shares Details Behind His Pantera Tone, Names Two Songs When His Overdrive Pedal is Turned Off

Currently playing with the new Pantera lineup for their celebratory tour, Zakk Wylde discussed what amps and other hear he’s using for the live shows. Speaking to Guitar World recently, the guitarist was asked to explain whether the fans can expect him to bring out some of the guitars he got from Dimebag Darrell on this tour. He replied:

“I definitely want to bring them out, but I didn’t want to travel with them on a lot of flights like we were doing in South America. I was like, ‘Man, if these things disappear, I’ll be pretty bummed out.’ The guitars Dime gave me are literally ‘one of one.’

“There are no replicas, and even if there were, the whole special part of it would be me bringing the real thing out on stage.”

Pantera Live in Dresden 2023 - Full Show

According to Equipboard, Zakk owns a few guitars that were given to him by Pantera’s original guitar player Dimebag Darrell. Although it’s difficult to confirm exactly how many guitars Zakk got from Dime, the page mentions three instruments, Dean Razorback in a Bullseye finish, a black Dean Razorback with a Floyd Rose bridge, and a Dean Splittail with a “Muddy Bullseye” finish.

When asked about the rig that he uses for the current tour, Zakk replied:

“I’m using the rig I use with Black Label, Ozzy, Zakk Sabbath, Experience Hendrix and Generation Axe – my Wylde Audio tops, my Marshall cabinets and my usual pedalboard. Because Dime used solid-state amps in Pantera and I use tube stuff, I wasn’t sure if it would sound right.”

PANTERA - Full HD Concert Welcome to Rockville, Daytona Beach, FL, USA MAY 20, 2023

As Zakk further adds, he did try out a few of the pedal models that Dimebag used back in the day. However, it turns out that his own rig worked the best, apart from one obvious thing that he needed to add:

“So when I was getting ready to rehearse with the fellas, I was thinking of finding out what Randall heads Dime used and then buying a whole bunch of them on Reverb or eBay. But when we got down to rehearsals, I used my rig and it worked out just fine. Obviously, I had to get a [DigiTech] Whammy pedal for ‘Becoming,’ so I’m now the proud owner of one of those.”

As for noise gates, Zakk did what most of us do — he used Google to find the best options:

“And I had to get noise gates too because I don’t use them. I just Googled ‘best noise gates’ and the Dunlop one [Dunlop MXR Smart Gate Noise Gate M135] came up so I bought a couple.”

Sammy Hagar and Black Label Society's Zakk Wylde Play Kansas City's Rockfest | Rock & Roll Road Trip

“Those pedals are amazing; I can stand right in front of my rig with it screaming pure lightning and it doesn’t feedback when I’m playing stuff like 5 Minutes Alone, Walk or the verse riff in Cowboys. There’s nothing, just silence.”

“Those gates definitely do their job, and that ‘silence’ is such a huge part of the Dimebag soup. I mean, with Dime there was never enough distortion! [Laughs] He just wanted his tone as massively distorted as possible without having to turn down; that was a big part of Dime’s sound.”

When asked whether there’s anything specific when he dials in the tone for his amp, Zakk replied in his own signature manner:

“No. It’s just balls to the wall. Thank the good Lord and John Paul II for those noise gates, though. Without those bad boys I wouldn’t be able to get through the Pantera show; I’d be tap dancing on my pedalboard like I was in ‘Riverdance,‘ switching my OD pedal on and off all the time! [Laughs]”

Black Label Society - You Made Me Want To Live (Official Video)

One of the most interesting thing about Zakk is that he keeps his overdrive turned on at all times. Sure, this isn’t uncommon as there are plenty of guitar players who control the “dirt” in tone with the volume knob on their guitar. However, Zakk revealed that there are two songs when he keeps his overdrive pedal switched off. When reminded of this practice to keep it on at all times, he replied:

“It’s always on except for in ‘This Love’ and ‘Planet Caravan,’ where I just turn the pedal off, turn the volume on my guitar down and there’s my clean sound. I don’t channel-switch or anything like that – I never have. I just use stompboxes right into single-channel heads. There’s fewer things that can go wrong with a simple setup like mine.”

Featuring Zakk Wylde replacing Dime and Anthrax’s Charlie Benante replacing Vinnie Paul on the drums, Pantera are taking a little break in between the two legs of their current tour. With Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown from the classic lineup, they’re currently preparing to get back to the United States after a European run.

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

In another recent interview, Zakk also revealed that, despite their friendship, he and Dimebag never jammed together. When asked about it, he simply said:

“Why would we do that? Let’s see. We could be at an Irish pub somewhere laughing our asses off or we could be working on writing some new music. Hmmmm. I think we’ll be at the Irish pub! [Laughs]”

“Seriously, man. There was no time to jam. They live in Texas. I was out in California. Whenever we got together it was just to have a good time.”

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

When we started hanging out, of course, we drank, but most of the time drinking with Dime would be over the phone. We talked on the phone all the time for several hours just drinking away.“

“We’d make each other cry, we’d be laughing so hard. But every time we got together it was always hilarious – nothing but pure comedy. And sometimes we caused mayhem.”

Photos: Elekes Andor (Pantera-)

  • 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 Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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