SEVENDUST Guitarist: ‘JAMES HETFIELD Is One Of The Baddest Rhythm Players On The Planet’

Angela Villand of Guitar International recently conducted an interview with SEVENDUST guitarist John Connolly. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Guitar International: Let’s talk about Dimebag Darrell (PANTERA). It’s pretty clear to anyone who knows you, knows that Dime‘s influence on you is solid. Not to mention the impact your friendship with him has had on both your life and your musicianship. It’s unmistakable, undeniable.

John Connolly: Without him, I don’t know what I would sound like. For me, it all started with METALLICA and James Hetfield, but I was more of a drummer during that stretch. I really hadn’t focused on the guitar part of it, even though James is, by far, one of the baddest rhythm players on the planet. PANTERA was the band that just hit me in the side of the face and I went “What…the…fuck…was…that!?” I’d never heard anything like it. People talk about like when NIRVANA came along and reinvented music. Well, METALLICA invented the style and PANTERA came along and gave it some “swagger.” It was different. It was the same, but a totally different approach with everything that he did. He claimed he hit bad notes all the time but you’d never know it because of a lot of the rules that he’d go by, like “If you fuck up once, fuck up four times in a row so that everyone thinks that you meant to do it.” I’d say “Alright cool, so when I hit that bad note, I’m supposed to remember the bad note?” And he’d say, “Yeah just keep murdering the bad note.” [Laughs] I never saw the guy stagger. I never saw him drop the note. I never saw him look out of his element or uncomfortable. It never looked like he really had to concentrate on anything that he was doing. Even though; he’d actually sometimes have to get the guitar up on his knee or he’d have to lean down on the wedge or and kind of kneel into the wedge to get to some of the positions he was getting to. It was effortless for him. It was something that was so natural. He had such a precise thing about it. I mean, for all those guys that played so fast, he seemed to have that top gear and it was just some of the best stuff that I’ve heard. He had such a blues mentality but he was a shredder. He took a lot of his stuff from Eddie Van Halen, and I do too. I get a lot more of my Eddie through Dime than I realize.

Guitar International: Have you or the band thought about writing a tribute to Dimebag?

John Connolly: The funny thing is that “Hero” was that song. It was on the record right after that happened. We called it “Hero”. It wasn’t specifically about Dimebag. It was more of a working title, because when we did the music that’s what inspired us. As far as a lyrical thing, I’m sure at some point and time it’ll come to that. I guess part of us is still in that denial factor that we really don’t ever want to let it go in the first place. It’s been years. It’s been a long time since it happened. I don’t know. When a guy that big goes like that… [Pauses]…. Randy Rhoads died in an airplane with somebody who was probably doing something stupid. Dime was just jamming up there on stage, throwing down, which ironically was probably the way he would’ve wanted to go. The last thing he remembered was a ripping solo from the first song of the show, so he definitely went out the right way.

Guitar International: Dimebag story time!

John Connolly: I think I’ve got more than my share. [Laughs] There are so many good stories. Probably the most memorable was the time he had me both throwing up and pissing at the bar in the Ice Palace in the Amphitheater in Dallas. That was pretty cool. [Laughs] Me and Dave Williams from DROWNING POOL had been drinking all day. We finally hooked up with him at the bar and it was on. Let’s just say …we don’t remember much. Dave woke up in a pile of puke in the front grass. He was in the yard! He never made it in the house. It was one of those nights. Probably the coolest though, for us as a band, and for me personally, was actually getting to jam “Walk” with jim in Dallas. That was probably the coolest. I’ve got a couple of pictures from that show in my home studio. Some fans had taken pics of that out at the show. They came down to the bus and gave me the pictures and I’ve got ’em up on the wall at the house. It’s cool, them and me and everyone up there jamming. That was probably one of the coolest times hanging with Dime. They had this band that they were kind of “backing” called GASOLINE. They did, I guess, four or five Texas dates with us, and was off (the road) ’cause they were off forever before they got the DAMAGEPLAN thing going. They’d just hop on the bus and ride around and follow the tour for three or four days and we’d ended in Dallas. The whole time we were talking…and we were doing “Walk” every night up on stage and Dime said “I gotta get up there and do it with ya’ll!” But he wanted to do it right, you know, on one of his guitars; that made sense to him, so he could actually do the solo and do everything. So we said “Alright, we’ll do it in Dallas.” So Dime and Rex came up there, Vinnie (Paul) was back there on the drums. It was cool, just getting to hang with those guys and actually getting to jam one of our favorite songs from them.

Guitar International: SEVENDUST doesn’t sound like anything else, and the way you play your guitar is very unique. It’s at the chore of what the SEVENDUST sound is and always will be. You don’t follow the same “rules” as other musicians either.

John Connolly: First of all, we’re tuned down to drop-tuning, which means all bets are off on the bottom string. Second of all, we’re tuned down to B, so if someone says play a D chord, I know where the D chord is if you want that note. It’s not gonna look like a D (when you see me play it) because that’s not where the “shape” is (on the scale). I kind of live in a different place on the guitar. I work more in patterns and rough shapes. I know a major scale and I probably know a minor scale. Other than that, I’m a little lost. I gotta hunt and peck some things. I guess that’s the difference. I come from a drummer’s point of view and that part of the music. It’s not that I don’t want to learn it, but it’s just been something that I kind of get the grasp of it. I don’t want to know too many of the rules. I’ve always been like that, even back when I was in college. Rules in music suck. Some of the coolest things that I think don’t make any sense. If I find something that sounds cool, sometimes I play something and it’s not even in the same key as the rest of the song but it sounds killer. I don’t like getting hemmed in by the rules, because if I don’t know that they don’t “make sense” and they sound good, then I’m gonna use it. [Laughing] I don’t want to know all of the boundaries and what I’m not supposed to do.

Read the entire interview at Guitar International.