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Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Legacy Contorted: The Facts About Dimebag Darrell And His Opinion Of Seven String Guitars

I rarely deal with the subject of music aside from the sporadic and very blue moon posts about certain issues that I find infuriating because they might be genuinely rife with irrationality, or be of a patently false nature. This is one of those topics that contains ample quantities of both vices – irrationality and falsehoods, spawned from the very ignorant depths of the Metal Community.

There's a subject that's been getting under my skin for the last ten years. It is closely linked with the controversy over seven string guitars as some niche breed of instruments that have somehow – through idiocy and cultural bigotry – cultivated a controversial reputation for being sheer tools of mediocrity in the hands of “talentless musicians” such as Nu Metal acts. I am not even going to get into the blanket condemnation of alternative and Nu Metal, since that's another subject, but I will focus on the baseless nature of this claim that seven strings are somehow tools for the sham musicians. 

Now what makes this irrationality worse is the cornerstone arguments in support of this opinion and pure perception – note: not fact – touted by purists of the metal genre, and worsened by the unquestioning group psychology of the community. What is this argument? It is a powerful claim that is apparently buried beneath an ocean of obscure and baseless references to the late and great “Dimebag” Darrell Lance Abbot: legendary hard rock and heavy metal guitarist; founder and iconic lead guitarist of heavy metal band, Pantera. I would like to address this misconception in full detail by treating this entry as a treatise of Dimebag's guitar philosophy, along with exposing the source of this misconception, which would then dispel this false dogma and perception of how this late legend denounced seven string guitars.

"Why does this get under your skin?" - Some Might Wonder

First, a bit of proper introduction and background to the thematic in question. Having a fundamental allegiance to most things fringe, heavy, black-natured, scrawled with blasphemous wounds of the macabre, and rife with unadulterated Satanic edge; I have an inexplicable, and irrefutable connection with the heavy metal culture, including many of its sub-genres and contemporary off-shoots. If it sounds dark, heavy, moody, and possibly thought-provoking. . . I'm there, and I'm ready to appraise it as well as feed off its energy like some starved demonic force from the cryptic splurge within a dying catacomb. I like my heavy metal, and I indulge in this appetite without any sense of restraint – I like heavy noise, and I employ instruments to create heavy noise; whether it appeals to an audience, an individual, or no one, is not my prerogative, but needless to say, I have like-minded allies in this pursuit.

Given my passion for all things dark and heavy, I tend to become a bit hung up on facts, claims, and conjecture, especially when one of my idealised veterans of the trade are falsely implicated in another moron's agenda. Now if only I had a pretty fuckin' penny for every time I've heard some no-name alias over the internet or some random stranger at a gig, go on to recount stories about meeting a famous musician and then proceeding to express opinions on behalf of said musician – some true, some pure fallacy. I am not going to imply that all claims of this nature are wrong, but I am going to make it very clear that these claims are purely claims until otherwise reinforced by factual information.

The claim that Dimebag hated seven strings with an unholy passion was one such exaggeration that has fuelled the argument by certain metal purists against seven string guitars. This, I think needs to be addressed properly since even the deepest natured research only unveils random hearsay from forums and sevenstring.org. It's usually that secondary-source anecdotal cliché, such as, 'My friend's cousin's ex-dead girlfriend's mother's second husband read some obscure scroll – that was destroyed during the Spanish Inquisition – about Dimebag that one time and the scroll said that he (Dimebag) hated seven string guitars!' I am sorry, but this is just not going to fly in the face of reason. Not to mention, the information is hardly even secondary since there's no trace of primary sources as one begins to unravel the concatenation of hearsay – it's really just a wide waffle of gossip with no real substance.

There is no doubt in my mind that Dimebag was a passionate musician with a skill-set and mastery of the axe that few among the modern-day greats could even dream of honing, so in my books, he earned a legitimate badge of honour to freely opine and critique. However, even then, I wouldn't allow myself to be swayed by his authority; there have been points where I disagree with Dimebag. Nevertheless, having had the immense honour to meet the guy once and only once, I know that his legendary skill is matched by the humble mentality of a complimenting rationalist; he's always been a flexible and open-minded individual.

The truth of the matter is this, Dimebag Darrell has always – without apology – held the view that guitarists should strive for better and achieve the most they can from the limitations of their instrument rather than being alien to the range of their musical weapon of choice. 

"Own your weapon, and don't let your weapon own you!" -- Inspired by Dimebag

This was the truth of it all. . . Dimebag never had a high opinion of guitarists with simplistic skill, but neither did he ever take exception to this and fully agreed with the age-old artistic anti-doctrine of, “To each, their own. . . If it works for you, then good!” Likewise, he didn't see the point of seven string guitars in the hands of individuals who'd only be using the lower three strings of the instrument – one could easily achieve this on a standard guitar, making the whole seven string feature an obsolete fad in the context of a guitarist who wouldn't utilise the full range of the instrument anyway. He even referenced Scott Ian of Anthrax using just a four string guitar as a legitimate stance and position [1].

Ah, so when we observe some facts, stop looking at things in absolute shades of black and white, and halt this relentless debauchery of taking shit out of context, it becomes evident that Dime never had an issue with seven string guitars, or even four string guitars. . . He had an issue with people who'd buy seven-stringers to show off while only using 3 strings of the instrument; something anyone could accomplish by simply down-tuning a standard six-string guitar – Dime did it himself!” – Reality Check

Indeed, Dimebag himself was a connoisseur of drop and low tunings, which he executed just fine on a six-stringer. He was an amazing guitarist, and he was able to capture all of his sounds within the constraints of his instrument – this was the hallmark of his pride and glory as a musician. Somehow, after Dimebag's unfortunate demise, and the subsequent case of the 'Chinese Whispers' amongst some of his ignorant devotees, Dimebag's legacy was now being seized to support this anti-down tune and seven string guitar crusade; a crusade that was never even Dimebag's mandate or burden in the first place, and a gross perversion of his personal position on the subject. It's these kind of seizing tactics and overarching zealotry that pisses me off; where the legacy of deceased legendary artists is disgustingly usurped by the myopic and misguided agenda of some opinionated elitist fans who never understood the concept of art in the first place. With this kind of rumour-mongering, before you know it, we have an entire internet audience quoting Dimebag as 'the hater of seven stringers' with impunity – as though it is one of those irrefutable facts that one cannot dare to question.

I will acknowledge that I am not certain how many people treat such proclamations seriously; I certainly tried my damn best to ignore this bullshit up until a recent incident. I am also certain that the subject is of little interest to outsiders, and doesn't even matter to most, but this is my domain where I chronicle my thoughts, and as a long-time fan of Dimebag's work, I feel that his true legacy needs to be honoured here rather than abused for the perpetuation of falsehoods. So this can be seen as my effort towards dispelling this insidious erroneous urban myth about him hating a certain kind of guitar.

Dimebag Darrell never hated seven string guitars, he simply didn't see the purpose of these guitars in the hands of artists who can't even use a standard instrument to full capacity – he saw their utility and market appeal as a pure gimmick that might mislead other aspiring artists who could do just as well without going that route. If anything, he was trying to enlighten the masses on the real implications of guitar range and how much can be accomplished even with a standard guitar, and what more can be done with one that contains an added lower baritone key. Unfortunately, Dimebag Darrell's little interview with Guitarworld from 1999 – one that I had read – is most likely the source of this snowballed rumour. I believe it was this interview that was grossly misinterpreted and taken out of context by some poser, raging, boozing, image-incorporated head banger, who most likely – in a moment of head-swirling, brain numbing frenzy – chose to perceive that as an all-out condemnation of all things associated with the number 7, before proceeding to infect the rest of this cesspit-network called the internet with this myth that has now taken on a life of its own under the guise of an 'unquestionable fact'. If there's a supporting argument for stereotypical metal fans lacking intellectual fortitude, this myth would be a stand-out piece since they're doing great disservice to their own deceased hero.

To quote Dimebag's closing comments on that subject:
I’m not saying I wouldn’t play a seven-string. It’s just that I’ve never needed one. Most dudes who play seven-strings don’t sound any different than someone playing a six-string that’s tuned down.” - Dimebag Darrell: Cra-Z-Boy;  Guitarworld, 1999

There we have it; truth magnified sans hyperbole and misleading conjecture. Dimebag never denounced or decried these guitars. It's dogmatic group-think like this that demonstrates just how the opinionated nature of the metal community will always be its sine que non Achilles Heel, since much of the bravado and passionate vulgar and gusto-stricken opinions are a false-front for an otherwise baseless or weak position on a subject matter where facts are anything but evident. It's just a shame for them that I don't tolerate jar heads hijacking Dimebag's name to rationalise their very illogical insecurities against the idea of diversity within the metal genre of music. So here's to the truth; the demise of a misconception, and genuine credence to the legacy of a great guitarist.

Finally, here's to Dimebag Darrell, as I honour his true memory in its unadulterated state today, along with hopes that I can use seven string guitars to their full capacity, someday. As it stands, I'm a terrible guitarist/noise-maker. Yeah, I'm one of those blaspheming heathens who abuses a seven-string guitar with pride, and when I met Dime, he didn't have much a problem with my philosophy, so long as gimmickry wasn't part of the parcel, which it wasn't. In fact, this post was provoked by my recent acquisition of the Dean Razorback 255 - 7 String, which prompted a not so well-informed outburst by one of my respected, but somewhat ignorant friends about how Dimebag 'hated 7 string'; clearly a far fuckin' cry from any form of truth.


Have a good one, moshers. Don't let too much of that blood rush to yer heads!


Kade


Reference:
[1] Chris Gill. (1999). Dimebag Darrel: Cra-Z-Boy. Available: http://www.guitarworld.com/dimebag-darrell-cra-z-boy?page=0,3. Last accessed 15th January 2012.


This post is dedicated to the memory and grandiose stature of Dimebag Darrell; an iconic guitarist and a man who loved all musical instruments regardless of their string count. . . and regardless of what certain idiots on Blabbermouth.net's comments section would have us believe.



Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Greatness Passes, But Its Impact Remains: A Farewell to Christopher Hitchens


So another eventful year has passed, it was both mundane and predictable, but not without its own hints of the unexpected. Anyway, I would like to address one of the expected but personally saddening events: the passing of Christopher Hitchens at age 62 from pneumonia brought on by his cancer. It's funny since just days before his passing on the 15th of December, 2011, I was contemplating the idea of doing a short review of his book, “The Portable Atheist”, of which I had some things to say, but now that train of thought has been halted in its tracks. The great man with an even greater voice and piercing intellectual capacity is no longer among those present, but perhaps his legacy will speak otherwise, and so I will discuss that briefly.

I vividly recall bringing up his name in a discussion just a few months back when others commented about his physical decline in recent years due to cancer. Now despite how much the man had changed physically as a result of his physical affliction, I still continued to see him as an immortal – a titan in his own right. The man's sheer command of language, and his extremely uncompromising wit committed to his rationalistic, atheistic ideological views, will leave his voice infinitely echoing through the annals of the literary sphere. Sure, he looked ill, and I could tell that his time was short; he seemed to be running on pure fumes and passion in his last months, but I know that like most great individuals, his name and his words would continue to live on, shape and influence greater than most monoliths of our age and the ages of yore.

Despite having the urge to do so, I simply won't deify this man, since that'd be ironic. Nevertheless, if atheism and pursuit for objective knowledge and reason were – for one moment – collectivised as a single and quaintly counter-theological movement, then Christopher Hitchens could be considered the pioneering prophet of such a movement. I honestly do feel that individuals such as myself, and others who're like-minded, have lost a great source of inspiration, and a great voice for a hidden generation of critical thinkers and philosophers. The world today lost one of its most unapologetic, humane, and yet honest humanists, and it also lost one of its poignant writers – fortunately, since he was such an amazing, eloquent yet brashly articulate individual, his everlasting contributions and words have immortalised his presence.

Christopher Hitchens was a phenomenal individual, and will remain in such light for times eternal. I highly doubt that this man, who epitomised the intellectual forefront of reason and championed its every crucial fight, can ever truly become a passage of the past. He may have died, but there is no grave, nor state of finite mortality that can entomb this man's invaluable essence, arrogance and humility as a human and an atheist, and his literary contributions as a philosophical icon of all human ages.

Having considered all of the above, and also having fully appreciated what has happened, I bid this my farewell to Christopher Hitchens. I think now I will get back to finishing The Portable Atheist again, and then proceed to do a straight forward critique of just how unportable a joy it has been to read, even including some brief thoughts on the satisfying pissed off looks I garnered from random onlookers and fellow commuters who already have a hard time digesting my evil demeanour, let alone that demeanour with a thought provoking contrarian book. Heh. We've all got a pretentious side to play up on occasion; sporting that book made my 2011 moment, which I'll discuss later. At this point, I'd gladly carry all of Hitchens' books on my person, for public display, in their full verbose – such is the value of literary greatness; the man may have passed, but his impact will forever remain.

-- Kade