BLACK TOOTH GRIN
A Tribute to Pantera
“For The Love of Pantera” A Discussion with Long Island’s, Black Tooth Grin.
Typically, as far a cover bands go I have never been a huge fan. I have always listened to cover bands in bars and venues, left thirsting for the real thing. Although, I appreciate what cover bands do, paying homage to the music they love, nothing beats the original for me. However, I had been missing the music of Pantera; of course other than listening to their albums, or hearing it on the radio that was not enough. Not being able to see them live, since Ozzfest in 2000, and with the way Dimbag Darrell was taken so soon from the world, always left me with sadness. I admit I was skeptical, when a listing for a Pantera tribute band popped up in my Facebook news feed, in March of 2018, just a few months before Vinnie Paul’s passing. It was at a local bar, Halftime, less than twenty minutes from my home, and so I took a chance. I can’t say it was Pantera, and frankly nothing will ever be Pantera; but I can say Black Tooth Grin blew me away. I could for a moment, sitting in the shadowy corner of that bar, close my eyes, and if for a few seconds be back at Ozzfest, with Pantera, live on stage. If I can never have Pantera, Black Tooth Grin for me is a close second. So I took some time to sit down with Bill Kelly, guitarist, and Greg Cea, drummer of Black Tooth Grin, to discuss everything Pantera, and how the band came to be.
Black Tooth Grin summed it up perfectly by saying, “Everything that we are doing is for the memory of Dime and Vinnie, and for everyone who was a pantera fan.” That is a message that reads loud and clear, when Black Tooth Grin takes the stage. You can feel “This Love” from the band and fans alike, which with no pun intended, is a cover song of Pantera’s that the band performs well.
Black Tooth Grin was supposed to be a onetime tribute in 2014, commemorating ten years since the passing of Dimebag Darrell, however the patrons of that event would not let Black Tooth Grin cease from existence. Once Pantera fans heard that tribute, the demand for more Black Tooth Grin shows kept coming. Bill Kelly shared the creation of Black Tooth grin with me.
Kelly said, “basically how Black Tooth Grin got started was in 2014, it was the ten year anniversary of Dimebag’s death, I’m sure everyone knows how Dimebag passed away, and I was talking to a bunch of club owners, and promoters, who wanted to do a big party, for the ten year anniversary; and they said, “do you know any bands that would want to do it”, and I said “I’m sure I can put something together.” I contacted three close friends of mine, who I knew could pull it off, in the time we had to do it, and it was originally supposed to be a one time show. After that one off show people were so blown away they were like, “you guys can’t stop now, you have to continue and continue”. Obviously being that Pantera wasn’t going to happen anymore, people just said, “You just have that feeling of being a part of Pantera, and seeing your shows bring back memories for us”. We decided to keep it going, and its four years later, in a blink of an eye. It’s just been a lot of fun for us. It’s been great; we keep getting asked to play, even when we take a break it just pops up out of nowhere, and it just keeps coming, and we just keep taking it, and having fun with it”.
I spoke to both Billy Kelly and Greg Cea, about their first impressions of Pantera, and what made them want to be a Pantera cover band.
Kelly shared, “my first memory of Pantera was in 1994, I saw them in the Nassau Coliseum, in Long Island, New York, I was seventeen, sixteen or seventeen years old, and it was life changing. I have never saw a band like that in my life, they were really the perfect band at that time, there was no better front man than Phil ( Anselmo), Dime ( Dimebag Darrell Abbott) was just a maniac on guitar, Vinnie( Vinnie Paul Abbott) was incredible on drums, and Rex ( Brown)was a killer bass player. It was just the perfect super group, and everything went well, at the right time for them, and it definitely changed my life, as far as being a musician, for sure.”
For Greg Cea it’s the release of “Cowboys from Hell”, that changed his life. Cea reflected, “My first introduction to Pantera was in 1990, when “Cowboys” came out and I was over at a friend’s house, and he showed me “Cowboys from Hell” on TV. It was the first time I had ever heard of them, and I was blown away, I was like, “who the hell are these guys”, I had no prior knowledge of Pantera, before “Cowboys”. The “Cowboys” CD was the debut, and I was just blown away, and have followed them ever since. They had an awesome career, great band; great musicianship. “
Black Tooth Grin aims to honor Pantera, and both Dimebag and Vinnie, with the same level of musicianship. All coming from their own original bands, or cover bands themselves the members of Black Tooth Grin are no strangers to the Heavy Metal community. Bass player Anthony Westnyle also performs in his own original band, WESTNYLE, as well as vocalist James Brady in Borgo Pass, and guitarist William Kelly, also plays with Van Hagar, and Van Halen tribute. Although, the band shared that playing Pantera is the perfect blend of all of their musical styles.
Kelly and Cea took a moment to reflect on the life and work of Dimebag Darrell. When asked if anyone can compare with Dimebag either musically or in stage presence, ultimately for both the answer was no.
“There’s a lot of great guitarists out there, but as far as a live show go I don’t think I have ever seen anybody as good a Dime live, he was comfortable on stage, he put on a show for you, and he blew you away, he was a monster guitar player. He had a monster sound, and style, which really no one has replicated”, Kelly remarked.
Cea chimed in saying, “he has such a distinct sound that you don’t even have to see him play, you hear him, and you know its him right away. To me aside from technique, if I shut my eyes and hear a guitar player, and know it is them, they are doing something right. Dime had that distinct sound, he had those riffs, he had the squeals he had all of it. In my opinion he and Vinnie changed the face of Metal because after that point, everyone tried to simulate what they were doing, in my opinion no one captured what they could do, nobody. “
Black Tooth Grin is currently working to put together shows for the rest of the 2018, and early 2019 years. Currently they are working on putting together a Vinnie Paul Tribute in Long Island, for mid Fall. As well as they have a show planned for Wantagh, New York at Mulcahy’s Pub and Concert Hall, with Schism as well known Tool tribute as the headliner, November 17th. You can catch Black Tooth Grin touring the Tri- State from New York to Delaware, and giving us East Coasters a taste of Pantera to remember.