For music fans few events, if any, in the last decade carry the same weight and significance as the murder of guitarist Darrell “Dimebag” Abbott. While there were a relativity small number of fans present at the December 8th, 2004 show, held at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio, featuring Abbott’s post Pantera band Damageplan the event has a profound effect on music fans the world over.
In addition to the loss of one of rock music’s most charismic and talented guitar players, the senseless tragedy also clamed the lives of Nathan Bray, Erin Halk and Jeff Thompson and forever changed the lives of those who were present on that fateful night. Despite what some critics of “Heavy Metal” have said the actions of killer Nathan Gale, an allegedly deranged fan, contradict everything that true metal-heads stand for. For the generation of fans that grew up on bands like Anthrax, Slayer, Metallica and, of course, Pantera this is our Altamont, a moment that forced us all to take stock of what we really stand for when we pledge our allegiance to Heavy Metal.
In his forthcoming book A Vulgar Display of Power: Courage and Carnage at the Alrosa Villa writer Chris A. explores the solidarity of the metal community, the heroic actions of Officer James Niggemeyer, who provides the books foreword, as well the Columbus Police Department and the fans who were there. What the book is not is a glorification of killer Nathan Gale, but rather a story of triumph over evil.
The following is a conversation with author Chris A. about the book and his experiences writing it. You can get more information about the book, scheduled for publication in March, at the Authors Website.
Newdealers.com: What originally interested you in doing this book?
Chris A.: Well the whole event really kind of bothered me, and I don’t think I had felt that way since John Lennon was killed. It was just one of those things that I had a lot of questions about, and I was always very skeptical about the break-up of Pantera being the cause. I was also very interested in the other three people who were killed that night, and there was very little in the media about them. Their stories seemed to be obscured by Dimebag's celebrity so I started to do some digging.
Newdealers.com: What did you find out?
Chris A.: Well, after I went on line and did a little poking around. I discovered that were really very few things of any merit that had been written, so I got the Idea in my mind that maybe it was something I could do.
Newdealers.com: At one point, in a 2004 interview with Metal Hammer magazine, Phil Anselmo had said that Dimebag “deserves to be severely beaten,” how much do you think that statement might have influenced Dimebag’s murder?
Chris A.: I looked into that aspect a great deal and the fact is that nobody knows. Obviously if he [Nathan Gale] heard about it or read about it, one could suspect that it may have influenced him. As far as finding anything absolute or concrete that he was even aware of the interview, there wasn’t anything.
Newdealers.com: Did you speak with members of the Columbus Police Department in your research for the book?
Chris A. Yes. I spoke with the Homicide Detectives, Ambulance Crews. I spoke with the families of the victims and the mother of Nathan Gale as well as speaking to tons of fans. I probably corresponded with close to 200 people while researching the book.
Newdealers.com: After doing all this research do you think that there was anything that could have been done to prevent this from happening?
Chris A.: Well hindsight is always twenty-twenty, but as far as culpability goes I would put the culpability squarely on the shoulders of Gale. I’m not aware of any precedent to his actions, I never found any instance of somebody actually getting on-stage and killing a performer. I think the biggest misconception is that there was something that the venue missed. I think the security at Alrosa Villa that night, and this is based on my opinion, was no better or no worse than the security at other clubs that I’d seen. We’re not talking about somebody getting drunk and starting a fight or smoking weed. We’re talking about an armed intruder coming into a club with a mission to kill people, and I don’t know of a single venue anywhere in the United States that has a protocol to deal with that.
Newdealers.com: Do you think that the level of aggression present in the type of music that Damageplan, and other bands of the same ilk, are playing had anything to do with the tragedy?
Chris A.: I absolutely, totally reject that and that is part of the thesis of the book. It’s very easy to take a negative, narrow view of Heavy Metal based on what happened. What the book is going to very clearly explain is that the killer was not a fan, and he was not enamored with Pantera or Dimebag for the reasons people think he was. Looking beyond that it is absolutely inspiring and amazing that so many people stayed around and tried to help. When the police showed up there were 250 people milling around the parking lot waiting to give statements. One of the detectives, Bill Gillette, said that in his nine and a half years of working homicides he had never seen that kind of cooperation.
Interview by: Brandon Daviet