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Sterling Winfield: Pantera’s work ethic was off the charts

Pantera
Pantera (Image credit: Getty)

Pantera engineer, producer and tour tech Sterling Winfield says he continues to be inspired by the work ethic the band showed in the studio and on the road.

Winfield, who co-produced Pantera’s 2000 album Reinventing The Steel, says prior to their 1990 album Cowboys From Hell they were essentially “a cover band” but reports that in the years that followed, their work ethic was “off the charts” as they became one of the biggest names in metal.

Winfield tells Reverb (opens in new tab): “Here’s the number one rule – write good songs. It can’t get much simpler. Write from your heart. Influences are great, but you’ve eventually got to be yourself.

“Before Cowboys From Hell, Pantera was a cover band. They did exactly what everybody else was doing. At some point, something snapped.

“Their last independent album, Power Metal in 1988, was their first with Phil Anselmo, and man, even that was starting to turn the corner. They had a lot more brutality and heaviness in them than they gave themselves credit for.

“They grew up and away from the tutelage of Dimebag and Vinnie Paul’s dad, got real honest with themselves, and wrote from the heart. They started writing songs with groovy, heavy, badass riffs.”

Winfield says after years of touring and playing bars gave Pantera an edge and adds: “That will make your attitude and your music heavy. They were turned down by every major label, including the one that eventually signed them, Atco.

“Their work ethic was off the charts. I gained a lot of my work ethic from watching them stay the course. One of their mottos was ‘whatever it takes.’ We’d get into situations that seemed impossible, but we all pulled together and made it happen.”

He adds: “There’s not a lot of that anymore. It’s a guy in his garage or his basement, and all he knows is Pro Tools. Or the engineer says, ‘You only have to play that riff one time, or sing that chorus one time.’ And it’s cut and paste and fly the rest. It doesn’t leave anything unique. It doesn’t lend any tension to the song.

“That’s what a lot of music is missing – there are no emotional highs and lows. Big metal bands still use Vulgar Display of Power as the measuring stick, and that album is 24 years old. What does that tell you?”

Winfield now works with hip-hop, R&B, country, blues, jazz and orchestral artists at his Boot Hill studio. He recently produced and engineered Texas Hippie Coalition’s Dark Side Of Black, along with producing and mixing Canadian outfit A Rebel Few’s new album As The Crow Flies.

The Story Behind: Cowboys From Hell by Pantera

Scott looks after and updates Louder’s online buyer’s guides and also scouts out the best deals for music fans from every corner of the internet. He's spent more than 28 years in newspapers and magazines as an editor, production editor, sub-editor, designer, writer and reviewer. Scott joined our news desk in the summer of 2014, where he wrote extensively about rock, metal, prog and more, before moving to the eCommerce team full-time in 2020. Scott has previous written for publications including IGN, Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and The Herald covering everything from daily news and weekly features, to video games, travel and whisky.