DFW Music News

Scott Shelby, Dallas' Last Metal Guitarist Standing

In the DFW metalplex we've seen legendary guitarists meet an untimely end to their careers. Ten years ago, Dimebag Darrell Abbott of Pantera and Damage Plan was murdered by a deranged killer while playing a show in Ohio, and recently, Mike Scaccia of Ministry and Rigor Mortis died of heart attack while jamming onstage at a birthday party for former band member Bruce Corbitt at The Rail Club in Fort Worth.

After Scaccia's funeral, bassist Casey Orr (Ministry, Rigor Mortis, GWAR and Warbeast), approached local metal guitarist Scott Shelby (Gammacide, Hammer Witch, Null & Void and Warbeast) and said, "Well, you're the only one left."

It's only fitting that we here at The Observer pay tribute to a local guitarist whose legend is still growing in the North Texas area as his current band Warbeast heads back into the studio to record a follow up to last year's Destroy, an album full of pulse-pounding thrash metal.

"I want to be a force to be reckoned with to the ears and the eyes," says Shelby of his guitar shredding. "I like to have an appearance and be an over-the-top guitar player, one that makes mosh pits. That's what I try to represent when I come out with the full gear. All the great guitarists are the same way from Hendrix to Stevie to Dime; they all have a look that's mesmerizing."

Shelby is a giant of a man who looks like an undertaker's worst nightmare when the guitarist takes the stage. Dressed all in black, with metal spikes strapped around his black boots and right arm and sleeveless t-shirts, he slings a Dean Razorback V, and the crowd screams in response to his crunchy riffs and blazing licks.

In 1976, Shelby was 11 years old when he first picked up a guitar. At the time, he was interested in becoming a Universal monster actor like Boris Karloff in Frankenstein or Haruo Nakajima and Katsumi Tezuka who both played Godzilla in the old movies. It wasn't until his cousin brought over the album KISS Alive! that his guitar quest began.

"I was just mesmerized by the cover and music," Shelby says of the KISS band members. "They were like monsters with guitars."

His parents bought him a Hondo 2 Les Paul copy, and Shelby spent hours after school jamming to old records. At first he was learning tunes by ZZ Top, but then Mike Sloan brought over ACDC's Highway to Hell and Judas Priest's British Steel and said, "You need to be playing this." He immediately feel in love with the heavy metal.

"The sound just makes my blood flow," he says. "It motivates you, causes mosh pits. Metal just moves you. It's a way of life for me."

Shelby's first band was Hazardous Waste. They played a few gigs but never recorded an album. He didn't join his first official band, Gammacide, until 1987. He'd met co-founder Rick Perry while attending shows at Rascals and the Tombstone Factory. They recorded their first and only album Victims of Science later that year, made another demo and wrote a slew of songs before splitting up in 1992.

Shelby next joined Hammer Witch and recorded a demo Carve Your Own Doom, later played sessions with Rotting Corpse, and then formed Null & Void with his bassist Wayne Abney. But the project was short lived.

In the mid '90s, the metal scene in Deep Ellum went so far underground that a crypt keeper couldn't locate it. Shelby wasn't in a band, and his guitar quest soon derailed when he fell into drugs. "They detoured me from fulfilling my dreams," he says.

Shelby spent several years battling addiction and nearly went to jail before finally quitting. "The miracle was everything in life that I wanted happened once I quit that reckless behavior."

He found a steady job, married his wife, Beth, and teamed with Rick Perry to reform Gammacide for a reunion show. Later, he became part of a side project called Texas Metal Alliance with former band members of Rigor Mortis, Rotting Corpse, Hammer Witch and Gammacide.

"It's all because I quit taking drugs," he says.

The band later changed their name to Warbeast after joining former Down/Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo's record label, Housecore Records. They released their first album Krush The Enemy in 2010, followed by a split EP War of the Gargantuas and Destroy in 2013.

"The fact I've been able to put out records, play and tour, that's the biggest thing for me," Shelby says. "I dreamed about it when I was little, and now I have records on the wall."

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Christian McPhate is an award-winning journalist who specializes in investigative reporting. He covers crime, the environment, business, government and social justice. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Miami Herald, San Antonio Express News and The Washington Times.