Welcome to Local Music 'Mericans, where we meet the people in the local music scene that you don't see on stages.
It's such a cool thing when our LMA subjects have the humble beginning of simply being a fan. Even more exhilarating is the fan who elevates to a position of weight on a national level.
As you hear Sterling Winfield's story, you just can't help but congratulate him at multiple stops along the way. He's worked damn hard, clawed his way up from an assistant engineer to a bona fide rock record producer, and done so largely just by being himself.
Sterling Winfield is a Pantera fan, and has been since junior high. Because of that, he knew exactly who was on the phone when famed producer Terry Date called up Dallas Soundlab, where Winfield was empolyed as an assistant recording engineer on the nightshift, to get a list of the studio gear they stocked. He sparked a friendship with the producer and the band (particulary "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott), and ended up a part of their inner circle from the time they were assembling Far Beyond Driven, their third effort, all the way up to the end of the band as we know it. He became part of the lively, dysfunctional Pantera family.
In the studio, he co-engineered Pantera's recordings. On the road, he saw the world with them, usually as a bass guitar tech.
Winfield's association continued and elevated in the post-Pantera period, with Damageplan's recordings and live shows, right up to the tragic demise of that outfit, as well as the Rebel Meets Rebel recordings, featuring outlaw country singer David Allan Coe and all three of Pantera's instrumentalists.
Most significant, though, is Winfields role in (Pantera drummer) Vinnie Paul's latest musical endeavour, Hellyeah. The band made Winfield a producer for both of the band's albums.
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Winfield now runs his own studio out of his home, mixing bands mostly from the local metal scene, and serving as an occasional contributing journalist to Pro Audio Review magazine.
What else did Winfield's sacrifices earn him behind the scenes with one of Dallas' biggest local music success stories? The basic thoughts alone of touring and recording with Pantera should conjure some pretty colorful thoughts right out of the gate.
Read on for the real stuff after the jump.
We know about you meeting Pantera at Dallas Sound Lab , but tell us about some other sounds you remember working on there. You must have seen a lot of different kinds of music, local or otherwise, come through.
Well, not really. D.S.L. was more on the national and international level. The locals couldn't really afford to come there unless they saved up for a few years. It wasn't really designed to cater to the local garage band. There was a huge amount of different things that I was fortunate to work on that came through there. I got to work with people and projects like Herbie Mann, King Diamond/Mercyful Fate, and a lot of cool choral and orchestral things for Disney and National Geographic. I got to work on jingle/commercial music with B.B. King once. A musical education for sure.
You started there around 1991. What about before that? What set you off in the direction of rock music?
The two most significant things were the fact that my father is a singer-songwriter, and my older brother, by six years, turned me on to rock 'n' roll at an early age. There was always music of some form around me at almost all times. I discovered early on that, even though I really wasn't disciplined musician material, that I had a really good ear and feel for music and songs in general.
Was there something in particular that sparked a friendship between you and the guys in Pantera?
They came into Dallas Sound Lab, which is now gone by the way, because of a flood due to a broken water main about a year ago. It was in October of 1993. They showed up to finish what would become Far Beyond Driven. I got paired up with one of my best friends and engineers there, Tim Kimsey. He was the senior engineer and I was to be the assistant. The guys in the band and Terry Date were awesome. I learned a lot from the project and all of those guys. I had been a huge fan since I was in junior high, when those guys were still releasing their independent albums. Dime and I really gravitated toward each other, but he was that way. He was always very personable to everybody. Then when we hit the common ground of being huge King's X fans, that was it. Friends for life!
Personally, I feel that by being a part of the brilliantly-entertaining Pantera films, shot for the DVD release, that you've become a bit of a celebrity yourself -- at least among the DFW metal scene and core fans of the band. Did you get recognized a lot from your antics on camera?
I mostly get recognized when I go to clubs or rock shows at bigger venues, but not as much as you would think. It's always interesting though, that's for sure. Thanks Dime!
Were you a sound engineer for the Damageplan tour? Thoughts or memories from it you care to share?
No. That was Aaron "Wires" Barnes. He was Pantera's guy since The Basement days. He was a hell of a front of house engineer. I think he is retired now. Too many memories to list here, but good times indeed.
How about some of the most laughter-inducing memories of Dime? We've all heard lots, but I don't think there can ever be too many shared.
Again, too many to list. Just watch the home videos. It's all there.
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After Damageplan, and leading up to the period when Hellyeah started to culminate, things were quiet in that camp. What did you do as an engineer during this time?
We were all in a pretty long mourning period then. I didn't work a whole lot through that period, but when I did, I made sure that it was someone or something that I really enjoyed, or it would have been pure hell, for sure.
Were you the first-choice, right out of the gate, to move up the ladder to producer when it came to the Hellyeah records? Or were you one in a pool of candidates?
It was pretty much Vinnie Paul calling me on the phone about 10 months after Dime was killed and saying, "Well, two of the Mudvayne guys are coming down with Tom from Nothingface [who we had toured with before], so let's go down to "Chasin' Jason" [the Pantera studio] and see if something musical happens." That was pretty much it. The rest is history.
Any new DFW-based bands (of any genre) you find exciting that you'd like to share?
Well, I will take this opportunity to push a couple of bands that I am having the pleasure to work with at the moment. I really like the World Beneath World album Nein which I finished back in Feburary, and I am still currently working on finishing Lowside's debut album. I'm also working on the new Blood Of The Sun disc, and I am absolutely in love with Hellgoat.
You've had a pretty amazing adventure so far. What now?
I think so too, but I am the same as any other person on the planet. Of course I want to see things grow and get bigger and progress, but at this point in time I am super happy just working out of my little home-studio set up, being around my family, and just trying to live in the moment.