Who’s on the Cover of Pantera’s ‘Vulgar Display of Power’? Urban Legend + Reality
But the deep-rooted urban legend about how they captured the photo is untrue, according to the photographer himself, Brad Guice.That urban legend — passed around for years, even by the band's members — is that a man taken right off the street was punched repeatedly, at a rate of $10 per punch, to capture the shot.
And while the legend's roots may have some basis in reality, that's not how the Vulgar Display of Power cover image was actually created.
No, the Vulgar Display of Power cover art resulted from a professional photo shoot, as Guice explains in Loudwire's video retrospective about the album.
Still, over the years, some Pantera members have furthered the man-off-the-street legend. The late Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul told Loudwire himself that the man was punched 31 times to capture the image; Pantera bassist Rex Brown has insisted it was 32.
But the actual (professional) cover model wasn't punched at all, Guice explains — more like shoved, with the image manipulated afterward to give the illusion of movement.
"They wanted a hand — a fist — hitting a long-haired guy, and at that time, long-haired models were extremely popular," Guice recalls of Pantera's instructions before revealing he was "even considering going out and casting it off the street" to get the correct cover model.
That method, while not utilized in the end, may have helped lay the groundwork for the guy-off-the-street rumor.
Who Is on Pantera's 'Vulgar Display of Power' Album Cover?
However, "At the last second, I know Ford Model Agency called me and said, 'Hey, we have a long-haired model coming from L.A.,'" Guice continues. "He came in and he was perfect for the shoot. His name was Sean Cross. We ended up becoming very good friends."
Giving some more context for the image that would end up being the Vulgar Display cover, the photographer says, "At the time, I was getting really well known for a style I was developing — and that was like a lot of movement to photographs. I would take images and combine strobe [lighting] with tungsten [film], and then I'd put the shutter speed on my camera at a slow shutter speed."
He adds, "Through the movement, it would blur and become soft. And you would have this striking movement to pictures. So I was well-known for that. So I believe that obviously, that was the reason they called me. Because they wanted some kind of drama to what could just be a straightforward picture."
Asked about the urban legend, Guice explains, "I've heard the stories, and people have asked me many, many times. But that's not what happened. It was a professional photo shoot. [Cross] was pushed quite hard actually because I wanted it to look physical. So he was pushed really hard each and every time, but he was never punched per se."
In the same Loudwire retrospective, Vulgar Display producer Terry Date remembers the late Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell making a mockup of the cover art using a copy machine, moving the image along as it copied to mimic movement. Since Dimebag was perhaps using a different photo, it seems that story could have also helped lead to the man-off-the-street legend. Watch the full video below.
Pantera Tell the Story of Vulgar Display of Power (Full Documentary)
Rock Music Myths + Urban Legends That Were Debunked
Gallery Credit: Philip Trapp