Interviews

Pantera Tribute Act Cowboys N Hell On The Best Cover Bands in Phoenix

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Since 2011, Cowboys N Hell has displayed their Pantera-worthy talents on stage with some of the band's most beloved hits. The four-piece is comprised of guitarist Josh Draskovic, vocalist Mike Niggl, bassist Steve Helmstadter and drummer Johnny Huggins, each playing their respective parts of that legendary Texas metal sound while adding some of their own Arizona outlaw edge.

Cowboys N Hell will play alongside an array of other tribute bands, including Grindhouse (Rob Zombie), Recipe for Disaster (Guns 'N Roses) and Powerslave (Iron Maiden) on June 14 at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.

How did you guys come together?

We've only been on the circuit for like a year. Well, we pretty much started with DimeFest at Joe's Grotto, and we'd only had one little show before that. We just like to come in and play with the crowd. Some of the venues out here are pretty greedy though...we can go into a bar and kick everyone's asses up and they ask if we'll come back to play for free... again. [Laughs]

I was originally in an Iron Maiden tribute in 2009. And I thought, "If I'm going to do this, I want to play the music that I grew up loving." So I went from Iron Maiden to a Van Halen tribute... far-fetched, I know! But it was quick. As I was playing at 910 Live one night, I saw a guy in the Bad Reputation tribute, the guitar player, carrying a Dimebag guitar.

I walked up to him and said, "That's my shit!" and he said back, "No, that's my shit." And I said, "okay, let's meet up and get somewhere with it." When we finally got together a couple months later after trying to get ahold of him on Facebook... well, keep in mind I've already had five or six Dimebags come over. They all looked like Dime, and none of them played like him. So when Josh walked in, the first thing I asked him was if he could actually play it.

And that man came in and played every part correctly. And he's such a nice guy, he's everything the same as Dime was. He doesn't exactly look like him, but I wanted someone who had the spirit. We went through two bass players before the same situation happened with Mike. I saw him on Facebook as well, and I knew he was the Phil. I knew he had what we needed. Once we finally got together, he came in and killed it.

I didn't realize there were so many local metal cover bands.

Oh my god; there's tributes up the ying-yang here. You got originals up the ying-yang...and basically, people love the original stuff but there's so much of it it's saturated. And so they want to go see something they know. Since I grew up in Phoenix, I knew something like this would fly. So we're running with it. It's an awesome thing.

Well, when I saw you guys at Martini Ranch, I loved it because I'll never be able to see Pantera again live.

Yes; it'll never happen again, and that's why tributes are so important! Did you feel the spirit?

Yes. I was in my Pantera heaven.

That's the pay-off right there. If someone comes over and sees that we brought the vibe, or that we reminded them of Dime...that's the pay-off.

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Lauren Wise has worked as a rock/heavy metal journalist for 15 years. She contributes to Noisey and LA Weekly, edits books, and drinks whiskey.
Contact: Lauren Wise