Intervju med Rex Brown i Kill Devil Hill!
Rex Brown, främst känd som medlem i Pantera och Down, återfinns numera i ett nytt band tillsammans med bl a Vinnie Appice.
Jag ringde upp Rex i Texas och efter diverse telefonstrul kunde vi sätta igång och snacka. Det blev bl a prat om nya bandet, hans kommande bok och varför han blev basist.
Rex Brown: Right on the money Sonny!
Alright! First of all, the name Kill Devil Hill, as far as I can tell that´s where the Wright brothers flew their first plane? Is that something that has to do with the name?
RB: Yeah, that has a lot to do with it! Mike Zavon actually has a pilot license and that was always a cool name to him and the whole bit. Then we found out later that Kill Devil Hills was a place where all the pirates used to stash all their rum and they said that the rum was so strong it could kill the devil. That´s how the Kill Devil Hills were named. It´s got like two connotations to it so it´s kinda cool. We did the home work on it and it just kinda came up in a band discussion and there it was.
Ok. I also found out that there´s a song by Bruce Dickinson where he mentions Kill Devil Hills.
RB: Right, I need to google that song. It´s not where we took it off of by the way. There´s also a band out of Australia that´s named Kill Devil Hills, that we didn´t know about either, so when we came up with this thing it was just lucky passing. Fuck it. Basically what it does, it´s it brands our music. It brands the name with the music. What does Pantera mean? It´s Spanish for panther. What does it really fucking mean? Nothing! It´s just a name that kinda sticks with it. What does Metallica really mean, you know? It just kinda brands the name with the music that you´re actually listening to.
You all played in kinda different bands. Appice in Sabbath and Dio and you´ve been in Pantera and Down and Zavon with Stephen Pearcy and Ratt. It´s quite different kinda music when it comes to metal. How did you all meet?
RB: Shit, I´ve known Vinnie for some 20 odd years and played festivals with him and getting high with him and Ronnie James Dio. I think Philip (Anselmo) and I first met him in ´92 or something like that. Long story straight, they were looking for a bass player for this project they had and we met Mark Zavon and he did a couple of demos with Dewey Bragg and Vinnie really liked what he heard and they heard that I was looking for a gig, which I at that point kinda was. Philip and I have worked together for so long and we don´t talk about each other’s music now. We´ve made a pact that we´re not gonna make a big deal of it, because it´s just nonsense. The more you give to the people that wanna put shit out there, the more you´re susceptible to it. Phil and I get along fine, everything´s cool with Down. I just wanted to play something new. I had another project in between. Down had basically come off the road after two and a half, almost three years and I wanted to do something different and this kinda landed in my lap. They sent me these tracks and my next door neighbor has a full blown studio in his house in this real nice neighborhood. Opened up there and just played bass and put my own thing on it. Once I did that, I got back to them and they were getting calls and moving forward and when the tracks were done it was like “Are you into it? What´s going on?” and in fact he (Vinnie) came down for a week and hung out. Anyway, there´s a big convention every year in LA for the music merchants and about 20000-30000 people…
RB: NAMM, which is huge and I had to go there and do stuff for my endorsements and I hadn´t been there for a couple of years, so I brought a bass with me and went to rehearsal and it´s so cliché to say, but once we started playing these songs it just clicked, man. There´s something about it that just really worked. We had to work at it and I would go fly down every three weeks, four weeks or something like that and stay with Mark and got to know him real well. They´re just great people and it works really well for us. We´re a young band but it seems like we´ve been together for a long time and that´s important. To have that musicianship and the whole bit together, it really makes it special. We took this thing on the road just to see what the crowd reaction was gonna be, after we recorded the record, and the fuckin´ fans were crazy for it! So if that´s any indication on what´s to come in the fall and year, shit I´ll take it! It´s like going back to your past. You got it in front of you every day and then make the best of it. Every night it just got stronger and stronger to the point that it´s kinda scary how killing this band is gonna be.
How did you decide on working with Warren Riker?
RB: You know, Warren and I lived together for about a year in LA. A separation with the wife situation. Anyway, we lived together and I´ve known Warren and we´ve done plenty of records together and everything. He´s the one I called for the job to put this thing out and he knew what time period he had to do it in and he basically… you know, we had to remix this thing like three times and he fell very short of what he said he could do and he was a really good friend, but… he thinks he´s done no wrong… fuck him, he´s out of the picture!
Ok. Who are the main songwriters in the band?
RB: Actually Vinnie started this project and he did a bunch of drum tracks over at his buddy´s and my buddy´s house, Jeff Pilson and he´s got a cool little studio and a drum track room. Vinnie was kinda coming up with all these different beats and he just wanted to jam and he wanted to put his own band together and the whole bit. Pretty much him and Mark wrote a lot of this stuff and then Dewey came into the picture and put his stamp on the vocals and the whole bit with different melodies and I came in and kinda rearranged everything. They pretty much stand true to the demos, but there´s a lot of changes that have come around. The way that we play them deeper and the whole bit from being in the rehearsal studio to pre production to recording them and we still play them different every fuckin´ night! (laughs)
I saw that there´s a bonus track for the vinyl version and for the ITunes version. How much was recorded? Is there more stuff laying around that didn´t make the album?
RB: Well, we got the drums tracked in like three and a half days. Vinnie just fuckin´ killed! Then we had the guitars and bass done in no more than a week later. Getting the vocals down was probably the hardest part, but we have another six songs in the can that we didn´t record, they´re demos, so we almost got half a record as a starting point for the next one, but our focus right now is just on this one and getting this going and trying to hit every possible place we can play, within a comfort level.
The album cover? Is there some symbolism going on there with the book, the chair, the crucifix, the skull? What´s the thought behind it?
RB: I have no idea! I couldn´t tell you the slightest. I think it looks great. I think it looks fuckin´ awesome! On the backside it´s gonna be reversed so you´re gonna have it like black and white and the white version is what I wanted on the front of it. There are so many bands that put black covers out, but anyway, the record company wanted it all black and I don´t know, it just looks super fuckin´ cool! There´s no real meaning behind it or anything like that. It´s kinda like lyrics, it´s up for anybody´s interpretation. We´re not trying to be a political band or a death metal band or anything else. When we see something that looks cool, we dig it like everybody else and that´s basically what it is.
Cool. This book of yours, is it all done?
RB: Oh no. It´s about 75% done. It just needs some work on it. Dude, I´ve just been working nonstop since… you know, we started this book about a year and a half ago and I´ve got about 60 or 70 hours worth of tape. I rented this little beach house. This cozy little place that I got for like 300 bucks a week and all we did was to sit and talk. We got it all on tape, everything that we needed and so we´re writing chapters now and editing the whole bit and all that goes into writing a book. It should be out by the fall and it tells the story of Pantera, from my eyes. Just my interpretation of it, nobody else’s. You know, I never really got in the press and talked about anything. Music for me is my main goal, that´s my journey. That´s it for me, but I never talked about it and I was approached by someone and I thought that it´s probably not a bad time to do it, so let´s do it now.
Was the plan from the get go to just focus on Pantera?
RB: I think it has to do with the way I grew up and all that stuff that kinda comes into play with a success story. It´s gonna have its good times and bad times, but it´s not gonna be anything that´s gonna be overwhelming to anybody. Like I said, it´s just my personal interpretation and my story of what went down during those times. There´s a lot of good stories and a lot of funny jokes in it and the whole bit. I don´t wanna make it too serious. That´s all I do, is read all these autobiographies by all these cats that are coming out. It´s not a very easy lifestyle and like I said, I´m just telling my side of the story and maybe it needs to be heard.
There´s a lot of autobiographies out there now, is there anyone that stands out and that you really like? Have you read the Glenn Hughes book?
RB: In fact yes I have and I liked that one. Glenn is a good personal friend of mine, so I can´t say anything about the way it was written and in fact I know the writer that wrote it.
Yeah, Joel, I interviewed him just a few weeks ago.
RB: Yeah and I like it! I think the time period is kinda fucked up in the way it goes back and forth, but the one that really stuck out to me in the last year was Keith Richards´”Life”. That is just… Jesus Christ! The years it took to put that fuckin´ thing together, you know! Much less get the old man to remember half of that shit, but it´s an unbelievable read! I would like to… not that I´m Keith Richards or anything, but I would love to have mine read like his does.
I discussed this with Joel McIver, when it comes to you memory, do you really have to work hard remembering stuff?
RB: You know, I´ve got an I-Pad and when certain stuff pops up in my mind, I´ve got it in my backpack, I´ll put down these little things that I can tell my writer and say “Yeah ok, I remember this. Let´s put this in the book and it´ll make a cool chapter for this!” or whatever. I´ve got pages and pages of that and he takes it and puts it into his words. It just takes a lot of time. I want this to be a book that reads like I´m talking instead of some journalist going “Well, he went down to the pub.”, so it takes a lot of work, but he´s starting to get a hold of my lingo, language and the whole bit so it´s going well.
Way back pre Pantera when you went by the name Rexx Rocker, were you in a lot of bands before Pantera?
RB: Well, yeah. I started playing when I was 13 or 14 and I did all kinds of stuff. I was just a kid at that point. All my friends in school called me Rocker. You had Sammy Hagar and he was the Red Rocker and everybody just put together Rexx Rocker. It was more of a nickname than anything. I started in Pantera when I was 17.
How come you ended up playing bass?
RB: Because there were too many fuckin´ guitar players out there! I play guitar, but I´m a bass player. I was playing guitar in like jazz bands when I was probably 12. I got my first guitar when I was nine and I´ve been playing it for a long time, but in jazz bands or lap dance here in the States, you had to change the chords every beat and it just seemed like… “This is the craziest fuckin´ shit ever!”. I knew the bass very well because I played the tuba and you can read this in the book. There´s a definitive clarity to the reason why I took that on. I joined the high school band that was one of the best in the nation. As far as jazz band, I just happened to be lucky to be living in the same school district as this teacher and in my 11th grade year I think I didn´t pass that because I was too busy getting high and throwing a Frisbee in a fuckin´ park. Rock and roll changed my life with Led Zeppelin and all that. I just took a chance with these other brothers and you can read all about that in the book too!
Do you still listen to jazz?
RB: Dude, I like all kinds of shit. I can go from Sinatra to whatever! Sinatra and put Slayer on behind him, you know.
Final thing, your health Rex? Are you A ok these days?
RB: Ah yeah, man! The whole thing with the health deal was just that I had a bad pancreas after so many years. I couldn´t figure it out. I had these polyps inside my pancreas and I´d go to the doctor and say “Doc, I´m in extreme pain and I have no idea what´s going on!” and we went through cat scans and the whole bit and he goes “Rex, you gotta quit drinking!” and anyway, after about five years of this bullshit, I found some doctors here in Dallas who are cutting edge and they removed all the polyps. They actually cut your pancreas in half and dude I´m telling you, I haven´t felt better in five years. I´m happy as can be. I´ve got a brand new band, I´m recently divorced, I´ve got my kids and every day is just looking up better and better. I don´t think my personal problems has anything to do with the music. I´m just not one of those guys. My personal problems are stuff that I have to deal with. That´s just the way I am. I appreciate everybody´s thoughts and prayers. I didn´t wanna do anything until I had it behind me and show the fact that yes, Rex is back!
Good to hear. Any touring plans what so ever? Any plans for Europe?
RB: We´re gonna tour every god damned place as much as we can! There are a lot of places in the world where you can go and play gigs now. I wanna play every place I´ve never gotten to play and then some. We like playing about four or five weeks and then take a little break and have fun with this thing. Instead of bands that just go out and fuckin´ tour 200 days straight and they basically break up at the end of the fuckin´ thing. Going to places that we´ve never seen before. It´s amazing. Down did some of that, like going to places like… Tel Aviv. Phil was so scared about going to Tel Aviv we had to cancel the first time and then they offered it to us a second time and we went over and dude, it was the coolest fuckin´ place I think I´ve ever been to! I wanna go to Dubai, I wanna go to Taiwan and Hong Kong. I wanna go see some places.
You gotta come to Stockholm!
RB: We´ll definitely hit Stockholm and every place where we possibly can get a gig, which I don´t think is gonna be too hard after this record comes out. What do you think of it by the way?
It sounds really good and there´s this song called “Gates of hell” and the first thought that came to mind was that there´s a bit of Alice In Chains in there and then I read your bio where it says it´s a mix of Led Zeppelin and Alice In Chains and some other stuff. It´s a really cool song!
RB: It came to the obvious. Look, we´ve got heavy shit on the bottom and then we have this incredible melody and hooks on top. Why not incorporated, man? Nobody´s doing that. Let´s have somebody sing on the record and not fuckin´ spit and gargle shit up. Phil did that in the 90´s and he was really, really good at it. He was a pioneer in that department and he´s got so many people wanna be like him. It´s flattering and at the same time kinda disgusting, you know. (laughs)
Well, I really hope I get to see you guys live somewhere.
RB: Dude, you gotta see us live because it´s a powerhouse. We´re doing three part harmonies and the whole fuckin´ bit, but we´re stying focused on the heavy parts of it. Me and Vinnie playing together… I mean, I´ve been blessed with great drummers and how many times do people get that opportunity, so that´s where I´m at. I´m just as happy as can fuckin´ be… to be playing, a new love life. It´s a great thing.
Excellent talking to you Rex and good luck with everything!
RB: Ok man, I´ll see you!