Rex Brown On Moving On, Kill Devil Hill & Smoking Dope With Dio
To fans, bassist Rex Brown was always a bit like Pantera's answer to "The Quiet Beatle," typically overshadowed by the more outsized personalities of his bandmates. Nevertheless, his contributions to the group's groundbreaking metal groove were undeniable, and as a founding member of the band, he was involved in every high and low of Pantera's 22-year career.
Brown, right, with Kill Devil Hill
Since the group disbanded in 2003, Brown has kept busy, serving time in both Down and Crowbar and collaborating with artists including Jerry Cantrell and the Cavalera Conspiracy. Now he's back with a new supergroup, Kill Devil Hill, put together by legendary ex-Black Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice and featuring former members of Ratt and Pissing Razors. The band put out its debut album in May and is scheduled to tear Concert Pub North a new bunghole on Saturday.
Rocks Off caught up with Rex earlier this week to discuss his new project, his thoughts on the changing music industry and the legacy of Texas metal gods Pantera.
Rocks Off: So, how did this group, Kill Devil Hill, come together?
Rex Brown: You want the long story or the short story?
RO: Fuck it, let's have the long story!
RB: OK! Vinny had just finished Heaven and Hell, and Ronnie (James Dio) was very sick. Vinny had all these song structures in his head that he just wanted to play drums on and put 'em on tape. Anyway, he had to take a break to have surgery on his arm. You know, he plays backwards and sideways and all that kind of stuff! So he was sittin' on these tracks and looking for a guitar player, and he called somebody he knew in L.A. that always had good guitar players.
Somebody brought up the name Mark Zavon (ex-Ratt, W.A.S.P.). So, they hooked up, and they live -- in L.A. standards -- just right up the road from each other. So, Mark started working on these riffs that would complement some of the stuff Vinny was doing, and Vinny asked him if he knew a singer, and Dewey Bragg (ex-Pissing Razors) came up. Mark had played in a band for a short time with Dewey, and he said, "Yeah, I've got this singer, man, you really got to listen to him," and when Vinny heard it, he just loved it.
I, at the time, was playing in Down, and we were basically on hiatus. And you know, I played with Phillip (Anselmo) for 24 years. I was kind of looking for a change. You know, 24 years is a long time! We're still best friends, but it was just time to kind of move on, you know, in what I call my musical journey. So Vinny sent me these tracks, and he actually came down... I was doing some movie-soundtrack stuff, and he played drums on some stuff that I had. I thought he'd stay for a couple days, and he ended up staying a week.
Really, I've known Vinny for a long time, playing the circuits over in Europe, and I've always been a huge fan -- he's just such a nice guy. He says, you know, "I've got this thing, would you mind putting some bass tracks on it? I don't know where you're headed or what's going on, but would you at least like to hear it?" I said, "Sure, just send me the stuff." They sent me the track "War Machine," and I think it took me longer to figure out the actual tuning of it than it did to put my bass track on there!
They just kept sending me stuff, and it just kind of snapped. So they said, "Well, do you want to come down, and let's plug up and see what's going on?" I didn't want to commit to anything unless we all got along, and it sounds cliché as fuck, but basically we all plugged in and just got along like we've been playing together for a long, long time. That's the history of how we started with the band.