Rex Brown needs no introduction to you metal fans out there. His years with Pantera and Down created some of the best songs of all time and now he continues his musical journey with his new group Kill Devil Hill. They will be releasing their long awaited self-titled debut record on May 22nd here in the States via SPV/Steamhammer. Last week I had the honor of speaking with Rex on the new band, his bass playing technique, Pantera, his upcoming book and much more!
Enjoy the in-depth interview below and pick up the Kill Devil Hill album later this month!
Kill Devil Hill will be releasing their self titled album later this month and everyone is really excited for this record. Considering there’s been a lot of press and the date was pushed back months ago, is anyone more excited about this release than you guys?
I highly doubt it. We are all ready for this thing to come out now (laughs). It’s only a few weeks away, but it’s about time for it to be released to the masses. We are pumped, excited, just ready for fans to hear what we came up with. We’ve had it done for six months now, went through some little issues, but now everything is cool and it’s ready to be unleashed.
With every press release that’s come out you’ve seen your name with Pantera/Down in parentheses, Vinny with Dio/Black Sabbath, Mark/Ratt and Jason/Pissing Razors. So some people think of it as a super group, but once you really listen to this album I think it’s a whole new monster. Is that what you were shooting for?
Yea definitely man. I’m glad you said that. I’m always hesitant about the word super group. Yea Vinny and I are in the band, but it’s a whole new thing. Vinny sent me these demos he had and asked if I would be down to throw some bass on it, and I loved the material so I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve known Vinny for damn near twenty years now. Down toured with Heaven and Hell back in the day ya know, so we have history. Apparently when they wrote the material for Kill Devil Hill my name came up in the conversation of bass players, and he gave me a call and shit, the rest is history! I’m the newest guy in the band, which is new for me, but I’m loving it man.
You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that the music was basically already written when you joined the band. Coming from Pantera and Down and being involved with the songwriting as much as you were in those days, was it weird to come into something that was already pretty much done?
I can put my stamp on anything man. What it boils down to is that we had the rough demos of the tracks and I threw my stuff on top of it and asked them what they thought of it. They dug it and so we changed up a few parts and the final result is really killer I think. It’s wild man. I literally walked in with a bass guitar in my hand last January and we started jamming together and it just clicked. I know that’s a very cliché thing to say, but it did. I knew right then that this is what I wanted to do. Sometimes in life you have to take chances, and that’s what I did with these guys, and I truly believe that it’s going to pay off. I mean the record is just awesome. It doesn’t suck (laughs).
Since you came in with songs already basically written, have you been writing new songs with more of your input since January or have you guys been focusing on sharpening up the tracks that are already done?
Those tracks are good to go, but Mark and I have written the skeletons of three or four songs as of right now. Obviously, a lot more has to be put on top of them, but it’s been a blast writing with him. Everything just fell into place perfectly from the start, which rarely happens. Obviously I know Vinny from back in the day, but that little rehearsal spot was home to legend. Bill Metoyer, the guy who did the first two Slayer records, it was his place. It was this old fucking shack, but it’s Bill’s place, and now he’s like the fifth member of the band. I was more floored by meeting him than anything (laughs). I was like, “Dude this is the guy who did the first two Slayer records”, but he was super cool man. That worked out well, and like I said, I clicked with Mark and Dewey right off the bat, so it was just a ton of fun jamming with those dudes. Once people check out the record, I think they will be able to hear it and I think they’ll dig it like we all do.
Yea I’m a huge fan of the album! I must say that my favorite track is “Rise From The Shadows.” That opening bass line and that main riff is just powerful as hell!
You like that one man? Hell yea. I love that tune too. It originally started with just Mark jamming that riff and I remember saying “I can do that with a Wah,” and I love that shit man. We really did take our time going through each song and seeing where something else could be added or what should be left alone. Yea, the songs were basically done, but I still had to put my stamp on it. It’s just been a blast man. I got that hunger back, the fire is there, just ready to fucking rip it up now.
Hell yes, that’s great to hear man. I know you’ve played some live shows and they’ve been at smaller clubs that you may not have played in a while. Is it cool to kind of go back into these smaller places after playing huge arenas and amphitheaters throughout your career?
Dude I love that! To tell you the truth, it’s been invigorating man. The shows were really fun to be a part of ya know. The record is not out yet, but by the third song or so, people really catch on to what we are doing and they really get into it. I know people are expecting music similar to Pantera or Black Sabbath, but it’s not like that at all. We don’t play covers. We play our music, because they are well thought out songs, and by the end of the sets you could really feel the energy.
As a bass player myself, I’ve seen the live videos of those shows, and you are still rocking the Spector basses that you are famous for playing. Why have you chosen to stay with them all this time?
I just have a great relationship with those guys. I knew what sound I always wanted to come out of my bass and they nailed it. Obviously it depends on the song, I have a huge bass collection man, but I know by heart which Spector has the right sound for that piece of music, and that’s really important to me. Plus they make the baddest basses on the planet! What am I sitting here bullshitting with you for (laughs). They are just the best.
Yea one of my first bass guitars was a Spector and that was basically because of watching you in Pantera. I just loved the feel of it and the sound like you said.
That’s awesome to hear! Lately, I’ve been playing the Spector NS-2 Euro series and loving it. I got this new white one, that you may have seen in pictures or whatever, but it has all the rings on it instead of all maple, and dude, this thing comes through like a fucking bull charging (laughs). A lot of times when you use maple wood it’s going to sound really dark and heavy, and with this white one, it just crunches through everything that exact way you want it to. With my playing, I basically sink the pickups into the wood because I play so heavy with my right hand. That’s mostly because of the Pantera days, but this bass can sound real nice and clean or it can sounds just dirty as fuck man. Wait, did I just give away my bass playing secret to you?
I can leave it out!
No worries! Nah fuck it man, it’s fun to talk about the bass. Back to the new white one (laughs), it’s just awesome. I’ve tried so many basses, so many different setups, but I’ve never played anything with this sound yet. It’s unbelievable man. Now comes the hard part of trying to find a back up bass for the road.
How many basses do you usually bring on the road with you? Just the two?
Yea usually just two. With Kill Devil Hill we’ve been touring mostly on the weekends. After that we fly home, relax, and do it again the next weekend. It saves you a ton of money gas wise, bus wise, it’s just easier for us that way. The way the economy is and the gas prices are here, you can be out of money quick ya know. So I’ve enjoyed how we’ve been doing it lately. It shows in the live performance as well.
Personally, the sound of your bass is what really drew me to your playing with Pantera and Down. I hear that a lot with the new material as well. As you know, when it came to Pantera, you know Dime’s riffs and solos are what comes first to people’s minds, but I always admired the way the bass came through, especially on “Reinventing The Steel.” I still think to this day that’s more of a Rex record than anything and that’s why it’s a favorite in my collection.
Thanks so much Mark. That really flatters me man. It’s fun to talk about that record, because it’s rarely brought up in interviews. With that record we really wanted to find a spot where the bass could fit in and shine at the same time, which was great for me ya know. Before you could feel the low end on the songs, but you couldn’t really hear all of the notes. Our first two records are kind of like the first two Van Halen records to me. You really couldn’t hear Michael Anthony bass ya know, it was just all Eddie. Don’t get me wrong, that was killer though. Once “Far Beyond Driven” was in the works, I got this four string from Spector and it was just on man. We’ve done great business with Spector ever since then. I just came out with another signature model last year, and they are selling alright, but the low end on that bass just sounds huge. You gotta be careful not to bust some speakers with that one.
It’s hard not to bust speakers when you’re playing some of the stuff you’re known for?
True, but it can be done. I’m living proof of it (laughs).
I can’t let this opportunity pass without mentioning the the 20th Anniversary of “Vulgar Display Of Power.” The special edition is coming out in a few weeks, the “Piss” video is out there, and all the Pantera fans are stoked. A lot of people say that “Vulgar Display Of Power” is the best Pantera album and it still has a major effect on the scene today. What do you think it is about that record that people connected with so much back in 1992 and still to this day?
It’s really hard to put my finger on it, but I think there was multiple reasons why it had such an effect on people. Concerning Pantera, it was just the natural revolution of the band. Like we did most of our career, we did what we wanted, but we really showed a natural progression with “Vulgar.” Plus, there was a small window there concerning Metallica. There was that space between “And Justice For All” and the “black” album, and we knew we had material to keep the people heavy. Honestly, that record was such a joy to be a part of man. Every morning I would wake up and be like “God damn I can’t wait to get back to work on this material.” The way it flowed out of us still surprises me to this day. We had just played 250 shows the previous year and there are a ton of difficult parts to that record, but it just came together so easily. We all clicked so well putting it together, and people really dug it from the get go. I feel the same way talking about that time in my life like I feel today with Kill Devil Hill. Everything is just so positive and it comes together much easier that way.
I was about to say that you’re basically saying you have the same feeling right now with Kill Devil Hill that you did back with Pantera. That’s fucking amazing man, it’s come full circle I guess!
You know what’s crazy about the whole thing is the first time that I met Vinny was at the 1992 Monsters Of Rock tour that will be released on the DVD on the “Vulgar Display Of Power” special edition. That was the first time I met Dio too. I remember Pantera went on and did our thing, and then it was someone like Warrant or something and then Black Sabbath. You got to remember what year it was, but it was just unfair for them to have Warrant in between our two bands (laughs). Fans were throwing bottles at them man, it got ugly. I’ll never forget watching Vinny that night though. I remember Phil and I just sat back behind Geezer’s stack, and being blown away by his playing. Vinny is the most underrated player out there in my opinion, but he is also a really good friend. It’s just crazy that all of these years later, we are together again and in the same project. I’m lucky to have him as a friend and now I’m in the same band as him ya know, it’s insane. Life is a funny thing man.
Speaking of your life, you will be releasing “Official Truth, 101 Proof: The Inside Story of Pantera” book in the Fall. All we’ve really heard about this book is that it’s “starkly honest and revealing”. What can we expect? Any more details you can say?
Not really man. We are still going through the editing process, but it’s basically my tale of the Pantera years from my point of view. I was always the silent guy in the band. I never did interviews, so I was approached with this idea and I was down for it. I didn’t realize how much work would be involved (laughs), but it’s going to cool man. I just finished it two days ago and now I need to take a break from it for a couple of weeks or sure. It’s just my inside story of what was going on. It leads up to the breakup, Dime’s death, and to now. There is only four people in that band that knew what was going on, so this will just be my interpretation on those years. I’ll say this, it probably won’t be my last book either. It’s a lot of work though. We went through a thousand photos, stories, memories, everything dude so it’s an insightful view that most fans would never know of if it weren’t for the book. I think it’s got a lot of things that people don’t know and should know, and I hope the people enjoy it. We are shooting for it to be released on November 27th through Da Capo Press, but so many things can happen, so we’ll see. It’s a good read for sure.
Concerning your life, you’ve been in some of the biggest bands to walk this planet, you’re known all over the world, and you’re still kicking ass today, what are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from your music journey so far?
Perseverance. Patience. Brotherhood. Respect. Everything man. A lot of good things come out of it if you treat people the right way. I think that goes for life as well. I wouldn’t be here where I am today without learning and adapting to those lessons. It’s been a journey for sure, and now another new one begins with Kill Devil Hill.
Very cool Rex. I want to thank you for taking out the time. Best of luck with the new group and I hope to see you back here in Atlanta soon.
Definitely man. Thanks for the interview and support, and I’ll see you soon! Take care brother.