Not many people can say that they supplied bass for two incredibly popular metal bands. But REX BROWN is one of the few gentlemen that can make such a claim, as he's laid down the low end for both PANTERA and DOWN. And now, he's telling his life story in his new book, Official Truth: 101 Proof, co-written with author Mark Eglinton, and issued via Da Capo Press.
Recently, Rex gave BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato the lowdown on his book, as well as an update on new music from KILL DEVIL HILL, and did not skip around the tough questions, including what his current relationship with former Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul is like.
BraveWords: How did the idea come up to do the book?
Rex Brown: "This writer wanted me to write something for a book he was doing on James Hetfield (METALLICA). I've known for James since '83 or something like that. So I wrote for his book, and he asked me, 'You've never really told your story before. Would you consider it?' It took me a while - 'Oh, I don't really want to do that.' I started thinking about it and I thought, "Well, if there's ever going to be a time to do it, probably now is the time to do it." But this has taken us two years in the process. This book thing, it takes a long time, man. Going back and forth and back and forth. And I've been working real hard on the Kill Devil Hill stuff. I've just been really busy, which is good for me. But I'm super-busy now."
BraveWords: While writing the book, did memories come back that you had forgotten about?
Rex Brown: "Oh yeah, and there are so many more that I wanted to put in, and I just couldn't get them in. I had to go through it twice, with like a toothbrush - dotting the i's and crossing the t's. I probably have another couple of books in me, because of all the crazy shit that went down. Like I said, it's just so hard to get 20 years of your life into 300 pages. But we did the best we could, and I think it's a good read. I'm happy with it, and it gives a little insight into things that people might not have known about me. And it was very cathartic."
BraveWords: Something I liked about the book is that it demystified the members of Pantera, since a lot of people look at them as larger-than-life figures.
Rex Brown: "That was the intention, and that is why I called it Official Truth: 101 Proof, because I wanted to get it as true to as what I recall and my own story. And like I said, it's hard to do in so many small words. But hopefully kids will get out there and buy it and hear my side of the story."
BraveWords: As a long-time KING'S X fan myself, I thought it was cool that Doug Pinnick provided the book's prologue.
Rex Brown: "Doug's been a supporter of us since way back in the day. Doug and I are still great friends to this day - we talk all the time. I had a couple of guys to do the foreword and they bailed out on me, and I asked Doug. He was one of my first choices, but it was just kind of crawling around, and he said, "Yeah man, I'd love to do it." He was kind of a mentor as I was growing up around that time. I'm still trying to get his bass tone." (Laughs)
BraveWords: There are quotes interspersed throughout the book from others, but quotes from PHIL ANSELMO and VINNIE PAUL are not included. Were either approached to provide quotes for the book?
Rex Brown: "No. This is my book, so why would I put their stories in my book? It didn't make any sense. But Phil has been very supportive of this - they put it on the Down pages and everything. That's very cool. In fact, Phil and I kind of spoke last week via email. He's busy as hell with his solo record, so we'll find the time to speak on the phone. But Phil and I are brothers - we just don't jam together anymore."
BraveWords: How are your current relationships with Phil, Rita (Dimebag Darrell's longtime girlfriend), and Vinnie?
Rex Brown: "Phil and Rita, great. Vinnie just doesn't want to have anything to do with any of us. It's a shame. I'd rather people read it in the book than read it in a magazine article because it really tells the tale. You've got to read it all the way through. Maybe there is a happy ending at the very end. Phil and I have opened up our arms many times to Vinnie. And he just…I don't know what to say - just read the book."
BraveWords: There are quite a few interesting tidbits that hardcore Pantera fans probably don't even know, such as Phil liking to travel with his belongings in cardboard boxes rather than in a traditional suitcase.
Rex Brown: "I don't know why! We were all fucked up in some sort of fashion back in those days. That was just his little kick."
BraveWords: Also, the story of fans in South America that were so crazed that they tore each other's hair out.
Rex Brown: "One of my techs said, 'You've got to come see this shit.' And there were these big mounds - five foot high - of black stuff. We couldn't figure out what it was. We thought somebody was having a bonfire. But it was fucking hair. Crazy man. Those guys are fanatical down there - out of their minds. If you don't have security around you, they'll pull your earrings out of your ears, try to rip your hair out."
BraveWords: Why do you think fans reacted so extremely to Pantera?
Rex Brown: "I think it's because it was extreme music. But it was controlled chaos - I'll put it that way. We still to this day have diehard Pantera fans, that were there from the very start, and we have the new ones that are getting into it, and going, 'Holy shit.' So they want to go back and hear what we did, and I guess that's leaving a great legacy."
BraveWords: Also, why do you think Pantera was one of the few true metal bands to thrive in the early to mid '90s?
Rex Brown: "I think we slipped through the cracks. We came in at a time when a lot of things rely on timing. Great songs, and then luck. And we came in at a time where the grunge movement was happening, and then Metallica put out The Black Album, which I love today - then, I was like, 'No!' There was like a little bitty hole for us to slip through, and we just kept writing really good songs. It was just a magical experience. That was our little 'crack' to go through. And remember, we toured 250 days a year, so we were definitely spreading the word, that's for sure."
BraveWords: You also said in the book that after Pantera was famous, a lot of parasites/hangers on hung around Darrell. Why do you think he allowed that?
Rex Brown: "I don't think it was so much parasite people as much as Darrell always liked having a good time. And when he wasn't entertaining, he wanted to get some entertainment out of people. And if it doesn't translate that way, that's what it really means. He'd meet somebody at the bar, and just get them shit-faced drunk, just to see what they would do. Or eat a cake, or get in some stupid costume or whatever - just for his entertainment. That was the way that he got off. That was his deal, and it was pretty fucking hysterical, to tell you the truth."
BraveWords: What do you think Dime would have gone on to do if he had lived?
Rex Brown: "Oh, I don't know. I always thought that the band would get back together - I think I say that in the book. God knows. If there's any regret that I have is that he's just not on the planet anymore. He was a great guitar player and such a great human being. Let me just say that it was very cathartic having to read this so many times and edit through it. There are some sad times and some really fond remembrances."
BraveWords: Do you think you will ever consider writing a follow-up book, of stories that didn't make this one?
Rex Brown: "Absolutely. I've probably got two books with the anecdotes. Yeah, I'd like to do it. Now that I know how it works, it's a lengthy process and it took a lot of guts for me to say what I was saying on some of that stuff. But it's the truth, or say, my truth. None of it is fabricated. If anything, there is entertainment thrown in, in between the hills and valleys, and that's what this band was. Just like life is - it's hills and valleys, and getting up one and going down the other. It's not how you fall down, it's how you get up gracefully."
BraveWords: Lastly, what is Kill Devil Hill currently up to?
Rex Brown: "We have nine tracks for the new Kill Devil Hill record, that we're doing at Jeff Pilson's studio - from DOKKEN fame and FOREIGNER fame. Jeff's got a really cool studio and he's a brilliant engineer. And Vinny [Appice] really likes the sound of the drums at his place, so we decided to go up there and just do drum tracks. Jeff would come down to rehearsals and throw little curves at us - as far as songwriting stuff. And it kind of stuck with what we were doing, so we're trying to make the best twelve/fourteen songs we can, and these nine that we have are just killer. Jeff's busy doing what he's doing, so it's pretty much just trying to get this thing out by the end of summer/early fall. But I'm hoping that it will get done a little bit sooner."
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