Book Report: Rex Brown’s ‘Official Truth, 101 Proof: The Inside Story of Pantera’
October is Metal Month at Radio.com. Throughout the month, we’ll have artist interviews as well as mini-documentaries about metal, metal fans and the birthplace of metal. And book reports: reading is fundamental, even for headbangers, and we’ll have reviews of some of the best recent metal biographies and retrospectives. Horns up!
“I’m just speaking my truth, man.”
It’s a phrase that comes up often in conversation with former Pantera and Down bassist Rex Brown. Another recurring theme: distrust of anyone who broadcasts their opinion about music. He’s never been one to talk to the media that much. As he tells Radio.com, “I was basically the silent guy in the band,” which wasn’t a problem, as the group’s frontman Phillip H. Anselmo, drummer Vinnie Paul and late guitarist Dimebag Darrell were never at a loss for words. “I was all about getting up on stage and jamming.”
Brown puts the blame of Darrell’s death at least partially on the media. As he says in the prologue to Official Truth: 101 Proof, “In my opinion the music press had been pushing all the wrong buttons with fans by constantly re-igniting the debate as to who was responsible for the breakup of Pantera… if the press had shut their f*****’ mouths and let us — the band — resolve our differences, I believe that Darrell would still be alive today.”
So, why did a guy who didn’t like to talk to the media decide to publish his memoirs? “It took about six months of me saying ‘No,’ and then I started really thinking about it. I thought, maybe it is time to tell this story now, while it’s still fresh in my mind. I wanted this to be not so much a ‘heavy metal book,’ but just a story. It’s my story, it is true. From my perspective. I was reading Keith Richards’ book, Life, at the time, which I think is brilliant. Just the way it was written, it must have taken him years to put that thing together. I would have liked to have had his advance, but I didn’t do this for the money, either. It’s about my life. It’s about my life with Pantera. Is it the official Pantera biography? By no means. This is just where I was sitting at the time.”
Here’s a few things we learned about Rex from the book:
Rex believes in God, but not organized religion: “I know the Ten Commandments — what do to and what not to — but I also believe that something higher and much greater than me has helped me get through the more traumatic side of life in rock and roll.”
The song that changed his life? ZZ Top’s “Tush”: “When I heard this song, it immediately altered my outlook on everything. I held onto that feeling for dear life. ZZ Top was a new type of boogie, a new stomp, and I really dug it.
Don’t call it “southern rock”: “The only thing ‘southern’ about us was the fact that we happened to be from Dallas… all rock music originates from the southern states.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with the south: “I always carried that southern pride with me into every situation and the misconception that the South is just a bunch of rednecks shooting guns is just plain wrong.”
Don’t tell him what to play: When Alice In Chains’ Jerry Cantrell invited him to play on his solo debut Boggy Depot, AIC producer Toby Wright tried to give Rex a bit too much direction. Rex’s response: “If you don’t like it, get the f*** out of the room!” Brown says that Wright still calls him from time to time looking for production work. Brown’s usual response: “You’re a piece of s***.”
Phil Anselmo invited Rex to write songs with his other band, which is how he joined Down: He traveled to Anselmo’s house in New Orleans, without even bringing an instrument. But the other guys from Down – Kirk Windstein, Jimmy Bower and Pepper Keenan – were there, Phil lent Rex a bass. “I was still unaware I was being auditioned to be the Down bass player.” He joined the band in the late ’90s and left in 2011.
He addresses his departure from Down briefly in the book, and he told Radio.com. “I just knew it was time for a change. Twenty-four years with Phillip was definitely a blast. But it was time, musically, for a change. He’s got a lot of stuff on his plate, too. He’s got a new solo record, he’s got Housecore Records, he’s got a lot of things going on, and I was basically sitting around. My feeling was, it had run its course.”
These days, Rex plays in a new band called Kill Devil Hill, with drummer Vinnie Appice. Brown marvels that he’s playing with the guy who played in Black Sabbath and later, Dio and Heaven & Hell. In his bands he’s opened for Sabbath and Heaven & Hell, and Rex recalls watching both bands from the stage. Now he gets to play with Appice all the time. Kill Devil Hill, which also includes singer Dewey Bragg and guitarist Mark Zavon, will release their second album, Revolution Rise, on October 29.
The book closes with Rex describing his relationships with Anselmo (“I love Phillip like a brother… we have agreed not to talk publicly about each other’s musical projects and that’s the best way our relationship can possibly be left”) and Paul (“We generally don’t communicate and it’s hard to know what will change that situation because he’s extremely stubborn”).
Could he ever see them working together again? “The door’s always open for something like that,” he tells Radio.com. “Do I expect a phone call today about it? No. but do I feel like, ‘F*** you , guys?’ Hell no! That was a legacy. Dime was everything to Pantera. He was my best friend, the best man at my wedding. And it would be a very hard thing to just get some guy in the band and go, ‘Ok it’s all gonna be great.’”
The book may not make any kind of reunion easier. But: “I don’t care about anybody’s backlash. They can all write their own books. I was there man, I lived it every f****** day. I had the best seat in the house. It was a hell of a ride, I’ll put it that way.”
In the afterword, Brown says that “Barely a day passes that I don’t think about Pantera.”
He tells Radio.com, “It just sucks because it seems like just yesterday that I was hanging out with [Darrell]. We’re getting on down the road, and he’s no longer with us, and that grasp of reality is sometimes hard to deal with. But then again, I live my life. I think of all the good times we had, and not try to emulate that, but try to bring that positive energy when I walk into a rehearsal.”
Which may be where he is right now: Kill Devil Hill kick off a tour October 26 in San Diego.