There is no doubt that Pantera is one of the most influential and beloved metal bands of all time. What was it like to be a part of such an iconic group? Bassist Rex Brown gives us the inside story in his new book, “Official Truth, 101 Proof.” I had the chance to chat with Rex and find out all the details. Join us as Rex talks about Pantera, the tragic murder of his best friend Darrell “Dimebag” Abbott, and his latest musical endeavor with Kill Devil Hill.
KE: Hi Rex! Thank you for taking the time to talk with us here at BackstageAxxess today. We appreciate it.
RB: Thank you.
KE: You have a new book out, “Official Truth, 101 Proof.” After all these years, what made this the right time to tell your story?
RB: I don’t know if there’s a right time or wrong time or any of that. I just know that I was approached with this thing and I didn’t want to do it and then I just kept thinking about it. And I said well, you know I have a little bit of time on my hands. I was going through Down, I had to have surgery and stuff like that. It’s so funny that I was sober for three and a half years on the road with those crazy guys and then I found out I had pancreatitis. So I was sitting in bed doing nothing, trying to recuperate and they split me from ear to ear and side to side. They did this procedure that only seven people I know of in the States have had now. It was, I said you know what, let’s go ahead and at least start the process. But I want it to be you know the truth as far as my truth. You know I had the cheap seats and I was sitting at a good place at the time and just started the process and here it is. It’s finally come out two years later.
KE: Well, it’s a great read, full of interesting stories. It was open and honest and you really seemed like you laid it all out there. Was that important for you, to get everything out?
RB: The thing about it you know is I never really had much to say. I’d sit there doing interviews and think, I just want to go and jam. You know I didn’t want to sit there and talk about the music. I’d rather just go and play the music. That was my focus. Now Vinnie (Paul) just wanted to take it in line and be like David Lee Roth but that wasn’t my thing. You have to do that to a certain extreme especially with the popularity that kept rising and rising as we were climbing up the ladder. I just wanted to go jam and I never said anything especially toward the end when we were all breaking up. Not breaking up, breaking down, communication wise. That’s what kind of set us, it’s not a break up, just a falling out. We just needed a break from each other for awhile and do our own things. Phillip and I started this Down thing in 98 and wanted to record the record as soon as we possibly could and a lot of things seemed up and the other guys in the band I guess felt a little slighted and that’s the reason. And then what happened to Dime is just terrible to have to write about. He was one of my best friends in my life you know. My only regret that I have is that he’s not around anymore.
KE: I can’t imagine how that feels. It was a horrible tragedy and the book really gives your heartfelt account of everything that happened. I thought long and hard about what and how to ask you or what to say and I just couldn’t. I’ll just say that you talk about it in the book and fans will just have to read about it there.
RB: I appreciate that. That’s the way I’d like to keep it because it’s really private and personal. Not being private anymore but what I meant to say was I’d rather people read about it. This is coming from me. I want it to sound like me. It’s just so much better in print than over the airwaves.
KE: You do talk a lot about the early years of Pantera. How important were those early years in shaping you musically?
RB: You know we were playing a circuit six nights a week and three sets a night. It kind of gave us a start. Shit, I was seventeen when I joined the band and I started writing all this material and it’s a natural musical progression and it keeps going. And I keep having this musical journey that I call myself or what I do. It’s just one of those kind of things, we found Phil and everything really just came into place. And the rest is history as they call it I guess.
KE: So was it clear early on that there was something unique and special about Pantera?
RB: Yeah, I mean four individuals, very much different individuals but everything put into one common goal. That was the point. We all had the common goal that we succeeded you know and as most groups got lighter we got heavier and heavier. And then we went for that big ride. I call it the neurotic roller-coaster. It was crazy man but we had a blast. I don’t regret anything or what I’ve said other than Dime’s not on this planet anymore. That’s the only regret I have. You could always think back and change things. Oh man I could have done that better , that’s life in general. I’m just speaking my truth and I have a lot of corroboration and collaboration with other people for the book that kind of see it a little bit differently. But at the same time, it just adds to the story. It’s truthful in what I say.
KE: After 9/11 and the Reinventing tour came to a halt, everyone kind of went off in their own direction. How did that come about?
RB: Well Phillip and I went straight to work on the Down record, on Down II. That was a hell of a ride as I explain in the book. And then I took in 2003 and 2004, I took some time off. My kids were small and I wanted to spend time with them. I needed a break. I think we all did. We all needed to check into fucking rehab and get our lives together, which I did at one point in 2003. When you get to rehab, that’s when you really get the information that you don’t want to know. Why is this happening to you? Like I said in the book, it’s a light-switch. It gets bigger and bigger and you can’t turn it off. To me, that is my truth.
KE: Before the tragedy with Dime and when things were busy with Down, was it always the plan that Pantera would get back together?
RB: Absolutely. I knew that was gonna happen. Remember I was stuck in the middle between those guys. They (Vinnie and Darrell) couldn’t call Phil cuz they were scared to do it. And of course I couldn’t get in touch with Phil because he still had the habit. And then Phil called again in 2005. The sad thing is the family didn’t want him at Dime’s funeral so there’s no closure whatsoever for the cat. I felt so bad for him. The fact that he was staying in one of my houses I had that I was leasing, it was just kind of weird because Vinnie lived up the hill. And here’s Phil down the hill in my other house and here’s Vinnie up there on the other hill. Literally, like a seven iron away, I’m a golfer, say 150-60 yards away, and Vinnie not knowing that Phil was down there and wanting to be there and that’s really a crying shame. As I say in the book, Vinnie said “see what you did?” Well, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t pull the trigger or do anything to make any of that happen. The police reports that I have, this guy wanted to kill every damn one of us. This guy was a crazy lunatic. So that was very hard for me and very sad going through that part of the book.
KE: I can’t imagine.
RB: Yeah but it had to be said.
KE: Almost cathartic in a way? To finally get everything out there?
RB: It was very,very cathartic.
KE: Looking back, Pantera brought you some of the best times in your life and some of the worst. Is there a special moment you would relive if you could?
RB: You know, everything was in the moment. No, I have no regrets about any of this other than the passing of Dime and that’s all I can really say. If anyone reads the book cover to cover, it kind of puts everything in perspective, even though it’s so hard to put years of your life into three hundred odd pages. So I still have a lot of stuff on the cutting room floor that I might want to put out down the road somewhere. But now that I know how to get around a book, it wouldn’t take me that long to do it. I’m still putting down ideas on my iPad that I wanted to put in this one but we just didn’t have the chance to do it. I’m just kind of telling my truth, you know this happened.
KE: You’ve got a new project going on with Kill Devil Hill. The first record has been out for awhile now. What has it been like working with a different set of bandmates?
RB: Like I said, the musical journey just keeps right on going. I’m playing with Vinny Appice, one of the baddest motherfucking drummers on the planet. And also playing with these other two guys (Mark Zavon and Dewey Bragg) and they’ve got a lot of talent and they’re just as fabulous as we are. This new record that we have, got nine tracks in the can. We’re shooting for another three or four that we’ve already written and we’re looking for a summer release. One day at a time right?
KE: Exactly. Kill Devil Hill did a tour last fall with Adrenaline Mob. Any plans for a tour after the release?
RB: Oh yeah, we’re gonna tour on this we just switched agents and everything else. We went out with Alice Cooper for ten dates before Christmas and we’re just gonna pick and choose. You know, we’re not 25 years old anymore. It was so easy to play 250 dates a year but these days it’ll wear you out unless you’ll playing that right kind of environment. We have a big tour lined up for the summer. I really can’t say anything about it right now but you’ll be hearing about that shortly.
KE: I look forward to it. Thank you again for taking the time to chat with us today. I really enjoyed the book, best of luck with that and with Kill Devil Hill.
RB: Thank you, thank you so much. You know if you’re gonna put something out there it might as well be the truth.
We would like to thank Lissa Warren VP and Senior Director of Publicity of Da Capo Press. For more information on ordering “Official Truth, 101 Proof,” please go to: Persus Books Group. For more information on Kill Devil Hill, please go to: Kill Devil Hill.