What a better way to begin this year’s music interviews with a true metal legend!
Today, Mr. Brown is back in full force with his new band Kill Devil Hill, a heavy metal super-group that also features drummer Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio, Heaven & Hell drumming fame) , singer Dewey Bragg (Pissing Razors) and guitarist Mark Zevon (Ratt, W.A.S.P.).
Following the success of their self-titled debut album, Kill Devil Hill released ‘Revolution Rise’, their second studio album in October 29 (2013) selling more than 2,000 copies during the week of release.
During our interview, a very open and friendly Rex Brown shared with us about the hard work he is putting into this new band, a potential visit to Australia, and of course some bits about his time in Pantera, including an exclusive statement regarding some internet rumours about a potential Pantera reunion, making this interview a must read for musicians and metal-heads worldwide!
SR. How did you get involved with Kill Devil Hill?
RB. I was recently coming out of a pancreatic operation; you know a pretty obvious thing after so many years of heavy drinking, when I was approached by Vinny (Appice) who wants me to work with him. So he explained me the whole picture and gave me some samples that I checked later on that blew me away.
So next thing was to go to the studio which was own by the guy who did the two first Slayer records, so was kind of unreal. Then I meet the other guys and we started playing and I enjoyed it so much and literally the vibe of the band blew me away while we were playing live for the first time, and about at the same time, and I’m not kidding, my amp blew up! And just about the same time there was this huge convention where tons of people go to check out instruments and signature guitars, etc. So that day at the studio I literally took my bass with me and was game on.
Days later we were recording and we were planning to play some shows around L.A. We recorded the album I think in 32 days. However, 3 weeks after we release the record, the label decided to pull back every campaign, tour and support for every band in USA.
So we had just one guy on the streets trying to do something for us, you must be kidding me right? Still we did like a 100 days on our own, promoting the album as best as we could and playing our asses in every show as best as we could.
The album started to get good feedback, and we ended being in a tour with Alice Cooper, we were red hot and we had to play a huge crowd of 15 to 70 years olds and we managed to make them to be on top of their sits, which was a great sign.
We were red hot, so we went back to the studio and as a difference of the first album that was already written, this time Mark and I started writing from the ground, and then we have to take the songs to the studio as we were planning to do mostly the recording of the drums there and almost at the same time I had a book coming out, so was a pretty hectic but exciting time.
So as you can see it has been a huge rollercoaster from the beginning. All came out so magically and I could not be happier.
After we had our first 7 songs ready we start thinking what this album really needs to stand out, and the answer was that it has to have a heavy ass vibe from every instrument we play, with a strong hitter.
SR. Another thing that straight ahead grabbed our attention is the album cover by Sam Shearon who is well known for his work with Iron Maiden and Rob Zombie. Just wondering if there is any story behind the album cover?
RB. Man, the guy is amazing. First of all he did the whole layout for us for free. I’ve know Mr. Shearon for a while and I love his style.
So we basically we grabbed the song ‘Revolution Rise’ who gave life to the album’s title and he worked based on that idea. The funny thing is, that the song ‘Revolution Rise’ did not make the album and it’s a bonus track on Itunes, but the name fits perfectly for the album.
SR. Have you guys played the album recently? How is the vibe in the band right now?
RB. To be perfectly honest, after all the process of putting the album together and touring a bit, we are focused on kick out 2014 in full force. We will be back soon to play together again, as we haven’t played live in a while, which worked pretty well as it gave us time to work and make all to take off in 2014
You might understand how quickly all this happened as both albums were released within a year of themselves. The last one came out in May 22, 2012 and this one was finished in June (2013), so we worked like a 100 days between both albums to get Revolution Rise out.
So many people label us as a super-group and I don’t mind the concept, but I just wanna say that this is a first of all a band, so you have to basically reinvent yourself in a way. Personally I’m different than I was 10 years ago, and I’m doing more than at that time. Obviously many things change you during your career you know, that forced me to calm down, like the tragedy of Dime (Dimebag Darrell), the surgery I had to have…and because of that I’m clear now, I literally have some flames shooting off my ass, I’m full of energy and I feel in the right place again.
For example we went from number 24 to number 3 on college radio here in the US, which are like 350 stations, all after 3 weeks the record came out. The feeling of knowing people were calling the radio to request the record to be played is just so rewarding. It felt like we were in a forklift…and this is just the beginning I promise!
SR. Personally the two tracks I like the most are Where Angels Dare to Roam and No Way Out, and in the latter you guys worked with Zakk Wylde, so I wonder how was to work with Zakk?
RB. What was crazy about No Way Out, is that we had that track done, but there was a solo that Mark (Zavon) , who is one of the best guitar players I’ve worked with, played at one stage that we felt needed something different, so I decided to call Zakk around 10 in the morning. Is one of those times in between records when you have time to call your friends, well kind of, because I was still working on the album.
So, Zakk and I were on the phone, and I asked him if he wanted to play on the track, and he said yes. So I sent him the track and just two days after he sent me his part for the song and it was just smoking hot! The problem was we did not know about the sequence for the record as this song was made almost at the end with Zakk’s input. So basically we had a kick ass song with Zakk on it, so we finally decided to put it first on the record as it brought another feeling for the opening track.
SR. As a consequence of this, an internet rumour spread saying that Pantera might reunite with Zakk Wilde as a guest filling for Dime. I wonder if there is any true on those rumours?
RB. No man, that was just a rumour, which spread because of a blog that made all that sh** feel like if it was a f** truth!.
Let me just put it to you this way, and please when posting this in your site, put bold, red colour letters and shared with the world exactly as I’m saying:
My door is always open, that is not out of the question, but right now my focus is on Kill Devil Hill. So, with that being said, I don’t wanna speculate on anything, because we are just 3 guys now, so It won’t really be a reunion. I just would like to finish saying that if it really this does come around, you will be one of the first one to know.
SR. Totally agree with that. However, I think I’m speaking on behalf of many fans who are also wondering if you might consider to play again with Philip Anselmo in Down as well, especially because he is coming soon to Australia for Soundwave.
RB. No man, I’m not part of Down anymore and I did not play with them in the last album. Still, I’m in constant contact with Phill, and we are even playing together in January in a convention called Metal masters, and for what I heard there will be about 8 Pantera songs on it.
SR. What would you say was the highlight of your days touring with Pantera?
RB. Well, clearly I can’t put all in just one thing. We worked our asses those days and it was kind of surreal at one stage when we got number 1,2,3,4 records. It was so much hard work, and we did all in our own way, not following the same set of rules, and that’s why we got heavier on each record.
I think, it was a curious time, with good days, but that also had strobes and tribulations.
“…I don’t try to use what I did with Pantera to aim what I want now…”
All the good and bad things made me who I’m now and my current focus and passion is Kill Devil Hill, and I feel blessed to be working with this group of amazing musicians. It’s all about the songs for me, it’s not a matter of go out there and try to put a Pantera cover band, which would be the easiest thing to do, but seriously why I would want to do that, if I’ve already done that.
So if you ask me, I don’t try to use what I did with Pantera to aim what I want now. Haven said that, I take the good times of that and I see what I can use now, and move forward doing what I love to do, which is playing music.
SR. One of you most hilarious and famous stories is the one regarding Ozzy’s balls that you put in your book. I wonder If have you seen Ozzy after that or if he said something about you putting that story on the book?
RB. I really don’t wanna talk about Ozzy’s balls anymore, because they are not funny at all. I rather to speak about Kill Devil Hill…seriously they are not hilarious at all trust me (laughs).
Ozzy is just Ozzy man, he is the nicest and one of the smartest people I’ve met in my life.
Actually, I just did a tribute tour here in LA, about 4 weeks ago and it was a tribute to Geezer (Butler). So I’d the pleasure of going to rehearsals with Geezer and hanging out with him as we haven’t done that in a long long time, since we did the reunion tour.
Anyway he calls me “rocks” for some reason. So one day after finish playing, I was grabbing my stuff and making my way out with my stuff and Geezer was just walking in and he just smile at me, and he grabs me and hugs me and tells me “Rocks, you just knocked out the part!”, and that for me is the biggest validation I could have in my whole career, coming from my biggest influence.
That’s the good stuff that gives you energy. Now I just wanna play and play in as many countries as possible in the world.
SR. Just to star wrapping up finish and following on that. When are you guys coming to Australia?
RB. As we speak, we are in negotiations to play Download, so as the record is just coming out and Download can have a big impact and open a lot of doors. So, you might be able to see Kill Devil Hill sooner than later, and when I say “might” is because there is a very good possibility, and I’m a man who speaks the truth and not bulls**. If you read the book, you can be sure that all there is true, including “the balls”, so if I’m saying there is a good possibility, there is one…there you have it!
SR. There is any crazy fan story or request you would like to share with us?
RB. More than crazy stories, and there are many, I like to share the positive and the important thing that is when a fan comes to me and tells me how much my music influenced him or changed his life, that is more important to me than anything. Those kind of things keep me going.
SR. What advice would you like to give to young Australian musicians?
RB. Never say never, keep going, pursuit your dreams and perseverance is the key. You just have to find the right people to work with and get along with them.
Also learn how to write a song, a very good song, as for me it’s all about the song. If you write a good song, people will listen and will want to hear more from you, and from there you have to move to the hard part, which is stay in the game and make that song last.
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Revolution Rise is now available from Century Media Records