BASSIST REX BROWN DISCUSSES PANTERA’S WRITING PROCESS AND KILL DEVIL HILL
Greg Prato (Songfacts): The Official Truth book has been out for about a year and a half. What do you think of the book now that it’s been out for a while?
Rex Brown: You know, it was written between 2009 till 2012, and then edited. I edited the book 10 different times, told them to take certain stuff out, they kept it anyway. Just to get the dirt. And other than that, it’s just what I was seeing through my eyes and what I remember at the time. There was some begrudgement in there, I wish it wasn’t in the book, but that’s my only regret. Other than that, I think it’s pretty f–king cool.
Songfacts: How would you say that the songwriting worked primarily in Pantera?
Rex: We would go down into the studio, and Dime would usually have something kind of mapped out of where he wanted stuff to go. He just had a massive amount of riffs, and of course, we would change those and maybe put in more parts or whatever.
Then we would work of off that. And the other times I would have something or Vinnie would come in with a drumbeat that we would work around. Primal Concrete Sledge I remember was just him f–king around. Becoming was all Vinnie. Just little drum patterns and you’d build a song off of them. Phil would come in with different ways that he would hear the riff in his head – either double time or half time.
But a lot of the times Dime would come in with primitive riffs and we would write everything in the studio so we had it all captured on tape. There’s so much DAT tape of that stuff out there, and I want to put a full record out of how the song started to the very end of it in the songwriting process. It’s just going through all those DAT tapes and through all those masters. It would take two years or more just to edit that stuff. [Rex also states that there is a missing DAT tape of Dime’s, that had between 20-40 song ideas that he had lost, before Pantera did the Far Beyond Driven album]
We always knew which ones were going to work. Some of the stuff that Dime would bring, we’d go, “No, that’s not going to work at all, that’s not the direction we want to go in.” And sometimes we wouldn’t even f–k with that song, but I’d say 9 out of 10 times, the stuff that we did start tracking ended up on records.
Songfacts: What would you say was your greatest contribution to a Pantera song as far as songwriting?
Rex: We were the three-piece kind of thing. You know, that kind of Van Halen stuff. So pretty much all the stuff that was underneath the solos, and any time there was a key change, that was me. And our arrangements a lot of the time, just depending, Phil and I would work on those. But any time we changed into a key pattern, changes or stuff like that, was me. And me and Dime worked on a lot of those riffs hand-in-hand – mine with his. He’d have this little part and I would come in with a different little section at the end of it, that’s what made the riff.
But any guitar player in the band is going to come up with the majority of the shit a lot of the time. We had four very different individuals in the band, and it took all of us to make what I called the “magic in a box.” You’d put those four individuals together, and that was magic. Once you opened that box up there were so many influences between all of us, and we would just pour them all into it.
Songfacts: Is there a Pantera song that ended up completely different than how the song started?
Rex: There was one song that came out off of Vulgar, Piss, and that was just one of my riffs that had a different beginning to it that Dime had and then we ended up using that riff on the third record – Use My Third Arm is the main riff.
Songfacts: And which Pantera song would you say was the most difficult to finally complete?
Rex: S–t, dude, all of them! We were such perfectionists in what we did. Really a lot of the time the thought process was thrown through the door, and it just came out naturally – it didn’t feel contrived. That was the beauty of it. Once we started really having to think about what we were doing, which was probably towards the end with Reinventing the Steel, we were trying to take something from each record and make it into who we are. When I listen back to that record – and I couldn’t listen to it for a long time, because of Dime – but I listen back to that record now, it’s where do you go past there? How much f—-n’ more intensifying can you get than that, for doing what we wanted to do?
Our whole plan was to take a break and then we all reconvene, and it just didn’t turn out that way. But I’m sure if Dime was still around we would still be doing whatever we’d be doing. But as it turns out, he’s no longer with us, which kind of sucks. We got robbed by some f—-n’ lunatic. It is what it is, and it’s a hell of a ride.
Songfacts: Okay. The last question I have is what is your band Kill Devil Hill currently up to?
Rex: We are in the process of gathering all the riffs and tapes and ideas, and we’re probably going to get to work here in the next month hopefully. Been in discussion this week about heading out to LA and maybe getting in the rehearsal room and kicking this thing off.
Right now I’m just waiting around to see what’s going to happen with the music industry. Right now it’s up in flames and I think timing is the best thing that can happen with Kill Devil Hill. With that said, we have to all be on the same page. Maybe the first jam will tell what we’re going to do.
Read Rex Brown’s entire interview with Songfacts, here.