The Urban Dictionary defines a nut-swinger as 'someone who hangs from someone's nuts; someone who follows ever move they make'. Although such a description may indeed lack originality, it does, for better or worse, accurately summarizes my feelings for prototypical Groove Metal icons Pantera. In fact, for as long as I can remember, I've been a disturbingly-dedicated fan of the group's oft-groundbreaking tonality. Although I may have become temporarily disenfranchised with the group during the Reinventing The Steel era, I continued to find solace amid my well-worn copies of Cowboys From Hell, Far Beyond Driven and, to a lesser extent, The Great Southern Trendkill. Now, nearly twenty-five years later, I again find myself intrigued by the highly-anticipated release of the bold Rex Brown confessional Official Truth, 101 Proof: The Inside Story Of Pantera...
Todd: Last time we spoke, you mentioned you were considering writing a book. Was there a particular scenario that prompted you to fully begin the writing process for Official Truth, 101 Proof: The Inside Story Of Pantera?
Rex Brown: “It started with a discussion I had with a colleague of a colleague. I did an interview for one of his books and seeing that he was a good friend of my good friend, we just kind of started this conversation and we would talk. He goes 'ya know, you have a lot of stories to tell' and I was like 'All right' and then I started thinking about it, ya know? I was like 'Well, yeah, maybe I should. I'm not really doing anything'. This was about the time I had pancreatic surgery and everything else from all the years of fucking drinking very hard and, ya know, the Pantera legacy, to put it very shortly. So we started the process. I had just read the Keith Richards Life. It's fuckin' great. And Keith's talking in first person, ya know, and he has these other people that come in and corroborate, or collaborate, what his story is. Because, ya know, Christ, the guy is fuckin' seventy fucking years old. He can't remember '62, there's no way. And I'm thinking 'Well, I might as well get my story out now', ya know? I had about eight hundred pages on the cutting floor, but it's hard to put twenty years of your life into three hundred pages. We did the best we could and here it is. It's just my truth of my experience with Pantera and no jabs at all. In fact, I jab at myself more than anybody. ...For me, it was a very, very cathartic experience.”
Todd: While writing, did you find it difficult to keep re-living the more traumatic aspects of you life and career?
Rex: “Yes, but at the same time, you deal with that kind of stuff as you deal with it. It still seems like yesterday that I was at the funeral. All the 'he said/she said' stuff that went through Blabbermouth... No offense to Blabbermouth, they have to report the news or whatever they have to do, but there was a lot of crap that went on. I never really said anything. ...I was all about the letting the music do the talking. That was more my credo.”
Todd: Did the writing process help mend your poor relations with (Damangeplan/Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul?
Rex: “(Down/Pantera vocalist) Philip (Anselmo) and I have opened our arms up many, many times to Vince and he just doesn't want to have anything to do with it. ...We all have to get up and put our pants on one leg at a time, ya know? That's just the way he feels. That's fine. It's not fine, but that's just the way it is. I'm not really into taking jabs at him. He just carries this hatred with him that I'm not really crazy about. ...We all still talk business wise, about stuff that has to be taken care of. We have to keep the music alive, ya know? During these conversations, I'm like 'Hey, Vinnie! What's going on?' to no reply to Philip and I both. Philip has come out of the woods and said 'Hey, dude! Come out and beat the shit out of me. I don't give a fuck. I had nothing to do with your brother getting killed'. ...That's so fuckin' crazy. That's just something he's going to have to deal with.”
Todd: It's a shame you can't repair the bond you once had with each other. At this point, does he somehow still blame you for Dime's death? It seems odd that after everything that's said in the book he would still be so upset.
Rex: “When you read the book, it starts when he goes 'See what you did?' and then, when you get to the very end page, I say 'Look, Vinnie, I have all the empathy in the world for you. That's a tough fuckin' one to deal with. But we're all dealing with it. It's not just you, it's the fuckin' world and everybody else'. That was a fuckin' great person, ya know? He was the best man at my wedding and my best friend. It seems like yesterday, but it's been nine years, ya know? We get through it. We get on and we move along and we go through what we have to go through. It's called life, ya know? I just tried to do the best I could at writing a book that was true and didn't have the collaboration with people that may have a different perspective...telling the same story I'm telling, just in their own version. It makes sense, ya know? I don't lie about a fuckin' thing in there. I'm just telling my truth and my experiences. I never believed in talking about it. I just wanted to let the music do the talking, ya know? I'm not old by any means, but I didn't want to be one of those seventy year-old guys selling a story about something that happened seventy years ago. I think it's relevant now and I just want to get my story out. I' m not doing it for the money. I'm not doing it for anything but just putting my good old truth in somebody else's eyes.”
Todd: What led to you transition from being with Down to being part of a true super group with Kill Devil Hill?
Rex: “I had some health issues while they were playing dates and basically, when your pancreas fuckin' just kind of gives out on your ass, it's not going to be easy to tour on. It came to a point where Phil and I had been together twenty-four years and it was just time for a change. I feel like I'm on a musical journey, ya know? One of my good friends (ex-Black Sabbath/Dio drummer) Vinny Appice, said 'Hey man, you want to check this out? I got a new band I'm trying to put together', ya know? (Deceased Black Sabbath/Dio/Rainbow vocalist) Ronnie (James Dio) had just died and I was doing some soundtrack stuff. Vinny came down and I thought he'd stay a couple of days. Instead, he stayed a couple of weeks and we really kind of hooked. He's the baddest fuckin' drummer on the planet. How can you say no to that? You just don't. The songs were really well written and then I heard the vocals over the top and I was like 'Yeah, this is what I'm into. This is exactly what I want to do'. Phil and I talk all the time. There's no animosity there. Well, maybe there's a little, but we're still brothers, ya know?”
Todd: Has your separation from Phil had a negative impact on your relationship? You seem to get along so well.
Rex: “Philip has a ton of stuff that he loves to do, ya know? When Philip is into his mode, he's into his strange stuff. But we made a pact a while ago that we don't talk about each others music. We're friends and that's the way it should be. ...That's the way it is. I shipped the book out to him when it was done. ...So here we are, ya know? I'm just telling my truth through the book and I've kinda come clean on a lot of stuff that I've really never said or did in the press because I just didn't want to be involved in it. ...All the 'he said/she said' stuff, ya know?”
Todd: From an outside perspective, it seems odd that you'd write a book when you never cared to do any press...
Rex: “I would do just the smaller stuff, ya know? The underground kind of stuff. I'd let Vinnie take care of all the mainstream press that we had. It was more about the live show for me more than anything else, ya know? That's all I really cared about. That's what I focused my day on. I didn't focus around interviews or anything like that. If you play in a Rock 'n' Roll band, you don't jump up on a pedestal or a soap box and sit there ya know? It's not about that. It's about the music, man. To me, that's just not what it is. I really bare it all in this, ya know? ...All those years later, I finally said 'Okay, enough. Fuck it. I'm going to go and put it all out', ya know?”
Todd: did you find inspiration from other Rock 'n' Roll biographies? There have been a lot of great reads lately...
Rex: “They're my favorite books in the world, so I had a big blueprint of what I wanted. I wanted it to be first person, ya know? I didn't want to have other different tales in there from different people. That came at the very end. I was like 'What's really going to make this thing kind of turn around where people want to turn the pages?' The entertainment value is in turning those pages were the anecdotes. You wanted to hear how they tore up this fuckin' hotel. That wasn't what we were all about, but that's what happened. At the same time, I'm really proud of what it is or I wouldn't be out here promoting it, ya know. It's special to me that I finally could open up enough to let some of that stuff out. After Dime got murdered, I didn't want to... I wanted to buy myself an island somewhere. I just didn't want to be bothered, ya know? ...And so this is just the perfect time, ya know?”
Todd: Is there any truth to the rumors that Pantera will reunite with (Black Label Society/Ozzy Osbourne guitarist) Zakk Wylde 'filling in' for Dime? I know people are suspect as the story originated from within a blog.
Rex: “People actually believe in blogs. They read that and it becomes a myth and then people think that it's actually true. And that's what kills me about some of these editorial social networks. That actually have nothing better to do but give you stuff that's not true, ya know? Something that's really not happening, ya know? They're like 'Here comes the three-legged dog'. What the fuck? That's not news. Tell me something good, ya know? There's nothing else to tell. I haven't talked to Zakk Wylde about any of this stuff. In fact, I have talked to him about the situation and we just laugh, ya know? No, there's no truth to that. Look, I never say never. Phil and I have opened our arms up to Vinnie many a times and without Vinnie and without Dime, it just ain't right. Especially without Dime, ya know? It'd be a hard place to fill. ...I was watching a video this fan sent me yesterday. I clicked on the link and checked it out. I don't watch the old stuff. I like to move on with my musical journey, but I went back and watched this thing and it kind of got me teary-eyed, ya know? That's just how bad ass this band was. That gives me all the more reason to be happy about this book in the way I've written it and the way that people are taking it, ya know? It was true, it was honest and it was fuckin' real. And just like life, it has it's goods, it's bad and it's ugly. But that's any Rock 'n' Roll band's story. How we kept together that long is another amazing tale. It's amazing that we kept together for that long with all the crazy stuff that was going on. From all the addictions to the different personal demons and everything else. ...And then the tragedies of Dime.”
Todd: How much material was ultimately edited from Official Truth, 101 Proof: The Inside Story Of Pantera? Are there a lot of stories that have yet to be told? Would it be possible for you to potentially write another book?
Rex: “I've got anecdotes for days. But it's going to be all positive, ya know? Like I said, there's a lot of stuff on the cutting room floor. ...It's was hard to put my whole twenty year journey into three hundred and twenty pages. I'm cutting it to the story, ya know? ...That being said, I do have a whole bunch of other tales. We'll see how this one does. It's a totally different world than going into the studio and recording and doing stuff like that which I know like the back of my hand. Getting into this journalist world is something I never expected. But that being said, now that I know kind of how to do it, it makes a lot of sense. I could probably whip one out in about three months, ya know? ...There was days where I went over this thing, the final edit and everything, probably ten times and I think the publisher (Da Capo Press) went over it probably about twenty. They kept coming with different edits and all this kind of stuff. I was like 'This has to be the story because it makes sense', ya know? It all has to tie in together in one sort of way or another, ya know? But hey were really, really good to me. ...I had to think about all the great stuff that's in the book, but then there were those sad days too, ya know?”
Todd: How difficult was it for you to re-live some of the scenarios recounted in Official Truth, 101 Proof: The Inside Story Of Pantera? I would imagine, at least to a certain extent, the writing process was highly emotional.
Rex: “It's very tough to fathom at different points. But at the same time, it was so cathartic to get some of that shit off my chest, ya know? That's what makes it real. It makes it honest. You can tell just in the way that I write it that it is real and it is honest. It's not some guy just writing just to write or put a word on paper. That's what I wanted the book to really do. ...Let's not bullshit with this one, ya know? I'm the king of bullshit. If I wanted to put out a fuckin' bullshit book I can in a fuckin' second, but I didn't want that. ...This is just my truth, ya know? The other guys have their stories and their perspectives on different things, just like anybody in this world does. We all have opinions and assholes. I'm just saying where I was coming from, where I was sitting. I had the really good fuckin' seats for it, ya know? There's only four guys in the band and I had the really good cheap seats, ya know? There's only four of us that really knew what was going on with the inner circle of that and one that's no longer with me. That's the only regret that I have in my life, that Dime is no longer on this planet anymore. But that being said, we have to go on. We have to take one step at a time and move on down this path called life, ya know? I've come a long way from being a Rock 'n' Roll guy. I still have that in my body and in my bones. I'm still a lifer, ya know? But at the same time, I've got two beautiful twins and that's a huge part of my life also. Life does move on, ya know? And if there's anything said about this, I hope people can see the good instead of the bad and the ugly. There's hills and valleys, ya know? Just because you're on top one minute and then the next minute we were no more doesn't mean that it's all just terrible, ya know? That's just life, man.”
Todd: In hindsight, what were the main motivations behind the writing of Official Truth, 101 Proof: The Inside Story Of Pantera? Was it written primarily for Pantera fans or was it simply to finally tell your side of the story?
Rex: “All I can say is that I hope you enjoy the read. It's not just for metal heads or Pantera fans. I think in general, it's the tales of some kid growing up in a fuckin' peanut town and fuckin' makin' it through hard work, perseverance and meeting the right guys and writing great songs. Again, it wasn't because we sat around the house and did nothing but write great songs, ya know? We were out there playing two hundred and fifty days a year, ya know? It just kind of shows you some of the non-glamorous points of being in a fuckin' Rock 'n' Roll band to start with. The twenty-two hours that you sit around waiting for those two glamorous moments on stage were just brutal. Controlled chaos is what I call it. That's what this band was. It's the tales of just what is normal for me and what happened in my life. That's the only thing I can do is just spread my truth and word and...what I saw. If the other guys want to write a book and have different stories, that's great. I know that I spoke truth. I gotta look myself in the mirror every fuckin' day and if I don't tell the truth, there's no point in putting it all out.”
Official Truth, 101 Proof: The Inside Story Of Pantera (Book) (2013)
Kill Devil Hill (2012)
Diary Of A Mad Band: Europe In The Year Of VI (2010)
III - Over The Under (2007)
Down II: A Bustle In Your Hedgerow (2002)
Reinventing The Steel (2000)
Official Live: 101 Proof (1997)
The Great Southern Trendkill (1996)
Far Beyond Driven (1994)
Vulgar Display Of Power (1992)
Cowboys From Hell (1990)
Power Metal (1988)
I Am The Night (1985)
Projects In The Jungle (1984)
Metal Magic (1983)
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