(bassman for PANTERA)
Rex Brown is probably best known for his work as bassman for metal giants Pantera, but his career has taken some interesting turns over the years. Having just released his first solo record album, Smoke On This, where he pushed himself to be the driving force behind everything from the concept to the final production, we took some time to talk about the record and the world of rock ‘n’ roll in general.
Rex Brown, thanks for making some time to talk with us. Congratulations on the new album.
Thank you I appreciate that very much.
I wanted to ask, a lot of people have been saying that this record was a really radical departure from what they would have expected from you, do you agree?
Well you’re going to have haters on anything. It is a departure, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s still a damn good rock record.
In some ways it seems like the natural progression of things that you have done over the last few years.
It’s just another tune; it’s another song in my repertoire. I just decided fuck it, this is what I’m going to do, this is my music. It’s not metal. I’ve been carrying that heavy ass flag all these years and I wanted to do something different. It ain’t rocket science it’s just a rock ‘n’ roll record and it has its influences all over it.
It’s a personal record for me and there’s a lot of process, a lot of thought and it would take ten years to tell [you] what I wanted to do with this record. But I had these sounds in my head, I had a really good writer in Lance Harvill and we just put out some fucking cool songs. That’s all I can do.
I feel like there is a real Southern feel to this record, was that something you were going for or did it just kind of turn out that way?
That’s where I’m from. The South is the land where the blues are from, its more blues than it is Southern.
How was it getting back to work with Lance Harvill? When you separated from Arms Of The Sun, he had said that you guys had musical and creative differences that couldn’t be worked out, was there any of that tension when you were putting together this record?
I don’t know where that’s coming from, but it’s a bunch of bullshit.
On a different note, how are you getting used to being a Warwick artist after playing the Spectre instruments for so long?
It feels fucking wonderful. It joyous. It’s something I’ve done all my life and now you get to hear it and you know it’s me.
The production on the record, do you feel it adds a real Nashville feel to it?
No it doesn’t. If that record was recorded it Georgia you wouldn’t have known no difference. It’s just ‘cos it says Nashville on it. The producer (Caleb Sherman) is an implant from New York.
Nashville has one of the coolest scenes in rock ‘n’ roll today. The scene is busting at the seams. It’s all about the music, it’s not about a platform or where it was recorded. Dude, I’m from the South. I could have recorded this on Mars [and] you wouldn’t have known the difference. Actually, next time I’m going to say Mars.
Tell me about writing the tracks for the record. What was the process between you and Lance Harvill, who you say co-wrote a lot of the material?
Lance and I bounced ideas off each other that we commonly had a goal of and we worked with each other and hammered out these songs, that’s all there is to it. Somebody’s got one riff here, he’s got one there. He’s got a lyric, I got a lyric. That’s the way we wrote this whole record.
A lot of people who co-write records now aren’t even in the same room, sending bits and pieces across the country digitally. Is that how this record worked?
No, no. I went down to Nashville, he’d just moved there, and he had a really cool little demo studio downstairs. So we started working on songs and just hanging out and doing that jam thing. I’ve known Lance since way back in the Dime’ days, so he’s a good tune smith and I wanted to have someone to bounce off, and Lance, he gave me more bounce than I could handle. He was that good.
Is the record as we hear it the whole stockpile of those tracks, were there others that maybe didn’t make it on to the record? Is there a chance that there might be more music to come from that collaboration?
Oh yeah, we’ve got enough for two records. We could have made a double album. We got ideas coming out of our ears. We send each other ideas, but we don’t ever perform them. He sends me an idea and I work up a track from it. Or vice versa. I’ll send him a riff and he’ll work something up out of it. That’s just the way it goes, but they aren’t tracks that we send to each other, just ideas. We send each other guide things. He sent me a little passage and one of these days I’ll make a song out of it.
Do have any plans to tour this record and take it on the road?
Yep, we leave in two weeks. Going to Germany; taking it to Europe. We’ve got two bands; one is for America and one is for overseas. But I’ve got a whole musical family, from Christopher Williams, who played on the album to Johnny Kelly who couldn’t make this first leg, but I’ve bounced around with a bunch of great motherfuckers man. I got a whole gamut of it dude, and its fucking smoking.
Will you mostly be taking lead, or do you mix it up with a little bass? How do you divide up the duties on stage?
I play rhythm and sing, and I’ve got a special treat for you during the show, but I can’t give it away.
Any chance that tour is likely to make its way down to Australia?
Absolutely. Thinking about February. Seems like time to tour doesn’t it? We were last there in the Spring in 2014. I love Australia, man. It’s a cool-ass country.
When you’re putting together a record like this how much control do you have to cede? The guys you’ve worked with are certainly talented, experienced musicians in their own right. Is there a point where you just have to trust them to do their thing, or was it a more controlled operation than that?
These guys in this band, they’re my friends. But this is a Rex Brown record. They played on my record. I’m part of every note. We recorded drums and Christopher played four different times the whole way through. We went straight to the original bass and me and the producer picked which we thought went best with the track. It was unbelievable.
But when I’m talking before about the touring band, I’m not talking about the studio band. This album was me and Lance Harvill and Christopher William and Caleb Sherman the producer. That’s it.
And the country-blues kind of sound that comes through? Where does that influence come from?
Well there’s only one track where I think that really comes through and that’s the song Fault Line, and it’s the one with the lap steel. We have a lap steel – and its bad-ass [that] I can put a lap steel on my record. That’s Caleb Sherman. Nobody’s playing that shit in rock ‘n’ roll anymore. We distorted the fuck out of this. But there’s tons of slide all over this record. That’s the reason you’re hearing the Southern thing on here, cos I wanted some tasty shit. And Lance is a great slide player, and with him and Caleb both going live, every note is there. We all play slide.
I also feel like it has a little grunge sense to it, like a little bit of a Jerry Cantrell feel.
No, I don’t think so. I mean I played on Jerry’s solo record. But Buried Alive is a track which has minor harmonies and major harmonies in it and that’s because it’s just one of [those] things, it’s just how it came out. I have had a couple of other questions asked like that and I think it’s just ‘cos of the harmonies. Lance loved Alice in Chains, so it has his influences in there; I can’t take those out of him. The riffs not particularly, but the vocals I guess I could see where that comes from. But I wasn’t going for that and I didn’t want it to sound like Alice in Chains.
Apart from your own music, what are you excited by. What music is inspiring you lately?
Man, I’ve been so immersed in the press for this record that I haven’t had a chance to really see. I heard the new Foo Fighters song, a new Queens of the Stone Age song, which are both pretty good. Rival Sons, which are one of my favourite bands. I’ve been going back to my old Zepplin and old Stones, which is about as un-metal as you can get.
There are also some great bands coming out of Nashville. All kinds of great stuff. I’m into music these days, real notes, not beating your head against a wall kind of shit. The guys from All Them Witches, they’re great friends of mine. I know those guys really well. Dale Crover from the Melvins, he’s got some new stuff.
Rex Brown, thanks for hanging out.
See you buddy.
AMPLIFY – SP
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- Benjamin Smith