Who would have thought there would be a country saloon in Las Vegas? Stop right there, it’s not what you think. The Las Vegas Country Saloon hosts bands far, far from the country music genre. Tonight Rex Brown grabs a quick dinner backstage before another interview. It’s just one of the things taking Brown away from a rest before a night of music on the legendary Fremont Street.
Brown joins the ranks with rock veteran Vinny Appice, former drummer for Black Sabbath, Dio and Heaven & Hell. On vocals is Dewey Bragg, previous singer for Pissing Razors. Acclaimed touring guitarist Mark Zavon rounds out the group. The tour began in California then they will venture to the North, Midwest and Mid-South to Texas. “This tour started in L.A. and we haven’t toured since December of last year. We were pretty hot coming off that so we decided to go straight to the studio. As soon as we came off that deal we took a couple of weeks off for the holidays and then went straight in to record. This is just getting our feet wet since we have the new record out. After the first of the year it’s going to be some cool tours and cool venues and all that kind of stuff. We’re hitting a few cities for a month and we’re done for the holidays then after the first of the year it will be full-blown.” Brown loves playing live and toured for years previously with Pantera and Down. “If I were to choose one city over any other I’d piss somebody off and I don’t want to do that. South American fans are rabid, Europeans are more open to what you have to offer, and the North American fans are great and very trendy; whatever it is of the day now. That’s why the market is just over saturated with crap these days. There’s nothing original anymore. I really like the Midwest was always really good to us and it was home base for Pantera and I guess I really like playing there. There are tons of metropolitan places to play but it all depends on the mood of the fans. Take Boise, Idaho for instance. You can go up there and those people are fucking out of their minds. Not a lot of bands get up there so when you play there, they are ready!”
If one were to look up Kill Devil Hill on the internet, the first statement is always they are a “super group”, but Brown states differently. “Let me just tell you this, it ain’t a supergroup. You put a tag on a band just because two other guys played in these other bands. We’ve put out a band. It’s called Kill Devil Hill and it doesn’t sound like either of the bands we were in. We didn’t want that to happen and we don’t play any of our old songs. We aren’t covering anything out of our past because we are another completely different band; it is its own indie. As far as super groups go, they last for one record, they do a little bitty tour and they’re done. This is not the case here with us. What happened with us last year is we put out a record and the record label folded. Just three weeks after we put out the record, the music division of the label folded and it was something that had never happened in my career. So we got with a small gathering of people who knew who we were to get it going again. You know how bands put out an EP, well this is sort of what we’re doing here and we’re getting some full-blown coverage or you wouldn’t be here talking to me.” Another rumor, or rather another fact that is being circulated is how the band arrived at their name. Yes there is a Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina; NO that is not how they arrive at their name. “The name Kill Devil Hill did NOT come from Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina,” he states very adamantly. “Black Bart used to pillage these ships that were in the harbor there in North Carolina. As pirates do, they would smuggle the rum off these ships and hide it in the hills. The rum was strong enough to kill the devil and THAT’S where the name comes from, not from the city. Mark’s into avionics and he liked the name as well. Sure everyone knows about Kill Devil Hills and the Wright Brothers, but we’re more about the pirate drinking rum kinda shit,” he grins.
A Grammy nominated bassist many times over, previous member of a platinum selling band, Brown shares the appreciation for his band mates. “It’s just like anything…you can take me out of Pantera, of course there can never be another Pantera without Dime; there will never be another one. The other two guys are just as good as we are. This group of four individuals…we sound like us. These guys are in it and I’m in it for the passion. The sky’s the limit for us and I want to keep doing this because this IS my passion. I still got to get out and play music. I’ve been working my ass off. I took a small break to sit back and watch my kids grow and another small one to take care of myself. All the partying we did over the years took a toll on my body and I was diagnosed with pancreatitis. As we get older we have to take a little better care of ourselves, don’t we? Had to give up a lot of shit; didn’t want to but had to.” Brown may take time to take care of himself but the plans for the band are strong and he’s very excited to hit the road again in January 2014. “I feel like I’m 10 years younger and yeah, it may feel like starting over, I’m just a little tired today. Only reason I’m tired is because I’m being bombarded with people wanting to talk to me which is a great thing because when they quit doing that, then I got a problem.” Their new album Revolution Rise was released October 29, just four days before we sat backstage with Brown in Las Vegas. “It’s awesome, the record is coming to critical acclaim and everyone’s digging it. I’m not a numbers guy, I couldn’t care less. Never have. Who would have ever thought in my career I’d have a number one record and much less another five top five records? We’ve never complained about the numbers, it’s all about playing for the fans. You have to be out there constantly playing the music and I love doing that. I’ve been doing it all these years because I love doing what I’m doing. Yes, we’re a new band starting out, but you have to be visible, that’s the main thing with this. We got into a bit of trouble before because the drummer looks at other stuff and it’s kind of fucking up what our schedule is. Starting next year, this band, Kill Devil Hill, is going to be touring non-stop, six weeks on and three weeks off and doing some really big tours. Right now we are just going these small little clubs to get the word out.”
Revolution Rise is an eleven track album featuring quite a track list with No Way Out, Crown Of Thorns, Leave It All Behind, Why, Wake Up The Dead, Long Way From Home, Where Angels Dare To Roam, Stained Glass Sadness, Endless Static, Stealing Days, and Life Goes On. “The band has been together almost three years and that includes our first small tour we before we recorded the first record. Half the songs were already written; I just came in and put my stamp on them. The second album was written from the ground up, me and Mark checking out the riffs, finishing it then taking it to Vinny and he’d do his thing. The next night Dewey would come in and throw out another harmony lyric and we were just this cohesive band. We did the album in spurts with two or three songs at a time, whatever it took. We had a lot to play with but it was on a different schedule. We were using Jeff Pilson’s studio, originally to just get the drum tracks but it turned out that it was such a great working relationship with him and he’s such a great vocalist and he really got Dewey to sing the way I wanted him to sing. I just wanted him to let go; to sing until you can’t sing any more. We all did great on this album and we are all extremely proud of it, but I’m really very proud of Dewey’s performance on this one. The response has been fantastic, I mean the phone has been ringing off the hook and if that’s an indication then we’re great! Of course you can’t judge Facebook with ‘likes’ and all that stuff, but the reactions and the comments are great and there’s been not one bad word out there. Look, my job is to get out there and play in front of people and put a smile on their face and if I can do it to one person then I’ve done my job. I can do it to one person, I can do it to 200 people, I can do it to 10,000 or 40,000 and I’ve done my job for the day and that’s what it’s all about.”
Most artists like all their songs and will choose a favorite or two from each album. Brown definitely has his own favorites. “I’m leaning toward Leave It All Behind and Long Way From Home. However, I am one of those types that allows the listener to choose. You can be in one mood one day and the next you can be in your car and start thinking about the next set of lyrics as they come by and you have a new favorite. A lot of things we are singing about are real, it’s not something contrived that we’ve sat down and looked it up in a dictionary and tried to put words together. This is real stuff we’re putting out there.” The band is tight and extremely powerful and have put out an amazing second album. “The difference between the first album and the second album is the band. It’s a brand new band who have played over 100 gigs together and the songwriting came very naturally and very smoothly on this record; it was more of a collective effort and more collaboration between us all. When we first started I even brought in my mixing guy Jay Rustin cause he knows exactly what I want to hear in my head. He and I have a real tight relationship when it comes to mixing a record; we know what we want on it. So what I’m hearing in my head, Jay knows right off the bat. I like to bounce it off people to see what they think, to see if it’s up to par or how it’s going to sound going coming out of the studio and going into a mixing room and then making it a killer record. I don’t put out shit. Never have and I never will.” Being reported by other outlets that the band had a sound like Alice In Chains meets Black Sabbath, Brown quickly replies with his rebuttal. “Ehhh, Vinny said that and Blabbermouth repeated it. All they want to do is negate everything that you’re trying to do, so let ‘em negate all they want to. They’re not gonna make or break this band. If you have to put your finger on something like most people have to do, it has that element of hard dark rock and roll. But it has that uplifting melody over the top sometimes that takes you back to reality in some songs. So we can get really dark but then be uplifting, it’s just all over the board which I think is great. There’s so much diversity here.” With stops and starts, they finished tracking drums around June 1 and they began to lay guitar tracks. “After the tracking vocals were complete, it was about six months it took to finish the album. But that’s off and on because Jeff had a schedule where he was out with Foreigner, so if you put it all together it took about two months which is incredibly awesome.” Brown is immensely proud of the new album and explains how he and the band arrived at the name. “I actually had a song called Revolution Rising; it was a bonus track on iTunes that we just didn’t feel like it didn’t fit in with the album as it was a bit heavier. I had several things written down I was looking at and here was this line in the song and it was Revolution Rising, so I said for us to make it Revolution Rise. If you think about it, it’s about overcoming. It’s about overcoming shit and then it just became its own monster. Revolution Rise can mean anything to anyone. I just thought it was a cool album title.”
With the month-long tour ahead of them, Brown, Appice, Bragg and Zavon will take a break for the holidays to spend time with their families. As soon as January 2014 arrives Brown has stated his plans. “I see a lot of asskicking! We’re getting out there and taking names. In this business you just hang on tight and see where it takes ya. You’re only as good as your last gig. I’m invigorated to be playing with a new cast and building up to something that’s going to be amazing. I just like to work and I like my private time too. I have kids that I want to spend time with. I’m just a busy man! This year I put out a book and I did 1,748 interviews for that. When you’re trying to tell your life story in 300 pages it’s kind of hard and then tell 1700 people ‘well what does this mean’, just read the fucking book! I bet you’ll like it. I just want to keep working and I’m happy when I’m working. A lot of big things are about to happen and I’m really proud of this album and it’s one of the best ones I’ve done in a long time. Career wise it’s right there on the top. Where I’m sitting now, it’s a damn good place to be.”
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