In his new autobiography Official Truth, 101 Proof (available today), Rex Brown describes himself as “the Silent Bob character in this whole scene,” and that would be a pretty accurate description of the bassist in one of the most influential heavy metal bands of all-time, Pantera.
But after years of speculation, gossip, and stories from everyone except the four members of the band, Brown has decided to break his silence on the group that put himself, the late Dimebag Darrell Abbott, Vinnie Paul Abbott, and Phil Anselmo on the musical map.
“I’m not doing it for money, I’m not doing it for anything but to get this thing out,” said Brown. “I never said anything to the press during all that period. It started as just casual conversation and went into ‘how do you fit 20 years of your life into 300 pages?’ It’s really hard, but as far as I’m concerned, I just wanted to tell my side of the story, so to speak.”
Written with Mark Eglinton, who penned a 2010 book on Metallica’s James Hetfield, Brown met up with his co-author as the Scotland native was doing research for the Hetfield project.
“Two years ago, a friend of a friend turned me on to this guy in the UK and he was writing this book on James Hetfield and he wanted a couple quotes,” recalled Brown. “We became friends and he said ‘what do you think about telling your memoir?’ And I’m like, you know, I’m not dead yet (Laughs), but it kinda makes sense, but we have to come up with a strategy of how we want to do it, and that took a little time.”
The result is one that will appeal not just to fans of Pantera and heavy metal, but anyone interested in a look at that time in music and how the Texas group rose from the local circuit to international acclaim, complete with all the triumphs and pitfalls associated with such an ascent. For a band this important to the genre, having a chronicle like this is important, even if Brown didn’t realize just how important they were during their heyday.
“We started putting out these (CD) reissues and they kind of bring you back to the time and you go oh wow, look where we are now and where we were then,” he said. “And then you’d have different comments from different people among our peers, saying things like this record really broke through and kept metal alive in the early 90s until we disbanded. We kept coming up with different stuff, and it was controlled chaos basically. At a certain point, you go ‘yeah, you really made a mark,’ which is nice and that’s what we intended to do. We didn’t do it for fame or fortune – some people did it for chicks, but I didn’t. I was in it more to say ‘let’s write some kick ass tunes and do it for the jam.’ Did I know that it was going to affect people the way it did at the time that we were doing it? No. Did I know that we had to stretch boundaries and keep moving all the time? Sure.”
Of course, a focal point of any book involving Brown and Pantera would be the tragic murder of Dimebag Darrell by a crazed fan in December of 2004. Not surprisingly, that was the roughest part of the writing process for Brown.
“I’d have my good days and bad days,” he admits. “The sadness and loss of Dime, and him not being on this planet anymore, that was the hardest part. And we went through ten different final edits on our own and then I’d have to read through what the publisher did. It was probably good for me in a cathartic sense, going back and number one, trying to remember everything (Laughs), and number two, just trying to remember some of the good times. Of course, there are hills and valleys in everything in life and this is my truth I’ve written down and that’s it.”
Brown pulls no punches throughout, either regarding himself or those around him, and in a nice twist for a book of this nature, other people involved in his life are given space to chime in, including Brown’s sister Cheryl, Darrell’s longtime girlfriend Rita Haney, original Pantera vocalist Terry Glaze, and band manager Walter O’Brien.
“It’s nice having those people tell their side of the story also,” said Brown. “There were only four guys in the band that really knew what was going on and had insight into the whole vision of Pantera and one of them’s no longer with us. And I can just write from what I know, so having those other people from around the same time, it was nice having them.”
As for his surviving bandmates’ thoughts on Brown writing this book, there is still a break between the bassist and Vinnie Paul Abbott, but Anselmo (who Brown also played with in the band Down before starting his new group, Kill Devil Hill) knew of the book as it was being written.
“Phil knew for sure because I was writing this book when I was still in Down,” said Brown. “He knew I was writing a book and we were actually on tour. We were in Northern Spain and I went and rented this cottage so I could get things done, and I think we got 60 hours of tape in five days, and that’s a lot of interviewing and a lot of copy. This book could have been 1200 pages long, but you have to condense it down and make it entertaining where the reader wants to flip the page.”
Readers will want to flip the page on this one, but two readers who won’t – at least for the time being – are Brown’s two children.
“This is what went on in my life, and I hope they can learn from my mistakes,” he said. “This is just my story, and for the kids, it’s probably not the right time for them to be reading this, but they can go through it when they’re old enough to kinda figure it out. Until that big thunderstorm comes, we’re just gonna leave it at that for now.”
Brown laughs, at peace with what he’s written and now unleashing on the world. And while it’s something that could never happen now, I had to ask whether he thought Pantera would ever reunite if not for that tragic night in 2004.
“Personally, yes I do,” he said. “I think if we all would have got in a room and beat the s**t out of each other, it might have happened. But that’s just the way I look at it and that’s just my own opinion. Other guys in the band might think differently.”
Official Truth, 101 Proof (Da Capo Press), is available now
Rex Brown will be signing copies of the book this Thursday, March 14, at Bookends in Ridgewood, NJ. The signing begins at 6 p.m.