I don't know about you, but it really helps close out a work day when you get bassist Rex Brown on the phone. While talking about the latest release from his band Kill Devil Hill and the upcoming tour to support the disc, you can't help but be drawn in by the enthusiasm he has regarding the project. What a fun time will be had by all who witness this powerhouse when it makes its way across the country...
Rex: Yo. Hey man, what’s going on?
Toddstar: Not much brother, how you doing?
Rex: Oh nothing, just sitting here dealing with a bunch of shit. Last day before we hit the fucking road. [Laughter] You know how it goes, trying to figure out what the hell, you know, just trying to pack your suitcases and get on down to the rehearsals. We’ve got rehearsals and dress rehearsals, Jesus Christ, you name it.
Toddstar: Could be worse, you could be sitting in an accounting office like I am.
Rex: Well, okay, that’s a good way to look at it. I don’t know which is worse, so we’re both on the same page there slick.
Toddstar: There you go, man. How’s things going with the… you got the rehearsals all under your belt, you ready for this tour that starts tomorrow?
Rex: Really, really good. We’ve got all new gear and it’s been trying to, you know, get the tones and everything that we need. It’s going to kick major ass on this little run that we’re going on here before the holidays start. So everything is shaping up. The record is starting to get a really good fucking buzz, you know, so I couldn’t be happier.
Toddstar: You mentioned it, you’ve got Kill Devil Hill’s next release, Revolution Rise, dropping next Tuesday here in the US, and it was preceded by A Crown of Thorns which is a killer first track. How did you guys go about picking that to kind of kick this thing off?
Rex: That was my favourite song, hang on one sec.
[Loud guitars in the background]
Rex: Mark’s in here fucking tearing it up on the guitar.
Rex: Crown of Thorns, that’s one that I kind of wanted to go first with as far as getting kind of, letting people know this is where we’re kind of at. I don’t know if you’ve heard the record.
Rex: I just think that that track kind of sets it up for where… for me it was one of my favorite tracks, better to come out with first. It’s so heavy but it still has that real good harmony on it. If people listen then maybe they’ll want to go check it out a little more, and now that we’re doing these things with the different magazines, we’re doing a track a day kind of streaming with some of these big metal sites and stuff like that, it just you know, it’s a really cool set up how we’re doing it as far as a song a day, there you go. We’re getting great response from it. It’s a great record, I love it. I couldn’t be happier with it, but a lot of hard work on this one.
Toddstar: Listening to it, I mean obviously it sounds like Kill Devil Hill, I mean you guys are who you are, but it almost sonically has a different feel or impact. Is that something you guys went into this and said okay, we did what we did on the first record, let’s do something a little different here, or was it just you guys through the natural progression of how you guys have come together as a band?
Rex: I think it tends to be a bit of both. When we did that first record we had only had a freaking couple of handful of dates that we’d played together. We were rehearsing for six months before that, or more, longer than that before our first show with the band. We were kind of putting everything together, and then we went in and did the record in 28 days. We rushed in to do that one. That’s when we used a different producer with Jeff Pilson and… we produce all our music. Jeff is really good with vocals and stuff like that, he’s an excellent singer, and he really helped really kind of, you know, this is your time to really shine. And Dewey just came up with these incredible melodies, with the help of Jeff, and Jeff is always pushing him to get that out. That being said it is a natural progression of what the band is. You know, after that we played 100 dates, and we’re all pros but it still feels like it’s fresh. There is nothing contrived in the way that we write, we just all know what a good song is, and we wanted to make those songs, they were done in different spurts. We would do three, and just because of scheduling you know, Jeff would have to be on the road here, then I had some things going on and I would come down to LA and Mark and I would sit for a couple of days with Vinnie in the rehearsal room and rehearse those, then go track them. So that went on for… we did the whole run of last show and ended up with Alice Cooper and we were fucking red hot, so let’s go straight in the studio. And Vinnie said you know, my buddy Jeff Pilson has a studio, and I like the drum sound in there, so I said let’s go check it out. So we went in an when we got Jeff and Jay Ruston involved from the very start. So anyway, it was more of a team thing. This was much more of a collective, collaborative thing on this record than it was on the first one, where I kind of jumped in and they already had say five or six of the songs that were really set in stone, that I really just put my little spice in the gumbo, you know what I'm saying? With this one this is just from ground level up to, you know, going in and trying to make the best masterpiece we can make at the time. This gives way to a lot more. We got so many tracks leftover from this that, you know, our whole plan is we’re going to tour six weeks, take three weeks off, tour six weeks, take three weeks off, six weeks, three weeks off. We’re going to be touring this thing for a year plus. And that’s the way you have to do it these days, show them what’s going on.
Toddstar: Well you mentioned that this was one of your favorites, Crown of Thorns, the single, and it’s also one of mine, but there are other tracks that just have different feels to them. You’ve got Endless Static out there, you’ve got Long Way From Home, they feel different from each other, and I attribute some of that to the music behind it. I mean the lyrics are always going to give you a different feel….
Rex: Well you know, you take those few tracks and Endless Static was just something that we had that we said let’s just record and see what happens with it, and then it kind of took a life of its own and kind of fit in. It’s kind of off center for us, but at the same time it does kind of fit in. (Beeping from call waiting) Hang on one second, I'm sorry about this.
Toddstar: You’re good.
Rex: Sorry about that, 18 people trying to get in touch with me, fucking Jesus Christ.
Toddstar: No worries Rex.
Rex: So anyway, Endless Static was one that was kind of just sitting there. We decided that one at the last minute to put on. You said Long Way From Home, we didn’t have that one and we were just messing around with it, Mark actually had that, actually we worked really hard at it over at Dewey’s house. I don’t live in L.A. I’ve got a couple of homes, one in New Mexico and one in Texas, one for the kids and one for the girlfriend, you know. So anyway, Long Way From Home, the whole lyrical stance behind that and everything else, that we’d had the track and I was doing, you know my book came out this year, I was doing an ‘in store’ and my manager was with me, and he said ‘Well I just got the new vocal tracks for Long Way From Home, let’s go check it out in the car after I’d finished with my signings and stuff. And I went out and listened to Dewey’s vocal and I swear to God it just broke me up. It almost brought tears to my eyes, how he sings, for me… look, heavy to me describes however you want to name it heavy, but I think that’s a heavy song, you know what I'm saying?
Rex: Meaning it doesn’t have to be fast and doomy, and all this kind of stuff, I just think in general that’s really got a lot of passion, and heart and soul, and feel to it, and for me that’s another staple of the record. Who these days is going out on a limb and doing a song like that? Nobody. You know, so it was one of those things where you just go well, we love it, and we hope everybody else gets it. But I think it’s pretty much up for your own interpretation, I think that it’s fucking badass.
Toddstar: It’s one of my top three. The three that I mentioned are my top three on the disc actually, but I think what I like more than anything…
Rex: Endless Static is one of your favourites?
Toddstar: Oh God yeah.
Rex: That’s just so hooky, you know? Wow, you’re the first one to say that, so that’s cool.
Toddstar: You and I grew up on a lot of the same music, so to hear that hooky stuff is just, you know, it’s that little hidden pleasure that you get sometimes.
Rex: Right, look, you pick a song like that, and I don’t want to go back and use this as any kind of reference, but I'm just saying, you pick a song like Fucking Hostile, even though it’s got Fucking Hostile in it and heavy as piss, it’s still as hooky as fuck, you know. Like old Agnostic Front. They had really fucking heavy punk, you know, that meteoric hardcore fucking thing, but it was catchy shit, which is really cool.
Toddstar: I also like the fact that you guys aren’t a one star band, or a two star band. Every song seems to let somebody shine. I like that normally, and you probably love it, normally you’ll find that the bass players are just kind of part of the rhythm section, here’s your part, play it and let’s go. Whereas some of these songs really just feature just a heavy bass line, without the drums pounding the shit out of the line, or without the guitars being laid over the top. But then you’ll find other spots where Vinnie is allowed to shine, or Mark’s allowed to shine, or Dewey’s allowed to shine.
Rex: I think playing in the States together, and becoming a band for me as a bass player it’s always learning, it’s not learning, it’s knowing when not to play, you know. And as long as everybody can feel that, that makes the dynamics of the band. Knowing when not to play and when to play. It would sound kind of weird for you to read it, but you know when you have to do that when you're locked into a tight rhythm section, especially with me and Vin, so you know, everybody… it’s knowing when to play and when not. You don’t want to overshadow something that somebody else could be shining on, and that’s what I'm always trying… to keep my bass playing to… not a minimalist level, but more of a cohesive part. And then when it’s time to go ahead and step out there, you go ahead and make something that’s going to be memorable, and I think that’s one thing that we strive for on this record for sure.
Toddstar: That’s something you’ve been doing for 30 years.
Rex: Yeah, that’s part of the deal, but again with this band, there’s so much more melodic stuff that goes along with it. My sister was 17 years older than I was and I grew up with The Beatles, it was the first thing I heard, and Paul McCartney walked all over it, the fucking bass and the great melodies, along with what was going on with the songs. This band, it’s just a little bit more freedom to go where I want to go, instead of just having to stay with the same, you know riff, you gotta stay there. I don’t aspire to be Billy Sheehan or anything like that. That’s not my forte – I wouldn’t say not my forte, it’s just not where my style is. My style is locking in with the drummer and then playing the riff, but along with that you can make it your own, and you know where your root structure is and everything else.
Toddstar: Let’s talk about you for a second, Rex. Who made you want to pick up a bass and do this?
Rex: Oh the McCartneys, and you know, John Paul Jones, Geddy Lee, you know the motown sound for sure, Hugh Johnston, you know, there are so many to name out there. I’ll listen to anything from fucking Sinatra to Slayer, so you know, I was just raised around all types of different music and I just kind of took everything together and put it into one big giant puzzle and tried to make it my own. That being said it’s all about the song for me. It’s not about I can play faster than this guy fucking kinda shit. It’s all about the structure of the song and how that is going to appeal. At the same time, I still have my heavy roots in everything that I do. Sometimes you’ve just got to lay back. There’s totally different energy than what I’ve done in the past. You have to approach it as something new and fresh. I think that we all do that, but we all have our own individual influences and way to approach our instruments.
Toddstar: Talking about music, and you talk about your wide range, what was the last CD or MP3 that you listened to?
Rex: I just listened to the new Alter Bridge, it’s brand new and just came out. We were on our way to the record company yesterday and we had a long ride, we were in LA and of course traffic is fucking hell. I’ve never really checked those guys out before and I listened to it and it was just really, really good. Really fucking good. I love the guitar player. He played with Creed and all that kind of stuff. You know what, dude, when you’re on the road for… if you are out there for 250 days a year for 25 years, you have to take yourself back a little bit and listen to different stuff, or play with different guys. I’ve got different projects that I’ve done at home where I just do it for fun, and you know, for getting back to, you know, at some point I want to do a solo record, and everything else. Get different players on it. You know, like I'm a totally different man, I write a lot of stuff on a fucking 12 string guitar and stuff like that. But it wouldn’t be all 12 string, I just write on a 12 string because it’s familiar. It has 12 strings on it but those strings feel like a bass, you know what I'm saying?
Rex: It’s like writing on an eight string bass. It’s really hard to go out there and just stay as current as you can… I definitely know what’s going on in the scene, but as far as that I really don’t concern myself with it. I enjoy doing what I do and I don’t try to draw from anyone else. I'm old enough to fucking know, you know?
Rex: Those influences that I had back in the day they were all trying to find themselves through the eighties, then through the nineties, that was us. You know, that was just nothing, and we weren’t trying to draw anything but inspiration from ourselves. Then everybody forgets I was in Down and I put that whole thing back together, so… I’ve just come on my musical journey, that’s just where I'm out. To tell you the truth there’s not really any fucking great music that I'm blown away by. Tell me one great record that has changed your life in the last five years, you know?
Toddstar: It won't happen.
Rex: Is there one? Can you think of one?
Toddstar: The last album that I think that changed my life came out in 1976, so…
Rex: There you go. I like where you’re going there.
Toddstar: A little Destroyer.
Rex: Yo, fuck yeah. Dude, I just got 'Nothin’ To Lose.' I just want to take it on the road and I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, but it covers Kiss from ‘72 to ‘75, and it’s really fucking, I just kind of touched on it just a little bit, because I know I'm going to read it in like a week, or three days. I read all the frickin’ time. All the time it’s different books and shit like that. I'm an avid reader, especially on the road. It’s nice to sit with a book and just kind of chill.
Toddstar: Sure, well listen, I’ve got one more for you. I know you’re trying to get stuff wrapped up and get the hell out of town so you can do what you gotta do on tour. It’s 2013, you’ve been doing this a couple of years, Rex, and you’re getting ready to hit the road, dropping a new album. At this point in your life, what is the meaning of life to you?
Rex: Oh dude, I’m happier than hell. I’m fucking clean and sober, and life is wonderful, and really happy for the first time in a long time… I don’t want to get too personal but I’ve got two great kids, they’re 13 year old twins, they're the loves of my life, and also I have a love of my life now, and I’ve got a great fucking band, with a great fucking record, and the meaning of life is just the moment. Today. And getting on that stage and playing for that two hours, and turning somebody on to what we do, or putting a smile on somebody’s face with what we do, through our songs.
Toddstar: Awesome man, I can't wait until this comes out and the rest of the world gets to hear the whole thing, and I really can't wait till you guys bring this show through.
Rex: Really? How’s it going there?
Toddstar: The economy’s for shit, but the music lovers are still out here. We still wait for bands like Kill Devil Hill to come through and kick our ass.
Toddstar: Well listen man, you go do what you gotta do, and I appreciate you taking time out for us today, and we’re going to spread the word and gospel of Kill Devil Hill.
Rex: Fucking right, thank you so much.
Toddstar: Thanks brother.
Rex: Appreciate it, brother.