During a recent appearance on the “TODDCast” podcast, former PANTERA and DOWN bassist Rex Brown spoke about his debut solo album, “Smoke On This”, which came out at the end of July. The disc marks the first time in Brown‘s career in which he serves as both lead vocalist and guitarist in a band.
Explaining that the album’s classic-rock-and-blues sound falls “right straight into” his “comfort zone,” Brown said that he “the least metal guy” of all the members of PANTERA. “I was more rock and roll — like old, cool rock and roll, not ’80s hit fucking bullshit,” he said (hear audio below). “[Stuff like] FOGHAT, HUMBLE PIE, old THIN LIZZY, first three KISS records and the ‘Alive’ record. And then I got into [LED] ZEPPELIN, and the rest of that was history — that was what changed the whole game for me from a musical standpoint.”
After his post-DOWN project KILL DEVIL HILL released its sophomore album, “Revolution Rise”, in 2013 and the band toured in support of the record, Brown seemingly disappeared from the music scene, with some speculating that KILL DEVIL HILL had called it quits. “I ended up taking a little break and had to get off the bus and reassess where I wanted to be a person and as a musician,” he explained. “I’ve got kids and I wanted to watch them grow a little bit.”
“I don’t owe anybody anything,” he continued. “I’ve been busting my ass since I was seventeen and it was time for a break. And I told myself I was just gonna take two years off, and it just didn’t work that way. I started writing songs and I got in with this really good friend of mine, Lance Harvill, and we started putting these songs together. And then the thing was, ‘Let’s see what we can do with my voice.’ And, basically, he just pushed me to find what we were kind of looking for. And from there, it just evolved and it became, ‘Oh, shit, we’ve got something on our hands that’s really cool.'”
Brown said that he “really took [his] time” making the strongest album possible. “I wanted to still have my freedom and at the same time be doing this on the side,” he said. “I funded it all myself. I wanted to go back to my roots: ‘Why did you start in this business in the first place?’ Because of your love of music, number one — that’s what it’s all about. So I had to go back to a starting place, for where I needed to go down the line. And having that freedom and doing this as a frontman and playing guitar, it gives me that, I guess, the challenge of being able to pull it off.
“I’ve got an incredible touring band with me now, and it’s sick, man,” he enthused. “It’s all just happening for the right reasons instead of being crammed by, ‘Oh, you’ve got a deadline,’ or, ‘You have to do this,’ or ‘be this product.’ I just don’t wanna be a product anymore. So I have a lot of freedom again being an artist where I can just do what the fuck I wanna do, and that’s the most important thing.”
Drums on “Smoke On This” were tracked by Christopher Williams, himself no stranger to diverse tastes, from funk music to punk. His talent has been utilized by country music star Lee Greenwood, the reconstituted BLACKFOOT and most recently, power metal legends ACCEPT. The album was produced by New Yorker-turned-Nashville-transplant Caleb Sherman, a multi-instrumentalist with work on records by LITTLE BIG TOWN and PORTER BLOCK, among others.