Rex Brown Recalls the Making of 'Cowboys from Hell,' 'Vulgar Display of Power' and Other Legendary Pantera Albums

by Jon Wiederhorn
Posted Apr 1, 2013 at 3:56pm

This is an excerpt from the May 2013 issue of Guitar World magazine. For the rest of this story, plus features on Brad Paisley, Testament, Tommy Thayer, Children of Bodum, Steven Wilson and more, check out the issue at the Guitar World Online Store.

While Pantera vocalist Philip Anselmo and the Abbott Brothers—guitarist Dimebag Darrell and drummer Vinnie Paul—were flinging insults at each other in the press throughout 2003, bassist Rex Brown remained largely silent.

His ex-bandmates viciously blamed each other for the demise of Pantera, the band that held the torch aloft for metal throughout the Nineties and paved the way for metalcore. But Brown refused to choose sides. By then, he and Anselmo were performing together in Down, and fans might have expected he would take the singer’s side. But Brown continued to say nothing. Instead, he let the resounding notes of his bass express the pain and frustration he felt for what had become of his band.

“Vinnie drew this imaginary line in the sand,” explains Brown, who is currently wrapping up the second album by his new band, Kill Devil Hill. “He said, ‘You’re either on our side or not.’ I didn’t want to take sides. Every f---ing day before Dime was killed [in December 2004], Vinnie would email me when Phil would say something stupid in the press and go, ‘See what your boy said?’ I was like, ‘Dude, why is he my boy? Because I wanted to get out of your bus because you were throwing f---ing tacos at everybody because you’d lost your mind on booze?’ The whole thing was ridiculous, but I never talked about it.”

Until now. In his revealing new memoir, Official Truth 101 Proof: The Inside Story of Pantera, Brown stops short of blaming anyone for Pantera’s breakup and the subsequent murder of Dimebag Darrell. Instead, he and co-writer Mark Eglinton spend the majority of the book addressing the formation and development of Pantera through five legendary albums. In the process, Brown analyzes how four musicians that were once closer than most families grew apart because of their differences in personality, musical tastes and choice of extracurricular activities.

Brown has particularly strong recollections of the six major-label albums he recorded with Pantera. In this Guitar World interview, he gives us an unvarnished, no-holds-barred look at the making of those records and of his life with the original Cowboys from Hell.

Cowboys from Hell (1990)

While we were writing the songs for Cowboys from Hell, we were listening to a lot of different kinds of music—a lot of Metallica, Slayer, Mercyful Fate and Minor Threat—and that changed our sound. We had grown such a huge following in Texas by then that we could play one set a night and draw 2,000 people. Since we didn’t have to play six shows a night anymore, we had more time to spend in the Abbotts’ studio [Pantego Sound], and we became total perfectionists. Vinnie would lay down all the drums, then Dime would play guitar. We’d put the bass on last. We turned all the drum channels off, and I just played along with Dime’s track. That became known as “the microscope.” If something was off, we’d get a razorblade and cut and splice the tape. We didn’t have Pro Tools back then. And that’s what created our trademark sound, where the guitar and bass are just spot-on.

By that point, Dime had already surpassed all of his influences as a player, and we were making a lot of money playing Friday and Saturday nights within a radius of Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Shreveport and New Orleans. Then, after getting turned down 29 times, we finally got signed to Atco. The thing is, that actually made our financial situation worse at first. We weren’t playing shows, so we didn’t have any money coming in. So I had to get a job. Me and our lighting guy, Sonny, got gigs putting up lights for fashion shows. It actually turned out real cool. We met all these fashion models, got laid all the time and made a month’s rent a night.

Photo: James Bland

For the rest of this story, plus features on Brad Paisley, Testament, Tommy Thayer, Children of Bodum, Steven Wilson and more, check out the May 2013 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.

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