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As bass player for Pantera and Down, Rex Brown has laid down some of the heaviest, punchiest bass notes in metal history. But as his recently released solo album Smoke On This … proves, there’s more to Brown than holding down a solid bottom end. Australian Musician Reza Nasseri spoke to Rex Brown about the new album, in which he not only plays bass, but also takes on rhythm guitar and lead vocal duties.

Rex, these are exciting times, you just released your solo album Smoke On This…
I’m stoked, it’s finally out there. Crank it up!

It seems as though after being a professional musician after many years, you’ve finally found your voice as a singer, songwriter, guitarist and bassist. How did the writing process come about for Smoke On This?
Ahh, put some songs together and went down and tracked ’em… (laughs)

Like any other piece of music you do, you write the songs and one thing turns into another. I also like to take little breaks in between so I can check things out, and whether they stand up after a period of time. Before you know it you have a cohesive album you want to present to the world, then you find people that want to do it, then you put it out.

“Faultline” was the first track that you sang on. It features some pretty heavy lyrics about being a prisoner to some of the negative things in life and perhaps the shame of wrong-doing. The song itself is a tender ballad and something that perhaps the old “Rex Rocker” of 1988 would have never been associated with. Was it hard to present this side of yourself to the world?
Well it’s not 1988, it’s 2017 and I’m not that old Rex Rocker that I used to be. This is where I come from now musically. I wanted to put out a killer record, and you’ll know that if you listen deeply to the songs.

I’m glad you brought this up because it was really one of the songs I had to find my voice on, and after we had that one in the “can” it was pretty easy doing what we wanted to do. It moulded the direction of the record and how the stuff was sounding in my head. The whole thing was a really fun process. I was working with some really cool cats on this record. Now its time to tour.

Also, there’s a lot of “light and shade” on this record. Personally I would never have seen a track like “The Best of Me” coming. It sounds like you have really dug deep and included a wide variety of influences on this album.
Oh dude I come way back from the 70’s or even the 60’s. My sister was 17 years old when she brought home the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Turtles and the Doors. I lived in a small “peanut town” in Texas, a tiny little town where all we had was AM Radio. That’s all I listened to until we moved to the big city, and after that I just turned into Metal.

I’ve always been a “Rock and Roller” at heart. I’ve always been into killer rock songs. I’ve been writing heavy music forever, so I decided this to be my next move, so let’s just put out a killer record. It’s not that “Rocket Science Sh*t” its just real simple. This is the way I want it, and this is the way I’ll do it.

Listen man, I worked my fuckin ass off for this record, to the stage where it’s in your blood. One day I was sitting in the back of the bus thinking you know, what’s the next direction, and this is it. This is what I heard in my head and crafted and forged a new sound and this is something I’m really proud of, and I feel blessed, really. What comes with the territory is a lot of hard work and that’s what been going on for the last two years.

OK, lets talk about something else… Is it true that you used to play the Tuba.

(Uncomfortable silence … then chuckles) ….What’s that got to do with anything?

(laughs) I saw it on Wikipedia.

Is that some kind of “Social Media thing? That’s pretty f—in’ stupid!

Yeah I played Tuba man, and went “all-State” with my man Vinnie Paul.

So the first track Lone Rider is a no-nonsense, rock song mixed with a dash of southern flavour, it features a really gnarly guitar solo, fat drums and a really present bass tone. In fact it sounds like a bass player’s dream mix (Rex let’s out a short burst of laughter). Was Ace Frehley an influence in the way he approaches song writing for his solo albums?

No Ace wasn’t an influence, but in regards to the guitar player playing the leads on this album, I wanted him to keep it simple. I told him I want you to hum ’em (in reference to his licks). When the chord comes round I’m looking for that one note that sticks.  Ace Frehley was not on my radar when I was making this record.

It seems as though you have some good musical chemistry with your band-mates on this album as well.
Well I wrote this with Lance Harvill, and he and I have a long relationship of writing songs together, where we know what each other likes, and we bounce ideas off one another until we find the sound that we are looking for in our heads. Now take that moniker off the record and call it the f^&k^n% “Blue Jays”, then what would you think off it then? Would it  intrigue you that much or would you listen to the whole record? I wanted to make a record of old, where people listen to one song and then they want to hear the next one, then they want to hear the next one.

It feels like you’re going on a bit of a journey when listening to the album, as one song seems to flow into the next.
It’s weird how we sequenced this record, because that’s the way I intentionally heard it. Once we had finished the songs as polished-up demos it all seemed to start flowing together.

So can we expect to see you in Australia any time soon?
There is talk as we speak…

That means yes…. (laughs)
Man I love Australia, from the coast to every bar in between. Australia reminds me of one big Texas, and that’s where I from. It costs a lot of money these days but it’s a lot of fun, and I got a big ‘ol band too.

Well we look forward to seeing you live.
Well c’mon, lets do it.

Smoke on This .. is out now

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