May 3rd, 2012 | Published in Interviews
By Pete Roche
Members of Dream Theater, Pantera, and Symphony-X will storm the House of Blues stage on May 10th as Adrenaline Mob and Kill Devil Hill tour new albums on a hard-rocking tag-team tour across the East Coast.
Adrenaline Mob—featuring Symphony-X vocalist Russell Allen and Dream Theater drummer extraordinaire Mike Portnoy-will headline, playing tracks from their new Omerta album. Opening the show will be Kill Devil Hill, a heavy-metal super-group whose lineup boasts the experienced rhythm section of drummer Vinny Appice (Heaven & Hell, Dio) and bassist Rex Brown (Pantera, Down). Guitar slinger Mark Zavon and singer Dewey Bragg round out the incendiary lineup, which has already earned accolades from Metal Hammer.
Their self-titled SPV / Steamhammer debut releases May 28th. Fans already familiar with these musicians can expect the same level of virtuosity and songcraft on Kill Devil Hill, albeit with a fairly new voice in Bragg, who belts out bludgeoning cuts like “Revenge” and “Hangman” as if he’d recorded his parts during a primal scream therapy session. But this band also has a softer, more introspective side, with deep tracks like “Mysterious Ways” showcasing a woodsier, melancholy blues vibe. The iTunes version of the album also includes an unplugged version of “Gates of Hell” and bonus track “Strange.” The LP edition will feature the exclusive bonus track “Drawbridge.”
The Cleveland Sound caught up with Brown during a brief tour hiatus last week to discuss his new band, its name—and how working in Kill Devil Hill differs from previous gigs with Phil Anselmo, Dimebag Darrell, and Pepper Keenan.
THE CLEVELAND SOUND: Hey, Rex, how are you? A pleasure to be speaking with the low end of the legendary Pantera.
REX BROWN: Thanks, how are you man?
TCS: Cool. Well, we wanted to get a few words about Kill Devil Hill—the new album and tour. How’d this new project come together for you?
RB: I’ve known Vinnie from twenty years of playing festivals. We’ve just known each other as acquaintances. I’d always see him in L.A. whenever I was there. He’d known Mark Zavon, and Mark got Dewey for a couple of tracks—which they sent to me, because I was kinda looking for something to do. Just to see if I wanted to play on it. And I liked what was going on with the heavy bottom and melodic top end to it, the harmonies and whole bit. So I played on about four tracks, and they said “You’re hired!” So I’m the new kid in the band!
TCS: Ha! After almost thirty years in the biz, and you’re the new guy again!
RB: But it was cool, a breath of fresh air. Because I always like playing on different kinds of stuff, you know? It keeps your musical horizon a little broader.
TCS: The album starts off strong, very heavy, with tracks like “War Machine” and “Revenge.” But a few songs in you notice there’s a lot of melody and harmony to complement the deep grooves. What was the songwriting process like for the album?
RB: Yeah, the first thing they sent me was “War Machine.” I told them not to send anything that already had bass played on it; I didn’t want to hear what the other guy was doing. Because they’d had other bass players and were still looking for something permanent at that point. So I just wanted to do what I do, and put it on the track. I must have done…it didn’t take me all of ten minutes to figure out. What happened was, my neighbor has a studio next door, so it was convenient for them to send the tracks to him, so I’d just go over to his pro studio and do whatever I needed to do. I’d get on the phone to see what key it was in, that kind of stuff. But basically, “War Machine” was done in about ten minutes. It just felt right, what I was playing.
TCS: It just felt natural. And appropriate to start off strong again.
RB: Yep, heavy tracks start off the record. Which I like. And that’s one of my favorite tracks on the record, for sure. Then you get into the middle of the record and you really start to hear the songwriting skills we’ve had over the years, that we’ve honed. Hence comes the melody and hooks.
TCS: There were a couple tracks in particular I wanted to ask about. “Old Man” seems very personal, the lyrics, the narrative. Is that song about anyone in particular?
RB: “Old Man,” I have no idea what that’s about! That was written between those two guys. And lyrics are up for whatever interpretation you want to put to them. It could mean something to someone—but something totally different to someone else. So they go over the lyrics. I’m just interested in the bass department, man!
TCS: How about “Mysterious Ways?” That’s the acoustic song. Sort of a surprise—but a welcome one—late into the disc.
RB: Actually, that one just made the record at the last minute. It was already done. We didn’t record it specifically for this record. It was a demo and was redone at Mark’s house. Kind of breaks of the monotony a little bit. It’s a cool song. My kids are twelve, and that’s like their favorite song! They love it.
TCS: Will you guys be playing the whole Kill Devil Hill album live, including “Mysterious Ways?”
RB: Nah, we play everything but that. Everything but the acoustic. Down the road we’ll definitely want to put that in, but for now we’re just trying to stay with the heavy-hitters.
TCS: The album doesn’t actually release until later this month. But do you know if you’ll have copies available at the Cleveland show next week?
RB: Not that I know of. In fact, I don’t even have my hands on a physical copy yet! But it can be pre-ordered at Amazon.com or at www.killdevilhillmusic.com . We also do the VIP thing, and it’s cool to meet with fans before the show. That’s available at the band website, too [see link below].
TCS: You’ve already had so much experience in Pantera, Down—even with Crowbar. Does Kill Devil Hill require anything different of you, as a bassist? How’s the chemistry with the other guys on and off stage?
RB: Well, it’s three different bands. Twelve different guys. It’s just new, and as with any new thing it brings a lot of hunger, you know? A lot of spontaneity. But even though we just started touring, we’ve been around for like a year and a half. So we know the show in-and-out, as far as what’s going to happen. So I wouldn’t say it’s much different from the recorded thing. But we do have some tricks up our sleeves when we play everything live. Kill Devil Hill is heavy and melodious—but the other bands were, too. Pantera had hooks all over it. Like “Fucking Hostile.” That kind of hook. It’s just that this is a totally different thing. And I like that. I love it. And I’m hungry to get out and kick some ass.
TCS: I wanted to ask, just out of curiosity, about the meaning behind the band name. I understand there’s a Wright Brothers National Monument in North Carolina called Kill Devil Hill. Is there a connection there?
RB: That was one of ‘em. There are actually two sorts of connotations to that. Back in the pirate days, with the British, what they’d usually do is pillage the whole boat. And what they’d do is take the rum and bury it out in these dunes out on the coast. And it was said that the rum was so strong it could kill the devil. So that’s one connotation, with the Wright Brothers thing being the other. But outside in those dunes…who knows how much rum is still out there? But that’s where it comes from. It was potent enough to kill the devil. So that’s where Kill Devil Hill comes from.
Adrenaline Mob with Kill Devil Hill, The X-Members. May 10th at House of Blues. General admission tickets $18.50 or $20.00 DOS. Doors at 7:00pm. VIP meet-and-greet packages available at www.tinmanmerchandising.com/killdevilhill and www.tinmanmerchandising.com/adrenalinemob.