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Official Truth 101 Proof: The Inside Story Of PANTERA

By Andrew Depedro, Ottawa Corespondent
Saturday, December 7, 2013 @ 7:31 AM


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I'll be honest here - I think I read this entire book from page to page just as quickly as Rex Brown can play. Granted, it took me a whole two days to read this book documenting his time with metal heavyweights PANTERA, DOWN and KILL DEVIL HILL during his 30+ years as a professional musician but I'm pretty sure that if one were to properly harness time and space together in some sort of magical continuum the timelength would almost be equal.

Were that the case, I'd be livin' large, touring the globe, meeting my musical idols and sleeping on mattresses stuffed with mad stacks of Cowboys From Hell royalties just like the four-stringed legend himself and my troubles would be over. Or so I wanted to assume before I read Official Truth 101 Proof: The Inside Story Of PANTERA, which while highlighting many of the career highs in PANTERA's ascent from poodle-haired almost-weres struggling to survive the competitive Texas heavy metal bar scene in the early 80's to one of the most influential modern metal bands in the past 20 years, it wasn't all smiles and unlimited supplies of Black Tooth Grins backstage. One could maybe attest a touring/recording schedule that ran for about 15 years straight which earned PANTERA a reputation for being such a solid touring force during the 90's and 2000's which ultimately broke them. Another theory is that with four intense personalities with unlimited talent and musical potential there inevitably would be differences of opinion leading to friction between them. Whatever the reason was that led to PANTERA's sudden implosion - sadly culminating for good with Dimebag's murder onstage at the Alrosa Villa nightclub in Columbus, Ohio in December of 2004 - Rex Brown often found himself in the middle of the tensions that were publicly brewing between Phil Anselmo and the Abbott brothers, acting as a go-between during the band's least communicative moments during crucial studio time. And it was only a matter of time before he felt he needed to speak out on his role which was far beyond being simply as a musician.

The book's prologue begins with the story of Rex and Dimebag resuming communication in 2003 after 2 years of silence, with Rex' growing frustration with Dime's brother Vinnie Paul and his inability to handle him. Right away the reader has been made aware that Rex wasn't just the tight rhythmic structure that helped hold PANTERA's rhythm section together; he was delegated several other roles within the band including booking tours, studio time and often negotiating with club owners and promoters over payment fees on top of holding the band's lineup together. And he did it for 15 whole years even back when PANTERA were a young band. All of that pressure and organization would be enough for anyone to take up drinking. The business end of the music industry aside (and, really, name one credible musician in the music business who praises that other dimension), Rex enjoyed the fame as much as he enjoyed the live shows and meeting his fans and idols but it would be hard to distance the two sides the bigger that PANTERA became. In the first chapter he admits to making his own share of inane statements during interviews as well as giving most interviewers a hard time though in fairness a few of them deserved the abuse especially when the questions focused too much on "how come you don't have two guitar players in your band?" when every PANTERA fan knows that the band was formed with "the VAN HALEN-type of vibe" by having only one guitarist.

But lest we forget the good times when PANTERA were a solid touring force to be reckoned with. And Rex wasn't just referring to the countless big-name tours of the day such as Ozzfest or festivals such as Moscow's Monsters Of Rock; there were also the tours with BLACK SABBATH, JUDAS PRIEST, KISS and TYPE O NEGATIVE that completely solidified their status and reputation as a hard-working and hard-living heavy metal machine. And the off-stage antics were just as entertaining as their on-stage performances, even if they weren't meant to be as such: Vinnie Paul's disastrous skiing lessons in the Swiss Alps, Dimebag deciding to engage in some target practice using the light bulbs in his hotel room in Japan, Rex meeting Ozzy for the first time during the BLACK SABBATH tour and being subjected to the Ozzman's penchant for, uh, going commando.....plenty of rock 'n roll outlaw behavior is documented in great detail and serves to remind us that PANTERA played as hard as they worked.

But while PANTERA's implosion didn't stop Rex from continuing to make music with Phil in DOWN, the effects from its aftermath still caused a strain on the relationship and on Rex' own health. He outlines everything in great detail and doesn't hold back on the criticism on either side, often saving the harshest criticism for himself by highlighting how years of living hard on the road eventually caught up with him. He eventually cleaned himself up but just as much for himself as for his family and his perspective on both his love of performing and his array of roles within the countless bands he's performed with changed to give him a greater sense of peace of mind.

And almost as if it were a signal on how dramatic a shift in his regular role as the silent middle man in PANTERA had become, Rex Brown finally has many people close to him both professional and personal speaking for him to back him up, ranging from his older sister Cheryl to former management personnel such as Walter O'Brien and Kim Zide Davis. Even unlikely adversaries such as original PANTERA vocalist Terry Glaze and Dimebag's girlfriend Rita Haney give several of their own accounts on PANTERA's early incarnation to back up Rex' testimony on the band's history, but whether celebrating the camaraderie of the band of brothers or taking alternate sides, their statements provide an image of PANTERA that few can really envision. If anything, while the two camps that were created following the band's sudden split often pitted Rex and Phil against Vinnie and Dimebag (which according to Rex was always a media fabrication that served indirectly as a prelude to the events of December 8, 2004), 101 Proof portrays PANTERA as four individual personalities coming together as a solid unit not to be fucked with in spite of itself while showcasing many similarities beyond opposing musical backgrounds. And with one former band member no longer able to speak for either himself or the band while the other two bandmates remaining on non-speaking terms for the past 9 years with little possibility of reconciliation, Rex Brown, with his sharp memory, honesty, humor, humility, candor and grace, appears as the best spokesperson to document PANTERA's history in such a clear manner.

In short, 101 Proof, while boasting about PANTERA's fast playing and even faster living, is definitely a piece of literature which thanks to Rex Brown and Mark Eglinton's work will guarantee that their legacy will stick around for years to come.

Official Truth 101 Proof: The Inside Story Of PANTERA
2012 Da Capo Press
259 pages with 16 photo pages
ISBN: 9780306821370
Item 52600 $26.00 US/$29.00 CAN


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