Interview with Kill Devil Hill: The True Revolutionaries

Those of you who follow me on Facebook might know that I’ve actually become pretty tight with Kill Devil Hill and former Pantera and Down bass player Rex Brown. The last time I saw Rex, he was promoting his best-selling book, Official Truth, 101 Proof. At the time, he was juggling a book tour and running back and forth into the recording studio to work on the new Kill Devil Hill CD with Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson. Rex did let me have a little taste when I saw him and it only made me anticipate this new album more because I was a huge fan of the band’s self-titled debut.

Well, their sophomore CD, Revolution Rise, dropped this week, and it is an ass-kicking, powerful punch in the teeth. The songs “Crown Of Thorns,” “Leave It All Behind,” “Where Angels Dare To Roam” and the emotional “Long Way From Home” really showcase singer Dewey Bragg’s voice and prove that he’s a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the world of hard rock singers. Mark Zavon’s guitar work on this release is also mind-blowing. I have to admit that this is a guy who’s been in the business for a while and hasn’t really gotten his due, but I think that he will on Revolution Rise. As far as Rex’s bass work and Vinny Appice’s drumming—dude! It’s Rex Brown and Vinny Appice.

Rex gave me a call last week to talk about the new album as he was on his way to rehearsal for Kill Devil Hill’s current tour with my bros, Black Water Rising. Here’s what Rex had to say about Revolution Rise:

I’ve been listening to Revolution Rise over and over again since I got it, and it’s a punch-you-in-the-teeth, ass-kicking record, Rex!

Thank you, sir! It’s what we intended. It’s bigger, badder and bolder. It just turned out that way.

Now, with the first record, most of the songs were already written and you came in and put your Rex Brown stamp on them. For this record, you had a huge hand in the songwriting with Mark Zavon. Do you feel it made a difference?

Yeah! Because on the first record, when I came in, everything was already written and [when] this one came in, it was all real collaborative. Me and Mark would sit down with a song. He would have the riff, Dewey would give it to me and it wasn’t me just coming in and trying to play different and putting my kind of tone or whatever.

So, with this, it was much more of we’d give it to Dewey and he’d immediately come up with some kind of cool harmony over something that Mark might’ve had before and Pilson helped out a lot with the vocals, for sure. He was really there for the vocals.

Speaking of the vocals, Dewey’s voice sounds amazing on this CD! I’ve told you a few times that I really loved the first record, but this one is giving it a run for its money. Songs like “Crown Of Thorns,” “Wake Up The Dead,” “No Way Out” and “Long Way From Home” are really pushing my love for “War Machine” to the test!

Wow! That’s a trip, man! It’s kind of hard when you look at two pieces of work that’s happened so close together, even though they’d worked together a couple years before I got into the band.

This one, we still maintain the sound—of course you get that with the individualism in the band—but also it turned into what it was. And Dewey is just singing his fucking ass off. Right now, we’re just gearing up for a tour and we’re about ready to rip some heads off, man.

The last time I saw you, you were super stoked about the demos you let me listen to and I think one of them was the song “Long Way From Home,” which brought you to tears. Does that song have some sort sentimental value for you?

Yeah, well, a lot of these songs are really personal to me lyric-wise. Especially the song “Leave It All Behind,” but that’s just for me. I leave the lyrics up for interpretation. They can mean anything. Different things for different people, ya know? Whatever time they’re in, whatever spot they’re in, but for me, a lot of those lyrics on it are just unbelievable. Then again, when I let you listen to the song, I had too much whiskey, which I don’t do anymore (laughs), and I was on a long book tour and I’m a “long way from home” and I’m doing this stuff. It was just a spot in the moment and it just grabbed me. So, if your own music grabs you in that direction, you know you’re on the right path.

Over my career, I’ve done a lot of songs, man. This stuff is where I’m at now. This is Kill Devil Hill. Everybody wants to say, “Oh, it’s gotta be Pantera!” Well, Pantera is not here anymore. It’s a terrible, terrible shocking shame that Dime’s not with us anymore, but this is just where I’m at right now, man, and I’m loving every second of it.

Revolution Rise was produced by you guys and Jeff Pilson from Dokken and mixed by Jay Ruston, who’s known for his work with Stone Sour, Anthrax and Steel Panther. Would you work with this team again for CD number three?

You know, Jeff did a lot of great things with the vocals and pretty much it was me and Mark with the guitars and Vinny is just Vinny. Jay just captures all these sounds and just really knows what we want to sound like and he just brought it to a next level on this one.

As far as working with them again, I’d like to keep Jay forever. I mean, he’s just fuckin’ dynamite. I call him the fifth member of the band because he just gets it. He gets what we have in our heads and makes it what it sounds like. I’m not ruling out anything at this point. I mean, man, we still have a ton of touring to do and the next record, we’re talking 2015, jack!

In another interview, you’re quoted as saying, “This new Kill Devil Hill record is definitely one of my favorite moments of my career.” What would you measure this moment up against?

Oh, man, that was just said in kind of a passing, and now it’s been spread around so many goddamn times, I can’t get away from it. But it is definitely one of my—as far as outcome of a record—by far some of my favorite work, for sure! Abso-fuckin-lutely! A lot of bands, the guys say, “Oh yeah, this is the best record I’ve ever done in my life.” But really, this record is something we’ve been working really hard for, for however long the band has been together, and it really defines where we are at this moment. We’re in a good spot. That’s all I can say, man.

What’s your favorite song on the record? And what song are you most excited to perform live?

You know the old cliché that they’re all like babies to me? It just depends where I am. Maybe I’m sitting and I’ve just had a steak dinner or driving around and with this record there are so many to pick from. Songs are like tattoos, man. You remember where you are and what time you listened to them.

For me, I’m so close to them and they’re so personal that I try to take myself out of the equation and try to listen to it as something else, but to answer your question, I really like “Crown Of Thorns.” That’s really one of my favorite tracks, for sure. That kind of sums up the Kill Devil Hill sound of what I think it is now. But then you have songs like “Life Goes On,” which is just a classic piece, but then again it has classic elements of what Kill Devil Hill is all about.

So, like I said, it’s really hard to pick one that is your favorite because it’s so easy for people to just get behind old iTunes and pick their favorite song, and if I say that in an interview, they’re just going to pick the two songs that I mentioned. In this band, we’re more about a piece of work, and you have to listen to it all the way through because then it makes sense.

It’s like reading a book. You don’t want to read the last chapter first and you don’t want to skip over a chapter just because it wasn’t your cup of tea. This record is so cohesive the way it was presented from front to back. We open up with a fuckin’ killer opener and then “Crown Of Thorns” into “Leave It All Behind,” which is—and I hate to say this—a “radio-friendly” song. Hey, look man, radio has never come to a band I’ve played in, but they’re going to on this one.

One last question, my friend. You guys are currently on the road with some popular NY/NJ guys and my bros, Black Water Rising. Were you guys familiar with these guys before you chose them to take on the road with you?

Yeah, they opened up for us a couple of times on the East Coast. We were familiar with them and I think our manager, Erik [Luftglass], is kind of involved with them a little bit and he wanted to bring them out. I met the guys in a “Hey, man, what’s going on?” kind of deal, so we’ll get to know them a lot better, and they seem like really nice guys!

Kill Devil Hill’s new album, Revolution Rise, is available now through Century Media. They’re not back on the East Coast yet, but stay tuned to for upcoming information.