Scottish author and ghostwriter Mark Eglinton, known mostly for his best selling work, “James Hetfield: The Wolf at Metallica’s Door”, has turned the page and delivered another stellar offering co-authored with former Pantera bassist Rex Brown, entitled “Official Truth, 101 Proof, The Inside Story Of Pantera”. The book closely examines Brown’s life in and around the time of Dimebag Darrell’s on stage murder in 2004, while he and his brother Vinnie Paul performed in their post CFH project Damageplan. It also examines how Brown dealt with being blamed for Dimebag’s death, along with ex-Pantera vocalist Philip H. Anselmo. The damage done to the surviving members after such a tragic event is still evident to this very day. Vinnie, Rex, and Philip have never sat in a room together since the death of one of metal’s all time greatest guitar players, despite being recognized as one of the best heavy metal musical acts that there ever was.
The Metal Den’s Randy “Rocket” Cody conducted an interview with author and ghostwriter Mark Eglinton for TMD’s loyal following of DEN HEADZ all across the globe!
MARK: Thanks – we both enjoyed doing it and to see it being reviewed well only adds to that. It evolved after several conversations during which I interviewed him for another book of mine. I found him really easy to work with and that -in combination with the fact that there was no definitive Pantera book out there – made it a great idea in my mind. It took him a few months to think about it though and then he called me at precisely 3am and said ‘Let’s do this!’
ROCKET: I understand writing the book with Rex took a lot longer than you expected due to his having difficulty looking back on what happened with Pantera. Why do you think Rex had such a problem with opening up?
MARK: Writing a book does take a long time and I wouldn’t say that Rex had any more difficulty than anyone else. You need to remember that writing a book about your life is a unique experience. It requires you to view things in a different way than you ever have. There may also be buried emotions that you’ve never fully eyeballed so all of that makes it a process that you just can’t rush. Also, you need to trust the person that’s asking the questions and that doesn’t happen overnight. It’s something that has to be built gradually and that’s the best way. That’s a key part of the ghost-writer’s job – regardless of the subject. It’s not just about writing, it’s about the relationship. Also, Rex – and most musicians really – is a busy guy: touring/ recording etc etc. He doesn’t have a whole lot of days spare to work on things like books, so we had to pick our moments and make the most of the opportunities we had.
ROCKET: The word around the industry is that people feel Rex was a lit bit ‘too honest’ at times in the book and was extra hard on Vinnie Paul himself, with how he pointed out all his shortcomings and whatnot as a person. As if Rex had a score to settle. I personally don’t have a problem with it, because that’s ‘reality’, you know? These guys are in a band, travelling around the world like brothers…. stupid stuff is going to happen & be said. I mean, it’s a true story that he told, from his perspective. My question is do you feel that Rex is being treated unfairly in this regard?
MARK: Most people don’t like honesty. They’re threatened by it for some reason. So when somebody comes out and says what they really feel – with no fear of judgement or repercussion – some people aren’t going to like it. Add that to the already tense intra-band relationship that exists in the Pantera camp and it’s no surprise to me that some consider the book to be a little direct. Worth mentioning is that while Rex did point out a few of Vinnie’s shortcomings ( shortcomings that have been confirmed elsewhere, I might add) he also has plenty to say about his own shortcomings., and Philip’s and Darrell’s – as well as all their qualities. It’s really no big deal and there was certainly no score to settle I can assure you. We all have strengths and weaknesses but we don’t all exist in the public eye, so when stuff comes out in a book like it has, people will always overreact. Having said all that, I’d rather read an honest, edgy memoir than some of the ass-kissing, watered down books that are out there. People need to take responsibility for their actions in life. If they don’t want shit to come out in someone’s book, don’t do shit in the first place. Alternatively, when it does come out, own it and move on.
ROCKET: How has the support been for the book from Pantera’s management?
MARK: Their manager was happy to be interviewed for the book, but recently requested that I remove a twitter profile called ‘Pantera book’ because it somehow gave the impression that the book was endorsed by the band. While this is Rex’s take on his life and time in Pantera and it isn’t officially endorsed by Pantera’s management, the fact that the words ‘Official Truth’ appear in the title of the actual book, appeared to be fine! In fairness, they did post updates on the official Pantera Facebook page around release time and that is appreciated. It’s also understood that there’s some delicate issues at play here and it’s in everyone’s interest not to offend anyone or favor any one member of the band. That makes perfect sense.
ROCKET: Any knowledge that Vinnie Paul himself read the book? I believe he’s going around saying he didn’t.
MARK: I have no idea. I doubt it ranks too highly in Vinnie’s list of priorities!
ROCKET: Have you ever met Vinnie Paul in person? If so, what was your take on him?
MARK: I have not met Vinnie personally – as much as I’d like to one day. So it wouldn’t be fair for me to cast judgement based on other people’s opinions. What I would say is that from everyone I’ve spoken to, I get the impression that Vinnie is a great guy – a lot of fun and obviously a great musician. Until I meet him personally and that’s disproved, that’s the opinion I’ll go with.
ROCKET: Everyone knows that my site THE METAL DEN was behind the promotion of the ‘Pantera Reunion Cause‘ on Facebook for the past couple years, which has gotten thousands of people to join up in support of the idea of Vinnie, Rex and Philip burying the animosity and playing Pantera songs together on the stage once again. To the point, the cause is saying “Get the survivors to reunite with Zakk Wylde filling in for Dimebag”. Now everyone is talking about it and asking these guys questions about ‘the reunion’ every time the surviving members do an interview. What is your opinion of something like this and what do you think is the likelihood of it actually happening?
MARK: A reunion in strict terms cannot happen; one of the members is no longer with us. So for the fans to keep trying to enforce their wishes on Vinnie, Rex and Phil just isn’t going to make things happen.
ROCKET: Well Black Sabbath had no problem telling the fans they were reuniting and then left a fully alive Bill Ward out of it over a contract dispute.
MARK: Any desire to play a tribute show in Dime’s honor has to be initiated by them and I personally feel that the more they are asked about it, the less likely it is to happen. They are all enjoying doing their own things and until there’s a significant change in the status quo, I really don’t see why it would happen. Would I enjoy seeing these three plus one other on stage playing Pantera songs? Of course I would, but it’s their call, not the fans. Personally, I do not think it will ever come together.
ROCKET: I believe they will, because it’s the right thing to do for both them and the fans, the people who put them at the top in the first place. What about those people? They should just be left in the lurch after following the band with such dedication? In March of 2011 my site actually got accused by Pantera on Facebook of ‘fabricating a story‘ which stated (via a source close to VP’s camp) that Vinnie Paul would be interested in doing just one ‘reunion’ show, if he was indeed going to even do it at all. I issued a statement in my defense that I did nothing of the such. I really thought it was funny how ‘bent out of shape’ everyone got when the story ran because clearly nothing was ever set in stone. If they would have read the text more closely, they would have seen that. Why do you think Pantera’s manager (Kimberly Zide Davis) is so against a reunion of the three survivors happening for the fans? I mean, Zakk Wylde and even Rita Haney herself has come out in total support of the idea.
MARK: Most comments in the metal press are taken out of context. That’s a given. Did Vinnie actually say that he would be interested? Did Zakk actually say what he said? Did Pantera’s management actually say they were against the idea? Unless I heard those things with my own ears or saw them with my own eyes, I have to question it. Again, speaking personally, I don’t think Pantera owe the fans anything. They’ve given them enough over the years: great albums and more live shows than most bands will ever play. If a tribute show is ever going to come together, it will happen entirely on their terms and so it should.
ROCKET: Well yes, Zakk spoke out in the press about loving the idea of filling in for Dime, absolutely. Do you think Vinnie Paul has become totally delusional when it comes to blaming Rex and Philip for Dimebag’s murder? It certainly was tough to read the part in the book where Vinnie pointed to Dime in his casket and said to Rex, “See what you did!”
MARK: I’m not in Vinnie’s shoes and – again – did not hear what he said myself. But from how the book tells it, it does sound as if there’s some double-standards going on there. You have to factor in how emotionally-charged the whole time was though – nobody was thinking straight and the guy had seen his own brother die on stage- but that said, it has always seemed to me that that particular comment was extremely confusing for Rex. Not to mention being highly offensive in its implication.
ROCKET: My wife attended the public memorial service for Dimebag and she was really taken aback at just how poorly everyone was treating Rex. She said that they didn’t even let him finish speaking to the crowd. Were you in attendance yourself? Or maybe Rex talked to you about what happened. I mean, I can’t even imagine losing your best friend and your band mate, and then being told you are the one to blame, when neither he or Philip had anything to do with that crazy guy doing what he did that night.
MARK: I wasn’t there but from what Rex says, it was a blur. The impression I have always had is that fans very quickly made up their minds who was right and who was wrong in this situation and Rex seemed to be put in the ‘wrong’ corner. I personally think a lot of the fans have become deluded about the facts and – as is mentioned in the book – the music press only fueled that fire. Anybody of sane mind knows that Philip was in no way responsible for Darrell’s death and neither was Rex. The only person responsible was the perpetrator. End of story. Nothing more to discuss.
ROCKET: Are you aware that Vinnie Paul is also holding onto the final tracks that he and Dimebag cut together in the studio, meant to be the second album for Damageplan? A lot of fans, including myself, would love to see these songs used instead as the final Pantera record. Dime always said he never intended on making any music other than Pantera music. So let Rex and Philip go into the studio and put down bass/vocals to complete it in HONOR of Dimebag. Vinnie would not even have to be around them to make it happen. I mean, it’s well known that Dime said he was writing much heavier material at the end of his life in the style of CFH, going back to the old school as he called it – and he even went back to playing his original Dean guitar. Do you think this is a better idea than what Vinnie wants to do, which is release it as yet another tribute album with different vocalists singing on it?
MARK: I didn’t know that and if it is the case, it should be released as a Damageplan record not a Pantera record. Pantera was a team from day one and they left almost nothing in the locker ; it’s pretty much all out there. You can read in the book how much collaboration was involved in making those songs and Philip and Rex were not – to my knowledge – a part of any studio songs that Vinnie may or may not have. It would be cool to hear unreleased Damageplan material though. Again, Vinnie will do what he wants to do.
ROCKET: Can you tell me what a normal writing session was like when you and Rex got together to work on the book?
MARK: There was no normal – that’s for sure. We did the bulk of the writing in Spain in 2010 while DOWN were down there playing a festival show. As well as getting a lot of work done with Rex, perhaps more valuable was the exposure I had to that band’s dynamics. Let’s just say that there was at that time a lot of hypocrisy and double-standards at play there – from my perspective at least. One thing was OK for one guy but not OK for another – it was a complete debacle and I wanted to leave on more than one occasion. It was pathetic to watch. I’ll never forget one of DOWN’s crew saying to me “You’ll never get this book done, son” Well guess what ‘son’, we did. With the exception of Philip, I have no desire to see any of these guys again.
ROCKET: There was a recent rumor going around saying that Rex was dying of cancer and had to cancel Kill Devil Hill’s tour dates earlier in the year. Rex came out and denied it online. But I checked it out with a booking agent who said she was told to keep it quiet by KDH camp. Maybe she is making all this up, I dunno. I must admit, Rex was looking really skinny (even for him) out at this year’s NAMM show. What do you know about Rex’s health currently?
MARK: I hadn’t heard that and Rex’s health is his business anyway. He’s been through the mill getting himself healthy post- pancreatic surgery and I admire that he has. He’s never exactly been a guy to walk around weighing 200Ibs, has he?
ROCKET: So what do you think is the biggest misconception people have about Rex Brown?
MARK: Like I said earlier, unless you know someone, you have no business judging them – certainly not based on what you read in press who may well have their own agendas. A few people have commented that Rex came over as being arrogant – but they are clearly confusing that for honesty. He is an extremely gifted musician and has earned the right to say so. Go back and listen to those Pantera songs! He’s also a smart, well-read guy who’s actually the antithesis of how the press like to present the standard metal performer . You see, everyone always wants to label people – put them in a box, maybe because that’s the only way they can understand them. Sadly though, most people don’t think for themselves and therefore put guys like Rex in the wrong box.
ROCKET: From your perspective, how has the overall reaction to the book been, in terms of its tone and the way Rex told his story for the first time?
MARK: On balance, the response has been fantastic. I always thought the tone was great and anyone who doesn’t, is clearly motivated by delusion and a skewed impression of how things are. Rex loves these guys – spent his life with them- but was honest enough to call them – and himself – on a few faults. As I mentioned, he also credited them where credit is due and that’s how real life is. It’s not black and it’s not white : it’s a balance. And anyone who doesn’t like that needs a reality check.
ROCKET: Looking back, is there any stuff that you and Rex left out that maybe you can share with me here now?
MARK: I wish we had more time. We were really up against the clock at the end and that’s not the best creative environment. On the whole, we got what we wanted in there and my first question when it came to marginal material was ” Does this benefit the book as a whole?” If it doesn’t, let’s leave it out. That’s how it went.
ROCKET: Your collaboration was so great that I wonder if you and Rex could maybe get together for another book at some point. I mean, he still has a lot more of his story to tell I’m sure. Is that something you two have discussed?
MARK: Rex and I got along really well from day one and although we speak less now, we still do. Whether we like it or not, we’ll always have that connection. We’ll both go on with new work and because of that we have less to talk about but we’ll always be connected by this book. When we were in Spain we lived together in a cottage in the woods – it was very surreal. He made coffee every day and I did the fuckin’ laundry! We hired a mini-van and drove around this small Spanish town blasting Judas Priest through the stereo. – it was the only CD we had. We’d go out for dinner at night at these local seafood places and Rex and I would always end up joking about how we’d kick each other’s asses. He’d say ” I do a karate chop to your throat, incapacitate you, dude.” And I’d say ” Rex, I’m 200lbs. I’d throw you in the ocean!” All friendly banter of course but the bottom line is that we got along great, by and large. Another book? Who knows….
ROCKET: Fantastic! Well thanks very much for rocking this interview out with me. Best of luck in the future. Any last words for the fans?
MARK: I’ll quote what I said in another interview and leave it at that. Thanks for the opportunity and for promoting the book on the site. “Nobody ( other than fans) is suggesting a Pantera reunion. It can’t – by definition – happen anyway because a key part of the band is no longer alive. But if the three could get in a room, shake hands and then go their own ways in life, I think it would allow Pantera’s legacy to be what it should be : as one of metal’s most important bands, rather than that title being eternally obscured by all the personal tension surrounding their breakdown.”
If you really want to honor Pantera, why not get into what they are doing now, rather than solely living in the past? I’m not doing (thank goodness) what I was doing in 1999, so why should anyone else. Play the great Pantera albums by all means but also check out the new Kill Devil Hill record – it’s awesome. Buy Phil’s solo album and the other records on his HouseCore label – it’s some of the most forward-thinking music you’ll ever hear. Get the Hellyeah albums – Vinnie definitely keeps the Pantera spirit alive there. Music moves forward like life. It has to.