“No holds barred” and “warts and all” are typical qualifiers when it comes to rock-and-roll memoirs, but rarely do they fulfill the promise. Which makes it all the more refreshing when something like Official Truth, 101 Proof (Da Capo Press), by Pantera bassist Rex Brown, comes along. Pleasantries are dispensed sparingly in this unflinching, and often biting, but also affectionate portrait from the guy who at the time of the metal titan’s peak through the ’90s was known as the quiet one.
“I just said, this is going to be the truth, let’s go ahead and put that out there,” Brown tells me over the phone on the day Official Truth hit shelves. “[Pantera] were honest. There was no contrived kind of crap that we put on; we were just the four individuals up on stage doing what we did, and I think with my book I had to be that way also.”
Brown covers it all: from the Aqua Net infused ’80s, during which the group ran the native Texas hair-metal circuit, through the stardom and messy years that ended in the shock of the on-stage murder of guitarist Dimebag Darrell in 2004 during a show by his band Damageplan. He also elaborates on his confusion about the animosity directed at himself and Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo by bandmate (and Darrell’s brother) Vinnie Paul.
“We get along on a business level, and Philip and I always go, ‘Hey Vinnie, how’re you doing?’ He’ll never reply. Or I’ll talk to him about this and that and he’ll come around with a derogatory statement and I just don’t need it. . . . I’m just about positive energy. I have so much empathy for him . . . all I can say is: what a great drummer.”
Much of the metal press is already latching onto the more sordid details in Official Truth: the heroin abuse and overdose by Anselmo that many agree ultimately derailed the group, the financial battles with Vinnie and Dime’s father, who, as producer of the band’s early albums, took a huge chunk of royalties and continued to do so long after any official involvement with the band had ended. Even the funeral for Darrell is fraught with tension: an inebriated Eddie Van Halen (who gave a rambling eulogy) and an equally out-of-it Zakk Wylde threaten to become the focal point with their drunken antics. Meanwhile, Anselmo is stuck in a Texas hotel room, banned from the ceremonies but calling Brown for updates.
There’s also hilarity, as when Brown takes the band skiing, likening Paul to a “giant Texan snowball,” unable to stop and taking out entire families on his way down the slope. “It’s not meant to be a bummer or a downer,” Brown says of the book. “There are some great stories, the fun that we had and everything else. And that’s what I’ll remember about those days. I just go in depth about living the good and the bad.”