Taos, NM—December 2017… When most rock fans think of hard-rocking bass player Rex Brown, they undoubtedly think first of his more than 20 years with groove/thrash metal pioneers Pantera. Multiple Grammy nominations and platinum-selling records will do that. Post-Pantera, however, Brown has kept the music flowing, going on to play for a dozen years in Down, cofounding Kill Devil Hill, and performing on a variety of other projects. Recently, he released his debut solo album, Smoke on This, on which he plays bass and rhythm guitar and, for the first time, handles lead vocals. From Pantera through his new solo project, Ampeg bass amps have been a key part of Brown’s powerful sound.
“Back in the day, it was hard to buy a bass amp,” Brown recalls. “They were the most expensive things you could get. Around 1990, Ampeg came to the rescue, and I got two SVT-810E cabinets and two SVT Pros. I still have those. I still have a lot of Ampeg cabinets that I’ve kept but there are certain favorites that have stayed with me and that I’ve used in the studio for a long time, on a lot of records. They’re just workhorses.”
An all-time classic, the Ampeg SVT-810E cabinet features 8 x 10-inch Eminence speakers and can reach down to 40 Hz. It’s a powerful beast, handling up to 800W RMS into 4 ohms and generating up to 130 dB SPL. Ampeg’s SVT Pro, of course, is one of the most revered tube bass amplifiers in the world, right there with the company’s famed B-15, and a perfect match for the SVT-810E. Both cabinet and amp are built for the stresses of hard-core touring, something Brown knows well, having spent much of his life onstage. “I’ve been with Ampeg for 27 years now, and Ampeg amps have never let me down—ever,” he declares.
Brown’s musical influences are both broad and deep. His grandmother, a former movie-house pianist, taught him to play piano at a young age. “I had that boogie going early on,” he recalls. His parents were into swing music. His older sister turned him on to bands like the Beatles, Elvis, and the Rolling Stones. “I listened to everything from Slayer to Sinatra,” he reports. But most of all, Brown was drawn to hard-rocking bands, which eventually led him to Pantera. “My inspiration was ZZ Top, always was and always will be,” Brown declares. Def Leppard, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin also heavily influence Brown, who claims to be “the biggest Zeppelin fan in the world.” With those influences, teaming with former Black Sabbath drummer Vinnie Appice to form Kill Devil Hill makes a lot of sense.
Brown has used a number of different basses over the years but he’ll never give up his Ampeg bass amps. “That’s the tone,” he insists. “That is the standard. This is all I can tell you: Get yourself an Ampeg, for God’s sake.”