Rex Brown DOWN Bass Rig (2/2)
Welcome back to the Rex Brown Down Bass Rig. In this part we head DOWN to NOLA with new Spector basses new Hartke Amplifiers in Kill Devil Hill and explore Rex’s new musical tastes in his solo projects.
If you’re looking for all things Pantera, you’ll find that in The Rex Brown Bass Rig – Pantera – Part 1
Did you watch the video?! Would you like to know when the next one is out?
Rex Brown joins DOWN
We start this episode in the autumn of 2001. Pantera return home from a cancelled European tour due to the recent terror attacks on the US. Rex mentions that he and the Abbotts were willing to start a new Pantera record but only after a break had been had.
In the meantime, Rex contacted guitarist Pepper Kenan with plans of getting a second Down record off the ground. By that October, recording would begin for Down II: A Bustle In Your Hedgerow.
With Rex contributing guitar and bass parts on the album. Rex describes how Down transformed from a side project into its own entity.
“It was much more a case of “ I want to do this Down record”
because we’d been talking about this thing since 1998 and it was widely discussed between all of us that the thing that Pantera needed most was time apart.
But most of all, as always I just wanted to jam.
I had no idea how it would all unfold and how much we’d end up touring the Down record and the whole bit.
I just knew that -I needed to keep myself busy and pay the bills for my family.
It was also refreshing — and that was what I needed at the time. More important perhaps,
I was actually happy for once. Down was something new for me, for the first time in 15 years“
Rex Brown Down Bass Rig in 2002
Down II was released March 26, 2002 with an 8 month tour to follow. As well as headlining on the second stage at Ozzfest.
For the Rex Brown Down Bass Rig, Rex continues using the gear seen in Pantera. A pair of black Spector NS2s in 4 and 5 string models. As well as a return of Brownie, his 5 string custom Spector. Regarding his choice of gear, he remarked;
“I went back to four strings around 2002 or 2003 for Down. So my whole deal was like,
“Let’s go back to four strings, make it simple. Let’s go back to pedals instead of going with these huge racks, and let’s just go straight through the amp. Let the amp do the talking.””
By the end of the tour, the cracks were now starting to show in Down after cancelled shows in Japan. Mainly due to the band’s ongoing substance abuse issues. It was at this point Rex declared to Phill Anselmo.
“He would never jam with him again until he was off the dope”
Phill wouldn’t be for another 3 years.
Pantera break up and the death of Darrell Abbott 2003
2003 was the point where tensions reached an all time high in Pantera. Insults and sly comments were construed and thrown around like a hot potato in the press. As well as Phil Anselmo dropping off the map and refusing to talk to anybody.
Rex spent much of 2003 and 4 enjoying the fruits of his labour, spending time with his family.
The Abbotts meanwhile grew resentment that Pantera was no longer a priority and formed their own musical project Damageplan of course we all know how that ended on December 8th 2004.
Hurricane Katrina 2005
Following the death of Darrell Abbott a second disaster would strike at Phil Anselmo in the form of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. As a New Orleans native, these events would eventually lead up to him quitting drugs, reuniting with Rex and starting production for a third Down record.
DOWN reforms in 2005
Filmed In May 2006 but released publicly in 2010 because of record companies. The CD/DVD release Diary of a Mad Band showed Down on the road throughout Europe. The prologue accurately sets the scene.
“The idea of reforming Down had been stirring in our collective guts since the spring of 2005. There wasn’t a member of the band who hadn’t felt the pull. We needed to get together and jam. We weren’t exactly sure what would happen’ it was more a question of “what the hell would it feel like”? It’d been 4 years since we’d all stood in the same room, let alone played music together, instinctively, we have verbally committed to jam in the future. With no record label, no publicity, no new record, no opening band nothing! We decided to test ourselves by doing, basically a worth of mouth 6 week tour of Europe. “
Diary of a Madband tour and Rex Brown Down Bass Rig
On this tour for the Rex Brown Down Bass Rig, Rex would mostly play his 4 string black NS2. Which was an active decision he made over 5 string basses, casually stating “they’re crap”.
“I had fun playing the 5 string but with the DOWN stuff everything was tuned so low anyway I put bigger strings on the bass and I didn’t need anything else. I didn’t need that bigness”.
DOWN III: Over the Under
Following the tour, the band would regroup back in New Orleans to record Down III: Over the Under. Which was released in September 2007. The first video off the album was On March The Saints again showing the black NS2 in the Rex Brown Down Bass Rig.
A massive North American and European tour soon followed lasting 12 months. Supporting the likes of Metallica, Megadeth and Heaven and Hell. Throughout these dates Rex would play the black NS2 now in a PJ configuration.
This set was customised to Rex’s specifications and ran much hotter.
Brand new Spector custom basses in the Rex Brown Down Bass Rig
A few new basses also joined the Rex Brown Down Bass Rig and were seen on tour.
A Gibson Thunderbird was spotted in 2008 which Rex originally obtained around 1996. And an ESP LTD Rex 600 in 2009.
Although this was released to the market by Spector in 2011, It was originally intended to be released by ESP Guitars under the LTD banner.
Several prototypes and pre-production models exist, some of which are owned by Rex and can be seen used while playing with Down in 2009.
Basses used in the studio
An article from Bass Player magazine at this time also mentions Rex Brown Down Bass Rig which used various Fender Precision Basses for the studio and a Fernandez 8-string in C# and B Tunings.
Additionally, the Backstage auctions list a Ovation Elite B778 Acoustic-Electric Bass. Which can be heard on the acoustic version of “Stone the Crow” – that was included on the Diary of a Madband DVD.
Rex also added it was used for different writing sessions during 2002-2010. And a pretty go to bass during Ozzfest ’02,
Rex makes his own Down Bass Rig video
A short Rex Brown Down Bass Rig video was also released around the same time which showed 5 basses.
- Black Spector NS2 PJ
- Black Stained Spector NS2 humbucker as back up.
- Spector NS2 fretless used on the song Jail
- ESP 404 Viper bass
- ESP 8 string
Rex’s health deteriorates
Rex stresses in his autobiography Official Truth, 101 Proof: The Inside Story of Pantera that he was suffering from severe stomach pain for a few years during the Down era.
It came to ahead in 2010 when Rex had finally had enough. A 3D MRI scan revealed his pancreas was full of stones and was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis. His gall bladder also had to be removed.
Much of the year had Rex in and out of surgery and physical rehabilitation. Once much of the healing was done Rex rejoined Down on the road and began the initial process of working out some new ideas for songs.
But it wasn’t meant to be as Rex exited Down in the spring of 2011.
Rex leaves DOWN in 2011
Rex recalls the decisions in his autobiography.
I left down in 2011 for two reasons.
First I wanted a fresh start with another band to see where my musical journey would take me.
Second I was tired of dealing with some of the hypocrisy regarding lifestyle choices within the band. Phillip and I had been working together for almost 25 years … it was time for our paths to diverge and for each of us to do our own thing away from the shadow of Pantera’s legacy.
Rex joins – Kill Devil Hill 2011
In March 2011, it was announced that Rex had joined a new band called Kill Devil Hill. With Vinny Appice from Heaven & Hell, Black Sabbath and Dio) on drums, Mark Zavon from (RATT and W.A.S.P) on guitar and Dewey Bragg from Pissing Razors on vocals.
The debut self titled album Kill Devil Hill was released in May 2012 and off they went to tour.
Rex’s gear largely remains unchanged apart from cosmetic differences. Declaring that he only brought two basses on tour
- Black satin NS2
- Custom white NS2
Not to be confused with the white Spector Euro 4LX model which came out later on. When asked why he switched to the white NS2 he replied “I got sick of playing black basses”.
Practically speaking Rex describes his experience with the white Euro model. In an interview from 2013
“I’m still using that white Spector that I have. I’ve probably got 40 [Spectors], but this one just takes the cake. It’s got that mid punch but then again it’s got that low end that’ll make the hairs on your knees curl. I sink the pickups really hard and you just get this real huge bite. I don’t even use the treble pickup. It’s a P/J configuration and I just use the top pickup.”
The black stain NS2 then appears in the video for Strange in 2012
Rex’s basses on Revolution Rise
The Bass Rig gear remains the same for 2013’s follow up album Revolution Rise. As was seen on tour and web performances for EMG TV.
Rex leaves Kill Devil Hill
In the summer of 2014 the seed had been planted for Rex to leave Kill Devil Hill. Stating;
“I gotta take a break sooner or later. I’ve sacrificed 25 years of my life for this.’ So I took about nine months off and I got the itch again and started writing songs for the solo record.
Whilst technically a hiatus from Kill Devil Hill, he would leave officially in 2019.
Rex records Smoke On This – 2015
Rex would spend the next few years from 2015 to July 2017 on releasing his first solo album. Smoke On This.
Drawing inspiration from the records of his youth.
Rex makes headlines in 2015
While in the production cycle of his solo record Rex would show up in news headlines. Firstly in April 2015; Where it was reported Rex would be auctioning off a bunch of his equipment.
Rex auctions off old Pantera gear
After looking back at his old Pantera gear Rex realised.
“I had a ton of bass guitars … and other great stuff just sitting in storage collecting dust. I felt they really should be in the hands of the fans who would love to own a piece of PANTERA history. Of course, I am keeping a couple things that are important to me, but there is a lot of treasured items here and it’s time for the next generation to care of them.”
In this wild collection he was selling a bunch of equipment used in and before Pantera. Much of which I’ve already covered in part 1 Rex Brown Bas Rig – Pantera. Additionally there was;
- A 5 string jazz bass, used with David Allen Coe on Rebel Meets Rebel.
Rex also states;
“I used Fenders in the studio the last half of the 1990s, so this one has been knocking around for a while.”
A few items were used in Rex Brown Down Bass Rig such as
- Ovation Elite B778 Acoustic-Electric Bass
- ESP LTD Viper-404 Bass and ESP Tele bass
- Black Rickenbacker. 4003
Rex joins Warwick basses
Not long after this in September. Rex announced that after 20 years of using Spector basses, he had left to join Warwick basses.
Listing the use of both Warwick Master built Custom Shop Basses and amplifiers.
Warwick.com’s artist page lists Rexs gear as;
- Reverso in burgundy
- A rusty looking Corvette NT
- Streamer Stage I in silver,
- Stream Stage I in gold
- Starbass II
When asked how he felt about joining Warwick in a 2017 interview he declared
“It feels fucking wonderful. It’s joyous.”
A Warwick signature model was released one year later in 2016 for the Reverso model. Humorously this was not Rex’s first choice;
“I saw the Reverso on the wall and I picked it up and it felt good. But they took that to mean, “That his favorite, let’s make this artist series after him.” It’s kind of weird looking Entwistle kind of looking thing, but that’s what he wants to do. That’s his company and that’s his deal. I was like, “I’m actually more into the Streamer line.”
Basses used for Smoke on This 2017
From here on out Rex’s main focus was playing guitar and the bass has taken a back seat ever since. However we do get a little bit of information from a 2017 interview. Bass Player Magazine lays out the basses used at the time of recording
- Warwick Rex Brown Signature Bass
- Streamer Custom Master build,
- Starbass II
- Fender Precision Bass
- 1971 Gibson Thunderbird.
Rex praises his new basses in the interview.
“I played my white Streamer on this whole record or a lot of it. They also have this thing called the Star Bass that’s got some f-holes in it. I played a little fretless, which I do on every record. Man, you gotta keep that low end.”
Rex would elaborate further in an interview with Glide magazine;
“I played bass and I played guitar and sang on this for the first time. A big departure from what people normally pigeon-hole me in – with the metal and everything else. I’m so tired of genres. I’m just a musician, man. That’s all I am. I’ve already had just a tremendous career and I wanted to do something different that was off the cuff, You don’t have to stay in that same territory. It’s been done over and over and over and over, as far as the metal thing.”
As a result Rex would play a myriad of instruments on the album, taking lead vocals, electric guitar 6 and 12 strings, bass, upright bass and even keys.
Electric guitars used for Smoke on This 2017
Rex’s main guitar, the one seen in the video Train Song and promotional materials was a custom BK model by Prestige. They also released a signature model for sale to the public in 2017.
A second round of auctions were held by Reverb.com in 2019. Among this collection was;
- Paoletti Nancy Leather Crocodile Series and White leather guitars
- Prestige Heritage Troubadour, a maple top and Elite SB QM
- Scala Custom reverse T-Style
- Danelectro 66BT Baritone and 59 Vintage 12 String
- Gibson SGJ Electric and acoustic 12 string
- Gibson ES35 12 string
- Gibson Thunderbird guitar.
- MIM Fender Telecaster
- Framus Dreadnought acoustic
Rex also mentioned in an interview he was using Gibsons and a 1960 Telecaster
“We used all kinds of Teles on this. We didn’t put a Strat on here, which is kind of weird.”
When asked which instrument he would be playing on tour, Rex replied.
“When you take on that guitar duty and the vocals you have to have a really cool rhythm section. That’s what it’s all about. Some of it is pretty complicated to sing over with some of the lines I’m doing. It may seem simple on the record, but without that glue of what I’ve always done in the past it doesn’t work.” The bass is not too complex for me to do that, I just feel more freedom [on guitar]”
Rex Brown on Solo Album #2 2019
Speaking in 2019 For Bass Players Only, Rex comments on the production of his second solo album which has the unofficial name of “Solo Album #2.” It’s a long an detailed interview but here’s a summary on what was used.
- There’s a bunch of Spectors and a load of stuff Rex no longer endorses.
- A fretless bass is played on the majority of the record
- Some 5 string bass
- A Yamaha BB bass
- Gibson 71 Thunderbird
- Lots of finger style playing and tons of different guitars.
“I still love playin’ guitars. It’s all I do. I sit around, I’ve got a million guitars. You name one, I’ve got it.”
Rex Brown’s Bass amplifiers in Pantera
In part 1 of the Rex Brown Bass Rig – Pantera we covered Rex’s amplifiers in Pantera extensively. Check that out for more information. At the end of Pantera Rex was using 8×10 and 4 x10 Ampeg PRs which were powered by SVT 4’s.
Rex Brown’s Bass amplifiers in DOWN
Heading down into New Orleans in 2002. Rex would downsize his Ampeg PR rig for Down.
Now carrying just 2 810s and 2 410s The heads were still SVT 4 Pros.
By 2006 Down II was released and Rex was back using the Ampeg SVT 810s. Sometimes accompanied with 4 1x15s on both sides of the stage.
A rig video released shortly after this tour shows his rack equipment.
- Furman power conditioner
- Korg DTR 2000 tuner
- Twin wireless receivers
- Rocktron Basix Bass Preamps x2
- A Rocktron guitar silencer
- Ampeg SVT4 pros x3
Posted in a 2008 Bass Player Magazine interview. Rex explained some of the details whilst recording Down III Over the Under.
“I used my Ampeg SVT-4 PRO amps and an old SVT-II plugged into a bunch of different cabinets. I also used this old baffled cab. There were so many different amps in the studio, it was nuts. We used a bunch of different setups—different mics on different rigs for different songs. We got about six channels of bass, decided which ones we liked, and then blended it all together. I’m also using a lot more pedal-driven stuff than I ever have in the past.
The Amps changed slightly for a performance at the Download festival in 2009. With 4 Ampeg VR heads and 2 8x10s.
Sorry to burst your bubble again but just like the Ampeg CL’s in part 1. But these heads were dummies too. Why ruin a perfectly good rack!
Rex’s amplifiers in Kill Devil Hill
Initially at the start of Kill Devil Hill he used the same gear mentioned previously. It was only in 2013 where it was announced Rex would now join Hartke amplifiers. When asked why the switch to Hartke, he replied to Loudwire stating;
“I just think it’s more the gear they have now, it’s more technology friendly for what I want to do. The sound that I’m looking for is more what I want to do.”
But then affirms that
“the roster was not the reason I left Ampeg” “The reason I left; I don’t want to get into it, but the reason that everyone else has left is just certain things just weren’t happening the way we needed them to be done. It was a great f—ing amp company for me, I hated that phone call. You just have to move on, it’s life.” These guys [Hartke] came to me and made me a really good offer and a lot of these clinics and stuff like that. I want to be doing more of these. This is also a good push for me because the record [‘Revolution Rise’] comes out next month.
Many artists were joining the ranks of Hartke at this time and Rex was in good company. Like David Ellefson, Frank Bello and Geezer Butler. So there must be something in there compared to the classic Ampegs.
Rex was spotted with the new 8×10 Hartke Hydrives and up to 3 Kilo heads. Giving great praise to the graphic EQ and Hartke Bass Attack pedal.
A late arrival to his rig during his final performances of Kill Devil Hill was a Furman AR-20 power conditioner.
Rex and the Warwick amplifiers
By September 2015 Rex had joined Warwick as we previously mentioned. They also endorsed him for amplifiers and cabinets. Providing WA 600 Amp Heads and Warwick 8×10” Cabinets.
Some promotional material shows him with 2x10s but these do not appear on his artist page.
Amplifiers used for Rex’s solo albums
The amplifiers used for Smoke on this and Solo Album number 2 aren’t really spoken about. We get a few teasers here and there.
- Marshall amplifiers which took up 96 tracks.
- Friedman amps
- A 15watt Hand Wired Vox,
- 2×12 Ampeg Rockerverb
- 68 twin reverb
- 12 inch tweed.
Bass amplifiers used on the solo albums
As for the bass amps, we got the usual assortment of original SVT2 Pros and an Ampeg B15.
As well as a custom cabinet built by Jonas Hellborg. It had had 200-watt 10 inch speakers from Celestion, as well as an old acoustic 360 baffle in between. This was all installed in the Warwick 810 cabs.
Rex praised his new cabs in an interview stating the head was bridged pumping 1200 watts into the cabinet.
“with a head powerful enough to push them. Talk about unreal tone!”
Whilst Rex was endorsed by Warwick, he exclaimed in an interview
I’m also still an Ampeg guy. You can’t beat those old Ampegs.
Rex picks up Ampeg
He then appeared on an Ampeg artist interview in 2017. Recalling his long experiences with them. Ampeg have also listed him as one of their artists since this time using SVT-4PRO, SVT810E He has also managed to grab a few limited Ampeg SVT 4x12s.
Rex Brown’s effects pedals in DOWN
Once Rex had firmly settled Down he would disclose he wanted to go back to basics.
“Let’s go back to pedals instead of going with these huge racks,.”
This change would be the impetus for Rex from here on out. Pedals, Pedals everywhere.
The first visuals we get from Rex’s pedal board comes from shows in 2006. It looks like there are only two pedals here. With a return to a BOSS flavoured chorus, the BOSS CE-5 to be precise and the Morley PBA-2 Dual Bass Wah.
In 2008 Bass player magazine shone a light onto Rex’s board. Confirming the Morley pedal and a replacement for the Boss chorus. As well as a few others.
- Ashdown Bass Chorus Plus
- MXR Phase 90
- Musician Sound Design Earthquake Bass Wah
- And undisclosed distortion pedal
Rex then warns
“I use this one distortion pedal that works more like a gain boost. But I don’t want to give away my secret weapon, because then everyone will go out and get it.”
Luckily for us, if we have another look at the Down rig video from 2008. We can have a closer look at Rex’s pedals.
Rex’s effects in Kill Devil Hill
Moving into Kill Devil Hill in 2012 we have a couple of changes like the introduction of an MXR carbon copy. And regarding distortion, the additions of the Hartke Bass Attack And the MXR Blowtorch. Rex would comment on his tone in an interview with guitarworld.com
The tone’s ballsy; I’m using a number of different things and test-driving different stuff. I really like this MXR Blowtorch. We experimented with a lot of stuff in the studio, including EarthQuaker pedals and wah pedals that make a huge sweep from mid-range up to the high-end. and a chorus for just a little bit of presence. It definitely makes a difference. I’ve also got a distortion plus wah by Morley. I’ve used that one forever, and it has never let me down. Damn, I’m giving away all my secrets.
For the follow up Kill Devil Hill album Revolution Rise. Rex continues to use the pedals already mentioned. And also hints at a signature pedal coming out soon.
He comments “I get a lot of gain out of the pedal board and let my right hand do the talking,. Not much more was said officially about his signature pedal than that.
Rex’s guitar effect pedals on the Solo Albums
In the video for Faultline. we can see Rex has a custom analog delay from MP FX. Which was given to him by a fan.
The company also specify he uses the Super Gainiac In a 2014 Interview with guitarworld.com Rex would admit, he finally has a pedal problem.
“I geeked out hardcore on pedals. At the time, I thought I had to have every pedal in the world and then some. I have a feeling I’m not alone here.”
Taking a look at his reverb shop from 2019 he has almost 50 bloody pedals. Some of these are for bass but most of them are for the guitar.
Reverb 2019 pedals (click to open)
Rex has stated he tried a lot of these pedals and they didn’t work for him. Hence the auction.
A video was also released by Selane Productions in February of the same year and Rex shows off his new Carl Martin pedals,
- Effects Bass Chorus
- Two Faze
- ProPower brick
- Match Box and Route Box
Rex Brown effects on Solo Albums
In 2015 Tech 21 would celebrate Rex in their portraits of tone campaign. Rex was photographed using the rackmount Sansamp VT Bass and RBI. Claiming to have the best of both worlds.
Then around 2017 at the release of Smoke on this. Bass player magazine reports Rex using
He also raved about a DI by Motown Acme. Explaining;
“It’s like what James Jamerson and everybody else were just plugging straight into. But it’s got something inside that little box, man, that sounds a-fucking-mazing!.
Rex’s strings, things and pickups
Around 2000, Rex was using Dean Markley signature series medium light 45-105. He switches back to the Blue Steels with Down. With Bass player magazine stating Blue Steels 45-105s in 2008.
But Rex admitted to me in conversation he used Dean Markley Blue Steels 50-110s.
Rex would continue using Blue steels up until 2017 where he was poached by Ernie Ball. Using the Slinky Cobolt’s 45-105. He uses them to this day.
Rex’s EMG pickups
EMG had a massive effect on Rex’s tone and basses and they would continue to be seen in humbucker and eventually PJ form. He was officially listed as an EMG artist around 2013.using the PJ set. EMG’s were fitted in practically every Spector bass through Pantera and even the Warwicks today.
Custom Seymour Duncan pickups
In May 2018, Rex would release his very own signature pickup with Seymour Duncan. Professing,
“I recently fell in love with Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound PJ set, but also wanted the power and versatility of their most aggressive active pre-amp and EQ, and the ability to quickly and easily engage it with a push/pull volume pot….and the Rex Brown Quarter Pound PJ System was born!”
This set can clearly be seen installed on his silver Warwick around 2018. And finally, there also appears one Warwick bass sporting big blade pickups.
What is Rex using now?!
You must be wondering with all this gear, what would Rex be running now? In my last conversation with him, I asked.
“If you had to do a show tonight and you had to play bass. What gear you currently own would you be using?”
“The Custom Gibson Thunderbird, the white NS2 and the white Warwick streamer stage 1 with Seymour Duncan pickups. And don’t forget a Sansamp and morley bass wah pedal!”
And for your guitar fans out there;
A Collectors 1960 #4 burst Les Paul and and old black tele from 2003 with magnatone amps
I’d like to give a massive thank you to the wonderful Rex Brown. For all his support and generously giving his time up to talk with me and educate me on the real deal. Please keep a look out for Rex’s new album and read his autobiography if you haven’t already.
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