KILL DEVIL HILL "Climbing The Mountain"

By Dr. Abner Mality

"Supergroup" is such an abused term anymore, it's pathetic. But not in the case of Kill Devil Hill. Any band that features former members of Black Sabbath, Pantera, WASP and Ratt is automatically guaranteed inclusion in the elite category known as the supergroup.

Vinnie Appice comes from a family of great musicians including superstar brother Carmine. One of his first real jobs was drumming for a guy named John Lennon. Then things got really interesting when he replaced Bill Ward in a little band called Black Sabbath during the Ronnie James Dio years. Vinnie's association with Dio lasted throughout much of Dio's solo years and into the days of Heaven and Hell. He is the "godfather" and elder statesman of Kill Devil Hill.

Bassist Rex Brown was originally known as "Rex Rocker" when he got his start with rowdy Texans Pantera. As that band grew to become the biggest metal success story of the 90's, he dropped the "Rocker" and the glammy look and morphed into the tough as nails mofo who contributed to classics like "Vulgar Display of Power" and "Far Beyond Driven". After tragedy struck Pantera, he found his way to sludgy groovers Down...until fate brought him to Kill Devil Hill.

Mark Zavon is one of the great utility men of metal. This fast-fingered guitarist actually started playing jazz fusion before he took a heavier path and wound up playing with Ratt's Stephen Pearcy. Then he donned the spikes and leather of shock-rockers WASP for a time. Kill Devil Hill is his most metal band yet and the chance he's been waiting for to stand out on his own.

Final piece of this puzzle is young Dewey Bragg, who doesn't have any "name" bands to his name. What he does have is a phenomenally smooth and expressive voice that many veterans would envy. He also has that rare charisma that one associates with the rarest of animals, the authentic "rock star". He balances out the grizzled veteran Mr. Appice extremely well.

When this band was announced as playing a show in nearby Janesville, WI at The Back Bar, I jumped at the chance to see them. I didn't hold out much hope of talking to the entire band, but guess what? You are about to read the result of just that happy meeting. You'll see right away that these guys only take their career seriously...everything else is good fun. It's a real combination of personalities, too...the kind you find in real bands. Kill Devil Hill named itself after the North Carolina location where the Wright Brothers staged their first flight. Besides being a hell of a cool name, there's good symbolism in that, because after taking tentative steps, this band is getting ready to soar...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Did Kill Devil Hill come together pretty quick or had the idea been rolling around for a while?

VINNIE APPICE: It came together fairly quick. Rex was the last piece in the puzzle.

REX BROWN: I'm the new guy.

MARK ZAVON: The new kid of the block. The old new guy.

DEWEY BRAGG: Actually we found Mark on the corner with an "I will play for food" sign.

MZ: Actually, it was "will play for meat".

VA:  I found Mark and I had some drum tracks and he came down and played with them. Mark knew Dewey, so that part of it came together quick. Within a week, there were three of us and then we continued writing and checking out bass players. Then I heard Rex was looking for something. That was probably a couple of months later, three or four months later.

WC: How does it feel to be the new kid on the block?

RB: Feels just like home. (chuckles)

WC:  Now that you guys have been out touring for a while, what's the chemistry like?

RB: We like to fight whenever we can. Break ribs, get fuckin' teeth knocked out...

MZ: Nah, actually our chemistry is great. We all get along and we have right from the start.

DB: Like I always say, once the first band fart is past, it's all downhill from there.(laughter) Then you're family.

RB: Dewey's got quite an ass....

MZ: Dewey plays the fluegelhorn, I don't know if you knew that...

VA: Dewey's middle name is "Exxon"...

MZ: It's Dewey "BP" Bragg!

RB: How about "please roll the window down" Bragg?

WC: I better move on before this poor guy snaps! (laughter) What's the composition style like for the band? Are you the "General", Vinnie?

VA: I'm the Godfather of the band.

DB:: I'm second lieutenant. (indicates Mark) He's the captain. (indicates Red) Sgt. second class. (laughter) Sgt. Brown.

WC: How do you come up with the songs? Who takes the lead in that?

MZ: We do it in all different ways. When we first started, Vinnie had just had surgery. He couldn't even play drums! But he had a bunch of drum tracks he had recorded for download purposes so he gave me those and we got right to work coming up with songs. Then Dewey came in. We had seven songs written before we ever got in a room and played a note together.

DB: It was kind of a weird way to start but then after that we'd start writing riffs together. When Rex came down, we jammed together. Now we're all on the road and it's pretty cool.

WC: Is there some material that hasn't been put on record yet?

DB: Oh yeah, there's a bunch.

RB: A shitload of new stuff.

MZ: Yeah, the more we hang together, the more we write, the more we come up with. When we started it was comfortable, but now it's like an old pair of jeans.

DB: Just like the ones I got on now! (laughter)

WC: That definitely answers one question I had: is it a band or a project?

ALL: Oh, it's a band!

RB: This is going to go on for a while. (says something indecipherable)

WC: What was that?

DB: You go onto Facebook and click on "What Did Rex Say?" (laughter) Actually, that's a good fuckin' idea. You have to register and one person wins. You find out what Rex said...

MZ: This week, it might be "Kiss the ring, bitch!"

WC: The song titles and lyrical themes on your debut are pretty gloomy. "We're All Gonna Die" is not exactly a pop song...

VA: No, but it's the truth.

MZ: It is the truth.

VA: Once you're born, you start dying.

DB: Ask Mark, he wrote the lyrics on that one!

MZ: It's just realistic. All our stuff is. "War Machine" is a reminder of what's going on today. You watch "Dancing With The Stars" and you forget there's people fighting and dying and bleeding across the ocean. A lot of people forget. They think they're gonna live forever. No, that doesn't happen.

DB: By the way, the video of "War Machine" is dropping on Monday. It's really, really fucking cool.

WC: What kind of a visual theme did you come up with for it?

DB: It's a lyric video.

VA: We have a lighter side, too, We were originally gonna call the song "We're All Gonna Go Eat". (laughter)

WC: There is a prevailing darkness on the album with titles like "Hangman", "Gates of Hell"...

RB: We're not gonna sing about daisies, dude.

WC: Well, it almost makes it sound more nasty than it is, like death metal, and you're certainly not that...

RB: No, I don't think so.

WC: Was the mood of the band pretty dark when you were recording it?

VA: I think it's just the tone of the music....the chords, the time changes, that brings out the darkness.

RB: Shit, we're not gonna play any love songs...

MZ: We're not pulling any punches. I mean, this is all real stuff. It's real music, real lyrics about real shit that goes on in the real world.

WC: Is this the same path your future music is going to take, is this the direction it will evolve in?

DB: You never know. You don't want to pigeonhole yourself into one situation, you're pretty much fucking yourself if you do that. So we'll see what happens, you know.

VA: We'll do all kinds of stuff, we can go in a lot of directions.

DB: It's all about feelings. We won't know what will really happen until we get back in there and start playing around with things.

WC: You guys are busy with a lot of projects. Do you have scheduling problems because of that?

VA: Not necessarily.

WC: Well, Rex, you've got Down...

RB: No, I don't. I quit that band for this one.

WC: You quit them outright?

RB: Straight up.

WC: So this is your full time gig?

RB:: Yeah, it's my full time gig now.

WC: That was quite a bold move.

RB: Well, change is inevitable in life.

VA: Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do. And build up from that...

RB: Damn straight.

WC: So this is priority #1 for everybody?

DB: It's the real deal.

VA: We're gonna stay together and do a lot more albums.

DB:  We're gonna stay together and fart in the van as long as we can.

VA: As long as we don't get sick from the noxious gases, we'll do OK. (laughter)

WC: I wish you all the luck in the world with that endeavor...

DB: We don't take ourselves too seriously, as you can tell.

RB: We put some Beano in Dewey's drinks...

WC: What is it you guys hope Kill Devil Hill brings to the metal world that's missing today?

RB: A fuckin' happy face. Put a smile on somebody's face...have somebody just genuinely enjoy our music.

VA: We want to be a breath of fresh air. That's cool stuff.

DB: I also think a lot of bands have lost that rock n' roll feel.  Everybody's trying to be so different, they forget it's not how you look on stage, it about how you sound. You know, Bad Company is a rock and roll band and they are good at it. That's what a lot of people are missing today, that's what I think. Maybe I'm just getting old  but a lot of the new stuff I hear isn't exciting. There's too many's just too much! Think of AC/DC, that's a rock and roll band. Not that i"m comparing ourselves to them, but we just rock out and that's what they do.

WC: There's a big emphasis on being technical...

MZ: You need a good groove and a good melody above anything else...

VA: We actually recorded our album old school. We didn't use a click track, we played the whole song, we didn't cut and paste anything. We did it old school and it's not mechanical. There's a lot of soul in this album.

DB: It sounds fresh and new.

WC: How long did the recording process take?

VA: One month. Then to repair the damage, it took another month. (laughter)

WC: Is that the template you're going to follow from here on out?

VA: Ah, we don't know. We're gonna tour for a while, so we'll be out until next year. Then towards the end of next year, we might be thinking about the next step.

RB: We've got some big things coming up.

WC: Is there one particular track or song you feel represents the band best?

VA: "Mysterious Ways".

RB: "War Machine" for me.

MZ: I think they all represent us, because they're all so different.  We can't say it's just one song, we all have our favorites. Some of us like some more than others, but for the most part, we like 'em all. There's not just one I can pick.

WC: Is this current touring cycle your first extended jaunt as a band?

VA: No, we did a tour last year in 2011, but the album wasn't out. Now we've been out for six, seven weeks behind the new album...

WC: And the response so far?

DB: It's been great.

MZ: Yeah, it's been great.

WC: Do you guys see yourselves as mentors to younger bands, especially with your more rock n' roll style?

RB: I sure as fuck hope so!

VA: Rex and me have got a history. The younger guys always come up and say, wow, man, we've been listening to you for years. There was one band we played with last night, we were hoping none of them would come up to us and say, we're inspired by you guys. (laughter) It would be better if they said, man, you sucked so bad!

MZ: As far as the individual kids go, they're all pretty cool. But some of the bands, they're just trying to find their own way. I like to listen to some of them....they always give me CDs 'cause they know I listen to 'em.

VA: They give me CDs, too, but I don't listen to one of them.

DB: We throw them out the window when we're on the freeway and try and hit the signs...

MZ: The thing is, we will listen to the CD, We can usually tell by the first verse if it's going to be anything special.

DB: By the time the chorus come in, it's usually gone!

RB: It's kind of like the "Gong Show".

WC: Is your tour driver Chuck Barris? (laughter)

VA: No, it's Gene Gene, the Dancing Machine...

WC: Have you guys had any kind of Spinal Tap moment that sticks out?

RB: Yeah, we have plenty of those moments, like any rock and roll band does, But you just suck it up, play the goddamn show and get on down the road.

VA: There's many of those moments...too many to explain. We've blown more amps and PA's than any band should be allowed to do.

DB: Yeah, we're a loud band.

WC: A week ago, I did an interview with Chuck Billy from Testament and he spent a lot of time talking about your former associate Mr. Dio, Vinnie. He said that was the guy who taught me how to give time to the fans. He really thought the world of him. Anything you'd like to add?

VA: That's what Ronnie was about. Ronnie was about his fans and his music. He loved the fans. He would remember them, he'd remember your name.

WC: Chuck said that after 10 years, not only did Ronnie remember Chuck, he remembered his wife's name, his kid's name.

VA: Ronnie would remember you the next year he came to town. He kept calling me "Carmine" but the rest of the people, he got straight. (laughter)

WC: Here's a question for you, Rex. Is there any doubt in your mind that if Dimebag had not passed away, Pantera would have had a reunion by now?

RB: Of course they would have, absolutely. I was there with him from day one. As far as that tragedy goes, what else can you say about it? A very talented, warm-hearted person got taken away from us.

WC: I saw him play many times, but never spoke to him. Everybody told me he was a real funny guy, a real joker.

RB: Oh God, yeah. He was one of a kind.