Rex Carroll is a well known name in both the Christian and secular metal circles. The guitarist extraordinaire has been in bands such as Whitecross, King James and The Rex Carroll Band. I recent had the opportunity to chat with Rex. Rex, thank you for doing the interview.
Thanks Jeff, it’s my pleasure. Sorry it took so long to get back with you!
You’re one of the top guitarists not only in Christian music but in secular as well. Did you ever think you’d be where you are now when you were little?
I always enjoyed music, it was a creative outlet for me growing up. One night I was watching the first California Jam on TV, and Richie Blackmore put his guitar right into the TV camera. At that moment, I thought to myself, “I want to do that!!” So I’ve pretty much had a one-track mind as far as what direction I knew my life was going in. Also, as a teenager, I made a decision to follow Christ, and that has led to many turns in the road as well. For example, the formation of Whitecross.
Who are some of your biggest influences in your musical style?
Definitely, Richie Blackmore and Deep Purple. That was one of my favorite bands growing up, and an influence in ‘how to write songs’. Peter Frampton was my first guitar hero – Humble Pie era Frampton, not the solo artist garbage. Also, Robin Trower and Johnny Winter. Later on, Eddie Van Halen, Michael Schenker, Yngwie Malmsteen…and of course the amazing Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Now, you’ve played several bands, including Fierce Heart, Whitecross, King James and, of course, The Rex Carroll Band. What are some memorable moments for you with these bands?
Interesting question! Alright then, in order –
On the first day of tracking lead guitar solos in the studio, I couldn’t do it…burned a whole studio day with nothing to show for it. I was scared I was going to get sent home! The GREAT producer Jim Delehant secluded me in the back closet/repair bench room of the studio for the whole weekend and insisted I work out a part for one song, note for note. After two days, I laid it down perfectly. WHEW! From there, Jim taught me things about music that have nothing to do with ‘notes’ per se, but EVERYTHING to do with your soul, your style, how to phrase, the value of a good blues lick, all kinds of stuff that took me from being a backyard guitar wannabe to something far better…an artist with a voice of my own. Thank you, Jim!
There was a gig near Stuttgart Germany at this really evil looking club with a demonic looking skull leering over the door. Looking around inside the club, I could see there were some cool bands that had been through there lately, 38 Special and Yngwie Malmsteen among others. I got the sense it was going to be a cool gig…and it was. I think there was about 1200 people jammed in this venue that could hold about 800…I’m sure they broke all the fire codes and I remember being on the stage looking at the one and only entrance at the opposite end and thinking, “if a fire breaks out in here we’re all toast” ha-ha-ha. So we played the show, it was delirious, the place was completely up for grabs, a little slice of rock and roll euphoria. And then Scotty preached a message, and about 400 people came forward wanting to receive Christ that night, it was just awesome. Beyond what I could ever have imagined.
Probably the number one highlight there is my friendship with Jimi, and also Robert and Tim from Stryper as well as our fabulous engineer, Glen West. I think cutting the video for the song “Hard Road to Go” was pretty amazing, I’m very, very proud of that video. Hanging out in Stockholm was totally outstanding… We also did a little guitar piece on that CD called “Sunrise In Rio”. It was pretty difficult, I was definitely in over my head, and when I was done I have to admit I was a bit frustrated with it. But I can tell you now, all these years later, I have received a LOT of positive feedback from that particular song. People really seem to like it, and that makes me feel great.
The Rex Carroll Band:
No question, performing at the Harley Davidson 100th anniversary was a big deal for me. Being able to go in there and perform the way we did, and get the audience response we got, had the effect of validating a lot of things we had been working on up to that point. Locally, around where I live, there’s a couple of people in the local music business that assured me “you’ll never get another record deal” and “record deals are for the young” and a bunch of other such horse-crap. Lo and behold, THE REX CARROLL BAND IS A SIGNED ARTIST WITH RETROACTIVE RECORDS. So there, ffa. Do you think that makes for a “memorable moment”? Hahaha, you bet it does.
And the best part about the whole deal is that WHITECROSS, KING JAMES, and the REX CARROLL BAND are all continually ongoing, with new stuff coming down the pike from all of them.
You earned your Bachelor’s degree in classic guitar performance from Northern Illinois University. How has having your music degree been a help or hindrance to you?
No question it was a tremendous help. In so many ways, it has enhanced my “range” artistically. Being exposed to classical music in that environment has helped to open up my ear, and the additional training in music theory has been a big plus. Furthermore, as a side note, I met some great people who helped me in my Christian walk. I also had the pleasure of meeting Rez Band as a student. Ask Glenn Kaiser about the goof-ball kid he met in Dekalb, Illinois sometime!
You’ve performed with fellow Chicago-based bands Sacred Warrior and Resurrection Band. Do you keep in touch with them?
Actually, this month there’s a possibility we may do a double bill with Sacred Warrior and Whitecross! I seem to cross paths with Glenn Kaiser periodically, so, yeah, we stay in touch.
A few years ago, Whitecross re-recorded the self-titled album and released it as “1987”. What was it like re-recording those songs?
Freaking brilliant. Hands down, it is far and away my favorite Whitecross album, followed by In The Kingdom. It was a lot of work, and a lot of sacrifice, especially on my end. When that album wrapped, the studio was fried. I haven’t really done much of anything major in the studio since then, but it was worth it to get an album that sounds as good as 1987. I am extremely grateful to (FINALLY) have a chance to have made a REAL rock and roll album with Whitecross. Ask your readers how they like it, let THEM decide! Me personally, I love it.
I’ve heard that King James might be re-releasing the album The Fall. Is this official and will the songs be re-recorded as well?
Yep, yes sir-ee! The Fall is re-releasing on Retroactive this summer. This is great for a couple of reasons. No. 1, it gives more people a chance to discover a record that should have gotten more exposure than it did the first time around. And no. 2, it gives Jimi and myself a chance to come together again and make a NEW album later this year. We’re re-releasing it as is, however, no “re-recordings” of anything…it’s NOT another 1987 project. It’s King James The Fall re-issue summer 2010.
What can we expect from you in the next year or two?
Well it’s a really great time for me right now. First of all, I have the new records coming out on Retroactive. (King James and RexCarrollBand) Secondly, I have been putting the studio back together, and made some upgrades to it as well. We have not talked about The Heal in this interview – I suppose we can leave that for next time – but The Heal will be recording this summer for a fall release. I believe Jimi and I are going to create a new King James album, and it’s possible we might even do a new Whitecross album if the finances are there. There are some summer gigs happening – I expect to be at Cornerstone festival with the RexCarrollBand, and Whitecross is working on a fall tour.
Any final words for the readers of Untombed?
Thank you for taking the time to read this! I love to chat with as many people as possible on FB and MySpace, please feel free to look me up! Blessings to everyone.
Thank you, Rex.
Thank you, Jeff!
Interview by Jeff DLS