Corrosion Of Conformity: will you have Pepper with that?

Reed Mullin, Corrosion Of Conformity’s drummer, welcomed us with liveliness, excellent humor and a firm handshake when we met him on the occasion of this year’s Motocultor Festival (France). The man immediately puts us at ease, as if we were long-time friends. When we ask him how he’s doing, he answers: “I’m alright, man! I’m just taking a little bit of diner because we gotta play soon. I’m a drummer so if I eat to much, I’ll be playing a doom set each time I’m supposed to play upbeat, so. How are you doing?” After assuring him that we’re doing great indeed, we ask him what he’s intending to do during the festival. He answers jokingly: “Actually the bands I want to see are coming up, like Corrosion Of Conformity!” He immediately goes on: “Oh yeah my man, well there you go daddy! What was the name of the band that was playing the folk?” When we tell him that would be Stille Volk, he says: “OK, that was pretty wild! They must be from around here! Everybody knew every lyrics! They’re all ‘dun dudun dudun HO!’ [laughs]”

Corrosion Of Conformity released a self-titled album this year, their first in seven years. “The album is doing great, yeah”, says Mullin. “Anyway, it’s been going really well, because Pepper wasn’t singing people didn’t know what to expect, but the reactions’ been pretty good, especially back in the States. You guys didn’t get to see us or didn’t know about the older days with Animosity and some of the old punk, hardcore stuff. Back in the States people saw us like Suicidal [Tendencies], Discharge, Black Flag and all those bands.” It is indeed Corrosion Of Conformity’s first album entirely conceived and recorded as a trio since Animosity, in 1985, with a line-up comprising of Mike Dean, Woody Weatherman and Reed Mullin. “Pepper’s going down”, says Mullin. “I love to be a trio again, that’s how we started 30 years ago. How old are you, son?” he asks Stan – who happens to be in his early twenties. He then goes on: “So we’ve been playing for 8 years when you were born! We’re old. So we’ve been around for a while, initially we would play punk rock, rock’n’roll and stuff… For us to play together was natural, it just came like that. Then things happened so quick, people are like : ‘Oh, you’ve got a record!’, you’re like ‘OK’, then you’re friend with Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters and Nirvana who was like: ‘Hey, how do you guys got back together? You got to record in my studio aaaaaaah!’ He was all freaked-out! [laughs]”

Like Mullin points out, the album was recorded in Northridge, north of Los Angeles, at Dave Grohl’s invitation. “it’s his studio, and Foo Fighters’ve recorded there”, he says, referring to the albums Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace et In Your Honor. “Foo Fighters recorded their last album in his garage (note: Wasting Light) but we recorded in his regular studio which is a massive complex, it’s huge! […] Anyway yeah, he totally hooked us up, so went in there for two albums, we did one C.O.C. and Mike and I have a side band more doom/stoner kind of stuff called Righteous Fool, we did that album too. I think I did 36 songs or something in 3 days, that was pretty cool.”

Pepper Keenan : « Once Reed came back in the band, I was excited about getting back to it. But since I’ve been so busy [with Down], it would’ve been wrong for me to hold those guys back, so they continued on. But yeah, we’re definitely talking about doing something in the future. I’m excited about it. »

This new Corrosion Of Conformity album is the first without Pepper Keenan in seventeen years. The guitarist has admittedly been very busy with Down lately. When we interviewed him a few weeks ago for the promotion of Down’s latest EP, Keenan also mentioned his “weird bluesy acoustic stuff” project – and we also need to take into account his family, which grew recently. In short, he’s a very busy musician, but that didn’t stop him from auditioning for Metallica in 2003: “That would’ve been an interesting situation. Because at the time I was still doing Corrosion of Conformity and Down at the same time, so I would’ve assumed – had I accepted it – I would’ve just been the bass player for Metallica, which I don’t know if I could’ve handled that [laughs]. Because I have lots of ideas and things. But, you know, I’ve never had to cross that bridge, so it worked out for the best”. With such a busy schedule, Corrosion Of Conformity couldn’t reasonably afford to wait any longer: “We were ready to go, so we just took off”, says Mullin. « I mean, he has to wait for Phil’s shit to get together, and we were like ‘Fuck we want to go’, and Dave was like ‘When are you going to my place to record for free?’, so we were like ‘For free?? Yeah!’”

When all’s said and done, what does the drummer think of Corrosion Of Conformity’s current trio situation? “I just like to play with these guys”, he says. “If somebody’s in addition then that’s great, I liked Pepper too but I like these guys better”. He corrects himself quickly: “Wait, that’s wrong: I like playing with these guys first of all and if Pepper is coming that’s great, and I guess he will. He calls us all the time.” This likely return is confirmed by Pepper Keenan himself: “Yes, we’re waiting to get it all organized, it’s something that I would love to do. We kind of left that thing unfinished. Once Reed came back in the band, I was excited about getting back to it. But since I’ve been so busy, it would’ve been wrong for me to hold those guys back, so they continued on. But yeah, we’re definitely talking about doing something in the future. I’m excited about it.”. And exactly what could we expect? Will the band continue in the rawer, slightly more hardcore direction taken with the latest album, or go back to where they left off, seven years ago? Keenen says: “The last album I did with them was called In The Arms Of God, which was one of my favorite records. So if I hook back up with those guys, I’d like to continue on that particular kind of path. But yeah, I think they did a great job”.

Well, that should be enough to fuel the impatience in Corrosion Of Conformity’s fans! To conclude, Mullin explains what the band has in store in the near future: “Actually we’re going to go back home tomorrow, then we’ll record an EP, then we’re gonna do some more stuff in the Fall and in the Winter. That’s about it”. Regarding Keenan’s availability at this point, nothing’s confirmed so far.

Interview with Reed Mullin conducted on August 2012 during Motocultor Festival (France)
Transcription: Chloé
Interview with Pepper Keenan conducted by phone on September 2012
Transcription: Stan

Corrosion Of Conformity’s official website: www.coc.com

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