Corrosion of Conformity have stood the test of time as one of the most consistently solid hard-rock acts of the last 25 years. Their upcoming record release will mark their first with singer and guitarist Pepper Keenan since 2005’s In the Arms of God. We had a chance to sit down and chat with bassist and founding member Mike Dean about the hotly anticipated new album.
So how have things been going?
It’s going good man! Had a tour in September, short little run with Danzig, and we’ve just been kind of finishing up details to put a record out. You know, making sure everything looks right, making a music video and this and that, getting ready to go on a long tour at the end of the year. So it’s been pretty low profile, but we’ve actually been busy gearing up for what’s next.
So you’ve already shot a video for the record?
Yeah. I think they have some kind of important staged announcement in a week or so, but there’ll be some advance type of stuff in the month of November and then the record to follow shortly after. I asked whether it was cool to say when that was. They have some particular time that they’re going to announced that. I won’t be the one that destroys their carefully laid plans for squeezing information out there at exactly the right moment. They put a lot of thought into it.
Have you had a chance to play any new tracks live yet?
I think we’re going to go kind of slow with that. We have a couple that were thrown in, some of them have kind of made some early appearances at sound checks over the last year or so, but none have really been thrown into a set. This band’s a little slow and a little conservative about doing that, and I’m kind of in the minority of like, let’s just play the new album in its entirety. (Laughs) That’s my type of thinking, but that runs up against everybody else’s type of thinking.
And you aren’t playing anything from the last two records either, now that Pepper is back?
No, we really haven’t. I’m missing a couple of those songs that are good. I think they’d be interesting with two guitars. But the thing is when you’ve got like 20 or 30 years of material, you’re going to have to omit something, so it’s always a discussion, whatever you’re going to leave out. We haven’t really done anything from the self-titled or IX or Megalodon since New Year’s Eve 2015. (Laughs) That was our last show as a three-piece.
Other than that, how’s being a four-piece again?
It’s been great, definitely good to have the whole crew in effect and go out there and take it to people. There’s interest in it and that makes it really good.
Do you find that there’s a lack of bands who still make the same type of metal you make?
No. You see variations on that theme in different places. Some of what passes for doom these days, you see a lot of that. You know, your stoner type of thing, your Graveyard type of thing. Maybe we’re more on the metal side of that but it’s out there, and there’re some people that do it. I think we kind of combine elements from a couple of different camps and that’s sort of what makes us a little unique.
Have you ever thought about going back to that hardcore sound?
Maybe not verbatim that, but I mean we’ve kind of dabbled in that a little bit, there’s elements of that. Maybe not necessarily like the full-on orthodox hardcore thing so much, but we’ve done some stuff up in those tempos a little bit, with different levels of melody on it and stuff like that. We have kind of big ears in terms of what we listen to, and that’s just this one thing, and there’s a lot of stuff to explore. It’s possible. The stuff that holds up for me from that era is pretty much Bad Brains and the Bad Brains and then there’s the Bad Brains and not much else. (Laughs) But that’s just my personal opinion.
Are there any newer bands that you like to listen to?
There’s a lot of newer stuff that I like to listen to. A lot of the newer stuff I like to listen to is kind of based on older stuff. There’s Earthless, who I really like. I like Ruby the Hatchet. I mention them just because I’ve happened to see them a couple of times. There’s a lot of stuff out there that I enjoy, but I’m not really focusing on anything that’s really coming to mind at this particular moment. Earthless is something that really kind of kicked me in the ass.
Back to the new record, what kind of themes can we expect to hear?
What we’ve been doing the last little bit is just sort of channeling pretty abstract ideas until they kind of convalesce into a theme. I’m not like the primary lyricist on this record, but I’d say despite being not really on the nose political, it’s kind of pissed sounding, truthfully. To me, there’s a lot of stuff where you sort of see where it’s going, what it’s alluding to, and just the act of our trying to make it into a song that makes sense sonically, syllabically, rhythmically and just mood-wise, I mean just aesthetically, that kind of forms it in sort of a random way. I tend to find after a few months I see kind of subconsciously or accidentally what the patterns to the record are and what the theme to the record is. It’s kind of early in the game for me to say. Probably someone who’s not so close to it and didn’t actively take part in making it would actually have more insight. (Laughs) More perspective, anyway, than me. I know this is the time where we’re supposed to do interviews and tell you all about it and give you something to hang your hat on, but it’s kind of early in the game. It kind of speaks for itself and takes a while to speak to me in terms of those generalities.
Do you find that if you have to spend a bunch of time explaining the songs it kind of ruins it?
I like carefully crafted lyrics and stuff like that where it’s very linear and it’s very coherent, but sometimes when it’s very on the nose, especially when people are going political, it tends to date it. Like there’s a good level of immediacy when somebody hears it and it resonates with them, but it can also kind of make some of the material a little dated. It can have a shelf life to it. We like a lot of the classics that are not so on the nose. Talking about the age of hardcore, there’s some stuff that’s literally “Reagen sucks” or whatever type of song which you might agree with at the time but then it’s sort of less relevant, as opposed to something that comments more on the human condition and the psychology that would bring you to whatever the specific thing is you’re pissed off about at the moment.
Tell us about the new song “Wolf Named Crow.”
That’s some stream of consciousness stuff that the universe just gave to Keenan when some kids were like “Damn! You’ve got a wolf named Crow!” The song’s bigger than that situation. It’s a weird one, you know. It’s kind of tripped out. There’s bands like Anal Cunt and The Melvins where they go, “This’ll be a good or funny title,” it’s like an image to them, stuff just sort of spins out from there, it’s kind of random. Sometimes when you’re throwing random stuff around, patterns emerge. The universe was throwing something coherent in there that you weren’t aware of. In the case of Pepper, he’s going for syllables and how it sounds and imagery that’s evocative. Sometimes there’s a message and a method and a coherent plan, and other times you just throw it at the wall and see what sticks. A lot of good rock music is like that.
How does you guys write songs in general?
We all kind of contribute musical ideas, throw it at the wall a little bit and see what sticks. In this iteration of the band, Pepper will come up with some gibberish type of dummy vocals, sort of feel it out. A lot of people do this, sort of feel out how a melody would sit in there. Sometimes what pops out is the theme, sometimes it’s just a sonic sort of idea. There’s a few songs where we might already have like a little vocal melody, or a few lyrics, or a concept already. We did this in kind of an immediate way where rather than go and make a demo, the demo kind of was the final recording. The song “The Ludite,” which is the one we’re making the video for, that was the last song written. We wrote it in the studio. It was basically Pepper and Reed just jamming this riff until it sounded insanely tight. That was one of the stronger pieces on the record and it was completely last minute.
A lot of the stuff came together real quickly in terms of how we had to work with Keenan living down in New Orleans and everybody else being up in North Carolina. We came together five days a month, and when we went in there we were gonna emerge from those five days with a fully formed song or two, basically start to finish. It changed up a little bit later, but you’re on the spot when you work like that. I think that’s good in this era of computers where people rehearse a lot or cover it up or try to make it perfect. We did some of the record to tape and some of it to computer when we had to be in a hurry. We used the tape machine a lot for changing the tempo of the drums and stuff like that. We very much created the stuff in the studio, but not in the sense where we can’t reproduce it live. We rolled a lot of tape and played through the stuff a lot of times to learn it, so all of the stuff is really pretty brand new, and a lot of the time what you hear on recording is like the first time that we ever played that right. To us there’s something that’s a little bit magic about that. We documented something being born.
Do you have a favourite song on this record?
I’m not sure what my favourite song is yet. I definitely like “Wolf Named Crow” quite a bit. You’ve got “Forgive Me,” it’s kind of Thin Lizzy meets Judas Priest but done in another century. It’s pretty cool.
What’s on your Bucket List?
I think taking this version of the band to Australia and doing five or six shows at least. Last time we were down there it was the three-piece, and the last time we did it with Pepper we had Jim Bower on the drums, so I want to go back to Australia. That would be pretty solid.
Corrosion of Conformity will embark on a two month long tour supporting Black Label Society at the end of December. Tour dates below. Look forward to further album announcements about the new album from the band’s website in the coming weeks.
CORROSION OF CONFORMITY w/ Black Label Society, Eyehategod (12/29 – 1/20; 2/11 – 2/27), Red Fang (1/26 – 2/9):
12/29/2017 Anthem at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino – Sioux City, IA ^
12/30/2017 Uptown Theater – Kansas City, MO ^
12/31/2017 Pop’s Nightclub – Sauget, IL^
1/02/2018 Sokol Auditorium – Omaha, NE^
1/03/2018 House Of Blues – Chicago, IL ^
1/04/2018 Egyptian Room at Old National Centre – Indianapolis, IN ^
1/05/2018 The Fillmore Detroit – Detroit, MI ^
1/07/2018 Upstate Concert Hall – Clifton Park, NY ^
1/08/2018 M Telus – Montreal, QC ^
1/09/2018 Rebel – Toronto, ON ^
1/10/2018 20 Monroe Live – Grand Rapids, MI ^
1/12/2018 Diamond Ballroom – Oklahoma City, OK ^
1/13/2018 Bomb Factory – Dallas, TX ^
1/14/2018 Emo’s – Austin, TX ^
1/15/2018 House Of Blues – Houston, TX ^
1/17/2018 House Of Blues – New Orleans, LA ^
1/18/2018 Marathon Music Works – Nashville, TN ^
1/19/2018 Bogart’s – Cincinnati, OH ^
1/20/2018 Center Stage – Atlanta, GA ^
1/26/2018 Jannus Live – St. Petersburg, FL *
1/27/2018 House Of Blues – Myrtle Beach, SC *
1/28/2018 The Ritz – Raleigh, NC *
1/29/2018 The Fillmore Silver Spring – Silver Spring, MD *
1/31/2018 PlayStation Theater – New York, NY *
2/01/2018 The Palladium – Worcester, MA *
2/02/2018 Aura – Portland, ME *
2/03/2018 Electric Factory – Philadelphia, PA *
2/05/2018 Town Ballroom – Buffalo, NY *
2/06/2018 The Goodyear Theater at East End – Akron, OH *
2/07/2018 Stage AE – Pittsburgh, PA *
2/08/2018 Eagles Ballroom Club Stage – Milwaukee, WI *
2/09/2018 Myth Live – St. Paul, MN *
2/11/2018 O’Brians Event Centre – Saskatoon, SK ^
2/12/2018 The Ranch Roadhouse – Edmonton, AB ^
2/14/2018 Commodore Ballroom – Vancouver, BC ^
2/16/2018 Bowes Event Center at Revolution Place – Grande Prairie, AB ^
2/17/2018 MacEwan Hall – Calgary, AB ^
2/19/2018 Showbox SoDo – Seattle, W ^
2/20/2018 Roseland Theater – Portland, OR ^
2/21/2018 Ace Of Spades – Sacramento, CA ^
2/23/2018 House of Blues – Las Vegas, NV ^
2/24/2018 The Marquee – Tempe, AZ ^
2/25/2018 Sunshine Theater – Albuquerque, NM ^
2/27/2018 The Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles, CA ^
^ Dates With Eyehategod
* Dates with Red Fang
Written & Compiled by Syd Ghan
*edited by Kate Erickson