CORROSION OF CONFORMITY Return! – “I Feel We Came Up With A Different Animal”
January 11, 2018, a year ago
Corrosion Of Conformity has endured quite a few different line-up variations over the years. But most fans would probably select the configuration comprised of Pepper Keenan – lead vocals, guitar, Woody Weatherman – guitar, Mike Dean – bass, and Reed Mullin – drums as their best. And on their tenth studio effort overall, No Cross No Crown, this aforementioned CoC version is back in place, and picking up exactly where their last album with Keenan behind the mic, 2005’s In The Arms Of God, left off. Dean spoke with BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato shortly before the band launched a North American tour in support of their latest offering, on a bill that also includes Black Label Society, and specific dates featuring Eyehategod or Red Fang.
BraveWords: Let’s discuss the new album, No Cross No Crown.
Mike Dean: “It’s significant to us because it’s the first time in probably twelve years or so that we’ve had both Reed Mullin and Pepper Keenan playing in the band with us on a new recording. The last one we did with Pepper was In The Arms Of God, and I was feeling creatively like we were taking it to some new places and we were really happy with it. But Reed wasn’t available, so we had Stanton Moore, who apparently if you look at drum magazines, he would be on the front of them - he plays in a New Orleans/jazz/funk thing called Galactic. That was creatively very cool, and we wanted to continue that, but Pepper went back to Down, and we gave it a rest for a while. Then we brought it back as a three-piece, and that was awesome. But sometimes you’re missing that magic that Deliverance was - that type of format. We got back with Pepper and were planning on getting to work making some music, and we got roped into maybe a hundred more shows than we planned to do - because people were asking. So we finally got around to it last year, and it ended up not being entirely what we expected. We were thinking, ‘We’ll continue on in the vein of In The Arms Of God, and some of that Deliverance type magic would occur.’ But I feel we came up with a different animal - a little more aggressive, a little more relentless. But in a creative way - not in a knuckle-dragging kind of way. Having the luxury of it being a couple of months completed here, I actually have perspective of it, and can listen to and go, ‘This is potentially ground-breaking for us.’ I’m really happy with it.”
BraveWords: How is it playing again with Pepper?
Mike Dean: “It’s cool. He comes with a lot of ideas and a lot of determination and a lot of hard work. Just the most obvious thing is having two guitars and the harmonic possibilities that you have with that. It’s a whole other ballgame. Doing the three-piece thing is exciting and there’s a real responsibility, because there’s a lot of space and there’s nowhere to hide. But this is pretty rewarding right now. It’s good to have him in the mix.”
BraveWords: “Wolf Named Crow” is the first video from the album.
Mike Dean: “It’s a lot of stream-of-consciousness, crazy stuff. Pretty tripped out. But it really reminds me of maybe Captain Beyond meets the song ‘Wiseblood’ or something…or maybe if Bill Ward played in Captain Beyond. It’s definitely got some proto-metal/proto-prog, but yet greasy, funky, heavy stuff going on. That’s kind of a sucker punch right there.”
BraveWords: Corrosion Of Conformity is largely considered one of the first “crossover” bands - to merge metal and hardcore punk. What were audiences’ reactions early on?
Mike Dean: “People were real wrapped up in their identity attached to whatever their musical experience. You already had musical artists that were playing things pretty similar - similar styles. But because they were dressed a little different or something like that, there would be a whole different sub-culture attached to it. I think we were fortunate enough to just realize that all of those trappings are just superficial. So that just allowed us the ability to play around with it a little bit - with those identities. We were kids - were musically conscious children that heard a lot of Black Sabbath and grew up on that. And when we got to be adolescents, hardcore was coming out and was a real organic/word-of-mouth/underground thing, and as that was happening, metal was evolving a little bit. These things were really very close - without us helping it along, anyway. So, we got our hardcore band together, and it just so happened that Woody listened to ‘Neon Knights’ five million times by that point. So, the first song we wrote, he’s going to come out chugging anyway - even though we’re playing all-ages shows or whatever. There were other bands that were very much doing that at the same time. And I think we were fortunate living in North Carolina - Black Flag would come through here a lot, and they certainly threw a lot of the early Black Sabbath in there. They would tour with St. Vitus, who were some of the original - almost comical - proto-doom type of bands. This was before Wino was even in St. Vitus. So all that stuff appealed to us and we incorporated it. For a lot of people, we were too metal for the punk crowd, and a little too punk for the metal crowd.” [Laughs]
BraveWords: I don’t think I’ve ever heard the story behind the origin of the band’s famous “spiked helmet” logo.
Mike Dean: “It’s not particularly deep. We had our hardcore band, and all these hardcore bands had their cool visual to go with them. Y’know, Black Flag had the bars, the Bad Brains had their illustration of the Capitol Building being struck by lightning, the Misfits had the excellent Crimson Ghost skull, and then Motörhead had the best thing of all. So you were like, ‘Why even try?’ But I think I’d seen a million punk rock skulls by that point - in the short life of hardcore. I suggested to a friend - who’s an artist, and has become quite a famous tattoo artist, Errol Engelbrecht [owner of Blue Flame Tattoo in Raleigh, North Carolina] - I was like, ‘Can you draw us a skull where the face would be a radioactive fallout symbol?’ He messed around with that, and made it asymmetrical, so you could almost look at it like an inverted cross, and put all spikes on it. I was like, ‘That’s perfect!’ There’s not much depth to it, but it’s been enduring, and if you could put that on a sticker, it would wind up on skateboard. So that was helpful…it was instrumental in you calling me today.” [Laughs]
BraveWords: Touring plans?
Mike Dean: “I think we’re going to get on a plane the day after Christmas, and fly out to Denver and start a tour with Black Label Society - that’s going to take us into the spring. I’m sure we’ll end up in Europe in the summertime, and we’re going to try to go everywhere. If you live in North America, we’ll come see you in the next three months - for sure.”
(Photos by: Dean Karr)