Wednesday 10 June 2015

A Conversation with Mike Dean & Reed Mullin @ Manchester, Academy 2 (UK) 7 March 2015

March 2015 was an important month in Corrosion of Conformity’s legacy, not that the band’s relaxed, congenial spirits would lead you to believe. Relaxing in Manchester ahead of the first live dates featuring the Deliverance era line-up of the band in nearly ten years, they had just a handful of days back home to rehearse and prepare for the tour. Pepper Keenen lies lounging on a sofa, one arm over his head and Reed Mullin assesses the contents of the backstage fridge as Mike Dean bounds over to me, all smiles, and holds out his hand.   “Good to see you buddy!” he says warmly, his scraggily, straw like hair protruding from his head every which way, a little bit like a lovable stoner scarecrow.  Reed, shutting the fridge and grabbing some drinks for the three of us follows over and we proceed to find a cosy empty space for the interview in the maze like University building. Normally I resist the straight forward interview transcript but this time is different. Here is the full transcript of our conversation discussing everything from the tour, writing new music with Pepper, getting lost, getting bitten and how Dixie Dave nearly joined the band in ’94.

SL). Hey guys, how you doing today?

Mike: We’re good. It’s a beautiful day, it’s sunny in Manchester.

SL). You know, normally when an American band comes to town the weather is awful and typically Mancunian. Apologising for the weather seems to be a good conversation starter like it was for me with Black Tusk last week, but we’ve been blessed this time.

Mike: Ah, Black Tusk are a hard working band, it’s great to see them still going on
after Athon’s death.

SL). Yeah it really is, they’ve taken his ashes on tour with them and they’re sprinkling little bits as they go from town to town.

Mike:  That’s pretty appropriate because they’re always on the road, that’s crazy. They’ve been on tour since about 2010!

SL). I believe you’ve been in Manchester for a few days day getting prepared for this tour, so how you feeling ahead of the first show of the tour, looking forward to it?

Reed: Fuck yeah. It took the first few rehearsals back home to get with it, for me anyway, we’re a little sketchy because they were so many songs that we were trying to do – about 20 songs. Other than ‘Vote with a Bullet’ we wanted to reference all our albums, there was a big long list of songs we wanted to do. So as I say the first rehearsal was a little sketchy but the lizard rain kicked in and the next few rehearsals were awesome.

I don’t play on ‘Arms of God’ so I had to learn two songs on there which were a little
challenging but now I’ve got them down they’re a hell of a lot of fun to play. Especially‘Paranoid Opioid’.

Mike: It’s a record he should have played on anyway so it’s great having him playing those songs live.

Reed: I’ve changed some stuff to how I would have played it had I written it but they’re great drums.

SL). So what about the set list for tonight? It’s billed as Deliverance era COC back together again so is that album your point of focus or is it wider spread than that?

Mike: There’s songs from the last two records that I love to play live but there’s not really room in the set for them. I think when are music is loud and unrelenting you don’t wanna play more than an hour and a half and it’s been nice to take a break from those songs. While we’ve got Pepper we might as well exploit him.

Reed: It’s the same with people wanting to hear a lot of our more punky stuff. When we [the original three piece line up] got back together we did that and it was great. We hadn’t played that in years so people were super stoked to hear that and now we’ve got Pepper back in the band we can play a totally different set list.

SL). And what have you guys been doing in my city during your downtime? Have you been to any pubs, museums or anything like that?

Reed: Mike got lost last night!

Mike: Yeah I went on a little wander you know, found some Indian food, taking in the city and mostly just recovering from the travel and three day’s rehearsal.

Reed: We’ve had some Vindaloo and some pot so it’s been good.

Mike: The last time we played here in Manchester with Pepper singing, Woody got jumped by people who invited everyone to fight. In the course of defending himself he got his finger bitten. It was only a few months after Pepper got bitten by a crazed representative of Jagermister.

Reed: He’d had too much of his own product apparently….and cocaine.

SL). That’s not a good mix.

Mike: [Laughs] No it isn’t! I don’t think Jagermister and anything is a good mix. So we had two biting incidents around the In The Arms of Gods release.

SL). But did Woody win the fight?

Mike: I’d say it was a draw. But our guitar tech broke his hand pummelling this guy who wouldn’t insist on standing down. So he has a plectrum taped to his hand trying to strum out chords at sound check and carry on.

SL). From what I’ve read in magazines and online, there seems to be a real desire for this line up to write and record some more music, what are the chances of that becoming a reality at the moment?

Mike: I mean really we’ve just had three days to prepare for this tour so we’ve not really had time to do anything yet but it’s something we’ll discuss.

Reed: I think it’s gonna happen. It sounds like Phil [Anselmo] is gonna take a year off from Down and Pepper’s wanting to write with us so I think we’ll write some songs together. 

Mike: Phil’s been doing a lot of production work at the moment, sitting back and delegating the sausage making with the engineers. I’m currently producing a record with a band called Sourvein, Reed Mullins has played some drums on it. That was a really spontaneous decision but he came down to the studio, learnt some songs and laid them down. They’re from the same town in North Carolina as Weedeater.  Troy from Sourvein is Randy Blythe’s neighbour, and Dixie Dave’s cousin and is playing Manchester this very night with Weedeater. We wanted to make those two shows one big show, we tried to merge it but the business side of it wouldn’t let it happen. To anyone with common sense it would seem like the perfect idea.

Reed: Before we got Mike Dean back in the band back in ’94 Dixie Dave actually tried out for the band. He would have joined the band but Mike Dean ended up going back in the band.

Mike: I don’t think it wouldn’t have happened but it’s an interesting story to say now.  

Questions from social media –

With you playing Glasgow tomorrow, someone has asked if you’ve ever tried Irn Bru before?

Reed: it’s pretty nasty; Buckfast is probably the only thing worse than that. It tastes kinda like Bubblegum.

Mike: I think I examined it with my nostrils once but didn’t try it.

Would you ever consider releasing a solely acoustic album? You’ve written plenty of gorgeous acoustic songs in the past.

Reed: I think if we like the songs then it’s possible. I’d have to get my brushes out.

Mike: Going out to playing shows is one thing but when you’re writing an album you want those hills and valleys and sort of take the dynamics down and cleanse the sonic palette a little bit, so songs like Shelter have that quality where they’re not very heavy but they make it a little bit more gratifying when the pummelling begins. We never play the acoustic songs live. Maybe that’s down to a little bit of insecurity in the band, that as a group we’re not that comfortable pulling off that kind of finesse. It’s not that we necessarily couldn’t play it but there’s maybe this perception in the band that it might not go down very well or whatever.  But the last thing you want is for you to be up there baring your soul with an acoustic guitar and a plastic cup of beer hits you in the face, you know? Generally we play for the roughians.

Reed: Sabbath had softer songs too but they never played them live. Kyuss were really good at that.

Mike: I like playing acoustic type songs done quietly electric because you can hear the headroom and the power lurking in the background but it’s a little reserved. So you get a clean sounding electric version where you can the sense that at any minute it’s gonna tear your head off.

What are your favourite beers to drink while in the UK?

Mike: I don’t really drink too much; I had a Guinness the other day to be part of the team. Newcastle Brown isn’t a drink I’d drink more than five or six of on a night because the day after is always brutal.

Reed: Woody is our beer connoisseur. He likes to post a different beer of the day on his Facebook page. He hasn’t quite got to the stage where he goes round sampling beers but he loves to try different micro-breweries. [Sings] Carling black label! No that’s terrible stuff. I remember the first time we came over here there was this stuff called Tenants and that shit was nasty. And you can drink on the streets in Scotland.

We’re actually fixing a show to play a one-off show for a brewery in Chicago. They brew one batch of this special beer and sell it one day a year, so they’re flying us over there for it. They really wanted us to come down and entertain their beer connoisseurs. Eyehategod and High on Fire did it last year.

What are your favourite bands at the moment?

Mike: I like the new Lo Pan album a lot, the guy’s got a great voice. I went through a little Kadavar phase and dusting off all the old MC5 on Youtube. I like this band out of Raleigh, North Carolina called Demon Eye; they’re kinda like Pentagram with Geddy Lee singing. It’s a really crisp delivery. The Uncle Acid records are bad ass for sure, every song’s a shuffle, they’re great live and they’re snappy dressers. I like them a lot. I’ve also been tripping on Death this year.

Reed: The Detroit band? They are bad ass!

Mike: I love the whole angle where it’s sort of garage prog but at the same time it’s kinda punky before punk existed, it’s totally original.

What’s your favourite puzzle?

Mike: How to get through an interview without saying something stupid! [Laughs] We’re not big Sudoku aficionados, everyday life is enough of a puzzle for me, I don’t need to go out looking for more. 

SL). We’ll end on one of my own questions: Hypothetically, if all the albums in the world were gonna be destroyed but you had time to save one album, what would you save and why?

Mike: That’s an extraordinary hypothetical situation.

Reed: What’s yours?

SL): I haven’t thought of mine yet.  
Reed: Ah come on! You put it on us but you don’t have your own answer?

SL): I’ll answer with you then

Mike: It’s so hard to choose I think you might have to pick at random, you know? It might just be Katy Perry and that’s the luck of the draw, sorry world!

Reed: Perhaps if you picked that it would spur more creativity.

Mike: Yeah it would be a good motivational tool; negative reinforcement. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around that hypothetical situation because how would you be able to scan over everything because the possibilities are so vast. I don’t have a go to album; I’m not the kind of chauvinist where I only like one type of music so I could say ‘it must be…I dunno, Trapeze…or Grand Funk.’ 

Reed: Really, Grand Funk?!

Mike: [Laughs] No!

SL): There’s nothing wrong with a bit of Grand Funk

Mike: Yeah, there’s some talent there. I like the drummer’s voice. He’s got the lower range voice, he definitely didn’t sing Closer To Home.

SL): It’s Homer Simpson’s favourite band isn’t it?

Reed: Oh yeah, that’s right.

Mike: [In Home Simpson voice] Grand Funk!

Reed: That was pretty good Mike!

Mike: I turn on my TV and it’s still on, I’m sure it’s still funny but…

Reed: Most of them are still funny though

Mike: I don’t have much time left to watch The Simpsons…I don’t think the world has much time left for silly cartoons.

Words & Interview: Phil Weller