By Andrew Bansal
Raleigh, North Carolina veteran heavy music perpetrators Corrosion Of Conformity have enjoyed a unique reputation of marching forward in their career with a variety of member lineups playing completely different-sounding incarnations and crushing trends as a result. The four-piece version of C.O.C., with Pepper Keenan fronting them on guitar and vocals, reunited in early 2015, and are now all set for extensive touring, following which they will enter the studio to record a new album for Nuclear Blast Records with whom they have just signed a worldwide deal. In the leadup to their US touring run, C.O.C. participated in Motörhead’s Motörboat cruise from September 28th to October 2nd 2015, and emerged triumphant as arguably the best-sounding band of the entire cruise. After playing their two sets on days #1 and #2 of the cruise, they were relaxing and soaking in the experience for the remainder of the cruise, and on day #3, September 30th, I caught up with drummer Reed Mullin for an in-depth chat. Delve into the conversation below for some great stories from the past, Reed’s thoughts on concert cruises, the various C.O.C. lineups and more.
Reed, how are you doing today?
I’m doing great, man! Got a little expedition in Nassau, like you did. Should have gone to the Pirate Museum like you did, but it was cool, hung out on the beach some, and hung out on the beach some yesterday on that island owned by the cruise line. That was pretty cool. So yeah man, it’s been a fun trip so far. Got to see Slayer last night. I hadn’t seen Slayer in may be 15 years or something. I saw them in this tiny little club in North Carolina called Ziggy’s, a 700-800 seater. I don’t know why I hadn’t seen in so long, but they were incredible.
To see them on the theatre stage here was a trip in itself, too. It was just like a theatre anywhere but it’s incredible to get that kind of experience on a boat.
Yeah! I think it’s the first time they’ve done a boat, or at least that’s what I’m told. We and Slayer go way back, and in fact Slayer got us our first record deal. They were on Metal Blade back in the 80s, and we were good friends of theirs. We did tours with them in the early 80s, and we were into each other’s style of music. They were into punk and we were into thrash metal, and stuff like that, because we were punks back then. So it was like a mutual admiration society. We used to go to their shows and they did the same with us. But we played a show that they asked us to play with them when they were doing their first United States ‘Haunting The Chapel’ tour. They were playing Baltimore, and the lineup was Slayer, C.O.C. and The Obsessed, and this was before we knew the Obsessed guys. So, we showed up, and we already had a big following in Baltimore, among the punks and hardcore kids. But The Obsessed had never heard of us and they said they didn’t want to open up for a punk band, and they thought that was the worst thing for them. We were all like, if that’s important to you, all right, whatever. The place was fucking packed and I didn’t care. This was when we were a three-piece. So, we played first, and the Slayer guys were mad as hell about it because they didn’t know The Obsessed at all. They were friends of ours! So they were like, “Fuck those guys! We’re gonna make this right.” When we finished, The Obsessed were trying to load their gear on stage, and Slayer’s roadies stopped them, and Slayer set up! So it was us, then Slayer, and The Obsessed had to play after Slayer! (Laughs) So, when The Obsessed went on, there were like 5 people. But like I said, this was before we knew The Obsessed. We’re friends with them now. This is when Slayer went on tour in a U-haul truck, may be with Lombardo’s Trans Am or something. It was a long time ago. They knew that we had put out our first album ‘Eye For An Eye’ by ourselves, so they wanted to get us a record deal and get us hooked up with their label Metal Blade. They said, “You guys are too good to be doing this shit on your own.” We thought they were just being nice, but they took my information down. I was working for my parents, I had just dropped out of high school, and my dad had a fax machine which was a big deal in 1983-84. So they took all my scoop and said that the record company would get in touch with me. I was like, sure, whatever. But sure enough, next Monday morning, there was a record contract on my dad’s fax machine from Brian Slagel of Metal Blade Records. Isn’t that crazy?
Sure is! Makes so much sense for you to be on this boat with them. So, you were telling me earlier that this is not your first time performing on a boat. You did the ‘Barge To Hell’ a few years ago. So this is not your first experience.
No, we did that cruise with the three-piece lineup, the hardcore lineup with me, Mike Dean and Woody Weatherman. Earlier this year, Karl Agell and I and some friends of ours were doing some shows with the ‘Blind’ lineup. We just performed the ‘Blind’ album from start to finish. And then Pepper got it worked out through Phil Campbell to do this one. So, all three major lineups of C.O.C. have done a boat now (laughs). But yeah, it’s cool. You know, I didn’t think I would like cruises because it seemed like it was for old ladies and people that want to just go and gamble or whatever, but I really enjoy them. You’re just walking down the hallway, and there’s Gary Holt, or the dude from Fireball Ministry, or Kyng. There’s always somebody just hanging out. There’s more of that on the 70000 Tons cruise because there’s more bands on that, but this is equally cool because we’ve known a lot of these folks forever.
Exactly, man. I thought the same way as you. I admit that I wasn’t really super-excited about this to begin with, but now that I’m on it, I know what I was missing.
Yeah! My thing was, look, if I want to go to the Bahamas, I’d just go to the Bahamas. I don’t want to be on a boat for a while to get to go there. I want to absorb as much of the culture as I could. But this is really cool, it’s a different animal. You do your little stop-offs, and I enjoy the whole brotherly metal thing with everybody hanging out. It’s a great experience, for sure.
Playing-wise, does it make any difference to you being on a boat? Here you did the outdoor deck stage and the main theatre. I felt that the boat was moving when I was down in the theatre, but out here on the deck I don’t feel it at all.
Right! That’s probably why when we were playing in the theatre I thought I was dosed or something. I remember being in the middle of a song, it was kind of like a mid-tempo C.O.C. song and all of a sudden I was like, ‘Woow, what the fuck happened?’ I forgot that I was on a boat! It didn’t dawn on me until I was done playing. And yesterday, playing outside on the deck it was a little hot, but there were no issues. We played pig farms back in the day, so we’ll play anywhere. We just want to play.
And of course, this was my first time seeing the four-piece lineup of C.O.C., with Pepper Keenan …
Oh yeah? Did you like it?
Very much so. It was great, man. It was obviously a very different thing because it’s stoner/sludge as opposed to the hardcore punk that the three-piece lineup is known for. What’s it like for you to be playing that again after so long?
I’ll tell you what, when we first started doing rehearsals for the European tour that we did in March this year, we rehearsed for two days. Pepper came up from New Orleans to Raleigh, North Carolina, where we all live. The first day was kind of sketchy. I wasn’t feeling it. It wasn’t like we weren’t all trying, but it wasn’t quite in sync. But the next day it was like we had never stopped playing together. Everything clicked, everything was fun. So, for me at least, it took a day of adjustment, and since then, it’s just been fucking harmonious and fun as hell, just like the old days, before we got on Columbia and when we were trudging along. It’s been amazing, because like you said, the four or us hadn’t done these songs together in 15 years or something like that. It’s been a long time!
So, C.O.C. is going to keep going in this format for a while?
Yeah, we’re doing a US tour with Clutch after this for a month and then we’re doing a headlining US tour. After that, we’re going to start working on a new album and we’ll have it out next year for sure. We got a really good deal with a record label and it’ll be announced soon as to who it is. (A few days after this interview, it was announced that C.O.C. had signed a worldwide deal with Nuclear Blast Records)
That’s great to hear. I think the unique thing about C.O.C. is, you’ve made all kinds of lineups work. There’s a different fan-base for the three-piece lineup, as there is for the four-piece, and for the ‘Blind’ version. I don’t think any other band has been able to pull such a thing off, where it’s almost like a different band but under the same name.
Yeah, three different bands! You’re right! You get the hardcore punk version with the three-piece, then you get the more metal ‘Blind’ lineup, and then the Pepper lineup is its own animal. You know, we were always true to ourselves with whatever kind of music we liked, regardless of the trends, sometimes to our detriment! Like when ‘Deliverance’ came out in America, that was right when Green Day started getting big, and The Offspring and all that other kind of stuff. I was like, “Dude! We used to play punk too, but not pop punk!” So, ‘Deliverance’ did well but if it had come out may be four years later, it would have been a big record. It was still a pretty big record. I think we’re true to the name Corrosion Of Conformity, for sure. We certainly don’t follow trends or anything like that. Me, Woody and Mike in particular have been the core of the band, we’ve always tried to keep it alive by playing music that we like. If people like it, cool, but sometimes they don’t. And like you said, sometimes doing these different lineups means you have to start from scratch. When Karl started singing for us in the ‘Blind’ lineup, dude! The punk people were furious! And the same thing when Pepper started singing. It was like, “What the fuck happened to Karl? What’s this swampy Southern rock stuff?” But what we do is honest and from the heart. People can tell when we’re playing. They can feel that we mean it. It’s legitimate, we’re not faking it, and people can get that. It pours off the stage.
But it’s crazy that the stoner rock scene is so big right now. At least in the underground, it’s pretty popular. It works out well that this C.O.C. lineup is functional right now, but that was just a coincidence, right? You were not like, “this is big right now, so let’s get Pepper back.” You’ve been trying to make this happen for a while anyway.
Oh, exactly. Down were kind of taking a break, and Pep’s been calling for a while, and he and I had been talking to each other. Finally it came to a point where we just had to do it. We tried it out in the rehearsal room, like I said, and we did that run in Europe which was so much fun. The reaction in the UK and stuff, people were just losing it. It was all good, it was all positive. So, we’ve got to keep doing this. That tour was our litmus test. It was the barometer for us in terms of whether we wanted to do a new album and do more touring. We wanted to see how it was, and it worked out great. I think Pepper is singing better now than he ever has. With Down, he just plays guitar and he can party his ass off and doesn’t have to worry about his voice, but now he has to kind of ..
He is partying less now?
He has to, yeah! (Laughs) He has to get it under control at least a little bit. But there are days off on the road, like right now.
CLUTCH, CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, THE SHRINE
Thu/Oct-15 Grand Rapids, MI @ Orbit Room
Fri/Oct-16 Sauget, IL @ Pop’s Nightclub
Sat/Oct-17 Lincoln, NE @ Bourbon Theatre
Sun/Oct-18 Fargo, ND @ Scheels Arena
Tue/Oct-20 Billings, MT @ Shrine Auditorium
Thu/Oct-22 Spokane, WA @ Knitting Factory Concert House
Fri/Oct-23 Boise, ID @ Knitting Factory Concert House
Sun/Oct-25 COC Headline show Las Vegas @ Vinyl Hard Rock
CLUTCH, MASTODON, CORROSION OF CONFORMITY
Mon/Oct-26 Tucson, AZ @ Rialto Theatre
Wed/Oct-28 Austin, TX @ Austin Music Hall
Thu/Oct-29 Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey Live
Fri/Oct-30 Houston, TX @ Bayou Music Center
MASTODON, CORROSION OF CONFORMITY
Sat/Oct-31 New Orleans, LA @ Civic Theatre
Sun/Nov-01 Birmingham @Iron City
CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, BRANT BJORK, SAVIOURS
Thu/Nov-12 Atlanta, GA @ The Loft **
Fri/Nov-13 Shreveport, LA @ Riverside Warehouse ##
Mon/Nov-16 Scottsdale, AZ @ Pub Rock
Tue/Nov-17 Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram Ballroom
Wed/Nov-18 San Francisco, CA @ Slim’s
Fri/Nov-20 Vancouver, BC @ Venue Nightclub
Sat/Nov-21 Seattle, WA @ Neumo’s
Mon/Nov-23 Denver, CO @ The Summit Music Hall
Tue/Nov-24 Kansas City, MO @ The Riot Room
Wed/Nov-25 Minneapolis, MN @ Mill City Nights
Fri/Nov-27 Racine, WI @ Rte 20
Sat/Nov-28 Cleveland, OH @ The Odeon
Sun/Nov-29 Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
Tue/Dec-01 Toronto, ON @ Opera House
Wed/Dec-02 Flint, MI @ The Machine Shop
Thu/Dec-03 Pittsburgh, PA @ Altar Bar
Fri/Dec-04 New York, NY @ Gramercy Theatre
Sat/Dec-05 Allston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall
Mon/Dec-07 Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
Tue/Dec-08 Asheville, NC @ The Orange Peel
Wed/Dec-09 Virginia Beach, VA @ Shaka’s Live
Thu/Dec-10 Raleigh, NC @ Lincoln Theatre
** YOB, Brant Bjork, Black Cobra
## Brant Bjork, local support
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