DOWN Members Talk Upcoming EP, Split With Bassist REX BROWN

DOWN, the acclaimed New Orleans band which features in its ranks CORROSION OF CONFORMITY guitarist/vocalist Pepper Keenan, drummer Jimmy Bower (EYEHATEGOD, SUPERJOINT RITUAL guitarist), bassist Patrick Bruders (CROWBAR), guitarist Kirk Windstein (CROWBAR), and vocalist Philip Anselmo (SUPERJOINT RITUAL, PANTERA) — entered the studio in October to begin recording the first in a series of four EPs, to be released over the next few years (with a year between EPs), each touching on a different aspect of the band's sound.

The first six-song EP, which heralds the sound of DOWN going back to its roots, with influences from BLACK SABBATH, SAINT VITUS and WITCHFINDER GENERAL, is described by Anselmo as "a very pure doom metal record."

The track listing for the effort is as follows (in no particular order):

01. Levitation
02. Witchtripper
03. The Misfortune Teller
04. The Curse Is A Lie
05. Open Coffins
06. This Work Is Timeless

The members of DOWN were interviewed for a cover story in the latest issue of U.K.'s Metal Hammer magazine. A few excerpts from the chat follow below.

On DOWN's plan to record a series of four EPs over the next few years:

Pepper Keenan: "I had a conversation with Jerry Cantrell [ALICE IN CHAINS guitarist], and I saw a little bit of envy in his eye. Bands know it's a good idea, with the industry like it is these days. But it was more of a thing to allow us to have freedom and not be so stuck to one damn record. If we want to do some mellow shit, it's always like song number nine has to be the mellow song, all that bullshit. It was just something Phil and I were throwing around. And me being the artwork guy, I thought it would be an awesome thing to have a series of images connected together."

Philip Anselmo: "To me, an EP is less stress for us. We have an incredible relationship in DOWN, but when we're locked up for a month or two or three, pounding out 12 to 15 songs, it's very taxing. Very emotionally taxing. So one, it's easier on us, and two, it gives the music to the people quicker. You know, five years ago, we promised people, 'It won't take us five years to get this thing done!' [Laughing] Riiiight."

On the first of the four EPs:

Kirk Windstein: "This is kind of a heavy-sounding record for DOWN. These six tracks are not loaded with a lot of dynamics like we have in some of our other material."

On the new song "Witchtripper":

Pepper Keenan: "We were down in Spain, in this little village, and I noticed that every house had these stones on the corner of the roof. And everywhere I looked, there were images of witches in people's windows. Of course, Phil and I being like we are, we started envisioning what these stones were. We figured they were probably witchtrippers — you got witches on the roof, and they trip her up when she's coming down. We had to have the correct song to match the coolness of the word. When I had the riff, I knew it was one that would be 'Witchtripper'."

On the lyrical themes covered on the first EP:

Philip Anselmo: "Interesting. Before I say anything, I will say this. On this — and in the past — I write to basically give an outline and let the listener garner for themselves how they want to apply their own rules and regulations to the track. For me, I find one of the biggest realities of life is that no two men, no two cultures, no two belief systems are really the same. There's a lot lyrically where I'm kind of at odds with mankind's relationship with mankind. . . I guess it's more simple to say than ever doing it, such is history, but these days instead of ruffling feathers, I much prefer… put it this way, I'd rather have friends than enemies, any day. It's easy to make an enemy. It's easy to be negative. It's very easy to slip into that, but it's very tough to come with love. All you have to do is open up a newspaper and you can see for yourself, man. Right here in my own city, people are killed every day. Me, as a person, there's no way I could sleep at night if I'd done any of those things. It makes me wonder: what the fuck are those people thinking? There is this thug worship that has led a lot of promising youngsters down a terrible path, a sometimes-irreverisble path. You take somebody's life, as an adult, you're 16 years old and you're fucked. I guess when I sat down to write this record, that's where my head was at."

On the recording process:

Kirk Windstein: "To be truthful, there are times when there's a lot of tension in the room. I guess because everyone is a heavy hitter, as Pepper likes to call it. Everyone has a strong personality. At the same time, you come back a couple of hours later and everybody's smiling from ear to ear and jamming their fucking asses off. You gotta go through hell to get to heaven."

On recording the new EP "sober":

Philip Anselmo: "To me, it's a lot more fun to record sober. That way you can pay attention to everything. You can hear everybody's individual efforts, and you can hear it collectively. If I'm fucked up, I'm pretty much not listening [erupts with laughter]. . . Listen, truthfully, I was extremely sober on this one. Don't get me wrong, we do have our beers and stuff. But the beers didn't come 'till after the job was done, if you feel me. After a good day's work. Have a sip, take a cold one, take the edge off. . . It's not a new experience [recording sober]. In PANTERA, as hard a drinking band as we were, there was always those times where it was, like, 'OK, let's keep the sips out of the equation until we have done this day's work.' Especially early on, that was a big credo. It's a good rule to come back to."

On being based in New Orleans:

Philip Anselmo: "There's no place like it, not in the U.S. There's a camaraderie among local musicians that crosses a lot of boundaries: there's jazz musicians, there's heavy metal musicians, there's all the genres that fall in between. And we all run across each other all the time, help each other out, play with each other. That's the charm of the city, man."

Pepper Keenan: "New Orleans is a wonderful place. It's cheap, the weather's great, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a musician, bars are open 24 hours. It's just a good place to live. If we could only get these motherfuckers to stop killing each other. Assholes shooting each other for a dollar, that's what's stifling the growth of this city."

On the state of heavy metal right now:

Philip Anselmo: "We've been hearing that metal is dying for about 20 years. When I was in PANTERA, of course, heavy metal was dead. [Putting on 'record label mogul' voice] 'I'm not sure you're going to be able to sell many tickets on this tour — there's this new brand of music called nu metal that's gonna take over the world.' Ha! Look what happened. Heavy metal is never fucking dead, man. Never, never, never. There's a good case for it being healthier than it has been in years. It just depends on what you're looking for. If I started namedropping bands right now, somebody would get their fucking feelings hurt, so I'm not. And some bands come across as pretty generic. But I would take a lo-fi fucking rough shit recording of a great band over some over-produced, sleek fucking product that sells a million any fucking day at this point in my life."

On the departure of DOWN bassist Rex Brown:

Kirk Windstein: "It's really a two-part thing. Part one is that it really kind of ran its course. Part two is kinda personal. I'll anser any fucking thing you wanna ask me, but certain things are personal. But I spoke to Rex for 45 minutes at the end of last week, and he's sounding great. He's very excited, mixing KILL DEVIL HILL. He's still a great, great friend."

Philip Anselmo: "Rex is a brother of mine, and we made somewhat of a pact that we would not tread on each other in various interviews. So I'm gonna stick with what is the truth: that he had different ideas about what a band should be. I'm envious, 'cause Vinny Appice's [Rex's KILL DEVIL HILL bandmate] a great guy and an outstanding drummer. Tight as fuck. I think that's where Rex wants to be, and that's the type of music he wants to play, and we have to respect that. As far as unveiling any truths or anything hidden… that's something I just can't get into."

On whether he will read Rex Brown's upcoming autobiography:

Philip Anselmo: "Well, that's a tough question. He was almost the silent member of PANTERA in many ways. We'll just have to see how it turns out and when it turns out. Believe me, I haven't read one page of it. He hasn't shared too much with me."

On when the last time was that he spoke to his former PANTERA bandmate Vinnie Paul Abbott:

Philip Anselmo: "Probably 2001."

On whether he thinks there will ever be a reconciliation between him and Vinnie Paul:

Philip Anselmo: "I don't know. In my heart of hearts, my door is wide open. I've said it a million times. And I'll say this too: for all the falling out, the bad feelings that Vinnie Paul is trying to harbor and keeps so freshly alive… to me, it points to the fact that in truth he really loves me. That things wouldn't be getting to him so much if it weren't for this strong love. I can wish a thousand times a day that we could reconcile, but until it happens, until he decides to knock on the door… Actually, the door is open, until he decides to step in through or even look inside the door, then… we'll take it from there, y'know."

To order a copy of the latest issue of Metal Hammer magazine, go to this location.

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