Amy Kelly of Ultimate-Guitar.com recently conducted an interview with DOWN guitarist Pepper Keenan. A few excerpts from the chat follow below.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: After so many years in the business, I'm sure you've experienced every type of festival or tour. What was your impression of the latest tour?
Pepper: Right now, it's probably my favorite tour that I've ever done or that we've ever headlined for. We've pretty much always played by ourselves, so we've played two-and-a-hours straight. We're bringing bands with us. There are two other bands that we love, and it's just a great package together. It's the most fun on the road that I've had.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: The members of DOWN could easily be considered veteran players with the collective number of years in the business. Do you see yourself slowing down at all in the next five or ten years?
Pepper: I enjoy touring. You get spoiled sometimes. We've been doing it so long, and we kind of do it at a comfortable pace now. In the beginning we were all maniacs. Now we have two buses and we have room so that we don't kill each other. We figure out how to make it work.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: There has been some information floating around about the next album, which isn't slated for release until 2010. Are you basically in the earliest stages of pre-production?
Pepper: Yeah. I think we're planning at earliest the summer of 2010. I think we start recording in January, so we'll be doing that.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: The time period between DOWN releases can go from anywhere to five to seven years, obviously because you have your other bands. With that amount of time, do you gather quite an arsenal of material by the time you go into the studio?
Pepper: Sometimes, yes. When you're touring as much as we have like this, it's really showing which songs work in a live setting. I think we feed on a lot of that energy to see which songs are good and bad. There are certain songs that work like gangbusters. You use that mentality and that attitude, and you focus that on writing new songs in the vein of that kind of stuff.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: So with that mentality in mind, at this point do you have quite a few ideas ready to be recorded?
Pepper: Yeah, definitely. We have some. We actually have one microphone, one vocal track, stripping it back kind of like the first record – but even better.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: Do you have anyone in mind to produce it?
Pepper: I think I'm going to work with an old friend of mine who I grew up with in New Orleans. He used to produce all kinds of bands, and now he's back in it. I think we're going to work with him.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: In terms of working with Kirk (Windstein, guitarist), is it usually a tradeoff with who comes up with the guitar parts?
Pepper: I come up with a lot of the main riffs, and Kirk pretty much does the same. A lot of times if I come with something, Kirk will do something to balance it out that I couldn't play in a million years.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: How would you describe your distinct styles and approaches to the guitar?
Pepper: I would say my style is more hammer-fisted. I use thick strings and downpick everything. Kirk is a little bit more precision-oriented, I guess. Kirk can play all the fast solos and I'll do all the David Gilmour shit! So that's a pretty good separation. It's a good balance.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: On DOWN's fan forums, there have been discussions about the possibility of acoustic tracks on the new record. Can we expect heavy use of the acoustic?
Pepper: We have a bunch of parts that we're hanging on to, but we figure on the last two records that we had a pretty good mix. Now we want to go straight for playing a heavy-hitter song. So that's the plan. Whether that happens, I don't know. That's the master plan, but it could change all tomorrow.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: There was a message from Rex (Brown, bass) on the band's MySpace page regarding his not being able to play on the latest tour.
Pepper: He needed to see his family and get things together. So we thought it would be better if he could get all that straightened out. We've been on the road three years. I can't believe that someone else hasn't tagged out. That's a long time to be away from your family.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: Can we expect any future releases that might hit the shelves before the 2010 album?
Pepper: We have a huge live DVD. What it is, it's the first time we got back together after Hurricane Katrina. We decided to go to Europe. New Orleans was all screwed up and we were all screwed up mentally. We decided to just go to Europe and play some shows. We hadn't played there for four or five years. I made some fliers online to get people to come out and put them up themselves. When we got to Europe, every show was sold out. So we started it in Phil's barn during rehearsals and we ended up having over 50,000 people coming. That's when we decided to do a third record.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: How many hours of footage did you get?
Pepper: I think we have 80 hours of footage or something.
Ultimate-Guitar.com: Will you be touring up until the end of the year?
Pepper: We tour until the end of September, I think. Then we're done because I'm getting ready to have a baby. I've got to get my ass on home.
Read the entire interview from Ultimate-Guitar.com.