CORROSION OF CONFORMITY bassist Mike Dean recently spoke to Dave Pehling of KTVU.com about about the band's history, their hard-hitting new effort, "In the Arms of God", and what it was like working with GALACTIC drummer Stanton Moore. A few excerpts from the interview follow:
KTVU.com: COC's approach to music over the last 15 years has evolved significantly away from the initial mix of hardcore punk and metal influences that the band was known for, but there's always been an element of political and social commentary in your lyrics. The new album seems to stay the course with tunes touching on addiction and the religious roots of warfare; is subject matter like this a conscious decision, or do the songs just emerge that way because of your collective interests as a band?
Mike Dean: "I think we naturally head that direction, and then maybe veer back a little and blur the focus just a bit so we're not a) pushing some particular agenda and b) not just resorting to rhetoric, which is a pretty easy songwriting formula. The problem with it is no matter how heartfelt it is, it doesn't tend to have the longevity as far as staying interesting. You need to leave just a little bit to the imagination and write something that might apply to different circumstances over time, you know, to sort of make it a broader theme lyrically.
"Of course, I can say all that, but I didn't write too many lyrics on this album. [laughs] It's mostly Pepper Keenan; I just wrote a verse here and a chorus there, what's a better line here and there. It's pretty collaborative, but I'd say the lyrics are 80 or 90 percent Pepper.
KTVU.com: It definitely seems that the lyrics are pretty open to interpretation with nothing that's really cut-and-dried definitely about politics. There are things you could take in a personal way or apply them to the world around you and open ended that way. The insert of the new CD lists the songs under two parts, almost suggesting the sides of an album if it was on vinyl. Is there any sort of thematic division between the songs?
Mike Dean: "I don't think so. I think the sequence was just chosen for aethestic reasons, keeping the endurance of the listener in mind. You know, not too many slow songs in a row to give the album some peaks and valleys. I think Pepper was gravitating towards this being almost a concept album and also to make it feel like a record you could listen to all the way through. When we were children and the format was vinyl and there was so much less in the way of viable, consumable [forms of] entertainment in the world besides rock and roll, you would put on headphones and listen to an album carefully.
KTVU.com: I have a couple of questions about GALACTIC drummer Stanton Moore joining up with the band for this album. I've seen him play in that band and with older jazz-funk veterans from the '60s, so when I found out he was filling in on drums I was a little surprised, but I knew he was good enough that that he'd be able to pull it off. Still, I was really impressed with how natural he sounded playing heavy rock and he filled the gap really well; I was wondering was there any informal jamming that was done with members of COC prior to the recording? Does he have any metal experience in his resume?
Mike Dean: "Yeah, well, it might not be something he lists on his 'A' resume, but when he first started playing drums before he'd ever heard Elvin Jones going off with John Coltrane or [James Brown drummer] Clyde Stubblefield or the METERS — or at least before he was really paying attention to that stuff -- he was listening to heavy metal and he was in a hardcore band called OCCIDENT THRUST as a young lad. So he has a good idea of what drives that type of music.
"And for us, once we realized it was a possibility to get him to play on it, we knew it would be an opportunity to take extremely hard rock back to its roots and infuse it with that type of swing that like an Ian Paice had with DEEP PURPLE or say that point in early BLACK SABBATH where it seemed Bill Ward was kind of chasing what Mitch Mitchell would be doing; more of an Elvin Jones or Ginger Baker inspired type of thing."
KTVU.com: Yeah, there's definitely a swing to Stanton's playing and it really brings a distinct character to the whole album because it's groove-heavy in the style of Bill Ward or LED ZEPPELIN's John Bonham ...
Mike Dean: "That's what we were trying for all along and we were working with some other drummers and friends and the songs were just sounding a little stereotypical, you know? We wanted this album to rise above being too formulaic or plain, so we asked Stanton, 'Who do you think we should get to play drums on this record?' and he just went 'Me!' Four days later, we relocate our whole preproduction operation to New Orleans and we just started cutting tracks.
"Actually, I guess your original question was had anybody informally jammed with him. I guess there was some night — Pepper is back living in New Orleans now and basically has known Stanton since they were both kids in grade school or something — so they were in a club and there was a band jamming that weren't really getting it done and those guys just kind of forced their way onto the stage, commandeered some instruments [laughs] and started doing this fusion of overdriven guitar and funky drums. And the bass player was trying to hang with them and they ran him off too. Eventually, they got together this project called KURBFEELER that included the sax player Skerik who Stanton jams with a good bit..."
Read Mike Dean's entire interview with KTVU.com at this location.