Interview by: Pam and Mark Schaff
Photos by: Olga Kuzmenko (Olga Kuzmenko Photography)
MGM : Hi Reed, how’s it going? It’s Pam and Mark from Myglobalmind.
Reed : Pamela and Mark. What’s up with you’s? You’re a little quiet.
MGM : Oops, sorry how is that, a little bit better?
Reed : Can you hear me now?
MGM : (Laughs)
Reed : Yeah, yeah, that’s a little better. What’s up? How you all doing? Did you like The Obsessed show last night?
MGM : Oh hell yeah, it was great. Our ears are still ringing.
Reed : I got a funny story to tell you about the Obsessed. This is before we knew them. Have you heard this story yet, I’ve told this story about a thousand times?
MGM : I don’t think so.
Reed : Should I tell this story anyway?
MGM : Yeah, definitely!
Reed : Alright, so back in the early eighties, we were a hardcore punk band.But were really into Sabbath, so we were one of the few hardcore punk bands that infused metal into it. There was a lot of like generic punk rock going on, but we let our influences of like Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath gel in a little bit. And the better we got at playing our instruments, the better we were at letting it ooze in. But anyways, we became super fans of bands like Metallica, and I listened to like Metal Militia in ’82 or ’83, something like that. And we ended up touring with those Slayer guys and the Death Angel guys, all the early thrash metal groups. So we were good friends with Slayer, but we had never played with them. Just seen them. And anyway, when they did their very first tour, they had a gig in Baltimore. This is when they were cruising around in a Trans Am and a U-haul truck. On the Haunting The Chapel tour.
MGM: (laughs) Nice!
Reed : It was at a big hall, that did metal, but mostly punk rock stuff. We showed up, the fucking place was packed, just squished in there. Like I said, this is before we knew the Obsessed guys and stuff. And Wino informed us that he wasn’t going to open for a punk rock band. And we were all like, What? Because we were more popular than they were at the time. Well, okay, doesn’t matter to me any. And you just couldn’t get any more people in there, they were like sardines. So we told the Slayer guys we were going on first, and they were saying, What, why do you go on first? Well, because they don’t want to open for a punk rock band. And Hanneman and Lombardo and all those dudes were like, “Fuck that, we don’t know those guys, we know you. We put you on the bill”. We were like no, no, no don’t worry about it. The place is packed, it doesn’t matter. Should be fun. Not a big drama. So they got a little-pissed off and whatever, We said just make sure you check out the show. So we played, and it was one of those shows where it was like one of those old-school punk shows. Things were like a popcorn popper, things were flying all over, people were flying all over. Just an amazing show. And it kicked ass, and it was super fun. This was at the time that me and Mike Dean did the three-piece. The Animosity, when Mike Dean started singing. And when we were done, we were like yeah, that was a good show! So Wino and the guys are fixin’ to move their stuff on stage, as we were moving our stuff off. And wouldn’t you know it, the Slayer guys and their crew blocked Wino and those guys from getting on stage.
MGM : Oh Shit!
Reed : And they informed them, you don’t want to open for a punk band, but your playing after us.
MGM : Damn! Nobody wants to play after Slayer!
Reed : Slayer played and killed it. And the poor Obsessed had to play to like seven people. But anyway, like I said this was Haunting The Chapel tour, it was a Trans Am or Camaro and a U-haul truck. That gives you an idea how long ago it was. Anyway, we were hanging out with them after the show, by the Trans Am and U-haul truck, And I think it was Tom or Hanneman, or maybe both, came up to me. That was at a time when I did pretty much all the business aspects, mainly because my dad had a fax machine and a phone I could use to do long distance. They were very adamant, look you guys, we know you did the first DIY thing to put your first album out. And it’s a killer album, you guys need representation here. You need people that are going to publicize you guys, market you guys. We were like, man that’s great, but nobody’s going to sign us. And they said we’re going to get you signed to our label. We thought, OK, that’s awfully nice of you, we thought they were just being nice to us. They asked for contact information for me. And we did couple more shows that weekend then drove back to Raleigh. And we thought, what a fun weekend, yay! And sure enough, Monday afternoon my dad gives me a call and says, “hey I got a fax here, from some Metal Blade Records”. It turns out it was a contract for Metal Blade Records. So we got our first record deal because of Slayer. Isn’t that cool.
MGM : Nice! That’s awesome!
Reed : Obviously we’re friends with Wino and stuff now. But back in 1983 or ’84 or something. Isn’t that cool though, Slayer got us signed.
MGM : That’s pretty wild. You’ve played with everybody at some point.
Reed : We’ve played with a lot of people for sure. I mean, you could probably name any punk band or hardcore band. Thrash metal band or grunge band. Or a big metal band like Metallica or Iron Maiden. We’ve played with a lot of them for sure.
MGM : That’s awesome. You guys are right up there with them.
Reed : That’s nice of you to say. I mean we did well, but we never really got big or anything. We are more like a bands band. Hopefully, this record changes all that. It’s like all the bands like us. We have a good corner of fan fans, but it’s not like we’re five finger fist fuck or whatever.
MGM : Yeah but you’ve been at this much longer than most bands. I guess you guys have more street cred so to speak. That’s where the band’s band comes in. You’ve influenced many bands. That has to be pretty humbling.
Reed : I appreciate you saying that. We’re definitely humble and down to earth. We’ve been around for a while, we feel blessed that we’re still around.
MGM : The new album is really good. We really like it a lot.
Reed : I’m glad! What tunes do you like?
MGM : All of them!
Reed : That’s a perfect answer.
MGM : ‘Old Disaster’ was the favorite at the start, then ‘Little Man’, it kind of moves around from song to song. Every time you listen to it, something else becomes a favorite. This is just so good. It doesn’t matter where you stop or start on this album.
Reed : You know, I feel the same way. For like three or four days I’ll be obsessed with one song or two songs. Then like, I’ll start listening to a couple others. Yeah, I think it turned out really well. We’re really proud of it.
MGM : How did this whole thing come about. How did Pepper end up coming back at this point?
Reed: When COC started doing the three-piece, the reunion thing back in 2009-10. A lot of our old school hardcore fans, or even a lot of folks that weren’t around in those days, had been really wanting us to do it. Not for just nostalgia sake, just a lot of people never got to see that lineup. So Pepper was doing Down, and I, Woody and Mike Dean were like, what the fuck let’s try it out. Seems like people are interested. So we started doing that and did a couple records and stuff. But the whole time we were doing it, Pepper would be calling me every three weeks or a month or something. He’d be like “Mule”, he calls me mule, “man we got to get this shit back together, we gotta do the four-piece man”. I was like, fuck yeah, but right now I think you’re on tour with Down.
MGM : I don’t think people realize how good the two albums you guys did as the three-piece are.
Reed : Man, you guys are going to make my head explode.
MGM : (laughs) It’s true, we’re huge fans. But we think a lot of people think of COC as a four-piece and don’t really think of all the great stuff you’ve done as a three.
Reed : With three, and as a five.
MGM : Yeah, that’s right, with Karl.
Reed : So Pepper was calling me every three weeks to a month. And we would talk and be like, dude listen, I am Down with it. “Down” with it. I said, when you guys take a break or whatever, let’s talk about it. So sure enough about six to nine months later, Down was taking a break. Phil was doing one of his what, five or six thousand other bands. And so we worked it out and we jammed a little, it was fun as hell. And it ended up the first thing we did was in England and the UK and Europe. And it was sort of like a barometer, a litmus test to see if folks still dug it. If it was still fun, to see if people actually showed up. Man, it was beyond our expectations, people were just super stoked. And also, the most important thing was to make sure we got along. But it was a fun experience, it was like the old days. I tell you what, I think this was better than the old days. Pepper’s singing better, I don’t know, maybe we’re just more mature now. Secretly, just like Pepper and I were talking about doing the reunion thing, I had been talking to my old buddy Monte Conner, who I’ve known for beers and beers and beers. Cause when he caught hold of the fact that we were getting this stuff back together, he called me up immediately. He was like “Dude is this real, are you guys just gonna do some shows? Are you guys gonna do this seriously?”. I was like, well that’s what we’re trying to see, if gonna be more like the long term thing. And he said “Well if you guys are going to do an album, I’m going to sign you.” He’s one of the guys that used to run Roadrunner, now he runs Nuclear Blast in the states. I said alright Monte, that sounds good. I thought he was just being nice too. But then he said that ‘Deliverance’ wasn’t just his favorite COC album, it’s one of his favorite albums of all time.
MGM : Same here! Same here!
Reed : I was like holy fuck dude, are you serious or just blowing smoke. He said “Nope, I’m being totally serious, I’m gonna sign you guys”. So he and I, while we were doing the Deliverance stuff, we were talking like every three weeks to a month as well. And he just kept asking for updates, then finally I got him to just give us a proposal. And yeah, he gave us a great proposal, I showed it to the dudes, they’re like “what, where’d this come from?”. I’ve been talking to Monte for a little while, so we signed. There’s something to be said for enthusiasm from a label. If the label is stoked, I mean we could have probably gotten a bigger pile of money somewhere else, but the whole label was super into it. They were super stoked and it’s hard to put a price tag onto something like that.
MGM : Especially if they’re letting you keep your creative freedom and stuff.
Reed : Right, that’s for sure. The original idea before going into the studio, was that we were going to document our ideas, and do some demos at our rehearsal space, which is in Raleigh. Because Mike Dean has got a nice recording thing right there. And then we were going to take whatever the songs were that we liked the most and record the basic track at like, 606 Dave Grohl’s studio. Or there’s another place in Louisiana, so we were going to do the demos in Raleigh, then take it somewhere else to record it again. But it ended up being that the tracks were turning out so bad ass.
MGM : You got work with John Custer again on this album. You’ve been working with him for so many years. Wouldn’t you say he’s almost like a fifth member?
Reed : John Custer is sort of like our fifth member, and one of the good things about working with him is that he’s been doing every COC album since 1991. Blind was the first album he ever did, ever. That’s a great record. So we were supposed to do the demo, then go somewhere else. But John Custer is so great at getting great, energetic takes out of us. He knows every person and our personalities so well. So he’s looking for the energy, I could play a song perfect to the metronome, and he’d be like, let’s try it one more time. And he was always right. I would rather it have energy, rather than sterile sounding. A lot of the records out these days optimize the drums, and everything becomes perfect, becomes sterile and doesn’t have any life to it. No offense to the people that do that, but that’s just not what I want. I like energy. So anyway, Custer’s so good at that, we ended up deciding that we were going to keep what we had since the takes were so awesome. And this old buddy of ours named Mike Frazier out of Vancouver, a super famous rock engineer, I think he’s done AC/DC, some Guns ‘N’ Roses, engineer and mixing guy. And he’s another guy that had been bugging me for the last five years when he got wind of the fact that we were doing the Pepper stuff. We got him to mix it, went up there with all the stuff, and he mixed it. Not that it sounded bad or anything, but when he was done it sounded even more killer. I think it turned out really good.
MGM : Yeah, it’s great. It really is. We think it’s one of the best album that has come out in a very long time.
Reed : WOOOO! You really are going to get my head to explode.
MGM : We’ve been telling everybody, when this comes out next month, you gotta get this record.
Reed : Well thank you, that’s awesome! We feel blessed that were able to do this. I’ve known Woody since like 5th grade, I’ve known Woody forever. And Mike Dean since 1981, known him almost forever too. And when we started the band I had just gotten a drum kit for Christmas, we started the band in February of 1982. My parents got me one of those sparkly kits from the pawn shop, and right after Christmas break, Woody came over and showed me how to play the Ramones beat, because I didn’t know how to play. So Woody knew how to play a little and he showed me that. And a good friend of mine that actually sang for COC a little bit, Eric Eycke, he could play drums a little bit too. He showed me how to do some punk rock beat. And once I learned those two, we started the band. Because there wasn’t a big prerequisite for musical talent or ability back then. If you could do those things, you could start a punk rock band. And we did, we started Corrosion of Conformity. I came up with the name in chemistry class at the high school Woody and I went to.
MGM : That’s awesome.
Reed : We were studying corrosive materials.
MGM : Earlier this year, while you guys were out with Danzig, a Buffalo show at Artpark and it got canceled.
Reed : Oh yeah, what the fuck was up with that?
MGM : We’re not really sure, we think they just booked the wrong venue that was needed for that night. And there were a lot of shows here on the same night. That was a real problem, just a lot of shows all at once.
Reed : Crowbar, GBH, Raven. Yeah Raven, crash, bang wallop.
MGM : But that night you were supposed play Buffalo, after the show got canceled you ended up playing down in Frederick, Maryland at Cafe 611.
Reed : Oh dude, that was such a bad ass show.
MGM : We’ve been there, and we know a few people down there. We heard that they shut the power off in the middle of ‘Albatross’, but you kept playing and the crowd sang out the rest of the song with just you drumming. That had to be kinda cool for you guys.
Reed : Spine-tingling! Every person in the entire place was going “well you can call me crazy!” I don’t know how many people it was, but it was huge. It was so fucking bad ass. That’s one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had playing live.
MGM : It was great when we heard about that, and we saw the video of it. We were like, you know what if anybody got that show, we were bummed that we couldn’t see you guys, but we were glad it was all those great people down there that got the show, and that you guys got that experience, it was really awesome to watch.
Reed : Well I kept playing because I thought something was wrong with the power, thinking it would come back on. I think the cops made them shut it down.
MGM : We saw them shut it down on Wino when the Obsessed played the Maryland Doom Fest two years ago.
Reed : What??
MGM : Yeah we think past a certain time they automatically shut it off. It was great that you just kept going.
Reed : Well like I said I thought something had blown, and I thought, I don’t want to start again, so I’ll just keep playing. And everybody kept singing, it was so cool. Yeah, it was so fucking bad ass.
MGM : So those are the moments you live for as a musician I would imagine.
Reed : Yeah, I mean not that the power gets turned off. But the end result was like holy fucking shit. Spine-tingling.
MGM : After the European tour with Pepper, we saw you in Toronto and it seemed like the chemistry was still there. It was so great seeing the four of you back on stage together again.
Reed : Chemistry, yeah I forgot to say that word. The chemistry is still there, most definitely.
MGM : Yeah it is.
Reed : Well like I said, Woody, Mike Dean and myself learned how to play music together. At first, it was rudimentary hardcore punk rock, but we were into Sabbath and other bands and some of that stuff leaked in, and we got better at playing. But all the time we were doing that, Eye For An Eye, Animosity, Technocracy records, Pepper was like a huge fan. We used to be like pen pals, back when people used to actually write letters. And every time we played in New Orleans, we played with his band Graveyard Rodeo. So when he came to the band, it was like he already was a band member anyways. He dug all the same shit we did. He came up and tried to sing for us in ’88 I think. Simon Bob, the guy from Technocracy had quit, and yeah, I asked a whole bunch of people. I asked Buzz from the Melvins, he actually thought about it for a day or two.
MGM : Really! King Buzzo?
Reed : I asked Chris Cornell, the Screaming Life EP had just come out, that was my favorite record he was on. Obviously, he said no. We ended up becoming really good friends, we were already friends with the Melvins. And Pepper heard about it. And he came up and he tried out, and he was awful. He was really bad. (laughs) Cause he was trying to do the punk rock thing, and that really wasn’t his style too much. But he was so cool, and he was our bro, that we ended up bringing him in as a second guitar player. Which added different option to us for making cool music you know what I mean. A lot more you can do live with two guitar players over one. And yeah, the rest is history.
MGM : Is there any chance we’d ever see Karl do anything with you guys again? Even as a guest vocal or something on an album.
Reed : Man I hope so. Karl and I did a little tour a couple years ago doing the blind stuff with some other dudes.
MGM : Yeah we saw that, well we didn’t see the tour, but we heard about it.
Reed : With the ummm, the Sepultura guys, what’s their names?
MGM : Cavalera Conspiracy?
Reed : Yeah that’s it, so Karl and I still talk all the time. But I don’t think, I mean I wish, but I don’t think that Woody or Pepper would want to anything with him. I wish that relationship could be mended a little bit to do something. Karl and I just decided we’re going to do a band called Blind, and play some Blind songs and write a new album. And if Woody, Pepper or Mike Dean want to play, they can.
MGM : You’ve had some political based songs on some of your albums in the past, not all of them, but some. The new album doesn’t seem to have anything like that, did you do that this time intentionally?
Reed : No not at all. Pepper writes fantastic lyrics, but this stuff is a little more ambiguous, a little more personal. But all the stuff he touches on could be construed as political. Just not overt like ‘Vote with a Bullet’ or something. But I don’t think there was too much political stuff on ‘Deliverance’ either. But that’s just this writing style with this lineup. And Mike Dean wrote some lyrics too. But it wasn’t a conscious thing, just the style that Pepper and for this album, Mike Dean wrote.
MGM : Are you guys planning on doing a headlining tour for this album after the Black Label Society part ends?
Reed : Oh fuck yeah. We’re gonna be busy for a while. Gotta keep this thing going for a while. Our tour starts Wednesday. Woody, Mike Dean and me did some rehearsals day before yesterday, did a couple new songs so we can play those live. Sounded really good. And yeah, it’s gonna be slammin’.
MGM : About how many new songs do you think you have so far on your set list?
Reed : We’ll have at least a couple probably.
MGM : It’s gotta be hard to take stuff out that you’re used to playing.
Reed : That’s true, we have a bunch of material. But you know, when we do the headlining thing, we’ll have a bunch of new material in there.
MGM : Well you get more time that way.
Reed : Yep. You know our friend Janet, is COC’s biggest fan.
MGM : Oh definitely!
Reed : But I have a friend that was the self-proclaimed biggest COC fan in the world about 20 years ago. And it’s one of Bob Dylan’s sons, it’s Sam Dylan. He’s a huge COC fan. Like whenever we’re in California, he comes to every show. Isn’t that cool?
MGM : Don’t get him and Janet together, they might get into a fistfight.
Reed : (laughs) Yeah (laughs) I’m the biggest, no me.
MGM : Are you planning on doing any more Teenage Time Killer albums?
Reed : Oh fuck yeah, as a matter of fact, we’re gonna have a little break for like five days or a week during this tour. I’m either going to go to LA and do some stuff at Dave Grohl’s place. Or my buddy has a place in California that’s like five minutes south of San Francisco. But yeah, hopefully, Nuclear Blast will put out this one because I thought Rise did a terrible job on the last one.
MGM : That record was really good, we have that. Got it first on CD than on vinyl.
Reed : Someone interviewed me yesterday from Pasadena and she was at that one show we played. She was like, I’m not trying to blow smoke up your ass, but that was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in my life.
MGM : We heard a lot of good stuff about that show.
Reed : There were no egos. Cory Taylor, Randy Blythe, Neil Fallon had all just gotten off tours, like days before. And all flew out to do this thing where, I think Cory did four songs, I think all three of those guys did like four songs. It was so much fun, there were no egos. Everybody was like yay, this is just fun.
MGM : Do you have anybody lined up for the next one yet?
Reed : I’m gonna have to tell you that later, I’m gonna get up a big list of people that want to be on it. I think next time we’re gonna get a little more organized. If we had done this on Nuclear Blast like we should have, things would have been a lot more organized and we would have probably played more shows. Rise just fucking suck ass.
MGM : Yeah it didn’t seem like there was a lot of press for that album.
Reed : Hell no, they didn’t do shit. I think they leveraged having that done to get their deal they got with either BMG or BMR records. Not long after they got bought out for five million bucks. Anyway, enough of me bitchin’, no negativity I want to be positive.
MGM : Well that’s good attitude.
Reed : Yeah, so hopefully Monte will pick up the next one because he really wanted to do the first one. And he should have, I got outvoted. Not my fault, I got outvoted.
MGM : Well we’ll definitely be looking forward to that.
Reed : Right on, cool, any suggestions for number two? Who should be on it?
MGM : Wino would be cool. You could get Glenn Danzig.
Reed : Danzig would be cool. I actually asked Tommy Victor cause he plays with Danzig. When Tommy did his song I asked if Glenn would do it and he said only if he makes money. But that would be great, I’ve known Glenn for a long time, since the Misfits days. In fact, one of the best tours we did, when Karl was singing, was us, Soundgarden and Danzig. When Danzig was massive, 1992 or something like that. He was cool to us and remains super cool to us. I think it was because we were around when he first started and has uber respect for us or something, I don’t know.
MGM : I think you all kinda changed your styles around the same time too.
Reed : Yeah, that’s a good point.
MGM : He was kinda hardcore punk towards the end of the Misfits, then he progressed into more of the metal, kinda like you guys did.
Reed : Yeah, those records are pretty classic. Who else for the second TTK?
MGM : How about Matt Pike?
Reed : Oh dude, he would be great! Fuck yeah, I think I might have mentioned that to him before. Yeah, he would be such an awesome one, that’s a great idea.
MGM : Or Buzz from the Melvins, or Dale. But Dale can’t play drums, you would play drums.
Reed : Yeah Buzz would be good. Nooooo, Dale’s gonna play drums.
MGM : Wait, you could both play drums. Kinda like what they did with Melvins and the guys from Big Business.
Reed : Yeah that’s right, I know what you’re talking about.
MGM : We know you’ve had some health issues in the past with your back and knees, how are you feeling now?
Reed : Well the back ended up working out OK, I had this really weird procedure at the medical center. My neck was fucked up and the middle of my back was fucked up, but my neck was fucked up more. I thought it was my lower back, but I think it was from headbanging or whatever, or what I used to do, that fucked it up. That had to do this thing that made me feel like it was an episode of X-Files. They had me on this gurney that slid into an MRI, and they had to put a steroid, or I don’t know what it was, into my spine. But instead of going through my back, they went through my neck. It was two giant needles, they looked like knitting needles. But they didn’t just stick them in, they were worried for some reason they were going to cut some important blood vessels, so it took them like 35 minutes to get the needles down to where they needed to be. I had like two or three of that kind of things. And that ended up fixing that.
MGM : That’s great you were able to find relief after that procedure!
Reed : Then the last European tour we did as the three-piece, it started in Cardiff, and the place was packed. So it was the first show of the tour, the first song, and the first drum roll. When I did the drum roll and hit the cymbal I heard a pop and my right arm didn’t work anymore. I split my rotator cuff in half. I must have a high threshold of pain because I finished the tour that way. We went to the emergency room, and they would say it was the rotator cuff, but we could only do an x-ray can you come tomorrow and do an MRI. And it’s like no, we’ll be gone. When we got home, I went to my doctor and he’s great. They only expected me to get like 75% of my motion back, but I must be like 95-98 or something like that.
MGM : Great!
Reed : And then for a little while when I wasn’t playing with COC, I was hollerin’ with Custer and my best friend Mikey in a band. We played this big festival in Charlotte, North Carolina with No Doubt and Stone Temple Pilots, there was like 30,000 people there or something. The drummer had this enormous monitor directly behind him. It was huge, like 4-5 feet wide and maybe five feet tall. And it was directly behind him. So my dumb ass, I used to jump around a lot when I was hollerin’, I would jump around a lot during the set. So I got this crazy idea that I was going to jump over him. And it was very pathetic. (laughs) I was going to jump from behind him, over the entire drum kit and then land, without busting my nuts. So sure as hell there’s this one song, I climbed up on that giant ladder there, I jumped over the whole drum kit. I was in a little better shape then mind you, it was about 10,000 beers ago. So yeah, when I landed, it was just like that rotator cuff, I heard a pop. It’s hurt since, but it’s gotten really bad the last couple years. So I had surgery on my meniscus in my knee. I spent too much time out on the road, I should have done it right away. And when I had the first MRI till I had the surgery it had gotten a lot worse. And they had to take all the stuff out, and now it’s just bone on bone and it hurts like a motherfucker. Then they told me about this thing called chicken shots. Have you ever heard of this?
MGM : No, can’t say we’ve heard of chicken shots before.
Reed : Well somebody came up with the idea of taking the comb of a rooster, the little hat that they got on. Taking that, and making up some solution, because that is just cartilage, and shooting it into the knees of these racehorses. And sure enough, it made them ten times better. So when someone came up with the idea of putting it in humans. So about two months ago I got the chicken shot hoping that it would fix my knee. Comes in a series of three shots, but it didn’t work. As soon as the BLS thing is done, I’m getting my knee replaced.
MGM : Your not growing any feathers or anything are you?
Reed : Ahhhh Cluck Cluck Cluck. (Laughs) It will be really good to get this fixed. I have a big brace on right now and it still hurts.
MGM : Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us Reed. Hope you have a great tour, and we’ll see you in Buffalo in February.
Reed : Thank you, it was good talking to you all!
CORROSION OF CONFORMITY is:
Pepper Keenan – vocals, guitar
Woodroe Weatherman – guitar
Mike Dean – bass, vocals
Reed Mullin – drums, vocals