Interview by: Brendan O’Mahony
Live Pics: © Olga Kuzmenko Photography
MGM: Hello Woody it’s Brendan here from My Global Mind. How’s things?
Woody: Hey man, how are you?
MGM: I’m great thanks. Thank you so much for taking the time for the call.
Woody: Oh, most definitely. I appreciate you taking the time to do it.
MGM: We want to say, first off, we are very, very excited to see Corrosion of Conformity coming back to Ireland. You’ve got the three shows in Ireland this time starting with the Tivoli in Dublin on October 22nd, Dolan’s Warehouse down in Limerick on the 23rd and The Limelight in Belfast on the 24th so it’s great to see.
Woody: I tell you what man, we’ve never been to Limerick before so I’m really looking forward to it and man the Irish always treat us so good so this is going to be a special trip for us.
MGM: Yeah, it’s brilliant that there has been the expansion to the number of shows. It’s a run of shows that are starting to gain a bit of traction with bands coming over. We had Napalm Death over last year and then Cannibal Corpse earlier this year too, so bands are reaching as many metal fans as possible.
Woody: Yeah, we are excited about it. Man, 2016 was our last trip over and it was just phenomenal so look you can’t keep us away. We are gonna’ keep coming man.
MGM: Most definitely. You have the latest album ‘No Cross, No Crown’ which came out in January and it’s been amazing listening to it. I’m really looking forward to hearing the tracks in a live setting.
Woody: Actually, we are gonna’ try to you know, talking about setlist and albums and songs, we are trying to get as many tunes off of ‘No Cross, No Crown’ into the setlist as we can. I know there’s gonna’ be a couple, maybe three or four, but we will see what happens.
MGM: Excellent news to hear because of your last run in Europe earlier this year before you went back for the second leg of the tour in the U.S with Black Label Society, you had ‘Luddite’ and ‘Wolf Named Crow’ in the set. You have so many songs off the album that you could throw into a live setting like ‘Cast the First Stone’ or ‘Little Man’ so it will be great to get to hear some of those.
Woody: Yeah man we’ve got lots of choices and those ones are good choices man.
MGM: You have so many albums, you’ve been a three-piece, a four-piece, and a five-piece but focussing on the four-piece material how difficult is it for you guys to pick the setlist? Is it you picking them, is it Pepper Keenan picking them, is it a group choice?
Woody: (Laughs) It’s definitely a democratic decision but you know we all get together and as a matter of fact earlier this morning we were sending each other messages back and forth, choosing different songs to rehearse by ourselves before we show up. We’re all gonna’ convene in Manchester in England, which is sort of our home away from home, and do some rehearsing there before we cut across the channel to Ireland for the first shows. We’ve been talking about it all day today and have thrown a couple of ideas out there, a couple of tracks maybe off of ‘In the Arms of God’ that we are thinking about that we haven’t done in a while.
MGM: Great to hear. There’s been a twelve- or thirteen-year gap between those albums and Paranoid Opioid has been making it into the set so it will be a good chance now to dust some more of them off and get playing them again.
Woody: Yeah and of course you know people can expect to hear all the favorites you know. There’s always gonna’ be some of the ‘Deliverance’ album and some of the ‘Wiseblood’ stuff too. We’re not gonna’ ignore those albums.
MGM: Yeah, most definitely, you’ve got so much material to mine from with those and ‘America’s Volume Dealer’ too. In relation to the latest album ‘No Cross, No Crown’, it’s been a big success for the band, the highest charting album of your career. Was that a nice surprise? How does it feel for you guys?
Woody: Yeah you know it was a surprise. You never expect anything like that to happen but you know you can’t really go off record sales that much anymore. Let’s face it, it’s not as hard these days to get up a little higher in the charts because people don’t really buy records as much anymore. You know you see a band get a top ten record these days it doesn’t mean as much as it used to, but still, it’s an honor that our fans stick with us. They’ve gone out and bought the record and they are supporting us so. For us the most important thing for us is we get out to go out on the road, we get to play live and, hopefully, keep Nuclear Blast happy that they will want us to do another record.
MGM: Bringing us around to Nuclear Blast. You signed to them around two years ago and they’ve given you the space to be a four-piece band again, with Pepper re-joining, and they have given you the space to create as well.
Woody: Absolutely man. They gave us all the time in the world and the guys that we work with are great. We kept getting offered all these tours and we kept staying on the road, so it was almost a year since we had signed with Nuclear Blast and we hadn’t started work on the record yet but they were cool about it. They said take your time, you know. People don’t really remember exactly when an album came out, it’s just if it’s good or not, so we took that advice and waited until we felt right about it and it turned out good. We are happy with it.
MGM: Yeah. You definitely came through on that Woody. The record is amazing. I’m interested to know, when you were the three-piece, Pepper had gone off to do the project with Down, how has your guitar style, playing style, altered?
Woody: Obviously the dynamic changes when you add a fourth member in and not to mention having two guitar players, so when you’re thinking about writing the music you need to leave room for both guitarists to play off each other. You’re thinking more about harmonies that you can do and all that kind of stuff. We did those couple of three-piece records back in 2012, we were sort of putting our shoulders back to the early material, jumping off of the ‘Animosity’ era, sort of harking back to 1985 and getting our minds in that stuff and just having a great time. It was reaching back and it was fun doing that because people were saying “Man, while Pepper’s busy, why don’t you bust out some of the old stuff” so we did and it was really awesome. I guess it was around 2014/15 we started doing shows back with Pepper, reaching out to those records that we hadn’t done in a while, and we’ve been having a blast. Of course, all along we knew that we’d be getting back up with Keenan and stuff. We’d been talking for years about it really, it was just a matter of when the timing was right you know.
MGM: Well the band has been going for around 35/36 years, there’s been a couple of short breaks and some members have left and then come back. Is that the key to the longevity of Corrosion of Conformity? What is it that brings everybody back to the band?
Woody: Yeah, I think the fact that we have been fluid through the years and you know if somebody wants to take a break here and there then hey it’s totally cool. When the time is right we’ll do our thing. We don’t really get uptight about stuff and once we decide what’s going on and we get that working, really the main thing is having fun and we’re just lucky that we have the kind of fans who keep coming back. They’re steady, they’re not wishy-washy or flaky, they’re the biggest part to our longevity.
MGM: With everything going on in the music industry the tours are showing you that you are still making the music that the fans want to hear.
Woody: Yeah, most definitely. We wouldn’t be here if the fans didn’t come out to support us but the great thing as well is that we are getting new fans out on the road. It kinda’ works that way where we can head out on the road with different types of bands, recently we just finished up a run with Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society, and believe it or not even though we have a similar genre of music there were new fans each night who had never heard the band. We converted them into C.O.C fans and you know it’s great to be able to win over new fans still.
MGM: Speaking of touring with different types of bands we had a show from your label mates Enslaved here along with High on Fire, Matt Pike from Sleep’s other band, and on the label itself you are alongside some major names in metal such as Slayer, Testament, and Behemoth, so are there any bands on the label that you want to get out on tour with or any bands that have inspired or impressed you?
Woody: Yeah man there are so many bands, Nuclear Blast has an amazing roster. I could probably pick fifteen bands to travel with and we could go out on tour with bands that don’t really fit particularly with our genre. Behemoth or Slayer or At the Gates, I’d love to tour with those bands. You know the High on Fire guys would have meshed pretty well with our sound. We are similar in a lot of ways but you know I love that kind of stuff. I love going on tour and traveling with bands that are totally different. If it works, it works, kind of mutual fans you know.
MGM: Yeah you guys have pretty much been touring constantly since the start of the year with the release of ‘No Cross, No Crown’ from the support slot with Black Label Society twice, a headline trip down to South America and in Europe while getting in some festival appearances. Have there been any standout shows, festival versus headline versus support slot for you guys?
Woody: The festivals are definitely an event, a lifestyle over in Europe and I know it has been for dozens of years, and I love playing them you know, the big marquee festivals but man, for me personally, I love that there is nothing like being in a tight venue with a tight sound system and a thousand crazy people. You get to play a whole set you know, that’s one of the problems for me with the festivals, they throw you up there and if you’re not one of the headliners you gotta’ do it all in thirty minutes. You got the set and maybe you’re on at five pm and the sun is shining in your eyes but then you’re getting to play for thirty thousand or fifty thousand people so you know, you take the good with the bad. I do personally prefer the clubs and the theatres and we are gonna’ have a blast on this run coming up. You know the UK shows with the Orange Goblin guys is going to be awesome too.
MGM: Looking at your support bands for this tour you’ve got a lot of talent there. In the UK you’ve got Orange Goblin, Fireball Ministry and Black Moth and then over here in Ireland you’ve got Ten Ton Slugs, Two Tales of Woe and Slomatics up in the Belfast show. You’re really promoting the local bands, Orange Goblin I suppose are more established, but you’re promoting local bands which is fantastic.
Woody: Yeah, we do. We always try to and you know those are great bands. There were several bands that submitted songs and ideas for the tour and those were the ones that we felt stood out. Sometimes you gotta’ make a decision like that but it’s awesome to have the local guys come out and support the band.
MGM: Well you guys are a great draw and giving those guys the support slots will definitely get them more exposure which is great to see. They are getting the chance due to this latest record for which you’ve got John Custer back as producer. I’ve got to say you’ve achieved an amazing sound for it. How does he influence your recordings? Does he throw ideas out when you’re writing or when you’re in the studio?
Woody: He’s not so much on the writing end although occasionally that will happen, especially once we are in the studio. He’s the ideas guy, the so-called icing on the cake. Once the bare bones songs are there and we are in the recording he’s a wizard. He’s an amazing musician, he makes us all look silly on the guitar you know. His way of producing is, he’s like a timing guy. The vocals and guitar solos, for example, he knows where to place things and he assists us in that. He could make or break a song you know, where the solo should start and end and vocals especially as well.
MGM: Excellent. From listening to this record and from your previous work there haven’t been many instances of you guys doing covers. You’ve got the Fleetwood Mac cover ‘Green Manalishi’ on the first album ‘Eye for an Eye’ and the CCR cover of ‘Fortunate Son’ on the ‘Drowning in a Daydream’ EP. You’ve chosen ‘Son and Daughter’ from Queen for the new album so was that a choice from yourselves or how did that come about?
Woody: That (laughs) well seeing as you’re talking about John, that was John Custer’s suggestion. He had been getting on to us for years about covering that song. We finally acquiesced and bowed to his wishes and we wound up doing it. That was a John suggestion because, obviously, he is a massive Brian May fan and Queen fan and it worked out great. I think it was a good tribute to them and we had a great time doing it. It is true though, we don’t actually normally have cover tunes on records so that was a rarity for us.
MGM: Well in that respect, if C.O.C were ever to do a covers album, what tracks would you have to put on it?
Woody: (Laughs) Well you know we’ve been known to do Sabbath songs, we contributed to ‘Nativity in Black’, and you know Skynyrd we’ve done ‘On the Hunt’ while also we’ve tipped the hat to ZZ Top live before. It probably wouldn’t wind up being a big surprise if you’ve listened to the band, obviously, we are huge Thin Lizzy fans and maybe some Deep Purple too. If we were to do it we may throw some left field ones in there that we might come up with but you could probably figure out what songs we’d do.
MGM: Well it would definitely be an interesting one if you were ever to get some time to go down that path. Actually, speaking of Sabbath there, the album artwork for ‘No Cross, No Crown’ has a very 70’s Sabbath look to it. Who has the input in artwork for the records?
Woody: Yes, absolutely, 100%. A lot of that you know is Pepper. He is a great design guy, he works on a lot of the stuff. The t-shirt designs we come up with he has sort of spearheaded along with the album covers, he led a lot of that too. He’s got a mind for that stuff you know. Keenan will come up with an idea and we’ll toss around a few ideas as well but he really works on a lot of our design stuff.
MGM: It’s definitely a striking image and it gives a nod to previous covers with the skull motif as well.
Woody: Yeah definitely man.
MGM: So, looking forward to the future of C.O.C I read yesterday you guys are getting onto the Mega Cruise with Megadeth. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Woody: True, true man. You know we did a couple of those things before. We were fortunate enough to be invited on the Motörboat which happened back in maybe 2015, of course, it was the last Motörboat because Lemmy has since left us, but those things are kind of fun man. We’ll see how the Megadeth cruise works out man. He’s already got some great bands lined up and there are still several more he is going to announce so. You know for a band man, you can’t really turn them down. They bring you on a four or five-day cruise and put you up in a room. You get to play music for people that are there to see you so it’s kind of a win-win. This will be the third one that I have personally done and I dig them, man, they are a good time. The whole time you’re out there’s what, two thousand people on the boat, and you are hanging out with the fans the whole time and you head down to the bar and they’re all there chillin’. They’re all metal fans so you got a lot to talk about and a lot to do. You know, if no one has ever been on these things, they can look pricey but you can get a few people together and share a room. They’re fun and I recommend them if you’re a heavy metal fan.
MGM: Well look you’re getting to cruise down from L.A to Mexico and you’re up close and personal with all the bands on the boat together so definitely a worthwhile experience. I hear also that Megadeth is looking at doing a beer and music festival called ‘Kegadeth’, a great play on words there, Slipknot have the ‘Knotfest’ and Ozzy has done ‘Ozzfest’. If Corrosion ever got the chance to curate a festival would it be something you’d be interested in? Would you look at doing a Southern Rock kind of thing with ZZ Top?
Woody: (Laughs) Well hey we just did Clutch’s festival there, the Earth Rocker festival, several week’s back and you know a lot of bands are doing that, having their own festivals. We did the Knotfest but I don’t know if we ever did one obviously it wouldn’t be a giant, monster festival like that but it would be cool to get some bands together. Look at the bands that we have taken out on tour with us back through the years. We’re getting ready to announce another U.S run. We’re going to be taking out some of our friends and buddies and bands that we get along with any kind of match up good with. We’ve been known for that through the years you know. It wouldn’t necessarily be a Southern Rock thing, we’d probably have some Doom in there and some Stoner Rock, I don’t know if that genre even exists anymore, I know it was big for a while. I try not to get caught up with genre names it’s just bands that we like.
MGM: That is definitely something to get into the planning stages. Coming back around to the upcoming shows in Dublin, Limerick, Belfast and then the run in the UK, that’s a run that will take you up to the start of November. What’s next for C.O.C? We’ve touched on the Mega Cruise and the planned American tour. When you’re on tour are you writing songs, are you planning for the next album or are you going to let this one gestate a while further?
Woody: We’ll probably let this one gestate for another while. I mean, you know, people probably say “we write on the road” but we really don’t man. We might mess with a riff or two at soundcheck but unless you’re traveling with some kind of portable studio, I don’t really fall for that stuff. We’ve always got riffs or whatever and sometimes we’ll do an impromptu jam but really, we’re just concentrating on supporting the new record. Once we get back from this UK and Irish run we’ve got coming up there’s a few things to get set up before the new year. Right after the new year we’ve got the US headline run for a few months and then after that, I don’t know man but we’ll stay busy.
MGM: Great. Well, Woody, I can’t tell you enough how much of an honour and a pleasure it has been speaking with you. I’m really looking forward to the show in the Tivoli on October 22nd. I’ll be there front and center. Best of luck with the prep for the tour and thanks again.
Woody: Thank you, brother, and be sure to stop and say hey when we’re over there, maybe we can grab a stout or something.
MGM: (Laughs) I’ll hold you to it.
Woody: Cheers brother.