“When you hear a COC record – you know it’s COC.”
Never has such a basic statement been so true.
Pepper Keenan, singer and guitarist for Corrosion of Conformity is taking a break from the first tour leg supporting America’s Volume Dealer, the best hard rock album to come out this year.
“We’ve got a chameleon like quality where we can change styles within an album pretty drastically,” he says, “But it still sounds like COC.”
In their 18 year history, North Carolina natives COC have gone from hardcore punk pioneers to politically charged proponents of free thought, culminating in America’s Volume Dealer, where they have not only returned to a independent label, but back to the basic roots of rock at its purest level. The new record is a mixture of crunching riffs and heavy blues. The message heavy lyrics of the past have been replaced by solid songwriting that fits perfectly with the raw simplicity of the sound.
“It’s a record that not many bands seem to be making anymore,” Keenan says in his smoky Southern drawl. “Not that it’s retro, but we felt it was very valid to get back to the basic principles of not using computerized this and that or perfection this and that.”
Boasting in the liner notes that the record was “Recorded & Mixed in 28 days,” Keenan chalks this up to one of the main benefits to returning to a smaller label.
“Within three and a half to four weeks [after finishing recording], the record was out – which is unheard of,” he says. “If we had put that down on Columbia (the band’s former label), we’d be lucky if it came out next March.”
After the release of America’s Volume Dealer, it was right onto the road for COC. The first leg of the tour ends next Saturday in Philly at the Trocadero.
“It’s fun to do the headline thing,” Keenan says after coming down from touring with Metallica for the better part of a year for their last COC record, Wise Blood. “It’s more intimate, you can really feed off the crowd a lot more – it’s classic, you’re on a wooden stage – it feels great.”
New Orleans born Keenan started off as guitarist for COC in 1991 for the Blind record, where he contributed lead vocals to one song. It was such a powerful performance, that by the next record, the former singer was out and Keenan took over.
“It just got to the point where I started writing a lot of lyrics and it just kind of evolved into that,” he says modestly. “Fate had something to do with it…it just made sense.”
Three records later, firmly entrenched at the helm of COC, Keenan also keeps a little project on the side called Down, featuring members of Crowbar, Eyehategod and Pantera. Their late-90s release Nola sent shock waves through the music community with its grinding Southern rock influenced heaviness that set the tone for countless hard rock bands in its wake.
“I realize the importance of it,” Keenan says matter-of-factly when talking about the Down record. “First time I heard the demo tape, we just sat there and laughed cause it was so goddamn heavy.”
“Everywhere we go, that thing doesn’t die,” he says, adding that with 10 songs already finished, there will be another Down record “Without a doubt.”
Before that though, COC will be playing for the masses extensively, after a short holiday break they head off to the other side of the Atlantic.
“We start right back up in January,” announced Keenan. “We plan on going to Europe, Japan and Australia.”
For the Trocadero show, Keenan predicts things to get a bit wild.
“We’re not doin’ all new shit, we’re mixin’ it up,” he says. “Our whole road crew is from Philadelphia – it’s always crazy.”
Corrosion of Conformity. Sat., Dec. 23. 7 p.m. $12.50. With Clutch and Flybanger. Trocadero. 10th and Arch St. Call 215.922.LIVE for more information.