Sunday, June 15, 2014

Corrosion of Conformity: Guitarist Woodroe Weatherman weighs in on band's new album

COC's Woodroe Weatherman in Seattle. 

Andy, text -- Cat Rose, photos

"Is that a rooster?"

That's me asking Woodroe Weatherman of Corrosion of Conformity what's the racket in the background while we prepared to discuss the band's new album "IX" on Saturday morning.

The guitarist just finished some mowing and walking the fields on his 80-acre farm in Virginia, a stone's throw from the North Carolina border. He was also keeping an eye on one of his cows, which he felt was ready to birth some calves.

But, back to that rooster.

"I'm gonna try to get away from it. A rooster's annoying enough, but we've got these guineas that are unbelievably annoying. They have this strange cackle, and they literally will follow you around while you're trying to do shit and worry the hell out of you. Guineas are something that I don't recommend. They're interesting animals, but if you enjoy peace and quiet, don't get guineas," he said over the phone.

For the last 32 years, COC has doled out the loudness, as well.

Crushing riffs fingered with finesse and vocals and drums that ring your head, but also provide a soothing soundtrack to those who want their ears given a proper assault.

Weatherman, Mike Dean (bass, vocals) and Reed Mullin (drums, vocals) will unleash the impressive "IX" on June 24 on the Candlelight Records imprint.

With longtime producer John Custer at the helm again, Weatherman completed his rhythm tracks about a year ago and the rest of the album fell into place when Dean wasn't touring with Vista Chino and Mullin wasn't working on his Teenage Time Killer project, which will feature the likes of Dave Grohl, Jello Biafra, Lee Ving, Nick Oliveri and more punk and metal fellows.

"It was one of those slightly drawn-out projects, but it came out cool in the end," Weatherman said of "IX."

Here, There's Something Hard in There lets the questions flow:

* So you were down in Raleigh doing a video? (For "On Your Way") 

We knocked it out, man, it was super hot. We did it in this little warehouse where they could throw water on the floor. It was kind of like a car garage, so it was pretty nasty looking, which I guess is what they like.

* Little grimy to go along with the heavy stuff.

Yeah, right, the nasty, greasy, dirty looking crap. Yeah, it was cool. I don't really know what it'll wind up looking like, apparently there's a bunch of it that's not band performance that they're working on.

* As far as the new album... you guys keep rolling these albums out, but they still keep sounding fresh. How do you keep it interesting with all the riffs and whatnot?

 I think one thing that adds to it is everybody -- including Mullin -- is tossing riffs out there, maybe even more so than what we used to do. It's like everybody's song kind of winds up having a little bit of the other dude's influence in there, too, half the time. A lot of times, Mike Dean especially will show up with a finished product. I know I'll show up and I'll have two main riffs and I'm like, 'OK, boys, I've got these two riffs, but I'm drawing a blank. Help me out on the rest of it.' And we'll just jam out on it or Mike will go, 'Oh, I've got this thing that I didn't know what to do with, let's stick it in there.' It kind of keeps it interesting.

* There's always some kind of a new twist or turn in there, which is impressive.

 You gotta put those twists in there. When you're learning it, some of it seems a little hard to grasp sometimes, but once you get it in your head, it's like, 'OK, I'm in the groove now.' Especially some of Mike's riffs, man, he tosses some doozies out there that can be hard for me to get a hold of sometimes. But that's part of the challenge -- if everything was 4-4 and the same three chords, I guess we would have already gave up a long time ago.

* With you out there on the farm... I read the story about Sabbath with how they were influenced by living near those factories in Birmingham with the booming. What about some of that machinery you got out there on the farm, do you ever get any influences for riffs? 

 (Laughter) We used to always joke, me and Pepper back in the day cuz we both had chickens, we were like, 'Man, that solo sounds like your chicken scratching around the yard doing their chirp.' I guess strange things can influence you. I do have some ancient, old machinery that clunks and chings along, but I don't know if it's much of an influence on the music. Half the job of having a property and trying to keep it all going is just working on all the damn ancient gear. But it's a diversion from the band and traveling and going to the cities... you get to come home and chill and enjoy a little bit of nature and trees and grass and animals.

* And speaking of the craziness of the machinery, on the new song "Tarquinius Superbus," there's some pretty crazy soloing going on there that I don't think I've heard from you before. What was going on with that one? That one's all kind of out of control. Do you have that stuff planned out?

 It's like one of those things where we sit there and we'll do different takes and be like, 'Go crazy and do this and do that.' Custer will be like, 'Hey, do that thing that you do.' But a lot of those things we build. We'll just sit there and kind of build a solo. Whenever it's all on tape, then you attempt to learn it, but I never really do (laughs). Just kind of do my own thing live and have an interpretation of what we did in the studio. That's part of the fun of it, you know? OK, this sounds super crazy, but I will probably never do it just like that live. But what the hell? It doesn't matter. We always say, 'Hey, it's not a fucking recital.' Live is a different animal.

* As far as practicing, does your son ever listen to you and critique any of your stuff that you come up with?

 He's a little young to do any critiquing yet, but he hangs around, he enjoys it. He's got his own little drum set out there in the barn that he goes and sits behind every once in awhile. He hasn't been to a show or anything yet, he's just 5. We used to do a lot of practicing when we first got going back with the three-piece thing; the guys would ride up here to my place, I've got a barn out there and we had it all set up. He would check out a lot of the rehearsals. He's about old enough where he's about ready to go see a show, I think.

Reed Mullin.

* Your parents were big supporters of the band early on, and now, too.

 Any time we play a show locally, they'll show up.

* What kind of an influence did they have on you when you were younger, when you were getting into music and playing?

 They were supportive, they just let us do what we wanted to do. Reed's parents were the same way. They both provided us with places to rehearse when we were kids -- basements and rooms and offices that Reed's parents had. Which was cool, cuz I know a lot of kids aren't privy to that. They don't have the familial support behind them, and I think that can make a big difference, cuz if you're discouraged there, you might just give up.

* I'd imagine your parents are just stoked as you guys are that you're still doing this.

 They love it. There's been times in the past when they've traveled, they came over to Europe to see shows, included it in some of their vacation time. It's pretty awesome.

* On this album, you guys are all firing on all cylinders. What's it like working with Mike and Reed and you guys still keeping this going?

 To be honest, it's easy. At this point, there's no pulling hairs to show people how to do it. We all know how to do what we do. If you show Reed a riff and give him the gist of it, next thing you know, he's got the drums kind of what you were thinking of and vice versa with him. It's easier to do it with guys that you've worked with for a long time, they sort of interpret where you're headed with a riff. It's not just blues, 4-4 kind of stuff that we're working on here -- we try to toss in some crazy changes.

Mike Dean.

* With two LPs and an EP under your belts, is this really even considered the "Animosity" formation anymore because it's a fresh new thing now? 

 We still do some of those tunes, but luckily we've got enough material now where we can do a lot more, as well. Which is nice because when we first started back, we really didn't have a lot of brand-new material. We wanted to make sure we had some because we didn't want to come back as some sort of a nostalgia thing. I think even doing this stuff, we've always sort of envisioned at one point, maybe jumping back and doing some more four-piece stuff in the future. We've always discussed it with Keenan and left the door open -- and that may happen again. Having a good time as a three piece is cool, too. They both have their place.

* Are you just as fired up on these songs as when you did write those "Animosity" songs? Is this a good feeling there?

 I'm just as fired up, but it's a different feeling than when you're 17 or 18... and you're 48 or whatever (now). I get stoked as fuck and I wouldn't do it if I wasn't having a good time. I'm not gonna say it's the same crazy feeling you had when you're a teenager and you're completely bonkers and going off the hook, but I go off the hook as much as I can (laughs).

* As far as contemporary bands go, I'll use Eyehategod as a reference point: they're back, what's it like watching them still doing it successfully? That new album is taking off. (COC toured with them in 1993.)

 Oh, man, it's great and they're awesome live. They deserve every bit of what they're getting -- and they're the real deal. There's not a lot of bands that are like that. We did a show with those guys a couple weeks ago-- they were killing it, they were on it.

* Does watching those guys provide an inspiration for you to stay on top of your game?

 Sure. It's always interesting to go see other bands do their thing. Nothing like getting your butt kicked and go, 'OK, we gotta step it up, boys. C'mon.'

* Don't wanna lay back and take it for granted. You gotta work hard for it.

 You gotta go for it, yeah, you do.

* As far as guitar players, is there anyone in particular from now or the past that's made an imprint on you?

 Starting out super early, like so many guys that I know, including the Bowers of the world, it was Ginn -- it was just the attitude, it wasn't so much the playing. There was always the groove guys, too: Gibbons and who the hell doesn't have Iommi as an influence in this day and age? Dr. Know from the Bad Brains and Ginn -- seeing them, I think that left an imprint on the whole band as far as what we were gonna do.

* What about friends in bands that you chat it up about guitars?

Good old Matt from Sleep and High on Fire, we're always shooting the shit about gear, influences and all that kind of stuff. He's an interesting player, he's got his own crazy stuff going on and I always like to watch what he has happening.
There's other dudes, too, a few dudes floating around.

Oh, you know who else, man, who I thought was awesome? Old Mike from Yob -- god, he's got some crazy riffs. It's good to see somebody kind of go off the wall like that and do something a little different.

* Somehow, it always comes back to beer... how's that COC beer (from the Burnt Hickory Brewery, a nano brewery near Atlanta)?

 They've only done one small batch so far. They barrel-aged it, and it wound up being pretty much just one 60-gallon barrel. They bottled some and they had some on draft down there locally. They sent us up a few bottles and it was awesome. It was one of those old stouts, it was actually aged in a rum barrel. They're gonna do another batch, they say, they might be working on it now. (I told them), 'Hell yeah, do it again. Do a bigger batch and send me more.'

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