In Conversation With…. Mike Dean of Corrosion Of Conformity

By Matt Hinch

Prior to Corrosion of Conformity embarking on a North American tour, on which the Kingston, Ontario date had just been canceled (re-booked for Barrie), I had the chance to have a conversation with bassist/vocalist Mike Dean. We discussed this year’s self-titled release, influences old and new, touring in Canada, and even the NHL lockout. Enjoy.

I hear you’re recording now, you had the record in the Spring, another one coming out (Eye For An Eye reissue), and a tour. Being so busy, is it wearing you down at all or are you feeling invigorated by all the work?

Fairly invigorated because we keep a pretty sustainable pace even though it gets a little hectic at times. Especially in terms of touring, we like to tag up home every few weeks. And keep things functional at home. We’re not generally out for 3 solid months. We’re out for 3 weeks and then we come home for a short period of time and we go back out. We’re trying to make it real sustainable. We did just write and record 5 songs, all told, in about 5 weeks time which is kinda short for us to organize the whole thing and all that. That was little hectic, in a good way. But, no no it’s not wearing us down.

Speaking of the self-titled, to me it sounds a little closer to your crossover roots. Was there an impetus behind bringing some of that flavour back into the tunes?

The last time we played as a 3 piece was Animosity. It was just a point of reference. What was it like the last time we did that? And we were kinda listening to that music. We were getting offers to go out and play shows and play that material. So we had to dust it off and see if we wanted to play that material and in the process it kind of informed our writing process but we weren’t attempting to write Animosity #2 by any means. I think there’s a little bit of that in the stylings there but there’s a whole lot of other influences in there. And the new stuff is tuned a lot lower and things like that. But it definitely did inform our process for sure. You know, to look back at that and kinda be surprised at how well some of that has held up.

So going at it from that angle it probably wasn’t that difficult to get the feel and get the flow going?

Yeah, I mean, we really were almost planning on doing something that was more strictly influenced by Animosity and all of our influences at the time but once we really got down to making music and not talking about making music, we just kinda did what came natural. It’s kind of all over the place, in a good way. It ends up not by design but by result, kind of representing every era of the band’s career to some degree and a whole lot of things we hadn’t touched on before so I felt good about the self titled.

Was there anything you were trying to convey by not giving it a title?

Well I was halfway anticipating a bit of a fall out for even doing a three piece record, doing a record without Pepper. We’re on really good terms with Pepper and his absence is certainly felt. And I think we did a really good job of coming up with the songs and the ideas but people are conservative and they’re used to CoC being one thing to them so when you change that up there’s gonna be some complaining and we just wanted to make the statement that this is also CoC and it’s legitimate. This was something that came before and that’s something the casual observer might not be aware of. And no disrespect but we do what we want to and we feel entitled to that. So its kind of a big two middle fingers to the idea that we shouldn’t do that. [laughs] Basically. Also, we hadn’t done it [self titling an album] and the name of the band is compelling and interesting and it’s kinda cool to just focus on that. Briefly. It’s a bit provocative. Even if it only were to generate the question “What? Were you not imaginative enough to think of a title for your record?” It just seemed like an interesting thing to do without overstating the confrontational aspect of it.

The simplicity of the album cover works too.

I love that guy’s artwork so much. Seldon Hunt, he’s done a lot of stuff and there’s an obscure arty band called Master Musicians of Bukkake. Seldon did a t-shirt for them that was just amazing. I went to great lengths to find out “Who the hell did this art?” and found out it was Seldon who I already knew. We got him to reinterpret the skull and it was a good move. It was badass.

How is it working with Candlelight?

Well, they do a lot with very little. It’s a very efficient operation especially in North America. It’s not very many people but they put out some great bands and do a good job with it. It’s been really good so far. It sounded like a strange suggestion when it was proposed but, they made a good offer, so we entertained the idea and then we played in London. Some of the principals from the label came out to the show. We enjoyed talking to them and seemed like a good chance to take and I’m glad we did.

Eye For An Eye is being re-released in November. Was that something you had in the works for a while or were you just rolling with the momentum?

That was just something Candlelight wanted to do because it hadn’t been available. And they were interested in doing it and we weren’t opposed so that kinda became part of the deal. And now they’re doing it. [laughs]

So what are you guys listening to these days?

Well, let’s see. I listen to a lot of random stuff. I’m on a big classic rock trip right now. Lots of The Who from ’68 to ’75 or so. Lots of live stuff. That’s been the last couple of days. I went on a little Yob phase there, and Mike Scheidt’s solo acoustic record. And before that, probably a lot of perusing Youtube for Tito Puente. Really old Latin jazz stuff. And the last few weeks its really been just mixing our EP, maybe listening to something for reference, like Deliverance just to make sure we’re in the general ballpark. Listen to the self titled, the odd song but not listening to much. Letting my ears cool down.

After 30 years, CoC can be considered an influential band, but where do you find influence yourself now?

The combination of melody and power in something like The Who is kind of a cool reference. I mean, the more we try to look forward, we tend to look backward for influence and quality and then try and recreate things in a newer way because if you look too hard to recent music or your own contemporaries it all ends up sounding the same. It’s just always been our approach to look backwards and draw from that in a way that’s original. It’s challenging. Also some of the same things that motivated us to get into music in the first place. Obviously Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin and then suddenly all the hardcore stuff, especially the stuff that we had direct contact with. Black Flag would constantly come here to North Carolina and tour and we’d go up to DC and see Minor Threat and see young Davey Grohl playing with Scream and particularly a band from DC called Void. Some of that stuff is still pretty fresh for me today and I’ll occasionally dust it off and revisit it. I like how some of the so called metal scene is. There’s a lot more experimental kind of bands that don’t seem to be real concerned with image. A lot of the sludgier kinda doomier stuff. For me if it has a good combination of melody and power, I enjoy it. I like a lot of throwback stuff. Like Saviours. They are amazing! You know bands like that, that just combine a lot of stuff that’s not really considered stylish. The Sword. [laughs] I like the Sword. They’re really good man. I enjoy it the same way I enjoy Judas Priest or something.

In have vein, you’ve said you like Saviours. You like Yob. What about your other tour mates, ASG and Royal Thunder?
Yeah! The vocalist in ASG is amazing. He’s got a really clear voice. It’s almost like Maynard Keenan or something. Not necessarily that style but just the pureness of his voice is really cool. And that young lady in Royal Thunder [Mlny Parsonz] has a real powerful voice. A real rock ‘n’ roll voice. Yeah, that’s the kinda stuff that if your gonna close the show, it’s gonna keep you on your toes. It’s the kinda stuff that pushes us for sure. To work a little harder.

In that case, I guess your looking forward to touring with all four of those bands.

Oh yeah, absolutely. I forgot we were playing shows with Saviours! [laughs]

What would you say the biggest difference would be between touring say back in the Animosity days and touring now?

Well, back then it was a very word of mouth network and I felt like there was the novelty of there being a scene. Originally like a hardcore punk scene. That afforded us the opportunity to go anywhere and there was a market for anybody that purportedly played that type of music. So there would be a show for you just about anywhere there was a scene and people would come out. And you could trade shows with other bands and it was very grass roots, very DIY and it was fresh. Now it’s kind of like a more jaded situation where the novelty has wore off all that stuff. The novelty has wore off on metal shows and people, rightly so are a little more discerning in their own way. It’s a little different. It’s a colder more suspicious world.

What can people expect on this tour as far as the set list goes?

It’s gonna be similar to the last two years and that will be a lot of very new material and a lot of very old material. The only song we really do from Deliverance is the song “Deliverance”. Maybe a couple little teasers of some things from Wiseblood, Deliverance or Blind. But really it’s a little bit of Animosity, a lot of the self-titled and some of the very newest stuff. And maybe dabble a little in some Eye for an Eye tid bits. If you’re lucky a whole song but probably not. Kind of a long time ago.

So you’ll be playing some stuff from the 5 new songs that you’re recording?

Yeah absolutely. They’re still very fresh in my mind. I mixed 4 of the 5 and basically the band kinda produced it with John Custer and I
ended up doing quite a bit of the engineering and it’s all very familiar.

I’m looking forward to hearing it. Will it be released as an EP?

Yeah, it’s hypothetical but I think it’ll be actual in the next few weeks.
[It has since been announced and is entitled Megalodon. Soon to be available from Scion A/V]

What’s your favourite part of playing in Canada?

Well I enjoyed when we toured with Motorhead who don’t like to cross borders very much. And we basically transversed the entire length of Canada. So you have the awesome drives from Winnipeg all the way through Ontario. To the populated parts of Ontario. I enjoyed that. Just long distances of open space. Nothing but Husky truck stops. [laughs] I find it meditative. I enjoy it. I’m a fan of Vancouver, for certain. I feel privileged to be able to go up there and play. We did the one show in Banff and that was very unusual to play there with Motorhead and to see Motorhead in such a small place. It was pretty crazy. I enjoy most of it. It’s just enough different from the United States to be novel and just similar enough to not be too challenging. In terms of not speaking the language or anything. The trouble starts when we go to Japan and you don’t actually know the alphabet. I’ll set out on a little walkabout and get lost and your eye can’t find any familiar street signs.

You’ve got a few Canadian dates on this tour. Are there any of the cities that you haven’t played before?

Let’s see. The only time we did Hamilton we played where the Bulldogs play [Copps Coliseum] opening for Metallica. [laughs] I guess the Bulldogs will be a big deal this year with no frickin’ NHL ya know? Greedy bastards can’t get their shit together. And I guess I’m kinda knee jerk pro-labour so even when your talking millionaires I tend to lean towards blaming the owners not the players. But right here in the US there’s this sort of anti-labour push going on ahead of the presidential campaign on the Republican side and you can see the owners trying to catch some of that momentum. At the expense of actually having a business. It’ll never die in Canada but in markets like Raleigh, they’re gonna run their business into the ground by being greedy. It’s kind of a sad thing. Because people are like “hockey?” They’re forgetting. The Hurricanes? What’s that? They’re talking basketball and they should be anticipating the [hockey] season starting and it’s not.

Especially with the Hurricanes picking up some big players. Who knows when they’re gonna play?

Yeah it’s the timing with that, it’s terrible man. They just picked up Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin of all people. Its crazy. It’s hard to view it strictly as a labour management dispute well the labour gets paid so well in general. Although they are laying their bodies on the line.

Well, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me today.

Thank you for taking the time to get the word out there. Thanks for the interest! More interest than the consumers of Kingston apparently! [laughs] But what are you gonna do! [laughs] Have a good one!

If you have the time, check out Corrosion of Conformity on tour this month across Ontario. November 11th in Ottawa, 13th in Barrie, 14th in Hamilton and 15th in London.

Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.