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Come to think of it, it's been a few years since we've heard from North Carolina's COC. But as always, they're back; this time behind a new platter of southern-fried stoner rock which sports a slicker production and tighter songwriting yet retains the 90's COC sound. Sure, they're hardcore, but this is a new kind of hardcore, decidedly awash in southern bile. The fact that I have to specify the decade two sentences back is a testament to the band's evolution and its longevity: COC continue to grow, thrive and change yet nevertheless persevere the ever-circular changes in the weather which have dictated the direction of each era of heavy rock since their early eighties beginnings. In short, COC are the rare form of heavy rock institution whose evolution is never complete.

So it came as no surprise that 'America's Volume Dealer' revealed an increased southern rock influence. Still, the record somehow maintains the hardcore attitude and integrity that has become synonymous with the COC name for almost two decades. What was it about these guys that ensured that no matter where the music takes them, the sound invariably arrives with bludgeoning impact? The Metal Update was determined to get the scoop. We therefore set up a meeting with Pepper Keenan and Woody Weatherman, in a hotel bar in midtown Manhattan to find out how, in the face of the changes, they always manage to remain the same angry hardcore band we remember . . .

We spoke to Mr. Weatherman first.

METAL UPDATE: "Back then," did you ever think you'd be doing interviews for a new COC album in September 2000?

WOODY WEATHERMAN: Never would have thought it. I was fifteen years old when I started the band. I never planned on it being one of those things where you hang around forever like this. We just started the band to be the loudest and fastest band we could be back then. That was where our heads were at.

MU: Are you still loud?

WW: Are we still loud? (laughs) Yeah, most of the time! (laughs)

MU: Nobody can accuse COC of failing to evolve its sound over the years. From hardcore to sludgy-stoner-doom to southern-tinged rock. Where is the COC sound headed today?

WW: I think the last three records, 'Deliverance', 'Wiseblood', and 'America's Volume Dealers', I think you can sort of use those three to define our sound.

MU: Is COC a metal band?

WW: We've been called two-dozen different names.

MU: Would you try to shake the name if somebody plastered it on you?

WW: No. They do it all the time. They've called us everything from hard rock to thrash metal to stoner rock. It doesn't bother me. Whatever. I'm not a big label guy. I don't think any band likes that.

MU: Do you still relate to underground music?

WW: I grew up in that scene. That's a big part of the band. One of our things when we first started out was that we were punk rockers but we seriously grooved on like Judas Priest and ZZ Top and all that stuff. But it was taboo to be a Minor Threat and a Bad Brains freak and be able to go home and listen to Judas Priest.

MU: When did that metal element begin to creep in to the COC sound?

WW: I'd say this record we did in 1985 called 'Animosity'. I think that was . . . on that same tour, we would play with a band like Discharge, and then we'd go play with a band like Slayer.

MU: Slayer was into hardcore back then too, right?

WW: Yeah, they grooved on it too. They were all part of that whole thing. You can have your feelings about political things or you can just go rock out.

MU: COC isn't really "political" anymore.

WW: I think once a band makes their statement, there's no reason to keep reiterating it. Once you figure out that it's all a bunch of bullshit, you kinda don't care as much anymore. Well . . . you care, but you'd care more if you had some real choices.

MU: What does 'America's Volume Dealer' have in common with 'Eye for an Eye'?


WW: Well, me, Reed and Mike . . . (laughs)

MU: Is it still the same band?

WW: Hell yeah. We're still doin' it for the same shit, man.

MU: Gonna play any old shit?

WW: Super old shit?

MU: Yeah.

WW: Sometimes on a headline tour we'll bust out some crazy stuff. But I mean after you hit like eight records, you have to pick and choose what you're going to fit into an hour, hour-and-a-half set.

MU: What's different about the last three records that sets them apart in your mind?

WW: I think we sort of found our sound with these three records. We're not looking so much outside the band for an influence; it's more of an internal thing.

MU: And you have the same lineup!

WW: Exactly. That's a first. (laughs)

MU: What's your connection with Metallica?

WW: They're just cool guys. First and foremost, we're just good friends with them. When they invited us out on that long tour we did with them (we were on the 'Wiseblood' tour, they were on the 'Load' tour), they never expected us to last that long. We wound up doing like nine months with them. And we were a little scared going out with Metallica at first playing crazy places like Poland and shit. We were thinking nobody was gonna know who the fuck we are, they were gonna boo us offstage. And it didn't happen one time. They kept inviting us back on every leg.

MU: I can picture Hetfield wearing that COC long-sleeve with the nuclear skull on the front . . .

WW: He's a good guy. Our heads are kinda in the same place, you know, as far as just doin' the kinda shit we want to do.

MU: Did you feel weird being on the 'Load' tour? Even though it was quite the career hookup, Metallica was experiencing a heavy backlash from its old-school fans. Did you pick up on any of that on the tour? Did you think Metallica were sellouts?

WW: You know that on the 'Load' tour they weren't only playing 'Load' songs. And Metallica live are fucking animals. I've seen 'em all throughout the years and I still trip on the live show. I think they're badass.

MU: What about your new material? What should the fans expect?

WW: If you dug the last couple records, it's got that same kinda vibe. It just takes things a little further.

MU: Do you think you have more in common with Lynyrd Skynyrd or Slayer at this point?

WW: (laughs) I like both bands. (laughs)

MU: Who do you want to tour with?

WW: While we've been working on this album we've been doing little shows in the Carolinas. We've been going out with this band called Karma to Burn a bunch lately. They're badass. We took Fu Manchu out, I wouldn't mind going back out with them. Or Monster Magnet.


MU: So, OK, that's the kinda vibe you see yourselves fitting into . . .

WW: I think those are bands that are not sticking with the status quo. They have their own minds.

MU: Monster Magnet gets MTV and radio play. Think that's gonna happen to you with this record?

WW: It's happened before. We didn't make the songs to do that. If it happens, it's all good.

MU: Do you have that expectation?

WW: I learned a long time ago not to expect anything. (laughs) Just do what we do. If it happens, cool. If it doesn't . . . we did what we wanted to do, so we just gotta be happy with that.

MU: What tour plans would you like to see arranged?

WW: I think we're gonna concentrate on doing some headlining shit. After we did all the Metallica dates, and the other dates . . .

MU: You just played with Metallica recently.

WW: Yeah, three or four weeks ago. That was cool. It was a Monday night. We were in the studio and had this self-imposed deadline for finishing up the 'Volume Dealer' stuff. And James Hetfield calls us up and asks Pepper if we can be in Dallas on Wednesday morning to do this string of shows. We were like, hmm . . . get out of the studio for a couple days . . . yeah, alright. (laughs) So we did it. It was cool to try out the songs live. But it was weird to go from that mode of being in the studio, with no rehearsal, to jumping on a stage and to start playing live.

MU: It's like riding a bike, right?

WW: Yeah, you know, but your mind is set in this new material . . .

MU: How did the new stuff go over live?

WW: Excellent. We probably did like three or four new songs and then did a bunch of stuff from the last few records.

MU: Do you think COC could ever pull off opening for the Allman Brothers or Lynyrd Skynyrd or something like that?

WW: We had Warren Haynes play slide guitar on one of the tunes on the new record, a song called "Stare Too Long." He's got the Gov't Mule thing going on. He left the Allmans a few years back. Of course, Allen Woody just died, but I guess he's gonna keep Gov't Mule going.

MU: Does COC have another twenty years left in it?

WW: (laughs) You never expect to be around eighteen years. I'll take it if it comes. What else am I gonna do? As long as it's fun. We've still never been to anywhere in South America or Australia. . .

MU: Why did you leave your old label for the newly established Sanctuary?

WW: The day 'Wiseblood' came out, the guy who originally signed us got fired. The day that record came out. We got done with the tour. We nicely asked to be released from our deal. They said no, they wanted to make another record. We started doin' that, and they didn't want us to use our producer. We did a bunch of demo work in our own studio. We eventually came to an amicable agreement. It was a nice day when they let us do that. We were stoked as shit when we signed with a major label, and we were even happier when we were released. Sanctuary is so on our level of thinking. They're doing things quick. They're into what we do. They give us complete freedom. There's no pressure. They're a serious company. It's no bullshit. We're the first band in North America to come out under the Sanctuary label. I mean, hell, they've already done more now before this album even comes out . . .

MU: You think MTV will give a shit?

WW: We'll find out. I don't know if we will make a full-fledged video at this point. We did them for the last couple of albums. It's nice to have them around. But touring is our deal. We love to tour.

MU: Did you go to the Grammy Awards?

WW: Yeah, we went. It was hilarious. We were sitting in front of . . . oh, man. It was hilarious. Dirtbags like us sitting around at Radio City.

MU: Did you wear a tux?

WW: No, I don't remember what I wore. You can wear whatever you want. We just went for the hell of it. We had to go. When was the next time they were gonna nominate us for a Grammy?

MU: Some of the press out now says you're now officially known as "COC," not "C.O.C." or "Corrosion of Conformity." What's the deal?

WW: Nah, we're still the same. Everyone since day one has called us "COC". We're still Corrosion of Conformity, if you want to say the whole fucking thing. People have called us Corrosion or COC since day one. Everybody calls us all kinds of stuff.

MU: What about the skull?

WW: He's still around somewhere. He's on the shirts. I don't think he's on the record.

MU: People get worried. You lose the skull, you stop calling yourself Corrosion of Conformity. . .

WW: Nah, we're still Corrosion of Conformity! Sometimes when people ask the name of the band, it's just easier to say "COC."

Just about then Pepper Keenan wandered in, gave Woody the old tag-team slap and invited us to join him in the hotel bar for a few drinks and a continuation of our conversation from his perspective. Naturally, we obliged.

MU: Is C.O.C. in touch with the underground?

PEPPER KEENAN: Some kid in Germany was interviewing me about "hardcore," and he was asking me why COC had abandoned our hardcore roots. I said, "I got two words for you Jack: Cro-Mags. If you didn't see 'em at CBGB's, forget about it." That's the end of that. The hardcore thing is so fucking watered-down. There was a time and a place. It's not just Green Day. Even the New York bands that are still trying to hang on to it. . . The whole hardcore ethic was D.I.Y., do what the fuck you want to do. And what made the whole hardcore thing so hardcore was that we were so anti. Now the hardcore thing is like a mainstream deal. If you're really hardcore, that makes you want to get the fuck out.

MU: What do you think of NOLA bands like Soilent Green and Eyehategod?

PK: I'm from New Orleans. I grew up with Soilent Green and Eyehategod, guys like that. I taught Jimmy Bower how to play guitar. I grew up in that mentality.

MU: How does that stuff relate to COC?

PK: COC can't just sit there and play bludgeoning, three-chord punk rock shit. When you've done that, you've got to take it to another level and expand it, see how far it can get away. To me that's being hardcore. When you grow up in hardcore circles, nobody wants you to leave. That ain't hardcore when you make the same record, over and over and over. I have respect for all of the hardcore bands that are serious about it. COC was serious about it. But what you gonna do ten years from now? You've got to continue to play to a bunch of drunks in a club? You've got to stick your neck out. To me, that's the whole hardcore deal.

MU: It's more of a feeling than a sound.

PK: Not only that, it's more of an attitude. In terms of like, I want somebody to kick me in the head. Tell me something I'm doing wrong. 'Cause I'll fucking take them one on one and say, "Look Jack. I can write these songs. I mean every god damn word in 'em." That's the whole hardcore thing that's gone. Now, everybody's just replicating. They can get their mother to buy them an amp that's distorted, that sounds heavy.

MU: So are you into all that New Orleans sound shit?

PK: Dude, I started that New Orleans shit! What the fuck you talking about? That's how I got hooked up with COC.


MU: Would you throw a bone to those bands like Metallica did for you guys and take one out on tour?

PK: See, COC tries to be kinda diverse. It's kinda cool, in a sneaky way. COC does its thing, but if we want to write in a cool, Allman Brothers kinda way, it's still gonna be seedy. It ain't gonna be no pop song. I'm not from Ohio, I grew up in New Orleans. In the south. You take those things with you. A lot of the punk bands in the south didn't live in Machine Head.

MU: Tell us about Phil from Pantera.

PK: I've known Phil since I was a kid.

MU: Do you objectively like Pantera?

PK: Pantera is heavy metal. Without a doubt. But I knew Phil when he was not - he was in a bandanna wearing band, man. When I was at Black Flag shows he was seeing fucking Dio. Not good or bad, just different.

MU: Which would make more musical sense for COC right now: playing a show with Pantera or playing a show with the Allman Brothers?

PK: I think we could probably be straight up the middle on that one. I mean, I don't want to be Pantera. I was playing the "E" chord of death when I was fifteen.

MU: So now you are into the Allman Brothers? Lynyrd Skynard?

PK: Yes, I like what they do. I think early Skynard records are more punk rock than most records you hear nowadays when you get right down to it. That's hardcore shit. They were out on a limb. They were in uncharted territory. Which is more important to me than saying they were hardcore and writing really heavy shit. I came from a punk rock background. So for me to be hardcore, when you come from a punk rock background, is to lose the punk rock shit. I wasn't a glam kid who got into hardcore.

MU: The 'Blind' record is fairly bludgeoning.

PK: Yeah, that's pretty heavy. We could do that again tomorrow if we wanted to. But it was a time and a place. That's what was so cool about it.

MU: How does 'America's Volume Dealers' fit in?

PK: We've got our own sound now. It takes a while to really get that down. Once COC. has its own thing going, we all kinda feed off each other now. 'Cause we've all done so much shit, we've been through so many different types of music. But that hardcore thing is always right on your fucking shoulder. And it's always there. When you write a melody . . . I mean, we did a song for the new record called "Stare Too Long." It's got Warren Haynes from the Allman Brothers and Gov't Mule playing slide guitar on it. When you're making things work that aren't supposed to, and it's grabbing people - to me, that's music.

MU: Are you going to be on the radio with this record?

PK: I don't fucking know. I know the radio sucks, and I think C.O.C. should be on there. I can't see why it shouldn't be. It's just a matter of whether people agree with us or not. But C.O.C. write solid songs, man. We've never bullshitted anybody. We never lied to anybody.

MU: You think that any fans from the early eighties are still into the band?

PK: I don't know. I know that I was listening to COC in the early eighties. At least COC was able to be open minded, to not make three fucking Prong records in a row - where everything's the fucking same. And, I mean, I love Tommy Prong to death, but that dude buried himself by doing the same god damn thing. Unless you're really good at it, like Pantera, don't fuck with it.

MU: What about Metallica?

PK: We ain't Metallica. I think Metallica kinda looked toward us for inspiration. I think we did them as much good as they did us. But COC tries to write the real deal. We ain't trying to get on the fucking radio. COC has been through a lot of different things. But it has always been about a progression. We don't have time to try to worry about what's hip at the moment. We're always trying to jump three steps ahead.

MU: Who is going to go out and buy your new record?

PK: Fucked if I know. It's hard to say. Anyway, production don't mean shit. It's all about the songwriting. It's got to maintain . . . any C.O.C. record you put on, it doesn't sound dated. It's real. Some people think we're crazy, 'cause we don't jump on any bandwagons.

MU: What do you think of Slayer?

PK: I love Slayer.

MU: But that's not where your head is.

PK: That's where my head is, but god damn, I don't want to be pigeonholed. I could sit there and write 'Reign In Blood' - well, I couldn't write 'Reign In Blood', but COC did that thing. Once you get stuck in that corner . . . you think Slayer doesn't want to get out of that corner they're stuck in? They've got no choice but to go "Grrrrrakk-ch-ch-ch-chugga chugga-Grrrrrakk-ch-ch-ch!" If they do anything else they'll get killed.

MU: Did Metallica do the right thing in changing their sound the way they did?

PK: I don't know. Metallica's in uncharted territory. No band has ever . . .

MU: . . . .been that big; but, at the same time, no other band has really ever taken that much shit.

PK: Exactly! What people don't understand is that Hetfield thrives on that shit. You knock Hetfield down and he's gonna jump up and three times taller. I don't think they changed to piss anybody off. I think honest Metallica fans expect Metallica to carry the torch of how big they can . . . if it wasn't for Metallica, you and I wouldn't be here talking right now.

MU: People say that that kind of sound is more "mature." I call it lazy.

PK: Ok, call a spade a spade. (laughs) Yeah, OK, I hear ya. I hear ya. We ain't Metallica. We ain't got a management team behind us saying we got to do this, VH1 wants us to do this. I was just at Hetfield's house, I was with him all weekend. I got in his car, and the boy's got Hirax in the fucking tape deck. I mean, what the fuck? The guy ain't no bullshitter. But, at the same time, when a band gets that big, what do you fucking do? I mean, they could easily go backwards and do 'Kill 'Em All 2', but I don't think they see that. I mean, they've been there. I don't know what I would do if I was the biggest rock band in the world.

MU: How do you know that's still not comin' down the pike for you?

PK: I don't know. If it does come though, it ain't gonna be no 'Load' record, I can tell you that! (laughs)


review of Corrosion of Conformity's 'America's Volume Dealer'





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