In 2014 the metal world rejoiced with the announcement that after over a decade long standing frontman Pepper Keenan was coming home to CORROSION OF CONFORMITY. After touring extensively giving the fans a nostalgic taste of material from yesteryear the band announced they would return with a new full length album entitled No Cross, No Crown in January 12th 2018 via Nuclear Blast Records. We caught up with founding member Woody Weatherman to get the lowdown on what we can expect from the new album and how it feels to have Pepper back amongst their ranks.
The question which is probably on everyone’s lips is it’s been a long time in the making but Pepper Keenan has finally made his return to CORROSION OF CONFORMITY. How does it feel having him back in the fold?
Woody: It’s awesome man. It’s such a dynamic band but having Pepper back for the last couple of years touring the UK and round the US letting it all gel and come back around it’s just awesome to get back to playing all the classic songs like the Deliverance and Wiseblood stuff. We’re having a lot of fun doing it!
Did it feel different recording the new album after he had spent so much time with DOWN or was it just like old times?
Woody: I think once we all get in a room with our producer and start throwing ideas around it’s just like old times you know? We’ve done it for so long that we know when something’s working and when it’s not. Someone will throw a riff out there and if it sounds good we’ll stockpile them. Sometimes tunes don’t work out and we toss them! [Laughs]. Throw ’em on the trash pile and start over. It’s just like he never left and we all know how it works, it’s all good man!
So you have a new album coming out which is obviously a significant landmark in CORROSION OF CONFORMITY’s history with it being the first album to feature this lineup in over a decade. Did you feel pressured at all to ensure it lived up to expectations?
Woody: It’s just internal pressure really, we know we’ve got to make a good record. We aren’t just gonna throw any bullshit out and disappoint people you know? We worked hard on it and we take it seriously so we weren’t gonna put any old crap out there. It’s gotta be good! I know people expect it from us. The record company, they signed us and then we just kept on touring! There was no pressure they were just like, “Hey, when you guys are ready to do it then just do it. It doesn’t matter when it comes out.” Hats off to Nuclear Blast for giving us some leeway and no pressure from their side. It was kinda nice!
Ah that’s great that they had so much confidence in you. You’ve released a couple of songs so far, Cast The First Stone and Wolf Named Crow. Have you had a positive response so far?
Woody: It seems like it, which is cool! I think it’s a good little introduction to the record. I think it’s a pretty deep record. There’s a lot of different stuff on it and the songs vary a lot in style. There’s a couple of mellow ones, we have our kinda signature interludes and segues which we like to do which we’ve been doing for a long time and we have a good time doing that but yeah everyone seems to be digging the first two tracks so far.
What I’ve noticed is that the new material has quite an old school vibe. Was this something you considered during your writing process?
Woody: I think so, a little bit. There was no real conscious decision but we talked about it beforehand and we decided to just jump in where we left off and we just kinda In The Arms Of God as kinda a launching point. That’s were our mindsets were when we were about to start the record. So it kinda came out like the next step you know?
Did you feel that taking your time recording the album and just doing it in short bursts and taking a more natural approach was more beneficial than just walking into a studio with the finished article?
Woody: This record we definitely approached it a little differently. With previous records we all lived in the same town which we don’t really anymore so we would rehearse for weeks and demo things several times whereas this time we just showed up with ideas without any actual rehearsals beforehand and we just sort of wrote the songs as we went along. We would do these four or five day sessions, Pepper would fly up from New Orleans, I would drive down and it was just these intense four or five day sessions. We tried to do a song or two every session from beginning to end every time we did it and it was kinda like we needed a break from playing you know? [Laughs] Rather than spending like ten to twelve days in the studio. It was a different way for us to make a record but I think it came out cool.
One thing I’ve always enjoyed about CORROSION OF CONFORMITY’s material is that it doesn’t feel too forced and it just flows and could quite easily be an excerpt plucked from a jam session. Is that intentional or is it more a natural product of your writing?
Woody: It’s just the natural way we do it I guess. For instance like the Wiseblood record or even Deliverance the way we play the songs live now if you listen to the record it sounds like they are sped up! [Laughs] I guess that is just when you fall into the groove of the songs and we tend to lay back a little bit and we like to make a jam and let the song breathe. I listen to past recordings and think “Damn! That is fast” [Laughs]. Compared to how we do some of it live. We switch things up and you do think about it when you’re in the studio like “does it sound too fast?” or “is it gonna get enough groove behind it?” We may do a version and think “it’s not swingin’, it’s too fast” or “it’s too slow, it’s kinda dragging.” So you have to make a conscious effort to get it at the right speed.
In the press release you stated that the inspiration for the album title No Cross, No Crown came from a stained glass design you discovered while on tour. Were there any deeper sentiments behind it?
Woody: I think it was just a good jumping off point for the record. We have several themes and No Cross, No Crown appears lyrically. I think it can mean a lot of different things. It’s not just an authority kinda deal. I mean it can be about oppression and someones got their thumb on your neck when you’re trying to work and there is all kinds of approaches to it. It was just a good starting point and I think it’s a good theme for the record.
So whilst Pepper was away working with DOWN, yourself, Mike and Reed wrote two albums together and some songs became a staple of your live set. Does it not feel like a shame that they will effectively be shelved in favour of the older material?
Woody: At this point in time we have so much material whether it is ancient three piece material or like the 2012/2014 material. When it comes down to setlists and we’re getting ready for a tour like we are just about to hit up a nine week stretch in the US and we have got so much material. There’s several songs which people want to hear, every band has those songs and we try to mix up some of the deeper tracks and the amount of material we have as a four piece is immense! We could a four hour set and not even blink. We have sometimes gone back to the old Animosity material with Pepper too so we may still throw some of that kinda shit out there!
Awesome, keep the fans guessing! With so much material at CORROSION OF CONFORMITY’s disposal do you find it hard to put a setlist together? Especially if you’re limited for time?
Woody: Some of the guys would like to play different songs and have different ideas but there are so many that we feel good about playing.. it’s not that hard. Sometimes there’s a little back and forth where someone will say “hey man I think this song will fit in well here” and choosing which songs to actually throw out there. It’s nice to have so many songs that you can switch around while we’re playing long tours and we could just break out a new song or something off of Wiseblood you know? There’s a lot of options. I think with most bands when you get several albums it gets a little tougher.
Yeah I guess it’s better to be spoiled for choice!
Woody: Oh yeah, if you’re a new band and you only have one record the decision is kind of made for you but when you have like nine or ten it does get a little tougher.
Apart from the tour you have just touched on which will be with BLACK LABEL SOCIETY what else does 2018 hold for CORROSION OF CONFORMITY?
Woody: We’re really committed to doing a lot of touring with this record. We feel it is really strong. We’re already working on a Euro/UK run which could potentially be around June time and some other stuff but we’ve got some festivals planned too. We’re looking forward to it but this BLACK LABEL SOCIETY thing man, it’s like nine weeks!! [Laughs]. That one is all Canadian and US dates but yeah, we will be back to the UK for sure. It’s gonna be fun.
Thanks very much for your time Woody. I really appreciate it. Just to close is there anything you would like to say to the readers of Distorted Sound?
Woody: Man. We can go out there and scream until our faces turn red but if no one comes to see you or support your material its not gonna do any good! But we are all just super appreciative of our fans and everyone who comes to see us. We don’t take it for granted! Thanks very much for your time! All the best to ‘ya.
No Cross, No Crown is set for release on January 12th via Nuclear Blast Records.
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