Raleigh, North Carolina Metal legends Corrosion Of Conformity really know how to write a good Metal song. A shit-load of them actually. Though the group took a short (but entirely too long) hiatus a few years ago, the Southern stalwarts are back with yet another batch of crushing new tracks. Titled IX and produced by John Custer and the band, roughly 1 minute into the first song and it broke so hard I think I had a mini-seizure in my iced-t. Good shit, folks!
With their original 3-piece lineup of Mike Dean, Reed Mullin, and Woodrow Weatherman, C.O.C. remains a bucket-list “Must See Live” act some 32 years after their initial formation. And you’ll undoubtedly be able to do just that, as IX dropped via Candlelight Records yesterday, promising all the sound and splendor that the group is known for. That means touring. If I can offer one tip of advice when you catch their show, make sure to wear a helmet, folks.
I spoke with bassist Mike Dean (!) over the phone to talk about IX and working with Candlelight Records, get the skinny on the tracks, and discuss some of the finer/crazier moments of C.O.C.’s wild career.
G- Mike, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us, man. How’s everything going?
M- Hey thank you! Everything is going pretty well, man. We’re just gearing up for a little touring activity and knocking out some interviews like this one.
G- Dig it, man. Where is the next tour going to take you? Not Syracuse obviously, because I haven’t seen anything. But I’d love to see it!
M- No, we’re not heading there, but we are gonna be en route to New Zealand and Australia for the first time in quite some time. We’re gonna start the North American thing out West, and we will be in NYS before too long. Hopefully before the cold this time.
G- (laughing) Well, let’s see… It’s the middle of June, so you probably have about 3 weeks until it snows up here.
M- Yeah right! (laughing)
G- So, you guys are going to Australia and New Zealand… That’s a bit of a long commute. When was the last time you were down there and how many shows will you be performing?
M- COC is just doing 4 Australian shows, unfortunately no shows out in Perth on the Indian Ocean, which is kind of a bummer, and we’re doing 3 shows in New Zealand. So, 7 shows. It’s a long flight for 7 shows, but I think it’ll be worth it.
As a band, we’ve not played there since we opened for Pantera in 2001 or 2002.
G- That’s awesome! So after a little more than a decade, you get to go back and I’m sure they’re waiting for it.
And on top of that, in a couple of short weeks you’ll be releasing your latest album, IX, COC’s 2nd on Candlelight Records. I’ve been listening to it and, again, the intro break in “Brand New Sleep” was just killer! How are you feeling about the record, man? And since this is your second record on Candlelight, who’s doing all types of cool stuff, what is it working with those guys?
M- Well, it’s a tight little operation. They really seem to be about the music. I mean, previously we’ve been on labels like Sony…
… where there is this expectation that you’ll be doing Mariah Carey numbers and if you’re not, you’re gonna be packing, you know? So this is really more about the music and a better artistic situation. So yeah, we’re into it.
The new record takes a minute to get some perspective when you’re all up in it and making it and finishing it up. I did a lot of the engineering working with Custer and things like that. The good news with that is it allows me to not stress out on the musical performances. I just don’t think about them that much and when it’s time to do them, do a reasonable job, and move on.
As a result, you get hit with some repetition, and a lot of it you just have to bring into focus later. So it’s coming into focus now that we have a little bit of a safe distance from sending it off to be mastered, and I’m liking what I hear. I feel good about it. There was a period when you’d ask me and I’d be ‘I don’t know.’ People would ask me ‘What are the lyrics about’ and I’d say ‘I don’t know. I just blurted them out and don’t know where they came form.’ (laughing) They just came to me stream of consciousness and now I’ve had more time to make up my story of how it’s all coming out. (laughter)
G- For sure.
M- Basically, searching for the glimmer of coherent narrative that the random lyrics have given me.
G- Right on.
And you said you engineered it yourself with John Custer… With all the advances in technology that allow people to do it right in their house these days, where did you guy record and get it mixed down, and how long did the process take to get everything written, recorded, and get ready for release?
M- Well, it’s never entirely like we want it to sound, and it’s never entirely perfect, but that’s kinda the point. I think nowadays, with the advent of the available technology that you’re talking about and people doing it at home, a computer becoming such a part of the process, there is a temptation to overuse that aspect, and I think that sucks the life out of a lot of the music that I’m hearing these days that would otherwise be awesome. Both large projects and small projects.
So for me, our process is to try to use the computer for editing, which it’s convenient for, and for a tape machine, which we don’t currently own. But we’re not really interested in making a completely digital recording at this point. We mix it from the box and console, and we try to use the good old compressors and equalizers that were on the records we enjoyed as kids. It just sounds more real to us and it paints a more believable picture than the whole digital thing.
But to answer your question about where, there’s a studio beside a venue in Raleigh that sat empty for a while, and we knew a guy that took it over who had all the digital accoutrements, the computer and the interface, and we supplied the analog front and back end, the desk and things like that, and we started making records. We did the Megalodon EP a couple of years ago, and this is just a continuation of that process learning to work in this space. And we’ve been doing other records there, too. A Sourvein record, and we’re about to do another one. So we’re trying to think of a good name for such a studio, but it’s tough to come up with a good one.
G- Well, good things take time. You’ve been doing this for 32 years so I’m sure you’ll come up with something good and catchy at some point.
M- And evocative. (laughs)
G- So right now, “Brand New Sleep” and “The Nectar” are my favs, the crowd is going to go berserk when those comes on. I mean I certainly would. But what songs on there do you think are the strongest right now, and do you have any singles or videos coming up? What’s your favorite song maybe, though I know that’s a tough question.
M- My favorite one is “Brand New Sleep,” because that’s a bunch of Woodie Weatherman riffs upfront and I love coming up with a vocal idea on something I didn’t write, just working off of that. He just came up with these monster riffs. That was the one we rehearsed the least. Those guys didn’t think it was gonna be on there, but I knew it was gonna be good. It was one of the first ones I mixed and sent to the mastering guy, and he was like ‘This one is bad! It should be first because the first line is “In the beginning.”’
So, I think that’s the one. “On Your Way” is the one they’re gonna make a single out of, whatever that means these days, and we’re all working on a video for that song. But I don’t think it matters, man. I think you should play whatever you like, really. Any of those tracks are good.
G- Definitely. It’s a really strong record.
Since I only have the digital files right now, I wanted to ask if Candlelight has any special offerings for the record? Special packaging or bundles?
M- I think if you look at COC’s Facebook page, you’re going to see a few bundles on vinyl. I think vinyl is going to be about a week behind those compact disc things and the official download releases or whatever. So, early July there’ll be a 180-gram vinyl, and if you have the hardware for that, that’s the ideal way I think. You know?
G- Dig it. Now, just a few final questions.
You started this band as teenagers, and obviously the scene C.O.C. came up in was a whole different era of Metal than we are currently experiencing. The crowds have always been pretty wild at your shows. I mean, how could they not?
We’ve had some instances in the past few years that have kind of been to the detriment of Metal, not because of Metal itself but because of the crowd, and what I’d like to talk about is your experiences with fans and security violence. What did you used to do, and what do you do now, in the event there is an issue with the crowd or security?
M- Well, we’ve been really fortunate. Despite the reputation, we’ve been really fortunate with that type of thing. Perhaps we should be more vigilant with that sort of thing.
But one thing I generally do of late is, if I see some kids, sometimes they’re not kids, if they’re making it unpleasant, I’ll kinda say ‘It’s ok to get into it, but you’ve gotta look around. We’re all in this together here. You don’t have to be running over somebody.
And another big thing that really gets the people is ‘Hey, do you really want to run off all the women?’ Do you really wanna be in a world without women at the Rock shows? Because, like, there are some rocker girls that are really into this show and I’m kinda excited they’re here and you’re gonna run them off. Is that really how you want to live?’ (laughter)
Psychologically speaking, that’s my bottom line in calling people out on that. That seems to have a good effect because their peers look at them, you know? You don’t want to escalate the situation like ‘That dude is causing trouble! Flatten him! He’s being violent! Pulverize him’ You kinda have to use mental Ju Jitsu in that situation, you know?
G- (laughing) Good call.
And just a few last questions, and though this next one will probably be quite redundant, but I’ve always wanted to ask you personally because again, the COC live experience is pretty wild as a fan. But I’ve never been in the band, so I want to know your most memorable show, or the craziest show, or your proudest or least proud show in your tenure as the bassist for the band.
M- There are a couple of things that come to mind. I mean for us, some of our first big shows we ever played, when we were getting on these big bills out in Los Angeles at this terrible sounding venue called the Olympic Auditorium. You know, we would play shows with Suicidal Tendencies and a million California bands, and there were 5000 people. We didn’t think to ask for big money or anything, it was just… The first shows of that scale were definitely on another level.
And in terms of scale, playing at Sonisphere in Madrid a few years ago, there were 60,000 people there. So many people, not entirely our crowd, of course, but there were so many people you couldn’t even be scared because you can’t even process it. There are no individual eyes you can see to make you uncomfortable. It was kinda surreal. So playing that show and seeing Kyuss Lives! and Clutch and Metallica play… It was kinda when the economy of Spain was in the tank, and they just kinda let people gather outside the gate who could get a pretty good mix and see the show from the street. That’s what they let people do, so it was pretty righteous in that regard, as well as getting 60,000 paid or whatever.
G- Very good.
And just to finish up today, COC has been on a lot of labels, logged many miles, and spent many a night in a van, I’m sure. There are a lot of young COC fans out there that just hope to have a sliver of the impact COC has had in the music world, and they want to go on the road and into the studio and record.
So lay it down as hard and brutal as possible: What advice can Mike Dean give some of the young kids out here?
M- Well, when we were kids you had to be pretty good and pretty lucky, because there were a lot of bands. Now, you have to be even luckier, because music is a smaller part of the cultural spectrum and a smaller part of the economy and stuff. And the available technologies for recording and such have made a glut of passable or kinda ok stuff. So what you really have to do is be aggressively individualistic and be certain, and do something strong that you believe in that’s unique, because that’s your only hope. Trying to follow a formula, you’re just gonna get lost in the crowd, so you’ve gotta figure out your vision, you’ve got to get it across, and you have to do it with agility, do it hard, and hope it’s something that resonates with people and stuff.
Good luck, because you’re gonna need it, but luck is not gonna do you any good if you’re not prepared to be ready when the luck strikes. So, good luck to ya. It should be a process that you enjoy, because that’s all you might get out of it.
G- Right on, and truer words couldn’t be said. Good one, and good interview as well! I just want to say again thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five and it was a pleasure speaking with you. Enjoy your touring in New Zealand and Australia because I’m sure they’re ready for it, and play hard man! We’re looking forward to another round with COC live!
M- Hey thanks very much, man. Thanks for having me.
G- A pleasure, man. Have a good day!