This is the first album since 1985 that COC has Mike Dean performing on bass and on vocals. How was it using this line up to record a new album?
Well I’ll tell ya man, Mike’s done a lot of singing through the years and it’s not his first time being back on the mic, but it’s crazy going back to the original three piece! It’s been a real trip, especially getting Reed Mullin (drums) into the fold because he’s had about a ten- year absence. We’ve had several drummers filling in for him over the years, but it’s great having him back; it’s like the original guys playing in the basement and having a real good time. Really man, I’ll be honest. The cool thing about this album is that writing and recording it has been a real breeze. It’s nice to be able to write riffs and have a drummer playing behind it without you having to suggest things. It really worked out good and I’m really pleased.
Awesome. So tell me about the recording process for the album. You guys really managed to retain the classic, heavy COC sound, but yet it’s different from anything that’s come before it. It almost seems to have a few aspects of Animosity.
I think initially when we were starting to do shows back in the summer of 2010, we were doing all theAnimosity album and some Technocracy songs, as well as a couple new ones. I think when we set out to do this new album, sort of in the back of our minds we were like, “Well this is the Animosity album line-up. Maybe this is the way we should gear this record.” And of course when we actually started writing it and got down to business, that was totally thrown out the window. Whatever seemed good to us is what ended up on the album. It feels good. It has all the elements of COC in this album, which is good. If you’re a fan of the different periods of the band, like the early stuff or the records we did in the 90’s, and In the Arms of God (2005), there’s little elements of it all in this record.
So as the solo guitarist on this album, was it daunting to write the music yourself?
Well you know we all contribute. Even though Reed’s back there on the drums, he wrote several of the riffs on the album and he actually sings a couple songs, too. Mike’s a big influence there too, and to make a long story short we’re all there banging out riffs (laughs). Even though I am the guitar player, everyone’s splitting the riffs back and forth. It’s not all on my shoulder or anything like that.
Very cool. So what sort of inspirations did you draw upon to write this music? Sounds a lot like BLACK SABBATH mixed with other 70’s metal bands.
Well you know, going way, way back to when we first started as kids in 1982, our favorite bands were BLACK SABBATH and BLACK FLAG. I think even though there’s been a lot of territory covered since then and now, I think that still stands true today. We still bow down in front of SABBATH and FLAG amongst other things, but those influences are still there. It’s just how we interpret what we do. We’ve learned a lot through the years in the studio, experimenting with guitar songs and how to mic things, but I think the influences have stayed pretty constant. It’s hard to get away from SABBATH, man. Everybody loves them. What are you going to do?
I’ve watched some recent live videos on Youtube and you three seem energized and pumped to play. Do you think you guys managed to capture that same atmosphere in the studio?
I think this time we did because we practically did these songs live. Like for drums, a lot of that stuff was first and second take. The way we recorded was we’d all get in the room together, the guitar and bass amps are in an isolated room and we’re in with the drummer with headphones on and we play like we’re playing a live show. That’s really the way we learned how to record, so really it is like we’re playing live. And of course we add more guitar and bass tracks later on. As far as capturing the feel of the song, we’re in there jamming with Reed likes it’s a live show. For us it really seems to work the best, and that’s the way we like to do it.
This new album is also the first not to feature Pepper Keenan (DOWN) on vocals and guitar since 1991. Was it different writing music with one less member?
There’s no denying that Pepper is a big creative influence. He’s a great musician and has great riffs, great ideas. We all had to step it up a little bit, but through the years you know we’ve all contributed. We just had to do a little more this time than we normally would (laughs), which was cool. It was fun making this record as a three piece, and that’s not to say that making another record with Pepper somewhere down the line is out of the question. Nobody can predict the future, but we’ve all talked about it and we’re all still good buds and we all still kind of plan on it if the time is right. We’ll see.
And how is it to perform live as a three piece?
Now that’s fun! We have a blast, and being a trio, you do have to bring a little more to the table, you know, since there’s just three of you. It’s hard for three guys to make that much sound, but we definitely make an attempt at it (laughs). You gotta work a little harder, bring your A-game because you’ve got a lot of stage to fill, especially when you’re a guitar player. When you go to hit that lead, Mike Dean’s gotta fill that hole in bass and rhythm guitar, and he’s been able to do that really well. You know, you don’t want the sound to drop off when I hit the lead, but Mike does a great job of holding it all up.
You guys have a headlining tour coming up with TORCHE, VALIENT THORR, and A STORM OF LIGHT. Are you guys pumped to be heading back on the road with a new album under the belt?
That’s gonna make a big difference, going out with a new album, but also with such a great bill. All these bands are going to bring people out, and the cool thing I like about doing a tour like this is that the bands are not all the same. It’s not all the same kind of music. All four bands have their own little niche and their own thing that they’re doing. No one wants to go to a concert and see four bands playing the same kind of music. It’s just not that interesting for me as somebody who might go see a show, so something like this we’re really excited about. We love putting tours together like this. It makes it more fun.
Definitely, and after that tour do you guys have any other plans for the rest of the year?
Oh man, yeah! More of the same. We’re due to go overseas in April after the US tour for a couple little festivals and then back to the US in May, and we may continue with a very similar line up. We’ll see. There’s nothing written in stone, but we may continue on with a similar bill and head out west. A lot of people going, “When are you coming back out here!”
Photo by Tez Mercer.