For years, Down have been dominating the heavy music world with animosity and passion. They’re constantly pushing, pulling and finding new ways to present themselves. As is the move to release ‘Down IV’ in four EPs. It’s given the band room to move and tour more. Equally, it’s given them an opportunity to truly speak for themselves, just as Down have always done. We spoke with guitarist Pepper Keenan about the upcoming, ‘Down IV – Part Two’, as well as the possibility of the musician becoming involved with his old band, Corrosion of Conformity again.
How was Soundwave for Down?
Oh man, Australia in general, I just love! Soundwave was awesome because we had so many friends with us. I hit every beach I could get my hands on, and I had a blast.
Do you think we’ll see Down back here again after the release of ‘Part II’ for maybe a headline or support slot?
I hope so. I’d do it in a heartbeat. Phil and I talk about it all the time as it’s our favourite place to go, no shit! We always get treated right and we always have a fantastic time so I fucking hope I get to come back!
How are you feeling with the days leading up to the release of ‘Part II’?
I’m all good, man. We’re rehearsing, we got a tour planned and were so happy of it. We worked our asses off on it and it sounds like Down. It’s gonna knock it out of the park live and I can’t wait to release it.
Tell me about the writing of it and did the departure of Kirk Windstein effect it at all?
Not really. For so long, it’s been me, Pat [Bruders] and Jimmy [Bower] going at it; I’ve been writing with Jimmy for years and years. When Bobby [Lamdgraf] came into the band as Kirk’s replacement, he just slayed it. He’s been my guitar tech for ten years with Down so he wanted a shot at doing it. He’s played in bands plenty of times before and we got him in after the rhythm stuff was done; he learnt his shit real quick and added his own parts. I let him kill it on the solos and he just knew what to do as he’s been watching Down side of stage for ten years.
Sometimes when you get a younger or new person it sparks the energy. It lights a fire under your ass and we’ve just been amped since.
Tell me a bit out the production side of things and how Down’s gone about that.
Between Phil [Anselmo], Jimmy and I we’ve [produced] fifty records. We’ve worked with producers even more times but is Phil really gonna listen to them? No! (Laughs) I’m probably not gonna listen to much either. We’re all competent with turning knobs and Phil’s house has a recording studio called Nosferatu’s Lair and we’ve done three records there. We know what we want to do, so it was all just us.
What brought on the choice to do four EPs, as ‘Part II’ is part of a series of EPs, and not an album? And why four exactly?
Well I think the first thing it does is that it straps the record company in for a longer time. It’s our selfish behaviour to get the company to buy into it so we can take our time and do things our way. Nowadays, a record company throws a record against a wall and sees if it sticks and if it does it has life. Records more often than not are off the charts in one or two days too. We’re a touring band and we love writing music so doing four eps gave us room to move sideways between EPs. We have some off the wall shit we want to get into on numbers three and four and not be so constraint by an album format.
Does this EP sound like that "off the wall" stuff or is this on the same ground as the first one?
This one’s on the same ground and the reason for that is we have Bobby in the band now. It would’ve have been unfair to him if we’d taken a super left turn right as he joined the band. So we wanted to get his feet wet with how we operate and he’s a great guitarist so he’ll shift gears so to speak, easily. Plus, we were working through them and we were having a blast jamming it so we just thought, "Fuck it, let’s just hammer last the whole thing!"
What do you mean when you do say the next two after this one will be different?
Well, number two ends on a kind of mellowed song and that’s what we’re going for in the next two. There’s gonna be a lot softer and mellower stuff. There’s a couple of creepy, campfire songs we’ve been saving for a while and we really want to use them here. So this is gonna be some weird, Pink Floyd-y shit we’ve been wanting to do in a way that’s not just two songs on a record. We really want the EP to focus on that and then again it will lead into the next one. Down has a lot of directions I think, like if you listen to all our records we have some pretty intense shit and some mellower stuff. We just want to show a different side on ‘EP III’.
I really like the idea, so you can listen to them all in a row and feel the progression of it.
That’s exactly it, man! And it’ll be a lot of fun and challenge us I think.
And it keeps people interested if they know it’s going to be new and different.
Yeah, we’re not trying to spoon feed people so it just sells more or to drag it out. I just love it, playing music! It doesn’t matter if I’m playing mandolin and Jimmy’s smashing a pumpkin, I just love music. We like to push ourselves.
In saying all this, how do you think Down has potentially impacted and influenced the heavy music scene?
I’m not sure it has. I think most people are kind of scared or shy. A lot of bands do the stoner rock thing to the world Down’s in. I think however, the main reason I’m not sure, is that we have a singer, not some guy barking in a key. We use that to our advantage. I think Down is in our own world like there was a time where we toured and we didn’t bring anybody with us as we didn’t know who to bring with us. We created our own scene in our way.
Well do you think if Down is in a world of their own that gives the opportunity for you to go and do some stuff with Corrosion of Conformity again?
Oh yeah! I was just talking to Reed [Mullin] last week about it and he’s down with doing it and so am I, but we’ve all be so busy. I think the lines are starting to merge and the times come to do to it. I feel like now is a better time than ever to do it. I’m in good shape, my vocals are good and all that. It’s just not something I’d take lightly. If I do it, I have to do it seriously.
Would you think your experiences with Down would anyway shape or form influence the way of going in Corrosion of Conformity?
No I don’t think so. The only reason I say that is because I have to sing in Corrosion. It’s a totality different animal. Singing is different from playing and moving around with a guitar. They’re two different animals and I’ve got it pretty set in my head that they’re separate.
You wouldn’t even say that it might have an impact, especially what you’re doing now with Down and the experimentation, on the creation and structure of Corrosion’s music?
I don’t think so. Reed’s different to Jimmy. When I play guitar with Jimmy, it’s crazy and and heavy but when I play with Reed it’s more manic. I’ve been in Down for a while now, so I’m not really sure how I’d go with input on guitars but I don’t think so. For me that’s just what I feel.
Down IV – Part Two is out in Australia May 9 via Warner.