Pepper Keenan of Corrosion Of Conformity - Back
Corrosion of Conformity are back and louder than ever. With the recent release of there long awaited album “In the Arms of God” I took the opportunity to call C.O.C. front man Pepper Keenan in New Orleans a couple of weeks back to talk about some of the different factors that surrounded writing material for the new album. We also spoke about touring Australia a few years back with Pantera, Dimebag Darrell’s death, The Metallica audition, The U.S. Summer tour which will kick off soon, and much more. I hope you all enjoy it!

Cameron Edney -

1. Hi Pepper, first of all thanks so much for taking the time out to speak with me this morning. I would like to congratulate you on the release of the latest album “In the arms of God”. There are some outstanding tracks on the new album.

Pepper Keenan:
Thank you very much.

2. How long did it take you guys to record the new album?

Pepper Keenan: Not as long as other albums. We just went with the flow and let things roll. Once we had our friend Stanton on board playing drums we deconstructed a lot of things. Once we had the basic idea of the songs we just went with it. It took a mind of its own. We had the basic principles down, we were all at the top of our game in terms of playing, but it was pretty challenging for all of us. We were pushing each other pretty hard.

3. It’s been five years between albums, why did it take so long to get the new album out?

Pepper Keenan: I had gone and done some stuff along side Phil [Anselmo] & the whole “Down” thing came together. We toured on that for a while. We have actually played in Australia.

4. When you prepare to do a new album such as “In the arms of God”, what comes first the lyrics or the music and what different factors surrounded writing the material for the new album?

Pepper Keenan: It’s a little bit of both. We wanted to make a pretty big bombastic (for lack of a better word) epic sounding record. Woody & I had been sitting around listening to a lot of old Pink Floyd & Venom records at the same time. We got into this crazy mind frame & we just wanted to make this massive heavy record. Where a lot of bands are making these very clean, perfect sounding albums, I really wanted to get away from that & get back to why we started doing this in the first place.

The recording techniques of our past combined, with some pretty large song writing skills, entwine all of that & create something that hasn’t been done in a while. (In terms of the heavy metal thing).

It gets a bit challenging at times but some of the lyrics came first. It just evolved as we went.

5. After all these years of writing & recording, how do you constantly come up with new fresh sounding material without falling into the trap that a lot of artists do by repeating themselves?

Pepper Keenan: Just a basic love of music. I listen to everything from Bluegrass to Punk music. I live in New Orleans so I’m surrounded by it. There are a lot of undisclosed ideas & options out there if you allow yourself to be exposed to it.

6. The new album consists of twelve tracks. In a few words give us your thoughts on the following tracks:

Pepper Keenan: Basically, it’s a really cool swing type, real groove orientated riff that we had & Stanton [Moore] really added a lot to the drums, in terms of swing. It’s just a cool melodic song & nobody had done anything like that in a long time. It sounds like C.O.C. and lyrically, I was kind of pointing the finger at capital hill & the government, but twisting it around. The people of Capital Hill being the Stonebreaker’s, I was being very metaphoric

7. I’ve got to say that the intro to Stonebreaker is my favourite of all the new songs!

Pepper Keenan: That track originally had another guitar track on it, but we yanked it off. We had this old Hammond organ in our practice room. We cranked it up through a Wesley & replaced it with that. What you hear at the beginning of the track is a single and then a chord on the organ. The swirling sound is a tape machine rewinding. Things just fell into place like that. We were experimenting and having a lot of fun doing it and not being perfectionists.


Pepper Keenan: Basically it’s a song about me getting my life back on track. I live on a farm in North Carolina and I was in a relationship. I dedicated so much time to music that I left a lot of things behind. I needed to focus on more important things than I had been. Because of that I needed to turn things around and try & get my life back on track. It’s just my take on that!


Pepper Keenan: It’s just this crazy song that evolved. In the southern United States a backslider is some one who knows the ways of God and still chooses to turn his/her back on it. There’s a lot of hypocritical in that type of religion, especially down south. I was just taking little observations of that. How they treat each other, how they treat other people, without giving a history lesson. It’s a good topic to tackle. It had a lot of imagery in it. It’s a cool song.

8. You mentioned before that Stanton Moore helped you guys out on the new album. Is he an official member now or is he just helping out until you guys find a permanent replacement?

Pepper Keenan: No, he’s in a band called “Galactic” and he does well on his own. He did it for the challenge, but I think we opened up a whole new can of worms [laughs]. Everybody’s like “What the fucks going on?” It’s a different record compared to what’s out there. He’s gonna come out on the road with us for some of these shows in summer and he’s going to try and do Europe with us. I definitely want to get back to Australia.

9. We would love to see you guys back here. The last time you guys hit our shores you came down with Pantera! That’s going back a few years now!

Pepper Keenan: It was a place I always wanted to go to. I can look out my window now here in New Orleans, as hot as it is, and transpose myself down there. I love it. Everything from Off-shore fishing to AC/DC. The outdoor living vibe is right up my fuckin ally. We desperately want to come back to Australia.

10. Hopefully after the U.S. summer tour you guys could organise it. Speaking of the summer tour, you’re going to be hitting the road with “Crowbar”?

Pepper Keenan: Yeah, it’s going to be two and a half months out with Crowbar, Alabama Thunderpussy and a band called Weedeater from the east coast, which are some friends of mine. Down south we will be with a band called Suplecs, which is a band that I produce. They’re a really cool New Orleans band. On the west coast there’s gonna be Fu Manchu.

11. What can the fans expect to see & hear on this tour?

Pepper Keenan: We’re headlining so I guess we call the shots. We’re changing a lot of shit around, doing some unexpected songs that haven’t been done in a long long time. I’m really looking forward to it.

12. Are you guys planning on doing a DVD to showcase the up and coming tour?

Pepper Keenan: I’m not really sure. We film a lot of our shows but it’s probably up to our lazy asses to put it all together [laughs]. We do have a new video for Stonebreaker that’s really cool.

13. Yes, tell us about the new video?

Pepper Keenan: It’s not your average video. I’ve never seen anything like it. A friend of mine Rio Hackford did the video, he owns a club in New Orleans and he’s very talented film wise. The whole clip was shot on blue screens & all the backgrounds were added. It’s very psychedelic, but in an angry way. There’s a lot of volcanos & flames. It’s very heavy looking.

14. You guys recently finished up touring with Motorhead. I had read in a few different interviews that you always wanted to tour with the guys, was it all you hoped it would be?

Pepper Keenan: Oh yeah! It was really cool, we played in a lot of venues that C.O.C. had played ourselves, but it was still cool to be with them. Motorhead’s a band I really respect a lot. They’ve really stuck to their guns. Lemmy’s the real deal. Talking to Lemmy about certain things, you can really learn a lot. He’s really something. Lemmy changed the course of rock n roll.

15. You were saying earlier that you did the “Down” project along side Phil Anselmo. There are a lot of fans who want to know if there are any plans in the future to do another “Down” album?

Pepper Keenan: Not that I see in the near future man! Everybody’s so busy and we’ve both been through a lot of crap lately. I think Phil’s got a lot of things to figure out too.

16. How’s Phil doin now that he’s had some time to come to terms with Dime’s death?

Pepper Keenan: I haven’t spoken to him in quite some time. I don’t really know.

17. Dime’s death was a tremendous shock to music lovers all around the world. And he will be truly missed by all his fans, family & friends. Knowing you guys were close, I was wandering if you would mind sharing your thoughts on what happened?

Pepper Keenan: It was terrible. I was actually in the studio laying down the vocals to “In the arms of God” when the phone rang. It’s a very ironic twist of fate; I immediately stopped and got myself a plane ticket to Dallas. I stayed with Rex for a couple of days and went through the whole thing. Definitely an unjust!

18. Do you have any other side projects in the works?

Pepper Keenan: I have a couple of small things in New Orleans right now but nothing too extreme. I’m mainly just focussing on the C.O.C. shit.

19. Pepper there has been so many highlights in your career. What would you consider to be your greatest achievements to date?

Pepper Keenan: I’d say one of my greatest achievements was going onstage with Motorhead on this last tour and playing Overkill and getting to sing the chorus with Lemmy. I told Lemmy I felt like a kid in the ‘Make a wish Foundation’ [laughs]. There has been other thing’s as well, but that was definitely the coolest thing.

20. What do you think about the direction that heavy metal music has taken over the last few years?

Pepper Keenan: It’s really hard to say. There’s a lot of good bands that I like a lot out there like Mastodon & High on Fire, bands that really create there own thing & there’s a lot of shit out there too. Especially in the United States where bands copy each other. They can go to the local music store and get so & so’s signature amp, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of creativity put into it anymore. I mean I grew up in the Black Flag, Bad Brains world and I carry that kind of attitude with me. There’s so many bands that are making this music evolve and that’s the one’s I look for.

21 Out of all the newer bands who are you listening to?

Pepper Keenan: Well like I said Mastodon, High on Fire, I’m a real big fan of Eye of God and Outlaw Order.

22. What advice do you have for up and coming bands?

Pepper Keenan: Just stay true; keep your fuckin ears open because it’s a huge world out there. So many people get caught up in this one dimensional thing and they don’t realize that it’s a combination of lots of different things that create bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin and Metallica in there early days. I mean the way these bands evolve is because they took a chance. Don’t go the safe route, you’ll only end up chasing somebody else and the trends gonna be somewhere else by the time your shit even gets out.

23. Speaking of Metallica, you auditioned with the band back when Jason left. Can you tell us about the experience & how did the other guys in C.O.C. feel about you doing it?

Pepper Keenan: Well that was something that Metallica had mentioned to me. They called me up and said “we know you’re not a bass player but we like your attitude” etc. They wanted me to go out there. I wouldn’t say no to something like that. The guys in C.O.C. were like “Damn”. They couldn’t believe it, but they knew that I had to do it. It was really close too. It was between me and Trujillo in the end. In fact I went back out there twice. In the end I’m glad it turned out the way it did, I would have ended up a richer person probably, but I wouldn’t have been Pepper Keenan anymore. I would have been the bass player in Metallica & I don’t know if my little ego could have handled that [laughs].

24. What song/album would define Pepper Keenan to a complete stranger?

Pepper Keenan: It’s hard to say. It would have to be an album. I’d say this one “In the arms of God” or “Deliverance”.

25. What do you think you would be doing if you stopped playing music?

Pepper Keenan: Oh, I don’t really know. There are a lot of things that I do. I restore old cars, I restore houses. I own a bar in New Orleans, so I’d probably become an alcoholic [laughs].

26. Have you still got your Chevy?

Pepper Keenan: Oh yeah, I’ve got two of them now. I just got back from the paint place today. I’ve got a 64’ Impala that I just restored & replaced all the floor panels. I just had the first coat of paint put on it today.

27. What’ the most ridiculous thing you have ever asked for on a tour rider?

Pepper Keenan: Ooh shit man! Oh we use to ask for socks on our rider.

28. [Laughs]. Why socks?

Pepper Keenan: Socks and underwear cause we’d never take a shower. We just said fuck it; one day we’ll get socks, the next underwear, that way we never had to change clothes. Fucking rotten ass blue jeans, black T-shirts, sitting in some stinky van, new socks & new underwear and you’re good to go for a couple of months [laughs].

29. Out of all the albums you have appeared on what would be your favourite to listen to and why?

Pepper Keenan: The pinnacle of Corrosion of Conformity’s thing is the last album we did. I think it defined what C.O.C is all about in a nutshell. It’s a powerful record with lots of different emotions and sounds.

30. What was the first album you ever bought?

Pepper Keenan: Oh it was a cassette of Elton John “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy” then I bought Led Zepplins “Houses of the Holy” after that I won a contest at a summer camp, where I got a coupon to get a free record, and just because the cover looked cool I got The Ramones “Road to Ruin” & then that was the end of that [laughs]. I went in that direction and didn’t stop.

31. If you could put a band together consisting of musicians passed on or present, who would you pick & what would you call the band?

Pepper Keenan: Oh god, it would depend on what kind of band I’d want it to be. If I was gonna have a country band I’d grab Johnny Cash and fuckin Stevie Ray Vaughan. Oh that would be endless dude.

32. Well Pepper that’s all I have for you at this time. Once again I really want to thank you for your time today, and just quickly, do you have any last words for our readers?

Pepper Keenan: Yeah! We’re dying to come back to Australia and if anyone can hook it up then hook it up. We will have to go Fuckin fishing too when we get down there.

33. No problems mate, we will fish over a few beers. [Laughs]

Pepper Keenan: You’ve got it.

34. Thanks again dude, hopefully we will see you again soon.

Pepper Keenan: O.K. man, See ya!

Well I hope you all enjoyed the interview, “In the arms of God” is out now. You can grab it wherever great rockin CD’s are sold. To keep up to date with all the latest on what’s happening with C.O.C. go and check out the following websites. - Official Corrosion website - Metal news & Interviews - Dedicated to 40 years of pure hard rock & metal music - Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Artists and Fans unite to battle VH1/MTV Networks for Metal Mania Channel

Corrosion of Conformity will be on tour this summer at the following venues.
Please note all dates are subject to change. Tickets available from all the usual outlets.

06/02/05 - Indianapolis IN - The Vouge
06/03/05 - Detroit MI - Harpo's
06/04/05 - Columbus OH - Newport Music Hall
06/05/05 - Covington KY - Madison Theater
06/06/05 - Grand Rapids MI - Ten Bells Nightclub
06/08/05 - Buffalo NY - The Buffalo Icon*
06/09/05 - Towson MD - Recher Theater
06/10/05 - New York NY - Irving Plaza
06/11/05 - Philadelphia PA - Trocadero
06/12/05 - Norfolk VA - Norva Theatre
06/14/05 - Wilmington NC - Marzz
06/15/05 - Asheville NC - Stella Blue**
06/17/05 - Winston-Salem NC - Ziggy's
06/18/05 - Myrtle Beach SC - House Of Blues
06/19/05 - Jacksonville Beach FL - Freebird Live
06/20/05 - Orlando FL - The Social
06/22/05 - Ft Lauderdale FL - Culture Room
06/23/05 - Tampa FL - Masquerade
06/24/05 - Atlanta GA - Masquerade
06/25/05 - New Orleans LA - TwiRoPa
06/27/05 - Nashville TN - Exit/In
06/28/05 - Memphis TN - New Daisy Theater
06/30/05 - Tulsa OK - Cain's Ballroom
07/01/05 - Dallas TX - Trees
07/02/05 - Houston TX - Engine Room
07/03/05 - Austin TX - Emo's
07/05/05 - Albuquerque NM - Launchpad
07/06/05 - Tucson AZ - Coconuts
07/07/05 - Santa Ana CA - Galaxy Concert Theater
07/08/05 - West Hollywood CA - Key Club
07/16/05 - Englewood CO - Gothic Theatre
07/17/05 - Lawrence KS - Grandada Theatre
07/18/05 - Sauget IL - Pop's
07/21/05 - Chicago IL - House Of Blues

*originally the 7th now 8th
**originally the 16th now 15th

Used with permission by Cameron Edney © May 2005