Napalm Flesh: Corrosion of Conformity Interview
Welcome to Napalm Flesh! This week we have an interview with drummer Reed Mullin of the mighty Corrosion of Conformity, who will be in Salt Lake on June 15, headlining a show with tourmates Torche, Black Cobra and Gaza. We also have a rundown of this week’s metal happenings in Salt Lake and beyond.
compiled by Bryer Wharton
Tonight, Thursday, May 31, check out Teeph (sludge/noise from CA) at Burt’s (21+) with Yuktooth (also from CA) and locals Dethblo, Year of the Wolf and Blood Purge. $5 gets you in, music around 9 pm.
Friday, June 1 Century Media recording artists 7 Horns 7 Eyes (metalcore) from Seattle play Burt’s (21+) with Stealing Axiom, Eyes of Damnation, Burn Your World and Incendiant. $7 gets you in, music starts around 8 pm.
Saturday, June 2, catch a big old mess of bands with the Winter Decompression Fest 3 at the Ogden Amphitheater. Bands playing are Opal Hill Drive, Autostigmatic, Sonic Prophecy, Ghostwone, Isaac Farr Trio, Heartbreak Hangover, Dub Symptom, Citizen Hypocrisy, Aerial and American Hitmen. Tickets are$10 and free for the kiddies under 12-years old are available. Music starts off at noon.
Monday June 4, Neurot Recording artists Across Tundras (doom/stoner/psych) play Burt’s (21+) with the always rocking Lopan, Sure Sign of the Nail and Settle Down. $5 gets you in, music around 9 p.m.
Also Monday, nu-metal crew American Head Charge plays In the Venue (all ages) with Blue Felix, Blood of Saints, Vengeance and Orion’s Wrath. $15.50 tickets are available, doors open at 6:30 pm.
Interview with Corrosion of Conformity drummer Reed Mullin
From the heady days of rudimentary punk rock through to the critical acclaim and airplay of Blind and Deliverance, Raleigh mutant institution Corrosion of Conformity is a truly kaleidoscopic band for all eras. Recently, the band revived the lineup present on their crossover thrash masterpiece Animosity and recorded a stellar new album, giving me the impetus I needed to chat with drummer, C.O.C mainstay and championship storyteller Reed Mullin about hardcore, SNL, Pushead artwork and, of course, Slayer.
SLUG: What’s the band’s schedule like now? I know you’ve done some shows with Clutch, and played a few festivals.
Mullin: We’re not on tour right this second. It’s a little sporadic. As opposed to doing two or three months in one big block, we’ve been doing ’em here and there for two or three weeks. Right now we have this month blocked off so Mike [Dean, bass/vocals] and I can finish our side project, Righteous Fool and we recorded all the basic tracks at Dave Grohl’s studio, 606. We’re gonna finish that up, do some festivals, and hopefully hook up with Clutch again or something like that. We’ve got about three weeks worth of US shows coming up in June.
SLUG: Great! Let’s talk about putting the “animosity” lineup together. I don’t wanna write it off as a cheap nostalgia trip, so what were the main motivations to hook up with Woody [Weatherman, guitar/vocals] again?
Mullin: I’ve seen Woody since like 5th grade (laughs). Essentially, I left C.O.C for a little while, they did another album, and then kinda just stopped. I think Down was getting bigger, so Pepper [Keenan, guitar] was busy with that. It’d been like 3 or four years since those guys had done anything…then Pepper got a call out of the blue saying that lots of different promoters overseas wanted us to do a reunion thing, but it had to be the four of us.
He was worried like ‘do you think Reed will do it?’ and I’m like ‘hell yeah I’ll do it, it’ll be great!’ but it ended up not working out. By that point, the three of us [Mike, Reed and Woody] had been jamming separately. We really learned how to play our instruments together, and I think by virtue of the fact that our baseplate was American hardcore and Black Sabbath, we becamse this weird creature…and we still are that subspecies (laughs).
It was like instantaneous when the three of us started jamming together again. People had been bugging us for years to do some of that old hardcore stuff, because whenever we’d get a new singer, all the older material wouldn’t be performed live. Anyway, I finally got Mike and Woody to capitulate and go with the idea, and I had a few people who were interested in having us do some shows, specifically playing the HC material. I mean, we don’t even have to speak to each other when we play. We know when to stop, when to start. It’s a cool experience that I’ve never had playing with anybody else. Mike decided not to just make it a nostalgia trip, but that we write some new stuff. In three weeks we had eleven songs.
SLUG: Three weeks? That’s pretty fast for you guys.
Mullin: Yeah it is, but I think it demonstrates how well we work together. We wrote those songs, had some people interested in that hardcore stuff and the reaction was so positive we were like ‘fuck man, let’s keep going!’ It wasn’t too long after that when Dave Grohl, who had that side project Them Crooked Vultures, did that SNL “Crisis of Conformity” skit. I found out that band was playing Atlanta the next day, so I figured I’d go down and give him some shit because I hadn’t seen Dave in a long time.
SLUG: He’s a hardcore alum too.
Mullin: Right, he was in Scream. In the ’80s I had a little independent label, that I released Eye for an Eye on and he’s been appreciative of that and we’ve been good friends since then. Anyway, I came down to Atlanta where they were playing and since I knew the tour manager, I hid behind him while they were playing. The place was packed and he stops after the next song to wipe all the sweat off, because he plays so damn hard, and when he turns around he sees me.
He runs over and gives me a big bear hug, grabs John Paul Jones [Led Zeppelin] and like … the concert’s still going on and the crowd’s probably thinking ‘where the fuck did Dave go?’ He introduces me right in the middle of the set, and he says ‘John, this is Reed, he’s the reason I play drums!’ Isn’t that crazy? It was my birthday too. It was the best birthday present. Dave is as nice as he seems. I ended up hanging out with him the rest of the night, and he’d heard that Mike, Woody and I had started jamming, and that era of C.O.C his favorite, so he invited us to record at his studio. It was cool. I got John Paul Jones to call Mike Dean at 3 AM. Anyway, I’m rambling. What were we talking about?
SLUG: It’s great man. We were talking about getting the Animosity lineup together. I’m a fan of all the different “eras” of COC, but honestly Animosity is my favorite. I heard it when I was super into Metallica and DRI and it just fit while my cement was wet. And since Animosity came out on Metal Blade…
Mullin: Yeah, I’ve got a good story about Metal Blade. We’d done some touring off of Eye for an Eye, and for its time it was pretty “crossover.” When we played live, it sounded pretty heavy and it was a weird thing for an American Hardcore band to have as much metal influence as we did. For one song we used the word “cornucopia” and the song “Redneckkk” is just a Black Sabbath song sped up! We did lots of touring and became friends with that first generation of thrash bands like Death Angel, Dark Angel, Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax.
Their scene was still in the beginning ages, relatively small compared to how big it got later. We were friends with Slayer and got a show on their first American tour, I think it was Haunting the Chapel, in Baltimore. At the time we were pretty popular in Baltimore and the bill was The Obsessed, Slayer and us. So we get there and we’re all stoked because we usually have good shows in Baltimore, and this is when Slayer was touring in a Trans-Am and a U-Haul trailer.
But there’s some hubbub because the Obsessed refused to headline for a “punk” band, so there was some drama. The place was packed anyway, but it made Tom [Araya] and Dave Lombardo and the rest of those guys mad like ‘we don’t know these fuckin’ Obsessed guys!’ and we were kinda like ‘who cares? let’s just play. The place is packed.’ It was a great show and as we’re packing our stuff and the Obsessed is setting up, Slayer and their roadies took the stage.
‘Now we’re gonna play so you don’t have to play with a ‘punk’ band.’ Anyway, Slayer plays and it’s like a popcorn machine with people flying all over the stage. After the show they’re loading up their trailer and Lombardo and Tom were like ‘dude, you guys gotta get signed!’ and getting signed back then was an anomaly for a band like us. They offered to talk to Brian Slagel [Metal Blade] for us. It was nice of ’em, but I didn’t think anything would happen. Sure enough though, Monday morning in my Dad’s office fax machine, there was a contract with Metal Blade … and that’s how we ended up putting out Animosity. Slayer hooked us up!
SLUG: Case in point: Slayer rules. How’d that Pushead artwork on Animosity come to be? He’s famous for doing skulls, and C.O.C’s iconic logo is a skull, but there aren’t skulls on the album.
Mullin: We knew him just from doing other stuff, like the Youth Brigade album. We thought he might be good for us, so I wrote to him and he said he’d do it and he had a few ideas. I think he got paid $150. Someone told me that in all of his artwork he’d work the name “Annie” somewhere, because that’s his girlfriend’s name or something. We just knew him because the scene was so small and he asked us to be on his compilation Cleanse the Bacteria.
SLUG: The critical consensus of the new album is that it incorporates all the different strains and flavors of C.O.C. That being said, was that a conscious effort to self title it? I feel like when bands self-title their records it becomes like a “definitive” statement on themselves.
Mullin: I could see how someone would think that, but no. The music that’s on that album just oozed out of us naturally and quickly. We didn’t have any objective in mind other than to write some cool songs to tour off of. When the album was done, Candlelight, the label putting it out, asked us what it was called and we still didn’t have a name. Mike Dean was just like ‘let’s self title it.’ I mean, we were the guys that started the band and since it has all the different “eras” of C.O.C in it, it made sense. I’m gonna be honest, it’s definitely one of my favorite C.O.C albums.
SLUG: I like it a lot. It’s been one of my “gym albums” for a few weeks now.
Mullin: (laughs) We’ve made it big!
SLUG: “Older” hardcore guys tend to be bitter and dismissive of “newer” hardcore bands and kids. Are there any newer ‘core bands that you dig or do you feel like it’s “dead?”
Mullin: I think hardcore started getting a little generic around ’87 and ’88. I think good music is good music, and if a band has written material that’s bad ass, then it’s bad ass. Doesn’t matter if it’s the Ramones or Bad Brains or whatever. If it’s good, it’s good.
I know what you mean about the old guys attitudes. For a lot of us, hardcore was such an interesting and special time and it was the birth of a new form of music. It was new for us, and we all knew each other and wrote each other letters. Some old guys are probably harsher than they need to be because to them it was so special. Now everything is cut up into different subgenres, I mean think about how many metal subgenres there are.
I’m of the mind that good music is good music, and it doesn’t matter…but I wouldn’t be able to tell you what hardcore is today because I don’t know anymore! (laughs). When we first started, I saved up my money from mowing lawns and bought a ticket to LA to see the Minutemen. I was there for two weeks and I ended up seeing Black Flag, Husker Du, DOA and Saccharine Trust.
SLUG: Whoa! Like an SST super show!
Mullin: (laughs) Yeah. But I mean, you think of all those bands now, and to me it was a punk show, but all those bands were really different. That’s not the way we used to look at stuff back then. I mean, a good band is a good band.
SLUG: I saw in an interview, you name-dropped the band Void. People never talk about ’em and you claim they were the first real crossover band. Let’s nerd out over this.
Mullin: I definitely think they were! When Flex Your Head came out, the Void songs on it were awesome, but their split with Faith just killed us! It was so fucking heavy and badass. Raleigh’s relatively close to DC, so we’d get to see all those Dischord bands when they’d come down. I used to sell Minor Threat singles to kids at my high school, because I wanted to spread the religion of punk rock you know?
I had boxes and boxes of ’em…think about how much money they’d be worth if I still had ’em! (laughs). I truly believe Void, unless you wanna throw Discharge and Motorhead in the mix, were the first crossover band. I was the promoter in this area, mainly because my dad had a fax machine I could use for free. If you ever look at any old C.O.C flyers, you can see my parents’ home phone number on it.
I liked Void so much, and I’d finally convinced them to play Raleigh. In fact, the first time that C.O.C skull was ever used, it was for a flyer for a gig with Void. Anyway, the day before the show they called me like ‘Reed we’re sorry, our van’s busted. We can’t play the show.’ I didn’t want to face 175 pissed off punk rockers when I had to tell ’em Void wasn’t playing their local Kiwanis center, so I asked them if they’d still play the gig if they had a ride. So I drove all the way to DC, picked up each band member individually and brought them down to Raleigh and they played!
SLUG: Awesome! When was the last time you played Salt Lake?
Mullin: Man I don’t know, but I remember some of the first gigs were booked through this guy named Brad…
SLUG: Brad Collins! He’s still around, and he owns an awesome record store here.
Mullin: Yeah! Brad Collins. That’s awesome. Tell him I said hello! In terms of promoting and stuff, I was like the Raleigh version of him…except I didn’t have a record store. Spreading the word man. (laughs).