I'm not gonna waste the world's time introducing Corrosion of Conformity, and I certainly won't pretend you don't know that Woodroe "Woody" Weatherman is the only member found on every recording the band ever laid to tape. Thankfully, I won't toot my own horn stating I recently had the incredible fortune of talking music with one of the greatest guitarists (and greatest inspirations to countless musicians) of the last thirty years. Woody Weatherman does far more than shred.
What I will do is tell you the band's new album hits shelves on February 28th, their tour commences March 1st, and the three-piece C.O.C. is as dynamic and blistering as they've ever been. Woody had plenty to say about the recording, the tour, the three-piece dynamic, and pretending not to be the coolest motherfucker on the planet. It went something like this:
HP: The new album's due out February 28th. There's a lot of excitement about it. You guys spent about a year recording it?
WW: "We actually recorded it really quickly, but we kept on interspersing live dates in-between, y'know, little snippets of working on it. So we kind of recorded the whole thing back in March and then toured all summer long and wound up goin' back out.... I think it was right at the end of October, first of November... and finished things. So we didn't really work on it that long, it just took us that long to get done 'cause of all the live shows, y'know?"
HP: When you guys are writing, is it more of a collaborative effort all at once or do you and Mike and Reed write your own material and bring it together later?
WW: "This time around, a whole lot of it was all of us just sort of had songs in our minds that we were ready to bust out. So we all kind of showed up with songs ready to go and just showed 'em to each other. Of course, there's a couple of Frankenstein songs where, y'know, say I might have two riffs that fit good together and I'm like 'Well, I got these two riffs. What do you got?' Mike Dean would bust out the other two riffs and the next thing you know you've got a song, y'know? There was a lot of that. Of course, Reed had three or four songs as well, so he contributed quite a bit this time, too."
HP: And you guys recorded at Studio 606 in LA, right?
WW: "We did, and mixed it there as well."
HP: What's that place like?
WW: "Ah, man! Y'know, it's Dave Grohl's place so you can imagine he's got a lot of cool vintage gear, a lot of amps, tons of guitars. And when we first went in, I wasn't sure how much he was cool with us using it. I know he invited us to use the studio but when we got there I was like 'Now, you know there's like 300 guitars back there and about 50 amps. Is it cool if we, y'know, can we use any of that?' and he was like 'Yeah!' So we did! And as usual, I always kind of find this tone I really like and wind up stickin' with it. So 90% of the guitar tracks were done on a little Orange Tiny Terror-kind of amp. Which I've never used before, but it wound up sounding pretty cool for this album."
HP: Cool! And what's the atmosphere like when you guys are recording. Is it laid-back, is it pretty focused and hunkered down?
WW: "This time around, it was really casual 'cause it's just the three of us. We've recorded together an awful lot through the years. Plus, the songs were ready to go. By the time we made it into the studio we'd already had some touring under our belts playing a lot of the songs live and we were just really prepared. So really, the basic tracks only took us about six days, we did it really quickly."
HP: And you guys worked with John Custer again, huh?
WW: "Yeah, man! You gotta have Custer! I've said it a couple times before, he's sort of like a quality control agent. He tells us if something's f'ed up or not. Y'know, he's one of those producers, at least when he's working with us, that doesn't try to change songs or change us at all. He'll just say 'Okay, go do what you do and see how it sounds." And we go do what we do and usually he likes it pretty good. He just makes sure the tones are right and all that kind of stuff, he doesn't really mess with the songs, per se, much."
HP: There's a lot of people talkin' about the lineup now, and it's goin' back to the Animosity lineup. Was that really on your minds when you were writing and recording, did that play into it at all?
WW: "Well, it did. And plus, especially since it was the three of us contributing... I mean, Pepper (Keenan) is a big, creative force. Whenever we're workin' with him he comes to the table with quite a bit, too. So Mike, Reed, and I gotta step up, y'know? These songs are geared for a three-piece. They're simple, the structures... Whenever we make a record we wanna make sure we can play the songs live and it not sound so dramatically different than what we created for the studio. We always have that in mind."
HP: Pepper's busy with Down, but his absence certainly doesn't detract from the record at all. It's a fuckin' great record! He had a hand in everybody kind of getting back together in the first place, didn't he?
WW: "Yeah, he did. Reed had been out of the band for awhile, he'd had some trouble with his back, a bunch of other things. And so Mike and Reed have a little side project called Righteous Fools they were workin' on. And Pepper had called us all up individually and said 'Y'know, I've been out with Down and there's some interest in C.O.C. comin' over to Europe and doin' some festival shows and what-not.' So Mike and Reed and I, of course were all three down in Raleigh, close together... we got together and started rehearsing and messing around, jammin' a little bit possibly in preparation for doing that and it just never materialized. But we kept on jamming as a three-piece. So it's kind of like Pepper initiated getting everybody back together and that was pretty cool, man."
HP: And the tour starts March 1st, is that right?
WW: "It does, yeah. We've got Torche, Valient Thorr, and A Storm of Light rollin' out with us on this little trek. It'll be awesome, it's cool to travel with an interesting feel like that. Everybody's not doing the same thing, but yet it fits together pretty good."
HP: I'm hoping to catch you guys in Chicago. Are the shows gonna feature mostly new stuff or are you gonna have any stuff from Animosity, Eye for an Eye...?
WW: "We're gonna reach back. Of course we're gonna do some of the Animosity and Technocracy stuff. We'll probably pick and choose a few from each period. Pluck a thing or two off of Deliverance or Wiseblood, but we're gonna be pretty heavy on the new record, too. That's what we're touring in support of, we like it. So we wanna do a bunch of it live, but we're not gonna leave the old-school fans out in the cold, that's for sure."
HP: I heard your interview with Jeff Olson from the other night...
WW: "Ohhh, what a cool guy, man!"
HP: He's somethin' else, man... He's awesome. You guys were talkin' a little bit about takin' no hiatus after this tour, just going into the next record or whatever. So we can expect some further material soon, huh?
WW: "That's what we all wanna do. We have said that before and then we wound up taking a three or four year hiatus or whatever, but we don't want that to happen again. I think we've got too much interest in the band right now and we're too excited about it to let that happen. Plus, we kinda got that work ethic right now where we're into jammin', we're into playin' shows, so I think it'll continue."
HP: What'd you do with that last hiatus? How'd you spend your time?
WW: "Mike and I actually worked on a lot o' tunes during that time. And if you heard the thing with Jeff Olson the other day, we chatted a little bit about my little farm. That kinda keeps me busy a little bit, we've got the animals and what-not. And I do have a son, I've got a three year-old boy now, so he ate up a little bit of that down time. We always find ways to stay busy somewhere with music even if C.O.C.'s not out on the road. We're thinkin' about stuff, messin' with stuff, Mike always keeps a studio goin'... a practice pad. So we get a few ideas, we put 'em on tape, y'know."
HP: You guys did a few albums on Sanctuary, now you guys are with Candlelight. What took you there?
WW: "What took us to Candlelight was they had an interest, they seemed to know what they were doing. It just seems like a pretty good fit so far and they seem to be doin' a good job."
HP: Goin' to the new record, what's the mood on a day when you record el Lamento de las Cabras versus a day when you record River of Stone? You've got two completely different sounds, so how do you approach those? What mindset do you take into the studio, does it even matter?
WW: "Yeah, it does. You mentioned the instrumental there... That's one of the instances that I busted out and got into some of the Foo Fighters' guitars back there. We found some kind of crazy 12-string electric that I wound up utilizing on that. It might take us a few minutes to figure out a tone, but generally you just kind of sit down and do it. Maybe in the morning you do that, you finish, then you take a little burrito break. Then come back and do Psychic Vampire in the afternoon."
HP: Yeah, that's not a 7am song, really.
WW: "Yeah, it depends on how the night before was goin'! You take a burrito break in-between each stage!"
HP: Man, you guys have done this for thirty years. How do you keep it up? So many of your contemporaries have just fallen off or just aren't around anymore. You guys have done it for three decades. How have you guys maintained?
WW: "I know, it's pretty amazing. The thing that is amazing about it is the people that keep coming to see us through the years. That's the difference, y'know? We've got the kind of fans that don't really forget about us, they tend to remember. Even if we do take a four or five year break, they're there the next time. They seem to be pretty loyal. That's the thing that's granted us the opportunity to keep doin' it; because of those fans that hang in there for us, y'know?
HP: You've done some collaborations with people, you were talking about it with Jeff the other night...
WW: "I didn't really get to talk much about Stanton Moore from Galactic when I was chattin' with him. That was another pretty cool collaboration we had on the In The Arms of God album.
HP: Is there a dream collaboration of yours that you haven't done that you'd like to someday?"
WW: *Laughs* "I think they'd all be so unrealistic, y'know, haha..."
HP: I don't think so! Look at the ones you've worked with already! You talk about Warren Haynes and James Hetfield and you're recording in Dave Grohl's studio...
WW: "That's true, y'know... I don't really think about it. Those are things that just sort of popped up... great opportunities we followed up with. Y'know, to be honest... having Reed back in the band has really been a big boost for me. Goin' back and workin' with him after about a ten or eleven year absence has made a giant difference. The ease of playing, especially the older songs, and the ease of writing the new songs... I mean, literally, whenever you bust out a riff he starts playing the drums behind it as you envisioned. You don't have to spend any time goin' 'Man, I need a roll here, I need you to do that. Slow it down.' There's none of that stuff, it's just automatic. That's my dream collaboration, gettin' back with Mullin."
HP: And you guys grew up together, is that right?
WW: "Yeah, around Raleigh and what-not. Reed and I went to school together up through junior high and high school and all that kind of stuff. That's kinda where we started the band. Mike wound up moving up to Raleigh from Charlotte around that same time period. We all grew up listening to a lot of the same kind of music and all that. I think that ties in to the ease of being able to write stuff together 'cause we all can say 'Y'know that part in that song on Presence when Bonham does this, the so-and-so, such-and-such,' and it's 'Oh yeah! Let me try that!' We just have little things like that that just make it work."
HP : You guys always get along perfectly then, right?
WW: "Awww, man! There's the occasional rift. After traveling... really, what I think tears a lot of bands up is hitting the road. They don't know how to handle the road life. And you've got the give and take and not gettin' in people's face, givin' everybody room, or whatever. What everybody needs to make the road life happen and stay happy and all that so it's pretty easy for us, man."
HP: So you're takin' the family with ya?
WW: "Well, I have before. But nah, not really. The boy's too young to really come out to any shows, so maybe later."
HP: I know you guys do a lot of interviews and probably hear a lot of the same questions. Is there a question you've never been asked that you've always waited for someone to ask you?
WW: "I don't know, um... I'm usually really open to whatever people wanna ask. And they've asked a lot of funny and different kind of things, y'know... Off the wall stuff. But nothin' pops into my head. I mean, heck... Come up with somethin' and see if I'll answer, y'know? *Laughs* Nothin' scares me. I can't think of anything but I'm sure there is...
HP: You were talking with Jeff about the Allagash beers. I'm no beer connoisseur, by any stretch. But I like the microbrews. Where should I go? What's the best you've had?
WW: *Laughs* "To be honest, man... As many great small breweries as there are in America, I think Belgium has really... That's their life over there. You find totally good beers in Belgium. Travels over there will tell you that and there's all those abbey beers and all that. Yeah, I'm like you, man. I'm not really a connoisseur I just enjoy having a beer when I get thirsty, which is fairly often."
HP: I like a cask ale now and then but I'll drink Old Milwaukee sometimes.
WW: "That's what I'm sayin', man! Give me a PBR on a nice, hot summer afternoon and I'm happy as a bug in a rug!
HP: Haha, hell yeah. This new record's great. There's an eleven-track and a thirteen-track version of the album, right?
WW: "Yeah, they've got the bonus tracks on vinyl and special edition, so we did two extra songs for that."
HP: Well, I've got all thirteen tracks, so I'm doin' pretty well!
WW: "You've got the whole she-bang! You're good to go!"
HP: You guys have been doing this for so long, you've been doin' it well... As a fan, just let me say thank you, Woody! I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today! If there's anything you need from us, from Heavy Planet, just let us know.
WW: "Will do, brother! I appreciate you takin' the time to chat with me today!"
Anyone reading Heavy Planet knows the importance and relevance of a band like C.O.C. If I hadn't spent my formative years with bands like this, I'd probably be jockeyin' a register in New Jersey. When a band from your youth crafts an album that so well blends fresh sounds with nostalgia, you'd better do your best to buy their albums, hit their shows, and wait for incredible things to happen. Look for Toby's review of C.O.C.'s self-titled, arriving on Heavy Planet faster than you can say "Loss for Words."
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