Photo by Meg Loyal Photography
It’s been a dozen years since Corrosion Of Conformity recorded new material with Pepper Keenan at the helm, but the long wait for fans is almost over. The legends will be releasing their highly anticipated new album, No Cross No Crown, on January 12th via Nuclear Blast, and I recently got to speak with Pepper about his return to the band, the new record, and so much more. Enjoy the chat below!
Metal Mark: Pepper, it’s always to great to talk with you. How’s everything on your end?
Pepper Keenan: Good to hear from you Mark. Things are awesome. Me and the COC boys got a killer new record on the way next year, so we are looking to spread the word about it to anyone and everyone.
MM: That’s why we are here my friend! Let’s go back, because you reunited with the band a few years ago with the intention of just playing a few shows, but it quickly turned into two years of touring. Were you surprised by the response from fans on that run?
PK: I think we all were. I mean, we knew we wrote great music together, but to see fans of all ages singing along to every word again, and asking for new material after the shows, it really blew us away. Like you said, it quickly went from jamming on a few dates, to shows all over the world. It was crazy, but fun as hell.
MM: How long into that touring were you guys like “Hey, let’s make a record.”
PK: I think the idea came up pretty early on into those shows, but once Nuclear Blast approached us with an amazing deal, we knew it was time. It was an offer we couldn’t refuse, to quote The Godfather, and now the new record is on its way.
MM: Hell yes. Fans, as you well know, have been waiting for this record for a while now, so everyone is excited to hear it, but how excited are you guys to release it?
PK: We are beyond excited man. Ever since we started writing the new material, we knew we had something special. Once it was done, we realized we had a monster on our hands, and it will finally be released in January. The hard part is over, as they say, and now it’s up to us to deliver it live as well, and we will.
MM: After a few listens to the record, it really sounds like you guys picked up right where 2005’s In the Arms of God left off. It’s like no time had passed at all. Was that the intention, or did it just happen that way?
PK: You nailed it man. That was the sound we were going for, so your ears aren’t fooling you (laughs). We used In the Arms of God as a catalyst and went from there. We know what COC fans want, and we wanted to give it to them. It’s pretty cool that, after twelve years, we were able to capture that energy and sound again, but once we started, it was like the old days all over again.
MM: You guys have obviously grown as musicians since the last time you wrote together, so did that bring up any issues, or was it a seamless writing and recording session?
PK: There were definitely some challenges, but nothing that we couldn’t handle. We aren’t new to this (laughs). We know how to do things, but we just wanted to make sure we got it right. I think the biggest obstacle was that we don’t live down the street from the studio anymore. We all live in different cities, so it took over a year to get it done. Studio wise, we probably knocked it out in forty days, but getting everyone together was the hard part, but we wanted to be in the same room when we did this record. That was a big deal for us, and always has been. That’s the best way to capture a band, in my opinion, and it really brought out the best in us, and therefore the songs as well. Fans have been wanting this for a while like you said, so we didn’t want to disappoint. We didn’t want to put out a record just to say we did. We wanted to make something that lives up to the COC name, and I think we did.
MM: I think you did as well. Like I said earlier, it really picks up right from 2005, and sounds like the old COC. As fans, we have our expectations of the band’s sound, but for you, what makes a COC song?
PK: That’s a damn good question. It’s really hard to say, because we’ve gone in so many directions over our career. This is a bad answer, but it’s the truth. We know it when we feel it. There were several riffs or parts we discarded for the new record, because they just didn’t feel right. Once we hit the right note or chord, we would just know, and ride it out. It’s something in us that I can’t really pinpoint, but you can hear it once it’s all put together.
MM: I won’t argue that. Just like with the previous material, this record flows beautifully. You get everything you’ve ever loved from the band, and them some. From the heaviest of heavy, to melodic brilliance, it’s all there, and an easy listen from start to finish.
PK: I really appreciate to hear that. Especially nowadays when people only seem to care about one or two tracks. All of us listen to albums from start to finish. We always have, and always will, so that was very important when we started writing the new stuff. We wanted it to flow, and to hear you say that it does means we did our job.
MM: I have my personal favorite tracks on the record, but are there any that stick out in your mind from the record?
PK: If I’m being honest, I’m going to say all of them (laughs). This has been a long time coming, so each song has a special place in my heart. We’ve released two songs so far, and I know Mike Dean loves the latest ‘Wolf Named Crow’ single, but it’s impossible for me to choose just one. That’s what makes it a record for me. It’s all quality. It’s all COC.
MM: As we talked about earlier, you’ve done a ton of touring since you reunited with the band, and now that the new record is coming, I’m assuming the road will be calling in 2018 as well.
PK: That’s definitely the plan. We already have a massive tour with Black Label Society planned for early 2018, and then we are bringing the new material to anyone that wants it. I’m sure more dates will pop up soon, but if you’re in the States, don’t miss out on the BLS tour. It’s going to be a party for sure.
MM: It definitely sounds like you will have a busy 2018, but as of now, we are coming to the close of 2017. If you could describe this year in one word, what would it be?
PK: Tiring…but in a good way (laughs). With the touring and recording, it’s been a busy one for sure. I’m no spring chicken anymore man, I turned fifty this year, so maybe it’s all catching up to me.
MM: Fifty is just a number right?
PK: True, it doesn’t feel any different at all (laughs). I’m still doing what I love, and having a blast, so I can’t really complain. I’m just ready to be back on that stage. That’s where this old man belongs (laughs). So bring on the BLS tour!
Pre-order Corrosion Of Conformity‘s No Cross No Crown here.