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Interview: Corrosion Of Conformity's Reed Mullin

By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 2, 2012 8:00PM

Corrosion of Conformity's original lineup (L-R): Mike Dean, Woody Weatherman and Reed Mullin. (Photo Credit: Tez Mercer)

When Reed Mullin, Mike Dean, and Woody Weatherman chose the band name "Corrosion of Conformity" in a high school chemistry class, they couldn’t have known how apt that name would become, later spending two and a half decades developing their unique sound.

Over the years, Corrosion of Conformity has evolved from hardcore punk to a thrash metal and found its strongest bearings with southern-fried sludge metal, with the addition of New Orleans singer/guitarist Pepper Keenan. By the mid-aughts, C.O.C. had become an amalgamation of all these influences. The original lineup released an eponymous album on Feb. 28, showcasing a little sound from each era.

This is the first album without Keenan since he joined the band. While relations with Keenan still remain positive, his involvement with New Orleans-based stoner metal supergroup Down (featuring former Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo) has kept him out of the studio.

Drummer Reed Mullin is back with his high school band mates after a ten-year hiatus for a tour that comes to Double Door March 7. (This lineup previously played Riot Fest Chicago 2010.)

Mullin recently talked to us about the evolution of his band, the current state of metal, politics, and touring in the early days with with Suicidal Tendencies.

Chicagoist: What brought about the reunion?

Reed Mullin: Over the years, we’ve had a lot of lineups. Pepper [Keenan] called and said he’d gotten some offers from promoters to do some shows, but he couldn’t. We figured let’s do it. We had a great time working together before - me, Woody [Weatherman] , and [Mike] Dean. The three of us learned to play together so it just felt natural to do this again.

C: How has this lineup been received on tour?

RM: The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. There’s been no stabbings or clubbings at any of the shows.

C: C.O.C., along with bands like S.O.D. and Suicidal Tendencies spearheaded the movement to cross over metal with hardcore punk, do you foresee a new crossover era?

RM: I don’t know, it’s difficult to ascertain. Everything is so set in subgenres now. When we first started playing, you’d have Black Flag and Husker Du, Minutemen all playing together. We considered it all punk. The new scene is so divided. We always thought, whatever good bands you can put on the lineup, the better. We’ve brought all sorts of bands on tour with us. Honor Role, the Alter-natives, we tried to just play bands we really like and bands we were friends with.

C: Why has the band consistently changed its lineup over the years?

RM: We’ve added new dudes we clicked with over the years People came, people went. I really learned to play with Woody and Mike. In the beginning, Woody showed me two beats, the Ramones beat and the Minor Threat beat. At the time, we were listening to a lot of punk, but we also liked the Stooges and Sabbath. Sabbath was a major influence.

C: The crossover scene of the 1980s seemed to be a period of fun for metal. What was it like touring during that era?

RM: Suicidal [Tendencies] was one of the first bands to take us on tour. They had this one roadie, “Loony”-I don’t even think he carried amps. His only job was after the show to collect money and people would pay him to eat crazy stuff. He would eat ants or a spiders for a quarter.

That tour was great. It was our first tour, and it was one of their early tours. They traveled in [Suicidal Tendencies singer] Mike Muir’s granddad’s Winnebago. I remember one night we played Pittsburgh and we got paid $7 between both bands. We loved it, though.

We had the chance to play with Ramones, Black Flag, Minor Threat, Metallica, Rollins Band, and Alice in Chains.

C: What was the scene like in Raleigh, North Carolina in the 1980s?

RM: Every town has that punk rock house where bands crashed. Bands would play Raleigh and stay with us. I had a label at time, we signed bands like Subculture and NoCore, we had a scene going.

C: There was a lot of controversy over the song “Vote with a Bullet” from the Blind album. What inspired you to write that song and what was the fallout?

RM: Back then, [in North Carolina] we had Jesse Helms as a Senator. I believe he was partially responsible for the overthrow the Allende government in Chile to install [dictator Augusto] Pinochet. Helms was a terrible person and the inspiration for that song. Jesse Helms stole that election from Harvey Gannt who was the mayor of Charlotte at the time. I didn’t write it, Pepper [Keenan] wrote it I stand by what Pepper wrote. I’m not advocating murder, but when I look at the lyrics and remember what [Helms] had done, I can’t feel bad that he’s dead.

My politics haven’t changed at all, but we censored [Blind] so we wouldn’t get arrested. Nowadays, you can’t go around talking about assassinations and shit.

C: Is the original lineup the permanent new lineup for the band?

RM: C.O.C. is really a circus that keeps mutating into a new thing. I hope that other members like Karl [Agell] and Pepper [Keenan] come back and play with us, but I know that COC is really the three of us [Mullin, Dean, and Weatherman].

C: What can we expect on the new record?

RM: The new album is a good mixture of a little of C.O.C. over the years. If you’re an old school person who was into Animosity or Technocracy, you’ll like it. If you are into Blind or Deliverance, you’ll get it as well. This could be considered a dictionary of C.O.C. We got a little bit of everything but rap or reggae. Folks who are into C.O.C. will be stoked about this record.

By Kenzo Shibata and Rick Abplanalp