Mike Dean: A Rock and Roll Fables conversation

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Corrosion of Conformity bassist/vocalist Mike Dean has the perfect answer for those out there looking for a description of his band: “Well, it’s kind of an eclectic long standing heavy band that was originally born out of the American hardcore and crossover metal/punk hybrid era of the mid to late ’80’s. We went through many line up changes and configurations and have sort of landed in this spot where we just dabble in various Black Sabbath-inspired swarms of musical expression. That’s kind of it. It’s just heavy stuff with a little melody and attempt at being timeless.”

On their latest, IX, Dean along with guitarist Woody Weatherman and drummer Reed Mullin are once again in the trio “configuration” and that suits him just fine: “There’s less participants in the creativity but maybe the opinions are stronger. I think there’s a clearer sort of focus. You can play more notes. You can try crazier things harmonically when you don’t have a second guitar (In terms of the bass and the guitar). Things will come across a lot better but if they’re not working it’s really obvious because there’s nowhere to hide basically. Politically, it’s expedient. Financially, 33% is pretty good compared to 25%.  It’s another format. I like the 4-piece band. It’d be awesome to play with Pepper (Keenan, guitars/vocals). I like Thin Lizzy guitar harmonies and things like that so that’d be cool. We’re open to his contribution and kinda logistically just trying to make that happen and it’s something that everybody wants to do but for now, I like this format a lot as well. We’re just gonna roll with the changes or lack thereof and see what happens.”

Speaking of Keenan, Dean says the door is always open for his return but please don’t expect the current band to attempt any Pepper-fronted songs: “At some point we just figured that Down was too busy for us to do something with Pepper. Most of that stuff is just not gonna happen without Pepper. I don’t know, man. It just doesn’t quite feel right to take any of that on. We were supposed to do some shows with him in 2010 and it turned out he couldn’t make ’em and when he heard we were gonna go ahead and tour I think that’s one thing he was really concerned about is we would just take a lot of work that was his and try to ride the gravy train and that’s not something we’re interested in doing, y’know?”

Elaborating more on the song writing process and the songs for the latest record Dean continues: “I think the approach to writing is pretty much the same. It’s not like we’re great troubadours that sit down and we’re moved by seeing this bird with a broken wing singing to her mate and we wanna write a sad song and compose lyrics and music on the spot. We’re basically heshers. We come up with some cool riffs and some ideas, we show ’em to each other and make a basic structure and at that point it’s time to see what sort of vocal and lyrical ideas it compels you to produce. The basic style of writing is the same and some times we do it by committee collaboratively and sometimes we bring compositions that are nearly complete to the group.”

“As far as writing lyrics…since we come from traditional hardcore and at that point we were all 18 years old and we knew everything the songs would be pretty topical, pretty on the nose, taking on weighty issues and things like that. Over time we’ve kind of moved on towards more evocative type of lyric writing. We like to put things that will work to different people at different times in different situations and still resonate. We’re looking for imagery and sometimes there’s an agenda there that’s a little sneaky and a lot of times we’re just starting off with the usual gibberish the universe gives us.  Put that together with some nice turns of phrase and you start to see a coherent pattern merging. There’s a little bit of a stream of conscience element to it.”

“An early favorite was “On Your Way”. We kinda fast tracked that one to do a little music video that’s probably gonna be nice and strange. We were working last night at a very hot warehouse location deep into the morning hours just this morning. Y’know we’ve been playing that one live and it works pretty well. Beyond that, “Trucker” is one of my personal favorites and the riffs that Woody brought for “Brand New Sleep” in the studio just fell together. I really like writing lyrics and coming up with vocal melodies for songs with musical structures I didn’t have anything to do with much and I’m hoping we end up playing that piece for sure.”

Outside of C.O.C., Dean has reactivated Righteous Fool with Mullin which came about initially during the gap between 2005’s In The Arms Of God and 2012’s S/T album and handled live bass for Vista a Chino: “I would looove to work with them down the road. I went and did a couple tours with them and I felt musically Bruno (Feverey, guitars) and Brant (Bjork, drums) and John (Garcia, vocals) and I were communicating really well. It sounded really good. It felt really good. It felt like they were coming out the other side of a dark period imposed on them by an overly litigious legal action concerning the Kyuss Lives! name. It actually felt like there was some blacklisting type of activity going on that I was witnessing and privy to.”

“All in all it was pretty positive. I just enjoyed playing with them and enjoyed their new material. For awhile, John has been hatching the idea of doing a solo project so he went ahead and did that so Brant kinda did the same thing  so they’ve got these simultaneous solo endeavors which is cool cuz it gives me time to work on C.O.C. and dedicate some time to that. I would anticipate with one record remaining on their contract that certainly within the next year and a half they’ll probably reconvene on some recording. I hope they ask me to take part in that because that’s sort of what we were planning  and to play with Bruno Fevery is an awesome thing. Brant and Bruno and I would jam quite a bit and I thought we could be really comfortable just winging it and come up with a pretty good musical result just about every time so I’m looking forward to continuing that. But, y’know, those guys  have a great musical contribution whether separately or combined or whatever. Whether it’s with me or not, there’s amazing chemistry between Mr. Feverey, Mr. Garcia, and Mr. Bjork.”

Looking back, Dean agrees it’s a completely different world for musicians these days: “I would say the major difference is the landscape for music. Rock music, in particular, is not as big a piece of the cultural landscape and certainly a lot less of the cultural economy simply because there’s so much competition for our attention in terms of entertainment and all types of online time-sucking activities (Or inactivities really). Plus, the collapse of actually being able to sell a musical document to people when they can just figure out the bit torrent situation. That has kind of eaten away at the economy of it and while it’s been a great equalizer in a way it’s sort of taken out some of the meritocracy of the situation because anybody with with a certain amount of money can go and produce their music and, to some extent, distribute it so there’s actually kind of an overload of sort of mediocre to incompetent musical output with very little audience. It’s kind of an unfortunate situation in that regard but I like the egalitarian aspect of it in theory but the actual result of that development is less than ideal as far as there being a lot of music I want to listen to. I mean, there is a lot of music I wanna listen to but you have to dig around to find it.”

Thankfully, you don’t have to dig hard to find Corrosion of Conformity’s latest, IX, which streets on June 24th through Candlelight Records. Our review (With pre-order links) can be read over here.

 

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