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Corrosion of Conformity - Discarding the Albatross

By: David E. Gehlke

Dean circa mid-80's, getting his punk on...

Blistering.com: The COC that did Animosity and Technocracy in your punk days in the mid-80ís, how do you think that version of the band would react to whatís going on in the political landscape of today?

The main difference is back then, youíre 19 years-old, so you know everything [laughs]. Yeah, that makes me qualified to weigh in. It was a different era, I think that during the 60ís there was a certain increase of political awareness and was motivated by young people being subjected to the draft and being prescripted to go off to this war in a far away land that was Vietnam. There was definitely a lot of activism that brought out a lot of the concepts in which society was based on. It was a really heated time. Then in the 70ís, it evolved into the hedonistic, easy-going approach, then people woke up one day and Reagan was president, so it was pretty reactionary.

Whatís funny is that compared to the politicians of today on the right, heís not even that right-wing. Thatís scary. Anyway, there was a sudden rude-awakening, so that generation, we participated in this social thing that was a secondary ripple of the 60ís activism. It wasnít as strong or informed or strongly motivated since we werenít facing a life-or-death situation that would make us examine our principles. It was a minor league version of that time. I think Reagan was good for the arts. He fought to de-fund them, but he inspired so much socially-based music like punk rock.

Blistering.com: Do you still have a finger of the political pulse these days?

Everyone thinks they do, but these days, thereís so little real journalism that people tune into whatever media outlet supports their pre-determined worldview. Itís really a sad spectacle. Iím not a big fan of the major parties and I donít have much hope for 3rd party people. I sometimes wish Barack Obama was everything the right wing accused him of. A guy like Ron Paul says some good things on the Libertarian front in terms of personal liberty that I really can get along with, but I feel like there needs to be a strong enough government to take on corporate interest that seek to rule for greed, which is whatís happening. Heís a little weak on that. You get the sense that the people who support him like him because he believes in Stateís rights and of course, thatís code for ďthe government shouldnít interfere if you want to discriminate against a weaker race.Ē

Heís interesting, but I do like his non-intervention of foreign policy and stands on personal liberty, but I think the choices like the market and free-market require strenuous regulation and oversight and I donít think heís the guy to do it. Iím kind of a political hybrid. Anyone who sits in the government can be good, but the only component thatís missing is human wisdom and compassion, and thatís what blows it. Thatís the curse of politicsÖpeople arenít perfect. Weíre fucked [laughs].

Blistering.com: Letís switch gears and go back to around the time you put out Wiseblood in 1996 and did the Metallica tour and were basically, firing on all cylinders. Do you think you missed the boat in terms of having a real commercial breakthrough?

Hard to say. If perhaps, but with different styles that we did, different creative decisions, we might be a step ahead or behind. I donít knowÖI think that particular label, Sony, was reallyÖtheir expectations in what type of sales Corrosion of Conformity werenít what we would achieve. There were very quarterly earnings-driven and if notís Celine Dion or whateverÖ

Blistering.com: [interrupting] Theyíre not happy.

Right. It was an interesting ride, thatís for sure.

Blistering.com: What do you remember most about that point in time?

I think we were smart to take the opportunity to go and record in really awesome studios. We always go to record in historic places like Criteria in Miami where Derek and the Dominos and some of the Aretha Franklin albums were done. We did Electric Lady and had both of our Columbia albums mixed there. The whole thing was a little weird. The day that I found out we were signed to Columbia and Relativity dissolved into Sony, that was the day they found Kurt Cobain dead [April 5, 1994].

Blistering.com: Thatís pretty weird.

Yeah, it was weird. A very weird situation [laughs].

Blistering.com: A lot of people forget you werenít involved with the Blind [1991] album, and thatís when Pepper joined the band. Any regrets not being on that album?

No, I have no regrets. I would have been proud had I taken part in it. I was living in Philadelphia at the time; I was a hell of a bike messenger, living a squat [laughs]. I heard that record and was really impressed. I wasnít impressed with what they were doing up until that point, and that was my introduction to [longtime COC producer] Jon Custer. Going all the way back, the influences you hear on Blind, those are the influences we were becoming focused on as we did Animosity and Technocracy, driving around in the van on tour, listening to Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy. They just got to the point where the vocalist [Karl Agell] was right for it, and they developed their musical chops, and they had Custer to really help them hone in on it. That was an impressive thing to do. Already with the hardcore bands around the time I quit COC, there was a focus on being progressive, while looking back with heavy rock. I think thatís a completion of that journey.

Blistering.com: The big question hanging over COC is if youíll ever do anything with Pepper again. I know heís tied up with Down, but have you had discussions about it?

Thereís no firm plans, but there is a firm desire to make it happen. We had a really good time doing In the Arms of God and Iím really proud of that album. The only thing missing was Reed. I thought Stanton Moore did a great job. If youíre not going to have your original drummer, then itís novel to get someone whoís flamboyant to do their take on it. I thought that was a good move. I came away from that thinking that if we had this level of creativity and also had MullinÖthat would be a bonus. But yeah, I hope we donít just get that lineup together for shows or Deliverance nostalgia shows, but get it together with the idea of putting out a record. Thereís some controversy to doing the three-piece. People are like, ďOh my God, no Pepper!Ē People havenít even heard it and complain. Iím like, ďComplain on, youíll see!Ē Thereís a good story behind this version, and there would be a good story behind doing the four-piece again.



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