TAM MUSIC: Interview with Mike Dean from Corrosion of Conformity

By Rose Riot
Corrosion of Conformity (C.O.C.) the legendary hardcore band from North Carolina with almost 30 years history, has gone through many changes and members. Currently, three of  C.O.C.’s founding members Mike Dean, Woody Weatherman and Reed Mullin are on tour.

The the three-piece C.O.C. is doing a setlist that is made up mostly of the Animosity album. I was able to catch up with Mike Dean before the C.O.C. show in Atlanta at The Earl and ask him a few questions about the tour, controversy about the bands changing sound and his lack of tattoos…

Rose Riot: What have you guys all been up to since the last time you played together?

Mike Dean: Last night! We played in Nashville. Ha-ha.

RR: Ha-ha, okay before last night?

MD: Before last spring it had been about 10 years at least since we played with Reed. I had sort of gotten together with Reed and started a band called Righteous Fool.

RR: How was the show in Nashville last night?

MD: Very, very, warm. Every piece of equipment we have was covered in sweat and needed some attention. After the show I got on the rooftop and looked out over the city, I felt like Spider Man!

RR: Whose idea was it to do this tour?

MD: It was Pepper’s [Keenan] idea but then it ended up that he couldn’t make it. He suggested that we play some festivals and shows, then he couldn’t do it, so I said, “Let’s just do a three piece” almost as a joke but nobody was laughing. So we did it! We started writing some new music so it wouldn’t be a nostalgia operation.

RR: So you have plans with Pepper in the future?

MD: Yes! We have vague plans. If he’s not working on Down, we would like to make another record with him in the line-up. We have a new album coming out in February, if I had to guess. We want to exploit that and tour but at the close of all that, we want to get together with Pepper. It could be fun.

RR: Why did you choose the album Animosity to play tonight, and not Deliverance, which had more commercial success?

MD: Primarily, the absence of Pepper because he was a big part of that stuff. Also, there has been a lot of demand for Animosity from our fans. There is this phenomena of young kids who are into hardcore, maybe they asked their da-da about it, I don’t know. There is a lot of support for us to do the hardcore thing. At this point, our show is about 60 percent old stuff and 40 percent new. There is stuff from the album Technocracy and some stuff from Deliverance.

RR: It’s almost impossible for me to mention your band to one of my friends without them commenting on how your music has changed through the years. Can you explain the change? You know, Punk vs. Metal.

MD: Well, we’ve got our fingers in a lot of pots. We like a lot of music. We explore and dabble in a lot of things. We don’t really like to be categorized so narrowly. We are just fans of music. You hopefully try to transcend those labels and expectations, and in the end have people that want to come to the show. I mean, look at the origin of our band name. We were all about 18 years old. The band name was statement about attitudes we encountered in the hardcore scene that ironically seemed to be narrow and fashion oriented.

RR: One of my favorite quotes by Henry Rollins is something along the lines of how some of the most narrow minded people he has ever met are punk.

MD: For sure.

RR: So, you are working on a new album, will it be more metal or punk… Or a nice combo?

MD: This new album is going to be a mix. We are not good at being too calculated. We wanted some newer stuff that felt current but in the vein of the earlier stuff. Fast tempos and stuff alike that. We started to do just what came natural. There is definitely an emphasis on fast tempos and more aggressive stuff but there is also some melody. In summary, it’s an amalgamation of all the eras of the band.

RR: Do you think punk is dead?

MD: Ha-ha. Punk is dead, long live punk! The minute something like that takes on any momentum, it is Dead On Arrival. Punk is dead and reborn all the time.

RR: If you were to make a mix-tape for me of your current favorites, what would be on it?

MD: Wino’s acoustic record, Adrift. I like it a lot. Also, ancient Black Sabbath, Goatsnake, Pass the Peas: Best of the JB’s, very old Judas Priest particularly stuff from the album Sad Wings of Destiny. Hey, did you know the singer is gay? Ha-ha.

RR: Ha-ha, no way! Corrosion of Conformity’s trademark image of the spiky skull biohazard mask has been immortalized in tattoo form many, many times. Who came up with that image?

MD: Ha-ha, that’s our “iconic corporate logo!” I have seen many depictions of this logo as a tattoo. The original art work was actually done by a tattooer named Errol Engelbricht at Blue Flame Tattoo. Conceptually we described it and he rendered it.

RR: Why don’t you have any tattoos?

MD: Ha-ha, I wouldn’t say I don’t have any. (Mike pushed his sock down to reveal a very old india ink piece.) I just haven’t been able to come up with a unified concept of something that I could live with. I’ve seen some unfortunate work and I’ve seen some great work but no concept that speaks to me. It’s not something I’m trying to force or jump into.

RR: Is it too late for a tattoo?

MD: It’s never too late for a tattoo!

(Rose Riot is a photographer in Atlanta and contributing blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine.)

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