Mike Dean (Corrosion of Conformity)

What is it about mixing punk and heavy metal that can be so volatile? When it's good, baby it's good. There's nothing like the crushing power of the Cro-Mags, the pure energy of D.R.I., or the brute comedy of Carnivore. But, when it's bad, it's bad. For instance… well… we don't need to name names. Interestingly, Corrosion of Conformity mastered merging the two with their landmark second album Animosity, but they always seemed to get more notice in metal circles than punk ones, even though the manic energy and looseness of hardcore is seeped in their sound.

But, now that Corrosion of Conformity is touring in their classic three piece formation, which includes Bassist/Vocalist Mike Dean, guitarist Woody Weatherman, and drummer Reed Mullin, they're giving us punks a second chance to check out their unique punk/metal hybrid. Since Corrosion of Conformity has recently hit the road playing Animosity and has released a new 7" with their three piece line up, Punknews interviewer John Gentile sat down with Mike Dean to learn what he thinks about the term "Crossover," the best way to mix punk and metal, and how the three piece unification came about.

You’ve been labeled as a cross over band in numerous publications. Do you try to distance yourself from that tag, or do you embrace it?

I think I shy away from it less than from when that term was coined. Back then, it seemed like it was a marketing idea that somebody had and they were attempting to describe a metal influence on the hardcore scene. I don’t like it, but it doesn’t bother me. I think there’s a little more to us than just being "crossover." For example, The Cro-Mags are one of the heaviest bands ever- they are almost like a machine, just chugging ahead. But our stuff kind of falls apart. We got a lot of that from a band called Void. We were influenced by them and they way everything would fall apart in their songs

How did metal influences first begin to crop up in CoC songs?

It just kind of happened. I don’t recall it being like a real conscious decision. When we would jam, we were hearing a lot of metal stuff. I’ve also always been into bands like Black Sabbath. But, unlike a lot of other people, I wasn’t getting into Paranoid. I would listen to Electric Funeral. When I was younger, I would sit in class and cover my ears until the teacher’s voice sounded like a wah wah. I think that comes across in our music. For CoC, we just took everything we liked and mixed it up- we took from a lot of these bands, like Metallica, Accept, Sabbath, Void, and put it all together

Why is now a good time to return to the Animosity album?

I think it holds up pretty well. Actually, lyrically it holds up really well. I’m surprised by that really. I hadn’t thought about it, before we played those songs, and the lyrics weathered pretty well- I don’t think anybody really foresaw the complete miniaturization of devices like that, and I think almost everybody missed the more constructive interactivity of computers and phones. For Animosity, it was more about the dark side of advanced technology.

How did the re-unification come about?

It really was like a suggestion offered as a joke. We got an offer to play the High Voltage Festival with Pepper Keenan, who took on vocals after I stopped singing, and it was gonna be the first time Reed, our drummer, was back with us, but then, that fell through, and I was frustrated so I suggested we just do it as the three piece in Animosity… and then everyone went, "okay!" Which I didn’t expect.

So then, our idea when we decided to do some shows. Then we wanted to do a full length release, and we got some offers to play some more shows and we wanted to take some of our new songs just to show we are not just out there for nostalgia. We had sort of a music agenda- a fresh agenda that we wanted to pursue. There’s a lot of 40 year olds in bands dusting off their golden age material, but we kind of wanted to set the bar a little higher.

You’re new release as the re-united is a 7" on Southern Lord Records. You’ve stated that when recording the new single, you tricked your fellow band mates into thinking it was a demo so they weren’t perfectionists. What is there to be said for imperfection as opposed to being precise?

I didn’t really want those to guys to think about recording it. It was just serendipitously recorded. It can be good to have imperfection, but you also want the sound to be quality… its good to have equal measure of both, but I think sometimes with our group, we have to be careful that it doesn’t get too much one way or the other. I think you can have pretty close to perfection and still have spontaneity.

Do you have a new album in the works?

We’re still writing material. We expect to knock it out shortly. We’re not really going to take a lot of time doing it. I think because we’ve been on the road, and because we’ve been in that mode, and also getting some appreciation, I think you’ll hear that mindset in some of the new stuff. We have current ideas and one’s that reflect our older material. I don’t think that the two sounds are diametrically opposed.

Do you prefer to play bass and sing, or just to play bass?

You know, I’ve payed bass and sang, and when I came back I was just playing bass. It’s fun to do both, but it is a little hairy some times to pull it of. But, it’s also fun to just focus on bass. Either way it’s fine. It’s gratifying to do both.

CoC has been known to rapidly change its sounds, which has challenged some fans. Do you deliberately try to advance the ears of the audience, or are you just playing what you want to play?

Both, you know. Whenever something is more popular than ever, there will be people respond in a contrary fashion. But, whenever peopled defect from a big cultural trend, that becomes the trend, so it starts off creative, and becomes popular, than cliché. You can only hope to try exist despite that vicious cycle do what want.