Pepper Keenan / Down

Pepper Keenan talks
with Kenneth Beaumont
Sabbath are coming to town and if that’s not bad-ass enough for ya, their bringing Down with ‘em too! Down is the bastard creation of none other than Pepper Keenan (Corrosion of Conformity), Phil Anselmo & Rex (Ex-Pantera) and Kirk Windstein & Jimmy Bower (Crowbar). gerant recently had the chance to quiz Pepper on the upcoming album and the unique way in which they usually tour. Here’s what he had to say…

Have you been over to Australia before?

Yeah, we came down there a couple of years ago with another band called Corrosion of Conformity.

Looking forward to coming back with Sabbath?

I’ve been waiting to come back since the second I left.

Any chance the new album will make it out here before you guys do?

No chance of that, no. As soon as it comes out we will definitely be down there again supporting the album for sure.

Quirky stories concerning your last trip to Australia?

Other than that with the people down there we had an absolute blast. I think I left there with one of my biggest hangovers ever.

I was reading about how you guys cut a three song demo and passed it around after shows. How important was tape trading for you growing up and what bands did you get into through tape trading?

That was probably the biggest thing in terms of the underground world because you could honestly get music from around the world back then. Heavy Metal and Thrash were big things, Punk rock was a big deal so I was trading a bunch of those kinds of tapes. Merciful Fate was big deal, getting your hands on Merciful Fate demos was a big thing.

So now barely anyone owns a tape deck, how do you do your trading these days?

We still do. Phil and I both collect demos, we always have. You never know when some kid is gonna hand you a demo and sometimes they end up blowing your damn mind. I still love collecting demo tapes, or I guess demo cds now.

Do you do any trading over the net?

Yeah I’m a music fanatic. I live in New Orleans and there’s a lot of music here, it’s a constant. It’s a way of life basically.

What do think about how the internet is affecting the music industry and how does it affect Down?

If you go look at Down on You Tube you will see that it’s out there. I look at all the online stuff as like a tool and there’s lots of bands you never would have heard of that you can go check out now and download. I don’t think that it’s a bad thing, I’ve been tuned onto lots of bands through online stuff and on the internet. I’m just searching for bands.

You once said that one of the purposes of Down is to up the standards of the bands you play with, so what are the chances of Down upping the standard of Black Sabbath?

Hahahahaha, that was way before we ever dreamed that we would be playing with Black Sabbath. This is a dream come true so just remove that comment. It was a novel idea when we were kids doing it but now that we’ve reached it we’re just happy to be playing music period.

After the second album you went out on tour solo with no support acts, how much fun was it approaching a tour like that?

I think that’s what we’re gonna try and do from now on so if we come back to Australia we will probably just try and come by ourselves so that it allows us to play a long time. I mean, we just did a little tour of Europe and some North American shows and we were playing for like two hours, which is long in the Heavy Metal world. It just seems to work a lot better that way for us. People come to see you and they’re coming to see you and that’s it. It’s very intimate kinda stuff and we can take our time and change our set around and it works out really well for where we are musically right now.

And I guess you get to set your own atmosphere that way as well?

Yeah, totally. It really is a wonderful thing, we really enjoy doing that and everyone that has seen us thinks that we should continue to do it. Plus it’s hard to find a band to take with us that we really are that into. There’s a lot of bands out there but when we do the evening with Down it really seems to work out well.

Actually I wanted to mention that because you always seem quite forthright when it comes to commenting on the modern music scene. Do you ever suffer any backlash concerning your commentary?

We don’t try to put other bands down but we’re pretty adamant about what we’re doing. We’re music fans and we try and just keep an open mind. There’s not that many bands in the heavy music world that are doing what we’re trying to do. We’re alone sometimes. We’re trying to open our dimensions and get away from spoon feeding people heavy music. There’s more to it than just beating a guitar to death, we try and push that level of heaviness.

When Down first started we were emulating bands that were long gone. Now some of these bands have come back and done new tours and are blowing people away too. The more the merrier.

The new album, I know in the past the band has thrashed out albums in no less than 28 days, have you approached the new album in the same manner?

Well this time we had a big problem down here called Hurricane Katrina and that kinda through everything out of the window. We were writing music together right before the storm, we started getting back together as a band and then we all got dispersed for a long period of time. So when we got back we had a chance to write songs and we decided to take our time and really focus on writing because so much has changed in our world I didn’t think it was worthy of just jumping in there and spitting something out. We have been through a lot and we decided to really focus on it and mainly try to write positive music in this genre that we’re in which seems to have a lot of negativity in it sometimes.