I have to admit, the first time I heard Corrosion of Conformity's (now known solely as CoC [Hmm, sounds familiar -- ed]) new disc _American Volume Dealer_, I was shocked at how grounded and sedate it was compared to their last few releases like _Deliverance_ (1994) and _Wiseblood_ (1996). Here was a band that had started off in the true hardcore/punk rock element in the early '80s and grew as a band, winning over fans and critics along the way into the mainstream. Would this record be their demise?
Another fan of CoC told me to give it a few more spins, to let it all seep in and let their sound and message spread like wildfire before I give my final say on _American Volume Dealer_. I did and I actually am finding out that I am digging this record much more. It is still growing on me and I have come to the conclusion that this is still Corrosion of Conformity. Guitarist/singer Pepper Keenan agrees too.
"I hope our fans are surprised at what we did here on the new disc", starts Keenan. "I just don't want them to go, "Oh that is cool." I don't think they will be surprised in a bad way. I believe we think just like our fans do when it comes to the music we play."
The one underlying element that has seemed to have been a part of each CoC offering is that fact that they all bring their own set standard of CoC and their music, each disc no doubt sounding different from the past one. _American Volume Dealer_ continues on with the tradition.
"You just can't be a musician and make the same record [twice]. It just sinks in that that isn't in the cards. This band functions very intuitively and we know where we have to go and what we have to do. Without that in check, we'd be lost.
"We are not too careful in the studio with what we are working on. If a song is headed in a certain direction, like the song "Stare Too Long" [the slow ballad on the new disc], we don't put it aside or scrap it. It was just turning into that kind of a song and there was nothing we could do about it. We had the balls to carry it through and not try to overly control the tune. I thought, "This is crazy shit. We've never done this before. If we are going to do this, then let's do it right." We just let the song go that way. If you end up trying to control your songwriting, you end up with records that all sound the same. We don't fucking want that."
Along with fellow members in tow, bassist Mike Dean, drummer Reed Mullin and guitarist Woody Weatherman, Keenan plans on just taking things as they come in the new millennium. "We are proud of what we did here on this disc, but fuck man, we could throw that all out the window next album and make a blistering punk rock record. We just go in when making a record, write the songs and just document the time and the place of the band and where our heads were at during the recording. It is that simple, bud."
And the significance of the album title? "We just thought it made a lot of damn sense. Some kid came up to us one time at a show after seeing us like for the tenth time or so and said that we are like America's volume dealer. We laughed about it for a while and then realized he was right. It just stuck and it make sense too."
Success has been a gradual climb for the band, from the raw, energized days of punk rock (1983's _Eye for an Eye_ and 1984's _Animosity_) onto the solid, hard rock ditties storming out of CoC in the '90s, the band has managed to keep pretty grounded. Success hasn't ruined them.
"We have to be true to ourselves and we know that. We have always had those thoughts running throughout the band as the years go on. We need to let fans know that this is what we set out to do and what we strongly believe in. If they know that, then they can understand each new record CoC puts out."
He continues: "We have gotten ourselves in a position now where we can't put out stuff half-assed anymore. I don't care if it takes four fucking years to make a record. If it takes that long to get the right record out to the fans, then so be it. When I am old and gray and look back at all that was accomplished with this band, I can say that we never bullshitted anyone. We were always straight up with the music and fans and that is all that matters in the fucking long run."
I mention to Keenan the fact that many fans and critics have said that this album takes repeated listens to get into. What is his take on that? "I know what you mean and I have heard that too. But you have to understand that CoC puts a lot of thought into what we do. If you put a set of headphones and you listen to the motherfucker, you'll see where we are coming from. I'll admit that there is some soft shit on the record. I think whatever people think hardcore music is, being a band that has grown up hardcore, this is being hardcore more than anyone else is. This is being hardcore and willing to put your neck out on the line. This whole recording and writing process is about that. If not, you do the same fucking record again and no one wants that. If people want something really popular and hard and heavy, go buy a fucking Static-X record. People have to understand there is more to making music than just trying to be heavy."
Continuing on the same topic, though rounding out the interview, Keenan says: "All people need to know is that there is a new CoC record out. It doesn't matter what label it is on or if there is a single. The record is out. Go buy it, sit back and crank it up. That is all we ever wanted from all of this. We just wanted to be truthful to the fans and the music we make and have fun along the way."