This band caught my attention way back with the Caroline Record's releases. They had a spark, something new back in the Karl Agvell/Phil Swisher days. Once they brought their rhythm/lead guitarist on as vocalist, they skyrocketed as a musician's band. Every band I talked to for a long period of time, loved this band and still do. This album is the second for Columbia Records but more significantly, the second with this tight, tight lineup. Did I say tight? The first interview in person in quite some time. Easy job looking into those beautiful eyes of Reed Mullin.
Q&A with Reed Mullin
Sheila Rene': How are you darlin'? It's good to see you again. You've come to Austin on our hottest day this year.
Reed Mullin: I'm doing good today. It's great to see you.
SR: What a great album right out of the bag.
RM: It was a fun album to do . We did the majority of work on this one in New Orleans. As it happened, mysteriously enough, Marte Gras creeped up on us while we were there. We had some distractions, but all in all it was a real good time.
SR: Second album, same dream team. Second album on a major label and second album with this lineup.
RM: Being in a band is like being married, you're just married to more than one person. It could be three or four people at one time. You have divorces and separations occasionally. We had quite a few. We finally settled down as you might say. We've got a pretty cohesive little group here and we're all seeing eye to eye on what we want to play. It's a cool thing.
SR: Look at all this old Relativity stuff. Damn you're a good-looking band.
RM: Look at that. I was a little kid.
SR: This is John Custer's second project with you. What does he bring to the party this time?
RM: He contributes an enormous amount of stuff that isn't written in the liner notes. A lot of the writing credits are his and he's a good drinker too. (Laughing as I make a drinking motion). He's the king. He's the fifth member. Without him, we would probably sound more like a punk rock band than we do. Custer is always fun in the studio. He knows us all so well that he can push us to our individual limits. Plus he's totally insane and he brings us a portion of mystery. You never really know what's going to happen. You don't know if he'll freak out and disappear for a week or so.
SR: Custer's last stand.
RM: Oh, yeah. Actually, he's related to the famous General George Armstrong Custer of American western frontier history. He's got some of that craziness in him.
SR: I love the blues influence in your music. It's very seductive.
RM: There's a lot of that. I think we all grew up on a lot of blues rock and then we go a little older and we started listening to other blues say stuff from Mississippi, Chicago and the Delta Blues. The thing I like about us is there are so many influences from hip/hop, Blue Grass to slash metal. A lot of stuff trickles in. We're certainly down with the flavor of the week. A lot of bands these days, I think when you listen them a couple of years down the line, you'll be saying, 'remember them from the mid '90s?' A lot of our shit is going to remain timeless, which is really cool.
SR: That's the whole ballgame. Everyone works for that immortality in their art.
RM: I think so.
SR: Bands work for years to get a sound that everyone wants to listen to and then they break up for some infantile reason.
SR: How did this tour with Metallica come about?
RM: No management at all. It was a band to band thing. They dig the shit out of us and we do them. We were all in New York City finishing up the Wiseblood album and they were finishing Load. We hug out a lot there and James just asked us and we said yes!
SR: I bring this up because I just interviewed a band earlier this week called Sevendust from Atlanta. When I asked the drummer Morgan Ross who he wanted to tour with, he mentioned COC without a hesitation. I told him that I was interviewing one of you guys and asked me to put in a good word for them. It would be their dream tour. They're really setting radio on file. In my best commercial mode, 'We want to tour with you, man.'
RM: I don't know that band. Okay. I guess I've got to get me Sevendust.
SR: What is the biggest change in this band starting at 1983?
RM: We've definitely gone through a lot of metamorphous. We're all growing together in our style. Early on we were knee deep into hardcore/Punk rock which was as vibrant, new and fresh as we could have ever been. We were playing with all the best, big bands then-- Minor Threat and Black Flag. We were having a great time playing that stuff. Then that got really generic and all the great bands realized it and they were getting bored with it all and many of them broke up and left the scene. They came back as Fugazi, Rollins Band. We were still doing our thing. God, this is sounding too generic so we started experimenting with other influences. We had to make it more interesting for ourselves.
SR: Are you doing the same set every night?
RM: We switch it up a little bit. We're limited with the opening band blues set. That slot just gets a little time to strike. It's a definite structure with a big production like this. We're not allowed to go over our time limit. We have two sets worked out within the time frame.
SR: In the end of May you'll be headlining.
RM: Actually, we're going to take some time off. We'll start in July for two to three months around the U.S.
SR: You guys go out and talk to your fans a lot. Band's seem to be moving away from that in-your-face communication with fans.
RM: We're fans of different bands ourselves. We've been around for so long that we've become humble about the whole things. We're not like one of the bands like Korn. We've had a gradual climb of building up our fans everywhere. So, we've come to appreciate what we have. We talk to everybody.
SR: Do you like to hang out after the show in all the towns you got into? Didn't you guys show up at the Allman Brothers show in NYC?
RM: When we can. We will tonight. Woody said the Allmam show was awesome. Hetfield and Pepper were out all night, last night.
SR: The last time I saw them a filling fell out into my gum.
RM: (laughing) right on!
SR: Are you into the Internet?
RM: Yeah, we all contribute to the site.
SR: I just love all the stories about how and Pepper Keenan hit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and when no one was watching Pepper held Duane's guitar. The story of seeing Michael Schenker on the same train in Japan, each going to a different city to play. Pepper got thrown out of an adult bookstore for hiding a can of beer. Great stuff I found out on your site.
RM: Coz, who just walked by, was with Pepper at the adult bookstore.
SR: I guess the music comes first and then, like this time, goes into seclusion to write.
RM: He did on this last record. He had a little room in a flop house/boarding house. Not because he's an artist or anything, he'd just a cheap bastard.
SR: He doesn't need much.
RM: He stayed there because it was close to our practice space under Irene's Wig Shop. That's were we've been jamming for eight years. He'd go there and after we jammed on the tune, he'd scribble down some words.
SR: What did you write for the album?
RM: I wrote "Albatross" on the last album and we all wrote music and lyrics on this one. Because Pepper is our vocalist, he took charge which is good.
SR: I really like all the different little audible accents as in the snake's tail rattlin' on "The Snake Has No Head." I hear something new every time.
RM: Yeah, yeah, we've always put that kind of texture in our music. A lot of credit goes to Custer and his creativity.
SR: You guys really take the sequencing of an album seriously.
RM: Yeah, we do, big time. Since Blind until now, sequencing has been a key.
SR: You've done one video for this album. Which one?
RM: "Drowning In A Daydream."
SR: ...get so high/still can't fly. I love it.
RM: We filmed on the roof top of Apple Studios in London, England.
SR: Were you blown away with the Japanese reception?
RM: Ohhhh, yeah. It was overwhelming. Every where we'd go, for some reason, there would people there waiting for us. Somehow the fans found out our schedule. It's a conspiracy.
SR: I bet the best two shows so far were in your hometown, North Carolina.
RM: My parents have always been so supportive. They bought our first van and stuff like that.
SR: Being a drummer even takes a stronger constitution.
RM. Oh, you betcha. Santa Claus bought me my first kit.
SR: Do you remember what brand they were?
RM: It was the "sparkly," "cheap" brand from the local pawn show. It was one of those $175.00 specials.
SR: Were you a John Bonham freak?
RM: Yeah, but before that I liked Ian Paice from Deep Purple. I was more into him.
SR: Then Cozy Powell, one of the most underrated drummers, too?
RM: Cozy Powell. I was just talking about him with one of the sound guys from Metallica yesterday about the intro to "Rainbow Rising." We came up with this huge North Carolina-style pig for everybody in the Metallica crew. Po pig, they call it. North Carolina has a different style of BBQ than Texas. (I loaned my car to Pepper to drive down the street to pick up some BBQ from the Iron Works while I talked with Reed).
SR: "Bottom Feeder" that last tune about cat fishing with a friend, the instrumental is so cool.
RM: That one is fun to play. When you see it live you'll understand. Ohhh, yeah!
SR: What's the best thing about being in this band?
RM: Free beer.
SR: No longer girls?
RM: Girls and beer. I guess that a pretty standard answer. We get to see Metallica for free. That's a great thing. This has been such a big part of my life for 15 years now. Me and Woody started the band in high school. We knew each other back in the sixth grade. We've been friends for all this time. This band is an integral part of my life.
SR: How do you settle disputes? Do you have meetings and settle things easily?
RM: Sometimes. Yeah, in the past. We've learned from our mistakes. We don't let things get too far gone and fester. Each member of this band certainly has their own ways of expressing themselves. Some are a little more overt than others. Woody is a little more fairweathered, Pepper is a little more stormy. We know each other well enough now to know when to act.
SR: Woody, the car freak. Man, he loves that '71 Cutlass Supreme.
RM: I have a '64-1/2 Mustang convertible. It's a classic, mama. It has one of those airconditioners that is a window unit. I'm getting her restored soon.
SR: Metallica already has their next album ready. Are you that far along?
RM: No. For the most part we just do it one at a time. We've got a lot of stuff that we didn't finish, from Deliverance and Wiseblood. We probably need to go in and finish them off. They'd be cool for B-sides or maybe an EP. A good friend of ours is friend with a lot of DJ's of the techno kind. We've done a tremendous amount of remixes.
SR: That was my next question.
RM: We've got remixes of "Long Whip/Big America" and three or four remixes of "King Of The Rotten." We're going to get one made of "The Snake With No Head" and "The Door." We'll have some new side to put out.
SR: It's the trend, man. Techno remixing.
RM: We're lucky that our friend knows all the really good ones out there. Not just the popular ones of the day, but some very talented guys.
SR: I think we're getting ready to do the "techno-crappo" thing again. Get your disco ball workin'!
RM: Yep, it's here again. I think record sales are slumping down a lot. It's losing it's vibrancy and they're looking for a miracle in the techno/dance gands.
SR: Thanks for making time for our chat. I can't go one day without listening to Wiseblood. Keep up the good work. (Now, I'm hyped for the show at this time.) Shower time for Reed.
RM: Bye babe, nice to talk with you again. Enjoy the show.