Hard rockers Down -- from left, Pepper Keenan, Jimmy Bower, Rex Brown, Phil Anselmo and Kirk Windstein -- are a Southern supergroup of sorts, consisting of current and former members of bands such as C.O.C., Pantera, Crowbar, Eyehategod and more.
He remembers waking up on the floor of his hotel.
In the hall.
And he sounds mildly taken aback that he remembers anything at all, his voice tinged with a kind of affable awe.
"When I was younger, I used to push it pretty hard there in Vegas," Pepper Keenan says with a knowing laugh. "I'm a little older now, so I've done that."
Keenan's calling from a tour stop in Fargo, N.D., where his band, Dixie rock supergroup Down, is playing the second date of their current tour.
The veteran guitarist recalls the past like the dogged road warrior he is, chuckling over former hijinks while anticipating plenty more to come.
Times have changed for Keenan, who first made a name for himself by gene-splicing white-knuckled hard-core with high-velocity metal in Corrosion of Conformity, before later taking over singing duties in that band and exploring their rootsier, more hard-rockin' side to great effect.
These days, Down occupies most of Keenan's time, and deservedly so.
The group, which also features a pair of former Pantera members in singer Phil Anselmo and bassist Rex Brown, in addition to Crowbar frontman Kirk Windstein on guitars and Eyehategod guitarist Jimmy Bower on drums, is in many ways a modern day classic rock band, with Black Sabbath as an obvious point of reference in terms of thick, enveloping riffing that you can feel in your sternum.
But there's an abundance of influences that the band twists into something new.
The soulful rebel yells of Lynyrd Skynrd, the thick-as-tar power chords of the Melvins (whom Down is currently touring with) and the dusky mysticism of the band members' native New Orleans all figure into the group's earthy jams, which can be searching and contemplative or as combustible as swamp gas.
On past tours, Down would precede its time on stage with a series of vintage performance clips by the likes of Thin Lizzy, Kiss and AC/DC, and it felt like the perfect precursor to a band that seemed to be born of a different, bygone era.
But rather than simply recycle the past as so many Sabbath sycophants have done, these dudes scrape the mold off various '70s hard-rock touchstones until they're reborn on the bayou.
The band's most recent record, 2007's "Down III," is a monolithic chunk of sub-Mason-Dixon line rock 'n' roll, a sweaty, stoned survey of steel-toed dirges, a touch of boogie rock swing and some heavy emoting by Anselmo via traces of moody melancholia.
"We try and make timeless sounding things, that was part of our goal," Keenan says of the band's three records. "Hopefully, we're not making anything that sounds dated. You put it on, and it still sounds refreshing a couple of years later."
In this way, the band is a bit of an anachronism.
Even the way Down has built up its fan base hearkens back to the halcyon years of hard rock. The band has been on the road virtually nonstop since the spring of '07, gradually broadening its audience one gig at a time.
"It's just touring, touring, touring. That's the way you do it, man. You do it the old-school way like that, and it works every time," Keenan says. "Every time we played somewhere for the first time, we were kicking people's asses. So we decided to do it like Iron Maiden did it in the old days, and just play around the globe as many places as we can and try and create a bigger scene. It's really worked quite well."
After this final leg of roadwork, the band intends to write its next record this coming January.
"This new one that we're doing, we're going backwards," Keenan says. "We're gonna really strip it down and just do two guitars. I like doing all the textured stuff, I like all the big, epic stuff, but from playing live so long, we've really gotten it down now. We really want to focus, and just strip it down, AC/DC-style. Just simplify. It's time to spin it around a bit, you know?"
Maybe so, but in the meantime, there's a few thousand more miles to be traversed.
Tomorrow, there's another show in another city.
It's a routine, practiced by a band that's anything but.
"People have seen a lot of bands, but maybe not a lot of real ones," Keenan says, "I'm not trying to brag," he notes, "but ..."