Dividing his time between Down and Corrosion of Conformity, guitarist Pepper Keenan has little time for anything else, save a few causes that are dear to his heart. With Down back in the studio and preparing for a sold-out tour of South America — where he plans to “hit the streets and shop!” — Keenan is solely focused on making music with his guitar partner, Kirk Windstein, bassist Pat Bruders, drummer Jimmy Bower and vocalist Philip Anselmo.
Shortly before taking the stage in Texas during a recent string of Down dates, Keenan called to talk about the band's upcoming EP series and share his uncensored opinions about the music industry, the state — as in environmental state — of Louisiana, and the real meaning of tone.
How has your relationship with Kirk grown and how do you continue challenging each other?
We know each other’s playing styles and we’re pretty different guitar players. Kirk is more finesse-oriented and I’m more ham-fisted, pretty much of a hammer, downpicking kind of thing, so we play off of those things. I’ll come up with a riff and Kirk will come up with a melody or harmony behind it or on top of it. As we’ve gotten older, playing guitar together, we use it as a starting point where the songs launch. Kirk comes up with riffs all the time. There’s no leader; we’re more focused on the song, the end product, rather than the sum of its parts. In the studio, generally I’ll do the rhythm tracks first. Kirk goes after me and we double things that way. On this particular new stuff, we want to do Kirk in one speaker and me in the other speaker and try it super old school, like the NOLA record was. Whatever it takes to make the song do its thing. What we hear in our heads is what the end product is going to be.
Does he ever surprise you by taking a song in a different direction?
No, not necessarily. Sometimes we’ve come up with pretty cool stuff, like “Ghosts Along the Mississippi” and things like that. The song is never done until it’s gone to the mastering plant. Sometimes Phil does something that gives me a whole new idea, and I’ll go back and change the riff after he’s already put the vocals down — either get out of the way more or let it breathe more once I’ve seen what he’s done.
Over the course of twenty years, have you ever come close to calling it a day, especially with the current state of the industry?
I don’t know. I’m so underground that I’m oblivious to it. I don’t Facebook, I don’t do any of that s--t, so I just keep trucking along for the love of playing music, and in the Down world I can’t really notice a difference. I think people appreciate a real band like us. I don’t think we’ve been as affected as some other bands because we have a loyal following and we’re true to them and we expand. Each time we come through there’s younger kids at the shows because I think they’re tired of the bulls--t too. They want to see something real and they know they can rely on a band like Down. I think that’s helped us out. It’s probably hurt some bands that weren’t in it for the real reasons, but the ones who really enjoy what they do and have a love of music are the ones who remain unscathed because they’re not affected by something like that. But the fly-by-night bands who are trying to make something stick to the wall by networking or whatever the f--k you do, put s--t on the Internet and just rely on that instead of getting in the f---ing van and starving to death for the love of your music, that’s the ones who say the industry sucks!
Read the full interview HERE!