North Carolina’s Corrosion of Conformity (also known as COC) were already a hardcore punk institution when they released the Technocracy EP in 1987. The group’s spiked nuclear skull icon was legion — seen on T-shirts and skateboards to tattoos and graffiti. The skull symbolized the state of the world, that mutually assured destruction was not only probable but potentially imminent. Corrosion of Conformity were feeding off that sentiment (as well as many more of the day) and punching through the fabric of an already-motivated fanbase. But something happened after. Corrosion of Conformity were no longer. Guitarist Woody Weatherman and drummer Reed Mullin (R.I.P. 2020) splintered away from bassist/vocalist Mike Dean and short-lived vocalist Simon Bob Sinister. The remnants of the group that spearheaded a sound, a voice, and a movement on genre-defining albums Eye for an Eye (1984) and Animosity (1985) sat for all intents and purposes dormant.
When the heart of Corrosion of Conformity started to pump blood again, Weatherman and Mullin were on the hunt for vocalist. What they got in 1989 was not only a vocalist in hardcore punk scion Karl Agell (now Lie Heavy, formerly Seizure) but a second guitarist (who auditioned for the vacant vocalist position) in New Orleans native son Pepper Keenan (Down, formerly Graveyard Rodeo). Officially a quartet, the disparate set of musicians set on crafting a new sound for Corrosion of Conformity in a small rehearsal room in Raleigh. What they ended up with and heavy music should be thankful for is Blind (1991). The roots of hardcore punk were undeniably present – particularly in the attack of Weatherman and Keenan’s riffs and Mullin’s wild-eyed yet calculated drums – but other influences reigned atop Corrosion of Conformity’s musical aesthetic. There was groove, heavy groove afoot. There were melodies afloat. There was purpose all around. Blind was, in effect, the culmination of hardcore punk, thrash metal, heavy metal, and rock fused into a righteous, socially-conscious fist. Heavy music anew!
Blind was famous for its two singles/videos “Dance of the Dead” and “Vote with a Bullet,” but it was an album deep no doubt. The journey, capped at the front by intro “These Shrouded Temples…” and outro “…Remain,” had the stature of the greatest rock albums of our time. Big, dynamic, and singular. Tracks “Damned for All Time,” “Buried,” “Painted Smiling Face,” “Mine Are the Eyes of God,” and “White Noise” projected power, aspiration, and substance — via Agell and Keenan’s socially-astute lyrics/message — into a still-desperate world. Corrosion of Conformity had found the next generation of their calling in Blind. Engineered by Steve McAllister (Prong, Crisis) and co-produced by friend and sound maven John Custer, Blind was beyond massive when it was released on November 5th, 1991. That it resonated loudly and firmly then is no surprise. Thirty years later, that thunderous resonance can still be felt.
Decibel, along with Pepper Keenan and Karl Agell, are hereby psyched as skulls to present interviews for the 30th birthday — its Pearl Anniversary — of Blind. As “Dance of the Dead” stated, “And There’ll Be No More Deadly Dance / End Their Idiot Prance / The Dance Of The Dead / It’s All In Their Heads”… Prescient!
This piece is dedicated to the memories of Reed Mullin (February 12, 1966 – January 27, 2020) and, by request of Pepper Keenan, Malcolm Dome (1955 – October 29, 2021). Rest in eternal power!
Does it feel like three decades separate you from the release of Blind?
Pepper Keenan: Thirty years? I can’t even… If I had to do the math backward, I was 22-years old when Blind came out. When I joined in ’89, COC already had their target going. But that was old hat, I think. Me and the rest of the guys were more punk rock. We were already in the punk rock ivory tower, and it didn’t make a lot of sense to stay there. [We were] preaching to the converted. It was time to turn something up and do something different. We started to listen to different shit, like Mekong Delta, King Crimson, and [Lynyrd] Skynyrd. We were getting to be better players. We were like, “Fuck this shit! We can’t play to the same people for forever.” The punk rock thing was always to stir shit up, make people think. I know people were pissed that we went metal, but COC were already metal on Animosity. They crushed it, too. So, we all agreed to kick it up a notch, go berserk, and be selfish in a way. It felt cool to write songs that we would dig.
Karl Agell: Sort of and not really. [Laughs] I’m really super-proud of the fact that the record came out around a time – call it a movement or a moment – when hardcore/punk people started to come up with and be immersed in hyper-political or poignant lyrics while also embracing a new musical standard. A lot of the time, the musicianship in hardcore/punk wasn’t there, but the feeling or vibes or the attack were. As we got better at what we did – getting better at our instruments – we started to recognize where metal was going. From Motörhead to Metallica to Slayer (and the whole crossover thing), there was a noticeable progression happening. I had a natural affinity for all that. Both camps – hardcore/punk and metal. One sister turned me onto [Led] Zeppelin, [the Rolling] Stones, and Deep Purple, while the other sister turned me on to The Clash and Blondie. It was a weird merger of hard rock and punk. So, that was in my DNA coming up. I found live music in the hardcore/punk scene. Anyone could do it. So, I never had any intention of being a vocalist. I just got drafted by the kids in the scene back in Connecticut. That was 1983. Long-winded answer, but Blind was a natural evolution for us. We were there when all these genres were starting to merge and work together. I was drawn to COC, and I liked what they were doing. I felt right with them when I answered their ad. We were speaking the same language. We wanted to play heavy but say something intelligent (or worthwhile).
L to R: Woody, Phil, Karl, Pepper, Reed. May 1989.
Photo by Karen Weatherman
Tell me about the songwriting sessions.
Pepper Keenan: Mostly, it was me and Reed in our jam room we called the “Wig Shop.” Our jam room was under a wig shop in Raleigh. Anyway, I stayed in the jam room. I had moved to North Carolina for COC. I didn’t really have a place to live, so I slept in the jam room. I’d wake up and play guitar. When you’re a young kid you can do that—riffs, riffs, and more riffs. Reed would come in and say, “What’cha got?!” We’d go toe-to-toe, laughing. I knew the skill that he had, and I think a lot of what we did back then was tied to me being from New Orleans and not like Berlin. The mechanical stuff was fun to do, but the real joy is slipping around. Reed could really shift gears like that. It was a fun time to go through all the riffs and ideas back then. I remember we’d always go to Denny’s to split a club sandwich and go over everything we’d done. We’d repeat it the next day. Now, I know you know about John [Custer], but he wasn’t a producer in the traditional definition of the word. He was a guy down the street from us. We’d work with him on countless records after Blind, but even before Blind he’d come in with this 4-track with all these demo ideas. He was off-the-cuff, riffing with Reed. We’d then put it all together.
Karl Agell: I joined in 1989. They had taken a break. They were a band in transition. The band had been fallow for a year and a half, really. Pepper came in to audition as a vocalist, but didn’t get it. He stayed on, living with Reed and became a second guitarist. From what I remember, Woody didn’t want a second guitarist initially but Pepper stayed on and became that. They had ideas floating around at the time. I remember I was sent a demo, holdovers from the Technocracy era. The songs had that vibe. One of the songs that stuck out though was “Buried.” It felt different than the rest. I listened to that song over and over. Then I woke up one day and wrote the vocal melody. The words just came out. I was literally dreaming about that song. [Laughs] When I came down to audition, I had presented my ideas on that, and they were ecstatic. So, “Buried” was the first song written for Blind. They had a lot of stuff brewing from all their jams. When I came down, we jammed all the time. We’d have these insane practices, almost nightly. We had a big whiteboard with all kinds of scrawl all over it. It was very communal. Pepper was bringing a more thrash-like vibe at first. Phil was completely, unrecognized – brilliant even! – songwriter. He brought that heavy rock vibe. Early ‘70s thing, right? Add in Woody’s guitar playing and Reed’s drumming, and it was all very unreal. There was a cool tension to the songwriting sessions. We fought it out musically – not in a bad way – and Blind is what came out. It was hardcore/punk embracing musicality with musicians learning how to play their instruments. We weren’t ashamed of all that. We played all that to our strengths.
There’s a statement inside the booklet that “Politics is the control of wealth and power.” It goes on from there, but clearly nothing has changed since you thought about and wrote that down.
Karl Agell: That’s the cool/sad part. [Laughs] We were onto something back then, but it’s even worse now. We were just trying to sound the alarm. Get people to pay attention. What I learned in COC was that I could say something important while delivering a punch. Sounds pompous now, but at the time I thought, “Hey, I’m going to go for the Ian Gillan approach but with Crass lyrics.” For what it was worth, some people didn’t really care, but others got very deep into the lyrics. However it worked for people, as long as they got excited about our music and message. At the time, all that felt really good.
Pepper Keenan: Karl was on point. We were all in the same boat. I think the ammo, for me, came from breaking my leg and stuff. I was broke. I was a poor little kid. I didn’t have any fuckin’ money. I worked in a skateboard shop, and I made $500 over the Medicaid limit. So, I had no insurance. I was like, “Fuck the man!” I was just angry. So, there’s anger in the lyrics, but what we didn’t want was to sit on a soapbox and scream. Karl definitely didn’t want that. We wanted the lyrics to be connected to songs that would have the same effect 20 or 30 years later. So, it was important us to that the lyrics weren’t pointed to a certain period in time. Also, they had to matter. Not about titties and beer. I remember talking to Karl about “War Pigs.” That song was as important when it was made to when we were talking about it. It’s still an important song. We didn’t want be dated. We had the ammo. We were pissed. We were poor. Blind had the lyrical backup it needed.
When Blind dropped on November 5, 1991, the new south was emerging yet the old south still had a very firm grip on society, culture, religion, and race. Corrosion of Conformity were responding to all that before and with Blind. Describe that time.
Karl Agell: It absolutely had an effect on Blind. The [Ku Klux] Klan was founded in Johnston County, which is right next to Wake County, where Raleigh is. When I moved to North Carolina, Jesse Helms was still a senator. Reed Mullin was most vocal against all that when I joined. Both Reed and I campaigned for Harvey Gantt, the first black mayor of Charlotte, to beat Helms. Obviously, Gantt didn’t beat Helms. As soon as I came down, Reed said, “You want to get involved in this?” I was definitely in. But to your point and you’re hitting it on the head, North Carolina was caught between old and new South. In some ways, the state was more progressive and on point when I moved down. People then were making an effort. Now, it’s just like a third-world republic. [Laughs] The gerrymandering is really bad. I don’t want to bore people, but shit’s worse than ever. There’s universal truths on Blind. Speaking truth to power is one of them.
Pepper Keenan: Be honest with you, I don’t think cultural sentiments were an issue then. It was just us against them. It’s like, “Fuck you! We don’t like your thinking.” We had something to say about what was going on at the time, and we said it… loud and clear. It wasn’t so worrying about what others thought. That was a beautiful part of that time.
I think one of the more powerful statements inside the booklet was the listing of socially-aware organizations like Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Native Nations, P.E.T.A., etc. Not only were you speaking truth to power, but also listing organizations to assist with that.
Karl Agell: Heavy metal is awesome, but some of it is just macho. There’s not a lot behind that. Don’t get me wrong, I love Venom. Not calling them macho necessarily. [Laughs] The lyrics are scary and fun, and I get all that. They’re part of a genre. Getting to the point, the listing of the organizations was mostly me. I don’t know if everybody had agreed to that, but I pushed for it. I did that before in my hardcore band Seizure, which was 1983-1987. I wanted to give people a place to go. If you were moved by the lyrics on Blind, these organizations could help. They could focus your energy to be productive. We all do our own thing, so I wasn’t saying, “If you don’t do this, you suck!” [Laughs] I was more into giving the motivated a place to go.
What do you remember about feedback outside of music circles about “Vote with a Bullet”?
Karl Agell: There were people in government that did not like us. Let’s just say I was friends with a woman in Phoenix, Arizona. She grew up in a very powerful family. Her uncle was the head of Pacific Fleet Intelligence for the United States. That came back to me. She said, “He doesn’t like you very much.” I was taken aback and said, “Well, why?” She was like, “He doesn’t like what you’re into or what you’re saying.” This was all pre-Internet. So, what she was saying was the United States government had a file on me. But I wouldn’t say that’s directly tied to the song or video – it was out there at the time. I came up with the title. Pepper came up with the song. So, “Vote with a Bullet” was a classic case of a punk rock shock slogan/token tantrum, as Crass used to say. It was designed to get attention. Funny thing was we were also out promoting Rock the Vote. We were out with Rock the Vote yet we had this song, so there’s duality there. We wanted to shake shit up. Attention everybody! There was no literal translation of the title though. No call to do anything.
Pepper Keenan: Well, that song was me and Custer. We executed it. Or, tried to. They wanted to make that song the second video. The guy who did the Public Enemy did the video. We were alien to him as a punk rock/heavy metal band. Now, it looks correct for the period in time in which it was done. But you have to remember, I was a kid. I had never done a video. I will say, the video had punch. Still to this day it does. If it offended people, then it was the right people to offend. That’s all I’ll say about that.
Describe the video sessions for “Dance of the Dead” and “Vote with a Bullet”. “Dance of the Dead” was the first single/video to come off Blind.
Pepper Keenan: Soundgarden had done “Jesus Christ Pose” with H-Gun. We were close with Soundgarden, so I think that’s how it all played out, so “Dance” was all H-Gun. They were awesome. I remember I was wearing a Saint Vitus shirt. Nobody cared about Saint Vitus at the time. I guess we just wanted to make a cool video. I think we did.
Karl Agell: The videos were done after the recording of Blind. “Dance of the Dead” was the first video. We picked H-Gun out of Chicago. H-Gun had done videos for Ministry, Soundgarden, and a bunch of others. Their videos were cutting edge. We had our ideas of what we wanted to do. They had their ideas. They were way into making it a very metal video. I was on a gurney getting ripped apart. I felt it was a little contrived, actually. They flew me out before the rest of the band. They shaved my chest and belly hair – in both videos I’m shaved for some reason [Laughs] – and they created this fake skin on me. That was all censored for MTV, of course. The videos, the edit. So, I did all this shit for nothing. Great! The rest of the shoot was in an old tuberculosis sanatorium. It was really creepy. There were dead insects everywhere. We were eager though. We were young. I wished we would’ve pushed our ideas. Anyway, that’s not even my fondest memory of the “Dance” shoot. I got stuck in an elevator in an ancient hotel where I was staying. I had to climb up from between floors to pry open the doors. That was crazy. “Vote with a Bullet” was inspired by Taxi Driver. We all loved that movie. I didn’t sing on that song, so I needed a role. I became the “Travis [Bickle] guy.” You know the guy who goes out, gets weird, and tries to kill a politician, and then offs some other people. [Laughs] Again, my chest and belly were shaved and they put this temporary Corrosion of Conformity tattoo on my entire chest. I couldn’t live that down later. Kids would come up to me and say, “Show me the tattoo, bro!” I always had to let them down. [Laughs] But that video was done by Erik Maza. He had come off of Public Enemy’s “By the Time I Get to Arizona” video, which was a very controversial video. The video was shot in one day at an old abandoned synagogue in New York City. One of the cops onsite minding the video shoot actually used his service revolver to shoot the TV for this one scene, which was a total violation, of course. [Laughs] Erik was really cool though. He said something, “Man, you’re like the white Public Enemy.” I was all about that. We liked that thought. So, we felt he was onto something. The rest is history.
Describe the studio sessions at Baby Monster.
Pepper Keenan: Steve McAllister was our sound guy. He also did sound for CBGB’s. So, he’s the one who recommended Baby Monster to us. He knew the drill. He knew how to slam compression and all that. Between him and John Custer, it was pretty interesting to go through all that. It was a long time ago, and all that made sense then. It makes sense now, but we were doing it the wrong way. We were just abusing the equipment there. OK, part of that makes me happy looking back on it now. We didn’t go the safe route. McAllister’s controlling the knobs and Custer’s helping us make the songs, turning them into fist. Our gear didn’t help. Our crappy guitars wouldn’t stay in tune. But that was fine at the time. We were aggressive, young kids going apeshit in a professional studio. All on 2-inch tape! Steve was cutting 2-inch tape with a razor blade. Splicing shit together in real time. Believe me, we didn’t sleep when we were there. Weeks, dude. Funny thing that the studio wasn’t expensive. To this day, I’d rather spend a long time in a cheap studio than go to a fancy studio and blow all my fucking money quickly. I like to be able to go back and review things. Me and Custer would stay up all night listening and re-listening to things. We’d burn a cassette and play it on a jam box. If it wasn’t working, we’d go back into the studio the next morning and fix it. If Blind had been done in a different, more expensive studio, it wouldn’t be the record that it is today.
Karl Agell: We wanted something that would stand the test of time. So, the recording of Blind was important to how it sounds. Literally. We made an effort to find the right studio – Baby Monster in New York City – that had a 2-inch, 4-track Studer [tape machine] fed through an awesome Neve console. There are reasons records sound good that are recorded that way. We hit the tape so hard that it created an undeniable presence and depth. We spent 10 weeks in the studio. Ten weeks! As for John, he was a local NC guy. He made these crazy tapes, like our walk-on music. He made this insane intro tape – it was almost hard to follow – and that’s kind of what got him the gig. He was really into Brian May and stacking things, infinite chords. He had great production ideas. But there was a lot of insanity around all that. Trying to achieve all these super-great ideas in the studio eventually created a bit of tension. I remember one mixing session lasted 52 hours. People were getting sick and passing out. Back then, everyone was involved in the mix, with hands on everything. Nothing was automated.
Tell me about your time in New York City. That was very different world in 1991.
Pepper Keenan: [Laughs] I’m not sure you remember this, but I had broken my hip and my femur at a Pantera show prior the Baby Monster sessions. I did the whole damned thing in a fuckin’ wheelchair. Woody would always push me down 7th Avenue to 14th Street [to where the studio was located]. I was on handicapped busses and in elevators. My focus was still there though. I wasn’t on painkillers. I took all pain and frustration out on my poor guitar. So, New York was great! I don’t mean that because I was in a fuckin’ wheelchair the entire time, but we knew we were on to something. We knew we had something special in Blind. So, we focused hard on making it the best possible record it could be. We expended so much energy on creating something we had nothing to compare to. I mean, none of the records we were into sounded anything like what we were doing. The songwriting and production was like nothing we’d done before.
Karl Agell: Well, Stevie McAllister, who did front of house for us and at CBGB’s, was like a band member. He was this New York institution. He was the nicest guy in the world. He’s the one who brought us into Baby Monster. He was the house engineer there, too. So, he helped us find housing while we were in the city. I remember we were trying to play ball with the label, trying to stay within budget. He found us this welfare motel – not to be pejorative – in Chelsea. It was barebones and right on 17th Street. It was rough. The doors were made of cardboard. The showers were garden hoses coming out of the wall. I roomed with Reed. Phil, Woody, and Pepper had a triple. One night, everyone went out and drank. Phil ended up eating at this buffet in the middle of the night. He threw up on the floor. Woody woke up to rats fighting over Phil’s puke. [Laughs] Dead serious. I remember Woody saying, “Dude, we need to get OUT of here!” If you look on the inside of the CD, the photo that’s behind the lyrics was taken in their room, right where that puke was. [Laughs] I have a great memory of that room. Eventually, we realized we had friends in the city, and we all broke off to stay with them. That made way more sense. I stayed with Afzaal Deen. Later I stayed with Kevin Sharp. His roommate was Jason Everman, who used to play bass for Soundgarden. Funny to think that back then – in our twenties – we just dealt with it all.
The sound on Blind is incredibly heavy. What gear did the band use to get that sound?
Pepper Keenan: Well, John Custer, our producer-guy, was into and from the tail end of the big heavy metal / Van Halen shit. He would give pedals to me, a chorus, an overdrive, and all kinds of other shit and make me sound like a big man on the mountain. These were actual effects not added later. So, we were tracking with the pedals on—just were going for it. There was no post-production like there is today. I’d have to put my dick on the chopping block with all these effects. OK, I wasn’t always into it, but as long as my pick was hitting the strings, I was cool with it. I was so young back then, and we definitely didn’t know what we were doing, but it was worth going into uncharted territory with John. If it sounded cool, we went with it. That’s pretty much it.
Karl Agell: Woody and Pepper had their [Gibson] SGs. They played those to the hilt. At the time, I believe they had their MESA/Boogies. Phil was always a Fender P-Bass guy that was run through an Ampeg B-15. Reed was playing his old red Tama kit. He beat that to death.
L to R: Phil, Woody, Reed, Pepper, Karl. May 1989.
Photo by Karen Weatherman
What vocal effects were used on Blind, and on “Vote with a Bullet”?
Pepper Keenan: I remember Custer said, “You gotta sing on this thing.” It has too much syllabic content. I didn’t think too much about it apart from I would go to sleep thinking about it. Honestly, I was listening to Ministry’s The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste. I used that as a catalyst. We wanted distorted vocals and shit. I wish I could tell you it was a fucking complicated process to create those vocal effects, but it was just a distortion pedal run through a microphone. [Laughs] That worked. The rest is history. This late in the game, I try to not think too much about history. I just take it as it comes. Rock ‘n’ roll will do that to you. The train never stops.
Are there other songs on the record that you feel are just as important as the singles, but rarely get the attention?
Pepper Keenan: There’s a couple of them, dude. “White Noise” is a crazy one. Reed’s drumming. He’s insane on that track. I wrote the lyrics to “White Noise.” So, get this: we’re reissuing Blind, right? So, I went back and looked at my lyrics, and there’s a little note that I wrote at the top. It says, “I wish Chuck D would sing this.” [Laughs] At the time, we were going apeshit over Public Enemy. The lyrics are very pointed. I wrote the song or the canter thinking of Chuck D. Obviously, Karl sang it, and did great with it. “Shallow Ground” was me. It was a weird open tune thing that Custer heard. I was playing this thing on my acoustic guitar in the hallway in the studio. He’s like, “What’s that?! Let’s track that!” That little sound you hear at the end is a tape machine spinning backward with a mic on it. But anyway, I was a little tired of all the relentless stuff that was going on at the time. That became a little breather before “Vote.” It created this weird wave situation. I learned at a young age not to blow my wad. [Laughs] I wanted to create tension and release it. Not gonna lie here. I’m a Pink Floyd and Skynyrd fan. I’m a huge Bad Brains fan. They were masters at this stuff. They’d drop reggae shit in a heartbeat. I wasn’t into pummeling people all the goddamn time. Writing interludes or creating things to break up the space was always part of my writing. After we recorded that, it was haunting to me. I loved the vibe of it. I liked how it smoothed out the album. We slammed them with “Vote” right after. [Laughs]
Karl Agell: The one song that was always near and dear to me was “Mine Are the Eyes of God.” On every release I do, I have at least one song that questions organized religion – most specifically the ones of Abrahamic origin – and Blind was that record. I did it later with Leadfoot and my other bands, too. So, that’s always been something that I lean on. So, I feel strongly about “Mine Are the Eyes of God,” and a lot of other people like that too because it has a cool vocal hook that’s unusual. I remember we were on the Blind tour with Carcass and Gorguts. The gig was in Lawrence, Kansas. A bunch of kids from the Rez showed up and spoke to me. They said, “Hey, thanks for writing a song like ‘Painted Smiling Face.’” They were thankful that I had written that lyric. I look back on those moments fondly. Something I did spoke to someone. So, I’m close to all the songs, really. I can remember people reaching out and telling me why certain songs were meaningful.
Tell me about the track sequencing on Blind. The instrumental bookends, plus the instrumental mid-section before “Vote with a Bullet” were very unorthodox for the time.
Karl Agell: I had a lot to do with arranging the song order, actually. I’ve always done that with the records I’ve been on. I put it up like a setlist. To see what works. Growing up with albums, I always wanted to tell a story. So, I wanted Blind to be like a movement. That was important to me. It had a beginning and an end. The album’s bookcased by “These Shrouded Temples…” and “…Remain.” The order was on purpose. “Shallow Ground” kind of acted like it separated the beginning and end. That hearkens back to the things we liked and were influenced by. Like Jesus Christ Superstar or [The Who’s] Quadrophenia.
How’d you get Bill Sienkiewicz for the cover? The main cover is a snippet of the overall collage he put together.
Karl Agell: The cover is actually burning paper dolls. But I consider that a tragic mistake. The reason for that is the industry was transitioning away from vinyl to CD. The age of graphic novels had just kicked in. Bill had done Stray Toasters, Elektra: Assassin, and some other stuff. He was cutting edge. We were totally wowed by him. So, he got paid $5,000 to make this piece that was photographed. The actual piece is more like a box, a living sculpture. It’s mixed media. The piece was designed and photographed in a square format, all for an album cover. Since album covers had, for the most part, gone away, we felt in order for people to really enjoy this we were going to have to have it as a fold-out poster. The big mistake on CD is that people never saw the rest of the art unless they unfolded it. So, the whole thing is a discovery that you may or may not make later. Like I used to get asked about the hand signs inside the booklet, but not anymore. They spell out the word “Blind.” A minor statement there, too. [Laughs] There’s a lot of rabbit hole-like things on this record.
Pepper Keenan: We didn’t come up with the name of the record until after it was done. We came to the conclusion to call it Blind after we realized we had done all things with our eyes closed. Simplicity was the word, but it summed up what we had all gone through. It was my idea to have Bill Sienkiewicz do the cover art, I think. We sent him three songs and he said, “I’m in!” So, the cover ended up being simple, but becomes something else when you unfold it. That’s when all the information hits, man.
Tell me about the touring for Blind in 1991 and 1992. You toured with a lot of power players.
Pepper Keenan: Fear… Fear of the Dark! [Laughs] We toured with Maiden. Me and Woody were huge Maiden fans. They were in a hard place back then. They weren’t selling out stadiums like they used to. That tour was us, Testament, and Maiden. I was thankful to just to be there. It’s fuckin’ Maiden, dude! I got to hear all the slamming hits they had. I was 22-years old. I thought I had made it! [Laughs] It didn’t matter if the world didn’t agree I was on tour with Maiden. Fuck yes! They were so wonderful to us. I remember Bruce [Dickinson] had this tiny little computer back then. He was doing his flight training on it. He had just started that. Maiden kind of reminded us to work harder, put our dicks to the grind to keep this thing going!
Karl Agell: The first and last Blind tours were with Prong. We were good friends with Prong. We were already on tour when Blind dropped, so that was really special. My last show with COC was in Munich. That was December 22, 1992. I got let go – which is a nice way of putting it – five weeks into the making of Deliverance, the recording of it. OK, my most vivid memory is when we did the six-week tour with Iron Maiden in the summer of 1992. They treated us so nicely—like gold! That was Bruce’s last tour with them. Before he came back obviously. That was the Fear of the Dark tour. We did a one-off show in the middle of the Maiden tour with White Zombie and Testament. Right after that, it was five weeks with the Rollins Band. After that tour, I was invited to come up on stage to sing “Cop Killer” with Soundgarden at Lollapalooza in Atlanta and New Orleans. We actually did five weeks with them in Europe on Badmotorfinger. We first got to know them back in 1990 when we did 6 weeks with them and Danzig. We were really good friends with those guys. 1992 was a crazy, long summer.
What do you make of Blind as an influence during and on heavy music? That’s 30 years of imprinting on other riff / songwriters.
Pepper Keenan: I’m not really sure on that, to be honest. I would assume there were certain bands that I was flipping on –like Soundgarden – that were unobtainable. Blind is a weird record. I don’t think it influenced many people. It was just us getting our ya-ya’s out. We were creating something we felt was needed at the time based on what we knew prior. I can’t put it any further than that. We weren’t trying to be influential. If it was influential or made someone go into their garage to hack away, then great! I’m thankful for that. Music is a young man’s game. Don’t let anyone tell you different. So, when I hear about kids ripping, I can only be happy for them. A+! [Laughs] Things have to evolve. Seeing that makes me happy. I’m like, “Dude, go! If you don’t I’ll punch you in the fuckin’ nuts!”
Karl Agell: It means a lot. For instance, there was a moment that really hit me and elevated me on the last COC Blind tour. Reed, Scott [Little], Mike [Brown], Jerry [Barrett] and I did a month of shows playing the Blind album in its entirety back in 2015. That was with Cavalera Conspiracy and Death Angel. Anyway, we played in Houston. A guy comes up to me – he’s younger than me – and says, “I just wanted to tell you when I was a teenager, the lyrics on Blind changed my life.” He ended up becoming a college professor based on what I had written and said on Blind. I brought him into poli-sci. Now, he’s a professor at the University of Essex in England. I just touched base with him the other day. That I was able to change the trajectory of his life and what he wanted to do is the greatest compliment that I’ve ever received. The fact that some things I said had that kind of impact still blows me away. There are others out there, but this one almost moved me to tears.
More 30th Anniversary Interviews::
1. Carcass. LINK.
2. Death – Human. LINK.
3. Suffocation – Effigy of the Forgotten. LINK.
4. Immolation – Dawn of Possession. LINK.
5. Dismember – Like an Ever Flowing Stream. LINK.
6. Autopsy – Mental Funeral. LINK.