Corrosion picker Pepper bashes his (ear)drums



By Steve Newton

One of the stock questions I like to toss out when interviewing rockers is, “So, what have you been listening to lately?” When I call up Corrosion of Conformity guitarist-vocalist Pepper Keenan in the midst of his band’s North American tour with Motorhead, that query brings a unique but fitting response.

“The only thing I’ve been listening to is my ears ringin’,” he quips from backstage at L.A.’s historic Wiltern Theatre.

Anyone who’s ever witnessed the mighty Motorhead on-stage knows the morning-after symptom of which Keenan speaks. But the serious risk to his hearing isn’t enough to stop the Big Easy native from sticking around after opening for the British metal trio and soaking up its every decibel. And he doesn’t wimp out by using earplugs.”Of course I’m a Motorhead fan,” he spouts defiantly, as if the likelihood that he wouldn’t adore Lemmy Kilmister was nil. “Everybody’s a Motorhead fan. You ain’t a Motorhead fan? Ya gotta be.”At the time of our chat, COC is a month into the tour, which lands at the Commodore on Thursday (April 14). Motorhead is touring behind its 18th studio album, Inferno, while Keenan’s group will showcase tunes from its eighth, In the Arms of God. It’s the quartet’s first record in five years, but Keenan makes no apologies for the delay.

“Uh, man, I been busy,” he points out. “I did that little [side project] called Down. We went and toured that, did Ozzfest, came back. I pretty much messed up my life, got back on track, and then did that thing for Metallica, which took a while. Then I moved back to New Orleans, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah-next thing you know, it’s fuckin’ five years or whatever.”

The “thing” Keenan did for the Bay Area ear busters was audition as the replacement for bassist Jason Newsted; he’s shown in the documentary Metallica: Some Kind of Monster giving it his best shot. Because the four-string isn’t Keenan’s main instrument, it’s no wonder he lost out to the more virtuosic Rob Trujillo, formerly of Suicidal Tendencies. But one wonders if his willingness to jump ship to the world’s top metal act might have alienated his current bandmates.

“No, no, no, no-nope,” he stresses. “What are you gonna say to somebody about that, man? Would you tell him, ‘No, don’t do it.’ Hey, come on!”

In the Arms of God continues in the Sabbath-inspired vein of the last few COC albums and sports the topnotch skin bashing of noted Galactic drummer Stanton Moore. “We’ve been through a lotta drummers,” notes the southern headbanger in a total Spinal Tap moment, “we just kinda burn ’em out.”

Keenan strongly believes that loud-rock fans get their money’s worth with the Motorhead/Corrosion matchup. “It’s two really powerful bands that kinda complement each other, as gay as that sounds.” When I explain that I might take in his Commodore gig if I’m not too burnt-out from seeing Joe Satriani there the night before, my conditional plan raises hackles.

“Fuck Joe Satriani,” he casually suggests. Funny, that’s precisely what Straight music editor Mike Usinger said when I proposed a pre-show interview with the Bay Area guitar maestro. Has the whole world gone fucking crazy?

Leave a Reply