“It Was Terrifying”; An Interview With Reed Mullin Of Corrosion Of Conformity
Corrosion Of Conformity cast a long shadow over the sludge scene. Their reputation as one of the most important bands in the genre has only been burnished by their unique ideas and long years of touring. Getting to sit down with their drummer, Reed Mullin and talk to him not just about the new record but also the early days of the band was a true pleasure. There aren’t a lot of groups left in the world who sound like these cats and it’s always a pleasure to pick the brain of an icon like this. He was full of all sorts of weird and fun wisdom as well quite a few interesting stories. In other words, Reed Mullin is everything that you want him to be and I love him for it. Gracious, kind and always willing to divulge an interesting detail, he made for one of my favorite interviews.
How the hell are you?
I’m doing great! Got a new album coming out soon, it’s coming out on Nuclear Blast, we’re all stoked! It sounds badass. If I had some right now I’d play it for you but I don’t! The mixes sound sick! A friend of ours named Mike Frasier mixed it. He was one of our good guys. He’s a big time mixing guy. We recorded all the basic tracks in our rehearsal studio and they sounded so good… Initially the ideas was we were going to go to some other studio and record there but stuff sounded so good in the space we decided to get the songs done.
Mike Dean was so concerned he drove from North Carolina all the way to Vancouver for the tapes. He was afraid Fed Ex would fuck it up somehow!
Where does the passion to do something crazy like that come from?
There’s nobody else like Mike Dean I can say that for sure! He’s one of a kind that Mike Dean! He was so proud of the recordings that we did he didn’t want to take any chance whatsoever. You know how UPS messes up.
In terms of still playing music I can say for all of us that’s all we’ve done and that’s all we know and it’s our passion. We’ve done it forever. Being in a band is like being in a marriage and you get annoyed and you want to take a break. But Woody, Mike Dean and myself have been doing this for a long time and learned to play our instruments together.
I never thought about it that way. How does that impact the songwriting?
A lot of things like time signatures and tempo changes were not known for us until metronomes happened. We had pushes and pulls and that comes from the familiarity of the folks we are playing with. We really know each other and can anticipate. It’s pretty cool. I’ve never played with anyone like them, it’s special.
When you started this band as a teenager and you started learning your instruments did you know it was something special or was it just happening?
I knew it was fun. There weren’t bands like us that sold hundreds of thousands of copies. We were obsessed with like Black Flag and the Bad Brains they didn’t have the financial success Blink 182 and Green Day had, these bands that came later. There was a base of folks that liked that kind of music though. We did it purely for the love of the music we were playing. That’s what we were inspired by, it wasn’t a financial thing, it wasn’t possible, it hadn’t happened yet.
At what point were you like ‘Oh shit, this is happening!’
I always knew I wanted to play music but in the late 80s when crossover metal and punk had become a little more defined we could see our audiences getting bigger and a lot of our friends audiences getting bigger even as indies. Occasionally a major label would pick up a band like ours and invest money. We got the record deal for the Blind album. I don’t think it was until we got to tour on a bus until then. We had a publicist. All that. Everything we had done to that point was DIY. I booked the band and put the albums out. When we got signed by Relativity Records that it was like “Fuck!” It could actually pay my rent!
I’ve had a lot of my older friends talk to me about the insanity of booking tours in the mid eighties. How was that experience for you?
The punk scene back then and to a certain extent still today was pretty close knit. There wasn’t a lot of us but we all knew each other and would write letters and call people on landlines. There were a lot of fanzines. One of the benefits I had was that my folks were fully stoked on COC and helping the band. They had a copy machine. I got to do all the flyers for the shows and I became Raleigh’s punk rock promoter. I booked Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies, Dead Kennedy’s all those bands, I was the guy. I got to be friends with them and we would help each other out by talking about the venues we should play. There was a place in Pittsburgh for example called the Electric Banana and the guy was infamous for not paying bands and he had a pistol. So DOA came to town and were about to play there and we were like “Dude, look out for Salvatore with the fucking pistol because he will pull it out!”
It was close knit and pure DIY with help from our friends. It was a new form of music scene. Hardcore punk shaped that. We were kind of building it from the ground up but we were all so stoked on it we went the extra mile. Being the promoter in Raleigh I did it out of the love of the music, I didn’t make any money. It was a good stop though for bands going from DC to Atlanta, there was nothing there.
What do you love so much about music?
That’s a good question. Since I was a little kid… my folks didn’t play too much music, but this kid Ethan Smith, you might have had a guy like him, he got the bands none of the rest of the gang had heard, he showed us Deep Purple and Sabbath. We were fortunate to have him and he showed us the Stooges and the MC5 and the Sex Pistols and some of the earlier hardcore or stuff like the Dead Boys. Then he got us into the more true hardcore. It was like a new form of music, like jazz man! American made! We had that guy. To have Ethan Smith be the guy who found the cool bands and the brand new bands… it inspired me because the music was so good and exciting. At that point I was very political. That time in American history things were pretty sketchy with Reagan. You’re too young to know, but it was terrifying, like it is now. My lyrics and the bands I liked like Crass had a political slant that got me too.