Guitar World recently caught up with Down guitarist Pepper Keenan to discuss the group’s upcoming EP, Down IV—Part Two (on sale May 20), the departure of longtime guitarist Kirk Windstein, and the possibility of a reunion with his Keenan’s former band, Corrosion of Conformity.
When did you start working on the upcoming Down IV—Part TwoEP?
We were touring a lot, and we did a bunch of killer shows in Europe and the band as a whole was very excited about where we were heading. And then we had some issues with Kirk [Windestein] and him wanting to focus more on Crowbar—and that happens sometimes in bands, you’d be a fool to deny it.
We were just going in separate directions, and that’s okay—I mean, we only wanted the best for Kirk, but Down wasn’t going to waste one second, and he understood that. But I understood where Kirk was coming from—Crowbar is his baby.
So, during that period, me and Jimmy [Bower, drums] and Pat [Bruders, bass] were just in the jam room constantly, coming up with ideas and running them past Phil [Anselmo, vocals] to make sure that we were all on the same page. And then basically our ace in the hole became Pat.
He had been in Crowbar all these years, but he never really had a chance to write much of anything. And he started coming up with some amazing ideas, and that took some of the pressure off of us. We do it pretty old-school—just beatin’ it out in the jam room.
What are some of the pros of doing four consecutive EPs?
Usually when you do a full length album, the record company throws it out there and maybe you get a couple of months out of it—but we wanted to do something that would stretch that out for a couple of years. Down likes to tour a lot, and doing the EPs will allow us more freedom to do that and get more music out to our fans more frequently.
Plus we have different types of songs in this band, and doing EPs will let us bring out some of those songs that didn’t fit on an album before. Like the next EP will probably have more campfire-type, acousticy songs. It’ll give us an opportunity to show a different side of Down without having to do another whole album, or take those few acoustic songs and jam them into full album. We just like the idea of splitting the material up into four EPs and making it work to our advantage.
From a songwriting perspective, what did it mean to lose Kirk Windstein?
I knew we were losing something, but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. I just knew that something was going to be gone. I’m pretty prolific when it comes to riffs and songs, so it wasn’t that much of a concern—but Kirk and I had been doing this together for 20 fucking years, so that aspect of it was gone.
How did your stage manager, Bobby Landgraf, come to be Kirk’s replacement in the band?
We were gonna go on a nationwide search for guitar players and all that, but sometimes that ends up biting you on the ass. The truth is we’re really not the easiest band to get along with—we kind of have our own language and way of doing things—so we wanted someone we knew we could hang out with, and Bobby was right there. After we got him in the game, everything started rolling. It reinvigorated us to have some new blood in the band.
We’re happy as clams right now. Everybody’s heads are clear—nobody’s stumbling around, and we’re ready for the next couple of years for sure.
The new EP isn’t a huge departure from the first one.
No, it isn’t, but that was kind of the intention. I think it’s really gonna shift on the third and fourth EPs. The first one we just kinda ham-fisted it out, and the second one has a little more trickery going on—the riffs aren’t quite so simple and easily digestible, and at the end there’s this little acoustic thing that I think is gonna fly into the third EP. There’s some really crafty guitar stuff happening on this EP that we’ve never ventured into before.
Your last recording with Corrosion of Conformity was 2005’s In the Arms of God. Are you open to reuniting with C.O.C.?
I talk to Woody [Weatherman, guitar] and Mike [Dean, bass] about it often, and it’s definitely on the radar—but those guys are fully capable of doing it as a three-piece on their own for now, and they have been for a while. It’ll happen sooner or later, but only when I could give C.O.C. the utmost respect and attention that it deserves. But the truth is, doing both of those bands full-time is too much.