No Cross No Crown marks the band’s first recording with vocalist/guitarist Pepper Keenan in over a decade. The record will be released worldwide on January 12th, 2018 via Nuclear Blast Entertainment on CD, digital, vinyl, and cassette formats. Various pre-order bundles are currently available at: nuclearblast.com/coc-nocrossnocrown.
I had the opportunity to discuss the upcoming record, trippy new video for “Wolf Named Crow,” and the current tour with guitarist, Woody Weatherman.
Thanks for taking the time this morning to have a chat.
WW: Yeah, I’m l just down here in Virginia and it’s a chilly morning, but the snow is already gone so I’m thankful for that.
Good thing I can work from bed doing this! I find it very rare these days that a band that formed in 1982 is still making music. When reading through the band history, it’s interesting to see how all the founding members left the band (with the exception of you) and then seemed to find their way back years later. Despite some member changes over the years and some hiatuses, what kept bringing you back together for more?
WW: I think through the years we’ve all taken a break here and there. Sometimes you get out and do some intense touring and it might be time to take a little time off. I think it’s always the music that brings us back. We enjoy making the kind of music that we make and we enjoy playing the songs that we’ve already made. I know me, personally, I really enjoy traveling and seeing things and it would be hard to do that if I wasn’t in a band. I’ve seen a lot of places I’d probably never get to see if I wasn’t playing music. I’m very appreciative of that opportunity and I think that’s one of the things that keeps bringing me back to it.
The new album No Cross No Crown slated for release on Jan 12th is the first time in 12 years you’ve reunited with Pepper Keenan. How did that come about?
WW: We’ve been hanging with Pep even through all that time. We were doing some 3 piece C.O.C., the early stuff like harkening back to the early 80s. We’d do shows and he’s in another band, Down, and they’d be doing the same festival so Keenan would pop over and we’d play some songs together on stage. We’ve pretty much been chatting this whole time just waiting for the right time to pounce on it. It wound up that this was the right time. We’ve been out on the road together for the last year and a half to two years and just discovered that it was gelling and it was correct. It felt like the right time to make this record and I’m glad that we did and that it’s finally coming out.
I’m sure a lot of fans are happy too! I found the story of the album name interesting. Can you explain for our readers how it originated?
WW: Speaking of being out on the road, one of the first forays was a trip through UK and Europe. This was like 2015. We were at a gig playing in an old church, seriously like a 1400s freaking church in a little town in England. They had us in the rectory, that was like our dressing room where the preachers or priest used to chill. There were these little tiny stained glass windows perched up in these tiny stone pillars and one of them said “No Cross No Crown” with a little picture of a guy getting whacked with a stick or something. We were like, “Let’s write that down and keep that! That’s a theme, something we can work with.” Low and behold it turned out to be the name of the record. So we kind of knew the title of the album and sort of a theme for the album two years ago and have been building on that the whole time.
That’s unique because usually the title of the album comes last.
WW: That is very true. This time around it was the first thing and we built ideas and themes sort of around that.
Can you tell me a little about writing and recording the album and what made you decide to add the instrumental interludes between the songs?
WW: That’s kind of been our thing, the little segways, the interludes. I think it kind of sets up the song that comes after it. We’ve been doing that for years on several albums. I think it adds to it and makes it more of an album experience as opposed to a bunch of songs that sound exactly the same. I will say with the writing of this record, we took a totally different turn on this thing than we have on previous records. We pretty much wrote the whole thing as we were putting it to tape, as we were recording it. We’d show up that day and do these four and five day sessions, and someone would have a riff and someone else would have a riff to go with that and we’d put all these riffs together and spend a couple hours working it out. If it was a song, we’d throw it on tape and just build it from there. So at the end of the four or five day sessions we’d generally have two or three songs. We wound up doing that eight or nine times and several months later the record was done. We sort of took a different approach than spending two or three months in the studio at one time.
I know an album is good when I have trouble deciding which song is my favorite. I think I’ve narrowed it down to “Nothing Left To Say.” Can you enlighten me a little on that song?
WW: Talk about classic, getting back to the roots, kinda bluesy sort of feel, that is one of those kind of songs for us. I think it’s important for a band like us in between the blustering locomotive to go back to our roots. We’ve got a lot of influences, and the blues is definitely part of our sound along with all the blistering stuff. I think it helps make a complete album to have a song like that with some more feeling, a little ass shaking vibe to it. It wound up being a bigger song when we were done with it than it was intentioned. It’s pretty brutal in its own right.
Exactly. It starts off a little slow but then it kicks in. Now, the first single, “Cast The First Stone” was released in November. Knowing long time fans would be critical with Keenan back, what was the response?
WW: Obviously, only thing I can get feedback on is online stuff at this point until we hit the road. Thankfully, it looks like people are digging it, which is cool. We knew we were going to work hard on it and we didn’t want to let anybody down. It’s Important that if people are digging it, than that just adds to it. We wouldn’t be able to do it without them coming to see us, buying a record, listening to it, so we definitely appreciate the kind words that people have thrown our way so far.
Like you said, the music has a lot of influences, but it seems no matter whether it was made 20 years ago or now, it seems timely.
WW: That’s funny that you mention that because it’s something we always discussed and strove to make records that you could hopefully listen to over and over for sure.
The video for “Wolf Named Crow” makes me feel like I’m on a good LSD trip. Who came up with the idea for the video and can you give me a little insight into the meaning?
WW: The label new this dude in the Czech Republic that was doing it, so we didn’t have a lot of input with that. I know Pep had a chat or two with the guy online but when it showed up it was in its final version and that was the first time I’d seen it. I thought it was a different kind of thing for us, but it’s cool. We actually did a video with real people in it three or four weeks ago out in Las Angeles for the song “The Luddite.” That will be coming pretty soon. But, yeah, the animated video was a different approach for us. It’s open to interpretation as to what the guy is trying to get across there but I think he captured some cool moments.
It reminds me of those old cartoons, I used to watch and think, “What drugs are these writers on?”
WW: Yeah, he probably was hitting the old stink bud for a minute or two while he was making that video.
I’m sure! You’re about to join Black Label Society on a huge North American tour through the end of Feb. What can we look forward to from your live set?
WW: It’s always tough, especially out on a support slot because we have a lot of material and a lot of albums to choose things off of. We’re going to do a set that people aren’t going to be disappointed with. We have some things we’ll switch around from time to time, but there’s some classics we have to do that we love doing and people want to hear when they show up. There has to be stuff from Wiseblood (1996) and Deliverance (1994) and we’ll probably go back another album or two from that and try to squeeze at least one or two new ones on the set. It’s going to be hard because we’ll have a little less than an hour but we’re going to get in all we can for sure.
I’ll be seeing you February 1st at The Palladium in Worcester, MA and I can’t wait!
WW: Nice! Good venue. I’m looking forward to that one.
They just did renovations too, so it’s really nice inside. I hope I get a chance to say hello.
WW: Please do say howdy!
I will. Before saying goodbye, do you have anything else you’d like to add?
WW: Hell, I’ve always got plenty to say. You can’t shut me up. But to the people that listen to us and support us, just know that we appreciate it. We’re not going to toss any bullshit out there. Anytime anyone listens and gets a kick out of it, it thrills me personally. I’m really into it.
Like you said, what else would you be doing if you weren’t touring.
WW: True, what the hell else would I be doing, man?
It’s been great chatting with you, Woody and I definitely will see you in February, since I live in New England. Thank you for your time this morning and have a great tour!
By: Nina McCarthy, Music Journalist