In Steven Blush's American Hardcore, the definitive oral history of the punk-offshoot genre, there's a passage in which Corrosion of Conformity's Reed Mullins made life as a punk in the South sound pretty grim. The band's drummer recalled being chased by rednecks with baseball bats around the band's native Raleigh, North Carolina -- something that bassist Mike Dean still remembers, now, in 2012. Was being in a hardcore band in the early '80s really that much of a potential matter of life or death?
"There were aspects that were. Raleigh at that time still really had a small-town feel. I'd say the officers of the law were mostly local boys, and it had this feel of kind of a Baptist theocracy," says bassist Mike Dean. "When somebody shows up looking different and dabbling in images that they could consider blasphemy and playing this raucous music and slam-dancing, there was kind of a little pushback from the authorities. They would harass you for no reason and kind of poke you with a stick and see what you were about."
Yet leaving North Carolina never really occurred to the band. Despite persecution from jocks and cops, there was a small but healthy and creative DIY scene that Dean and his bandmates were reluctant to abandon.
"We just talked about the negative of our area, but what was good was, there was a whole bunch of kids just sort of looking for something new to do and something interesting to be a part of. It was just kind of a spontaneous, somewhat vibrant word-of-mouth type of scene that sprung up. It was real free-form, because we were just making it up as we went along.
"Also, to be just another band in a large city, you would get lost in the shuffle. We could be the weirdos from North Carolina and be, like, novel when we went out to Los Angeles or New York or D.C. to play. People were so tickled that there was actually a hardcore band from there -- so it was actually a selling point and helped us do our own thing and find our own thing."
Sounds a lot like many bands' arguments for staying in South Florida.
In any event, "our own thing," for Corrosion of Conformity, meant even bucking hardcore as a genre. Longtime vocalist/guitarist Pepper Keenan joined the band in 1989, an addition that signaled a kind of sea change in sound, away from pure punk-derived stuff and more to Southern boogie and metal sounds.
"One of the ways we kind of moved forward and progressed was actually to kind of look backward and incorporate some older influences into our sound in a new way and just have fun with things that weren't really considered 'hip' in the sort of small world of punk rock," says Dean.
In 2012, the Corrosion of Conformity sound spans nearly three decades of this kind of innovation, with a little bit of hardcore and thrash-style energy propelling a sound that's a little progressive metal, a lot of stoner rock, and another helping of unpredictability. Case in point: Keenan, long considered the face of the band, is currently nowhere to be found in the lineup, instead focusing on his role in metal supergroup Down. Instead, the latest Corrosion of Conformity album, which was, surprisingly, self-titled, features just Dean, Mullins, and longtime guitarist Woody Weatherman.
"We wanted to show that we were returning to the original essence of the group," says Dean. "I don't expect people to be historically informed about the band, because we're pretty much an underground band. But we wanted to put it out there that we did start the band as a three-piece and that we had a pretty good run before we had the lineup that might be more familiar to some folks."
Get schooled on Monday at Grand Central in Miami, when the group plays the only Florida date on its current run, a rare one-off after a tour it recently completed with Torche and Valient Thorr. It's also the group's first show in South Florida since 1997 and, with the addition of excellent local support in Consular, Holly Hunt, and Shroud Eater, promises a treat for area heavy-music fans.
Stream a couple of tracks from Corrosion of Conformity's recent new album below.
Corrosion of Conformity. With Holly Hunt, Consular, and Shroud Eater. 8 p.m. Monday, March 19, at Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Tickets cost $18; age 18 and up. Click here.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!