Down Over the Under

Down Over the Under
Inspired by tragedy — Hurricane Katrina and the death of Dimebag Darrell — the third album from New Orleans supergroup Down is another epic, moving piece of down south sludge by way of feel-good ’70s rock. But even the rockers, such as album highlight "On March the Saints,” are drenched with regret and despair, with a light at the end of the tunnel barely visible through the grime. Vocalist Philip Anselmo (ex-Pantera, Superjoint Ritual) gives his best performance yet, proving his croon is as vicious as his bark. Drummer Jimmy Bower (Eyehategod, Superjoint Ritual) is improving by leaps and bounds, and on Over the Under shows drums aren’t his secondary instrument anymore. Guitarists Pepper Keenan (Corrosion of Conformity) and Kirk Windstein (Crowbar) lay down tons of amazing Southern-influenced riffs, while bassist Rex Brown (ex-Pantera) keeps the groove going throughout. Although it lacks the catchiness of the band’s second disc, Over the Under is a more diverse and layered offering, one clearly crafted by five dudes who have been through a lot. By the time album closer "Nothing in Return (Walk Away)” ends, the listener is left with the feeling that nothing — not even a hurricane or a murder — can get in the way of these guys.

Congrats on the album. How are you feeling about it?
Windstein: Thanks, dude. We’re pretty proud, we busted ass working on it. Demo-ing and recording it took the better part of a year to really do everything. We’re really proud and glad to finally have it out.

I love the production sound and just the feel of it; it’s got a very natural old school vibe.
Totally, that’s what we’re trying to do, so that’s cool.

Where were you when Katrina hit?
I actually stayed at home, my mom refused to leave so I stayed with her and sent my wife, my little girl and dad and sister up to my grandmother’s house a couple hours away in Lafayette, Louisiana. But where my mom’s house was, there really wasn’t any damage. No levees broke on that side.

Was making it through Katrina a big influence on this album?
I think it was, and it brought us closer together once we started working. It’s kind of impossible for some of the lyrics not to pertain to that after going through it. "Beneath the Tides” and "On March the Saints” are pretty much directly about Katrina.

Getting through Katrina and Dimebag’s death, would you say it’s a more negative or positive album?
I think it’s positive; I think the whole vibe is positive. There might be some topics that are tough topics and there’s a lot of depth to the lyrics and whatnot, but I think the vibe of the whole thing is very positive.

Is Down turning into more of a full-time band now?
Yeah, it’s a full-time thing now. We all decided that this is what we want to do as a main band for the rest of our careers and of course, we’ll do other things on the side, but this will be the main focus now. Crowbar is on the side but I’m still going to do it. I’m always going to do Crowbar but Down has taken precedence and it’s my main focus.

What’s New Orleans like now? Is it rebuilding?
Certain parts are, certain parts aren’t. Some parts are never going to come back, I don’t think, but certain parts are rebuilding and doing okay. Where I live it really wasn’t affected, thank god, so where I’m at it’s not even that bad,. There are still people fixing up some of the houses but for the most part, it’s cleaned up and better than before the storm, so that’s cool.

Why did you decide to record in Los Angeles?
Basically, our producer lived out there; Rex was living out there at the time [as well]. We thought, number one, there aren’t many studios to choose from in New Orleans — most of the good ones were flooded. We had decided against doing it out at Phil’s, like we did on the last one. So it was kind of just a natural thing; we thought a change of environment might help. But we really just shuttled back and forth between the hotel and studio; there wasn’t time for anything else.

I understand you have some acoustic stuff that didn’t make it on to the record.
It keeps getting out; we do have some acoustic stuff but there are a couple of other heavy rock ones that didn’t make it on to the record too, and there’s a couple of things we demoed that didn’t even get recorded that are really good. We still have tons of riff tapes and there’s so much stuff that didn’t get used. I’m sure it’ll see the light of day at some point.

Do you guys get together and jam out the tunes or do you write stuff individually?
Sometimes we’ll individually have riffs and we’ll get together and work on them but usually we do a lot of sitting in a circle and jamming. Someone will have a riff and we’ll work on it from there together.

You guys definitely strike me as a bunch of guys who appreciate older ’70s rock.
Oh, big time.

Do you think that feel and vibe is missing in music today?
Yeah, and I think that’s kind of why we do what we do. We try to stand apart from what’s going in the new metal stuff, if you want to call it that. We’re really trying to just stand out and do our thing, and it’s definitely heavily influenced by the whole ’70s feel.

I appreciate bands that still carry that tradition on because I was only alive for three years in the ’70s, I wasn’t around to see Zeppelin.
[laughs] Oh, cool, man.

Have you got any new stuff in the works with Crowbar?
Yeah, I got about four or five new tunes. It’s just a matter of getting some time to actually get together with the guys and hammer them out and whatnot. But there will definitely be another Crowbar record.

The other guys in the band, they’ve got other projects like Corrosion of Conformity or Eyehategod. Is that stuff all put aside right now for Down?
Yeah, everything’s on the side for now.

So the new Down record, did you release it yourself on Down Records? What’s the scoop with that?
Yeah, I’m not even sure exactly how it works. It’s our own label in North America through Warner Brothers or something. And we’re on Roadrunner everywhere else in the world.

How’s Roadrunner treating you?
It seems like it’s going well. They do a good job with heavy music, they really do. Especially in Europe and other territories, that’s why we chose them.

I read somewhere that you’re a big Nazareth fan.
I actually just rediscovered the Hair of the Dog album. I had it on vinyl as a kid but I just repurchased it a couple of months ago and am getting back into it.

Speaking of old rockers, how was the Heaven and Hell tour?
Oh, unbelievable, dude. Speaking of still having the voice, Dio was unbelievable. It was great; it was a big honour and a dream come true to be able to play with those guys. It was great.
So what’s the future hold for Down?

Well, a lot of touring, as of right now. Just promoting the record, trying to build the whole thing. The shows are really going well and we just want to keep the ball rolling. (Down/Warner)