Down Drummer Talks Down IV and Rock on the Range
Interview by Jerel Johnson
On February 10 at 1:00 p.m., I was fortunate to talk with legendary NOLA metal musician and current Down drummer, Jimmy Bower. Down finished mixing its fourth record the previous night, and Jimmy was happy to give me the skinny on how the record sounded and the concept of the record. The new record is scheduled for a May release, coinciding with the band’s performance at Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio. It was obvious from our chat that metal heads will not be disappointed with the record.
Target Audience: When’s the new Down record coming out?
Jim Bower: We finished last night (February 9 at time of interview) with the mixing and everything. So, all we have to do now is get it mastered and the artwork is all done. So I think maybe early May. It takes a while to get everything together; it took us a little longer with the recording process so it’s done. We finished it last night. It sounds killer.
TA: What does it sound like compared to your previous albums?
JB: We went for a really raw sound and went back to NOLA. The songs are really Sabbathed-out. I’m really happy the way it came out. It’s really aggressive and raw. All them rock n’ roll adjectives in there bro. It’s doomy!
TA: Any songs similar to “Stone the Crow” or “Jail” or is it pretty much an all-out blitz?
JB: No, the idea is we’re doing four EPs and the first one is pretty much cut-throat. The third one is supposed to be the acoustic one. But we’re releasing four EPs within the next year and a half. They all coincide with one theme. Like the artwork and everything. It’s like a big story.
TA: Like a concept record?
JB: Exactly. A concept with 4 EPs.
TA: What’s the theme? Is there a back story?
JB: No. Well, it’s kind of like end of the world kind of shit. Just the times we’re in. it reflects on how humanity is going apeshit. As far as concepts I don’t know.
TA: What’s the name of the record?
JB: Down IV, I think. I saw the artwork last night. There wasn’t an album title or anything. The artwork looks great.
TA: What’s the picture of? What’s the cover?
JB: I’m not gonna say anything man. Pepper usually does all the artwork; he does a really good job.
TA: Pepper is a good artist?
JB: Yeah, he does all the artwork for Down.
TA: I didn’t know that and I’m a COC fan.
JB: He did all the artwork for those records he was on as well.
TA: From Blind on? That’s excellent. So how have the shows been?
JB: They’ve been good. We haven’t been playing much. We’ve been pretty much busy with the recording process. But we have a festival in Ohio (Rock On The Range) and we’re going to do a couple of shows around that. We’re pretty much waiting for the release so we can get out and start working a little harder.
TA: When the new record comes out, are you going to do a national or world tour?
JB: Yeah. Probably start in the U.S. and work our way to Europe, and hopefully go to Japan and Australia, and hopefully back to South America.
TA: You have fun in South America?
JB: We went to South America in November and it was really cool. We’d never been down there before and we were received really well and it’s a great place to tour.
TA: Now the band formed in ’91-’92?
TA: Phil was in Pantera, you did some work with Eyehategod and Pepper was in COC. When you released NOLA, it was an underground sensation. I believe it went gold on word of mouth alone. How has the metal scene changed regarding popularity? How would you compare it now to then?
JB: Then, it was really kind of fresh. We weren’t doing too much from what Soundgarden was doing. That was a big influence back then, and all the Witchfinder stuff. It seems like the people are a little more open to this genre music, but to me Down is a rock band. Rock music has been around for ever and kind of put off to the side into metal. I think Down; people accept it more as a rock band, not just a metal band. Back in ’91 it was really fresh to us.
TA: Where was Down IV produced?
JB: It was recorded at the Lair again (Phil Anselmo’s studio) the same place we did Down II and recorded it at a New Orleans studio. The last record, Over the Under, we recorded in L.A. because a lot of the studios weren’t up and running after Katrina. So it was really nice to stay home and have that New Orleans vibe in the record to as well. Makes a difference man.
TA: As far as song titles which one sticks out from the new record?
TA: What does it sound like?
JB: It’s fire bro. It sounds like Down and I’m really excited about it. I’m more excited about it than Over the Under. Over the Under was a great record, but I think the production was a little too much, and this takes us back to the raw roots and the songs are good. But “Witchtripper” is my favorite one. We were in Spain for a festival, and walking around and we kept seeing rocks on peoples’ doors. We were like “dude it must be to trip a witch.” At first, it seemed kind of silly, but once we wrote the song and lyrics — Philip wrote the lyrics — it was really cool. Hopefully, we’ll make a video for it too.
TA: In regards to the music industry how has it changed in the past 20 years? Has it been better to you or since Down is a metal band have you guys been able to find your own niche?
JB: Well, the older you get, the wiser you grow about the industry. When you’re really young they try to take advantage of you. They did me, but now, being a lot more educated about how things are done, I think it’s gotten back to the whole DIY thing, at least for the underground. It’s just a lot easier for bands to put their stuff out which is a good thing or a bad thing. The opportunity for people to put anything out has definitely grown, and I think that’s really cool.
TA: So how have social networking sites like Facebook have helped Down with connecting with your fans or getting the music out there?
JB: It’s great. I can see in the future bands doing concerts; you pay online to see it and you can sit and jam. It’s just things we’ve been talking about in the future, but obviously nothing takes away from the vibe of a real live show. It’d be cool if while bands are recording you could log online and check out what they’re doing.
TA: You mentioned underground. Are there any southern bands that you are vibing on at the moment?
JB: From Arkansas you have Rwake. Weedeater is really good. The new Orange Goblin is really good; they’re from England. There’s a band from New Orleans called Mountain of Wizard. They sound like metal meets Boston. They’re really cool; they don’t have any vocals. We’re doing a show tonight with Eyehategod, and a new band called Black Witchgod playing. The drummer was from a New Orleans band called Graveyard Rodeo from the 80s. There’s Soilent Green, Outlaw Order. These are all with friends I know. It’s just I don’t get out of New Orleans unless I go play somewhere.
TA: What are your top 5 metal records of all time?
JB: Captain Beyond: Captian Beyond, Pentagram: Relentless, Black Sabbath: Black Sabbath and Volume 4. And Witchfinder General.
TA: What advice would you give to younger bands trying to make it in this industry?
JB: You gotta be pissed off and play fast. You gotta be pissed off and fuckin’ let it show. Don’t stop try and play as much as you can. That’s what we did. Write good songs don’t worry about gimmicks and shit.
TA: It was a pleasure, thank you
JB: Take care.