Every new release by sludge meisters Down is something to look forward to. The band’s latest release is so-called “The Purple EP”, which is the first in a sequence of four different EP’s which will all showcase a different side of the band. Drummer Jimmy Bower is more than happy to shed his light on the latest EP, Down‘s sources of inspiration and the impact of “NOLA”…
Purple EP is built on the traditional pillars of doom, the vocals and riffs capture the same raw vitality as your debut—was this approach intentional?
We definitely were going for a different approach on the production this time. In doing that, we went for a raw approach and also recorded at the ‘Lair’ which is a better vibe as well. Add all these factors together and it’s basically the same as “NOLA”, just 20 something years later! It was very easy for us to put ourselves in that classic Down jam mode!
Is there a concept looming over the four EPs? And if so, could you tell us a bit about it?
Nothing really concrete on the concept end of things, we had talked about a different vibe or style for each EP which gives us a chance to expand on the riffs a bit. Like the first one (EP) we’re talking about, we all agreed it needed to be old school Down. Just “Sabbed off,” we like to say!
You guys have had your fair share of personal hardships and struggles with various vices—all of which have been well documented—however, in the last few years you guys seem to be back on the straight and narrow. Has such personal clarity effected the song-writing here, and can you tell us a bit about the song-writing process and why you decided to fore go the usual full-length in favour of four EPs?
Everyone in this band has been through hell and back at some point…. and being such good friends has helped us to move forward! When we get together to jam, it’s very family-like, we usually all bring a dish of food that we make and have a big cookout or crawfish boil. Set the vibe so to speak…. Plug in and riff off! This EP, the songs seemed to come really natural to us during writing. It was Pepper‘s idea to do four EP’s and we all thought the idea was killer.
Down contains pretty big personalities and songwriters—to say the least! How do you guys manage to put egos aside and work for the benefit of the song, and is it a struggle to do so?
We just get in the ‘Lair’ and jam, man! If anything, we are inspired by each other I think. There is mutual respect, so things tend to go smoothly when we write. We are all pretty laid back guys, so we’ve never had any problems!
Down III: Over the Under was a direct reaction to the disastrous aftermath of hurricane Katrina, what has been the inspiration this time round? What lyrical themes are explored, and do they vary on each EP?
As far as inspiration for us, just jamming again has been inspiring. Every time this band jams, it is always good times as of lately! We have ‘Witchtripper’ which was inspired by old superstitions in a small town in Spain where we stayed. The local people put rocks to trip the witches on their doorsteps… add a joint to that and you have ‘Witchtripper’. Check out the video!
Is Pat Bruders going to be in the band for the foreseeable future? How did you settle on Pat as a member? Surely there were musician friends coming out of the wood work to join Down, or did you guys even make the vacancy known? How much influence has he had on this series of EPs?
Yes, Pat is a solid bona fide member of Down. Pat was an easy pick because he lives in NOLA, already plays in Crowbar and understands our style of groove. Pat is an insane finger picking bass player which just adds to our sound. He joined during the writing process and plays his ass off on these new songs! Together we work extra hard to be the best rhythm section we can… He is also one of the coolest dudes I know!
Can you tell us a bit about the reasons surrounding Rex’s departure? Is the door open for Rex to re-join at a later stage or is he gone for good?
I will say that we love Rex and are happy for him and his success with Kill Devil Hill. Rex is always a part of our family!!
What can the fans expect from the remaining three EPs? Musically, is there a big sonic departure from the doom-mongering of “Purple”?
I hope we do some more of the trippy, Sabbed out mellow stuff like we did on “Down 2″… A few more like ‘Bury Me In Smoke’ where the riff is slammed down the throat will happen, I’m sure. Those are fun to jam ’cause of how much feel you can put into songs like that! That’s the cool thing, is that we are open to playing around with the riffs and the grooves to the point that we have many different styles developed as Down.
It has been 21 years since Down formed, what drives you guys to continue to create music together? When you look back at when you were passing around your demo, did you ever think the band would have ended up being this popular and lasting this long?
When that record came out Phil was on top of the world with Pantera, Pepper and Kirk were enjoying success with Corrosion Of Conformity and Crowbar, and I was doing EyeHateGod at the time too. “NOLA” came out on my birthday, Sept.19 1995. I really thought we sounded different from all the bands we were already in, and unique altogether. I’ve had some of the best times in my life with four of my best friends and met a ton of people that I admire and are proud to call my friends. I hope it lasts forever…Are we popular?
Words and Questions by Dean Brown.