Down Interview Jimmy Bower (drums)By Dave Borgioli-Jones
There’s a reason why Jimmy Bower is also known as the Godfather of Southern Metal. He plays – or has played in – so many of the most notable bands in the genre including EYEHATEGOD, SUPERJOINT RITUAL, CROWBAR, CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, and DOWN. The latter of those bands is about to release the first of four EPs which by all accounts will cover everything from the acoustic to the mightiest doom riffs you can imagine. DOWN IV Part I – The Purple EP hits NZ stores in September 2012 and Jimmy’s on the phone from New Orleans to tell us all about it…
NZRock: So what was the idea behind doing multiple EP releases instead of another album?
Jimmy: Well I think that since DOWN plays so many styles of music we’ve come up with a good way to present that you know. The first record is like old school DOWN and the second, third and fourth we’re going to experiment because we’ve written so many different kinds of songs it’d be nice to elaborate a little more on those styles. We figured this would be a good way to do that you know. We’ve got some good stuff up our sleeves.
NZRock: Do you still have to write music for the other EPs or is everything written and set in stone already?
Jimmy: No, we have a new bass player now and Pat (Patrick Bruders – GOATWHORE / CROWBAR) is like a big Frank Zappa freak so I dont know, it brings more juice, more flavour to the writing. I guess you could call DOWN like a heavy rock blues band so whatever direction a band like that can go in we’re going to try and take it four different ways. We do have more written but not like full songs you know.
NZRock: You did ‘The Mystick Krew Of Clearlight’ back in 2000, would you like to revisit that style?
Jimmy: Yeah man, actually I’m working on my solo record now thanks for asking. That’s cool music, we like that kind of stuff you know. Like the prog rock like CAPTAIN BEYOND. It was a fun band. We played Madi Gras and like I said my solo album will be stuff like doob interludes but a whole record of it. It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do.
You’ve played in so many bands – EYEHATEGOD, SUPERJOINT RITUAL, DOWN, THE MYSTIC KREW OF CLEARLIGHT and more… are you happy having all of these different outlets or if you could do it again would you prefer just to be in one band?
Jimmy: No man, if anything it’s made me a more well rounded player. I think it has. It’s got it’s advantages and it’s disadvantages. Disadvantages being scheduling and stuff like that. In the 90s at some points it was almost too much. But I pretty much do EYEHATEGOD and DOWN is our main band. Whatever projects we do on the side, we pride ourselves on calling ourselves musicians so that means playing. Getting to know the instruments better is always a plus as well.
NZRock: Going back to the new DOWN EP, you’ve mentioned a few times that you felt ‘Over The Under’ was over produced. With that in mind and creating this new EP, how did you create that heavy doom sound without over producing?
Jimmy: Well, to me there are two different ways… to me heavy is a way somebody perceives something therefore a CAROL KING song or a FLEETWOOD MAC song could be heavy. And then there are people who perceive big production to be heavy. We went more back on the songs themselves being heavy as opposed to worrying about the tones being like super too big. When we did ‘Over The Under’ we’d had Katrina and there were no studios in New Orleans so that sucked. So we had to go out to L.A to record which kinda wasn’t our vibe and we wound up in this huge studio so of course we went nuts you know. But back to this record, it’s just a lot fresher to get back to the organic stuff. We were in Phil’s barn recording, it just felt right dude. The tones were better, I think everybody’s moods were better and I think it showed on the new record.
NZRock: What’s it like in Phil’s studio Nodferatu’s lair. Can you describe what’s on the walls etc?
Jimmy: It’s killer man. He moved in there I guess in 1988 or 89. It’s a lot of land you know and he’s got his house and a big barn and that’s what we call Nodferatu’s lair. We’re out there recording DOWN II Pepper painted it real big on the side of it. It’s just a big barn with some of the craziest rock memorabilia you can imagine inside of there. Like all five of us have brought stuff over but mainly it’s Philip’s stuff. He’s got stupid cool stuff so the atmosphere is really cool to jam in, it makes sense man.
NZRock: Is it quite private there or have you had stalker fans try and track it down?
Jimmy: Nah he’s never really had anybody come try and track it down. We let our friends come out there and check us out jamming or whatever. It’s about an hour and a half drive from New Orleans but it’s really nice out there. It’s peaceful and it’s the perfect place for a band to go and write and practice… that’s what SKYNNARD did man, and that’s what SABBATH did as well.
NZRock: You’ve said the first single ‘Witchtripper’ is one of your favourites on the EP. I really dig that song ‘This Work Is Timeless’, the riffs are awesome. Does that one rank up there for you as well?
Jimmy: Thank you man. Yeah, me and Phil wrote that song together so it definitely has special meaning to me. It’s a song from the ‘Over The Under’ period and ‘Misfortune Teller’ was one like that but all the rest, the other four were freshly written with Pat and that was a good way to break him in too because he didn’t have to learn some other dudes stuff and he got to really be himself which helped with the transition a lot.
NZRock: So do you guys have any plans to do a music video for this first EP?
Jimmy: That’s funny that you say that I just pulled up at the …have you ever heard of The House Of Shock? We’re filming the video for ‘Witchtripper’ and we’re doing some shots over here then we’re going to film it out at Phil’s on Wednesday and Thursday so you must have a crystal ball son haha!
NZRock: Haha I wish it did!
Jimmy: Yeah man you could watch us recording haha! But yeah, we have a pretty cool video coming for the song ‘Witchtripper’, I think everybody’s going to like it.
NZRock: This EP is the first of four. What’s the schedule of release for the rest, do you have any kind of set plan?
Jimmy: I just know each one is meant to be a different style of music. We’ve got some stuff written but we’ve still got a lot of stuff left to write which we’re not really worried about, we’re actually looking forward to it. So we’re trying not to push it and just let it happen naturally. I think we’re probably going to try and jam in September. It’ll be interesting to see how the other EPs pan out. I’m excited.
NZRock: Kirk is coming over these ways with KINGDOM OF SORROW for Soundwave next year. We’ve been hanging out to see DOWN again and I was wondering, if Kirk is coming over for that could the rest of you guys be coming with DOWN?
Jimmy: I think there’s a very good chance. The first EP is coming out so whenever we put a record out we usually hit it pretty hard on the touring. I know New Zealand has always been great for DOWN so hopefully we’ll be back there again.
NZRock: I saw you on the tour with HEAVEN AND HELL last time and that was awesome.
Jimmy: Dude how killer was that! That was bad man. It was awesome, every night we were like freaking out. They were just so heavy!
NZRock: That was the last time Ronnie James Dio was in New Zealand as far as I know. What memories do you have of him? Did you get to hang out much?
Jimmy: Actually Ronnie was probably one of the coolest heros I’ve ever met in my life. I dont know, I just feel very lucky to have been able to hang out with him for the short amount of time that we did. He was totally normal, totally cool, totally down to earth… no ego you know. And just an amazing singer. All those stories that you hear about that dude, they’re true. We first met him in Canada because we did a Canadian leg before we came over there. He was just really friendly, just walking around, didn’t look sick at all. It’s sad man, but it’s an honour to have been able to meet him and to play some shows with him. It’s a fucken waaaay big honour.
NZRock: I’ve noticed in your interviews you’re pretty down to earth yourself but there are plenty of egos in the industry. Have you come across any notable ones in your time?
Jimmy: Oh yeah they’re out there man. Dude, being from New Orleans everyone’s so down to earth. Down here you try and act like that people will just shoot you down immediately so it ain’t going to happen here. I don’t know, some people are just a little more proud of what they do than other people I guess haha! That’s a good way of putting it.
NZRock: Southern metal… doom and sludge. It’s a big thing in your neck of the woods and you’re pretty much had a hand in most of the well known bands of the genre. What put you on that path in the first place?
Jimmy: MEVLINS dude! MELVINS fucked everybody over. I’m serious, MELVINS came out with ‘Gluey Porch Treatment’ and we lost our fucken minds. That was the band that I’d been hearing since I was a kid. I my eyes no band could be any heavier and it just had such an influence and made us go off to listen to so much other cool stuff like ST. VITUS, old BLACK FLAG, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, PENTAGRAM, THE OBSESSED, old SABBATH, old SKYNNARD… HANK JR. I don’t know man, it’s was just amazing shit.
NZRock: What in your opinion is one of the greatest doom riffs ever written?
Jimmy: Oh fuck… I’d have to say Jerusalem (SLEEP) is pretty fucken bad dude for this era. But for like back in the 70s, ‘Medusa’ by TRAPEZE. You can’t get no cockier than that, that’s bad haha! Glenn Hughes bro.
NZRock: In DOWN you play drums but obviously you play guitar in your other bands as well. How much do you contribute to DOWN guitar-wise?
Jimmy: I bring riffs in every time. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. That’s the cool thing about DOWN. Phil plays guitar too and he’s a really good song writer man. You’ve got Pepper who is kind of a singer songwriter type style. You’ve got Kirk who is kinda like traditional metal but loves CARNIVORE and shit. I just think it all blends together for an interesting band. It always has been.
NZRock: Yeah it’s definitely a real metal supergroup and it works.
Jimmy: Thank you man. It’s a fun band to play in, I’m not gonna lie.
NZRock: When the TV series SONS OF ANARCHY started out there were quite a few stoner rock bands featured on there like FU MANCHU, CLUTCH and MONSTER MAGNET. Did you guys ever get approached to have music featured on the show?
Jimmy: Actually I’ve been meaning to watch that because a lot of my friends really dig it. But I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet. But no, not that I know of, we’ve never been approached. Actually, EYEHATEGOD has been in a couple of movies. The music was in Without A Paddle. While these guys were butchering catfish they were listening to an EYEHATEGOD song. And we appeared on the Gumbo soundtrack. We’re like on the soundtrack but we’re not in the movie. From what I understand the director was such a big fan of EYEHATEGOD he just wanted one of our songs on the soundtrack which I thought was super cool.
NZRock: EYEHATEGOD is an awesome band as well, I love that song ‘Shop Lift’. It’d be great to see you over here at some stage with the band at some stage too.
Oh cool man. We’ve been playing that one lately too. That’s another band that we hope to get over to New Zealand too. When we played there with HEAVEN AND HELL I walked around and talked to a lot of kids and stuff and they were all just like total doom heads and I was like wow this is awesome. It’s amazing how all that shit travels.
Listen to DOWN’s new ‘Witchtripper’ single below:
Ryan Forsythe (vocals / guitar)
Pietro Beltrami (vocals) and Marcello Lega (guitar)
Jona Weinhofen (guitar / vocals)
Raffaele Galasso (vocals / guitar / bass / synths)
Dez Fafara (vocals)
Mark Hosking (guitar)
Booga Beazley (vocals)
Jaz Coleman (vocals)
Tomi Joutsen (vocals)
Josh Eppard (drums)