Interview with Down: Over And Above

DownIt’s been a long road for Down. The loss of a dear friend and brother in Dimebag Darrell in 2004 and the ravaging of their New Orleans home base the following August left the band as a collective with little more than bone, nerve and sinew. The raw emotion and ensuing separation, combined with recovering from various addictions, could have easily caused lesser bands to retreat and call it a day. Not Down. Instead, they’re determined to reach beyond the landmark material they’ve been laying down, intermittently, since 1995’s NOLA. And it looks like they’re doing it.

For the unfamiliar, the cast hasn’t changed from 2002’s Down II: on guitars, Pepper Keenan (Corrosion Of Conformity) and Kirk Windstein (Crowbar); bass, Rex Brown (Pantera); drums, Jimmy Bower (Eyehategod); and vocals, Phil Anselmo (Pantera). They’ve been called a supergroup, and it’s a pretty fair assessment. You’d be hard pressed to put greater Southern heavy metal talent in a room together than this lineup.

After Phil made some phone calls in the winter of last year, the quintet did just that, and in the end, they’ve released, this week, Over The Under, their phoenix rising. It’s a hell of a story of rebirth and renewal, but I’ll leave it to Rex to tell it.

Going back to last year, at what point did you know you would be doing Down again?

Phil had called, and you know we went through a hell of a fucking deal with Dime and that whole tragedy, which I really don’t like getting into, but we miss him dearly. So Phil and I were on the phone constantly, and he was going through some battles, the back surgery and the whole bit, and then Katrina fucking hit. I couldn’t get him on the phone, nobody could get in touch with each other, didn’t know where anybody was, literally, for fucking months.

In February of 2006, we all flew down, and I had already kind of put management into place after we had all said, ‘Yeah, let’s all sit down and see what we want to do.’ Everybody had it in their thick skulls that we definitely wanted to jam again. So we wanted to test the waters and see where we were. ‘Let’s book some dates in Europe, around the festival time, and see what happens.’ We go over there, do 21 shows, we sell out every fucking show, sell out every t-shirt that we could possibly print up. The fans were still fucking there, rabid. Down had never been to Europe before. And then we started writing songs and kind of putting everything together.

It’s been a long process, because of all the Katrinas and the Dimes, and all that stuff that we really had to be positive with each other and help each other out through. When you lose a lot of people dear to you, it’s one of those processes. We got in and started writing at Phillip’s place in July or August, something like that. We had already done a little bit of jamming here and there, and I was living in Los Angeles, where I am, I’m back and forth. So I was going down there and jamming and coming back, about every two weeks or something like that. Then this album started taking a form all its own. We just decided to get all the gear, put it in a truck, go out to L.A.