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DownDown perform at Soundwave at Arena Joondalup this Monday, March 3. SHANE PINNEGAR chats with guitarist, Pepper Keenan, and discovers that the band are just finalising their second in a series of four EPs in place of a fourth album.

Pepper Keenan’s laidback Southern drawl down the line from New Orleans masks the flurry of activity around Down.

“They just finished mixing the second EP yesterday,” he reveals. “Mastered today. We start rehearsing for the Soundwave tour tomorrow.” It’s all go for the band, fronted by ex-Pantera singer, Phil Anselmo.

Keenan explains that the decision to release four EPs in reasonably quick succession was, in part, a reaction to the music industry’s dire straits.

“Yeah, a little bit of that,” he agrees. “A little bit of our own selfishness of not wanting to be a slave to the machine and wanting to do it our way and have a little bit more freedom to move laterally and not be so dictated to spending time on an entire record.”

Keenan’s unconcerned that the band haven’t been overly prolific, releasing only three albums and one EP in almost 20 years.

“You listen to Slayer’s record – their masterpiece – Reign In Blood, it’s 32 minutes long. We started thinking about that shit, and these record labels have got bands beating themselves to a pulp to make a record that’s an hour and 10 minutes long!

“I tend to go for quality over quantity. I think everybody in Down would agree with that. It’s not that we’re having trouble writing songs, we’re just so damned fucking busy and then we’re not going to be pushed by a record company to spit something out that’s mediocre.

“So we’re gonna turn the tables on them – once that shit is on a CD, it’s there for life. We’ve got to make sure it’s right. I’m not interested in spitting shit out just to be prolific.”

Moving the conversation on to Soundwave, Keenan declares “when you’ve got 45 minutes, you’re going to give them a stunner one after another and just blast them. That’s what we’re doing.”

Keenan is also looking forward to a little time off while here on tour.

“I like to hit any beach I can find, pretty much, in Australia. Or any type of off-shore fishing to calm down,” he laughs. “Australia’s a wonderful place. I like to tell people Australia is like America without the bullshit!”

Keenan’s face will be familiar to Metallica fans, too, having featured in the Some Kind Of Monster documentary auditioning to replace bass guitarist, Jason Newsted. He’s sanguine about missing out on the gig to Robert Trujillo.

“It was between me and Trujillo,” he recalls, before joking, “yeah, I was cool with it until I saw the movie and saw Trujillo get a cheque for a million bucks – then I’m like, ‘wait a second now!’

“But hey, everybody’s cool man, it’s a good thing. Everything evolves and happens for a reason. It was an awesome opportunity. I was pretty close in the scheme of things, but in the long scheme of things, I dunno if I would have been Pepper Keenan anymore, I’d have just been the bass player for Metallica.”

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