Let me start at the end.
Down’s set ends with a full on stage invasion of the Down family: the support acts and the technicians. They seize Down’s instruments and take over the grinding outro riff of Down’s classic track, ‘Bury Me In Smoke’ from their debut album ‘NOLA’ . The band members – free of their instruments – stomp about the stage throwing fists in the air and giving out copious man hugs. It’s an emotional end to an epic evening of classic heavy rock.
Down are a band that have been on the lips of metalers since ’92 when the rumours of the new ‘supergroup’ from New Orleans spread. A group that was made of members of two big bands: Crowbar (sludgy and grinding); Corrosion of Conformity (a sharp, riff-heavy metal outfit) … and one huge band : Pantera – The Cowboys from Hell – one of the 90’s most successful heavy bands. During the 90’s all three bands had been regulars on the global touring scene. You could find any of them on stages at arenas and heavy metal festivals all over the world. But it was Pantera that reached true global stardom, with arena shows such as the 1991 Monsters of Rock performance in Moscow, to over 1.5m people .
The original line up of Down consisted of Pantera’s front man Phil Anselmo; Crowbar’s bass player Todd Strange; drummer Jimmy Bower; and guitar player Kirk Windstein and Corrosion of Conformity’s Pepper Keenan. Rex Brown (of Pantera) took over from Todd Strange after their first album ‘NOLA’ and was Down’s long term bassist, until relatively recently Patrick Brudders took over on bass.
Down’s debut album ‘NOLA’, finally came out in 1995 and was welcomed by fans and critics alike. The band toured once before going on hiatus alowing the members to focus on their respective pre-existing bands. Over the proceeding two decades Down have released albums when they could, toured sporadically and as a result of their ‘lack of profile’ become a huge cult underground rock band.
My day had started at 3pm with the photographer in the Camden Monarch, prepping to interview Down’s guitarist Kirk Windstein. Already there was a plethora of Down fans taking root in Camden. At the allotted time we headed back stage at the nearby Roundhouse to meet Kirk.
Kirk greets us with a smile, he’s easy to talk to and keeps strong eye contact as I get into my questions. I’ve read comment after comment online from fans commending his beard, but in the flesh its truly magnificent! A lion’s mane. We talk about touring and the formation of Down. He laughs often and is clearly happy to discuss the band at length.
Check out the full interview below on YouTube.
Referring to their long periods of inactivity in the past, he tells me now the members of Down are ‘old’ the time has come for the band to become a ‘priority’. Kirk describes Down as a ‘massive underground band’ who ‘have fun’ and ‘throw down hard!’.
During the show, as I watch the five men romp through a blistering set of classic heavy rock, I think of one word to encapsulate them: veterans.
The relative intimacy of London’s charismatic Roundhouse is the perfect space to fill with emotional mettalers. The room feels friendly and manic all at once, easy going metal fans stand rocking throughout most of the room and there’s a swirling mosh-pit in the centre, that’s definitely not for the faint hearted.
Although the Roundhouse was formally a railway engine shed, it feels like an old church. During the set Phil Anselmo jibes, “On a Sunday? Shouldn’t you all be in church? This is some f***ed up church!” He struts about the stage wearing a grimace that’s been cultivated over years of performing heavy metal. Never taking himself too seriously or distancing himself from the huge crowd . At one point I catch him patting his belly in time with the beat, and far too many times I see him headbutt the mic . I find myself rubbing my head in sympathy.
The bands encore is long and epic and ends as I began. On my way back to the tube an excited fan tells me he’s about to get the coach back to Nottingham, I realise he’s not alone and that lots of people have come miles for this show.
On tour in Europe now!
Wed Oct 24, 2012 Bataclan Paris,France
Thu Oct 25, 2012 Melkweg Holland, Amsterdam
Sat Oct 27, 2012 Den Atelier Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Sun Oct 28, 2012 Komplex Zurich, Switzerland
Mon Oct 29, 2012 Magazzini Generali Milan,
Italy Wed Oct 31, 2012 FZW / Freizeitzentrum West Dortmund, Germany
Photos where stated from www.marklatham.co.uk