Down's drummer Jimmy Bower and the rest of the band arrived last week in preparation for Soundwave and their Sidewave shows with Alice In Chains and Walking Papers, Duff McKagan's latest project. I also heard that the Down lads caught up with Portal for some fat jams and some juicy pipe work. If you didn't catch their set at Soundwave then it's tough titty, my lad – it was totally sweet. I know because I was there.
I spoke to Jimmy a mere one hour before Down's set at the Brisbane Soundwave; has everyone adjusted to the Australian time-zones yet? "No! I think we all got jet-lag pretty bad but it's all good." Regarding their Sidewave gigs; Jimmy is stoked. "We're excited about those, man. I think that's a good line-up for us. Alice In Chains is a great band and I think Down is unique as well – I haven't heard Walking Papers yet but if Duff's got his name to it, I'm sure it's killer." Jimmy also tells me that he's mad keen to catch Mastodon, Clutch and Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats (I also saw them at the Brisbane show; they went off).
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So touring in a band that's made up of members from a whole bunch of top-end metal acts, does it all get a bit ‘rock-star' on the road? He laughs and plays the whole thing down: "I don't think we know how to be rock stars! We're just humble dudes. We've been playin' these festivals with all these bands for so long; it's cool – it's like a family reunion. You get to see everybody and it's like ‘What's up, dude?!' That's the really cool part about it." And being back in Australia? He's mad for it. "We love Australia. We haven't been here since 2008 when we toured with Heaven and Hell; it was really cool – though I was here a year ago with my other band; Eyehategod."
Down are not renowned for saturating the market with their output (their last release was the 2012 EP Down IV, also known as the Purple EP); what's happening release-wise? It's damned exciting news, that's what. Jimmy says "We just finished recording our second EP and that should be out in May. It's the second of four EPs; it's really cool because we have Bobby (Landgraf), our new guitar player, he's been our tech for five years as Kirk (Windstein) wanted to do Crowbar full-time, so we got Bobby in and it was really cool. We wrote the new EP with him and it was great. We really dig it."
Has the new EP got a name? "Nah, it's just the second EP. The first one wasn't even supposed to be called The Purple EP; the press just saw that it had purple on it; I don't know even know what colour this one is..." When I ask how Bobby is fitting in, Jimmy is succinct. "It's cool. It just makes sense, you know? He's a brother..."
And have you been taking in the local culture? "We went to the petting zoo with the kangaroos – I've been there a few times. Man! It's awesome! Brisbane's a great city and Australia's a great country. We don't get to come over here that much so when we do, we really enjoy it. People are fuckin' wonderful – really cool people, man."
When we speak of getting into the tour groove, he simply says "We've been doing this for so long, it's muscle memory." though he does admit "It's hard to wake up sometimes ..." so I ask about if it's harder adjusting to life after the tour. "Yeah, going home and dealing with family but it's a well wanted and well welcomed thing. The older you get, the less you wanna leave home but you have to." When I interviewed Kirk Windstein last year, he said a similar thing. But now it's even harder for Jimmy. "My wife and I have a ten month old baby girl so that's really thrown a wrench in my whole thing but she (Jimmy's wife, not the baby) is really supportive and it's all about having a supportive family. If you don't have that, you're fucked, especially doin' this kind of shit."
You're on in an hour; any pre-gig rituals or preparations? I get an honest response of "Yeah; beer! Put some shorts on...because I'm playin' the drums I prepare to sweat my balls off!"
Luckily Jimmy is finding the Australian heat quite tolerable, pointing out that "This is like New Orleans – the weather here is actually nice; it's not that bad right now." It's true, we've had a lovely day so far. I chased a piglet...
After Soundwave you're back to the US for some further touring? "We start off in May with Black Label Society and it should be cool, we're lookin' forward to it. Especially with the new EP comin' out and gettin' Bobby to feel even more comfortable about playin' some of those songs." Do you find much difference in the crowds of different countries? "In Europe it's like fuckin' 20 minutes before the show and there's nobody there and then they all show up at once but over here, it more reminds me of American crowds; people are laid back and like havin' their beer..."
Sadly it's all mid-strength piss for the punters at Soundwave. Are you going straight to Sydney or will you hang out here? "Oh, I'm gonna get drunk! I'm gonna hang out."