“We‘re definitely a lot more tired, beat up a little bit and minus one toe,” Collins says in his dry North Carolina drawl. “I blew off half my toe about two months ago. I was getting ready to clean a shotgun and doing too many things at once, having drinks. I’ll be getting around on a cane for a little while, but I’ll be OK.”
A decade and a half ago, when Collins had a full complement of toes, he was looking for a creative outlet away from his duties with Sludge Metal band Buzzov-en. It wasn’t difficult for Collins to find like-minded players in the Cape Fear scene; they all practiced at the same storage unit facility. He ultimately connected with guitarist Shep and drummer Keko from Cape Fear faves Shake who were similarly interested in exploring different sounds from their primary gig.
“We started getting together and jamming after our other bands were done practicing,” Collins says from the back of the band’s van in Orlando, Fla. “That was basically how we got together.”
The sound that emerged from the trio’s Cape Fear storage locker in 1994 was a chunky lava flow of howlingly downtuned guitar, thunderous bass and pile-driving drums that was appealing enough for the threesome to make their arrangement permanent. They dubbed the new aggregation Weedeater.
For the first five years, Weedeater was more or less a side project as Collins, Shep and Keko remained busy with their other bands. That all changed in 1999.
“I was pretty busy with Buzzov-en through those years, until Buzzov-en’s break-up in ’99,” Collins says. “At the same time, (Weedeater) actually had a demo that nobody really knows about.”
With the end of both Buzzov-en and Shake, Weedeater became a full-time proposition and the band began devoting their complete attention to their five-year-old project. Word of Weedeater’s incendiary live shows began to spread which, coupled with their demo, earned the band a contact with Berserker, resulting in the debut album, 2001’s Injustice for Y’All, followed a year later by Sixteen Tons for Berserker Records.
Both featured Weedeater’s patented monolithically-mutated Black Sabbath riff-wrangling set to an almost glacial Metal pace, but Collins notes that a lot of diverse influences are at the heart of Weedeater’s sound.
“Black Sabbath, certainly, but there are a lot of Southern Rock influences as well,” Collins says. “Maybe My War-era Black Flag, Primus, even Blue Cheer and the Accused. A pretty wide range of influences, I would say. Someone that somebody might not expect? Maybe Tom Waits. Or maybe somebody would expect that.”
For Weedeater’s third full length, 2007’s God Luck and Good Speed, the band switched labels yet again, this time to Southern Lord Records, and journeyed north to record at legendary producer Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studio in Chicago. It was a perfect blend of band and producer.
“Albini’s awesome, man,” Collins says. “He’s a great producer, easy to work with, a super nice guy and just the best there is as far as picking up on a band’s live vibe and sound. And working with analog, he’s the man. It worked out great for us. We got the record done in like four and a half days.”
One of Albini’s tried and true methods of recording was the perfect way to capture Weedeater’s concussive live presence.
“A lot of time, people baffle off your amps and try to turn it into surgery and keep everything separated,” Collins says. “He gets all the tones to mix together. Me and Shep’s amps were right next to each other in the same room. He uses all that bleed-over instead of hiding from it.”
Albini also helped Weedeater achieve one of their stated goals from the outset, which was to craft God Luck and Good Speed into a unified piece of work.
“We definitely wanted the record to feel like one record instead of a collection of songs,” Collins says. “I think the sequencing of the songs is just as important as the songs themselves. And I think we did a good job of that. It’s a listenable record from beginning to end as one whole unit and we’re really proud of that.”
One of Weedeater’s signature moves is to adapt another band’s song to their Slowcore sound. They downtuned David Crosby’s “Southern Cross” on the first album and, indicative of their Southern roots, they covered Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Gimme Back My Bullets” on God Luck. Collins doesn’t discount the possibility of more covers in the future.
“We’ve done that in the past and we’ve considered doing something on the new record, too, but I don’t know if we will or not,” he says. “I guess we’ll wait and see what strikes us when we get in there.”
If all goes well, the fourth Weedeater album will drop this fall; the band is headed back to Chicago in April to re-team with Albini to produce a concept album titled Chasing the Dragon, which Collins describes as “one person’s life, basically.”
Until then, Weedeater will continue to pursue a relentless road schedule, just as they have for the past 16 years. For a band to be together for this long without a change in personnel is an accomplishment, but to last this long playing a style of music that has a relatively insular fan base and a limited peer group who does the same thing is quite astonishing.
“The most important thing for a touring band to have, second only to a vehicle, would be a sense of humor,” Collins says. “Without it, we definitely would not be together. We’ve been the same three guys and haven’t had a member change since the inception of the band, and a lot of people can’t say that. We may be a bunch of fuckups, but at least we pulled that off.”
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