By Christine Leonard
CALGARY – America’s other favourite string trimmers, the indomitable Weedeater, is North Carolina’s answer to that persistent mental overgrowth that’s been hampering your pit game. Whip-snapping spines and ears since 1998, the outfit was sparked by Dave “Dixie” Collins who drove the project forward with the same sludgy basslines and swamp-holler vocals that helps launch his thrashier, noisier outfit Buzzoven back 1990.
“The formula for what we do is quite simple. It’s cave metal. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” explains Dixie. “It’s easy to play and hard to write. We’ve got a bunch of new riffs now that sound just like Weedeater, so I imagine we will put them to tape as soon as we can.”
It fits their pattern. Having signed to Berserker Records, Weedeater emerged with their debut album, … And Justice For Y’all in 2001 with their second LP, Sixteen Tons, following in in 2003. Both releases established Weedeater as a powerful force to be reckoned with. Their strafing vocals and punishingly heavy downstrokes were well-aligned with tourmates like Down, Arch Enemy and Gwar that saw festivals unfurled the green carpet for Dixie, guitarist Dave “Shep” Shepherd and drummer Keith “Keko” Kirkum. By 2009 Weedeater was conquering the world and moving on to Southern Lord Records. Their third album, God Luck and Good Speed, which appeared later that year and 2011’s Jason… The Dragon shared the distinction of having been produced by punk-producer guru Steve Albini (Big Black, Shellac, Pegboy).
“Yeah, we’re gonna plan on getting in there (the studio) in 2019 after this run of shows with C.O.C. (Corrosion of Conformity),” Dixie confirms. “We might be doing it before or after we tour Europe this summer. I’ve gotta talk to the guys, Steve Albini and everybody at Electrical Audio and find out what their availability is.”
2013 saw more shake-ups for Weedeater as Travis Owen took over drumming duties and the group migrated to the French record company Season of Mist. Their new label subsequently reissued the band’s back-catalogue and their latest doom metal meets southern rock offering, Goliathan, which dropped in 2015.
“We’ve never been much of a political band. Even though there are some political songs, but their meanings are hidden. Like the song ‘Weed Monkeys’ people think it’s about weed monkeys, but it’s about government. The Goliathan record had a lot of weird Biblical themes to it. The next record is going to have some themes, as well. Possibly plant based.”
Naturally, given their name, receiving treats from fans is an occupational hazard for Dixie and the pot diners in Weedeater.
“We get them given to us all the time, I guess that’s built into the name. I like ‘em! Especially for long rides, they’re great. We’ve got a driver on tour now, so they definitely help pass the time and make you feel good! There’s lots of places in the U.S. where you can buy edibles that have been regulated and packaged up and everything. They tell you what you’re dealing with, so you know not to overdo it. Or to overdo it, if that’s what you’re trying to do. The people that bring us their homemade gifts like that are forthright about telling us what’s in it and how much. One time, years ago, our old drummer ate a whole cookie that was supposed to be a four-way and that about ruined him for a couple of days. But he knew better, and he was told not to do it. He said ‘Whatever, I’ll eat the whole damn thing! I’m a grown man!’ and sure enough he was curled up in the corner whimpering.”
Looking out for each other on the road meant that it was easy for Dixie and Shep to bond with incoming drummer Carlos Denogean who replaced an ailing Owen in 2017. The rapport Denogean shared with his bandmates and his passion for performing live clearly evident and heartfelt, as is the impact of his sudden death in August of 2018.
“That was very rough. It was very surprising. He was a super healthy dude. He was young. I mean, he was 30 years-old. I was in a band when he was born! Pretty crazy. He didn’t smoke. Barely drank. Jogged on the beach every day. In fact, he did that morning. I guess with brain aneurisms it’s not something you see coming. He didn’t. And we certainly didn’t.”
Faced with terrible grief, impending tour obligations and the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, Dixie and Shep had to make some hard decisions about continuing to thrive on adversity as a band.
“It was difficult. I tried to back out of it several times. But Pepper (Keenan) from C.O.C. is a good buddy of mine and he really wanted us to do it. So, we eventually capitulated like ‘Fine! We’ll do it.’ The guy that’s gonna play drums with us now is Ramzi Ateyeh. I’ve played in bands with him before. He was in Sourvein for a bit with my cousin T-Roy (Troy Medlin),” Dixie elaborates. “I’ve played with him for years, so I know he’s a damn good drummer. It’s cave metal, once again. So, as long as he keeps his elbows above his earlobes and beats the shit out of them drums that’s all we need, and we’ll roll with it.”
Weedeater performs with Corrosion of Conformity and Crowbar at Starlite Room (Edmonton) on Feb. 4 with Corrosion of Conformity; Marquee Beer Market and Stage (Calgary) on Feb. 5; and with Crowbar at Park Theatre (Winnipeg) on Feb. 7.Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar, Marquee Beer Market and Stage, Park Theatre, Starlite Room, Weedeater