Jimmy Bower is no stranger to Australian shores, having played here with several of his bands over the last fifteen years – most recently with Eyehategod in late 2012. Next week, it will be in his best known role as the drummer for Down in which he will return here as the band takes up their position on the Soundwave Festival.

“I love Australia,” he says in his slow, easy-going manner. It’s a sentiment he’s expressed before in previous interviews. “It’s a cool place and I’m just looking forward to doin’ these shows.”

Outside the festival appearances, Down will be teaming up with Alice in Chains for performances in Sydney and Melbourne. The two bands share a long friendship; Phil Anselmo sang with the Seattle group at one of their first reunion shows in 2006.

“To me, they’re just as unique as Down is,” Bower says of Alice in Chains. “They should be really cool shows. We’ve played with them a few times and I know Philip’s really good friends with them and Pepper (Keenan – guitar) is, as well. It should be awesome, man. I’m looking forward to hanging out their singer because he used to sing for this little hardcore band that I used to dig.”

Down’s visit co-incides with the imminent arrival of a new release, the currently un-named, highly anticipated follow-up to 2012’s Purple EP. As is typical for this band, information about the recording has been generally low-key but the EP was recently completed at Anselmo’s studio in Louisiana and is likely to surface sometime soon. Soundwave will be the group’s first shows since wrapping the new disc, but fans shouldn’t expect to hear any of the songs during the tour.

“I’d love to [play them] man,” Bower says with a chuckle, “but I don’t know if we know ’em good enough to play ’em yet!”

Bower became a father for the first time in March 2013, but in a year he describes as “weird” he also met with tragedy. His friend Joey LaCaze, with whom he formed Eyehategod in the late 1980s, died suddenly in August shortly after the band returned home from an European tour. And there was a change in the Down camp also, when guitarist Kirk Windstein departed after almost twenty years to concentrate on his main band Crowbar. In spite of it all, Bower wouldn’t have things any other way.

“It’s a little bit harder now, because I have a ten-month old daughter and that makes it a little bit more difficult,” he says of his career. “It’s like… jamming, dude. I don’t know what else to do. I don’t wanna do anything else. That’s one of the cool things about being in Down. Everybody brings to the table, as far as song writing, a lot. Everybody in the band writes. It makes it interesting. In some people’s eyes it’s just simple song writing, but it’s just really fun to hang out with my friends that I’ve known forever and that you respect, and you compromise and make it sound killer. This is our first record with Bobby, and when you get someone new in the band there’s always new ideas. It’s like fresh blood.””

LaCaze’s passing has now had time to sink in, and with support from fans and friends like Dale Crover of the Melvins, who played their first show back, Eyehategod continues with Aaron Hill behind the kit.

“It sucked,” Bower simply says of his friend’s death. “It’s something that you never thought would happen, you know. But it’s cool man – knowing the sort of dude that Joey was made it a lot easier to move on with the band. He was really into the band and a valued part of the band, so it was like that inner voice sayin’, ‘Get off your ass and do somethin’!’ So it was easy to just jump back in the jam room. Dale from the Melvins was just really cool and played our first show back with us and there was a lot of good support. He was one of Joey’s favourite drummers, so what a great way to pay homage. These things suck, you know.”

With a new CD imminent, there is no time for Jimmy Bower to be slowing down, even as he has to now spend some of that time being a dad. The new addition to the Bower family has made him realise just how valuable time is, and he’s also been learning some new and important life skills.

“It’s like that old saying – it’s not about you anymore,” he says. “If anything, it’s made me appreciate the time I have to jam when I do jam. I just try to take it more seriously. I dunno man. I know how to change diapers now! I’m getting pretty good at that, man!”

See Down at Soundwave:
22/2: RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane QLD
23/2: Olympic Park, Sydney NSW
28/2: Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne VIC
1/3: Boynthon Park, Adelaide SA
3/3: Arena Joondalup, Perth WA

You can also catch them with Alice in Chains and Walking Papers:
25/2: Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW – Licensed All Ages
27/2: Palace Theatre, Melbourne VIC – 18+