A Staggeringly visionary and perspicacious story teller and song writer to almost inarguably rival all others (both contemporary and historically) is one exceedingly justifiable way to describe Coheed and Cambria front man Claudio Sanchez. His captivating and kaleidoscopic opus The Amory Wars spans seven huge albums, a dozen-odd graphic novels and books, and various other printed and visual mediums. Rumours of a television show and/ or film financially backed by Mark Whalberg have also been doing the rounds for years.
For the uninitiated, Claudio and Coheed’s various creative outputs mark the utterly gargantuan and original epic tale of a multitude of characters waging physical, mental, emotional, and existential battles across a distant universe as involved as it is unique. To the privy, The Amory Wars are fantastical and sumptuous gospel that continues to enchant and inspire an ever growing mass of devout Coheed fans. There is no other artist or band like them on earth, and certainly not without such staggering conceptual depth behind their mesmerically operatic music.
Away from the dizzying science fiction story and wonderful, genre-defying prog/ rock/ pop/ metal/ jazz/ etcetera of Coheed and Cambria, the disarmingly humble and exceptionally polite Claudio took some time out of a nice walk with his wife on the back of the final day of a beefy U.S. tour to discuss – amongst a myriad of other things – his band’s impending tour of Australia this May (even at the behest of this interview’s incessant and rambling fandom).
G’day Claudio! How are you, mate?
I’m alright, how are you, Todd?
I am exceptionally good speaking with you, man. I’m not sure there’s any band that I’ve put more hours behind the drums too than Coheed.
Oh, really? Wow! Cool!
You guys are by leaps and bounds my favourite band, and I got to talk to (lead guitarist) Travis the other week, so 2016’s off to a pretty great start.
Oh well, cool man. I’m really glad. That’s so nice of you.
The pleasure’s all mine, mate. Now you guys are at the end of a U.S tour, right?
Yeah, we just finished a five week run yesterday, and we’re actually just at home having a little down time. Running around with our families.
And you’ll put in a couple of weeks of that and then you’ll have to come over here.
Yes, sir. In a couple of weeks we’ll be there!
You must have to pinch yourself regularly, I’m sure, when people say ‘You have to hurry up and go hang out with your family because you have to fly to Australia so a bunch of people can go mental to your music’.
(Laughs) It’s all good. I’m actually really looking forward to it. It’s been a while since we’ve been there, and the last one we did was exceptional. So I’m excited to see what kind of growth Coheed has accumulated since we were last there.
You must notice, unless it becomes a blur because you see so many crowds, but do you notice behavioural trends with different towns and cities?
It’s tough. I mean, it definitely becomes a blur, but now with this last Coheed run in the states this last five weeks, we started to see fans follow the band. Which is wild! We started noticing that trend come more in to focus with this last tour.
That’s crazy. I guess as a band you might invite that kind of heavy fan base. Like, I know I own all The Amory Wars comics as a fan, and obviously a slew of other fans do to. I guess because there’s a whole world to sink your teeth in to, it’s maybe easier to get fanatical, but not in a bad way.
Yeah, it definitely adds to the culture that Coheed establishes with it’s music, having the Sci-Fi counterpart and those other things to kind of explore give it more of a mass – if you want to call it that – that the fans can kind of jump around on.
So where do you find the time? You have this massive amount of creative outlets including your music. Now, I write music with my house/ band mate and we’re often easily lead to difficulties and distraction. You manage to write the music, then create a universe under it, then go off and to make TV shows, make comics, and write books and everything. How do you do it, man!?
You know, I just… it’s definitely fun for me. I often find myself in my own head than I’m outside of it. So right now I’m walking with my wife around a park in our neighbourhood. Normally if I wasn’t on a phoner, I’d be lost in my own head and then something might spark, and I’ll start jotting stuff down. Certainly for comic books and things like that. Music on the other hand, for me I need my own space. You say you share a space with your housemate, my wife and I have a small apartment in Brooklyn, New York, and it’s kind of hard if I don’t have a room where I can kind of lock myself in. It can be difficult. I need to get inside my own head like I sort of do when I’m walking and day dreaming. So if I can’t physically lock myself in to a room, then it becomes trying to write music. For the most part, though, I’m lucky that I do have a space, and yeah… whenever creativity hits I try to make use of it. Like, I was working all day today, it’s funny, I woke up and was in the bedroom since eight in the morning just working, working, and I had a bunch of ideas, and none of them were great. Not until five o’ clock came around did one of them make sense to me. So yeah, sometimes it comes quick and sometimes it doesn’t.
Oh man, thanks for even taking the time out of your day to chat, especially considering it’s family time. Congratulations on having a son, by the way!
Oh yeah, he’s a blessing, if you will. He’s such a fun little kid to be around, just watching him grow and his curiosity and all those things happening. It’s really fun.
Now lyrically (in new song Atlas), if I understand it correctly, you hoped that he wouldn’t turn out anything like you. Is that true? Or do you only mean your bad points? Because you’ve got a lot of good points too, mate. It’d be good if he turned out a bit like you, I mean, you’re a pretty intelligent and friendly guy.
(Lots of laughter) Oh well, you’re too kind. You know, if I had my way I’d want him to turn out a little bit more like my wife, but for the most part I watch him and I’m like ‘Uh oh, that’s me to a tee.’ (Laughs) You know, we’ll see! He’ll be who he wants to be, and I’m so looking forward to seeing what kind of person he turns in to.
That’s lovely. Can you tell if he’s in to music or not?
He’s absolutely in to music. It’s so wild. The other day we had a neighbour in our apartment, and we have a little digital piano with a demo on it, like Chopin, some Chopin song, probably his most famous one, and Atlas is just so in love with this song, and he turned it on and started dancing and singing for us. It’s a long, like, eight minute opus, and my man is just dancing for us and singing away, it was so cute. So yeah, he definitely loves music. He loves (Coheed’s latest album) The Colour Before The Sun, and asks for it at breakfast every morning.
Hah, that’s great. You’ll make a prog rock star out of him yet if it’s an eight minute song that he’s dancing to.
I know! It’s amazing.
Oh yeah, and happy birthday! I know it was about a month ago, but I only remembered because we share one. Which is inconsequential because there’s, like, ten million people born on the same day as you, but happy birthday never the less. I had a great birthday, did you have a great birthday?
It was! It was cool. I spent it in Florida with my in-laws – we were on tour of course – but it was cool. My wife got me a Star Wars-themed cake, and there were plenty of party favours around the dressing room. So yeah, it was cool. We had a great time. And happy birthday to you too, my friend.
Oh, thanks man. I had a ripper. We had a music festival in my backyard. It was great. I digress! Do you get days off to explore a town or country while touring? Can you go to the booking agent and ask for that stuff?
We could, but for the most part it can be difficult to find the venues to book those tours, and route them so they make sense, so you’re kind of abusing that sort of liberty. But if the band wanted to have a day or two off, they’d allow it. It’s not so strict. It’s open, like, we know we’re there to work. So we let them do their jobs so we can do ours. But again, if that’s something that we want, we can always request it, and they’ll acknowledge that and probably make it happen.
Do you have time in Australia, or is it just flying in and flying out?
I think there happens to be a couple of days off, but then I’m pretty sure we fly to most of the venues, so I’m not sure of those are just travel days or actual proper days off.
Oh yeah, true. Nothing’s close to each other in this ridiculous country. It’s so very big. Now I must congratulate you on The Colour Before The Sun, it’s a wonderful album, and thank you for making it.
Oh, thank you! I’m glad you like it.
It’s so good. Did you decide as you wrote what went in the TCBTS pile – because it’s your first effort away from The Amory Wars canon – and what would go in to the Sci-Fi pile for a later date?
That’s the thing. At the time I was writing The Colour Before The Sun, was also writing a musical. I’d paired up with a playwright and started to work on the first act of this musical, and basically some of that stuff went in to this pile and some of that went in to the The Colour Before The Sun pile and so forth. Colour Before The Sun, at the time when I first started writing it, it felt like a solo project. So that was getting tossed in to any pile with that in mind. I think what was happening was all the progressive ideas were getting thrown in this musical, so when I looked at The Colour Before The Sun I was like ‘Wow, this doesn’t look like a typical Coheed album’. There’s a bunch of folders; I’m the worst at kind of keeping stuff clean, especially when it comes to folders for music. I kind of start throwing stuff all over the place. So there’s probably other things from writing in those sessions that’s just… I should probably listen to, because they probably make sense for something!
Man, I just got the wrap up beep down the line, so I unfortunately have to wrap it up. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat to me on one of your days off.
Oh, you got it, Todd. Thank you so much. It’s been awesome. Thanks so much for being a fan, man. That means a lot to us.
Catch Coheed with their unbeatable live show come May in Australia. Tickets and info here.
Interview by Todd Gingell