Josh Eppard – Coheed and Cambria ‘Unheavenly Creatures in the Coheed Universe’

Wall Of Sound’s resident Coheed and Cambria fanatic Todd Gingell recently spoke with the C&C’s deftly informative drummer Josh Eppard on the very cusp of their impending 9th studio album release; Vaxis: Act 1 – The Unheavenly Creatures. The album is a deliriously immersive and ambitious eighty minute epic of unbridled, genre-defying wondrousness of which Josh is both evidently proud, and thrilled by (as are all us fans). It’s also the first of several LP’s in the pipeline that continue stories within the band’s expansive science fiction universe, from which dozens of comics, novels, short films their music has spurred over the last two-ish decades.

G’day Josh! How are you, man?

I’m good, Todd. How are you?

I’m great, sir. I was quick to tell my girlfriend I was going to talk on the phone with a guy I’d been playing along to for just over half my life when this interview came up. It’s a pretty humbling deal.

Oh man, that’s awesome!

So where are you speaking from?

Yep, I’m at home. I got a nice fire going out here on my patio. It’s my last night at home before I leave in the morning. We’re going to New York City to do Comicon, and a secret show; you know the record comes out this week on the 5th. So yeah, bunch of stuff in New York, then we fly to Europe for a mini tour. This is my last night home before we leave. Going to Europe is great! Especially The UK – not as much as Australia – but we love it (laughs). It’s really far away, but that’s the truth! I fuckin’ LOVE Australia. I always feel so far away when I’m overseas, so it’s the last night home… but it’s not a particularly long trip. It’s only about three weeks, but yeah, that where I am! At home in New York, chillin’.

Vaxis… is surely the most grandiose and epic album you guys have released, lyrically and sonically across the board. Would you agree?

Oh man, I want to agree! I’m taking that as a huge fucking compliment!

It is one!

Whether we succeed or fail, the goal is always to make the best Coheed record we’ve ever made. Now obviously you talk to ten different fans and they’ll give you ten different records that were the best, so I get that it’s in the eye of the beholder, but I feel like this one absolutely stands up on the epic scale of anything Coheed has ever done. And as I band I think we’re immensely proud of it, especially after the departure from that epic, grandiose, movie-like quality on The Colour Before The Sun (2016). It was by design it was a departure from all that, but I feel this is now a triumphant return to that grander sound.

It’s always a weird time before a record comes out; at one o’ clock in the afternoon I’m like ‘God damn we’ve made the best record ever!’, then at one thirty there’s crushing self-doubt ‘Oh god, it’s terrible. Everyone’s going to hate it’. Two o’ clock, I’m over-confident again! You go through a gauntlet of emotions, but maybe that’s just my process. You go back and listen to the record… I must’ve listened to it a thousand times, I listen to it while I run, while I drive, while I’m hanging out. I think we’ve made a great piece of art, and I couldn’t be more proud. I know everyone in a band says that before a record comes out, and I’m sure it’s true with them too! But it’s true for me, I’m really, extremely proud of what we’ve done.

 

And it goes for 80-minutes! You’ve filled up every second of what a CD can handle.

Yeah, I mean… it’s not like we set out make a long record! The Afterman, that double album release from back in 2013, That was supposed to be one record, but we made too much damn music! So we turned it into two shorter ones, but that’s because we were having a hard time… y’know when you make a song it’s like a person to you! You have this deep connection with it. Sometimes you hear bands say they made 60 songs and chose the best 12, and I’m like ‘Shit! We could never do that!’ (laughs) There’d be tears, there’d be fighting, but I’m not saying everything we make is great, but you build these deep personal relationships with these tunes. I don’t think we set out make an 80-minute record, but that’s just what happened. I remember at one point during recording Love Protocol, Night Walkers, and, All On Fire weren’t going to be on the record! Then we were listening through… I mean it just sounds insane to me now because Love Protocol is the shit, All On Fire is dope as fuck, I mean… I know, right? I remember talking to Claudio about it, saying there’s no other song like Love Protocol on the album. He agreed, we had a good relationship with all three of the songs, so I’m glad he saw it my way (laughs). Labels and management don’t always like that, they want you to save three or four songs for bonus content, or whatever, but nah… these had to be a part of the whole thing. Writing has never been too hard for us, so if you want bonus content give us forty minutes and we’ll give you a song… that’s not really true, by the way (laughs).

I mean yeah, dude, it is a long record, but I like that! To me it harkens back to the 70’s, not even that the records were hugely long, but to me all those great, conceptually-based Coheed records always call back to a time long gone. 70’s and 80’s, that kind of classic rock era. It all kind of nods to that time without sounding exactly like it. I think you get that in spades with this record, and it’s not something that comes easily, it’s definitely by design. But yeah, it’s a big long Coheed record; board the windows and call the kids inside, it’s about to go down!

I think it’s a respectful and intelligent way to treat your fans in an age with such short attention spans and an ever-growing well of shabby, factory-line pop songs in the world. I mean, fuckin’ ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is one of the greatest songs of all time! Make long songs!

Yeah! I don’t get it, man! I bring that up all the time when we’re trying to trim the songs back a few minutes. I’m like name two of the most important, popular rock songs of all time, ever… it’s Stairway To Heaven and Bohemian Rhapsody. Why are we trying to conform to what Ah-Ha did? Or what fuckin’ Oingo Boingo did!? Fuck that! Let’s try and make an even LONGER song. We’ve always let the song take us. It’s not like we sat down to make Dark Sentencer and said it had to be long, if a song wants to be long, it’s going to be! I think our long songs don’t feel long, at least to me. And if one did, I’m sure we’d trim it down.

Was there a specific structure to the songwriting process for this album?

Claudio sent us a synopsis of the story line, because this is a completely different story (in the Coheed universe), and I used it to help dictate how I play. We’ve made a lot of music together, so sometimes coming up with new ideas (is hard). So I used the synopsis to guide me, like in Queen Of The Dark there’s all these prisoners banging on these drums, so Claudio, Travis, and I are all in the studio banging on these drums… kind of like actors being the characters in the story.

Well it’s worked out very well, and folks have gone crazy for the pre-orders, deluxe box sets, and the four pre-release singles.

They really have, and we are humbled and overwhelmed. We have – and I know every band says it – we seriously do have the best fans in the world. Period. We’re so damn lucky. It’s exceeded everyone’s expectations, blew them away. And the box set is tremendous! We really nailed it this time more than ever before, I think. I’m 38 years old, I understand people work hard for their money, but just the fact that so many sold… I don’t know what to say, it’s really overwhelming. We’re so lucky, we play rock n’ roll for a living, and we’ve been doing it for almost twenty years! Who the fuck gets to do that? We’re seriously so lucky and humbled.

 

Well I think it’s well deserved, man.

 Thank you so much! I think if you… you’re faced with two options, you’re either gonna walk around believing the hype like ‘I’m the fuckin’ man’, which I’m sure I did when I was a terrified 23 year-old kid, scared out of my boots (laughs). And hell yeah there’s been hard work and so much sacrifice, but we walk around feeling like the luckiest dudes on planet earth, and it’s because of the fans. I know it’s the most cliché thing on earth, but our fans are open and willing to go on a journey with you, and give a chance to every record. Even if they don’t like it that much they’ll give it a chance and keep listening and exploring with us, and find parts they love in amongst it all, and share them with us. That’s all you could ever ask for!

I guess your fans in particular are given ample opportunity to explore your stories and songs on to a depth unprecedented with the comics, books, and all the additional media to further immerse them. Seems Coheed fans are a really curious and perspicacious lot.

You hit the nail on the head. It’s beyond coincidence now, there’s something about Coheed fans. The whole story, the comics, it draws in a certain type of people that are smart, creative, thoughtful, nice people, and such a wonderful community I’m privileged to be a part of. Ten of my closest friends I met as fans of this band! It’s not a prerequisite that you be a fan of the band to befriend me! (laughs) Still, I’ve met some of the most kind, intelligent, wonderful people who happen to be good friends now. Lucky me, man!

You’re an awesome dude, and it’s been a pleasure speaking with you, Josh. I must inevitably ask before we’re out of time; can us Australians look forward to a tour sometime in the near future?

 Oh man, surely. I asked our manager what we had coming up and he just said ‘A lot’ (laughs), so I know we’ll be down there as soon as we can. And man, I really do love Australia so much, it just resonates with me; it’s position on the globe, or something. It’s an awesome place I feel right in. Come say hi at the gigs!

Will do. Thanks Josh.

This interview has been edited for clarity.
Words by Todd Gingell

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coheed and cambria - unheavenly creatures

Coheed and Cambria – Vaxis: Act 1 – The Unheavenly Creatures tracklisting

1. 1 Prologue
2. The Dark Sentencer
3. Unheavenly Creatures
4. Toys
5. Black Sunday
6. Queen Of The Dark
7. True Ugly
8. Love Protocol
9. The Pavilion (A Long Way Back)
10. Night-Time Walkers
11. The Gutter
12. All On Fire
13. It Walks Among Us
14. Old Flames
15. Lucky Stars

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