COHEED AND CAMBRIA: Intervju med Claudio Sanchez

Coheed and Cambria nar brutit konceptsviten och skrivit ett nytt album som inte följer storyn i “The armory wars”. Rocksverige ringde upp sångaren Claudio i Brooklyn, NY och fick bl a veta att hans hus använts för marijuanaodling, att han själv jobbar bäst innan solen går upp och det faktum att nya skivan först inte alls såg ut att bli en skiva med bandets namn på och att den var väldigt svår att få till:

I was having this situation where I was like “This stuff doesn´t work for this band.”, so it was more of a struggle. Ultimately when I looked at everything when it was done, I was like “This isn´t a Coheed record, this is a solo record.”. It wasn´t until after that, I started to think “I always tried to make Coheed a limitless sort of act creatively.” and I thought why should the concept be any different? Why should I feel that Coheed always should have a concept and when I came around that, that moment was freeing, but writing the record was not.


Coheed and Cambria is 20 years old this year.

Claudio: 20 years old? Holy moly! Are we sure it´s 20 years old?

Didn´t the band form back in 1995?

Claudio: I guess you´re right. Yes, it sort of did. I think it was probably under a different name, but yeah. I guess we´re 20 years old. (laughs)

How does it make you feel?

Claudio: It feels good. We´ve been doing this professionally, so it feels really good. I mean, it´s scary how time just kinda goes by like that, but here we are with our new record and it feels good. It feels like maybe people want us around a little longer. (laughs)

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Do you remember the first time you actually started making a living off of the band?

Claudio: Kind of. At one point in Long Island, the band was still in a van situation, but I think I had found like a rare book that I was interested in purchasing and I had the money to do it. At that moment I was like “Wow, I can actually afford this thing and not feel bad about it.” It felt comfortable and I wasn´t gonna be out on my ass, throwing money into this thing.

Did it take several albums to get there?

Claudio: I think so, yeah. Definitely around the time of “Good Apollo… (2005) was when it started to feel more of a concrete thing. We had been travelling in a van and we started to move up from a van, but we didn´t go to a bus immediately. We got into like an RV situation and then we did that for a while, but I think around that album was when the buses started to become a standard for the tour cycle and things like that. Business managers sort of becoming a part of the DNA of the band and things like that. And around that time we signed to Sony/Columbia.

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The new album then, “The color before the sun”? What is the color before the sun?

Claudio: You know, it´s just kind of an artistic way that I´d like to say about the feelings, emotions and hurdles that I went through before my son was born. I also tend to create at early in the morning before the sun comes up. That´s when I find I´m the most creative, so it´s just like sort of the idea of creation before the sun comes up and the worlds awake. That´s pretty much what it is, the meaning of the title anyway.

I read somewhere that it had a bit to do about an identity crisis, you were having your first child and wondering about who you are. Did all of this have to do with you becoming a parent or were those feelings there even before you knew about you becoming a parent?

Claudio: A little bit of both. The first third of the record… I had moved from my country home in upstate New York to an apartment in Brooklyn and as I said earlier, I tend to create before the sun come up, and now living in an apartment, that is not something you can do. If I start singing at 4 o´clock in the morning, I´m gonna get in trouble. For a while I had to write at different hours and when I did that, I could hear my neighbors through the wall, so I knew my neighbors could hear me, so the sense of exposure kinda leaked into the lyrics. They started to take on this form of being a bit more personal and a bit more confessional. For me, I started to see that they weren´t falling into the formula of a Coheed song. That´s where I think the identity crisis came into play, because I felt it wasn´t gonna work for Coheed because Cohhed “has to do this.”. Then I wondered “Why do I have to do that? Coheed shouldn´t define me as a human being. That´s where I think the identity crisis spilled into play and fell into songs like “The island”, which is very much about trying to leave the apartment situation and it being too small and constricted. “Eraser” is basically about trying to turn back the clock and find that untouched you with no pre conceived ideas of what you should be. And “Colors” is sort of the song where I began to embrace this new sort of me, but it wasn´t till my wife told me that we were pregnant that I kinda got out of the identity crisis. It wasn´t so much about me anymore as it was about this new being that we were gonna bring into the world. Then songs like “Ghost” and “Atlas” were very much about thinking about what kind of father I was going to become. Waiting for him and “Atlas” is about how I have to leave him because the band will eventually tour and that´s gonna be the reality. All of these things kinda spilled into the theme of the record and then my wife and I found out that our country home had been vandalized. We had put our house up for rent as we were living in the city and the house got turned into, what they suspect, may have been a grow house for marijuana. Some kind of moisture situation happened in the house, so floor boards were destroyed and there was this smell in the house. We had to go and sort of fix this situation and that´s kind of what “Young love” is about. I tend to romanticize about places and that house is a big part for Coheed. We wrote the records “Good Apollo, I´m burning star IV, volume two: No world for tomorrow” (2007), “Year of the black rainbow” (2010) and the “Aftermath” records (2012, 2013) and some of the new songs were written there, once we got back into it. So as we were waiting for our son to be born, we had to deal with that.

Did you feel freer writing songs this time around, compared to the other albums where there´s been the conceptual idea and those albums being connected through “The armory wars”?

Claudio: No, because talking about that first third of the album, I was having this situation where I was like “This stuff doesn´t work for this band.”, so it was more of a struggle. Ultimately when I looked at everything when it was done, I was like “This isn´t a Coheed record, this is a solo record.”. It wasn´t until after that, I started to think “I always tried to make Coheed a limitless sort of act creatively.” and I thought why should the concept be any different? Why should I feel that Coheed always should have a concept and when I came around that, that moment was freeing, but writing the record was not. I felt like I was struggling and I felt I was writing within the formula. It felt good to write the material for sure, because it was definitely a reflection of what I´d been experiencing at that time in my life, but there was a cloud looking over me, raining down, “This is not the record this band should put out.” Ultimately my voice is on all of the Coheed albums in terms of the things that I say, even though there are concepts that shelter the real things that are being spoken about in those concepts, it´s still my voice and it´s still my experiences, so it shouldn´t be any different. Concept or no concept. I just kinda came around it and swallowed that pill and now here it is.


Did you have to convince the rest of the band about this album?

Claudio: I think everybody just dived into it. At first, our management was a little suspect. We built so much of our foundation on these things. I´m sure they loved the idea, but at the same time they were kinda like “Is this gonna be hard for everyone to swallow?”, but I think everyone felt that this is the time to do it. In my personal life, all of these changes have happened, so this is the time to introduce a new thing creatively of what we do.

Can you see the band explore more of this on the next album or will you go back to the story of “The armory wars”?

Claudio: It´s hard to say, we´ll see. Time will sort of dictate what the next record will be about. It´s hard to say. I love writing within the epicness and this world that I´ve created and it´s fun to translate the songs into something else, but at the same time this was great too. I think now, I´m just open to doing both whenever I choose is the right time to do it.

What´s it gonna be like being on tour now that you´re a father?

Claudio: Oh, it´s hard, but I mean, it could be worse. Right now we live in a time where technology has really helped us keep in touch. When I face time my son, there´s still a presence there, but he knows I´m absent for sure. He realizes I´m there to some degree, so I think we´re lucky in that respect, but it´s still hard to be away. But it´s what I have to do and I do it for him.

Have you become softer and more emotional since becoming a father?

Claudio: You know, I cried all the time before him (laughs), but now there´s obviously a connection and a connection that I maybe didn´t notice or understand before. I do get it because of my relationship with my father, but now I´m seeing it from a different angle – up, looking down and it´s totally the full spectrum of emotions.

The video for “You got spirit, kid” has a bit of an 80´s feel to it and the old “brat pack movies”. Do you have a favorite 80´s movie, like “St Elmo´s Fire” or “Breakfast Club”?

Claudio: Yeah! I´m trying to think which one is my all time favorite? Definitely the (John) Hughes movies are a big influence on that, but also stuff like Steven Spielberg´s “The Goonies”, but do I have a favorite one? Probably more so because of the soundtrack, but maybe “Pretty in pink”. That soundtrack really stands out for me with like the Psychedelic Furs and so on.

What´s been a highpoint and also a lowpoint so far in your career?

Claudio: A highpoint? Hmmm, I think right now is a highpoint. 20 years have passed and we have another record coming out and we´re gonna tour on that record. I think we´re growing into bigger rooms here in the States, so it feels like there´s still growth 20 years later. I think the lowest point of the band is really around the time of the “Good Apollo” record when some of the guys started to become victims of chemical dependence, leading to the band sort of starting to crumble apart and Travis (Stever) and I just sort of figured out a way to endure the situation and continue on and write the follow up record.

Was it harder to stay away from the partying on the road when you were younger?

Claudio: I really didn´t partake in a whole lot of that. I did party here and there, but I´ve seen chemical dependency first hand growing up, since my father was a recovering heroin addict. For me, I always kind of saw a line when things would get bad and I think a lot of that was because I had a direct relationship with it in my young and adolescent life. If things felt like they were getting a little out of hand for me, I would step away. But that´s not to say that it´s not difficult for everybody. It´s tough and there is a lot of hurry up and wait and it´s easy to get caught up in the fun, certainly at a young age because you feel like you´re invincible and you can do it forever, but time will catch up with you.

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With all that downtime, do you write when you´re on the road?

Claudio: I do a little bit, but I gotta tell you that I don´t find it the most exciting to write on the road. But I do tend to write the comic books on the road. When it comes to music, ideas kinda come and go and you´re in different places. It´s hard to pull everything out. There´s this idea of a premeditated motive of when you have to pull all of your gear out, set it up and then start working. To me, that´s like forcing yourself to work. I personally like to have my situation set up and when inspiration scribes, I don´t have to worry about dealing with hooking anything up and I can just create. That´s why it´s sometimes a little hard for me to work on the road.

Throughout the years, do you have one tour that kinda stands out? One that was more fun than others?

Claudio: For me it´s probably one of the earlier tours. We were so young and we didn´t know what we were doing. The tour we did with Hot Water Music and Thrice (2002), because I feel that we learned so much from that touring world, so that will probably go down as one of my favorites.

Touring wise, are there any plans for Europe and Scandinavia?

Claudio: Yes, I think there´s tentative plans for early next year, but I just don´t have anything at the moment to report.


Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen

Foto: Therés Stephansdotter Björk

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