First of all congratulations, I just read that “Welcome Home” got into Rock Band.
CS: Oh yeah! Hell yeah, cool.
I know everyone’s been waiting to jam out to a Coheed song on Guitar Hero
CS: And that’s a cool one, so…
So you guys have made a clear transition in sound from SSTB and IKS days to Good Apollo 1 and NWFT, for example integrating extended solos and consciously emulating some of your classic rock influences. Can you discuss that a bit? Was it a conscious effort to change sound or?
CS: You know, I think really the only album that was kind of a conscious decision was I think Good Apollo 1. I mean all the albums are definitely a natural progression, I think that one in particular was, you know I remember sitting down when I was writing “Welcome Home” – originally when I was writing “Welcome Home” I thought it sounded like a Tool song. There was something about the acoustic version of it, there was something, that just kinda hard factor, like Tool for some reason, and I don’t know why. But then as the song progressed, I realized it started calling a little more back to Led Zeppelin. And I think that kind of created a landslide, like I appreciate these bands, and maybe this is a way I can extend my appreciation. And again, it kind of felt like that one was a little bit more thought out in that respect – whereas NWFT, the new one, I think the personal anguish that the band had gone through really dictated the music. This time around we weren’t thinking about influences, we were just thinking about what we went through and wanting to express that stuff. So in a way, for me, it reminds me more of In Keeping and Second Stage, and more about how your emotions will dictate your songwriting.
So, for instance, at what point did you guys become comfortable throwing in the extended solos and stuff? If you had wanted to, were you guys at the talent level back when you wrote SSTB where you could have played the solo in “Welcome Home” or something like that?
CS: You know, I think… ever since I was like 13, I’ve always tried to solo and I’ve done it in bands before. It’s just… I’ve found I was a little immature when it came to soloing. It wasn’t really about melody to me, it was more about noodling, and more about trying to impress. I think as I got older I found my favorite guitar players were those that, not so much like noodled, but when you heard them, you knew who they were. You turn on the radio and you go by a Dire Straits song, you know it’s Mark Knopfler by the tone and by some of the licks he’s playing. Same thing with Gilmour from Floyd, Page, Hendrix, Clapton. These are all guitar players where their guitars are talking for them, you know that it’s them by the sound. And I think as I got older I found that I appreciate that style of writing. You know, a solo is… the lyrics drop out of a song… the guitar now has to sing. It’s kind of what a solo is in my mind. It has to be melodic; it has to be a part that a listener can sing too. I know my favorite solos are the ones that I can hum note for note with the song playing. I think when I grasped on to that appreciation and that maturity, that’s when the solos started to come out.
On to No World For Tomorrow, an amazing record --
CS: Thank you for your review, I’ve read it.
Oh you did?
CS: Yeah of course!
That’s crazy, I wasn’t sure if you checked those things out or not.
CS: Oh no, I do.
Awesome, that’s very rewarding to find out. – So, in a recent Billboard article there’s a quote from you about the record that when you listened to it, you were kind of surprised by it, and you said something like “Oh my God, so this is the record we wrote?” That caught my attention so I was wondering if you could elaborate on that a bit.
CS: Well again, it wasn’t… like Good Apollo, we were very conscious of some of the influence and kind of what we were doing. This, again, was very emotion driven. Not to sound corny, but it really was – it was a trying year last year, a lot of things happened, and we let the music kind of speak for us. And… and you know it wasn’t even so much when the record was done; it was when we had been demoing it. Cause we had been demoing this album like months before we actually went into the studio to record it and there were moments where I’d talk to Chris and I’d be like man, you know this record I can’t believe it! This is a very rock record! And it was almost like taking a step back and being like, am I sure that I wanna come out of the gate like this? But, at the same time again, it was like a very very natural thing. The fact that I wasn’t really conscious of what was really happening or what the final outcome was gonna be means it was very natural, it’s very real. At the end of everything it was like [recorder cuts out for last four words].
So when we last left the concept side of it, we saw The Writing Writer kind of sending Claudio off with some turbulent feelings to effectively destroy the universe. So where does NWFT now take us in the story, maybe synopsis-wise?
CS: We now find that the character of Claudio has accepted that he is The Crowing, the end-bringer, if you will. No matter what his decision is, he is going to bring about the end of Heaven’s Fence. If he were to decide that suicide was his answer, then in killing himself, the story will end… the universe will fold and thus on. But I think at the same time, he kind of accepts that, and all the things that go with being The Crowing; the fact that his parents were murdered, the fact that the loves of his life have all been compromised because of this life he’s been given. I think that he realizes that he needs to win the war, and he needs to see a proper end. He can’t just take the easy way out and thus it brings him to his final confrontation with Wilhelm Ryan and The Red Army and yeah… and then we have our conclusion.
So this is predominantly his record, and his coming to terms with what he has to deal with.
So what was it like for you, writing this record which will sit as the finale to the series? If someone were to listen 10 years from now to the records, straight through, this would be the last piece of music they heard, specifically “On The Brink.” That would be the last song they heard, the last couple notes. Did you lose sleep over writing this last chapter and closing things both musically and conceptually?
CS: Umm, no, I mean again there were those moments, listening back and thinking oh man is this really it? Is this what we need? There were those moments. Cause it is, it is a very important record for the mythology and for the band. But I knew, I knew I wanted to revisit a lot of themes with this album, whether it be little lyrics here and there calling back to certain events or, or like the intro to “On The Brink” actually calls back to the intro of Second Stage. There’s that same like string trill that happens right before the song actually drops. So it kind of helps bring back that emotion from the first record. And I knew, I think I knew from the get go that I wanted to end with “Final Cut” cause Good Apollo 1, that’s the closer there and I wanted to revisit that end. Cause these two albums are supposed to work together. And that’s kind of the idea behind the intro as well – it’s almost the other side of “Always and Never,” is “The Reaping.” And… and… so it’s kind of like… you know… uh.. you just.. they’re… they………… [Laughter] Sorry, I don’t know why I’m tripping all over the place. [More Laughter] “On The Brink” definitely has its place as the end of the mythology, but at the same time it needed to conclude Good Apollo 1. So that’s kind of why we brought back the element of “Final Cut.” Again, I don’t think I lost sleep over the actual end, but it was just again the album, just wondering, again…… I don’t know why I keep stressing that!
Well it must be important! [Laughter] So kind of keeping with this theme of ending things – “The Road and The Damned” – what did you channel to sing, because it’s obviously a very emotional song - this character is going on to the end of his adventure and taking his own life and the lives of others. What did you channel to sing with that type of emotion of someone on the edge of all that?
CS: Well, I mean, I kind of had a visual in my head – it’s funny – “Road and the Damned” and “Running Free” have very interesting origin stories. “Road” in particular, I wrote that with two other fellas, these songwriters in Manhattan. This is around the time where half the band has left and I started working on some songs for some soundtracks and that song was actually going to be submitted for Ghostrider. But, what I kept in mind – I realized that when I was writing these things and the premises I was given… I kind of figured these songs weren’t going to make the soundtracks. Cause you know, Coheed and Cambria wasn’t the flavor of the month fall of last year. [Laugher] So I kept in mind the character. “Road” – if you look at The End Complete, I mean that is the end complete, that is the end of our war. We find our successor from that, and then his reflections to everything he’s done. And “The Road and The Damned” I kept this one vision in my head, and this is a great vision, I mean, everything is crumbling. All the planets in the keywork are moving and crashing into one another, and there’s this character reflecting on, it’s certainly about… you know it is a love song. He kind of wishes he could amend some ties with some loves in the past. But he hadn’t, and here he is now at the end of the world – and as he’s kind of contemplating this stuff this planet is moving closer and closer to him. I mean to the point of where, at the profile, you can almost see the ground touching his face – of another planet. And that’s kind of the image I had in my head when I was constructing “The Road and The Damned.” That’s what I was channeling.
Wow, thank you for that. That’s so interesting. So you’re on the verge of releasing the conclusion album and then you will do the prequel record, so you’re nearing the completion of this concept. Reflecting on it, has this kind of played out the way you had envisioned at the inception of Coheed and Cambria?
CS: No, not at all. You see the funny thing is that when I created this idea, it was like almost 10 years ago, and I took a trip to Paris. Originally the idea of Coheed and Cambria, it was supposed to kind of chronicle my trip to this foreign land. I hadn’t been as far as New Jersey ten years ago, so this was a big deal to me, so I wanted to do something interesting for it. And when I got there, there was a place actually across the street, and it was a small bag shop called The Bag Online. I thought, you know what, that’s what I’ll name this thing. It’ll be The Bag Online Adventures of Coheed and Cambria. And um, as the albums and material started taking shape – I realized that it wasn’t so much about this trip anymore, ya know. Coheed and Cambria had kinda taken on the likenesses of my parents, ya know, I became one of their children. So it almost felt more autobiographical, thus I changed it to The Amory Wars. The title Amory has a very big significance to the place where I grew up –
I’m from Westchester, New York so—
CS: Oh hell yeah! [Laughter] So you know where Nyack is.
Yes, definitely. [More Laughter] I’ve seen you guys at The Chance, all those great shows in Poughkeepsie—
CS: Aw hell yeah! Well that’s awesome! But again, it… it definitely took on kind of, it went down a different path – and I think for the better, cause I think it made for better music and… and thus a lot of it being, ya know coming from a very personal place. You know what I mean? Although it is very much a science fiction mythology, a lot of the roots of these songs are very real scenes, and some of the symbolism like the dragonfly and the keywork – they all have very real meanings behind them. So I think it just made… the turnaround from doing The Bag Online to Amory Wars I think was definitely a better move because it’s a way deeper story.
Speaking of the prequel record, I know it’s way early considering NWFT hasn’t even hit the shelves yet, but so many people submitted this as a question on the site, do you think that’s going to take a direction more like GA1/NWFT or will it be a conscious effort to sound as if before SSTB?
CS: You know what, it’s so hard to tell. Cause I mean, I’ve thought about the idea, ya know, but again nothing is very concrete. Cause this is the true origins of Coheed and Cambria. When we visit Coheed and Cambria we find them in the mid-life, and you don’t really get too much of them, or who they really are. We know that they’ve been lied to, and that leads them to their demise, but this story is about the creation of two people that eventually fall in love and…. I don’t know – whether I’m gonna focus on the love portion of the story or the creation portion of the story, it’s hard to really tell. I know at first I was thinking about it like maybe we should do it in three parts and one being the creation, the second part being the love piece – and I don’t mean three parts in three albums, I mean three parts on an album – and then the other being the deception, bringing us to Second Stage. Musically, I guess those emotions and those parts will dictate what the songs and the music would sound like – but then I would be overthinking it if I were to go into the album like that, and I don’t know if that’s gonna make for good art.
Interesting, and extremely exciting. So there’s been promotion for NWFT all over the web and I’ve even seen posters around my college town. Did you ever imagine this kind of commercial success with such a forward-thinking, quirky sound and concept?
MS: Not, not really. Even as just a regular band, when we were Shabutie or when we were whatever… When I was in a band…. My first band, I mean I never thought it would get this big, ya know. I know I dreamed about it, but I think somewhere in the back of my mind I was ready for disappointment. It was like well, this kind of thing doesn’t happen for everybody, so I gotta get a plan B – that was like kind of my mentality. And then it just kinda happened, so I… I didn’t expect this… but God damn I’m grateful.
Most definitely. Uhhh, recently short, mysterious teaser videos have popped up on Ugo.com. Were you involved with their creation and can you shed any light on their significance?
CS: Yes, umm I was involved in the creation of the videos. What I can say is that, the pieces are entitled the Willing Well – and in Good Apollo 1 we find The Willing Well is actually the portal between fiction and reality, and in GA1 we find the writer actually entering the portal and changing the outcome of the story. Whereas now, in these pieces it seems more like the fiction has entered the portal – so that’s all I can really say.
That’s fine, definitely don’t want to spoil anything. So, have the first five issues of The Amory Wars been a success? And do you think that they’ve done well enough that we’ll see it continue through NWFT and the prequel?
CS: You know um, I mean I think they’re a success because they’ve come out. These five issues only take you to the halfway point of Second Stage, so we’re actually in the middle of putting together the continuing five that will hopefully see the light of day Spring of next year. And that’ll conclude Second Stage. I mean it all depends – like successful for me is just to see these stories come to life in this medium – if you mean successfully financially – I just wanna see these stories come out. It’d be nice to break even on them, but I think at the end of the day, I just wanna have it done. I wanna be able to see it, I wanna be able to read it for myself , like front to back, ya know. I think it’s really more of a passion for me than a financial success.
Well that’s a compliment to you – I mean I remember when I first heard SSTB and my friend said “they’re supposed to release comic books related to this story too” – and to see it actually come to fruition and to hear that you just want to see that as well, that’s a tribute to your dedication to the project.
CS: Yeah no, I’m so excited. Actually, I’m sorry to take you off a little side road, but unfortunately issue four was late due to the album release right? But issue four, it’ll be out this month, but we see the first appearance of a very important new character – which I think it’s been a long time coming—
Is this the character you had said you were coming up with just recently?
CS: No no, that’s a character that gets born in NWFT, this character has been around for a while. Since the days of the first SSTB book, that only made it to issue two, ya know, it’s finally nice to see that this guy has been paged and uh… and he’s cool.
Yeah it’s awesome, we’re starting to get into these pieces of the story that we haven’t seen before.
CS: Yeah totally.
So you’ve now worked with five or six artists, Wes Abbott, Chris Shy, Gus Vasquez, Ken Kelly, Tony Moore, M.S. Miller – so… not who got it right per say, but how have you felt about seeing these artists and their different interpretations of your mythology?
CS: I love ‘em all man. Cause I love every piece of comic… or just the spectrum of sequential art – I love all of it. I’m a big fan of Tony… just because I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead, that’s like my favorite contemporary comic book right now and uh – honestly if I had my way he would pencil the whole book – nooo discredit to Mike Miller, I think Mike Miller’s doing fucking fantastic job – just you know in a dream scenario, ya know… yeah. But – and Ken, and Ken is just – Ken is like an icon ya know. I grew up listening to Kiss and those were the album covers he’d done, and I kinda wanted to do something a little more tangible. A lot of the other Coheed albums – and again no discredit to any – I think everyone has done a fantastic job, um… I just wanted to see something a little more tangible really than photo manipulated. Really at the end of the day I wanted something to hang on my wall to commemorate this piece of, of art. But, I think everyone has just done a fantastic job – it’s just been a pleasure to work with… with everyone! I mean everyone is so interesting, and so artistic, and so creative. Especially this time around working with Mike – it’s kinda like the dude can read the mind. Ya know, you express something and… and you get it, and it’s awesome, ya know it’s awesome man. It just makes everything, I don’t know, just a pleasure. That kinda stuff… I don’t know.
Right. So I’m just gonna try and return to the music in these last few minutes. You’ve said in past interviews that usually you come to the band with a basic framework for a song and then you guys kinda fill it out together. What’s it like when you do a song like The End Complete or 2113, The Willing Wells – is that also you coming with a frame or?
CS: Well actually, this time around it’s been a little different. Certain songs actually Travis and I have collaborated together on – and also this album in general has been a little different cause we’ve actually demoed the whole album with the whole band, instead of doing that – coming up with the guitar parts and the vocal melody and showing it to the guys and then going and working on the piece together. I mean this time around it was like, I’d actually stripe the song with a vocal and then I’d send ‘em to Chris over the internet and he’d cut drums, send ‘em back to me, Travis would come over cut guitar but – it was awesome, it was a very efficient way of working – and it’s nice cause we have a full demoed version of the album. But, you say a song like The End Complete – End Complete is a very interesting tune in terms of creation because it’s kind of… the first one Travis and I have actually, totally collaborated on… and like we kind of revisited a part of our friendship that we hadn’t quite in a very long time. I mean we sat in my living room and we just sat there with guitars and listened to music and just hung out and joked around, I mean. End Complete was the last song that was written for the record. And again, we just sat there and like danced… and acoustics… just messing around and having fun, and just like – cause by that time we had gone through so much – it was time to just kind of like, be relaxed and, and… so that one was a lot of fun, that one was very different. But a song like 2113, I mean that’s kind of more like the old school style where it was like coming up with the parts and showing it to everybody and the band arranging it. But this album had, had many avenues of creation this new one – I mean certainly with Travis stepping to the plate and collaborating, and… yeah it’s different this time around.
So I don’t know if they’re gonna come on and tell me it’s been half an hour or not but I guess I’ll finish up with one more question – I have about 50 more I could ask—
CS: Well you could ask! Ask until they come on---
Sony Employee: Hey guyssss
CS: [Laughter] Oh there she is
Sony: Are you almost doneee? I’ve got the next one holding but you guys seem… you got one more, or? Go for it
Okay, so I’ve seen you say the major theme in this record is actually hope. In the midst of NWFT and all this destruction, apocalypse, and the end of things – where in the midst of all this darkness do we find hope?
CS: I think it’s [Laughter] I like the way you put that [More Laughter]. It’s really about, you know the darkness is kind of the trial that this character has to go through, but it’s the feeling inside him that is driving him forward to get all this stuff accomplished. Again, like I said earlier, this character could easily just submit to everything that’s happening and off himself and thus bring the ending, but he has decided the opposite, and has now got to go through all these FREAKIN’ hurtles, ya know, to find his way to the end – and I think that’s where the element of hope comes in to play.
Ahhh okay, well I guess that’s that!
CS: Just a side note, if you want, you can delete the “freakin.” [Laughter] Nah I’m just playing [More Laughter]. Ohhhh, that’s hilarious, I don’t think I’ve ever said that [Laughter].
[Laughter] I’m gonna put it in bold and caps-lock actually.
CS: Ohhhh, fantastic [Laughter].
Well it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you and I’ll maybe see you Nov. 25th at 9:30 club in D.C.
CS: Oh cool man, awesome. It should be a great show. And again, Garett, thank you very much for the very nice review.
Oh my pleasure, I meant every word.
CS: Aw, cool, thanks.
Congratulations on all the success.
On to No World For Tomorrow, an amazing record -- CS: Thank you for your review, I’ve read it. Oh you did?
CS: Yeah of course! That’s crazy, I wasn’t sure if you checked those things out or not.
CS: Oh no, I do. Awesome, that’s very rewarding to find out.
hahaha, you so had wood here, garrett.
great interview, very interesting read.
Rock Band need to be capitalized, and I stopped early on in the review due to all of the abbreviations.
I transcribed the review from in a semi-naturalistic manner. Claudio has a very distinct way of speaking and conveying his feelings, so I wanted that to come across and thus kept it word for word in some parts, and cleaned it up in other parts. Sorry if it's hard to read.