Michael Todd took a few minutes to chat with me before hitting the stage for a show on their run of dates opening for Linkin Park throughout North America. Sadly, I did not get to see their local London, Ontario show due to a conflict. I understand they played an excellent set. Coheed & Cambria have a headlining show booked in for the Sound Academy in Toronto on May 31st I may try to hit to make up the missed gig.
Mike Bax: If you could change one thing about the music industry right now, what would you change?
Oh wow. Things are happening pretty nice on their own naturally. It seems like music is going back much more into the hands of the artists these days. I don’t know man, not so much emphasis on record sales, more emphasis on performance. I think those two are good ones.
I haven’t seen you guys live yet, and I’ve been told that you’re fantastic performers live, and you’re really into your music. I’m curious to see that myself, actually.
Cool. We take a lot of pride in our live show.
Have you ever cut anything live to DVD or CD?
Yeah, we actually have a couple of live CD’s and two DVD’s out.
I’ve only got a couple of the studio albums, so I’m not what you’d call a purist, but I do enjoy your stuff. Who’s the comic book fan in Coheed?
That would be Claudio.
What’s his involvement with some of the Coheed and Cambria comic books that come out? How do those happen?
Well, Coheed writes kind of a, there’s an ongoing story in conjunction with the lyrics to all of our songs, an ongoing concept centered around the death of these two characters, Coheed and Cambria so I’m not sure which comes first as far as the storyline of the lyrics. I think the lyrics kind of feed the story. The lyrics kind of happen abstractly, and the story vice versa. But for example, when we’re not on stage, he’s working on scripts. He’s still mapping out the last five issues that accompany the first record. But it’s just a project that he’s been really into, something supplement to the music, so if fans want to look a little deeper into what we’re doing here, they can.
Is it mostly the fans who are buying this stuff up, or do you find a readership who doesn’t know who Coheed and Cambria are as a band?
Yeah, that seems to be happening more and more. But I mean definitely for the most part people have heard of the band first. I mean it’s great, the comic book started pretty indie and was kind of hard to get off the ground, but now there is an excellent platform for both the music and for the comic books with our label and comic book company.
A pal of mine runs a store an hour away from here, and he would have fans come in asking for the books, and he couldn’t seem to get them in stock. He would try, but they were coming from a pretty small press.
Wow, that’s great, man. Not for the fans who can’t get the books, of course, but great to know the books are being picked up.
You don’t read many comic books yourself, do you?
Not comic books particularly. I mean, I certainly have spent time with them, but I’m not much of a comic-guy. I’m pretty out of the life right now. I read literature and a lot of silly fiction.
I own a Coheed shirt from the Shirts for a Cure Website. How do bands wind up getting involved with that website?
Well, it depends. That particular shirt, they kind of came to us. You can choose causes which we’ve done (like Alzheimer’s) to do something in conjunction. Other times an opportunity will present itself, and we try to take just about every one we can if it’s feasible for us to do it. Either a show or some conjunctive merchandise. Basically, if we hear about it and we look for it, we just research it and get in touch with them. More often than not, they’re always looking for more financial support. That’s one thing we can do in a band is help raise some money for causes.
True. How much input do you have regarding Shirts for a Cure designs? Are they just given to you, and you’re like cool, or do you have something you submit.
Sometimes it’s presented, but usually, there are some words back and forth, or we’ll design a shirt and present it, and we can nix it if we want. Often, we’ve done the design, or we’ll contribute to the design. It happens in all sorts of different ways. Sometimes with some causes, it’s very much centered around what they’re doing, and that’s fine too. That’s how the Coheed and Cambria shirt came about. So we let them do what they want.
Sounds good. Now you guys have a pretty active street team. How long have you been recruiting members for your web-street team?
Oh, about seven years.
Is that right?
Do you have any idea how many people are pounding the pavement for you in North America?
Oh man, I couldn’t even tell you anymore. The amount of support – in the beginning, was pretty crazy, and it’s growing every day. It’s people who have been interested in the band and have been on our team and helping us do what we do. It’s been unbelievable how much support we’ve been getting. We’re fortunate.
Cool. I read somewhere that there was a misunderstanding at a US campus regarding some of your street teamers, and they spray painted release dates, and it was misunderstood.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
What was the deal with that?
I mean it’s an unfortunate spectacle of the state of fear that this country we live in. It was just a little marketing thing. We thought it was cool and mysterious just to have the logo and the release dates spray painted. People who know what it is, they know what it is. But somebody saw it and assumed that it was the date of a terrorist attack and that got way out of proportion. Instead of anybody calling the authorities or investigating it, everybody panicked. I mean it’s funny, it’s sad but funny.
I mean, come on, you know? It’s unfortunate, kind of embarrassing.
I think you’re right, it’s kind of a sign of society today and it’s just rock and roll, it’s just spray painting some logos and release dates and stuff.
How much involvement did you guys have doing the PR and interviews after a misunderstanding like that? Like how long did it take?
Oh nothing, we had nothing to do. I mean it was pretty much squashed, if anything we spread the word, you know what I mean? We sent out links to the news report and everything, let everybody be aware of it, make it more of public service; because a) it’s funny, and b) we don’t want it happening again somewhere else. It was such a ridiculous thing that we weren’t even to comment; you know what I mean? The local police chief was on the news saying, “this is so absurd,” that people panicked like this, so I mean, we got no flack for it.
So you feel all in all it was handled well, you’re cool with it?
Yeah, and when it came down to it when people realized what it was, yeah, I think everything fell into place just fine. And nobody got hurt. There was no damage.
As a band, do you spend a lot of time trying to figure out tactics to spread the word about your music and live shows and some of the concepts you’re working on?
Yeah, I mean it’s certainly something we spend time on brainstorming like all these ideas. In today’s day and age, where it’s no so much about record sales, it’s not spreading things on the internet and everything. We try to come up with fresh marketing ideas. Not necessarily marketing ideas but just kind of spread the word, word of mouth. Something different than other bands are doing, you know—a commercial on TV or like some creepy spray-painted stencil. We try to do things differently; try to make it a little more memorable.
Your music can be really heavy in places, and it can also be quite melodic, channeling musicians like Carlos Santana and even Mark Knopfler. How do you guys approach your songwriting?
Knopfler, huh? (pause) Yeah. We do kind of have a music appreciation. We all have a wide array of influences and genres of music we listen to, so we don’t really – I don’t know if we make it a point to, but we just have no limitations on ourselves. We’re not like, “Ah if we make this song, people will think it’s too copied. Or if we make this song, people will think it’s too heavy.” We play shit that we like, and I think people can dig that. There’s something in our catalog that is for everybody, and if you don’t like a particular Coheed song, you might like the next one. I mean pretty much all across the board; it’s all stuff that we love to play. And there’ll be even more different things to come.
What is your current setlist like? You’re doing an opening slot, so you’re getting about 45 minutes to an hour for your material. What are you pulling off of the new disk to play?
A good variety, actually. We try to pull a little something off all the records. Of course, a couple more of the new ones cause the new songs are fresher, and we’re trying to push this new record. But we just try to put something that will grab people who probably haven’t heard us before, like your average Linkin Park fan and also something that. We have a few fans that might have been able to get tickets to this thing that are Coheed and Cambria fans, so we’ll put something on to make them happy too.
Do you ever get to run through like say the five-part ‘End Complete’ in it’s entirety while you’re playing live?
We have not, but that’s actually something that we talked about that we’re going to try maybe to put something together like that in the future.
I like how the whole album moves, but I really like that ending and just how it goes from one spectrum of music right through to another. It touches on several different styles of music, and I think it’s pretty progressive. It would be cool to hear it live in it’s entirety.
Yeah, I totally agree with you man. Like that’s something that we’ve always been interested in doing, totally just, you know cause the album is as is a piece of art, the songs are in order because that’s the way we want it emotionally to travel. So I’d like to do something like that sometime in the future. But shows like these obviously like you said it’s not really a platform for that but maybe someday.
How have the Linkin Park dates been going so far? What’s your feeling about them?
They’ve been great man, I mean we’re still getting used to having so much space on stage. But I think we’re settling in nicely. Our sound is pretty big, and so I don’t think we have a hard time filling the room with sound. It’s just getting comfy on those big-ass stages. But so far it’s been great, we haven’t got too much flack from the fans. You know you always, the opening band is subject to some kind of booing cause people want to see the headliner. But it’s been pretty mellow man. I think people have been pretty happy with the line up in general.
I like looking at bands that are going to open for another group. Looking at it as a bill; you get two, three maybe four bands, and if you’re a music fan, it’s almost like you get to pick and choose from several different genres, and it seems logical that you guys would be put together with Linkin Park. They’re similar sounds.
When you’re playing bass, do you use a pick, or do you play without?
Oh no, I’ve never used a pick. I can’t really do it. I’m old finger-style.
Cool. I’ve got this thing about bass players; if they use the pick, it’s almost like they’re cheating. I like seeing them just using their fingers.
Yeah, picks are kind of boring. I shouldn’t say boring cause I mean I’m sometimes mimicking a pick sound, sometimes for some steady chugging you want that kind of sound but overall my playing is always done like blues jazz and funk-oriented. So that’s what I bring to the band more than just roots.
Which track on No World for Tomorrow do you enjoy playing the most?
Right now, we’ve been opening with the opening track. “No World for Tomorrow,” track two on the CD. That’s a really full song. It’s beautiful and loose, and it’s a very active song. It’s a good one, the crowd seems to love it, and it’s certainly fun to play.
And I’ve got one last one for you. I hear Claudio pushing his vocals up on the high end; he can almost sound like Geddy Lee from Rush. Have you guys ever tried to cover a Rush track?
Jokingly kind of. You know what none of us ever really came up as Rush fans, but like early on, even like 2001 – 2002, we started getting the Rush comparisons. But never live. I mean we kind of tend more to, we do like a little piece of an Iron Maiden cover once in a while, but we probably could do a killer Rush cover.
I think you could do a killer rush cover. I hear it a lot when playing this disk, and I’m like, “man, I’d like to hear some Coheed “Tom Sawyer’.”
I think that would be just a bit much, given all the Rush comparisons that we have already.
Fair enough. Thanks a lot for taking the time.