Main Interviewer – Phill Bruce
Co Interviewer/Photographer – Emma Wilson
Combichrist "Making Monsters 2011" Pictures – Gili Shani
Date – 30th June 2011
If you were to ask any self-noticed follower of the EBM music scene, "Who are one of the most influential bands within the genre?"... Combichrist is one of the biggest names that will be mentioned over and over again, being pioneers on the alternative scene. The band formed in 2003 and have to this day continued to climb the ladder of success to become one of the most respected bands around. Having created their own unique and well recognised sound, they have supported some of the biggest bands in the metal scene, in particular the world famous Rammstein. Fresh at the start of their hugely anticipated 2011 headlining solo world tour, we have had an opportunity any journalist in the music industry would jump at the chance to do: a face to face interview with the band themselves, whilst playing a date in my home town of Manchester, U.K. I managed to catch up with them during their extremely busy and hectic tour schedule.
Supporting Combichrist with live performances on the same stage, for the UK leg of the tour, are Mortiis and Aesthetic Perfection.
It gives me great privilege, from everyone at Grave Concerns to you, giving us and our readers this interview.
Phill – May I first thank you for taking time out of your busy touring schedule and allowing us a this exclusive interview for Grave Concerns, would you please introduce yourselves and what is your position in the band?
CC – Andy and I am the vocalist and founder.
Phill – You originally formed the band in Norway under the name of DRIVE, before changing it to Combichrist, what was the reason behind the name change of the band and has it any specific meaning?
CC – I was never really named Drive. I started just doing different stuff. I had a couple of things here and a couple of things there, primarily under the name of Hoglogger and some under the name of Drive. I didn’t focus on the songs as a single project. It wasn’t until I did Combichrist, I actually released a song on a compilation with Drive that I thought fit well. Combichrist never derived from Drive it was just that one song that I thought fit Combichrist really well. Combichrist the name comes from a comic strip I was doing, it was fitting with the whole imagery of the band. It doesn’t have any specific meaning itself it’s just a character I created. That’s the thing about the whole band it’s character based, everything that has been done especially up to the last album. Especially with the lyrics, whenever it gets violent it wasn’t me being violent it was the character. So there was no personal opinion behind it, it was just the character. Same thing when it gets sexist, it’s not me it the character. But later on like now it got personal and further away from the character. Combichrist right now doesn’t have as much meaning, it’s just a band name.
Phill – You originally where formed in Norway, but a few years after the bands inception you moved to America, what was the reason behind taking the band to a different country?
CC – The idea for Combichrist was around for a long time, even before Icon of Coil. When I actually got into it I was actually living in Germany, Hamburg. Then I wasn’t even supposed to move to the US I just actually went to stay for a bit and I just ended up falling in love with the culture and everything. I just got stuck there and ended up staying there and now it’s my home.
Phill – You have had some very famous people on tour but also in the studio with you, namely Wes Borland and Mark Jackson. How did you come about having them on board and what was it like working with them?
CC – They are just friends and people I respect as musicians in a mutual respect. You just see them around and it’s like you talk to everybody. You meet people on tour, it’s like Douglas McCarthy from Inspirat Music he’s a good friend of mine. There’s so many people you get to know and when you are around them it’s like oh we should get together and do something one day. A couple of things we have done were just because it ended up perfectly fitting in. And there are still so many people I would like to do stuff with. I don’t to work with someone just because they are a musician, there has to be this connection a mental click or vibe. There has to be more of a reason other than just they are a musician.
Phill – Are there any musicians that are your friends that you would like to work with?
CC – Yeah most of the musicians that are my friends I would like to work with it’s just that you never have the time. It’s like Brandan Schieppati from Bleeding Through, he just worked so well. We were recording an album and he was in town. I just called him and said I’m picking you up, he said why what are you doing. I said we are recording vocals so I just went and picked him up and drove him to the studio, did some vocals and drove him back to the venue. They just happened to be there when I was at home so it fit perfectly. It doesn’t always work that well and a lot of the time I’m never really at home.
Phill – With your new album you have made the demon into a greater, bigger and more malevolent force in music. How have you achieved this?
CC – I don’t know I’m really happy with the latest album, I always happy with the latest album. It not like I go this is the best I have ever released, but I’m satisfied I’m happy with it. Because every album is written with one rule, that is no compromises. It has to be what I want to do not what fans expect me to do or what the markets tells me to do not what’s popular. I have to write what I want to write and that’s red line between all the Combichrist albums, regardless of the music difference from the first to the latest. That’s the one rule all the way through. I find with a lot of bands that nothing is original. Originality is just to pick up pieces from things that are already there and put it together in a new way. With a lot of other bands they tend to copy one thing and try to rein act one thing that always makes it boring. I’m incapable of just trying something I have to do it, in order to do that you have to seek inspiration from other places than what’s already done in the same scene. I guess that’s what keeps us alive.
Phill – Andy you are also apart of Icon Of Coil, Panzer AG and Scandinavian Cock, how do you manage to play in all four bands when Combichrist is so big?
CC – It’s quite easy because Icon of Coil is done for and Panzer AG has been on ice for a long time. Scandinavian Cock is just a band where we meet up when we have time and we just play old fashioned punk and rock and roll. Everyone in that band are just talented musicians, there are no big plans for it we just go in and play rock and roll and punk rock. Icon of Coil is just if we happen to be in the same place at the same time we’ll do a show but there’s nothing more to it. We don’t do any new music or any remixing. Panzer AG has been on ice for a long time, I might be doing something new with it now, that’s just because I see a little free time off from Combichrist in the next couple of months so I might go back in the studio for that. It’s really Combichrist and then it’s everything else. It’s not like four bands it’s Combichrist and the other stuff. Whatever I do whatever I have time for that’s what I do, that’s how it is.
Phill – What are your main musical influences?
CC – It’s very hard to say my influences now, it used to be growing up with punk rock and seventies metal in general. Then at the same time we would be listening to more of the electro and more of the techno scene stuff. I found some of the bands like Front 242 and Inserat, I didn’t even look at that scene I just thought they are doing something cool as a punk rock kid. They are doing something like I do with just different instruments. They kind of captured the same kind of energy, you went to the shows and it had the cool dark atmosphere and everyone was in the mosh pit. But there was kind of similarities there this kind of rebellious thing. It kind of got stuck with me in the nineties as well, looking back to it I had that feeling with me. And then during the nineties I got into the trance scene. Then with like Icon of Coil, let’s do something more trancey but with vocals from that gothic industrial scene, we just kind of ended up in the scene. We weren’t really in the scene we just landed in the scene. And it was a pretty cool place after that I really enjoyed it and I really like the community and everything in it. Musical inspiration wise these days it’s kind of hard as I try not to listen to anything in the scene because I’m in the club every night, somehow you’re in a club every single night. I’m trying to be objective to my own music so I’m trying to just not to listen to electronic music at all. I listen to big band jazz stuff, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, fifties rock. So when I go into the studio it’s so fresh, it’s refreshing to work with electronic music and it opens you for something different because you don’t have all those bands in the back of your head you just have an empty white piece of paper.
Phill – You have toured quite a bit as support to Rammstein has this helped boost your career?
CC – It defiantly has exposed us to a wider audience and one thing I liked was a lot of bands would go out of their way to break into another scene. Changing their music and trying to add things to the music to cross over. We were able to do exactly what we were doing and we would still be able to expose ourselves to a different scene. It’s really hard to cross over without changing music or changing image. We managed to stand our own in front of a different audience and we defiantly got a big fan base there so that was successful.
Andy LaPlegua (vocals), Z. Marr (keyboards), Trevor Friedrich (percussion), Joe Letz (drums).
Phill – What is your relationship like with Rammstein, are you on a professional and/or personal level with them?
CC – With Rammstein it’s like family as we have toured with them for so long. We clicked with them right away, we clicked on the first week of the tour. It’s got to the point where it’s really weird not to tour with them. It’s like one band playing different shows, we are just like family.
Phill – You have been coming to Manchester on tour a few times, is there anything special about the crowd here in Manchester?
CC – I think it’s a special thing about the UK in general, it’s always been a good place to play and a good crowd, we always enjoyed playing here and it’s one of our highlights. Maybe it’s not the biggest crowd but it’s always been a powerful energetic crowd. We missed the UK on the last run so that’s why we’re doing it now, so far it’s been amazing.
Phill – The Monsters on Tour 2011 European leg of your tour is back to back shows. How does touring so intensely affect you?
CC – It keeps you going because if you don’t do it this intensely it gets really hard, you get into the groove of it and you follow that groove all the way through. If you have hiccups along the way it gets really harder. It’s like I’m some kind of machine, you just keep going and following that trail. It’s kind of like going to the gym, if you go the gym once a month it’s hard but if you manage to go every day it becomes a lot easier. I haven’t has as much as a month off touring since 1999 or 2000, it’s so just a big part of what I do. I don’t even really think about it anymore. I really enjoy it, I’ve been sober for almost a year and a half now. I thought this would be the worst thing, touring without partying but it’s actually enhanced my experience of touring. You actually manage to get up in the morning, you actually get to see things and do things, and you don’t feel like crap all the time. And when you are drinking you end up sitting back stage drinking all day and then continue drinking somewhere else. Drinking becomes a bigger part than actually playing the shows. It keeps you physically better, like I can go home and go straight to the gym. I can do something the same day I go home and not sleep for a week. Also we are a way more powerful live band sober, we definitely have more energy physically. It’s like you look back at some of our gigs, it was like it’s a lot of fun for the audience but it’s chaos.
Phill – What’s the first thing you intend to do when you get back home after the tour?
CC – Spend time with my girlfriend.
Phill – What is the most grotesque or funniest thing any member of the band has done whilst on tour?
CC – I don’t even know where to start, I can say except for shooting up we did everything Motley Crue ever did. The weirdest thing I can think about is Joey was drunk and he ended up eating this tramps boogers, then we paid the homeless guy to break dance afterwards.
Phill Bruce (GC Interviewer), Andy LaPlegua (Combichrist vocalist) & Emma Wilson (GC Photographer) pre-gig, June 30 2011, Manchester UK.
Phill – Do you have any pre-gig rituals in the band?
CC – I guess we do but you just don’t think about it you just do it. You have things that you do, you need time to get dressed for the gig but it’s just things you do you just don’t think about it. It used to be when we toured around Europe and the music started it was time to get drunk and start again after getting dressed for stage. The funniest thing about not drinking is that you turn into the worst part of you, it gets to the point where people tell you to have a drink to chill out.
Phill – How do you deal with groupies?
CC – I’ve had my share. It’s like... I’m a guy, you do stuff. I mean, we have fun on tour, it’s like... you party and have a good time. That’s all you can say about it.
Phill – Tom Jones get’s women’s underwear thrown at him for been a sex god. What is the weirdest, wonderful or downright wrong item from a fan you have ever received?
CC – You sometimes get letters and it’s like, this person cannot be old enough. I think it’s just the letters can be quite funny. The male fans can be the best. They say they are trying to find a wedding gift for their wife and I was thinking maybe you could be it, it’s sort of wrong and weird. You get bizarre requests.
Phill – Thank you so much for giving Grave Concerns this interview, is there anything you would like to add?
CC – No just we have a great time here in the UK, it’s not somewhere we get to tour that often and it’s amazing. If you haven’t seen us live you are missing out, even if you don’t like our music. Thanks to all the fans because if it wasn’t for the fans we wouldn’t be able to do this. That’s about it.
Phill - Good luck with the new album and your current tour. Be safe guys.
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