So how has it been playing the Under the Black Rainbow songs live? Especially since you were much more involved with this album?
Yeah, this is actually the first time I was able to record on an album with the band. So with No World (for Tomorrow), I was involved with the demoing process, but due to contractual obligations I wasnít able to record. So yeah, this album holds a little more of a special feeling because Iím actually able to sit on the other side, after being involved with it, and hold something that I participated in 100 per cent Ė itís cool.
Yeah, itís a great album...
Thank you, thank you. So yeah, it feels great to play the tunes, but great to play everything else and the other tunes are fun to play as well Ė 360 degrees around, itís good.
Whatís the most challenging Coheed song to play?
I donít know...probably the ones that I didnít record originally because there are different things on them that give me insight into Joshís (Eppard, now in Terrible Things) playing and then because Taylor (Hawkins, Foo Fighters) played on No World, itís a bit of a window into his style and the way he plays and phrases things. So those are definitely a challenge because I didnít completely come from the ground-up on those things. With the Black Rainbow tunes, there are definitely songs like ďGuns of SummerĒ that are a challenge because thereís a lot going on Ė thatís a lot of fun to play. Every song holds its own challenge.
How about the songs you like to play when youíre feeling angry?
(laughs). Oh boy, thatís an interesting question. Like, the tunes that are slower in tempo, and I donít mean the ballad ones, but ones like ďWelcome HomeĒ where I have a lot of time to get to the drums, I can tend to hit a little bit harder and take some frustrations out Ė itís that type of tempo tune. But I donít know, I usually try not to take that attitude when I take the stage Ė I get more into having fun and the fire and the urgency to play my best every night instead of letting my emotions take it over. I mean, I definitely play emotional when Iím up there, but I donít want to ruin it for the band (laughs).
Youíve been in Coheed for just over three years now and itís obviously been a pretty good experience for you...
Was that the same in the Dillinger Escape Plan?
At first, it was great, but it became strained over the years. The important thing for me is that when youíre touring in a band eight or nine months out of the year and you go on these two-month stretches back-to-back, you have time to chill and you get along with the guys, the family that youíre with. Like, you take time catch up, learn about each other and give space when itís needed. Ultimately itís communication and those things werenít happening with Dillinger Ė especially towards the end of my 10 years with the band. It doesnít really have to do with being on stage and enjoying the music, it was all of the other stuff getting in the way personally off stage. It wasnít fun, it wasnít fun at all.
So joining Coheed has definitely been a good thing...
Itís been really great man Ė really great. Itís done wonders for my mental well-being in terms of feeling very clear and focused on all cylinders. Everyone in this band is working toward the same thing and weíre like a well-oiled machine, a family, on and off the stage.
Having talked about this close relationship with the band, how about the music? Do you understand the Armory Wars? Like, the storyline behind the lyrics and albums? Be honest...
(laughs) To be completely honest, it is a little tricky for me. I understand little bits and pieces, but it is something I need to make more time for. When I got into the band, when I first listened to the band, I got into them purely for the music. That doesnít take away how much I admire and appreciate what Claudio (Sanchez) is doing Ė heís created an entire world. What goes along with the music is a complete experience and I think that really helps make the band an entity unto itself. Itís very special man.
Do you think thereís a good balance with the music and the concept or does one overshadow the other at times?
No, not really. I think everyone in the band kind of preaches that the music is first and if you want to get into the story, youíll get into the story after. But at the same time, I feel that the amazing allure of the band is there is this epic story and there are all of these other mediums and offshoots coming from it that are really cool. I donít think either one overshadows Ė they just work together and make it one big entity.
Cool. How long have you been playing drums?
I started when I was 12 and Iím 33 now so itís been a pretty decent amount of time.
So what got you to pick up the drum sticks for the first time?
I guess it was that my mom and dad were avid listeners of music and went to a lot of shows and listened to a lot of bands from a lot of different styles of music. So growing up, there was a lot of that in the house. They would listen to everything from Iron Maiden to Zeppelin to the Stylistics to Kool and the Gang and Billy Joel Ė everything across the board. So I listened to a lot of different types of music and then I got into Metallica when I was 11 years old and picked up ...And Justice for All. That was when I really took notice and asked my parents if I could take lessons. Thatís what really inspired me Ė hearing that record and finally saying, ďI want to do this.Ē
Is it true that your first band was the first signing at Vagrant Records?
Yeah, thatís true. The band was called Boxer and Vagrant had just put out a compilation...I canít remember the name. But yeah, they asked us to come out to play in California and we got signed.
Looking at how much itís grown since, what do you think of the label now?
The labelís amazing and Iíve always loved it. It was such a crazy time in my life because I had just gotten home from Berkeley and I didnít know what to do because I had two bands at the time. Iíve always had a lot of projects going on because I just like to make music, but I didnít know at the time because I had Boxer and then I had Dillinger Ė I told the guys in Boxer that Dillinger was the priority. But both bands got signed at the same time and so I had to ask myself, ďDo I tour with Boxer or do I tour with Dillinger?Ē and I decided to tour with Dillinger and Boxer found another drummer.
Howís Return to Earth going?
Itís great. Itís just a bunch a friends of mine who I met about mid-way through my career. So when I was beginning the transition of leaving Dillinger for Coheed, before Claud and Travis (Stever) called me, we all started playing and thatís kind of what Return to Earth turned into. Automata just came out a couple months ago on Metalblade and itís getting good reviews. Iím proud of it Ė itís something fun to do when Coheed has some down-time.
Going back to Coheed, how would you describe the bandís music? There are so many ways to describe the sound and itís not very easy, which I donít think is necessarily a bad thing.
Itís funny. Itís funny, like you just said, in that itís hard to define what it is. I think that a lot of people want to define everything these days. I just say itís rock music. Itís heavy rock music that encompasses a lot of influences like blues and classic rock Ė even 70s fusion and psychedelic music. But it all just falls under the rock-and-roll umbrella. Nobody in the band tries to define what weíre making Ė we just do our thing and try to enjoy it.
One more question. Have you ever played the drums for ďWelcome HomeĒ on Rock Band. If so, how did you do?
Yes and I failed miserably (laughs).
(laughs) Really? How come?
The funny thing with all of that is anything you take on has different hand-eye coordination. Itís different because Iím not used to visually placing things on where to put the kick drum or where to place my hand when the green bar rolls by. When Iím playing drums, Iím feeling it Ė not watching it Ė so itís a totally different thing for me. I donít remember what level I played it on, but it wasnít on advanced so I had to hit every other note and it was like half of what was supposed to happen. I totally blew it Ė it was awful. I also did one for Spin Magazine when they were just introducing the product and we were at Arleneís Grocery, which is a small little club in New York City. So the guy rolls up with the full set-up and says, ďTry this out man.Ē He puts on ďSay It Ainít SoĒ by Weezer and it was the same thing. I blew it Ė I couldnít even make it through the first 30 seconds. The guy was like, ďAw man, the calibration on the drums must be off or something.Ē and I said, ďNo dude, I just suck at it.Ē (laughs)