Ahead of Coheed and Cambria‘s London show last month in support of their new album Vaxis Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures (read our review here), Philip Whitehead spoke to the band’s drummer Josh Eppard about the new album and the possibility of new Weerd Science in the near future. Here’s what he had to say.
So the new album is out now and it’s very much a return to the “classic” Coheed sound after The Color Before The Sun took a slight detour. Did you guys do anything different for the songwriting process this time around?
Oh yeah. The first thing that comes to mind is, we produced this record ourselves which was not really different in a lot of ways. I mean, a lot of the more conceptual based Coheed stuff, we did have a big hand in the production but, you know, this time there was no producer, it was just us, and we’d always worked with a producer. But I don’t want to be misleading, it wasn’t that much different. But one of the biggest things is, I know Claudio had a pretty good synopsis of a story, and we catch bits and pieces as a band but before we even started recording, we got a detailed main-beat-for-main-beat breakdown of the story. We really used it to utilise how we were gonna be creative on this record and, for me personally, I found it to just be a really invigorating and exciting new way of creating. There’s not a song that goes by where the story elements at play didn’t dictate what I was doing, so I think it’s something we’re gonna utilise in the future. And I think that kinda speaks to how this record takes a step forward conceptually with the narration at the beginning that bends more into that world, and I think it was the right time and place for that. But that was certainly true on the other side, on the creative side of it. So yeah, there were quite a few things what were different.
The new album is the beginning of a 5 part stand-alone story within the Amory Wars universe. Do you already have ideas for how the next 4 parts are going to progress or do you tend to cross that bridge when you get to it?
I mean it’s awfully hard for me to really speak on this stuff, it’s why I don’t do a lot of interviews any more. I don’t write the story, so I don’t really know. I can give you some insight: knowing Claudio, he does have all five parts – the main parts – and he’ll plug in the other stuff. But he knows where this thing is heading for sure.
Is there anything you can tell us now about the next part of the Vaxis arc?
I wouldn’t even if I knew, but I don’t know anything about it. Things change too, and Claudio’s very guarded about talking about that stuff cos when we were kids, he’d do an interview and he’d get all excited, and do this 40 minute breakdown of what it all was. But then it would change and those things exist on YouTube. I might have caught bits and pieces here and there, but I’m really not at liberty to share because everything changes. It’s a creative baby, it evolves and it grows, so the fans will have to wait and see. But I know it’s gonna be a lot of fun when the bits and pieces do start coming out.
In the past Claudio has used elements from the Amory Wars almost like an allegory for real world situations. Would it be fair to suggest that there are moments like that on this album? If so, which tracks do you think are most applicable to the world in 2018?
Oh of course. The first thing that comes to mind is a song called The Pavilion (A Long Way Back). It’s very clearly about being on tour, about being on the road, in fact the guy who’s with us filming now was like “You know I should really shoot a lot of backstage stuff and piece together a homemade video” because that’s what the song’s about. But I always thought that was really the beauty of Coheed and Cambria, that there were always these deeply personal things to all of us kinda married in to all this fantastic, wild story. But of course there’s all kinds of DNA from reality and real things that are going on, but that’s always been true.
The Unheavenly Creatures is Coheed’s longest album at nearly 80 minutes. Is it difficult to decide which songs from the album you’ll be playing live on the current tour?
It hasn’t been difficult yet because we’ve only been playing the singles, so it’s so far so good. But I think it’s gonna get difficult, yeah, because every band member has a couple that they want to do and they’re all different. But we’ll figure it out, we always do. We have a lot of material now, a lot of records. Speaking to how long this record is, I’ve seen some reviews from critics and stuff that say the album is too long and I call bullshit. You don’t have to listen to a record front-to-back. I think that the songs on there are well worth being represented on this record, and I like long records. Nowadays everything is a short dose and like an instant gratification. So we made a long record? “So what? Fuck you” is what I say.
Leading on from that, are there any songs from previous albums that you’d love to play live, but haven’t been able to yet?
Oh all kinds, yeah. I mean we always break out a couple, you know, it’s like I’m sure there’s a bunch that will end up rearing their heads. Every time we go on tour, we have our songs that we have to play, it’s just the way it is. And all the die-hard fans that are like, “Oh I wouldn’t be mad if they didn’t play ‘A Favor House [Atlantic]’ or ‘Welcome Home’” or this or that or whatever, they’d be the first ones bitching if we didn’t. But every tour that we go out on, there’s always a couple that rear their heads and I think that’s just a trend that will continue. So, yeah, when we’re gearing up for the next US tour there’ll be two or three songs that we haven’t played, or some that we’ve never played, and we’re already talking about what those songs are, but we’ll see. It’s getting tough, man. There’s so many to choose from, there really is. I mean, there’s no guide book on how to be a band for 20 years so we’re still figuring it out as we go, and I think setlist composition is something that is gonna start to get really interesting, it’s something that we’re focused on, and kinda break away from that kind of same set. I mean we care about our fans think, we’ve always been really understanding that people spend their money to come and see us play. We never phone it in, we give everything we’ve got on stage and I think maybe the setlist compositions have to maybe catch up a little bit and start doing some more different things in the live setting.
Can you tell us anything about the meaning behind the new logo?
I’m sure if Claudio was here he could dish something out, but when you’re a band and you’ve got a lot on your plate, they throw a lot of different logos at you and you fucking pick one, man. I know we all really liked it, to me it had like an 80s sci-fi kind of look which I thought was really cool and I know there’s bands that have had similar logos, but I thought that the artwork as a whole, and the artist Chase from New York, like the book and everything he did, I think this is the best cover artwork we’ve ever had and it’s something I’m extremely proud of, even though I had nothing to do with it. I enjoy it as a fan, I enjoy it as being a part of this unit and I just think that he and we just knocked it out of the park.
Now let’s get on to you for a moment. Your drumming in particular has come in for a lot of praise from fans on this album. Was there any change in approach to playing, or new equipment or production techniques you used to get the sound right?
No, you know this record was a bit of an experiment for me, because I’ve been doing this a long time and I just don’t have the energy to fight with people anymore, so I said, “You know what? I’m just gonna do whatever Claudio wants on Dark Sentencer” but then I got Claudio yelling at me saying “Yo, do some crazy shit!” so the bridge gets real wild, you know. But I think some of the best drumming I’ve ever done in my life was on The Color Before the Sun, you just can’t hear it. Which was heartbreaking. I mean, truly heartbreaking for me. And no disrespect to Jay Joyce, no disrespect to that record. I love that record, I love those songs, but you really can’t hear the drums. They’re there, but the reason the drums are getting so much praise now is just a by-product that you can hear them. Which I’m very greatful for, and Jay Ruston mixed the shit out of this record with me and Claudio there. We went to the mix, and I think he just did a tremendous job. I think when you can hear the drums, people like it. I know I sure do.
Is there any chance of Weerd Science returning any time soon?
Oh, probably not, but you never know, man. I mean, it’s something I sure would like to do, it’s just I’m pretty busy with the band and stuff. Funny you should mention that, though, cos I was just writing today actually, and thinking like, “I gotta put out a new record,” so man I sure hope so. That’s the answer, I sure hope so, but there’s nothing in the works right now.
Lastly, the fans have demanded I ask this: Who is the current holder of the Lipton Cup of Christ Award?
Oh god. Well I realise you don’t know what that means, I don’t really know what that means, but I do know what that means. The current holder would be the one who always holds it and that’s Coheed and Cambria. We won that award, it’s ours fair and square. Just tell them that.
Coheed and Cambria‘s new album The Unheavenly Creatures is out now. For live dates, visit the band on Facebook.