Combichrist Interview

Room Thirteen recently caught up with Combichrist frontman Andy Laplegua at Nottingham's Rock City

R13: How's the tour going so far?

Andy LaPlegua:Good. It's...going. It's been going on forever. It doesn't even feel like we're touring for this album, because we never really got a break from the previous album to this one. We just had the break whilst we were doing the album. It's still going and it's still going successfully, we're having a lot of fun and the crowd's been good. You can't really wish for more than that!

R13: If you could tour with anyone who would you choose?

AL: It's such a hard one. It would be great to be on tour with Rob Zombie or something, but at the same time, if I could pick, I would love to go on tour with David Bowie. I know it wouldn't fit, but he's one of my all time heroes so that would be amazing.

R13: David Bowie would probably like it, he touched on industrial a few years back...

AL: Yeah, I mean, he had Trent producing one album. That's one of the reasons I respect him so much as a musician; he is never afraid to move on. He's an artist and not just a product, and that's why I respect him so much. For me, even if it's fun, it's still art. You're not just a musician you're an artist

R13: I could've sworn I heard somewhere that you were touring with Morbid Angel. How do you think your fans would accept their Death Metal sound and vice-versa?

AL: Well, we're not touring with Morbid Angel, but we did just do a remix for them, which was really funny because I did a very electronic version, actually more electronic than we do our own music and their fans absolutely hated it, which amused both us and Morbid Angel. We thought it was pretty hilarious.

Interestingly enough, I've been talking to them, I talked to David (Vincent) this year about us doing a tour like that, and we asked the same question, like 'How would I come across?' I think it would work very well, because we have a lot of metal & hardcore influences for our live performances, so next time maybe we will be touring together! Our fans might like it, but the other way round they can be very narrow-minded

R13: They don't seem to like the new Morbid Angel album (Illud Divinum Insanus) much...

AL: No, exactly. David was just laughing. He's so past that narrow-minded state. That's one of the reasons he didn't do it for long last time too, because he was so sick of this narrow-minded scene. We're kind of in the same boat; we like everything, every aspect of music. If it's a good song, it's a good song, it doesn't matter what style it is. If there's a top hit that comes on the radio, if it's good, it's good. I'm not a very big fan of hip-hop, but if there's a good hip-hop song then it's good. That's just how it is.

R13: You spend a lot of time touring, how do you find life on the road? How do you keep yourself sane?

AL: Keep going! Take a break and you'll start reflecting too much on it. With Combichrist and without Combichrist, I've been touring with bands in general my whole life. I've been touring since the early 90s with no big breaks at all. I think that's the thing. If I'm still sane, that's a big question! I don't know if I managed to keep myself sane (laughs), but to stay relatively sane, I would say it's just because you keep going, you keep working passionately. If you have too much free time on your hands you lose it; you reflect too much on things around you. It's such a different life than being at home. Tour life is nothing to do with real life. You just keep going, that's about it!

I've got things to look forward to when I get home; I've got my girlfriend at home, I've got my house, my cars that I build, I build hot-rods, motorcycles. I've got all those things to focus on for getting home. In the time period when you start thinking about things, you just go 'ok, I got this new thing at home, I'm looking forward to that', then, when you've been home a little bit you go 'now I've got the road to look forward to'.

R13: You said you build hot-rods, you've got a bit of a rockabilly look going on. Is that the scene you're into?

AL: Yeah, that's the scene I sort of came from; the punk rock & hardcore scene, the hot-rod scene. Don't even ask me how I got involved in this industry, it's really weird, we all really liked music in this scene but basically, most of the people in the band, the live musicians as well, like punk rock and hardcore, metal and stuff like this, which I guess sets our show apart, makes us a little bit different from most of the other bands in this scene. But, yeah, those are my babies; cars and motorcycles...engine grease!

R13: You were originally heavily into punk/metal/hardcore, but your sound is very electronic based. Do you ever get tempted to move into more metallic territory?

AL: No. If I ever feel like that I will just do it with something different. I have a certain idea of where my limits are with Combichrist, but at the same time I always do exactly what I want to do. There's never any compromise. If I want to add some hardcore influences or punk rock influence I'll do it, but I kinda know exactly what I want to do so I don't get too tempted to bring too much into it. Combichrist is Combichrist, even if it released anything very different, I still have this idea of what it should be. I have another band, Scandinavian Cock, which is a punk rock band and that's where I get my outlet for the rock 'n' roll, that keeps me from bringing too much of it into Combichrist. If I would like to do a metal album I would just create a new band for it. I don't feel the need to mix it up too much.

R13: Any bands/albums that have been a particular influence on you? Any current bands that you find exciting?

AL: The easy answer is 'not really'! And then, at the same time, everything. It's like everything from stuff that I prefer to listen to, like even back to Billy Holliday, jazz, old vocal jazz, big band, 50s rock and stuff, and old country stuff like Johhny Cash. All of these things influence me in a certain way. And then reggae music or metal or hardcore, or you spend the night at the industrial club, hear the beats & the vibes on the dancefloor. All of these things influence me for Combichrist. I don't have any specific bands that really influence me right now.

Earlier on, one of the things that got me into electronic music was the obvious like Front 242, Nitzer Ebb and all the old school stuff, that's kind of what ignited my interest in electronic music. For me, that was kind of like 'These guys are doing something like punk almost, but it's electronic'. They don't use the same instruments, but it had some of that same attitude, some of that same DIY feel to it. That's what really sparked my interest in it, and after that I haven't paid too much attention to too many things. There's a few artists now specifically that I really like, like SAM from Germany and Northborne in Norway, which is my old keyboarder (Christian Lund) from Icon Of Coil.

There's a few things that stick out that I notice, but mostly I'm at the point where I'm trying not to listen to things to keep myself objective.

R13: Your latest album 'Making Monsters' retains the basic Combichrist sound, but seems more mature and varied than previous albums. Where do you see your sound going in the future?

AL: I think the biggest difference is that the last albums 'Tonight We Are All Demons' and 'Making Monsters' were both, more or less, written on the road. Not produced or recorded, but written. When I'm home in a safe setting and working on an album I write mostly as the character Combichrist.

It's really funny, you get this all the time 'the lyrics are so violent' or sexist or whatever'. Look at any movie and you'll find any movie is worse. And that's basically what it is, it's a story. It's a character, it's like a movie. It has nothing to do with my personal perspective or my personal opinions. And then the last couple of albums when I've been writing on tour, you're writing under different settings. You're not inspired that much by movies and stuff like this, you're more inspired by things that are going on around you, emotional things. So it becomes more personal, I guess. It becomes more serious so maybe it feels more grown up. We're just as much kids still as we were at the beginning. Plus we're inspired by the live shows themselves, so you're bringing a lot of that energy and a lot of that influence back with you to the studio. Which is actually really great because I feel that translates really well into the live shows.

R13: Speaking of the live shows, you were recently on tour with Rammstein. Did you pick up anything from their live shows? Would you like to do anything that big?

AL: It's kind of hard because the only things you want to 'pick up' from a Rammstein show is just a lot of fire (laughs). And a massive, million dollar production. It's kind of hard to just pick that up!

I think one of the reasons we did fit so well together was that we went on and it was completely stripped down. Just a raw show. Just the music and musicians on a huge stage, and we had no production, more or less. We just had a band. So we were forcing ourselves to use the elements that we have, namely us and the music. Then Rammstein came on, and they had big production that was completely the opposite almost, where the show is ahead of the musicians and music, which was a good combination for the crowd, because they got both. If anything I think it just strengthened us and what we already did, rather than to pick up what they were doing. It just pushed us even harder to be a better live band and tighter, more focussed on the music because we didn't have that production. That's the biggest thing we brought back from that tour, I think.

R13: You have a current side-project 'Scandinavian Cock'. Any plans to do a full-length album or tour?

AL: Yeah. Actually, we've got another week or so of this tour and my first thing on my to-do list when I get home is to start recording the album, which I'm really excited about. I'm taking it even further than just the Ep (Uncut) that we did. We've got an additional member, which has brought a lot to the band. It's way more powerful now and I'm really excited about it, and it's so different from what I'm doing now. It's something to look forward to, it's like a mental break. Definitely looking forward to doing that. And there are so many good album titles, like 'Full-length' (laughs) or '12 inches'! We'll see what happens, but I'm really excited about it.

R13: You've spoken out about animal cruelty for PETA, how did that come about?

AL: I've always been very active. I'm not necessarily an animal rights spokesperson on all levels. Personally, I eat meat, I'm not a vegetarian. I am a carnivore and I do believe I'm meant to be one, but I am very conscious about what I eat and where I get it from and what's organic, even down to eggs. My main thing is against animal cruelty, like dog-fighting, and experimenting on animals and stuff like this, which is completely unneccesary and has nothing to do with the food chain. I'm still very active with it. That's one thing I definitely have in common with PETA. I'm still very active with pet adoption, animal shelters, stuff like this.

R13: You fairly recently shot a video for 'Throat Full Of Glass', which looked like a lot of fun and even featured a cameo from Limp Bizkit's Wes Borland. Is a second career as an actor on the cards?

AL: It's funny you saying that, everybody wants to be an actor. Who doesn't? But can you act? That's a completely different thing. I had so much fun doing it and, for the first time doing a music video, it really made me want to act. I don't say that I did a good job, but it was just so much fun doing it.

Talking about us getting slandered for being sexist and stuff, we got so much shit for doing this, which was funny because all the ideas that had anything to do with the girls was all their ideas. All the girls in the video were "what if you put a gun to my head, and I'll take my top off", or whatever. Alright, cool! It was just 'go with the flow', and we just had so much fun, and then we get all this shit afterwards, like 'hey girls, you got us in trouble for your ideas!'

We didn't try to come across as macho or anything, it was just a lot of fun. It was just us playing around, to the point where we were watching the video laughing, it was like 'look at how macho we are!' We'll see, I would love to do something. I'll try anything once. Or twice, if I fail the first time!

R13: What kind of role would you have in mind?

AL: It would have to be something not too serious. Something fun and crazy. Some kind of a shoot 'em up thing, where it's a little bit no-brain and more action, where it doesn't get too deep and we can just have fun doing it. A crazy role or something!

R13: Thanks a lot for your time, and good luck with the rest of the tour.

AL: You're welcome.