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Formed in 1995, COHEED AND CAMBRIA is the US Prog Rock band that continues to defy musical convention with each successive release. The band’s fifth full-length recording ‘Year Of The Black Rainbow’ (2010) was no exception and continues the band’s legacy of concept albums, the themes of which are based on the writings of novels and comics penned by frontman Claudio Sanchez. NZRock caught up with Claudio as the band toured Australia for the Soundwave music festival…

NZRock: It’s been a couple of years since COHEED AND CAMBRIA last visited Australia, how are those Australian’s treating you?

Claudio: Good, so far so good. We’ve had a couple of shows and they’ve been super receptive, really energetic and it feels like we toured here last week. It’s just been awesome.

NZRock: Last time you were down these ways you also played in New Zealand, is there any chance we’ll be seeing you in the near future?

Claudio: You know at the moment there are no plans but we’re looking forward to returning. I just don’t know when.

NZRock: Even though we don’t get to see you guys play live, we do have COHEED AND CAMBRIA’s latest album ‘Year Of The Black Rainbow’ to listen to. That’s an epic recording, what are some of your proudest achievements on that album?

Claudo: Well if I have to pick a few tunes I think I’d have to go with like ‘Pearl Of The Stars’ or ‘Far’ or even ‘Year Of The Black Rainbow’ I mean, we just really got a chance to explore another side of the band. I thought ‘Here We Are Juggernaut’ was a great song and certainly for me lyrically it just holds a lot of water. It’s really me kind of delivering from the heart and really expressing the decisions that I made in the past year and because of those decisions just becoming stronger. I think it’s certainly a step in the right direction in the band’s progress of making tunes.

NZRock: Like you’ve just mentioned, the lyrics that you write are based on your own life experiences. Have you ever hit the wall where you just don’t have experiences to draw on when writing new music?

Claudio: Yeah I’m always very much inspired by life… and death. I mean these are things that I always question and they always plague me to the point of having to kind of emit something creatively and I’m always creating due to that experience. So yeah, I never fall short of ideas and certainly, with having the concept there as well and time to transform that stuff certainly make it interesting.

NZRock: There’s some really amazing atmospheric stuff going on with the latest album. What’s the trick to creating that on a recording?

Claudio: Its just really finding the beauty in knowing and changing your perspective in terms of that because that stuff is very rhythmic. Though you’re not really looking to the rhythm side of that. That’s all that leads into the record, its just odd sounds that happen that just feel like they bring you to another place and just trying to find places to fit that. And I think we did a really good job and certainly the producers as well.

NZRock: There’s definitely an art to it. How does it work with collaborating with the other band members, is it an even contribution from everyone?

Claudio: Well yes and no. Usually I’ll come up with say the skeleton of the tune, you know just the guitar and vocals pretty much, or just a synthesizer sequence. Then I’ll bring it to the band and then the band will start to arrange the parts around it. For example with a tune like ‘Year Of The Black Rainbow’, that was something that we took like the solo per direction of ‘Pearl Of The Stars’ and just started jamming on it in the studio and just came up with a vibe there like on the spot. So we thought that the record could use that dimension and so we explored it together.

NZRock: ‘Year Of The Black Rainbow’ was listed as one of the top selling albums of 2010. With all the digital copying of music going on these days that has to be a good thing right?

Claudio: Yeah for sure. You know the times are trying and trying to sell a record is difficult. But for me, I like to think of COHEED AND CAMBRIA as doing more than just selling music, we’re selling a culture. With the audio and with the visual counterparts and the graphic novels and the prose pieces, I think that there is something more there that we’re trying to deliver.

NZRock: I see you’re releasing music on vinyl as well. Do you think it’s still important for bands to keep doing this?

Claudio: I enjoy listening to music on vinyl so I think there’s still a world for the record in terms of songs that express an idea. I know the world is changing to the point where singles are important and that’s fine, but I think in the end they’re still relevant. I think that as opposed to just servicing like one kind of audience there are multiple audiences and I think the idea is to try and service them all.

NZRock: Outside of the band you’ve got other projects on the go. You’ve got PRIZE FIGHTER INFERNO and your drummer Chris Pennie (THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN) had RETURN TO EARTH. How do you guys find the time to do that as well as be committed to COHEED AND CAMBRIA at the same time?

Claudio: I think when you have the off-time you just explore other options just to keep yourself creative, just give yourself a new perspective. That’s usually why I do INFERNO. I mean to be completely honest, songs like ‘Pearl Of The Stars’ and ‘Far’ were originally INFERNO tunes you know. But because you do both things you find that some things fit in better places.

NZRock: So are you in the process of writing new material for both of those bands at the moment?

Claudio: Yeah, actually more so COHEED. I mean I wrote a tune a little while ago that my wife felt was more of a PRIZE FIGHTER INFERNO tune but because I’d opened up that kind of perspective with the last record I found it could be a little bit more suitable for COHEED. So yeah, we’ve been writing for sure.

NZRock: So comics, novels and music, these are the mediums that you express yourself with. Are there other mediums that you’d like to explore?

Claudio: Yeah for sure! I dabble in art like graphic design, I paint a little bit and I sketch. Certainly I sketch for the comic books to convey to the artists what certain characters look like or settings. But I’d really like to do cinema. I’d like to push into something like that eventually. I think writing for comics kind of has become like a help in trying to learn how to make that next step so we’ll see.

NZRock: How about collaborating with other musicans. If you could do another project with any musician who would it be?

Claudio: Hmmm you know it’s tough to say. I mean I would certainly want to do something with someone from out of my world. Maybe someone like Trent Reznor… or working with Atticus and Trent, those guys have been working together for a long time and actually they’ve just won an Oscar for the soundtrack on The Social Network. But yeah I’ve always admired what Trent does and someone like that or maybe Christopher Nolan or… you know just somebody who doesnt make sense but we could deliver something interesting together.

NZRock: So what are the plans for COHEED AND CAMBRIA looking ahead to the rest of the year?

Claudio: Well in the spring of the year we’re going to do another Neverender. It’s actually the 10 year anniversary of COHEED AND CAMBRIA so we’re going to do Neverender SSTB which is perform the first album in it’s entirety. Basically just kind of do an evening with COHEED. It’s just us, no opening act, just a night celebrating 10 years. Then I guess for the rest of the year we’re pretty much going to work on writing the new record. In the fall we’re doing a few South American dates as well and that’s about it.