After leaving fans waiting four years for new material, Combichrist have returned with a vengeance with We Love You, their sixth studio album which was released late last month. Led by former Icon Of Coil founder Andy LaPlegua, the aggrotech band has been a magnet for controversy since the release of their debut LP in 2003, Joy Of Gunz.
Before kicking off their 2014 North American tour, LaPlegua took time to speak to The Aquarian and hash out all of the details about the new record and more. The transcription is below:
What is the writing process like when it comes to Combichrist?
It’s different every time. I get to the studio and either I use all of what I have and that’s the album or I end up using none of it and I rewrite the whole thing. Sometimes I’ll have a specific idea of how everything sounds or have an idea of the start of it and it grows and develops naturally. The only thing that is the same is that it’s only me in the studio.
How has the creative process changed since Joy Of Gunz?
The first album was like a studio clean-up. It was this stuff that I had done that I didn’t really know if I was going to release or not to the public—just stuff I had been experimenting with. And that is why there is such a big difference between the first and the second album [Everybody Hates You, 2005]. The second album had more of a conscious decision of what direction to go with it.
In the beginning, the point was to have no compromises, but even if I say, “No compromises,” there’s always a part of me that goes, “Oh, I can’t do this, I can’t do that.” Now I’m like, “Hell with it, I can do whatever I want.” Going from built-in restrictions to where I feel completely free, now if I want to do a jazz track in the middle of the album, I’ll do that.
Is there anything you specifically hope to accomplish with this album?
I think just that. Just to have a really raw and honest album. It’s just really honest, and I say that every time because I really believe that every time. Not that I just repeat myself. There is nothing polished about the album whatsoever. I could have hired a producer to go in and polish up some things but I didn’t want to because I felt like I captured the nerve that is Combichrist.
Is there an overall theme or message found within the new record, We Love You?
It’s kind of that ongoing theme that I’ve had for a long time. As individuals, as humans, we are still good people, but as humanity, we’re fucked (laughs). But I sit there and I watch the news and meet people on the road and see how things are forming around me in the world, I just feel like stupid people just shouldn’t breed. I’m not political by any means but I’m aware of what is going on around me, and that’s the whole thing. I think it’s a little less of the character—the character of Combichrist. I think a lot of that character just kind of disappeared and more of me began to come through. More of me and my view of the world.
You’ve just touched on this, but you’ve said in the past that the name Combichrist is based on a “punk rock messiah” character. Are there other characters found within certain songs or in your music?
The good thing about the character of Combichrist is that I can have it do whatever. I was watching The Hills Have Eyes the other day, and nobody ever bitched at Wes Craven because they knew he was just making a crazy movie, while I got shit for my character. But it’s just storytelling. It’s just like making a movie about serial killers or sexual violence, but it was always about the character. But my problem was that I could never just stick to it. I was always doing songs that were personal as well.
It was misread, because people would just listen to a personal song and then suddenly there’s this character that is doing whatever. It was like, “Is this you? Or this you?” No, I’m not running around like Ted Bundy shooting and yelling. There’s still a little of the character in there because without the character, I don’t think I could perform. I transform into that character on stage. If it was just me going on stage, I would just sit down, have a beer, and talk to people (laughs).
Last year you wrote No Redemption, the soundtrack for the videogame Devil May Cry. When writing for soundtracks, is the process different than writing for Combichrist?
Very much so. They send you all of this stuff and you’re sitting there, looking at videos and at certain themes, and there is already a set mood and tempo and you have to translate that into music, which is why No Redemption sounded so different than what Combichrist usually sounds like because you find yourself translating something that someone has already done. When I write for myself, everything is kind of from scratch, and you have to set the mood and the imagery.
You’re originally from Norway but are now based in Atlanta. Does this affect your sound?
It’s hard to say because I’m here. I have developed so much in the last 10 years, so it’s hard to say what direction I would have gone had I still been in Norway. Maybe I’d be doing black metal (laughs). I never followed the Norwegian music scene at all anyway, so I don’t really think it’d be much different.
The one thing that affects me living here is that I grew up with a lot of country stuff and bluegrass because my mom was really into it, and I never really got in depth with that kind of music even though I liked it growing up. But now I’m very much into the rockabilly scene—the classic cars and motorcycles. That’s all I do when I’m not on tour, I build hot rods. I never go to big concerts here; I go to car shows and rockabilly festivals.
I’ve never really even followed the Norwegian music scene because they don’t really have a real alternative music press. It’s all about what’s trendy. We never really had recognition even though we had done really well until we were on tour with Rammstein and we played to 20,000 people. Suddenly there were all of this press and I told them to fuck off.
Electronic-based/infused music is huge right now, both in pop music and in subgenres of rock. Any opinion as to why this is?
It’s kind of funny, because we’re getting rid of a lot of our electronica. But I don’t know, it’s going to die out again. It’s just trends. Electronic music has been so big in Europe for so long and in the U.S. it’s mainly been rock and metal. So I think it’s kind of a way to accept European music while still holding on to what they’re used to. It’s really weird to me; that’ll be like bands like Korn that are doing that because if they did that 10 years ago, people would be like, “Oh, you play… techno.” And it’s like, “No, it’s metal!”
How do you and the rest of the band members prep for an upcoming tour?
Rehearsals; we do a lot of rehearsals. Most of that happens on a bar stool in a bar. We have to have endurance (laughs). But we do rehearse, and we obviously go through all the pre-production for the tour, going through all of our equipment and whatever we have on stage. Whatever we fabricate for the stage, like keyboard stands, that we do ourselves like welding, because I have my car shop so we do everything here. Mentally, we’re so used to being on the road, so we don’t really need preparation for that. It’s mostly diving into new tracks.
What are the best and worst parts of touring and performing live?
The best part about touring is definitely being on stage. The worst part about touring is going on stage (laughs). There’s not one day where I’m looking forward to it because you’re so exhausted and out of your mind that all you want to do is go home. Then you get on stage and it’s the best thing in the world.
So it really is a paradox. I love seeing my friends but I also love being home and being with my girl, my dogs, my cars, and living my life. But as I get on stage, it’s like a switch. It just feels natural and is the best thing in the world. That is the reason we keep doing it. It’s like going on vacation. You hate the airport, you hate the plane, but as soon as you get off, it’s awesome.
Are there any tracks from the new record that you are particularly stoked to start playing live?
I would say every single one that we are playing, because we haven’t gotten to play them live yet. I don’t really know until the first couple of shows which are going to be my favorite live songs, but I’m really looking forward to this. It’s definitely a big step for us as a band and me as a writer because there are so many new elements and new material. I just can’t wait to crank these out and rock it.
Combichrist will play at Philly’s Theater Of Living Arts on April 5 and at NYC’s Irving Plaza on April 6. Their new album, We Love You, is available now through Metropolis Records. For more information, go to combichrist.com.