Interview: Coheed and Cambria — "Quentin Tarantino could direct Black Rainbow because he's never done a sci-fi film"
Sat, 20 Mar 2010 17:33:46
Coheed and Cambria have reached a stratosphere far beyond any of their contemporaries with their latest album and sci-fi novel combo—Year of the Black Rainbow.
Due out April 13, 2010, Year of the Black Rainbow is far and away Coheed and Cambria's best record—a progressive, poetic and pummeling masterpiece, the album sees Coheed and Cambria reaching legendary heights. One of the big reasons is the sheer scope of the record. From the frenetic harmonies on "Guns of Summer" to the unforgettable chorus on "Here We Are Juggernaut," Coheed traverse an entire galaxy of tones, textures and moods. Packaged with the record is a 352-page novel written by Coheed frontman Claudio Sanchez and New York Times bestselling author Peter David, making the experience that much deeper. This is the Year of the Black Rainbow and the year of Coheed and Cambria…
Frontman Claudio Sanchez sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about why Quentin Tarantino may want to direct a film adaptation of Year of the Black Rainbow, the novel that accompanies the new album, drawing from Frank Herbert and Stephen King, becoming heavier and so much more.
There's an elegiac tone to the lyrics and the song on "The Broken." It's dark and a bit ominous. Is that an indication of the rest of the album's general direction?
Yes, to some degree. There are also certainly aspects of hope, endurance, an acceptance of flaws and finding empowerment in that. There's a strength in there. Some of the lyrics are open like that.
There's a real cinematic element to the record. If Year of the Black Rainbow were a movie, who would you want to direct it?
That's a great question! I don't know [Laughs]. Part of me wants to say Quentin Tarantino because he's never done a science fiction film, and I think it'd make for some great dialogue. I really don't know though. I really like Jean-Pierre Jeunet. He directed City of Lost Children, and I've always really liked the tone of his movies. Maybe that's a good option…
Maybe Terry Gilliam?
Sure, there you go! I'm in. He'd be awesome.
Or perhaps Martin Scorsese?
[Laughs] Shoot for the stars!
Did you always have this prequel in mind?
Yes, it was always my understanding that would become the end because [the characters] Coheed and Cambria actually pass away in The Second Stage Turbine Blade. I thought it would be nice to do them justice and see them in a better light—as opposed to all of the tragic events that happened in that Turbine story. I wanted to basically frame the overall mythos with Coheed and Cambria.
How similar were writing the album and writing the "Year of the Black Rainbow" novel?
Like anything, I had my team for the literal work—the book. The processes weren't that different. It was kind of tough juggling both of them—recording an album and writing a novel. That was a little strenuous but, for the most part, it was a lot of fun. As far as the similarities, I had a good production team. When I was a bit fatigued, they would help bring stuff to my attention and keep me sane through the whole thing.
Do any of the lyrics pop up in the book?
They do, but there aren't huge chunks of the lyrics in the book. There are certainly places where the book definitely calls to the album at particular moments.
Combining the album and the book, is this a dream record for you?
Definitely! Musically, like you were saying earlier, there's a very cinematic tone. There is a lot of atmosphere on this record, and that's something I've always wanted to incorporate on the other records, but just never could attain it as we have on this one. When we did Good Apollo One, we had the graphic novel that accompanied it. I always wanted to take it a step further though, so yeah, I guess this would be the dream album.
Coheed & Cambria has gotten heavier too on this record. Would you say there's more of an edge?
There is an edge, and there are more songs in that vein. The album is very diverse, and it covers a broad spectrum of what we do. "The Broken" is a taste of one side of the band.
On every Coheed record, there's a whole cavalcade of emotions that swirl about. There's a boundlessness. You can do anything on a Coheed record.
Hell yeah! The whole record really covers a lot of ground.
Did Chris Pennie [Drums, Ex-Dillinger Escape Plan] add some of that "edge"?
Certainly! There's a song on the album called "Guns of Summer," which is very much in that progressive world. It's very over-the-top, and Chris is playing a lot. We also get a Chris that we might not have heard in the past, where he really plays to a song and compliments the song. He really kicked ass on this record. There are a lot of tunes on this album that I'm not so sure we would've been able to execute had we not have had him.
He's so technical that when he locks into a groove, it's pure mastery.
Without a doubt! I was just listening to "Here We Are Juggernaut" the other day. It's kind of a lax tune; it certainly grooves a lot, but Chris is still adding nasty fills. Though it doesn't appear it on first listen, he's doing a lot. It's pretty awesome. I believe "Black Rainbow" and "In Flame of Error" that reach the seven or eight minute mark. Some of the songs are more self-contained. For example, "The Broken" is under four minutes, but there's a fair amount of exploration in that song. There's a fair amount of playing between everybody in the band and the way parts call and respond to each other. In terms of the arrangement and the sections, there's really a lot going on, but it's still self-contained and under four minutes. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I'm getting what I want to say out faster.
You can tell such intricate stories in three-to-ten minute songs. Was it fun to have 300 pages to go wild?
It was a lot of fun. To be able to explore things like the origin of the Dragonfly and focus on those things as opposed to throwing them aside and just making mention of them was awesome. To really get in there and give them a true origin was a lot of fun.
You've progressed so much as a band and evolved into such a tight unit. It's similar to George Lucas creating the Star Wars prequels decades later with the new technology.
Without a doubt! It really makes sense in terms of the concept. In this story, Coheed and Cambria have love for each other, and who they are as characters in the world is very strong—as opposed to Second Stage, where these characters are basically going through a series of tragic events that eventually lead to their demise. There's the fact that the music isn't as strengthened. It's very raw and broken, and it really reflects the relationship and the time for that story. It works out in the audio sense.
How much of did Joe Baressi and Atticus Ross shape that sound?
It was a lot of fun working with both of them. It was the most fun I've had working on a record. I know the timing is great, because I'm selling a record [Laughs] but in all complete honesty, it really is. In the past couple years, I've really wanted to fall into that world of programming and synthesis. I started to explore it No World for Tomorrow, but not in the proper sense. Atticus really helped me learn that world a bunch and how to incorporate it the right way without sounding like "The Coheed & Cambria" electronic album [Laughs].
It comes in more seamlessly.
That was great! I'm certainly a big fan of Joe. The way he can capture the raw tones is just perfect. I don't think there's anyone like him. I was listening to a record he'd done—I think it was one of the Queens of the Stone Age records. I was listening to the way the floor thom was getting struck, and I almost felt like I could picture the size of the drum, the depth and what color the drum was [Laughs]. I felt like I was in that room. I think both producers really played off of each other's strengths and weaknesses. It made for the perfect marriage for what we wanted to achieve as a band.
Beyond the graphic novel realm, have any novelists inspired you?
I really like Frank Herbert and the Dune series. I love that there's a religious counterpart to that, and there certainly is to this story. Conceptually, this void forms above Heaven's Fence, and it splits the inhabitants into two groups. Some believe, "Oh, no, this is the hand of God coming to smite us" and the other half believe, "This is clarification. This is the sign that Willem Ryan, the dictator of Heaven's Fence, is the true leader of the people." To some degree, I feel like Herbert has had some influence.
There's also a Dark Tower [Stephen King] vibe too.
I do get that! Certainly because of the third record, fourth story, the first Good Apollo, we see from the writer's perspective and how the writer's reality affects the outcome of the story. I've definitely heard that. I've actually read some of The Dark Tower, which I really do enjoy, but I never got to the part where Stephen King gets involved and becomes a part of the fiction. I do like that idea. For that record, that was my way of letting the audience know there is a concept that surrounds this band, but a lot of the music is very much about myself and my personality around the times that I wrote those records.
The most personal way to let people into your life is to create a story, because that's your imagination. That's the most important thing to you. You can get closer to an artist through a story like this.
True! I've never thought of it like that [Laughs]. In terms of emotionality of course!
So should QT get behind the helm of Coheed's big screen adaptation some day? What do you think??
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