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Photo credit: Victoria Hionis

In Keeping No Secrets: A Conversation with Josh Eppard of Coheed and Cambria

Drummer Josh Eppard offers a jovial yet highly earnest examination of how his career, personal demons, and pop culture interests relate to Coheed and Cambria's newest disc, The Color Before the Sun.
Coheed and Cambria
The Color Before the Sun
300 Entertainment
2015-10-16

Over the past 15 years or so, New York progressive rock/post-hardcore quartet Coheed and Cambria has become somewhat of a phenomenon. Aside from being among the most successful bands to come out of New York, the group has helped define an entire generation with its consistently unique and incredibly accessible records. Fusing eccentric sci-fi storylines, catchy pop hooks, and invigoratingly intricate musicianship, the band has been offering something truly special ever since its debut LP, The Second Stage Turbine Blade, arrived in 2002.

On the foursome’s newest outing, The Color Before the Sun, band leader Claudio Sanchez decided to abandon his trademark Amory Wars narrative for something new: a collection of deeply personal songs without any gimmicks. For drummer Josh Eppard, this decision has resulted in a bold new experience that reaffirms how much the band has achieved thus far, as well as how much he’s grown as a person and musician in the process.

So The Color Before the Sun is the band’s first non-conceptual album, right? What is gained and/or lost in going that route?

Well, that decision really came down from Claudio [Sanchez]. I mean, when we describe it that way, I don’t want it to water down any past work because I know there is always an emotional connection with every album we do. For all of us. Claudio had such a deep, personal connection to these tunes that he decided to kind of let his guard down. I think it’s public knowledge amongst Coheed fans that the concepts kind of served as a shield for him at times. They were fantastic and cool, but they were shields, too. I could always pick out deeply personal things in his songs, even in the most sci-fi songs.

With this record, he wrote songs about his life and his first child, so he chose to not channel those things into a fictional concept. For us, it didn’t change anything; when we’re making a record, that’s the sole focus. The music. Sometimes the concepts don’t come into play so much for the rest of us, but I’m sure the lyrics are a huge part for Claudio. Really, tracking this record was no different than tracking the other ones; we just try to make the best one we can every time.

Absolutely, but you have to admit that the choice was surprising.

Oh, absolutely. Imagine my surprise, but I think it’s cool. If I’m being totally honest, I think it’s a bold and brave move, and I’m proud of Claudio for doing that. You always hope that the fans will be receptive to it, but what can you do? We’re a band that’s so all over the map, so we’ve always had a very eclectic mix of music. You always hope that people will respond to it, but—and I don’t want to sound like a jerk—that’s never the primary purpose. It’s got to be about the art and about creating something that you believe in first and foremost.

Anyway, it’s different enough to appeal to our fans, I think. They’re unlike any other fans; they’ve gone on this journey with us for about 15 years and I think they’ll fall in love with it like I did.

It’s good that you’re able to focus on what you get out of it. You’ll always find people who dislike what you make, so you have to be your own biggest fan.

Definitely.

How does the title and the cover art enhance what the album is going for?

Well, Nick Steinhardt did the artwork for us. He’s the guitarist of a band called Touché Amore, which is also managed by Blaze James at Roc Nation. I love that band. My friends from New York don’t even care about Coheed; that just want to know what Touché is up to.

Anyway, he’s a really talented artist and Claudio reached out to him to see how he could tie in some of these personal elements. Even some things that happened to uproot him out of his life, like with his house and his wife. All of these enormous life moments to bring together in a somewhat surrealist way. For us, the record cover has to be an extension of the music. It needs to be a significant connection.

When we saw what Nick came up with, we knew it was right. To me, it looks like the record. I don’t know if we’ve ever had a cover that looks so much like the music. It’s really powerful. That’s pretty much how it came about.

It’s very attractive and cryptic. I kind of want to blow up a print and frame it.

Right on. As for the name, I’m sure Claudio could tell you more, but he had a couple different names and there was — not to sound corny — just something simple but beautiful about this one. It wasn’t this longwinded, sci-fi, epic name, like we’ve done a bunch of times. It’s totally poetic and it sums up the album. It sounds like the album. It’s expansive. It’s the perfect name for it.

Let’s move on to the video for “You Got Spirit, Kid”. Obviously, it made me laugh, so I wonder where the concept for it came from and what the process was for getting it made.

We wanted to do something kind of fun, obviously. I think we’re considered a “serious” band, but people forget that our first video, for “A Favor House Atlantic”, was totally silly. That was from our second album (In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3), but even on our first (The Second Stage Turbine Blade), we filmed a video ourselves in which we were a jug band in a barn. We have a serious side and we take our band very seriously, but we can also be like a bunch of 15-year-old kids. “You Got Spirit, Kid” is fun, so we wanted to make a fun video.

They put together a storyline that was way different from what it was originally. I think they wanted Claudio to be the guy running around naked, but he was like, “I’m not doing that, but I bet Josh will!” The whole team was really awesome; that was probably the most fun I’ve ever had making a video. It was outside of our comfort zone. I think it’s important to challenge yourself. At this point, if we did some video where we had dark undertones, it’s like we’ve been down that road so many times.

That’s true.

It’s more rewarding for us to do something that’s not our cup of tea. That’s how we became a band, anyway. We didn’t sound like anyone else! We were outside of the norm and taking people outside of what they expected. It was weird and we got a lot of hate for it, but ultimately it spoke to people. With this one, it shows the lighter side of us, but in a way it’s just as important as the serious stuff. I don’t know if that answers your question, though [laughs].

Oh, yeah. That was a great way to put it. As you said, Coheed has received a fair amount of backlash over the years because people think that progressive rock as a whole is too pretentious. I mean, Coheed includes other styles, but there’s definitely a prog rock tinge, too.

Oh, man, you’re so right. It’s probably true, though, more often than not that progressive bands take themselves too seriously. Doing something fun, in a way, is the most progressive thing that we could do. Just like making this record. What were we going to do, put out a triple record this time and have every song be 18 minutes? We might do that one day, but this one is progressive in that it shows the overall arc of the band. I think making a record that’s so concise and straightforward, like this one, is the most daring thing we could’ve done.

We grow as a band every day because we play together and we live on a bus together a lot of the time, going all over the world, so every day we’re becoming the band we’ve always wanted to be. The Color Before the Sun really highlights that. I don’t know if the rest of the guys would agree, but I definitely think that. It’s a fine line between being too serious and being too goofy, but both are a part of us. We’re a bunch of silly bastards sometimes, so I was really happy to show that side of us. If you didn’t know this record was going to be a curve ball, that video made it really clear.

Exactly. Speaking of how Claudio typically references personal ideas, I noticed that “The Audience” seems to be a commentary on the band’s past. For example, some lyrics, like “Burning Star” and “This is the story of a boy who lost his way” seem to reference the Amory Wars.

I think you’re right. Even with the way it’s sequenced on the record, it’s sort of Claudio’s way of speaking about this thing that we’ve built. I don’t know if the song is that black and white, or cut and dry, but it’s one of my favorites on the disc. There was some internal debate about whether or not it should be on it, but I’m sure glad it is.

In the context of The Color Before the Sun, that song is kind of a curve ball, but there are moments throughout the album that hint at past Coheed stuff, and it all builds up to “The Audience”. After that, you’ve got “Peace to the Mountain”, which is unlike anything we’ve ever done. Well, if you listen to the hidden track at the end of Good Apollo (“Bron-Y-Aur”), it’s got banjo and stomping foot percussion, so it’s like a jug band tribute. “Peace to the Mountain” is closer to The Beatles. It’s really outside what we’ve done before. Then there are the interludes between the tracks that help us build to “The Audience”.

It’s very clever.

I think it’s definitely different. I couldn’t imagine the record not going from “The Audience” to “Peace to the Mountain”. I love the way you’ve got the heaviest, most progressive song so late on the album, and then the final song is the total opposite. There’s something poetic about how the record flows.

I love when songs segue into each other like they do on The Color Before the Sun.

Me too, dude, me too. That’s one of my favorite elements of our records. I’ve done a lot of the segues on previous discs, even going back to our first one. Then with the Afterman duo, Claudio and I did most of them together. With this one, we all worked it out in the studio as we went. There’s something great about that—just a band playing as they go. This LP is probably more of a live record than some band’s live records. It’s just us in a room without all the bells and whistles. I’m really proud of that.

I hope that some of the segues become full tracks on later albums. In a day and age where every sound is made perfect and fixed with technology, all the random flaws that make music music is kind of lost. There’s something special about a band playing without any of that. It’s sort of like what I was saying about Claudio being brave for taking down the personal veil. We’ve never needed studio trickery, but it’s something that every band uses, so this new one is like the antithesis of that. It’s just a natural sound. If you’re a musician, you’ll be proud of it. We certainly are.

You mentioned “Peace to the Mountain”, which I also think is gorgeous, especially the grandiose orchestration at the end. You guys have done that before, so I wonder who arranged this treatment and if you think that symphonic production is a key part of Coheed’s sound.

I think so. At this point, it’s always been there. Even on the early records, when we were at the studio for three days and we had to get it done quickly, we’d just do it with keyboards. It sounded a bit better on the second album, but when we got the chance to have real strings and horns, we were really excited. It’s another element to us. It’s cinematic.

As for the arrangements, Claudio can sit at a $200 keyboard and write a line and he’ll bring in players to add to it. It’s something to see how some of these players adapt what we give them. On Good Apollo, we put together the intro I wrote for In Keeping Secrets and the intro he wrote for Second Stage, and we had to hire someone to chart it. I mean, we can’t write music for violins, right? With this one, they came in almost totally blind. Claudio just played them some stuff and they took it from there. They’re such brilliant musicians. In, like, two hours they had it, and it was gorgeous.

Yeah, it’s breathtaking.

On “Peace to the Mountain”, we got the whole studio involved. Like ten or 11 people playing percussion. Claudio was playing a shaker and I’m playing a kick drum and Jay Joyce, the producer, got a tambourine. Two interns got shakers, too. It’s like a whirlwind of percussion by the end, which is something we’ve never done before. It was really classy and striking. I guess that song is a curve ball too; you talk about the orchestral elements being a part of our sound. It’s because it’s so exciting. Sure, it has some classic Coheed elements, but we’ve never had, like, Ringo-esque simplicity in the drums.

How did Jay Joyce come to produce it?

Well, I was out of Coheed when they made No World for Tomorrow and Year of the Black Rainbow, which they made with two other producers. Every Coheed album that I’ve been on, which is most of them, was produced by Michael Birnbaum and Chris Bittner. Michael is like my uncle Mike, and my father built that studio, so going to any producer, whether it was Jay Joyce or anyone else, was going to be different. I think it’s another case of us stepping outside of our comfort zone.

There were a couple names being thrown around to produce The Color Before the Sun. Every band has a list of dream producers, and someone threw out his name. He produced the last Cage the Elephant record, Melophobia, and we just thought it sounded really interesting and different. It’s usually a long process to put it together because people in suits haggle with managers over money and time, but he moved when he needed to and within two weeks we were in there.

To his credit, he didn’t try to get inside the band and tinker with everything. He recognized that we’re a great band—and I don’t mean that in any kind of a cocky way—but we’ve dedicated our entire lives to this things. He told me that we’re the best band he’s ever recorded.

Wow.

Yeah, and he just let us be. It was such a compliment. He was so overwhelmingly positive. He didn’t do what a lot of producers do, which is to make changes just to say that they made changes and had their hands on it. Jay didn’t feel the need to do that because he’s Jay Joyce; he doesn’t need to do that. He definitely brought things up here and there, but he let us be for the most part.

I’ve never made a record in less than a month, but that’s what we did. We did it in ten days, with vocals and everything. A song a day. We came in around 9:00AM and we’d have the drums and guitars done in time for lunch. Then Claudio would take the vocals and we were out by six or seven. That’s a very scary thing to do. When you make a rock record, you just pour over every detail. Every little mistake, but Jay was about keeping the mistakes. Like, “Hey, it moves a little there, but let’s keep it. That’s real, that’s music”. I’d think about how Led Zeppelin had little rhythmic mistakes, but I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

Jay was like a cheerleader for those elements, so The Color Before the Sun feels very human. It needed to feel like that, especially in a day and age of having thing so computerized, as I said before. Jay knew what he was doing. I’m sure there have been records where he’d have to get in there and fix tons of stuff, but with us he just let it fly. I think that freedom can be heard.

Yeah, especially with Claudio’s voice. There’s something so passionate about the way he sings. You can tell that he really vibes with every word and sentiment.

Yeah, it’s authenticity, man. Well said.

Favorite Songs, Favorite Bands

If you had to pick a favorite song from the album, what would it be?

It always changes. Right now, my favorite is “Atlas”, but before it was “The Island” or “Colors”. I think that’s true of most bands, although I don’t know if most people in a band would admit that. You listen to a record over and over again to try to detach yourself from the process.

I would love to hear this record like you do, or like anyone else does, for the first time. It’s impossible to do that, though, so that’s why I listen to it so much. I don’t want to remember if my stomach hurt during that session or if I still don’t like this sound. I just want to hear it for what it is. It’s like with any album; you get tired of some songs and you start to embrace new ones. “The Audience”, “Young Love”, and “Island” were my three favorites out the gate, but I guess if I had to pick just one, I don’t know if I could. I really love them all.

It’s hard to single out just one. What you said reminds me of how Paul McCartney once said he wished that he could hear Sgt. Pepper like his fans did, for the first time and without any personal involvement.

Wow, yeah. McCartney is a genius. That’s always the goal. It’s impossible but it’s worth trying.

Sometimes I’ll put the album on quietly as I’m going to sleep, so as I enter sleep I reach this place where I’m not carrying any of my human baggage. I’m just letting the music into my soul, to sound super corny. That’s the place to be. For just a millisecond I get to hear it for what it is. I must’ve listened to this one, like all of them, 10,000 times. This isn’t our most proggy or sci-fi record, but for my money it’s the best collection of songs that we’ve ever done. For that, I’m extremely proud.

Rightfully so, man. Obviously, you’ll be touring in support of the record. This time, you’re bringing along Glassjaw, Thank You Scientist, and/or Cursive. What made those acts a good fit for Coheed and Cambria? Are there any shows that you’re really looking forward to?

Glassjaw is one of my top five favorite bands. They’re fucking brilliant, so when that idea got off the ground, I was really excited. I’m also a huge Cursive fan. We always want to go on tour with bands that we like because we get inspired. If I’m watching another band from the side of the stage, I get inspired. That’s something we always try to bring to our tours.

As for Thank You Scientist, Claudio liked them so much that he signed them to his label (Evil Ink Records). They’re about the wackiest sons of bitches I ever saw, but they’re A-level players. There are plenty of bands who are like, “Hey, I want to Berkeley. Watch how crazy I can play”, and that’s fine but it doesn’t excite me very much.

That’s often a complaint thrown at Dream Theater.

Well, yeah. Hey, I love some Dream Theater stuff. My brother Joey’s band, 3, has toured with Dream Theater. I love progressive music, but I’m more about songs, and Thank You Scientist has the whole package. They’re a great group of guys and we had fun on our last tour. These are bands that we’re fans of. Cursive has been a band for a long time and there’s a certain sense of credibility that you get if your band has been around for a long time.

Let’s face it—there are so many bands that don’t make it. Even if they have a moment in the sun, it’s usually pretty brief. But with bands like Glassjaw and Cursive and Coheed, who’ve been around for years and are still kicking ass, there’s a certain amount of respect amongst peers that goes with that, so I’m honored to share the stage with them.

None of us are spring chickens, right? All tours are tough to put together. You might love a band but getting the logistics together to bring them along can be tough. Coheed casts such a wide net that it can be tricky to find people. Some bands don’t want to tour with us because of that.

That’s surprising, but I see what you mean. Out of those three other groups, I’ve only listened to Thank You Scientist, but I’ll definitely check out the other two.

Thank You Scientist is kind of the new guy on the block. It’s like, you get on the stage and people will respond if you bring something fresh. When I first heard Maps of Non-Existent Places, I really dug it, but seeing them play it live was the real kicker for me. I listened to the LP in a whole new way after seeing them in concert. They’re one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. They’re genuinely good guys, so I’m glad that Claudio and Blaze could give them a chance to get their music to the people. I know it’s connecting, and I’m really proud of them for coming this far.

They deserve it.

It’s not easy living this life. I know a lot of people think they want it, but it’s not easy living this life. To leave home and to leave your girlfriends or wives to play music. They’re my buddies and I’m glad they’ve been able to go so far. I look at them and I see a bit of us when we started out. I don’t know; am I old enough to be a proud papa? I’m only 35 [laughs].

Sure, why not? I saw you guys two years ago, at the Electric Factory in Philly with Between the Buried and Me. It was a sick show.

That place is awesome. There’ve been a lot of Philly guys that we’ve played with.

One of my best tour memories is of playing the Trocadero with Thrice. Philly is one of my favorite cites. I stayed in West Chester for a while with Fred Mascherino from Taking Back Sunday. He was also in Breaking Pangaea, which was the first band Coheed ever toured with. We were scared as hell at the time, driving around in a van without a tour manager. We used to have a pact that we wouldn’t refer to merch as “merch”. We were just so greenhorn, and Breaking Pangaea took us under their wing and showed us how to tour cheaply and effectively.

There isn’t a day that goes by on tour when I don’t implement one of those lessons. Fred is such a great guy and I love the Electric Factory. Talk about progressive! Between the Buried and Me is so technical.

Totally. I love them. I’d still argue that The Parallax II is the best progressive metal album of all time.

Right on. It was so nice being able to watch Blake [Richardson, drums] play. He and I are so different, but we found some common ground. He’s so precise. I learned a lot from watching him. They’re tremendous players.

This year also marks the 10th anniversary of Good Apollo. I’m not sure if you saw my essay on it for PopMatters, called “Keeping the Acclaim“.

Oh, I did read that. I didn’t know it was you. It was great, man.

Thanks. A lot of people liked it, but just as many thought I was full of shit.

That’s just it, though. There’s no such thing as being full of shit about music. Whatever the music means to you, it means to you. Simple as that.

I’ve probably misinterpreted most of the lyrics I’ve ever heard [laughs]. I just connect it to my life and to what it means to me, so when I find out what the real words are — even with Claudio’s songs — I’m surprised. Sometimes at rehearsal I’ll mention a lyric to him and he’ll say, “That’s not what I say. This is what I say”, and I’ll just like it more my way because that’s how I relate to it.

Anyway, Good Apollo is really special to me. Yeah, they’re all special, but that one is really special.

I mean, it’s all subjective, but I really think that that one is easily the best Coheed album to date. I love the others, but that one is just a masterpiece.

I think tons of people would agree with you. I’m so thankful that it’s so revered today. I’m humbled and lucky to have been a part of it. I believed in it while we made it.

When we made Second Stage, we were just kids in a band, and I initially thought of Coheed from a more pop perspective. I was in a band that was on a major label, so I was used to dealing with producers and labels that think like that. Coheed wasn’t Coheed yet; it was Shabütie, a local band. It was my favorite band before I joined, so when I left my band to play with them, it was a dream come true. We were so rough around the edges. I knew that Claudio was badass and that the band was awesome, but I didn’t expect any of this to happen. I wished it would, but I didn’t expect it to.

The reason I bring this up, Jordan, is because when we made In Keeping Secrets, I didn’t think anyone would like it. How wrong was I?!

Very, luckily.

There we were in this punk rock, post-hardcore world, and what we’d just done was too different. It was a classic rock record with cowbells. It was too groovy, even. People embraced it, though, and I was shocked.

Then, with Good Apollo, it all came together. Again, I loved In Keeping Secrets, but I was afraid the audience wouldn’t. I knew that Good Apollo would appeal to them, though. Going back to the strings, it was crazy to listen to a real orchestra play this thing that I wrote [the intro to In Keeping Secrets]. I was so moved by it. Like, how is this happening? It was our first major label record, so we had more time and money to do things. We couldn’t have done that when we were getting paid $50 a show and living off of $5 a day. I knew that we’d made something really great.

Absolutely. It’s timeless.

Take “Welcome Home”, for example. I knew that there was something there. You know, the label didn’t want to release it as a single. They thought it was just a great record cut, but they basically appeased us. I’m kind of a loud mouth and I’m boisterous, so I’ll tell you that if I wasn’t in Coheed and Cambria, “Welcome Homes” never would’ve come out. I really believe that. I was kind of like the cheerleader for it; I mean, I know Claudio and Blaze wanted it to come out too, but the label wanted the first single to be “The Suffering”. I just don’t think they heard “Welcome Home” as a single, so they made a video for it with, like, a tenth of the budget that the “Suffering” video had.

But then again, so many bands have horror stories about labels, but Columbia was awesome to us. Never once did they tell us what to do, ever! Nothing like that, so I don’t mean to water down their hard work. When the band kept pushing for “Welcome Home” to come out, they did it and it connected in a way that—I don’t know. What do I know, man? Every time I think a song should be a single, it’s not. I just know how to play music; I don’t know how to sell it, but I knew that something special happened on that record. To stand here ten years later with that gold record hanging on my wall and to know that so many people were touched by a piece of art that we made, it’s just an incredible feeling.

It’s so surprising that they didn’t want to release “Welcome Home”, though. That track has become such a trademark for you guys. It’s so iconic.

I know, dude! I’m not bullshitting you; they didn’t hear it as a single. It’s crazy, right. We really fought for it. I mean, what is a single anymore, anyway, right? I hear the weirdest shit on the radio.

They thought “The Suffering” was the song to connect with a bigger audience, and it did, but “Welcome Home” did, too, if not more so. It’s a wild story. It’s become one of our signature songs, and maybe it would’ve been anyway; we have plenty of songs that weren’t released as singles but are still popular.

I remember turning on the playoffs for football one year and hearing “Welcome Home” playing over the broadcast, and then later hearing it used in movies. It’s amazing. Ultimately, we’re just a bunch of kids from Upstate New York who love rock music. All of this is amazing. I’m old enough now where I can feel a bit nostalgic and humbled.

What a ride it’s been. Two years ago was the anniversary of In Keeping Secrets. Those are kind of the records for me. It’s actually kind of a good thing that many people say that The Second Stage Turbine Blade is their favorite; more people prefer the second one; and even more people prefer Good Apollo. It’s so good to have at least three records that people cite as their favorite. And I’m not trying to toot our own horn, but a lot of fans say that the Afterman records are their favorite, beyond just the “return to form” or whatever they called it. A lot of people embraced those records. As a band, it’s like we reengaged the fan base.

Looking back, I think that if The Color Before the Sun was the first one after I came back, that wouldn’t have been good. The Afterman records were perfect for that; it has the elements from earlier records that made it feel like a proper return. It wasn’t forced, either; it was natural. I’m so proud of those records, and The Color Before the Sun continues this kind of perfect evolution. It follows the progressiveness of The Afterman duo.

Look at Good Apollo, though. That is a progressive record, but there are some really beautiful ballads too, like “Wake Up” and “The Lying Lies & Dirty Secrets of Miss Erica Court”. Then there’s the “Willing Well” suite, so it mixes the prog and the pop styles well. Claudio’s always known how to do that, even when he was, like, thirteen-years-old. It’s always been his knack to put these magnificent pop moments into these really intricate parts. He can come up with the heaviest riffs and then come up with some truly touching songwriting. I think Good Apollo really shows that. It’s funny to think how fast time has flown by with all of this.

Yeah, for me as well. I could be speaking nonsense here, but it seems to me that “Welcome Home” is kind of the first in a pattern of truly epic album starters that continued with “No World for Tomorrow” and “Key Entity Extraction I: Domino the Destitute”. These songs aren’t copies of each other, but they also share that sort of bombastic, anthemic nature. I wonder how those latter tracks would’ve been affected if “Welcome Home” hadn’t been as popular.

Yeah, I see what you mean. It goes back even further, though, like with the title track for In Keeping Secrets. Born from that was this idea that the first proper song on a Coheed and Cambria record should be an opus. First there’s this shorter introduction piece and then this big explosion track. I think that’s also why The Color Before the Sun is a curveball; there’s no opener like that. Well, “Island” is kind of a big song, but in a different way.

When you’ve been a band for as long as we have, you don’t want to get stuck in any pattern, you know? Like, “Okay, this is what Coheed does, so this is what we have to keep doing”. That gets old. Now we have the outlook of “Hey, we don’t have to do anything. We carved this out for ourselves and we’re going to do anything we want.” That’s the history that we’ve carved out, so this one is really the first record in, maybe, 13 years that doesn’t have a tune like that. This dark, explosive song. I don’t know if it’s a trope or what, but it’s a signature Coheed thing and we decided to turn the page on it this time. I shouldn’t say that I know that we’ll go back to that, but between talking to Claudio and knowing some things he’s said in the press, I’m sure we’ll go back to the story stuff and those kind of songs.

Funny or Die

Moving away from the discography a bit, you guys worked with Funny or Die a few months ago for the “Sings Justice Scalia’s Dissenting Opinions” video. How did that come about and what was the process for making it?

[Laughs] Funny or Die always wants to do stuff with us, which we love. We had a few ideas kicking around, but it’s always easier to come up with them than to actually execute them, even if it’s just a matter of putting the pieces together. They contacted us and said, “You’ve got to watch this speech. If you take away certain sections of this speech, it sounds like something you guys would write.”

We heard it and said, “Holy shit, it does”, so Claudio started strumming some chords on a guitar, I added some harmonies, and an hour later we were in a hotel room with some guy who was hired to film it. He works for Channel 4 news or something like that, near where we were in Milwaukee. He was super cool. We were like “Hey, for $400 would you come shoot us for an hour?” He had no idea what it was; he probably just thought, “Oh, okay. It’s for some band. Whatever”. So we got the room and set-up and did it all in one day. When we sent it to the Funny or Die people, they really liked it.

It was awesome.

Yeah, and I spent the next two weeks with the song stuck in my head! We had a lot of fun doing it. I hope we get to do more stuff like that. I’m a big fan of those guys. Their videos are hilarious, and just like with the “You Got Spirit, Kid” video, this one played into our silly side. Anybody in a band is secretly a 15-year-old kid still. I mean, c’mon. We play rock music for a living, so it’s a beautiful thing to keep the child in you alive. We can handle adult life fine, like raising kids and paying bills, but inside we’re still those kids who love rock music and love playing in a band. When we do stuff like that, we’re able to tap into that part of us. I really hope we get to do more stuff like that.

And of course, it was socially relevant, sort of mocking an issue that shouldn’t really be an issue anymore. That’s for am entirely different conversation, though.

Oh, yeah. I’m right there with you, man. We’re all on the same page with that. We’ve never really been a band to get involved with political issues. Personally, I wish we would more. It’s as important as anything else. But with that decision, it was such a no-brainer. I didn’t even feel like we were taking a hard stance on something, you know? I imagine that people knew were we stood on that issue, and that’s what enabled us to do the video.

Maybe doing more stuff like that would allow us to use our public voice to inform people on things, though. Whether you’re the biggest rock stars in the world or if only five people like your band, you should use your voice to stand behind your beliefs. Obviously, there were some serious undertones to what inspired that video, but having fun with it was pretty cool too. People seemed to really like it. It’s so funny how Claudio was able to just write it in a few minutes and go from there. He really has a skill for that.

Definitely. Looking back, who inspired you as a drummer, and did you ever focus on other instruments?

Like I said, I played the keyboards on a lot of Coheed stuff, like the whole intro for In Keeping Secrets. That was before we could bring in a full orchestra. Twelve years later, it sounds painfully obvious that it’s just a keyboard, but what can you do?

I also play guitar and I fashion myself a songwriter, but my brother is really a great songwriter, so I’ve always been around fantastic songwriters, like Joey and Claudio. I’ll be the first one to say that I can’t write songs like them, but I’m still the biggest fan of their writing. To be part of them in anyway is so exciting.

As for what inspires me, you know, my whole career was inspired by Led Zeppelin. That was the first rock band I ever got into and the first one in which the drummer mattered so much to me. I hate to sound like a broken record, because every drummer says this, but I feel like I embody it more than a lot of other guys. John Bonham still inspires me. I recently listened to Houses of the Holy and it kind of reminded me of The Color Before the Sun from a production standpoint. That’s the home base; he’s my favorite drummer and he always will be, but I also try to find inspiration in a lot of newer bands.

As a young man, maybe I cut myself off from a lot of inspiring things because I carried an ego. It’s like you think you won’t fit in because you aren’t good enough, whereas now, at 35, I’ve been doing this so long that I don’t need an ego anymore. I know I’m great at what I do, so that’s freed me up to be inspired by others. To go up to another player and say, “Holy shit, man. How do you do that?” That’s fun. Music is more fun now that it’s ever been.

That’s great, Josh.

There was this time, when I was in my 20s and with the drugs—well, not to get into all of that, but I was so clouded that I wasn’t enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime gig. What kind of selfish, spoiled brat doesn’t enjoy this, you know?! That was Josh in his 20s, and a lot of growth happened for me when I wasn’t in Coheed. That really allowed me to enjoy this life more. Ever since I came back, I’ve enjoyed playing and recording and writing music more than ever.

There’s a drummer from my town—well, there’s a bunch of them that inspire me—but this kid Justin Myer, who never got his big break. He’s a school teacher, just like my wife, so it’s definitely an important job, but what a great drummer he is. This guy could smoke anybody, and he inspires me. He doesn’t get paid to play drums; he does it cause he loves it, and what a player he is.

In general, and without naming every drummer, I just think that real people inspire me. There’s the home base guys, like Stewart Copeland and John Bonham. Even Taylor Hawkins from The Foo Fighters, who’s still out there kicking ass. More than ever, though, just real people who I see in my everyday life inspire me.

It sounds like you have this whole new perspective not only on being a part of the band, but on life in general.

I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have that perspective if I didn’t leave Coheed and Cambria when I did. If I didn’t leave, I probably would’ve killed myself from drugs. I almost died not being in the band. I was a horrible, horrible heroin addict. I mean, it’s embarrassing, but after so many years clean I can see that it’s a part of who I am. There’s no getting away from it. It’s good that I’m embarrassed about it.

I mean, I wasn’t going to bring it up, but it’s good that you can talk about it so openly and wisely.

I mean, everyone knows. I’m still embarrassed about it, but I have to own it. That was the first step of getting better, to say that what happened with the band back then wasn’t Claudio or Travis [Stever] or Blaze’s fault. It was my fault. The first time I was really honest with myself about all of that, it opened up all this great doors. It’s kind of like my mantra now, even when it’s hard, to just be honest about things. It sounds pretty easy, but it can be really hard when you’ve spent years blaming others for bad things.

I used to say, “Oh, no, it’s their fault. Those guys are assholes,” but then it was really my fault. I was a drug addict and I was dropping the responsibilities. If I didn’t leave Coheed, I definitely would’ve gotten fired. I didn’t show up for a tour and I just did things that put all of the hard work everyone else was doing in jeopardy.

In the big picture, realizing that and a lot of other things allowed me to fall in love with music again and to clean up from all the drugs. That’s why I enjoy this now more than ever. Forget the idea of a second chance; this is more like a fifth chance. I feel like I finally figured things out. Twenty-five-year-old Josh was not in love with playing music; I loved making records, but I hated touring. It ripped me up, man. It was tough. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m very happy now and I don’t think I would’ve gotten here if I hadn’t gone through all of the bad shit first.

That’s a great outlook. I have to wonder, though, how you feel about not being a part of No World for Tomorrow and Year of the Black Rainbow. Does it bother you to listen to them now?

Oh, dude, I regret that so much. It’s so funny, and it’s kind of hard to say, but when No World for Tomorrow came out, I took it and I listened to it every day. People thought that was really weird. My whole attitude was, like, “To hell with those guys. I’m just gonna to go do other things.” There were a lot of opportunities there that I didn’t realize I’d destroyed. I had ruined my reputation; everyone knew I was a heroin addict. I got hired by Gym Class Heroes and was fired the next day, before I’d even started because their manager heard I was an addict and said, “Nope! He’s not coming”. There were many other bands, too, but I can’t say their names.

Anyway, I don’t think I ever would’ve gotten clean if it weren’t for that record. I learned a lot about myself not from talking to Claudio, but from hearing what he’d written, whether it was about me directly or indirectly. I don’t want to overdo what I’m saying, but that record saved my life.

Wow. That’s profound.

It’s totally true, though, Jordan. I’ve said it before, in my private life. Maybe not publically, though. I’ve told Claudio that, and I’m sure I’ve told, Travis too. It was one of the first steps to getting better. I’d continued to use for years, and it was tough! I’d let down not only my brothers in the band, but I could’ve destroyed everything they worked for. They meant a lot to me, but the wound was still too open for me to apologize. We didn’t talk for years, and all I had to connect with them at that time was No World for Tomorrow.

So hell yeah, I regretted it. What am I gonna do, sit here and conjure up some kind of bravado? Like, “Well, you know, stuff happens.” No way, man. I regretted it before I even heard the record, and once I heard it—it’s honestly one of my favorite Coheed records—I thought the songs were tremendous. The choice of melodies and the rawness of how Claudio sang. It always feels real when he sings, like what you said, but I believed it extra on that album.

When I look back, I don’t know if things would’ve played out the same way without it. I didn’t cleanup for years after I heard it, so it’s not like I got my shit together the next day. It stuck with me and I learned a lot about myself as a player. I learned more about myself as a human being, though. I hate to sound so corny, but it’s true [laughs].

No, it’s great that you can look back with such understanding and realize all of that.

I’m all about being honest. As for Year of the Black Rainbow, I remember that I was in a band and I’d cleaned up by then. I was off drugs, but I was still becoming me again. I was in Terrible Things with Fred Mascherino from Philly. We’d signed to Universal and it was really exciting being back on a major label. When that album came out, I listened to the first two songs. The next day, I was singing them at the top of my lungs downstairs, in the studio. I didn’t realize that the mics were on, so they could hear me, and they thought it was weird that I was singing the songs of my old band. I didn’t even realize I was doing that; I just fucking loved the songs.

At that point, I still hadn’t talked to Claudio or Travis. In my heart, we weren’t enemies anymore, but we weren’t friends, either. We hadn’t patched things up yet, but I couldn’t help loving the songs. What are you gonna do? That’s what I told those guys when they mentioned how weird it was that I was so into Year of the Black Rainbow. It didn’t have the impact on me that No World for Tomorrow did, but I thought it was great. I don’t think Claudio can make a bad record or — and he’ll kill me for saying this — or even a bad song.

I agree. He’s got a really strong track record so far.

Yeah, there are some songs that I like more than others, but every one has a redeeming quality to it. He’s my favorite songwriter. Yeah, I regret missing those two, but hey, we did a double record when I came back so that kind of made up for it. At least that’s what I tell myself. It’s all part of the legacy, right?

It’s interesting that some people view the Afterman duo as a return to form outside of your return, though. Like, sonically. I kind of see what they mean.

I don’t know how the world got to a place where it doesn’t think the drums matter in rock music. Drums are, like, the most important thing in terms of the feel of the song. It’s the whole backbone to it. Chris Pennie is literally one of the best drummers in the world, and in the context of Coheed and Cambria — if I’m looking at it outside of being its drummer — I think those records has a special place. It’s super progressive, although I wish they’d mixed the drums a bit louder. They kind of have elements that were on our second and third LPs.

We went back to Mike Birnbaum and Chris Bittner and we made it were we made Good Apollo, and you had the original drummer back. Then we had Zach Cooper on bass and he came in so seamlessly. He’s a brilliant player; he can play anything, from jazz fusion to funk. What he adds to the band has never been more apparent than on The Color Before the Sun. I couldn’t imagine it being anyone else but him. Really, he helped to bring the sound back to where it needed to be. I mean, this is our legacy; some guys left and some guys came back. I don’t think we’ll ever change members again. At least, I hope not.

Oh, me too.

It’s been, what? About four years since I came back? It’s not always perfect. Some days I’m pissed off at those guys and other days they’re pissed off at me, but we have such a deep commitment to each other and to the band. I’ve dedicated my whole life to this band. It was my college and my everything, so it’s so important to me. Our relationships are just as important to me. I think I can say that we have a legacy now and it’s been what it’s been. There were some rocky times. Getting here, right now, on the phone with you—I’m okay with it.

Definitely. Some of my students, who are around ten years younger than me, are fans of yours, which surprises me since they didn’t really grow up with the first few albums. I’m always happy when good bands get attention because so many underserving artists become so famous so quickly.

I don’t want to sound like an elitist prick [laughs], and I’m more understanding than I used to be, but yeah, we’re lucky that we’re still here. Let’s be honest about it. It doesn’t diminish the work we put into it, but there’s a lot of luck, too. The fact that anybody knows who we are is still a thrill to me. I feel so humbled and honored by it. I mean, it’s clichéd to say that — “Oh, I’m humbled” — but I really am! I know how lucky I am to have a roof over my head and food in my belly from playing music.

You know, I remember Neil Young saying something about how careers ebb and flow for bands. You go from clubs and theatre to huge stadiums and then back to bars and clubs again. From a commercial standpoint, it’s true. I don’t weigh the band by that, but that’s how you get a roof over your head and food and other things like that. Even if a record doesn’t sell, we still appreciate that people spend money and time to see us play. It’s still totally surreal, so it makes me really excited, Jordan, to know that those younger people know who we are.

We’re getting older, you know? We aren’t “old” yet, but I’m 35 and I’m just fucking happy that I’m alive, to tell the truth. A lot of drummers don’t get much love, but around 2004 my ego had been stroked enough that I could get a table at a restaurant without waiting. Everybody knew who we were, and I just didn’t like that anymore. I just mean in my town.

It’s not really like that anymore, with the ebb and the flow, but how lucky are we to not be old news? How many bands that got big this year will be gone in two years? The whole industry chews you up and spits you out so fast now. We’re so lucky that we’re still here.

That’s very true. Even though you guys deserve the longevity, it’s surprising nonetheless.

Like, none of my neighbors know the name of the band. They’ve asked me so many times about it, so maybe we’re not quite so much of a household name anymore, but I feel good about that. It’s a piece of why we’ve been able to still make records for the people who do appreciate what we do. We’d gotten to a level of success of, like, Fall Out Boy, and hey, they’re still here too. I just think that too much fame and success can destroy a band. It can destroy what you stand for.

I love the trajectory of our career. I wouldn’t change one thing about it. I’m proud of it. Maybe in a different universe or another dimension, Coheed did become the biggest band in the world, and maybe I died and Claudio became a pop star or the head of a boy band [laughs]. Who knows?

The Pop Star Thing

It’s funny to image that. The pop star thing, not your death.

Yeah, I could really see that. When I look at how this arc has happened, I really wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t know what that means necessarily, but it’s how I feel.

I remember that when I started college in 2005, one of my friends had the Coheed and Cambria emblem on his backpack. That was before I really knew about the band. The image stuck with me, though, and wanted to know more. Then we watched “The Suffering” music video and tried to learn how to play it. That’s really one of my first memories of college.

That’s what I’m talking about, man. To be associated with something like that is fantastic. A ton of my memories are associated with music. I can hear a song I haven’t heard in years and I can almost smell my youth. It’s such a powerful reflection. It can take your breath away. It’s not a sad feeling, but it’s so powerful. For example, the song “Manic Monday” by The Bangles. I’ve told people this before, but I feel like people don’t believe me when I say that I can taste my first kiss when I hear that song. It was with a girl named Susan Schrader and we must’ve been playing it on vinyl. I was, like, six-years-old. Childhood friends. Someone told us what a French kiss was, so we tried it [laughs]. I remember being grossed out by it; I wasn’t ready for that at that age.

I hadn’t heard the song in over 20 years but then one day it came on the radio and it was like going into a time machine. It’s like my brain pulled up that file and focused on how gross it felt. This must be such a ridiculous and hilarious story.

Yeah, it is, but I totally see what you mean. I’ve had many experiences like that, especially when I finally see a band live when I never thought I would. It evokes such weird sensations and memories.

It’s exciting, man. It reminds me of how powerful music can be, to hear you say that you associate Good Apollo with your first semester in college.

Yeah. In fact, I used to write for the school newspaper and then I decided to branch out into other publications. Of course, I needed to send in a sample review to get hired, and I’m pretty sure that my first official review for that first site was of No World for Tomorrow. No bullshitting.

Awesome. It’s like we’re intertwined, dude.

Yeah, it’s all a part of a great plan or something. So moving away from the band, what are you listening to these days?

Going back to what we were saying before, I’m always rediscovering stuff I liked when I was into as a kid, like Led Zeppelin and The Police. As far as recent stuff, do you know that last Panic! at the Disco record? What’s it called?

Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! To be honest, I wasn’t really big on that album. I love Pretty. Odd., though.

I try to not do what we don’t want people to do to us. When you mention a band like that, I think a lot of people just brush them off as “some emo crap”. I know you don’t think like that, and I don’t either, but I think a lot of people do. I try to let go of any preconceived notion that I have about any band. If you like, say, Hawthorne Heights, then so be it. Guess what? I do like some of their songs. Anyway, I’m talking about the second to last Panic! album, after the guitarist [Ryan Ross] left and it was just Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith.

Oh, Vices & Virtues.

Yeah, it’s totally all about ‘80s synth pop. That’s an incredible record. I really like Pretty. Odd., too.

I’ve been defending that one for years. It’s their Sgt. Pepper.

I know tons of musicians who just write it off as emo garbage. Like, do you want people to think like that about your band? Dare I say, I think I’ve trained myself to not do that. I’ll judge something based on its musical merits alone. Panic! is a great band. When we made “Peace to the Mountain”, I was thinking Pretty. Odd. the whole time. Even though it was clearly a huge nod to The Beatles, it’s still so classy and sophisticated. It was a really respectful nod to them, and you know what?

We’re all ripping something off. We’re all a product of our influences, so if you’re going to do it, rip-off the best. That’s why we rip-off Pink Floyd all the time [laughs]. Nah, not really.

Anyway, I was worried about how Vices and Virtues would sound after the line-up change, but it really nails the new wave vibe. Each of their first three records are insanely different. I know that the old Panic! manager, who left to manage the ex-members’ new band, The Young Veins, wanted them to get back together, but obviously they didn’t.

Now it’s literally just Brenden Urie, I think.

Yeah. Other than them, I like Iron and Wine. I can’t think of anything that’s super current. I listen to a lot of hip-hop. I love Kendrick Lamar. He’s a genius. He must be crazy, too, like a lot of brilliant people are. He must be out of his mind but in the best way. He’s representing Compton in a way we’ve never really heard before at this artistic level.

Of course, I also have Dre’s new album. I’m still experiencing that one, so I don’t know how I feel about it. There are definitely some bangers on it, but I just feel like — I read a comment the other day and it spoke to me. The person said, “I just feel like Dre emulated a bit too much on this one.” I think what they meant is that The Chronic comes out and is basically an audition tape for Snoop Dog. Dre kills it, you know? Now it’s iconic.

Then the follow-up comes out, like, almost ten years later and he obviously had Eminem writing for him. It wasn’t too big of a deal, though, cause people knew that Dre doesn’t write his rhymes. He’s not coming at you saying that he’s a lyrical genius or anything. We all loved that record. All my friends in New York thought it was the shit, but it was clear that he sounded like Eminem. It was clear that Eminem coached him on the clever wordplay, but it was still cool. But on this record, Dre is Kendrick Lamar, and I just don’t know if it works. He’s 50-years-old and it just seems a bit jarring.

But who knows, man? Talk to me in a month and I may love it. I’m still digesting it. Dre didn’t do a lot of the production on it, though.

Oh, I didn’t know that.

Yeah, isn’t that crazy, dude! I feel like a lot of people don’t know that. He mixed it but he didn’t make a lot of the music. It’s pretty wild. I get the feeling that he’s such a perfectionist that he can only bring himself to put out a record every decade or so. I think that The Chronic 3: Detox was supposed to come out and but he just scrapped it. It had so many release dates and it’s just never coming out. Then he surprised everyone with Compton, to coincide with the NWA movie.

I never fully make up my mind on a record. There are tons of records that I think I don’t like but then I hear it in a different frame of mind and it speaks to me, or the opposite happens, although not as often. You’d think that asking a musician about what they’re listening to would yield a long list of things, but I don’t have much else. I listen to a lot of old shit, and most of the new stuff I listen to is hip-hop. I listen to my brother’s band, 3, a lot.

Me too. I love The End is Begun.

I was in that band for ten years. That’s how I met Claudio and Travis. We used to rehearse in the same spot. Coheed was always like their little brothers; they were the more popular local band. When I was in 3, we were signed to Universal. We were out of our minds about it because we thought we were just some garage band. They turned us into this super pop thing. They never listened to us, either, because we were just kids. We did what we were told. But Shabütie was a band that no one liked. They had, like, ten fans, but you know what? It’s because it was too creative for people. It’s like people wait until they’re told something is cool to like it.

3 was kind of like a bar band, but we got really poppy. We were definitely the more popular act, but we loved Shabütie because they were so heavy and jarring. This is, like, a totally different band from what Coheed is now. They had rap parts and funk parts. We were just kids. When I came over to them, we changed the name. First we were Leader One and then we were Coheed and Cambria. We opened for 3 at the height of their local popularity. I had left 3 already, which doesn’t seem like a big deal now, but at the time it was. My mother said she’d disown me if I left because it was my brother’s band. It was a huge deal at the time.

That’s crazy.

Totally. So there we were—me, Michael Todd, Travis Stever, and Claudio Sanchez—as Leader One opening for 3 at a bar. And we put The Evil Dead on a screen behind us, like a backdrop. We didn’t even know what a backdrop was! We were playing an early version of “Junesong Provision” and we got six minutes into it without any problem, but then we messed it up so bad that we had to start over again and play the same six minutes again. I remember being embarrassed because I was only in the band for about a month. Everyone was like “Why would Josh leave 3 to join this band?” Then they’d come up and lie about how much they liked it.

My problem with 3 was that it wasn’t edgy enough. I mean, it was to us, but not to the audience, whereas Leader One did. Obviously 3 went on to greater things after I left, and as I said, my brother is my other favorite songwriter. I listen to a lot of his stuff, and the classic rock stuff. Can you believe that my wife has never listened to The Wall?

Well you have to fix that. It’s so essential!

I know, right? She’s just not the same as me when it comes to music. What’s the saying? Opposites attract. She’s a Phys. Ed teacher and a health teacher. She’s the light of my love but she’s not into all of this stuff. Of course, I’m usually talking over the music, like, “Don’t you understand how important this record is?” It’s kind of fun, in a way, to have her as this blank slate for me to introduce music to. The other record I’m really into, believe it or not, is the new Taylor Swift one.

1989.

It’s great. No joke, I adore her. She’s a natural songwriting and she’s incredible with melodies. She just happens to be a giant star. Again, it’s about not letting preconceived notions dictate how you feel about music. When I think about her, I don’t think about her pop star status; I think about how her drummer hits a rim shot but they kept it in there. It’s so telling to me about how it was a real drummer showing a real craft. She definitely went more pop on this new record, but she’s still a true musician. It’s kind of strange how much I listen to that one.

Nah, a lot of my friends, both male and female, love her. She seems to be going beyond the classifications the media gives her.

It’s great. If you listen to it, you’ll be a fan. It’s infectious! The only song I don’t really like, which, of course, is the biggest one right now, is “Bad Blood”. Nate Ruess from Fun. co-wrote a lot of it, and you can tell on some songs because it has that super-drenched reverb on the vocals. I think Taylor Swift is really into indie rock; I’ve heard that she goes to these small shows in disguise, so she’s big on supporting the little guy. She just seems really cool. And she is not Britney Spears! I mean, she’s just as big in terms of commercial success, but she’s not this plastic starlet/puppet/idiot. I’m happy that she’s as big as she is. That someone who’s so intelligent and skilled as a songwriter can be so big. It gives me hope, although that makes me sound like an elitist, I guess. Like, “Oh, who am I to have hope?”

Not at all. It’s good that you’re so supportive of other musicians, and that you’re such a fan of music in general. The one band that I’d suggest you check out if you haven’t is The Dear Hunter.

Oh, dude, I love that band! Me and Casey [Crescenzo] were going to form a band, but he’s just so busy. It would’ve been Chris Bittner on bass—he was in 3 with me. We signed our first record deal together. It’s just such a long, convoluted history of music around here. So it was us and Sean-Paul Pillsworth from The Red Owls, but we never did anything. Well, some of them made an album called Anadivine, and Claudio was on it a bit. We were going to get Casey involved, but he was just too busy. He’s fucking brilliant!

Yeah, I’ve been trying to help them get more noticed for years. Have you heard Act IV?

I adore it. You know, Casey actually writes the parts for the orchestration. He just did that symphony piece, Amour & Attrition. People tend to through the word “genius” around too much, be he really is one. He knows what a big fan I am of his. Who knows if we’ll work together in the future? We toured with them, so again, talk about being inspired. He does. They really travel a lot and tour, so hopefully this record will earn them a lot of attention. The problem with touring with bands you love is that you have to be ready for your own show. At 35, I gotta make sure I can do what I need to do so I can’t always watch the other bands as much as I’d like.

Totally.

A testament to how special they are is that even though they don’t have the biggest audience in the world, the fans they do have are dedicated. They’re fans for life. Even the naysayers have to respect them. People may just want to hear Act I again instead of seeing where the band goes, but the people who really get it really get it. Aren’t they on Equal Vision Records?

Yeah, after they left Triple Crown Records.

That label is, like, ten minutes from my house. I just put out a record—you get to a point in this business when you think, Okay, am I going to be 50-years-old and touring all the time? This is all I know. Like I said before about how Coheed was my college. I didn’t go to college. I was too stupid—well, not in terms of my brain, but in that I was making dumb decisions as a kid. Now I greatly regret that.

I wanted to get into something on the other side of the business, so Equal Vision, who put out my first nationally released rap record, Friends and Nervous Breakdowns, as Weerd Science in 2005, gave me my own imprint with a guy named Dan Sandshaw, who signed The Dear Hunter, Coheed and Cambria, Circa Survive, and a bunch of other bands. Without him, there would be no Coheed and Cambria. He’s still there too, which is unheard of. To be at a label for so long.

Anyway, I brought him this rapper named Upgrade, whose thoughtful and introspective songs just happen to be in the rap genre. It’s like, real music with heart knows no genre. Dan saw the potential, too, which is gratifying for me, and so Equal Vision is going to put out their next rap album with him. The last one they did was mine, and let’s just say it didn’t really work for them, but we all feel confident about this one. I own a piece of this venture, so it’s a bit scary, but I’m really excited about it.

It sounds like a great opportunity for him and you.

I’ve seen so many shows, man, as you can imagine. I saw him play, and—it’s like rappers have a competition to be better than each other. I even see this with the Weerd Science stuff; it’s not big but there’s a small, dedicated following. It’s tiring, man. I’m too fucking old for it. People who tout their egos like idiots. Then here comes this kid Upgrade who’s not like that at all and he’s talking about things that matter to him, like this weird panic disorder.

I went through something like that about two years ago and it changed my life. His music really spoke to me. I’d never picked up a phone and called a record label to say, “I think I found something” before that. Dan came to see him play with, maybe, ten other people there. Not a big show at all, and I was nervous as hell because of that, as if it made me look like an idiot. But Dan liked it and even his wife liked it. It’s kind of surreal that this punk/rock record label is going to put out this rap record. It’s listed on their website and everything.

I definitely will, Josh. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. It’s been unreal, and congrats again on The Color Before the Sun.

No problem, Jordan. It’s been great, man. Talk to you soon.

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