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The Weekly interview: Coheed and Cambria frontman Claudio Sanchez

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Coheed and Cambria take the stage at House of Blues Tuesday night.
Chris Bitonti

Earlier this year, you released The Afterman: Descension, the seventh album in the Amory Wars series, with corresponding comic books. Can you put that in storyline context for our readers, with some background of the plot? It’s basically the origin tale of the namesake in the mythology, the story of Sirius Amory. So it comes before the events of the Coheed and Cambria Saga, which are all the other records. But basically, it’s just about Sirius’ discovery of an energy source called the keyworth, which is sort of the common gravity that keeps all these planets aligned. And he finds out that it’s actually not devised of anything elemental; it’s actually spiritual. [Last year’s] The Ascension is discovering that and getting lost in it—he comes back planetside and finds his life has kind of been destroyed in his absence.

Do you consider Coheed and Cambria a vehicle to release Amory Wars-related music, or do you ever plan to release non-Amory music? I always think about that, releasing something that’s not tied to this concept, and possibly someday down the road [I will], but with the way this has sort of progressed and with the way The Amory Wars [comic] sort of partners up with it, part of me almost can’t see it any other way. But I have definitely toyed around with the idea of exploring something away from this whole art, yeah.

Would you release it under the Coheed name? I would probably keep it under the Coheed and Cambria name. I would just think of something clever in terms of the title of the album, to kind of insinuate that we’ve taken a departure from the storyline.

On your latest single, “Number City,” one thing that really stood out for me is the use of horns. Is that the first time you’ve had a horn section on a Coheed and Cambria song? Yeah, I think it is.

Where did the inspiration for that come from? “Number City” was sort of the last song we wrote. We wrote it in the studio. There was this old ’60s Hofner bass in the studio, and I started working on this bassline and it just sort of pieced itself together. And just the way the music core of it sounded, I thought it could really blossom with a horn section. And since it was sort of random and last minute, we were like, why not? Let’s take the time to explore that.

When I look at it, I think that might be a way to approach music in the future for us, because it was so much fun and so different. Usually I’ll come up with the idea of the song, and I’ll live with that song and create the melodies and have visions for what the other parts will do. Then the band will get in the studio and sort of flesh those things out. Whereas for “Number City” the process was completely different. It just kind of fell into place, randomly. Like, okay, now it’s time to put the guitar down, [but] I don’t have a guitar part, so I’m gonna have to figure this thing out on the fly.

When you’re working on a continuing series of music like the Amory Wars, do you find it hard to branch out stylistically? No, not really. Listening to a song like “Number City” against a song like “Gravity’s Union,” I think we cover a lot of ground. Songs like ‘Goodnight, Fair Lady’ against a song like “Domino the Destitute.” I mean, sure we’re a rock band at the heart of things, but I think we try to make it apparent that there’s more dimension to this band other than just this one thing. We try to be as far reaching as possible. I don’t think the Amory Wars stunts that in any way. It’s a storyline and the concept sort of helps that. If you’re looking for something as bizarre as “Number City,” it can certainly find its place and make sense.

What comes first for you? Do the storylines set the music or vice versa? It varies. Usually the music will come first, because the vocals have this sort of ambiguous meaning to them—to me they’re very personal. They’re not really riddled with the science-fiction concept at all. A lot of my life experience goes into these songs, and I use a lot of that to mold concepts around it. But every once in a while, like with the Good Apollo series, I had an idea of what the concept was going to be, though at the time there was this traumatic breakup for me that really helped fuel all the hate behind the first album of that series.

But with Afterman there was no concept. We had finished the Coheed and Cambria story with a prequel Year of the Black Rainbow, and I just figured I’d write material essentially chronicling the two years that I wrote it. And then when I was finished, my wife and I went to Paris, where I originally created the idea of the Amory Wars and we started to put the pieces together and create the concept of The Afterman.

You’ve dedicated seven studio albums and more than 15 years to writing the Amory Wars. Do you have an end in sight? I have. Well, I guess I did. No World for Tomorrow was created, and that was sort of the end. But now, with the spawn of The Afterman and these ideas, I just keep figuring out these avenues to keep it alive and going. So I’m not so sure I want to see an end yet. I love creating more and deepening the mythology. Afterman was so much fun, because it gave more of the history. Sure, Year of the Black Rainbow gave you the history of Coheed and Cambria, but now Afterman gives you the history of the whole mythology, of the system and why it is what it is and how it works. Stuff like that is a lot of fun for me, so it’s hard for me to want to stop.

What comics do you read regularly? At the moment I’ve been reading superhero comics, because my wife and I are working on our first superhero title. So I’ve been reading superhero stuff, like X-Men, Wolverine, more of like the anti-hero stuff—Batman. But typically I like more creator-owned stuff. Some of my favorites would be, Y: The Last Man, Preacher, Watchmen, things like that. Recently, I’ve been reading Saga, Six Gun Gorilla which is a Boom title, which is the publisher we’re under. And there’s a few others that I’ve had my eye on but haven’t had a chance, because I’ve been researching these classic superheroes.

Coheed and Cambria With Circa Survive. September 3, 8:30 p.m., $30-$32. House of Blues, 632-7600.

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