May 15, 2010
by Phoebe Goodwin and Alex Pierce
Part 1 of 2
Part 2 of 2
Back in Seattle on our beautiful May day, Alex and Phoebe were greeted outside of the Coheed and Cambria tour bus by none other than Coheed’s bassist, Michael Todd, himself. He proceeded to invite us inside for a little chat. (Phoebe was very excited).
MICHAEL: Were you guys standing out there long?
ALEX: Um, it wasn’t too long.
PHOEBE: Yeah, like 10-
ALEX: We were talking to Anthony Green for a while
MICHAEL: Ah! Um, how do you want to do this?
MICHAEL: Yeah, here is just fine.
PHOEBE: So we’re from Seattle University
PHOEBE: And we’re DJs at our student radio station
PHOEBE: And um so we’re gonna get things started. Do you want to introduce yourself?
MICHAEL: Hi. I’m Michael and I’m the bass player for Coheed and Cambria
PHOEBE: Ok. So the name Coheed and Cambria refers to two characters from the Amory Wars and do you want to give us an idea exactly what that is briefly?
MICHAEL: Um I’ll try to give you the rough overview. Um, the Amory Wars is, it’s like the fictitious reality, the story that Claudio has created, he’s the lyricist and the dominant songwriter, that Coheed and Cambria are kind of the main characters of and the whole story kind of takes place before and after their death and how the choices they make affect the universe I guess.
PHOEBE: Ok. And so the new album, Year of the Black Rainbow, fits in where?
PHOEBE: Fits into the, to the story where?
MICHAEL: Oh ok. The Year of the Black Rainbow in that um I guess is the beginning of our, of our records we kind of jumped right into the story and this is kind of telling the origin of the characters Coheed and Cambria. I mean from that conceptual side of things, I mean that’s where that would lie, at the beginning.
PHOEBE: Ok. And um so the band started around 200-or no, 1996, is that correct?
MICHAEL: Yeah, about that I guess.
PHOEBE: And is that when you entered into the situation?
MICHAEL: Yeah, I guess so.
PHOEBE: So how old were you? Were you 16?
MICHAEL: I was like 15 or 16. Yeah.
PHOEBE: Alright, wow. So um how was the, you had, or do you want to read this one?
ALEX: Yeah. Um, ok. Your album in Keeping Secrets debuted at 52 on the Billboards and after that these past three albums have been in the top ten slots on Billboards.
MICHAEL: (makes a victorious pose)
ALEX: …Increasing every time. How has your experience with your success been?
MICHAEL: Um, it’s been awesome. I mean for me it depends on how you gage success. You know what I mean, I get, I’m fed, clothed, and I get to do what I love everyday so I’ve been success for almost a decade now but, um, especially in the climate of the music industry like the corporate side of things, the record selling, I mean, nobody’s really selling shit. Sorry! But it um it’s exciting to see that our fans in particular seem like hell-bent in buying the product like the way that we intended it to be heard. You know what I mean? They don’t really go looking for it online ahead of time and out of context and you know, I think it largely has to do with like you know how, how rapid our, our fanbase has been and to see it having been steadily kind of growing over the past decade has been, I don’t know, man. It just, it just, you know what I mean, I’m not really worried about my job today, you know what I mean? And especially with the climate of things, you know in main stream pop culture like bands come and go like so fast and you know with our level of success we’ve managed to kind of maintain for a while now, longer than most in this day and age so.
PHOEBE: Yeah. So do you want to read that one actually?
ALEX: Yeah. How do you think you’ve changed as a musician or a band as a whole?
MICHAEL: Um, I’ve, hmm… Well as musicians I think we’ve grown and and matured. You know what I mean, I know I have in playing with uh with great musicians kind of begins great musicianship um I think we’ve become more, ah, how do I put this? I don’t know, I want to say like succinct, accessible. You know what I mean? The stuff, we say more by doing less, we become better songwriters, and certainly just the amount of shows we play we’ve gotta get good just from practice alone, you know what I mean? We’ve improved, but I think as writers we’ve really come a long way too. I think every album has been a progression from the last and hopefully a step up I think.
PHOEBE: Yeah, I think so too. So what have been some of your major influences, whether it be musically or personally?
MICHAEL: Well… I mean, when I was young and when I first I think decided I wanted to play music, I mean it was all about-you know I would, my brother and sister would hand me down Led Zeppelin albums and um I was really into Prince when I was a little kid and just hearing that, well I think um for me I was like 12 or 13 and I heard like this Ani DiFranco album and I had before that not really known that music could make you feel the way that that music does and I was like alright, I wanna do that. So she as a writer and as a player, like I’ve, I learned a lot by listening to her stuff like trying to figure it out on guitar, before I played bass, um, but aside from that musical influences I mean all the great Led Zeppelin, Prince, Pink Floyd, The Police, and Sunny Day Real Estate was a big one for me in the ‘90s for music, my favorite band. I just met Jeremy Enigk like two weeks ago…
PHOEBE: Oh really?
MICHAEL: At Coachella we played. Yeah, they were a big one for me. I mean I think I was 12 or 13 when their first record came out and uh, yeah. There’s some influences.
ALEX: Cool. Um, what are you listening to right now?
MICHAEL: Um, that’s a good question. I don’t know, what? Oh, ok. I know what I’m listening to. Well for the past like year I’ve been really into this dude, uh, dude, Zach Condon, I guess his name is. He does the Beirut records, he’s he’s Beirut. I dig that a lot, um, the new Alicia Keys album is my favorite thing this year so far. My favorite thing this year. I can’t stop listening to it. Yeah.
ALEX: Really?? I haven’t heard that!
MICHAEL: Uh! It’s deadly. Uh! It’s like got this whole ‘80s like pop kind of like melodic sensibility to it but she’s just, she’s just awesome. I never really got into any of her records so much, I mean there have been Alicia Keys songs I was like, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ Then I heard a couple tracks and I was like, ‘Oh my god! I gotta get this record.’ And it’s just awesome.
PHOEBE: That’s really cool! So, um, in late 2008 you guys played a concert series called Neverender. Do you want to describe what that is and how the fan response was?
MICHAEL: Neverender was, we wanted to do something special, you know what I mean? To kind of, we had Chris just joining the band and we kind of wanted to make like a marker in time I think so what we did was we, we learned all of our material, all of our recorded material and we played it over four nights in four cities. And um the fan response was amazing, I mean everything, especially in New York, I think that sold out in like minutes, I mean like all four nights.
PHOEBE: Yeah, I tried to go.
MICHAEL: Oh, really?
PHOEBE: I’m from Connecticut.
MICHAEL: Wow. And that was just, like holy shit, man, that was, that was one of the first indications that I knew that we were doing something right, you know what I mean? At this, at this stage in the game, you know what I mean, we were making new records with new members, we don’t know where we’re gonna come out the other side, but people were still about it. And Neverender was, I don’t know, it was kind of like a thank you to people you know there’s a lot of songs that we’ve never played live. You know, we kind of put it together and figured out how to do that. And so yeah, I mean we documented the whole thing, we have the documentary, the boxset, so hopefully we get to do that again someday. It was fun.
PHOEBE: Yeah, so. Yeah, that was my next question because I was really excited when I heard that you guys were doing that and you, do you think you’ll do that again?
MICHAEL: Somewhere. When it’ll mean something again. You know what I mean? We don’t want to do it every year, like every record, but yeah, I think we’ll definitely do it again. It was just too much fun.
PHOEBE: Alright, cool.
MICHAEL: And that’s a lot of work too, you know what I mean? Like mentally it’s like exhausting. It’s, it’s a lot of songs.
PHOEBE: Yeah, long songs too.
MICHAEL: Yeah, long songs.
ALEX: So, in addition to Neverender, you guys have five major label albums, four lives albums, and the comic book series. Is there anything as a band you still want to accomplish? Is there anything you haven’t done?
MICHAEL: Oh, man, I don’t know. See that’s where it gets sketchy. In my opinion we’ve arrived, you know what I mean? I couldn’t be happier. To be able to just keep making records and keep playing shows you know, that’s, that’s success to me. I’ll be happy then so really just if we can keep plugging along at this rate, I mean it’s nice to still be on the incline, you know I don’t know what it feels like to be going down, like you know what I mean? But that’s gonna happen, that happens. At some point. But for now, man, I just, you know, we’re there, we’re in it, you know what I mean? If we can just keep playing shows like this I’ll be happy.
PHOEBE: That’s cool. So, um, we have some, kind of, just fun, random questions now. Um, what was the first thing you did when you woke up this morning?
MICHAEL: Oh god, I hacked up like this big yellow, green thing. I’m sick.
PHOEBE: Aww! I’m sorry.
MICHAEL: Yeah, don’t worry, I’m like beyond the point like where I think I’m contagious, you know what I mean? Like I’m full in it, more than yesterday, and when somebody gets it it goes around and I’m like the fifth fucking person. It’s my day.
ALEX: And when you’re on a bus I’m sure germs just like spread like crazy.
MICHAEL: Ok, so I got up, I got an Emergen-C, and I went back to bed. Until now basically.
PHOEBE: Hey, whatever works. Um, so what’s your favorite gas station food when you’re on the road?
MICHAEL: Uh, Jesus… gas station food?
PHOEBE: Yeah, or fast food. I mean, what do you eat?
MICHAEL: I don’t really, I don’t know.
CHRIS (The drummer): Hello.
MICHAEL: Hi, man. So, gas station food. Shoot, I don’t know. Gas station coffee. That’s the whole meal. I’ve learned over the 10 years of touring that, just stay away from the gas station food.
ALEX: Ok, how do you stay entertained on the road? Is there anything you won’t leave home without?
CHRIS: (Opens the bathroom door)
MICHAEL: Um, I generally won’t leave home without a stack of books. Um, computer, um… yeah, I don’t know, man. I read a lot, I write a lot of music, I think we all do kind of individually write, like work on our own things when we’re on the road, so I have a guitar, my books, um… oh and I, and I got the major league baseball package, so I can watch my Mets games.
PHOEBE: Oh, you’re Mets? Yeah, I’m a huge Sox fans, Red Sox.
MICHAEL: Oh, alright now. That’s alright
PHOEBE: Yeah, different leagues so it’s fine. Um, and are you reading anything good right now?
MICHAEL: Wha?? I am! I am reading The Elegant Universe it’s called-
ALEX: Who’s it by?
MICHAEL: Brian Greene. It’s kind of like a, hmm… it’s not like a text book but it’s like a science book and it kind of like explains and dumbs down like the essentials of like, you know, Super String Theory, M Theory, and how general relativity and, uh, and quantum mechanics can kind of coexist and it’s, you know, for it to forgo the universe so.
PHOEBE: Well, that’s cool. So, um, do you notice a difference between audiences in different cities, um, do you have any favorite places you play?
MICHAEL: Um, New York is home, so that one always is right there. Um, aside from that there’s always subtle differences, some places in the mid-west kids are a little more violent and like, just creepy with it, you know? Um, I don’t know, man, every place is different-Australia! I really like Australia, I always forget to say that, but the crowds in Australia, like we’re not really as big there, you know, as we are in the States, but the people are just fucking rad. Really rad. And like just, and in Japan, too. Just really like appreciative, happy, just kind of watching, and you know, you think they’re like bored to tears because they’re just sitting there like-and then afterwards they’re like, ‘Rahhhouu!’ And you’re like, ‘Oh, I guess they were just, they were just watching.’
PHOEBE: That’s cool. Yeah, I’ve noticed a difference coming to Seattle from Connecticut and seeing shows in New York and Boston, people here are really violent. Yeah, like, we’ll see.
ALEX: I’m a little scared for tonight
PHOEBE: I know, she hasn’t been to a show here yet.
MICHAEL: Where are you from?
ALEX: Yeah, from east coast.
MICHAEL: My nemesis.
ALEX: Nemesis? The Phillies?
ALEX: I’m not a sports fan.
ALEX: If that makes it any better.
PHOEBE: Alright, so what do you miss the most when you’re away from home? And do you still live in New York?
MICHAEL: I don’t know, I don’t really live anywhere right now. Um, I pretty much live where my suitcase takes me. I kind of live in California, like I sublet places there. I was dating a girl there for a while that I kind of stayed with, but uh, I have a house in New York, um, kind of-
MICHAEL: Yeah, in the Catskills. Nice and hidden away. And um, I was married and have since gotten divorced so I kind of rent out the house now. I kind of go wherever. I usually keep busy enough on the road that it’s kind of pointless for me to get an apartment so yeah, I don’t really, I don’t, this is really home. You know, I get on the bus and I’m like ok, I can kind of relax and I get to kind of settle into my routine. It’s kind of twisted.
PHOEBE: Yeah, so well, um, we’re both from the east coast, is there a coast you prefer?
MICHAEL: I prefer the east coast.
ALEX: Correct answer!
MICHAEL: It’s just the mentality, we just operate on a different wavelength, man, I don’t, I don’t know, the mentality there is just something that I can identify with more. And California, it’s I don’t know, people are like slower, well they are three hours behind.
ALEX: The west coast in general…
PHOEBE: But this is like, this is our first year living out here and we’ve both noticed that…
ALEX: Huge difference
MICHAEL: And you know, it’s weird the people here are just kind of like, ‘Meuhh,’
ALEX: They’re laid back about everything.
MICHAEL: Listen, I lived, I stayed there, it would be a nice place to grow up…
ALEX: It’s cool. No, we go to school here
MICHAEL: ..but as a whole, I don’t know if it’s the weather, you know, but…
ALEX: It’s beautiful here.
MICHAEL: Seattle’s a little bit different from California, but generally the east coast, it’s a totally, it could be a different country, you know what I mean? Like sub-culturally? So, yeah, I mean I’m an east coaster through and through.
PHOEBE: Yeah, cool.
ALEX: Ok, have you ever Googled yourself?
MICHAEL: I have.
ALEX: What did you look for and what did you find? Anything in particular?
MICHAEL: Um, honestly, I was looking uh, I was actually looking for interviews that I’ve done and I found some interesting ones.
PHOEBE: Anything you regret saying?
MICHAEL: Plenty. Plenty. I used to drink very heavily, during, before, and after interviews. And um, nothing terribly scandalous or anything, just being stupid. Talking shit, you know? The kind of thing like that.
PHOEBE: Yeah, so I guess we’re gonna get a little personal for our last question, um, what underwear are you wearing?
MICHAEL: That’s an excellent question. (checks) I don’t know, just some boxer briefs. Plain grey with black trim.
PHOEBE: Alright, lovely.
MICHAEL: Yeah, classy. Um, you know, functional.
PHOEBE: Sure, anything else you want to say? Any last words?
MICHAEL: Not really. I’m sick.
ALEX: Thanks for talking with us.
MICHAEL: Of course, man. That’s all good, you know what I mean?
ALEX: Phoebe’s a huge fan.
PHOEBE: I’ve been a fan since I was like 12
ALEX: She knows everything about you guys.
PHOEBE: I know, I just got the new album.
MICHAEL: Do you like it?
ALEX: She told me about the um… (points to his Keywork tattoo) symbol?
ALEX: The alignment?
PHOEBE: I was gonna ask if that was, if you had a tattoo of it, but I see you do!
MICHAEL: That was my first one (pointing to his dragonfly tattoo)
ALEX: The dragonfly, too!
MICHAEL: We all got that one, us and two other people we were on tour with, all six of us got them in Philly, we got them on our first tour, I think. Like our first full U.S. tour in like 2001. When we were kids.
PHOEBE: Yeah, that’s crazy! Yeah, so it’s very exciting for me.
MICHAEL: Cool, cool!
PHOEBE: Thank you for sitting down with us!
MICHAEL: Sorry about the ehhehh
PHOEBE: No, totally. This was great. I hope you have a good show tonight
MICHAEL: I will. It always gets better up there. Like I dread doing it all day long when I’m sick, it happens, you know, sick, road, sick happens. You know, you get a cold of some sort. And then I always feel fine when I’m up there, you know what I mean, sweat a little bit. Tomorrow we have a day off so, just, sleep ahh!
PHOEBE: Yeah, that’s what we heard. Fun! Are you going to go out in the city at all?
MICHAEL: Probably not, man. I’ll probably stay in bed. I’ll see where I’m at. We might go to the movies or something, it’s not very exciting. And we’ve been doing it so long that all the crazy, like ‘Woo, tour!’ like adrenaline is gone, we’ve got a day off, we’re like, ‘You wanna go to the movies?’ We’re like, ‘Naw, I’m too tired… to go to the movies’
PHOEBE: Yeah, I can imagine. So, we had a really nice day here so
MICHAEL: Mm, it’s gorgeous.
PHOEBE: Yeah, it’s shocking!
ALEX: This is the nicest it’s been in forever
MICHAEL: Oh really?
PHOEBE: Yeah, I mean it’s May and we’ve got like 50 degree weather here.
MICHAEL: Oh man, and here I’ve been holding up in the bus all day.
PHOEBE: But um, would you say a station ID for us?
MICHAEL: Yeah, what’s the station?
PHOEBE: So, it’s KSUB Seattle, or Seattle University’s student radio station
MICHAEL: KSUB Seattle’s what now?
ALEX: She has it written down
PHOEBE: You can just… say whatever you want to.
MICHAEL: Just KSUB Seattle is cool?
ALEX: Just say, ‘Hey, I’m…’
MICHAEL: Yeah! I’m good at these. I’ve done thousands, thousands. One time me and Josh, our old drummer, we were like off tour for a while and actually had to go to like a recording studio in Woodstock, by Kingston, like where I live. So we go to Woodstock, you know we get in the car and we go to Woodstock, and we were there for like four motherfucking hours with like a stack of sheets doing station IDs that they were sending around for like, to promote the third record, you know what I mean? And it was so crazy and we were like drinking heavily. It was ridiculous. We were like, ‘Seriously? This is why I practice play bass like when I was a kid? So I can sit in a recording studio and say shit?’ But you know it was like, these are, these are fine, I’m kind of going off on a tangent here. So we were starting like getting really weird with them and shit and like… and like, like alienating like their listeners.
ALEX: You can get weird with this one if you want.
MICHAEL: Like, like if you were listening, ‘If you’re listening to The Rock Lobster, and if you’re listening to this you’re not from Poland.’ Or something like that, like we would put these weird little restrictions on their listeners that they didn’t sign up for.
PHOEBE: You can put in whatever you want.
MICHAEL: No, no. I keep it generic now because we got in trouble for that. They were like, ‘What the fuck are we supposed to do with this?’ You know like, like, ‘You’re listening to The Rock Lobster…’ and then you hear like noises and you’re like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ Ok, ok, anyway. Like we were there for so long and it was like this, like double spaced, like here’s one, here’s one, here’s one, for I think literally like a hundred pages… Ok. Hi, I’m Michael Todd of Coheed and Cambria and you’re listening to KSUB Seattle student radio… motherfucker.
PHOEBE: Yeah, we’ll put that in.
ALEX: We might have to cut that out.
MICHAEL: Yeah, just a big bleep at the end.
PHOEBE: That’d be good. Alright, thank you so much.
MICHAEL: You’re welcome. Thanks, thanks for being patient with me.
PHOEBE: Of course!
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