Sonic Shocks: Interview with Mic Todd

by Simon ‘Astrocreep’ Crampton.  Posted: November 18, 2010.  Conducted November 15, 2010.

Coheed and CambriaCoheed & Cambria are one of those bands that never ever comes along, or if they do its once a century. The band themselves deals in progressive tinged alt rock, and is musically spellbinding, but away from and inspired by said music there is the world that the band has created for themselves and their fans.

Coheed & Cambria’s five studio albums centre on the story of the Amory wars, an epic space adventure set in and around Heaven’s Fence. It’s ambitious and has captured imaginations around the globe, and has bled into comic books and novels as well as just the bands music.

The band returned this year with the last part of the series in the stunning ‘Year of the Black Rainbow’ and has returned to these shores for a series of shows with the Deftones. We here at Sonic Shocks had the pleasure of sitting down with Bassist Mic Todd to discuss concept albums, touring, solo albums and what the future holds for Coheed & Cambria.

Sonic Shocks: Welcome back to the U.K. We haven’t seen you since the tour in June, how was this tour compared to that one?

Mic: For starters it’s so much more relaxing, there’s a schedule that’s pretty similar every day. A structured tour over here is much better for us, especially with a band that we really admire in the Deftones; me and Claudio used to listen to Deftones when their first album (Adrenaline) came out when we were going to band practice for band he and I were in, so that was 15 years ago. I’ve been in a band half my life with him. Festivals are too crazy for us; you get no sleep one day, you play at noon then the next you play at fucking midnight, but this tour is nice.

Sonic Shocks: How did you get involved in this tour with Deftones?

Mic: I’m not really sure. Usually a tour is announced and then bands submit their names, so I’m not sure if it happened that way or not. I know we shared some crew with them, like our tour manager now did monitors for them a few years ago or some shit, and we did some of the festivals with them when we were over here in the summer time, and we’re big fans and they were really cool to us, so it just came together that way I think.

Sonic Shocks: 2010 has been a very successful year for you with the release of ‘Year of the Black Rainbow’ and some pretty good tours under your belt. What is the current feeling in the band?

Mic: Good… I think. We are at that stage where we have been on the road pretty steady since March, we’re a little burnt out. Everything’s great but it’s just little wears of the road; however we’re excited for the next thing, we have some cool ideas for the next year, not just the same tour/album/tour/album/tour thing, we’ve got some cool Coheed chocolate sprinkly shit for everyone (laughs); we are just looking for a way to keep doing what we’re doing and that’s it really. After this tour we are going to take a little rest, that necessary because you can only do this for so long.

Sonic Shocks: ‘Year of the Black Rainbow’ has been out since April now, how do you feel about how the album has been received thus far?

Mic: Yeah, when the album had been out for a minute and we started playing the songs live there wasn’t the usual lull in the set, it seemed like they adopted the new material right along with the old material so fan wise that’s how I can gauge success of an album, if the fans dig it and if they accept just as another part of the catalogue. Fan response was awesome, critical response was awesome. There are some bands out there that have released amazing albums; like I remember the New York Post gave Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’ one star, and I was like ‘I refuse to believe it’ and sure enough I got the record and it’s brilliant, it’s one of my favourites. I just think sometimes especially in America the mass media kind of controls things a lot, anyway I guess it’s our time to fucking shine because we’ve been getting some really good reviews on it.

Sonic Shocks: It’s a very ambitious album. When I listened to ‘Year of the Black Rainbow’ I felt it had a very epic feel to it, and as it’s the final part of the ‘Amory Wars’ saga; did you feel you needed to go out on a high note with it?

Mic: We wanted it to stand alone and be different; a lot of people wondered if we were going back to our roots, and there’s no way really to go backwards and unlearn the shit I’ve learnt the past 5 years, but we knew it was going to take care of itself with Chris (Pennie) playing drums, just his groove and playing style dictates a lot of how a song will be and we write around him. Then with the addition of Atticus Ross and Joe Baressi, which were almost like 5th and 6th members with how vocal and present they are with the production and with the song structuring, we had kind of an extra couple of paints on our palette, and I think we definitely wanted… I don’t know if epic is the right word, but we did want a wider spectrum of sounds on it than we did before, and that the song writing would kind of take care of itself and I think it did.

Sonic Shocks: With the five albums in your catalogue all encompassing the same story and existing in the same universe, do you think it’s harder for you to write and try to stay within the confines of the story you have laid out for yourselves?

Mic: I think one of the brilliant things with that is there really is no confines, if we decide we want to write a fucking 80’s pop ballad we can justify it by saying it happens in the story. We have a really wide range of influences, we’ve kind explored it all across the albums; we have some really metally songs, some super ballads, really beautiful, really slow ballads and then we have the proggy stuff , so maybe the story has allowed us to get away with that a bit more.

Sonic Shocks: Do you think it’s easier to write to the story then?

Mic: Yeah, I don’t know if it’s the story, but I’ve never had a problem justifying the choices I’ve made. I think with this band from the beginning we’ve always played a different kind of music, so yeah, maybe the concept gives us that little bit more leeway.

Sonic Shocks: With the other media surrounding the band in the form of the graphic novels and the ‘Year of the Black Rainbow’ novel, have you ever had anyone that’s read those but never heard of the band?

Mic: That’s never happened to me, but Claudio (Sanchez, Singer) does the comic cons and shit in the states so it might have happened to him, but I don’t think I’ve met a comic fan that became a fan of the music and vice versa. That would be a bit strange, but it would be a testament to his success, I’m not that involved or plugged into it, I support my man and his art and what he likes to do; I’m definitely on the rock side of things, its definitely his baby and its really taken off, I’m sure it happens though, I think its kind of hard to have heard of the comic and not the band at this point.

Sonic Shocks: Now that the ‘Amory Wars’ story is over, what’s going to be next for you guys? Will there be more concept albums in the future or will the albums be a little more straight forward now?

Mic: We don’t know yet, we’ve discussed it. We can tell another story, a parallel story, no story, we have had discussions. I think one way or another we’re going to be making records, we are kind of hoping that path will eliminate itself before us like it usually does. Right now we’re still just riding out this record and brainstorming about what we’re going to do next, but we don’t really have a plan just yet.

Sonic Shocks: One of the special things you did as a band was the ‘Neverender’ series of gigs, where you did a residency and played all the albums back to back. Is that something you would do again, and if so where would you place ‘Year of the Black Rainbow’ in the sequence of events, because even though it’s the last album, it’s also a prequel to the story?

Mic: That’s a interesting question, I don’t know. I could argue either way, I think it would be a good end piece, we would probably do it last due to the chronology of the bands albums, so we would do the oldest album first and work in order.

Sonic Shocks: One thing I’ve noticed about you as a band is that you have some of the most dedicated fans in the entire world. They have their own forums and communities, places like Cobalt and Calcium and the like. How does it feel you as a band to see that, what do you think it is about Coheed & Cambria that draws the fans in and keeps them sticking by you through everything?

Mic: Man, if I knew that I’d always have a gig (laughs), I think its just luck. I think it has a lot to do with mutual respect, we are really grateful to be in the position we are in and we never half ass what we do, we work really hard and especially live it’s always been where we’ve been the most comfortable, and we take a lot of pride in the show, and I think that when people get involved with us they get more than the average band nowadays might provide, because we don’t pander to a short attention span; we give a little bit and then when people are satisfied we try to give a little bit more to keep them interested, and we try to keep a personal relationship with our fans. It obviously gets harder the more there are of them, everyday we go outside and say hi to everybody at shows and thank people, and I think that translates from stage to the crowd and that energy comes back to us.

Sonic Shocks: Do you go on the forums and see what the fans are up to?

Mic: Yeah sometimes I try to, I go and browse around and see what they are up to. I don’t do it so much anymore because the universe has just got too large and I wouldn’t even know where to begin now. But I used to pop in there and answer a few questions and such.

Sonic Shocks: As we have discussed you have the ‘Amory Wars’ story and you have fans online making up their own fan fiction and discussing the world and characters you created, and adding their own take on things; how does that feel for you guys?

Mic: It’s exciting to see people getting that involved with it. I remember how I feel about my favourite pieces of fiction and it feels exciting to be a part of something that has got people that excited.

Sonic Shocks: You took a break from the band in 2006 for personal reasons, then returned to the band in 2007. How have the last 3 years in the band been for you?

Mic: It’s been easy, I don’t really know how to describe it. My work ethic has changed a lot, I think now I know what it’d be like to be a musician without a gig I’m more professional. More often on tour now I’ll be writing or working instead of fucking off and drinking, it’s been good, there is a much different work ethic this time because we realise that we’ve arrived and that we are a successful band now  and it’s a matter of hanging on to that and getting better at what we do. So yeah, the last three years have gone really fast.

Sonic Shocks: You were considering releasing a solo album at one point as well. What is the current status of that?

Mic: I’m working with this female now in Los Angeles, and every time I get going on something I get dissatisfied with it and move onto the next thing; for about a year I’ve been really hitting it off with this girl, Sarah Green, as a co-writer, and we’ve been working on a lot of stuff and hopefully we will have a couple of months off this winter, so we are going to try and record a couple of songs and get them out there on I-Tunes.

Sonic Shocks: If someone was making a time capsule of your musical career, what 3 of your songs would you include?

Mic: ‘Welcome Home’ would definitely have to go in there, ‘The Broken’ from the new record and ‘Feint of hearts’ from the second record.

Sonic Shocks: What would be the reason for each song?

Mic: ‘Feint of Hearts’ is my favourite to play live and its one of my favourite songs. ‘Welcome Home’ because that’s the one that’s gotten the most successful of our songs, and ‘The Broken’ because it’s a good representation of where we are at now.

Sonic Shocks: And it has the badass cgi video with the huge space battle which is awesome.

Mic: Yeah, that’s the one.

Sonic Shocks: What has the next year got in store for you, can you elaborate on any of your plans?

Mic: I think we are going to Australia next year, I think after January we are going back on the road again, and that’s all we know for now.

Sonic Shocks: In closing, what would you like to say to your fans out there?

Mic: If you are fans, thanks for sticking by us for nearly 10 years now, and keep coming to shows because as long as you keep coming to shows then we still have a gig.

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