It’s no secret that I am mildly enthusiastic (read that obsessed) with the industrial band that is Combichrist. So you could imagine my thought process when I was granted the opportunity to pick the brain of the man behind it all, Andy LaPlegua. Combichrist is set to release a new album in June and will be embarking on tour this week throughout North America before eventually heading over to Europe. In this interview I was able to talk to Andy about the new album, tour life, and the ever-changing music industry, among many other things.
ME: Hey Andy, it’s Nadia from Music Existence. How are you?
Andy: How you doing? I’m doing good!
ME: I’m doing pretty good, just got out of work can’t complain.
ME: Firstly I want to congratulate you on the new album. I’m really excited to hear the new stuff. Throughout your career, we can hear how the music you create has evolved. Would you be able to give us some insight on what to expect from One Fire?
Andy: Um…it’s always a tricky answer even though I do a lot of press, it’s always tricky when you get to this one thing. I feel like I will always develop, always progress, as an artist I’ve been doing all kinds of stuff all the time anyway. But it’s more within the same process right? All within the same band, experimented with different stuff and different ideas from all the different genres that I’ve been doing music in this whole time. I kinda felt like the previous album was kind of as far as I wanted to go with going back to my metal and hardcore roots and stuff like that. The new album I kind of went back in time a little bit. Went back to my roots in Combichrist. Not necessarily that I did this album and it’s gonna sound like the old stuff. But I went back and looked at how I started and what I’ve appreciated and what I liked over the last few years. Or over the years with the band itself. I feel that the album has taken everything that I’ve learned, and applied it to the years, and that’s what the new album is. It has a lot of electronica in it but it has loads of attitude from the harder stuff as well. Which is a big part of my past. I go way further back than Combichrist. So it belongs there with me and since I’m not really doing anything but Combichrist, in a ways it’s important for me to have an outlet.
ME: Would you be able to expand on the source of inspiration behind the single, Hate Like Me?
Andy: It’s actually two-parted. On the one part, is where the idea started. I found myself sitting on a couch, drinking a beer, watching tv, and being content with life. You know?
Andy: And then looking back and thinking about when I was a punk kid/teenager (laughs) riding out in the streets, fighting cops (laughs), fighting neo-skins, and being so full of passion. Not necessarily hate but I was just so full of passion. And I was like, if that kid would’ve seen me now–how content I am with everything, with life, how good I feel about everything, I would’ve been so mad at myself! Laughs. And I’m OK with that. I rather be content with life than to be the kid that I thought I would be when I grew up, you know what I mean? So that was kind of the one part of when I started writing the song. The song ended up becoming that–mostly about other people, about other musicians who used to have an attitude, used to have an edge to them and then they had some success and then suddenly they’re content and they just kinda get lazy with their music. They don’t think straight anymore, they’re afraid to say what they mean and stuff like that. Especially nowadays with everybody…
ME: …is so PC?
Andy: And I’m OK with it, that’s where I started it. Sometimes I take the freedom of not being PC is because in my mind I’m like, “You know that’s where I’m coming from, nobody could touch me!” And then I get rammed by a train. People are so afraid of being who they are and just speaking their mind and I just think that we should be good people. Continue doing what we’re supposed to be doing and just be good while we’re doing it.
ME: Would you be able to explain a bit on your creative process?
Andy: Well, that’s the million dollar question right? How do you do. It’s also a tricky answer because if you ask me after I painted a painting how? Where did it start? You just do, just start. Sometimes you have the full vision inside of your head and you just go with it. You can sit there until you’re done. Write a song in two hours and it’s good. Other times it has stages where I feel like maybe I have an idea for a song and I’ll start out and just don’t feel it. So I’ll leave it alone and most often when that happens I just walk out of the studio, I don’t even do anything else. I walk out, get on my motorcycle and I’ll ride up in the mountains for two days. (Laughs.) Or I’ll go hiking, take the dogs hiking, or whatever. Something that completely takes me away from it. Then you come back and everything falls into place. There’s really no template for it.
ME: I know you said you were more or less done with the heavy metal sound for now. But any chance that you will have other songs in Norwegian such as “Slakt“?
Andy: Well, first of all there might not be a possibility for any Norwegian songs on this album because it’s already done and I didn’t do any. But in the future there’s definitely an idea. I already have several songs, recent, that were in that direction where I might go and revisit one day. And I like doing it. I really really enjoyed doing it. There’s no limit for what I can do, it doesn’t mean that I can’t do a complete punk album if I wanted to. A complete horrorcore album or whatever. If I’m in the right place at the time and that’s how I feel like writing that’s how I’m gonna write. Or if I do a completely electro album then that’s what I’m gonna do. I don’t really have any rules set on me, especially now.
The whole music scene and music business is so crazy right now. You went from really good record sales in the 90’s over the board to where digital platforms kind ruined that and you had to fight so hard to sell albums. Then you went from that to nobody buying albums because of streaming. So right now I honestly don’t give a fuck. Laughs. There’s always been that little part of me where I feel I need to put a little effort into what other people think because after all they’re paying for it. And now I’m like, “You know what? Nobody is fucking paying for anything so I’m gonna do exactly what I want to do.” If nobody is gonna stand up and say, “Hey I’m not gonna support streaming” or “Or I’m not gonna support any of this” why wouldn’t an artist, why shouldn’t the artist–and I’m not just saying me–but why shouldn’t an artist just in general do what they want?
ME: True! I agree.
Andy: And in return I do hear the fans and when we do go out on tour, and specifically this tour coming up, we heard everyone. We are playing people’s favorite songs, we are playing what people want to hear. Because that’s when people do show. That’s when people are a part of what we’re doing.
ME: A little bit ago I saw that you guys had posted a casting call for the new music video. Any tidbits you could share on what it will be like?
Andy: Laughs. Well it’s always a little tricky talking about stuff that is not out yet. Um…it’s for an upcoming single. But I’m excited by it. It’s the first video that we’ve filmed where I care a lot about the content, to put it that way. It’s a very serious side of me. The topic is very serious for me. I’m working with Jason Alacrity who did the last two videos, an amazing director. He has a very good vision on how things gonna look and so do I. We work really well together. We took that and said let’s do something a little bit more artsy with some content to it.
ME: Which is actually leading to my next question. How involved are you in the making of your music videos?
Andy: I usually have a very strong opinion about things, because I usually have a certain idea in my head. For some weird reason when I write a song I have a certain look in my head to what I’m listening to. Sometimes, I’ll have an idea for a music video as I’m writing the music even though this music video might not have anything to do what I’m singing or writing about. Laughs. But you have all this imagery that just seeps into whatever you’re doing. So I do get very opinionated about it, but then again I also work with artists. I don’t just go and hire some video guy and say go and make something. I work with people that I respect. I work with people that I like their work and I don’t want to take away that from the video. I don’t want to destroy their sense of art in what we’re doing. I’m kinda coming up with an idea–say this is what I’m thinking–most of the time.
And this is why I’ve stuck with Jason, working on the third video now. We just understand each other so well on how things should look. I barely have to say anything, almost have to look at him and says, “OK, I get it!” So yeah, I do have a lot to say but at the same time I am letting people kinda do what they want. And sometimes it gets me into trouble, like with “Throat Full of Glass”. There was a lot of stuff in “Throat Full of Glass” that was not my idea but I got a lot of flak for it later. Suddenly I was a woman-hater and stuff like that. Even though it was the producer, who is a female by the way, who directed the whole scene. But I was the one getting the flak. But that’s just how it is. I signed off on it. It’s like being a politician, if you sign off on something it’s your responsibility now. I do get involved as far as I feel is necessary.
ME: It’s cool that you work that way, that you let people be creative and vibe off each other.
Andy: It’s kinda the same thing with my live musicians. Nobody in my band is with me in the studio. But when it comes to live performances, with exceptions of having them actually play the song, I don’t really tell them what to do. There’s a reason as to why they are there. It’s because I trust them. So you kinda let them do their own thing on stage and you just…it just brings something else to the mix, when you let people express themselves.
ME: It keeps things interesting for sure. With the new tour about to kick off, what are you looking forward to the most? And what are the most difficult aspects about going on tour?
Andy: The most difficult part of going on tour is to be on tour. It’s not touring itself or playing shows, it’s being away from home right? The most difficult thing for me is that we have our amazing home here and we have our whole life except for music. Our entire life is about animals and…
ME: Yes! I saw you got a new puppy. Super adorable by the way!
Andy: Laughs. She’s amazing! And that’s one thing that’s really hard. We got a new puppy and I gotta leave, I’m never gonna see it for months. But we got horses, we got chickens, we got dogs, cats, I don’t know what we have here now. I got engaged and there’s a lot of things going on.
Andy: Thank you! So leaving home, oh and I’m obviously a car and motorcycle nerd, that’s what I spend most of my time doing. So leaving all of this at home and going on the road is extremely hard. But it’s also very rewarding. They cancel each other out. I do love being on stage, I do love meeting the fans, I do love engaging with everyone and we can’t do that from home. I can’t just do one of the things, it’s always gonna be a little difficult.
ME: Considering the latest lineup, what are you most excited about working with drummers Will Spodnick and Dane White?
Andy: It’s very exciting. It’s new blood, it’s very refreshing. And I’m not like…Joe (Letz) and I parted ways business-wise, I would say. Musically, we parted on friendly terms, we’re still like siblings. We still talk almost every day. But as a band, we parted civilly and we both have our reasons as to why it is the way it is. And we left it like that and said, “Hey, you know let’s just leave it like that and let’s not ruin the memory of the good stuff.” So we parted on good terms. Getting the two new guys then, they have so much energy and are so excited about everything. There’s so many ideas, it’s like having somebody rejuvenate the whole band.
ME: When you guys come around, I try to attend as many shows as possible. It’s gotten to the point that I’ve started to recognize people in the crowd. Regardless of crowd size, venue, if it’s summer, winter, your shows have so much enthusiasm and intensity. How do you guys manage to do that night after night, ‘cause after four shows I’m tired.
Andy: Even though it seems like it, no two nights are the same. I feel like most days it’s like this: I fucking hate this, I just wanna go home, I can’t believe I have another five weeks of this. Laughs. And then you know you start getting ready, start to meet the fans, and it’s awesome! It’s worth everything and it’s super awesome. It’s like this is the best time of my life. You go on stage and you’re just super stoked and the whole night is amazing.
But it’s that part when you wake up and you’re on the road and you’re exhausted, still exhausted from the day before. You’re doing the routine, loading into the venue, all of this routine bullshit makes it so horrible. But as soon as you start doing the fun stuff, it’s worth it. And I think you get reminded of that and it feels good. And that’s why we have that energy. You go on stage and you’re not gonna do something you love half-assed. We played a venue, I don’t even remember what city it was, somewhere in the middle of Colorado, there’s just nothing there. Maybe twenty people live there and there’s like ten people there and you can’t let that get to you. You need to go out and you still need to do the show. We played ten songs and we dedicated one to each person there. We had them sit on stage in a chair and played to each one of them for the duration of the song. That’s how you get through. You have a good time. You do not let anything get between you and having a good time.
ME: While doing some research, I heard in one of your older interviews that you often prefer to listen to music that is possibly the complete opposite to what you do. At that time it was country, is it still your modus operandi? And who are your top three favorite artists?
Andy: Hmm. Yeah I do a little bit of everything. But I do not listen to industrial or electronic music at all at home. I’ll listen to it on tour and in social situations to put it that way, but I do not listen to it at home. It’s hard to be objective to your own art if you’re influenced by others subconsciously right? I listen to Fu Manchu, Red Fang, Colter Wall, I listen to…I can’t even think of things off the top of my head, the easiest thing. What is the last thing I listened to today? I can tell you right now, I’ll just look at my computer and I can tell you exactly what I just listened to…Heilung which is a Viking soundtrack thing here, Hellacopters, and a lot of different stuff.
ME: A little bit of everything…Winding down and before I let you go, I wanted to switch gears a little and ask you about your apparel line Deathrod. How do you approach that aspect of your creativity? Is it different for you from music to designing?
Andy: It’s kind of similar. I always do our own graphics, design, and artwork for the band. When I was younger and started doing music I had this voice in the back of my head, “Get an education just in case you fail!” I went to art school for years and became a graphic designer and I never used it for anything but my own stuff. It came in handy, it’s part of creation. I like to be creative, it doesn’t really matter if you’re writing or painting or if I do a fabrication on a hot rod or build a motorcycle. It’s all a creative process, a vision. You just stand back and get everything.
ME: Lastly, any shoutouts?
Andy: Well you know what, shoutout to my new band members. How about that?
ME: Cool beans!
Andy: Laughs. It’s gonna be a good run and I’m really stoked to have them with me for this tour.
To learn more about Combichrist make sure to check them out at the links below: