Interview by Ryan Bird
Live photo by Graham Pentz
They may currently be regarded as one of alternative music’s hottest properties, but just two years ago Coheed & Cambria was dead.
Rocked by the departure of drummer Josh Eppard and bassist Mic Todd, front man Claudio Sanchez and guitarist Travis Stever found themselves on the edge of a black hole that threatened the band’s very existence. For Todd, however, it was a time that saw his very life hanging by a thread. Bogged down in a pit of depression and drug abuse, he went months without even picking up his bass – something that had been part of his every day life for nearly ten years.
Today, life in Coheed & Cambria – and indeed life for Mic Todd – couldn’t be better. The band has just finished headlining the Kerrang! Relentless Energy Drink Tour 2008, playing to over 30,000 UK fans in the process, while Todd is back in the band and firmly on the wagon. Ryan Bird finds out the story behind the near demise of one of rock’s most essential outfits.
You’ve just finished headlining the Kerrang! Relentless Energy Drink Tour 2008. How did everything go?
It was good! Ireland was really great. We’d been there once before, which is weird because we’ve been to the UK a ton of times but that was only our second time over there.
What was the response like with regards to your new material? For a lot of people that was the first time they’ll have heard those songs live.
Everyone seemed really into it. We’ll start to bring a little bit more of it into every tour over the next year, but we like to play a few songs from every album if we can. We like to keep in touch with our older material, and I think the fans like to see some of those songs too.
How was the tour for you on a personal level? As people may know, you left the band for a little while.
It’s been a really positive experience. When I left I was at a bad point in my life. I stopped playing bass and making music for a while when I left. I basically went to the place where musicians go after they die. There’s nothing worse than not having a show and not knowing what to do with yourself. After a while I realised that being in this band is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. The timing just felt right, so we talked it out and here I am again.
So for a while you were completely inactive on a musical level?
I wasn’t playing anything at all. I was too busy sitting at home and feeling sorry for myself.
Did you always know that you’d eventually pick up the bass again, or was there a time when you genuinely thought that was it for you?
There’s was a brief couple of months, but eventually with every day I didn’t play I just felt shittier about not playing. It got to the point where I knew that one way or another, something had to change.
Did you approach the band or did they approach you when the time came to get back on the horse?
Well, we hadn’t spoken for almost nine months. Not a word. I felt like I owed them an apology as time went on. I wasn’t trying to get back into the band or anything, I just wanted to make good on what I’d done by leaving. So we met up, hung out, had a great time, and at the end of the day I said to them; ‘If you guys ever want to make music again in any capacity, just give me a call.’ They were playing with somebody else at the time, so I wasn’t trying to step on anybody’s toes. They called me twenty minutes after I’d left while I was driving home and asked me to come back.
Was it a weird feeling for you at first?
In a way it was. After not making music for such a long time it took me a little while to get back into the swing of it, but once the ball started rolling everything started to gel again.
When you rejoined the band weren’t far off recording ‘No World For Tomorrow’. Was it a headache having to leap back in and not only learn how to play again, but to have to write new music at the same time?
It had its moments! It was weird because the band had just enlisted a new drummer in Chris [Pennie], but he couldn’t play on the record due to some contractual wrangles with his old band. That’s when we got [Foo Fighters drummer] Taylor [Hawkins] in, so about a week before we went into the studio we hired out a space in L.A. and just went to work. Chris had already written the drum parts so Taylor was learning how to play them all properly, and I was still writing little bits and pieces on bass and getting to grips with it all again. The drums and bass were very much completed together, and I think that shows a little bit on the record.
What was the actual recording process like?
It was pretty mellow. We were in a different place from where we’d worked on all of our previous records. We were on a different coast and using a different producer, so it was a new experience in some ways. We actually started laying down guitars first rather than drums. We used a click track and then Taylor would play along to the guitar stripe as opposed to the guitars going over the top of the drums, so it was a very different method. We actually built [On The Brink] in the studio. Overall we had a couple of months to do it in and we were working thirteen hour days, so these were full on days, but it was a fun experience. We’ll probably try something different for the next record.
Did you find yourself suffering from cabin fever towards the end of the process? Having jumped straight back in at the deep end it would be understandable.
Nah, I wasn’t suffering from that. You could feel a vibe creeping in towards the end though. I work fast and I don’t really have that much to do. There’s only one bass part whereas guitars get tracked repeatedly built upon, so I was only really there for moral support most of the time.
How long did it take you personally to finish your parts?
I do a whole song in probably about an hour.
So you can do an entire album in a day?
Yeah, but I didn’t do them all at once. I’d usually come in and lay a track down in between guitar takes, just to give the other guys a break and make sure they didn’t burn out. Whenever they were feeling the pinch, I’d rock a bass part.
Was there a time during the recording when you felt like you really wanted to go home and step away from everything for a bit?
No, I loved it there! Everything felt really good. It was a great experience and I’m really glad that we did it. We went into the process with an open mind, and that really helped everyone get to where they needed to be. I was back in the band and glad to be making music again, and that was all that really mattered rather than how tired I was or whether I felt like going home for a few days. It was a blast. I’d do it again tomorrow.
It sounds like everything is really positive for you right now.
Being in this band is exciting again. We toured a lot for like, six years prior to my leaving, and it took its toll. I lost the love of my life, I married a girl that I hated, and all of this fucked up shit was going on around me. I was basically living in a coffin. Now it’s a totally different story. I know I belong in this band, and I know I belong on the road. I’ve tried living that other life, and that shoe just doesn’t fit. Now I just want to make music for as long as I can.
Read the live review from this tour here.