Welcome to Glasgow, how’s the tour going?
We were in Newcastle last night, which is always fun. Any show in the UK is always a lot of fun, we have a lot of friends here. London is always bigger shows, but the UK usually we play small places which is more intimate.
You’ve brought Rabbia Sorda & Filter with you. How’s that working out and do you have a say in who you get to support you?
I’ve been trying to get that package together for like two years now. I love every member of the bands, I know them really well and I’ve been working so hard for the last couple of years trying to figure out when we can all go at the same time. Everybody is like ‘oh yeah let’s do it’ and then ‘oh no…we’ve got our album coming out, we’re doing this over here, we’re doing this’ so it was a little bit of a problem to get it all together, but finally got it together and it’s great, I mean, I love these guys, they are like family, even before we started touring together.
The current line up of Combichrist – how did you meet and where are you from?
A quick run through of the history… basically I was doing the punk and hardcore thing from ’92, well that’s when we started touring. I did it most of the 90’s and I got so sick and tired of band members, so I decided I’m going to do electronic music because I don’t need anyone. I started making electronic music and I really didn’t have anyone, it was just me. Then I met Joe, now my drummer, on a tour and he said “you should have a live drummer.” We tried it out, and I thought “OK, I dig it.”
Then we just kind of added on and we met somebody else, who was playing this song from this band called Sex Slaves backstage every night night before we were getting ready. One day Joey said “What do you think about Eric from Sex Slaves on guitar?” So it’s kind of like this spontaneous thing, you know and it’s a chemistry thing. I mean there’s been many members coming in and out the door on the other side, it’s only the people you have chemistry with that stay.
I’m from Norway and live in Atlanta, have a bass player from L.A, a second drummer from Phoenix, Joe from New York and Eric from Philadelphia. My front of house guy is from Canada, my guitar tech is from Sweden, my light guy from Germany. It’s a big mess but it works!
So has Combichrist been going full-time since 2003?
Well, the first release was 2003 but I started doing the stuff in 2002. The first album I called a desktop clean-up, which was a bunch of stuff that I’d just been experimenting with and thought “what am I going to do with this?” It wasn’t even a project, but I called my record label and said !I want to release this.” They asked me if I had a name for the stuff, which I didn’t, so was told to compile the album and think of a name later.
I sent it in but wanted to think of a character, like a dirt bag character. I used to do a punk rock Fanzine called Combichrist. Basically it was a punk rock messiah in the comic strip who would get wasted, beat people up, have sex and do drugs, then wake up sober and start healing people. That character is perfect for this music!
How’s the music changed since the 2014 album, as that was slightly heavier and darker than this one?
I think it’s just the production on it is heavier, as it’s less organic. It’s about a lot more bottom electronics in it. This album, because of how we’re writing, has very little electronics in it. The electronics are programmed in like other albums, we play the keyboards in this album to get a bit more of an organic sound. My life is definitely not the same as it was two years ago, it’s completely different. I never thought about the previous album being darker before.
This album is the most complete album for me that we’ve ever done and it has elements of everything I’ve ever done. It has elements of punk rock, rock n’ roll, hard rock, metal, electric and industrial.
We came over a term on tour the other day that we thought was fitting: industrial metal-core.
How’s the new album, This is Where Death Begins, being received?
Really good actually. I never care, but I’m always worried, see the difference? If I do what I want to do, I don’t have any rules when it comes to music, so if I make an album that I’m happy with, then this is what I want to do. I don’t care if people will like it or not, but I do get a little worried that if people don’t like it, then it’s kinda of a step backwards. Luckily, every single time, we release a new album there’s always a lot of people complaining. Problem is, I do it every single time and people should get used to it, and in the end I’ve been lucky, people get it and they say “I didn’t get it at first, but I’ve heard a few times and I get it now.” It’s like abstract art, you’re not gonna get it, you kinda have to get into the head of the artist to really understand.
In the studio, do you still work by yourself or do you have musicians in with you?
Initially it’s just me, then we went and recorded the album, well basically the demo was all recorded in my studio. Then we went to Malibu and recorded the guitars, I had Oumi from Filter playing guitar, Chris from Filter actually playing drums.
When you’re in the studio on your own, do you have a set sound you look for compared to your live sound?
We do so much more shows, so it’s just in the back of my head when I’m doing something. I kind of imagine that my live bands have a lot to do with my albums, not directly but for inspiring me. When I’m sitting there I know exactly the drummer will be doing on the drums on one part. I can channel, from knowing them so well, so I know this would be a great part for Joe, or this would be a great part for Eric. So you when you’re writing it, you know that they are kind of there even though they are not.
So what’s the plan after the European tour ends?
Going to stay in London to work on the Hellblade game and then back to Berlin, see my woman and relax for a few days, do some festivals, go back to the US. I have a court date (laughs) and then starting the US tour.
After spending two years getting this line up together, is there any three band bill you’d really like to be a part of?
Um, that’s always a question, I always think about that but, not really. I always have this dilemma of trying to figure things out but I mean, I don’t know except of who I’d like to go on tour with. Especially now, being in the middle of the tour and is so good, I can’t imagine going on tour with anybody else, it’s like a family y’know? I don’t know…not really! I mean I would love to be out with, if it were really crazy Amon Amarth & Robbie Williams, That’d be a great tour (laughs)!
Do you still find time for Panzer AG?
Done, gone! I like it, I don’t like that the band is gone because the people we’re playing with are great friends of mine and I miss doing the shows. Scandi is done, Panzer AG done, Icon of Coil done. So it really freaks me out quite heavily that I can do whatever I feel like for us. I’ll be sitting in the studio thinking this would have been a good song, but now I just put it on our album if I like it. So now, it just freaks me out to do more experimenting.
I’m working on some other stuff at the moment, but not official yet! I do have a couple of other projects, I have an acoustic punk rock basically, a little bit of Tom Waits, mixed with rockabilly, blues and country all in one.
Photos by Gary Cooper.