“So this is Sunday night in Pensacola. Welcome to the Church of Combichrist!” declared Andy LaPlegua, frontman and creator of the aggrotech band during their headling set at Vinyl Music Hall in downtown Pensacola, Florida.
After performing as opening act for Rammstein’s sold-out performance in New York’s famed Madison Square Garden on December 11, 2010, it was announced that Combichrist would be joining the German industrial-metal monsters on their North American tour. While on the Rammstein tour, Combichrist would also be playing select cities during breaks and headlining their own tour promoting their latest album “Making Monsters” with groups iVardensphere, Deadstar Assembly, and Star Killer joining as supporting acts.
Hours before the frontman made his “Welcome to the Church of Combichrist” declaration which immediately launched the band into their single “F*** Machine,” LaPlegua sat down for an interview with Anna Karaski.
***Andy LaPlegua interview with Anna Karaski***
On a typically hellish-hot northern Florida summer afternoon, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Andy LaPlegua of Combichrist for some Q&A. I was met by an only slightly late LaPlegua in the band “green room” of Vinyl Music Hall. LaPlegua was dressed in stylishly ripped and faded black clothing, with his trademark fully sleeved tattoos on full display. He looked exhausted and tired as anyone would expect a powerhouse-of-performer like LaPlegua to look better than half way through a tour like Monsters on Tour.
Combichrist is mainly driven by LaPlegua’s sole artistic vision, in a take-no-prisoners and make-no-apologies style of music making. Although a bit more polished than the live version of Combichrist , the recorded music seems to convey the drive and force that embody who and what LaPlegua is. Combichrist musically falls somewhere on the spectrum of aggrotech, a subgenera of industrial music, but has tantalizing hints of much broader influences. Live they are best described as a relentless tour de force of aggression, passion and anger, a kind of organized chaos, with LaPlegua serving as a kind of insane ringmaster of the chaos circus. LaPlegua frequently beats himself with the microphone while stalking, pacing and dancing across the stage in dramatic theatrical makeup. LaPlegua clearly transforms himself seamlessly into the deranged, insane and dangerous character he plays on stage.
Combichrist is only one of LaPlegua’s many musical projects including Scandy, Panzer AG, the now defunct Icon of Coil and LaPlegua’s rockabilly band Scandinavian Cock. LaPlegua, ever the jet-setting rockstar, came striding in the florescent lit band “green room”, wearing black-as-night sunglasses that he then proceeded to wear though the entire interview. -Anna Karaski
AK: What’s the deal with the name Combichrist?
AL: It’s just a name. I had it for a long time ago as a comic book character. I thought it was a good character for the music. For the longest time I didn’t write as me, I wrote as the character, you know? Like the lyrics and everything that’s why the lyrics came out the way they did. The way they came out funny and edgy and violent because it was a character it wasn’t me. I thought it was a good name for the character.
AK: So when you perform as Combichrist are you performing as an extension of that character?
AL: I automatically am. I think I became the character…like more of me is in the character than it was. So it’s not the same character it was it has kind of evolved. Like all comic book characters do to they always evolve somewhere, somehow. I automatically become that character because you know who I am and what I do on stage is different.
AK: What themes and ideas are you trying to put across in Combichrist’s music?
AL: It depends to; I mean it depends on if I write as me or as the character. The character is a lot of things. It’s everything negative and everything positive. It’s violent but it’s nice at the same time. It can be political but it’s not. He doesn’t give a f*ck but he does. It’s every aspect …that’s why it’s called combi, like he is a combination of everything. But me personally when I write, you’ll hear the difference, because the ones where I write personally are the ones with the less swear words. And that’s more about what I felt in the moment I was writing it. More of an extinction of how I felt during that time I was writing. So there is nothing political about it. It’s just a reflection of everything that is going on around me. Which sometimes can seem political but it’s more like an observation than anything else.
AK: As an Icon fan I have to ask, when are we getting an Icon of Coil Album?
AL: Probably never. Icon of Coil is done. It doesn’t mean that we never will be doing anything. As of now Icon of Coil is done. Every now and then we do a couple of shows for our own sake. Play the old songs for good time’s sake. Whatever I felt like putting into Icon of Coil, I’m putting that into Combichrist. Combichrist was a result of several people never agreeing on everything. So Combichrist became the project where I can do whatever I feel like without compromising and it doesn’t really matter. If I want to make an aggressive dark song, I’ll make an aggressive dark song and if I want to make a slower melodic song, I’m going to do that. Combichrist is not about that one specific genre of music. It’s about me doing exactly what I want. What I want to do without compromising and I didn’t feel like I could do that in Icon of Coil. If I would ever have an idea for doing something “Icon of Coil”-ish , I would just release it as Combichrist.
AK: How did you transition form Hardcore to Industrial/Aggrotech?
AL: Ummm, Well I’ve always been listening to everything. I’ve been open for all types of music. I’ve always been listening to absolutely everything. I’ve never been stuck in one style or one scene where I only listen to this or only listen to that. If anything, I’m still listening to mostly to Rock n’ Roll and Punk Rock and Hardcore and stuff like that. That’s still what I most listen to. That and like world jazz and stuff like Billy Holiday, 20’s and 30’s swing and a lot of Rockabilly. I’ve always liked electro stuff and I think mixing electro with what I grew up with, what I was listening to…kind of became this style and not necessarily (did) I want to do industrial music. Just like the electro and house thing mixed with hardcore kind of became what we are doing now. It wasn’t really intentionally getting into the industrial scene or anything like that. I mean I like the scene, I like the people , but I never intentionally did it. I’m not a big fan…I mean there’s a lot of bands in the scene I like, but I’m not a big fan of all the bands that everyone else likes…I mean not necessarily.”
AK: What is with your fascination and flirtation with the rockabilly scene?
AL: I grew up with it. That is more where I belong as (far as) socially. Which doesn’t mean I can’t do what I’m doing musically? Plus I’m a grease monkey and a hot-rodder and that’s all I do when I’m home is work on cars and bikes. So you kind of automatically fall in as well. Especially when you love the music as well you automatically fall in to the social circle, you know?
AK: Is anything going on with Scandinavian Cock, your rockabilly band?
AL: It’s a party… Scandinavian Cock is a party. We’ve just been touring a lot. I haven’t had that much time to work on it. We’re still playing and hopefully we get to record an album this summer and hopefully a tour will see the light of day in the fall or something. I love playing with that band. It’s a bunch of good guys, good times, it’s just all rock n’ rollers and that’s all they ever knew and that’s all they will ever know and they love doing what they are doing and it’s great to be playing with them. It’s kind of a small corner bar kind of band. And I like that contrast to what I’m usually doing. You kind of just walk up with a band and you just jam it away and play good old rock and roll.
AK: Do you find that you like big rock arenas verses the smaller more intimate venues?
AL: I always compare it like this… I have a kind of square answer for the question when I get asked it. Both is great but it’s completely different. It’s kind of like making love or f*cking, it’s basically doing the same thing with different feelings behind it. Both is great. I think the venues is more like making love it’s just like more intimate. And doing the arenas is your f*cking and it’s great you have 20,000 people and your f*cking blood is boiling and it is crazy but it’s not sweaty and intimate as it is in a venue. So you can’t really compare it both is great.
AK: Who are you listening to and who influences you?
AL: Everything I listen to influences me. It is one of the reasons I try to not listen to electronic music at all because I try to be objective. And no matter what you do, and this goes for everybody who is making music, whatever you are listening to is going to influence you. So to try to be objective I try to, I’m trying to stay away from listing to bands in the scene, because you don’t want to subconsciously be inspired by something that is already going on in the clubs. That way you never evolve. I listen to a lot of Rock and Roll stuff … most of the time I listen to blues and jazz. Billie Holiday, Fletch Henderson. I’m a big Helicopters fan. And Gluecifer and a lot of the Scandinavian punk rock stuff.
AK: How did Wes Borland get involved in the band?
AL: He was on tour with us with his band Black Light Burns, and a f*cking amazing band by the way, and they were on tour with us, they opened for us for our tour. And it was really funny because he was one of the few exceptions where we go on tour with another band and it felt like he was a part of our band not a part of the supporting band. But being on the road with us we just grew tight like that. He is just an amazing musician and we were just like “You should come out and do something” and it just evolved from that. Unfortunately now he is back working with Limp Bizkit again.
AK: Any chance of him doing any recording with you?
AL: We’ll see. It all depends, when and what we are doing or what I’m doing. And what he’s doing at that time.
AK: Anyone you haven’t toured or worked with that you’d like to?
AL: Yes, obviously many, many bands. This is obviously a long shot but I would love to work with David Bowie. He is definitely one of my biggest influences. Even though it maybe doesn’t come though in the music. He has been one of my idols all my life. And same thing with Jello Biafra. Unfortunately Johnny Cash and Billie Holiday would be hard to work with. But I’d love to if I could.
AK: What was the best advice you have ever received from anyone in your life?
AL: I guess it was my dad who gave me the best advice. Which was “Do what you want and not what people expect you to do.” And I think that’s the key to everything I’ve ever done. And that’s what I still do. I do what I want and not what people expect me to do. And I feel somehow that (has) kept me ahead, like one step ahead the entire time with everything. I not saying ahead of everybody, I’m saying ahead of what I’ve wanted to do…somehow. It’s easy to be a copy of something, but by the time you are as good as what you were copying, the thing you were copying will be a step ahead of you. That’s how I’ve been thinking the whole time, instead of trying to copy things, I’d rather create things that I want to create that way that’s my things and I’ll always be one step ahead!
AK: What is the best advice you can give to someone?
AL: The same thing. The same thing for the same reasons. Do what you want, not what people expect from you.