It feels like it was just yesterday when we saw Combichrist in New York City last June as a lot has changed for these aggrotech giants. The group has parted ways with drummer Joe Letz and have already moved forward to the next chapter as their new album One Fire will be released on June 7th (pre-order here).The group are currently touring across North America for a near four week trek and somehow, we were lucky to catch up with Combichrist mastermind, Andy LaPlegua. LaPlegua went into detail on the new record, looked back on his overall career, discussed raising awareness on mental illness and saving lives through music.
When did you start working on One Fire?
Like 30 years ago – it feels like it. It has elements of everything that I ever did, right. So I kind of feel like it’s a perfect circle of everything that I ever did so pieces of this was kind of written, at least subconsciously, a very long time ago. But I think I finish the album in November and the actual recording process in itself is probably about six months.
It’s more of a collection of your life in a way?
Yeah, that’s kind of how I feel about it. I wrote it all and recorded it all within the last year. But there’s so many pieces of this that it’s kind of reminiscent from growing up, reminiscent of touring and then what I’ve done. It’s kind of a collection of thoughts and feelings that have been bottled up over the duration of my career.
Can you explain why you decided to go back to your roots?
I don’t feel like necessarily that the album is back to the roots but it’s definitely mentally back to the roots. It kind of got to a point and then on the previous album where I’m like I don’t know how much further I want to push this because I always push every album further. I always devour and evolve. And then I felt after the previous album was like I kind of want to revisit where this started. And go through and write in a way that I get all my favorite elements from every album. All on one album. Not just for the fans’ sake but for my own sake. It’s my own sanity as well.
How has the crowd been responding to the new material even before the album being released?
Well, we’ve been playing the two new singles and it’s been good, going over really well. I feel like it’s my favorite songs to play right now. And it’s not just because it’s new. It’s because it feels right. I think the audience can translate to that. And when an artist goes on stage, they really love what they’re playing. That really translates to the crowd too. And also the other way around. Like when you feel the crowd loving it, it becomes part of the show.
May I ask, how have things been on the road since Joe left?
Not to throw anybody under the bus but, it’s been fucking awesome. It’s just one of those things where we’re basically siblings. Siblings butt heads. We’re probably closer now than we were. We’re actually calm again. When you just start butting heads, it’s not going to be easy. So now with the new guy, with him, it’s just a new found energy. He’s got a youthful energy and with the new album and everything, it’s kind of like a reset button. We kind of started over again. It feels good. Like it all falls into place. It feels really good. It sounds great. Everybody goes through tough break together and we actually play together and there’s no butting heads at all. So it’s rejuvenating.
Better for everyone. Once the album arrives, what are your plans for later in the year?
Just continue touring. We got to finish this tour we’re on. We got another three, four weeks to go. Then we got a couple weeks off. We got another eight weeks in Europe and then we got a couple weeks off. Then another two weeks in South America. And then again another week in Australia and then go to Rockstock for a couple of weeks. And then it’s Christmas. That’s basically it. We just keep going.
I know you’re touring North America now, and you toured here I believe a year or so ago. Would you guys come back again within the next two years?
I don’t know. We’ll see. I mean, I really don’t know where I’m at. It really depends where my head is.
We’re pretty much planning to be out through 21. So that’s a lot of touring. But I don’t know if that’s going to be extended for the rest of the world and doing more Europe or we’re going to go back to the US. But all I know right now, is that this is the last North American tour we’re going to do in a while. I really hope people take advantage to come out and see us on this tour. Because it might be awhile before we can do that again. It’s a big world out there. It feels small when you’re comfortably going everywhere but it takes a while to visit everywhere.
Looking back on your career, is there a particular album you wish you could have done differently. And if so, how?
In one way, that’s every album. But when you give it time and you give it some rest, it becomes an entity in its own. You don’t really want to fuck with that. It has its own time and place. Everything I’ve done has its own time and place. Like regardless of how I felt about it afterwards. It’s not really something I want to go back and correct. It’s kind of like the butterfly effect, I think. You go back. I don’t think I’d be doing what I’m doing now if I were to go back and correct it. This whole thing are done in the past.
Of course. And you also learn if there’s something that you didn’t like about it. Or maybe a fan likes it more, or whatever. How have you changed personally as an artist since you’ve started your career?
I guess I was more hungry when I first started. More hungry for getting out and doing stuff. Now I’m more work for the art itself. You know what I mean? Like in the beginning, I probably focused a lot more on I wanted to travel the world. I wanted to play certain places. And now I’m more aware of the art. I’m more aware of the writing and how I present myself. Like how I want to be. If I go out tomorrow, how are you going to remember me as an artist? It’s just more important for me to be honest with things and get some transparency to my music. It also made me kind of change the way I write. And be more personal with my writing. In the past I was trying just to fuck with people and kind of goad up people, or whatever. Now I’m more like aware that I actually influence people with what I do. So I’m taking that into consideration when I’m writing as well.
Since you’re known now, you’ve evolved to be more of an influencer. When, in the beginning, you didn’t even start that way.
Yeah. That’s when I first started. You never thought you would influence anything. You were just kind of making noise. Just to cause a ruckus and now I’m more connected to the art side of it and how important the message is. I’m very aware of, for example, I’ve been very occupied with trying to make people aware of mental illness. And how to deal with it. That we all have certain things that we all carry with us. And it’s really important to talk about it and not just throw it away or bottle up things. And a whole lot of those things have been so important to me that I started evolving it into my music as well.
That’s great that you realized that. People look up to you and your music. Knowing that you can save a life through a song is awesome.
Yeah, it really does hit you when you start out. I had this one time we were playing a show and I had this guy in a wheelchair come up to me and say, “Hi. I listen to your music every day. And it’s the only thing that keeps me from killing myself. I lost my wife and my kids in a car accident a year ago. And you’re the only thing that keeps me through the day.” And when you hear that, it hits you really hard. And you realize what kind of impact you have on someone who’s going through so much pain every day. And you’re bound to change the way you look at your music when you realize what kind of impact you have.
That’s extremely powerful. I don’t know how I would react if someone said that to me.
Yeah. Well, there’s no words. You just hug the person and you cry with them. And then you give them your phone number and you say, “You can call me anytime you need me.” It’s kind of one of those things. It’s very powerful.
Is there anything else you want to say or add about the new album?
It’s so strange to experience. People will kind of have to go through it themselves. It’s a very emotional journey through the album. It’s very variated and it goes through, not only just emotional, but it goes through a lot of different motions in this album. It’s, for me, my most important album to date. It’s not up to me to touch what other people should think of it.
I’m looking forward to hearing it once it’s fully out. But I’ve heard the singles and there’s pretty powerful message. Especially, “Hate Like Me” I believe I read in another interview how you were talking to your younger self, looking at what you’ve become. I thought that was a powerful message because when we get older we all look at our younger selves. And we would like to talk to how we would’ve done things differently or apologize. I thought it was a very powerful statement.
It’s not really about hate. It’s about passion. It’s about how passionate you are about certain things when you’re younger. And how you’re confined with things when you get older. And getting comfortable in whatever shoes you’re in. I think it’s important for all of us to look back and have the best songs. Like what have they become from where we started? And are we really happy with this or are we just confining to daily life?
That’s a lot to think about. And hopefully people will learn things from your new album. And just go on from there and also enjoy it.
Yeah. Mostly I don’t try to teach people anything. I’m trying to just make people aware of things. Just get your brain started. Think about things that you might not normally think about during the day. And especially when it comes to mental illness and with people bottling things up. Nobody can see … You’re not missing a limb. So if you’re not missing a limb, there must be nothing wrong with you. But that’s not the fact at all. We all carry some things that hurt. That is heavy somewhere inside of us. And it’s important to be able to talk about that. I’m not saying through social media. It’s not about getting attention. It’s not about “look at me”. It’s about expressing your true feelings to people. And surviving. Not only surviving, but living. It passes just surviving and actually truly living.
Today (10th) Combichrist premiered the music video for their new single “Understand.” Watch the clip below: