A-Sides with Jon Chattman: Coheed & Cambria's Frontman On Comics & "The Soundtrack to My Imagination"

Back in the day, I collected baseball cards so much more than comics. I remember getting so excited when I unopened a pack of 1986 Donruss in 1992 and found the ever-so-valuable "Rated Rookie" card of Jose Canseco like it was yesterday. Clearly, it wasn't. There's little value the card has now except for the fact it finds one-half of the "Bash Brothers" with a Todd Bridges-esque mustache. Anyway, cards always resonated more with me than comics. As a matter of fact, of the limited comics I collected, I never even bothered to read them because my friends told me they'd decreased in value if I creased them while scrolling through the pages. With that in mind, I placed them each into a plastic sleeve and forgot all about them. To a lesser degree, Coheed and Cambria frontman Claudio Sanchez's childhood followed a similar blueprint. "I played Little League, and always looked for the rookie cards," he said. That said, the fanboy at heart noted "I definitely collected a lot. Each Wednesday, I went to the shops and scrolled through the new [releases]." This should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody - at least no one who knows even a tiny morsel about the band.

Sanchez has always delved into his mystical and fantastical mind. Since 2000, the prog-rock master has been producing comic books and graphic novels. His series The Amory Wars was arguably a turning point for the artist, because its events are chronicled each album. It also inspired a novel in which he co-wrote called The Amory Wars: Year of the Black Rainbow and a twelve-issue comic book series. A live-action film of the series will soon be produced by Mark Wahlberg and Leverage Productions. But, with all that said, music is still the driving creative force for Sanchez. Case in point: his band recently released the second volume of their double-album, (The Afterman:Descension followed the well received Ascension), and are in the midst of a sellout tour. Earlier this month, I spoke with Sanchez and asked him about balancing his two loves, and anything else that came to mind. Boom.

I'd imagine it's exciting to have two careers that come together like comic books and music...
It's really, really exciting and totally awesome to merge both of my passions. It allows me to explore my creativity.

Did you always plan on making comics?
The thing about comics for me was I was collecting more for the art. I found myself drawn to the artist more than the story like Todd McFarlane. That's what I followed. Spawn. Spider-Man. X-Men. Whatever he did, I had to collect it because I was a fan of the art. There was a moment I thought maybe I could draw one of these, but sequential art was not my strong suit. My mind wanders which is why it works with the progressive element of my music. Drifting along for eight minutes works for me. As I started getting older, I started reading more of the books, and saw it from a different angle.

The Amory Wars was such a big deal for you creatively. News that a film is going to be made about it seems like a natural progression...
Yeah. We partnered with Leverage in making it into a feature. We're working on it at the moment. I love so much of what pop culture offers - video games, features, comics... I've always wanted a hand in those things. And, music is a big deal in all of those things. I think that's why our sound has always been a tad cinematic. I've always envisioned things in a different way. Whenever I'm listening to music in the car, listening to whatever is on the radio, I'm looking at what's around me.If a building passes by, I'm envisioning things that are happening to it. I used to do that stuff as a child. Radio was the soundtrack to my imagination. It just made sense to do that. It just opened the doors to all other visual things. Music is sonic. It's about your ears - not about the visuals. All other mediums are visuals. That was the gateway. It gave me a chance to visualize the music. This is what music sort of looks like and that's where comics, video games, and the movie come in.

Wow, that was deep stuff man. That "radio" line alone floored me. Well, let's move on to the music, because you just dropped your second The Aftermanalbum and are touring. Have you noticed anything different with the musical process on the road and in the studio this time out?
Having Josh [Eppard] back in the band and Zach [Cooper] new to this whole lifestyle injected some genuine excitement again. These guys' enthusiasm is infectious. Travis [Stever] and I feel young and excited again. The band is actually spending a lot of time together as opposed to splitting off into sub-centers and doing our own thing. In a sense it feels like a revival of the old-school mentality of being four guys in a van and it's us against the world.

The camaraderie might've dissipated after a few years. It feels fun again. Every time the band has had a change in the lineup, it's always just this revival, but with Josh being an original member and coming back to the fold, it's more like friends revisiting a time that was very important to us. It feels really good.

A-Sides "Delve Into Twelve" Countdown
Each Tuesday A-Sides unleashes its Top 12 tracks of the week AKA the "Delve Into Twelve"based on the following contributing factors: songs I'm playing out that particular week NO MATTER WHEN THEY WERE RELEASED (think overlooked songs, unreleased tracks, and old favorites), songs various publicists are trying to get me to listen to that I did and listened to and liked (phew), posts and trends I've noticed on my friends' Facebook walls, and - most importantly - the songs my 15-month-old son gravitates toward. Yeah, you read that right. This weeks follows below (LW= last week's rank):

12. "Put Me To Work" (LW=7)- Papa
11. "Fading Like a Flower" - Roxette
10. (LW-11) "Loner Phase" - Cold War Kids
9. "Time of the Season" - The Zombies
8. "Bleeding Out" (LW-3) - Imagine Dragons
7. "Now I'm All Messed Up" (LW 8)- Tegan and Sara
6. "Recover" - CHVRCHES
5. "Heartbeat" - The Kopecky Family Band (Watch A-Sides Performance Here)
4. "Waves" (LW-4) - Blondfire
3. "All Your Gold" - Bat For Lashes
2. "Out of My League" (LW-9) - Fitz and the Tantrums
1. "San Francisco"(LW-1) - The Mowgli's (Watch A-Sides Performance Here)

About asidesmusic.com
Jon Chattman's "A-Sides Music" series usually features artists (established or not) from all genres performing a track, and discussing what it means to them. This informal series focuses on the artist making art in a low-threatening, extremely informal (sometimes humorous) way. No bells, no whistles -- just the music performed in a random, low-key setting followed by an unrehearsed chat. In an industry where everything often gets overblown and over manufactured, I'm hoping this is refreshing. Support A-Sides' Kickstarter campaign here!