I WOKE UP THIS MORNING AND I felt like shit,” says Coheed and Cambria frontman Claudio Sanchez, 27, who spent the previous night getting tight with a bottle of bourbon. “I could have been doing something else, but instead I ended up sitting in bed watching War of the Worlds.” Sanchez doesn’t like wasting time – he’s a workaholic who usually wakes up at 5 A.M. to write new songs and comic books, and to develop an upcoming graphic novel. For those who don’t know, Coheed and Cambria is not just a band of new-generation prog-rockers – it’s also a fictional sci-fi adventure story that is unfolding over the course of five concept albums. The third, with the exhausting title Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness, begins the last act of the story, with a finale and a prequel on the way. But regardless of C&C’s epic and completely convoluted story line (which even the other band members don’t fully grasp), Sanchez is psyched to have his first Top Ten album, without catering to mainstream radio or image consultants. In fact, Sanchez just shot down an offer for a Queer Eye makeover. “I’d be pissed if they cut off all my hair,” he says. “That’s where I get my thunder. Shazam!“
What is your first musical memory?
Sharing rides with my mom and pop in the Ford Tempo. My dad would listen to a lot of classic rock. There was Jethro Tull’s War Child. Led Zeppelin I and II. Electric Ladyland. Synchronicity. My mother was on the opposite end of the spectrum. She was into Motown and singers like Aretha Franklin and Taylor Dayne. I remember listening to Sting’s rendition of “Little Wing,” by Jimi Hendrix, and liking that.
You started playing in bands in fourth grade. How’d that happen?
A friend of mine was like, “Do you wanna start a band?” And I said, “Yeah, I’ll play drums!” I found I couldn’t play drums worth shit. I bought a really inexpensive guitar and learned how to play while writing songs. But I was in a bunch of bands, like Dark Ecstasy. Another was called Toxic Parents. We did a bunch of Misfits covers.
Jimmy Page is one of your heroes. Do you have a favorite Page performance?
“Achilles Last Stand” is my favorite Zeppelin song overall. I love Jimmy’s performance at Knebworth [Festival in 1979]. It’s on the Led Zeppelin DVD [released in 2003], where Jimmy is wearing white pants, with the blue shirt tucked in.
What’s the most terrifying moment you’ve had onstage?
We were playing somewhere in California, and I tried to use in-ear monitors. Out of nowhere I thought, “I’m going to try this – get the molds, put them in my ears.” I’d never practiced with them, and I totally lost my equilibrium. I lost my balance and smashed my face into the monitor and busted my lip open.
Whose voice annoys you?
My own! No, I’m kidding. Maybe Geddy Lee [of Rush], because I get compared to him so often.
Is it me, or does the opening track of Coheed’s new album rip off the Star Wars overture?
I was humming the tune to Karl Berger, our arranger, and I thought, “Wait a second, that shit sounds so familiar!” One of the [string] players said that also. I thought, “Oh, that can’t be. Oh, my God.” But it’s true, there are pieces of Star Wars in there.
Have you ever been drunk during a gig?
Yeah. One time we were on the Warped Tour in Canada, and like a knucklehead I drank a whole bottle of whiskey. Seriously. I played a little slide guitar with the bottle. At least I thought I was playing. I remember waking up with my head in an empty box of Bud Light. That was a learning experience.
I read that you have a hip-hop side project?
No, but our drummer, Josh, does.
C’mon, you do also.
Ok, But it was more of a joke. I’d record them as this alter ego, Shang-God, for my friends. Just for a laugh. They were songs about ridiculous things, like shit-eating.
What is the best American rock band?
Holy shit! That’s a good one. The rock bands I love are from England. Damn it. I’d say Bad Brains. When I was younger I randomly picked up I Against I – it just looked interesting, and I’ve been a fan ever since. A couple years ago I was sitting at a bar in Woodstock, sitting next to this fella who started ranting about how he pioneered hardcore. I was like, “Who the fuck is this crazy hippie Rasta bastard?” It turned out it was [guitarist] Dr. Know, and I was completely in awe. Then we got him to play on our first album.
What in your record collection might surprise your fans?
I’ve got Madonna’s Immaculate Collection. Hell, yeah! There’s Cyndi Lauper – I guess she’s kinda hip now. There’s a Spyro Gyra record with a very Egyptain-looking cover. And Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions – I love “Too High” and “Golden Lady.”
What are your favorite lines to hear the audience sing along to?
During “The Final Cut” there’s the line “If I had my way, I’d smash your face in the door.” I’m not proud of it, but it’s there for a reason. I got such applause when I sang it that first time.
Do drugs inspire your music?
No. I’m very paranoid, and I don’t need the drugs to magnify that. But I did my share of that when I was younger. I smoked weed. I did some acid. Mom and Dad, I’m sorry.