Combichrist’s Andy LaPlegua was not dressed as one might expect. Backstage at the Avalon in Hollywood, California on April 27th 2014 where Combichrist was about to play a show, LaPlegua was looking sharp in a grey suit jacket. If it weren’t for the tattoo on his neck and the large gauges in his ears, one might have not recognized him as being in the band. Ultimately, this is just typical Combichrist. One should never try to pigeonhole them as they are always going to blow away expectations. Take their most recent album We Love You, for example. Released March 24th 2014 by well-known electronic/industrial label Metropolis Records, We Love You is a blend of rock n’ roll, industrial and dance music that constantly leaves the listener with no idea as to what will happen next. A song like Maggots at the Party, one of the first singles from the album, is an upbeat rock industrial drinking anthem, while a song like Fuck Unicorns sounds more like rave music than biker bar music.
LaPlegua is not one for labels though. When asked his opinion on genre labels he responded, “I really don’t have any opinion at all. I don’t care about genres at all. I don’t care about industrial as a genre, I don’t care about metal as a genre, and I don’t care about EBM as a genre. I don’t care about any of those things really. I make music and that’s it. If people care more about what scene they belong to then they probably shouldn’t care about the music. They should go care about their aviator glasses and their spiky hair. If you’re at a Combichrist show it’s not because you feel like you belong to a specific scene.” Since “scenes” are such a major factor in band promotion these days, one might wonder if LaPlegua is biting the hand that feeds him, but he goes on to specify that he has a love for the electronic/industrial scene, it just doesn’t belong in the recording studio. “I go to bars all the time, I don’t really go to club nights much, but I go to bars to have a good time, not necessarily just to listen to the music. I go to bars to hang out with friends and enjoy myself and I think that’s what a lot of the club nights are about. Just because they like to dance, doesn’t mean they necessarily have to be fans and I respect that. But I also respect that some come to see us live because they like to see us live and they don’t go to clubs. So that’s where I’m at when it comes to ‘the scene.’ I love the scene because I just like to go out there and have a good time with my friends, but I’m not going to follow any certain format from that scene for my music because it’s a completely different thing.”
Part of the reason this line of conversation has started is because some fans say Combichrist has taken a more rock or metal approach lately and not all of the electronic/industrial kids appreciate this. LaPlegua’s response regarding a purposeful move away from the more danceable side of things is this: “If anything we have a couple of songs that are a little bit more guitar heavy on this album. In general though, I think this album is one of the more elctro ones we’ve done for a long time. There’s a lot of electronic stuff in it and it just happened to get that way. I just wrote an album that I am willing to say I stand for 100% no matter what. What’s important to me is that I make the songs sound the way I imagine them to be. If that includes that I use live instruments then that’s what I’m going to do. If the song sounds exactly like how I want it without any live instruments then I’ll leave it like that because that’s how I want it.”
On the other side of the same coin, LaPlegua is not opposed to the response he has gotten from more rock and metal fans in more recent years, in a large part because of their spot opening for Rammstein on a big stadium tour in 2011. “It definitely helped us reach out to more people. I think scene-wise it brought a lot of people’s attention who were just rock n’ roll people and metal people to the stuff that’s happening in the electronic/industrial scene. A lot of the fans that come out now are like ‘oh we saw you the first time with Rammstein and it got us going to all the club nights and everything.’ So it’s definitely benefited us and I think it somewhat hopefully benefitted the scene too.” Overall, LaPlegua described the experience with Rammstein in glowing terms: “We became a really close family. It was a really unique experience obviously to play for 20,000-30,000 people every day. We were really surprised because we had no idea what was going to happen. I remember the first show we played with them it was like 30,000 people. You just walk up and you’re like, ‘alright either it’s going to be crickets for our entire show or it’s going to suck if there’s 30,000 people booing.’ But we walked up and from the first beat it was like mayhem. We had a really good reception from their fans and you never know what to expect. It was like a punch in the face, but in a good way. Plus Rammstein treated us so well. We weren’t treated like openers, it was like we were one big band it was great.”
Rammstein was a perfect pairing for Combichrist because they walk the same line between industrial and metal, with other random and unique elements added, that Combichrist does. LaPlegua describes it as the “don’t give a shit about what people think” area of music. Also, word of mouth is a powerful thing these days, especially with more and more people turning to the internet rather than radio and television for their entertainment, so the exposure was invaluable. When asked about word of mouth band promotion he responded, “It’s all about proving yourself. We’ve done it, Rammstein has definitely done it. It’s all about a lot of hard work and a lot of touring and reaching out to people. I mean there’s enough people out there that do have radio play and they go up on stage and they have nothing to show because they’re nothing.”
As the mastermind behind Combichrist and all its music it’s amazing to think that LaPlegua has time for anything else. However, some maybe familiar with his other work in both Icon of Coil and Panzer AG. Icon of Coil has been on the back burner for a while, so it is interesting to learn that they will in fact be releasing new material. LaPlegua had this to say about it: “We’re still working on a new album, but it’s just that I have to do things in a specific order. I have to do Combichrist first. This is my main priority right now. I mean I could’ve just throw together an album in a week and called it a day, but I’ve never done that and I will never do that. We have to be happy with it before we release it and its going to take a while. It will be around though. If there’s more touring to be done, that I don’t know, but the album will be coming out.”
As LaPlegua readied for work that evening, he took off the suit jacket and replaced it with an all-black ninja type outfit with a red, glowing mask. This is what he wore for the first few songs of the set. Don’t we all wish we had a job like that?
Combichrist will be touring the world through August, check their website for details.