An Interview with Andy LaPlegua of Combichrist
[Another dive into the metal/industrial world by frequent contributor, Andrew Epstein. – AC]
Combichrist are the current kings of industrial music. Led by Norwegian frontman and main creative force Andy LaPlegua, the band comes across as more musically conscious than snarky peers like Mindless Self Indulgence. While guitars sometimes make an appearance the band is more about hardening the beat on the dance floor. This way they’ve now taken up the mantle as a more modern version of Laibach and KMFDM. Chances are if you’ve seen a Rammstein concert in the past five years you’ve seen them open the show.
While industrial music is often associated with leftist social and political views, LaPlegua (who resides in the US) tends to veer more towards sarcastic humour in his lyrics. While others in his perceived scene are singing about child soldiers, LaPlegua is often content espousing the virtues of having a good time with friends. Which is why I was a bit taken by surprise by the latest Combichrist release entitled “We Love You”, as it comes across more politically confrontational than any album before it. The album is also perhaps their most musical diverse, at times incorporating pitch-shifting pop vocals and extreme metal guitar. This led some to speculate that LaPlegua’s recent stint composing music for the video game “DmC: Devil May Cry” had affected his writing.
I got to sit down with a relaxed-yet-energized LaPlegua backstage before a recent performance at Toronto’s Opera House so I could tackle a few of these ideas. We also compared notes on our recent engagements, as photos of his recent marriage proposal had popped up on Facebook, an entity that Andy isn’t so keen on (so much so that he missed my attempt at a dirty joke). What I found was a gentleman who is hitting his stride just shy of his 40’s, standing at an intersection between musical styles and scenes. In our modern culture where the mainstream and the underground now seem to cyclically feed off each other, Combichrist and those who follow them fit in quite comfortably.
4 thoughts on “An Interview with Andy LaPlegua of Combichrist”
I apologise because writing essays doesn’t seem to be the fashion here, and comments are quickly lost. I still feel strongly enough about it.
I was born in ’82, and started my musical career with britpop, alternative and 90s cancon. Pretty soon though I discovered “industrial” through friends and family. NIN and PWEI were gateway drugs. Soon I was into Skinny Puppy, KMFDM, Legendary Pink Dots, Throbbing Gristle, Foetus. By the late 90s I was totally sick of “alternative”, whatever it meant on the radio. Soon I discovered VNV Nation, courtesy of a friend at Universal Music. It was a bit of an oddity.
I graduated high school in 2001. In university I met people into ebm/futurepop, where I discovered I’d missed Front 242. My real gateway drug into the electro-industrial scene was german a band called Seabound, who released as a b-side (with cancon!) called Avalost: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7s9NE6TCmEw
Soon I got into piles of similar bands: Project Pitchfork, Covenant, Apoptygma Berzerk, Assemblage 23, Velvet Acid Christ, Imperative Reaction, and piles more.
The reason this is all relevant, one of these bands that was huge for me last decade was Andy LaPlegua’s Icon of Coil. The first album was apparently made in a bedroom with Cubase, a Virus and a mic. Just ******* awesome songs. Catchy, great lyrics, interesting stories and a message.
The genre was sort of dying, not very profitable, and LaPlegua eventually dropped Icon of Coil and started Combichrist. The songs suddenly got gross. i.e. This Shit Will Fuck You Up:
With lyrics such as,
I am a ****
How do you want me?
From behind or on my knees?
I am a slut
Please hold me down
I’ll be your noise
This shit will **** you up
The crazy part is that my grungier friends, that would normally hate electronic music, ate this **** up. They ******* loved it. And Combichrist seemed to finally break the mainstream barrier for electro-industrial. On one hand I was happy for LaPlegua to finally be making some cash in this niche genre. But on the other, I figured it was a gimmick, and it wouldn’t last.
But Combichrist got bigger and bigger, and he was always playing this character. It just got nastier and nastier. So now Combichrist is a big successful band, but I’m conflicted because I think at it’s core, it’s cheap gimmicky **** that appeals to the lowest common denominator. I understand you need to make a living, but fuck,
Maybe it’s supposed to be ironic or cautionary? The problem is that the imagery in the videos is just fucking gross. Women in rapey situations being beaten. Confederate flags.
A friend found himself in the position of opening for Combichrist at Kinetik a couple years back. He prepared a succinct presentation to back their last song, better than anything I could say:
I got so fed up and disgusted even before the Ad-ver-sary presentation, but if the new album is truly more diverse and, “more politically confrontational,” I’ll give it a chance.
Everything Markosaar said.
**** you, just because you do not like Andys videos or lyrics you gave no right to judge him, you liberal assholes.
Succinct argument. Well spoken.
Combichrist hasn’t changed since I made that comment and is still complete ******* trash.