In 2006, vocalist/guitarist Claudio Sanchez and guitarist Travis Stever were the sole remaining members of what had previously been a powerhouse quartet. Drummer Josh Eppard and bassist Michael Todd had exited, leaving Sanchez and Stever alone to determine the fate of the act and how to follow its dazzling 2005 release, Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness.
Fortunately, the band had some friends on which to lean, including drummer Chris Pennie, who was part of East Coast math-core pioneers The Dillinger Escape Plan. Sanchez notes that Pennie was instrumental in the unique, long-distance demoing process. “It was a very interesting and efficient way, but something we hadn’t been used to,” says Sanchez. “I was stripping these songs and sending them to Chris over the Internet. He’d put drums to them and send them back. It really fleshed out the songs, and we had some pretty strong demos before entering the studio.”
With a new lease on the band’s success, Coheed and Cambria opted to change its production team of the past three albums by enlisting Nick Raskulinecz, whose credits include the Foo Fighters and Rush.
“We had done three records with the same production team, and I got to the point where I felt like I was ready to produce an album,” says Sanchez. “Management suggested Nick. So we flew him out and sat down with him, and he just seemed like a really nice guy, like one of the fellas.”
Sanchez says that working with Raskulinecz brought several new aspects of the album-making process to the table, including song length and instrumentation. “One of the songs that it really shows is on ‘Mother Superior,’” he says. “When I originally wrote it, it was more of a synth-based song. Nick came out and said that the guitar is the stronger root of this song and felt that it should shine more. That’s a good reflection of what’s he’s capable of doing.”
However, a few days before Coheed and Cambria entered the studio, Pennie couldn’t perform on this album as an artist, due to his prior contractual agreement (Pennie is now with Coheed as a full-time member). So the band fell back on one of Raskulinecz’s friends, the Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins, as their studio drummer.
“We’re all fans of the Foo Fighters, so we thought that would make sense,” says Sanchez. “Taylor went off of Chris’ template, but at the same time, sprinkled some ‘Taylor sprinkles’ on the song.” “When we flew out, we had about a week of pre-production,” he adds. “Each day we’d focus on three songs, and he pretty much fit right in. Also, he had this lovable personality, especially for us, seeing as we had lost members and the new member couldn’t make the record. He fit right in and put everyone at ease. We struck gold with Taylor.”
Todd eventually rejoined Sanchez and Stever. The foursome began tracking the final chapter in its concept album series, Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow, at the Pass in L.A. Sanchez says the new West Coast scenery made for a refreshing change.