AndyWeek Part Three: We Are All Electroheads

“I’ve got an extra ticket…”

These words echo through my head even still, remembering when I was invited to Reverence II in Madison, Wisconsin. It was July of 2005 and I’d recently met the guy through a friend. With us living over 300 miles apart, a relationship was the farthest thing from my mind. But meeting somewhere in the middle for music? Why not?

Besides, it was perfect: Combichrist was headlining, and he’d sent me a mix for my birthday a couple months back which opened with “Happy Fcuking Birthday.” It seemed like an amusing way to tie it all together.

What happened during that weekend is difficult to explain, but somehow he managed to change my mind about that long-distance thing. While Combichrist thundered from the stage and we danced along, somehow it all fell into place. Surely we looked disgusting as we stared google-eyed at each other for most of the night while surrounded by mopey goths and angry rivetheads, but the environment worked.

I highly doubt Andy would expect a couple of darksiders to fall in love to a soundtrack featuring Combichrist. It seems almost comedic in retrospect. But we did end up getting married, so maybe there’s some hidden magic infected somewhere in the fuzz.

That’s my story. And while most don’t quite have such elaborate tales, Andy LaPlegua has certainly made an impact in more ways than one in the eyes of his fans.

Somebody obviously didn’t send Andy the memo telling him that by this point in his career, with armies of fans behind him, he’s supposed to be a jerk with an entourage and a tour rider requiring a case of Cristal at every show. Thankfully they didn’t. As Combichrist, I’ve seen him tear up the stage twice (soon to be three or four times), delivered him pizza to his dressing room, sat in on a soundcheck, been allowed to be an impropmtu merch girl while covered in his fake blood (he was smearing it all over the first row), and been told that it’s perfectly all right to butt in on his conversation if I wanted something signed. What impression has all this left on me? That Andy is not only the incredible musician as heard on his albums, or the fantastic live act whose bass and screaming threaten to shake the walls down, but that he’s the genuinely awesome, all around nice guy that we wish all famous musicians were. He takes the time to hang out with people who come to his shows, he’ll pose for photographs and sign your albums, and he’ll gladly drink with you at the bar after the show. Please never let him get that memo.

— Dana Hunter

My first exposure to Combichrist was seeing them live in August of 2005. I had won some tickets while celebrating my birthday with friends at Ground Zero (a Minneapolis club) to attend their show, so I decided to go and check them out- after all, who would turn down a free show and a chance to be exposed to new music?! I think my first memory of Combichrist was that I liked the music (a driving, industrial beat makes me happy like little other), but that the live show was pretty boring to watch. I was happy I attended, and enjoyed the evening, but didn’t rush out to buy their albums or anything- though I would happily dance when I heard a DJ spinning them at a club from that point onwards.

The second time I saw them live, they opened for KMFDM at First Avenue in Minneapolis. I was much more enthused about them this time around, because they were much more exciting to watch onstage, and I was quite impressed by the change. To top off what I considered a greatly improved experience of seeing the band live, I got to talk to them afterwards- and was happy to find out that the band members were incredibly friendly to boot. After talking to one of the drummers (Joe Letz) about tattoos, and talking keyboard equipment and performance “shop” with the rest of the band, I became a bit of a fan- mostly because having the experience of meeting the guys behind the music really impressed me with their friendliness and enjoyment for what they do.

— Sarah France

The running of the bulls down in the pit… Mr. Dread Locks thunder-stomping his way across the stage… the auxiliary keyboardist firing an index finger at the people on the balcony with one boot perched on the edge of a steampunk monolith with piping an electrical nodes sprouting from every rusted crevice. Off to one side, a drummer on a small trap kit raising his sticks to the sky in syncopated destruction. All the while I’m hoping the house system gets turned up louder, louder. Don’t ask me what they played or how much more enthusiastic the crowd seemed for the CC crew than the German ubergroup KMFDM but the energy in the room was palpable. By the end of the set, Dread Head’s corpse paint had been sweated off, and all that remained of the Jack Daniels was a satisfied smile. My kidneys ached for three days after the pummeling they had received from the frantic elbow down on the floor but the afterglow lasted for four.

— Daniel “Boot” Bateman

I came across Combichrist through a friend of mine about three years ago, he made me copies of Icon of Coil and Combichrist albums. I had initially thought, “not bad, worth hanging on to” and left it at that. I had tickets to see them at the local ‘goth’ club, and wasn’t too impressed by the performance, but didn’t think it sucked either. That’s not to say that Andy LaPlegua didn’t have stage presence (he, in fact, had a lot of it). I think what it was that bothered me was the fact that it was just one guy doing vocals over a backing track. A friend of mine from a local EBM band introduced me to Andy who was very nice.

I got see them again last year when they opened for KMFDM. I admit I initially went to see KMFDM, but I ended up leaving thinking the other way around. A couple years time and the addition of live members really made Combichrist’s live performance many times more impacting than before. There is a tradition that sound guys are suppose to turn down opening acts so that the main act sounds best. In this case, they could have made dramatic changes in the volume but it wouldn’t have changed the obvious: Combichrist’s show was far superior to that of KMFDM’s. It was this show that earned my respect for them.

— Chris Gannon

The drummers are very friggin’ hot and I want to buy drums so they can play them like they do in the show to wake me up in the morning as I get ready for work! And I will have collars and chain leashes for them and they will follow me around saying that I am the coolest and there is no other cooler than me. They rocked my socks off, and then they grinded my face off. And then I went home and daydreamed.

— Des Bullinger

It was the summer of 2005, shortly after Everybody Hates You came out. I was driving home after a day of running errands. I was not in a happy mood. A few blocks away from my apartment, I got behind a big, rusty relic of a Cadillac. It was bouncing up and down and weaving in and out the lanes in front of me. Loud Latino hip-hop was being distorted through the speakers. The Cadillac was only going about 20 miles an hour, and because it was weaving so much, I couldn’t get past. And dammit, I just wanted to get home.

When they finally moved far enough over to the left, I sped past, flipping them the finger. Two blocks later, we ended up next to each other at the light. I didn’t turn to look at them, but they started yelling at me.

“Hey! Hey, you!”

I turned to look.

“Fuck you, buddy!” The driver and passenger flipped me off simultaneously. I turned the music up. Appropriately enough, it was “This Is My Rifle.”

I turned to look at them, just as the male chorus kicked in chanting “This is my rifle/It is my life.” I pointed my fingers like a gun at them, and went “BANG” as it looped back around to “This is my rifle.”

The whole car recoiled at once and looked at me in surprise. I winked at them as the light turned green and turned into my apartment’s parking lot.

–Johnny M

(Special thanks to Chris Gannon for helping to collect the stories for this piece!)