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Speaking from his American house in, of all places, Atlanta, Georgia, Norwegian industrial/techno wizard Andy LaPlegua, leader of Combichrist, comes across like the nicest punk you're ever likely to meet.
A few minutes spent talking with the polite, well-spoken and surprisingly good-humored LaPlegua and I was just about ready to introduce him to my family.
"Perhaps I am a bit less angry these days," admits LaPlegua. "I live in Atlanta, and that helps to get away from everything associated with me."
Those things normally include violent performances, equally violent video imagery, sadomasochistic themes and a caustic, punk rock attitude—attributes common to most artists plying their craft in the industrial genre.
Only, LaPlegua doesn't think his band is industrial. At least not too much.
"Of course I've been influenced by Ministry and Nine Inch Nails," he says. "But I think that I bring more techno and electronic elements into the mix."
Judging by Combichrist's latest effort, Today We Are All Demons, it's difficult to dispute LaPlegua's assertion. Noisy, distorted and bracingly loud, the record does have its melodic and danceable elements.
"It's a more personal record," LaPlegua says. "Certainly, [it's] a lot less political than what I've done in the past."
That past includes nearly a decade of punk and metal performed under a variety of monikers. Both Fleshfire and Lash Out were quite popular in LaPlegua's native Norway, but it wasn't until the singer/guitarist established Combichrist (named after a fanzine he and a friend created) in 2003 that he found success internationally. First in Germany and then across the Atlantic, Combichrist's live shows have garnered high praise for their intensity, as well as the music's dense, rhythmic underpinnings.
But LaPlegua appreciates any and all who come hear his band do its thing: "I've really been amazed by the fans in the U.S. One guy actually walked up, claimed to be our biggest fan and then asked if we could play a Limp Bizkit song."
Thankfully, LaPlegua doesn't know any.
What he does know is how to channel aggression and physicality into a potent mix of rhythm and noise. Although the music often seems to incite violent behavior, LaPlegua sees hostility as simply part of the show.
"It's just people letting off steam," he says. "Our shows can be a kind of therapeutic exercise."
The same is true for LaPlegua, who does most of the studio recording by himself and then assembles a live unit for touring. This time, that group includes two drummers and a keyboardist—quite enough, claims LaPlegua, to achieve a similar intensity to the studio efforts.
"Making a record and then playing that record live is like making love and then having the baby," LaPlegua says, sounding almost philosophical. "Two totally different experiences that are both wonderful."