Coheed and Cambria's Claudio Sanchez: 10 Albums That Changed My Life

Coheed And Cambria’s Claudio Sanchez
(Image credit: Press)

As the vocalist/guitarist for Coheed and Cambria and the mastermind behind their sprawling space opera epic The Amory Wars, you'd half-expect Claudio Sanchez to only be interested in high concept prog and the kind of jazz records you need a maths degree to comprehend.

But, as his multifaceted songs attest - Coheed can deftly switch between imperious prog, bouncy power-pop and straight-up hard rock - Claudio's music tastes vary wildly, shaped by the abundance of music his parents would play while he was growing up.

"I had a very musical house," he admits. "Not in the sense that musicians lived there, but my dad and my mother were very much driven by music and it would be playing all the time. Whether it was rock, jazz, Latin music, blues – my dad had great taste and it was very broad. My mother on the other hand was into contemporary pop music and stuff like Motown, so we’re talking the big artists of the '80s and Top 40 radio was a big thing for us."

We asked Claudio to pick out the 10 records that most shaped his journey into the world of music, and he kindly obliged... 

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1. Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982)

“It all started with Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and the Beat It video on MTV. I’d heard it with my mother on the radio, but finally seeing the visual was something else entirely. Both things hooked me – it was one of those songs you’d try and tape off the radio so you could play it back as many times as you wanted. But that video... I wanted to be Michael Jackson. Being a kid at that time, who didn’t? The glove, the jacket – the whole thing!”

2. Madonna – Like A Virgin (1984)

“This kinda goes hand in hand with Michael Jackson, but I loved Madonna's Material Girl. Something about that song… maybe it was pre-hormonal, because I was a kid when it came out. The song was infectious, the video was cool and it just was such a huge thing. Like A Virgin had all the big jams.”

3. Sting – …Nothing Like The Sun (1987)

“My dad listened to …Nothing Like The Sun all the time. With Englishman In New York, I remember my imagination drifting, because I didn’t really know what an ‘illegal alien’ was. I thought it was a literal alien, like E.T. living in New York! That was where the conceptual thinking started to come up, driving in the car and listening to this stuff, imagining what’s happening outside the window with a cast of characters that aren’t really there.”

4. Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland (1968)

“I have to specify with this one, it’s actually the European import of Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix. A friend of mine had it and the cover was a tonne of naked ladies. I remember seeing it and being like, ‘Whoa, what is that? How is that in the living room?!’ because it was so different to the one my dad had. 

Musically, you’ve got stuff like Voodoo Chile and it’s one of those records that became incredibly important to me. …Nothing Like The Sun had a cover rendition of Little Wing, and even though that’s from Axis Bold As Love it was one of those where when I heard the original it was like, ‘Hey, I know this from somewhere else!’ and using that to discover Jimi and get to Electric Ladyland and All Along The Watchtower, which then gets me on to Bob Dylan. That’s the record where I discovered guitar as a thing – the wah pedal and solos are so special.”

5. Poison – Look What The Cat Dragged In (1986)

“It wasn’t until I went on a fishing trip that I discovered there was music outside what my parents listened to, stuff teenagers listened to. We were by the lake and one of my friends' older brothers had Look What The Cat Dragged In, which they listened to over and over again. The song Talk Dirty To Me made me think, ‘Wow, this is doing something for me’ and that really started my journey to discover music for myself.”

6. The Who – Tommy (1969)

“With my high school, we went to see a musical on Broadway and that just so happened to be The Who’s Tommy. I wasn’t really a fan of The Who until later in my life, but I like to think that somewhere in my subconscious that had a real effect on me, especially being in a rock ’n’ roll band with an on-going concept!”

7. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (1970)

“As a kid, I didn’t really register there was a live component to music. The videos might show it, but it wasn’t until I got to high school I thought, ‘Hey, I can go to concerts’. The one that really sticks out is Black Sabbath on the Dehumanizer tour, with Ronnie James Dio fronting, at the Beacon Theater in New York, in 1992. That was my first ever show. That’s when I realised people travelled the world and played this stuff.

Black Sabbath became such a huge thing for me after that. In my first band, we tried covering some of the songs from the first Sabbath record because they were the band we wanted to emulate. I wasn’t singing at that time, just playing guitar, but they were so important to our development.”

8. The Misfits – Legacy Of Brutality (1985)

“A friend of mine’s dad worked at this tape manufacturing plant and he had this collection of tapes. The band I was in at the time, we’d find out the ones which looked most interesting and then take them home to play them, maybe figure out some covers.

Legacy Of Brutality really helped me understand song structure – this stuff was very verse-chorus-verse, as opposed to someone like Sting who’d be there with a jazz band or whatever. It was stripped down and easy to digest."

9. Pink Floyd – Animals (1977)

“Honestly, I could pick any Roger Waters/Pink Floyd album. My second ever show was Pink Floyd doing The Division Bell at one of the big stadiums out here. I didn’t know Pink Floyd, but I was in high school and my friends wanted to go and I figured it must be the thing to do, but wasn’t really anticipating much. I was blown away – so much so I went home and brought the first record I could, which was Animals.

I started to figure out Pigs On The Wing and that was the beginning of my love for Pink Floyd – discovering The Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall, then discovering all the visual components that came with that, like the movie.”

10. Coheed and Cambria - Second Stage Turbine Blade (2002)

“It might seem a bit corny to put my own band’s record in there, but Second Stage Turbine Blade profoundly changed everything. In the later part of my high school career, I started singing in bands. I would write songs about myself, but was so shy I couldn’t just confess my feelings in lyrics so would create these other things to blame truth on – self-contained stories. 

In 1998 I took a trip to Paris and spent a month there, which is where I constructed the idea for Coheed and Cambria. I figured I could construct a story and all the songs would live within this story. This wasn’t Coheed then though – it was a side-project, for Shabütie, a band that didn’t even have a record deal. That’s just how I thought when I was young! I wrote Time Consumer and Junesong Provision, songs that would eventually end up on Second Stage Turbine Blade. 

When the band got signed in 2001 the name Shabütie was in question and we adopted the name Coheed and Cambria from this other project I was doing, so I figured I might as well bring all the conceptual stuff over with it. Strictly because I didn’t know how to be the figurehead of a rock band!”

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Coheed and Cambria's new album Vaxis II: A Window Of The Waking Mind is due June 24 via Roadrunner

Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.