Welcome readers, to ‘The Art of Touring’. A weekly column, where we chat with touring artists about the nitty-gritty world of professional touring and the highs & lows that go with this not-so-glamorous lifestyle. In this week’s edition, we speak to Black Veil Brides drummer, Christian Coma. Playing drums in one of the biggest rock bands in the world right now, CC handles the role with a smile and charm that makes him one of the nicest guys in the business, in comparison to the hard-hitting skinsman he is to his fans.
So tour life must be pretty good? “Tour life for me is usually being out on the road about 10 months a year supporting an album. That has taken me to approximately 43 countries (give or take a few) and I have met many incredible people and creating countless memories touring. We have had an extended break for almost two years, but should be touring the world again soon.” CC answers with the smoothness of a true professional. But it can’t be all fun and games, right?
What’s the most grueling part of touring for this happy down to earth guy? “The most grueling part for me would probably be being away from home so much. It makes it way harder to keep a smile on my face when I have a girlfriend back home that I haven’t seen in four months, but I guess missing significant others, family, and friends would be the most grilling part. That and the 4 am airport trips for international flights are not too fun”, CC answers with an honest charm.
So far in this column, we’ve had some pretty interesting and standard tour items one cannot travel without. How is it for CC? The question asked as CC counts it out with precision, “Baby wipes, and deodorant, Pedialyte, and body powder are all things that are a must for me for every tour.”
We then got into the good old subject of food on the road and the challenge many musos face trying to find digestible and edible sustenance on the road. CC confidently answers, “I like to eat the cuisine of any particular area I am in. Like the southern states in the USA would be barbecue or something like that. Chicago would be deep dish pizza; Japan would be sushi and seafood and so on and so on. I have a pattern of usually going for a steak meal on off days with whoever wants to join me.”
The topic of finding food on the move is always challenging, so I wondered how CC handles it. “If I need a quick bite on the bus when we are traveling, it might be like a Hot Pocket or something like that. Other quick meals would be like soups or frozen meals,” he responded like it seemed pretty normal. In the US, one can load up the RV (if you’re driving a bus with a microwave, otherwise you’re on struggle street) with 37 cent burritos from the local Wal-Mart. Every muso has a cool dining story. CC tells with a hysterical laugh in response, “Oh god (laughs), hands down when we went to Morton’s in Pittsburgh with a wealthy buddy of the band. They said it was my birthday because it was actually Ashley’s, but he was sick and missed the dinner. It ended up being like $17,000 for all of us and they closed half of the place for us and our crew. Our buddy made sure that everyone left with a golden pig for some reason (laughing). I can’t get into specific details about that evening, but we were eating the finest foods and drinking Crystal all night. It was completely ridiculous.”
So most guys I know have a tendency to overpack on tour, and I got the feeling CC might be guilty of this also, “I get made fun of because I pack so much. I like to have a selection of clothes to wear for every occasion, but I have definitely brought a full-length fur coat on tour because “I might wear this one night”. CC confesses with style.
No doubt a guy at CC’s level has a pretty damn cool tour experience to share also. He divulges, “I have so many memories of shows like performing at Download on the main stage, or my favourite tour ever Soundwave when it was happening. But the thing that stands out the most was being in Tokyo in 2011 when the big earthquake hit. I think it was a 9.0 and all the public transportation was shut down that night. The city turned into a complete ghost town except for us running around and looking for restaurants or bars that were open. There were hundreds of aftershocks and I had to put a glass of water next to my bed in my hotel because I was dreaming about earthquakes and would wake up not knowing if I was really shaking or I was dreaming. It was a terrifying experience.”
“There are way too many amazing cities that we have played so I can’t narrow it down to just one, but the one I was most surprised about would be Moscow. I believe it is our biggest headlining show to date, and the turnout was absolutely incredible. It blew my mind thinking of how far away from home I was, and how many people were singing with us when they probably didn’t even know English. I would never have guessed that we would be that big over there, but it was definitely a life-changing night.” You get the idea pretty quick, for a guy at his level of touring and status, CC really has both feet firmly planted on the ground.
And as we continued our chat, one can only imagine some of the bands CC has been able to play with, so I asked about the most memorable ones he’d like to mention, and he says, “I think my favorite supporting tour was when we toured with Avenged Sevenfold. They were the coolest guys with absolutely no egos and their crew acted the same. So much respect and just an overall chill/fun vibe. I remember one night a few of the guys had their massive security guard carry a giant cooler full of booze to our dressing room and I think it was Syn (Gates, lead guitarist) that said, “There you guys are! We have been looking for you all night!” We had an impromptu party with a bunch of people from the tour. Also on that tour were the bands Hollywood Undead, and Asking Alexandria. That was a fun one for sure.” On the road one needs inspiration and music to pass the time, as CC shares, “As cheesy as it sounds, the fans are my inspiration. I always think of how lucky I am to have such incredible people take the time and spend the money to come out and see us. They share stories of how we have made an impact in their lives, so I have a responsibility to never let them down.”
CC continues, “I usually listen to EDM or metal on the road, but in the dressing room and the back lounge the playlist is usually 80’s 90’s bands like Guns and Roses, or Mötley Crüe, that’s usually the go-to. We go bowling on off-days, so I guess that would probably be the activity of choice for some of us and our crew.”
Does someone who gets to play arenas like CC does, get excited still about a new venue? “Absolutely! I love new places and as the band has grown in size, I would love walking in for sound check and seeing the place. Still, one of my favourite things when my drum tech is line checking the drums before sound check and I walk around from the audience perspective and listen to how it is going to sound and look at how it will look.”
One of the more serious tones we take in this column, is discussing the hardships one faces in tour life, so it’s interesting to get CC’s perspective; “Everyone has hardships whether it is family, or financial problems, so to some people problems might not seem so bad. I guess mine would be always being made fun of for being skinny. My whole life people would ask me if I am anorexic, or if I had an eating disorder. I mean, maybe I have always had an eating disorder, or I could look at it as me having a kick-ass metabolism (laughs). I can eat a whole cheesecake and not gain an ounce.”
And on how touring affects his personal life, CC shrugs, “It doesn’t really because I always pick up right where I left off when I get home. The hard part is dating while touring. Constantly being away from a girlfriend is not easy especially when girls are throwing themselves at me. I am not saying I would give in to temptation because I am far too strong for that, it just isn’t easy to date someone that does what I do. Arguing and trust issues are such a bum out when I am touring. It is crazy to think that one human, thousands of miles away can have such an impact on a day on tour.”
So, by now you get the vibe that CC is a pretty centered kind of guy with a warm and fun spirit. So are practical jokes in the repertoire? CC answers like a seasoned prankster, “Before I was in Black Veil Brides, I was in a band called Silent Civilian, which features Johnny Santos-Spineshank. We were on our first tour I think with a band called Nothingface back in like 2006, and I replaced the guitarist’s water bottles with bottles of vinegar. I put them in the refrigerator and everything so they were cold. He kept opening them and almost throwing up, it was priceless.” We both share a good laugh, as we get into the old debate of flying vs. driving on tour, CC responds, “Long flights are always kind of a pain, but sometimes being on a bus for a 22-hour drive can make you a bit stir crazy. Each has their pros and cons, but I think I may like truck stops better. Everywhere we go we get asked “Y’all in a band?”, so there is just no avoiding that. I have a phobia of missing flights so I am always a bit on edge at airports.”
CC shared that moment every musician experiences when they realise this is the career for them, “It was before I ever toured. I used to go to sleep when I was a kid thinking that the sound of the air conditioner or heater was the sound of a tour bus engine. Kind of a strange thing for a kid to imagine, but when I went to my first metal show at the Hollywood Palladium is when I told myself I was going to do whatever it takes to be the one on that stage.” He then enthuses about Australia being his favourite place to visit and would move here in a heartbeat. Then we addressed how a band like BVB handles band tensions, “It is tough being in a bus with up to 16 different personalities on any given tour, but we aren’t really too bad about stuff like that. I guess we all know that it has to work no matter what, so the worst thing is probably just avoiding someone that is annoying you,” CC answers with a pretty solid response.
Every band has experienced some form of a dangerous moment, and he sighs, “I think I was in Tacoma, Washington and had a gun pulled on Ashley (Purdy, BVB bassist) and me. It was very frightening, but we made it out alive thankfully.” As we got into laughter about the fun of touring, and his aspiration to one day tour in a private jet, one must know if there’s been a particular fanboy moment. “The first time I met Corey Taylor from Slipknot I told him I was a massive fan and thanked him for kicking ass. We were at an award show and he played it off perfectly so there wasn’t and awkwardness and we were chatting for a bit. Immediately after that conversation, I walked back indoors and Alice Cooper ended an interview to meet me and give me a thumbs-up for keeping the rock aesthetic alive. In my head I was like, “What the hell is going on right now? Is this real life?” CC enthusiastically responded.
It had to be asked how the transition from small club shows to arenas has been for himself and the guys in BVB. “I mean budgets have gotten bigger so adding positions like a security director and assistant has made things so easy for us. Also being able to spend money on gear/production has made our show more entertaining. I really love the fact that we have pyro sometimes and video walls and all that stuff. I always wanted to be in a band that was big enough to be able to use these things.” He responds with a graciousness that is very respectful.
Wrapping up the chat, the question of how touring has changed CC was posed. He closes, “I think I have become more worldly I guess. I don’t let small things get to me because the world is massive and most issues really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I wouldn’t change what I do for anything, and I am so fortunate to be able to do this for amazing people with amazing people. At the end of everything I think that this is just rock and roll, and what would rock and roll be without a little bit of danger and a lot of fun?”