The recording process consisted of buckling down for a few intense days on a handful of tracks, walking away, then coming back with specific ideas for the next batch – a refreshing change from the assembly-line approach of today’s big-ticket rock albums. “It was a really fun way to make a record,” he explains. “When you track a song three weeks later, you could be coming from a different spot internally with what you’re bringing as far as the groove.”
Eppard, who was in the studio the entire time, used a variety of kits. A sense of home added to the creative vibes during tracking at Applehead Studio, a state-of-the-art facility his father built. “It took years to finish and is the last big studio left in Woodstock, New York,” he says. Eppard senior was the lead designer and carpenter during the construction. Although Ascension is Coheed’s first album since being released from their Columbia contract, the longtime team of Michael Birnbaum and Chris Bittner are back on production duties. No World For Tomorrow and Year Of The Black Rainbow were helmed in Los Angeles separately by Nick Raskulinecz and Atticus Ross, respectively.
Like they say, you can never really come back home. In a paradoxical twist, Eppard now has to fill the shoes of a drum star in his own band. In the early stages of Ascension, he worked with demos that Pennie had made just before he left. Despite the presence of foreign drum DNA, Eppard gradually imbued Ascension’s songs with his own sensibility. “Chris Pennie’s one of the best drummers in the world and I’m a big fan of his,” he says, “but I think maybe it was just right [to part ways]. Chris needs to let his wings spread and do his thing. Maybe Coheed wasn’t the best vehicle for that.”
Even as his bandmates tease him from the back of the van, Eppard just can’t stop feeling like the luckiest guy in the world. The upcoming tour includes 3, a Metal Blade recording artist fronted by his brother Joey (and in which Eppard drummed for a minute). Adding to the excitement, the band signed a deal with Leverage (the studio behind Boardwalk Empire) to explore turning The Amory Wars novel into a feature-length film. Actor Mark Walberg has expressed interest in producing. “I’ve got my fingers crossed,” Eppard says. “A Coheed And Cambria movie would surely be cool.”
He even thinks the unfortunate detour he took during his first stint with the band has benefited him in some weird way. “Maybe I got to see Claudio’s vision in a clearer way after not being a part of it,” he says. “Which only compounded my regret – like a lot of people who went down the road I did. So having a chance to atone for that is a really wonderful thing.”
Josh Eppard is probably a bit more groove-oriented than his interim replacement, Chris Pennie. However, his love of groove doesn’t mean his parts are simple or unimaginative. At the drum entrance of “Domino The Destitute” Eppard plays a polyrhythmic beat striking dotted quarter-notes on the hi-hat against the 6/4 time signature, making for an interesting and very groovy pattern.