Jeffrey Cain and the Romance of the Deep South- An Interview.

December 11, 2010 by Chris Grosso

You may know Jeffrey Cain from his band Remy Zero, and thier contribution of the song “Fair” on the Garden State Soundtrack. Or if you were lucky enough, you may have even caught them opening for Radiohead on the “Bends” tour. You may also have heard the Emmy Nominated theme song to FX’s Nip/Tuck… also his.

The following is an interview I conducted on 12/6/10 with Jeffrey, a man who is equal parts humble as grateful.   

The Jeffrey Cain Interview

TIS: So I know you lived in Los Angeles for quite some time and just recently moved back home to Alabama. Can you tell me what fueled that decision and how you’re readjusting.

JC: Well I grew up in Alabama and being in the south is something that I guess is just in my blood. I enjoy being in the south, I actually enjoy the humidity (laughter), and the romance of the deep south. It’s a pretty complex place. I’ve always loved the south and figured I’d comeback one day, I just never knew when that would be. I never intended to be in LA for thirteen years, but it happened, and one day I just had one of those moments where I realized, wait a minute, I can leave, I’m not bound to this place. So I decided to bring my family and my recording gear back to the south. I found an old house to set it up in, and decided I’d start recording all of my music there.

TIS: Right on, and do you find a difference writing in your new location Vs. LA, or does that not affect you?

JC: Not really, I can write within any four walls to be honest, any little room that has speakers. I could really be anywhere, and certainly music is a good way to travel, so it doesn’t matter where I am. With that being said, it certainly does influence you and your life as it happens outside of those four walls. Here in the south we have those thunderstorms, and the thicker air, and the heat. It definitely puts you in a different frame of mind, one that personally takes me back to being a kid, when I first started creating and writing. It brings back the memories of those times, which are associated with thunderstorms and the other weather that happens here, so it affects me… in a good way.

TIS: Yeah, Mother Nature can certainly have her influential ways with us. So Remy Zero played a couple of shows this year in memory of your drummer Gregory Slay, who unfortunately passed away in January of this year. 

JC: Yeah, we played a few shows on the West Coast.

TIS: And you also released a new single called “Til The End” a few months ago. So are there any plans for a new album, or tour from Remy Zero?

JC: Well what I try to tell people is that Remy Zero was never really a band that went to rehearsal and toured. We were always separate artists that came together and made music, and that was basically our vehicle. For a while we did it non-stop, for like ten years, and about seven years ago we stopped touring, but that didn’t mean we stopped creating. The CD we made is actually songs we recorded over the seven years we were technically “broken up”, even though we were still recording music together. So I think it’s a lifelong commitment for us. We’ll probably be old men and still recording songs. We haven’t committed to a new record or a tour, but I think we’ll always find excuses to get in the same room and make music together. And just being on this tour, we started writing songs automatically in the rehearsal room and on the road, and we’ve been passing music back and forth since we got off the road. So I definitely think there will be more things in the future. 

TIS: Very cool. So I also wanted to ask about the tour you guys did with Radiohead on “The Bends” album tour. I know that’s going back a bit, but I’ve read they sort of stumbled across your album and that’s how it happened. What’s the story there?

JC: Well a long time ago, we were signed to Capitol Records. We made a record that never came out, and Radiohead were our label mates at the time. Well when you’re on a label, you have access to the music closet of what else is being  put out by that label and they found this CD of a band from Alabama (Remy Zero). It’s funny because they had a CD from a band on Capital that they never put out. So they really liked the music and contacted us. We ended up sending them more stuff from a record that wasn’t released. They really liked it and said they wanted to meet us when they came to the states. So then they came, we met them, and that led to them asking us to go out on the road, and so it was just a cool thing. We struck up an early friendship at that point. We really enjoyed listening to their music, and they liked swapping music back and forth for a while. We did those shows and we’ve continued a relationship with their producer Nigel, who’s a good friend of the band, but we didn’t really have a deep personal relationship with the guys at all. They were just another band that we saw eye to eye with for a while. But yeah, they’re totally cool guys and I’m very thankful for that time.

TIS: So while we’re back in the day, I wanted to ask you quickly about your Emmy nomination in 2003 for the theme song to Nip/Tuck that you did. I know you’re constantly doing all sorts of things musically, but do you often do Soundtrack or Theme Song work?

JC: (Laughter) I guess that would probably be due to living in LA and the fact that everyone you meet is working on something. So over the years I’d meet people that used to go to our shows who were either actors or directors or writers etc. Remy Zero had just called it quits, literally that week I think. We had just moved out of our rehearsal space and I got a call from someone who worked on Nip/Tuck. He said the show was supposed to come out in a week and they weren’t happy with anything they had written for a theme song yet, and asked if they could send me a video of the opening credits. So they sent me the video and I cut the song within the week, and it’s been going ever since. It was very quick and very out of the blue, very odd. So when it got nominated for an Emmy, that was even stranger, but really cool. It was a totally random thing for me though, especially at that point.

It wasn’t on my radar, I wasn’t hunting down the theme songs for TV shows or anything (laughter). I love working with any kind of music. I love to do film, and while watching film I see music very vividly, so when I get to do something with visuals, I’m very keen to do that. The opportunities don’t seem to present themselves as much, or at least the ones that are interesting to me. When they gave me the footage to Nip/Tuck, the first scene was some guy getting butt implants, and I thought this was something to write for (laughter).

TIS: Haha, right on. So I wanted to talk a little about your current project Dead Snares. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t familiar with it, but after I did an interview with Aimee Mann, Annissa (Aimee & Jeffrey’s mutual publicist) mentioned the album to me and you know how that can go sometimes…

JC: Haha, oh yeah.

TIS: Right, but she also mentioned it was Jeffrey Cain from Remy Zero, and that’s when I was actually really interested. Needless to say, she sent the album, I loved it, and here we are. So can you tell me about Dead Snares from its inception to the album’s release.

JC: Yeah, well I guess that’s another thing where after Remy Zero was kind of dissolving, I felt really open to music, and collaborating with different people, and working on a bunch of different records in my studio. At nighttime however, when everyone left, I found myself alone in the studio and I started writing these songs, and for the first time, in a long time, it wasn’t just music. I love writing for singers, I love setting the backdrop for people, that’s where I feel comfortable, and what I really love to. So I guess when these songs started coming with words, I was surprised, and started documenting a couple of them, but I really didn’t plan anything out.

 I had two songs that came very quickly, almost in an automatic writing fit. So I recorded them with my equipment, which I love, I have some really cool equipment. So after these two songs, I sort of felt like a kid, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. So I decided to send them off anonymously to radio stations etc. I didn’t want people telling me they liked them just because of my associations with other things. I didn’t know if I even liked them necessarily. I knew that I made them, and wondered why I was making them. The name Dead Snares came to me as just some band name, so I wrote it on a CD and mailed it to a couple of radio stations in LA. The CD’s only said Dead Snares and the name of the songs, nothing about who was in it etc.

Later that week though I heard it on the radio and I felt like a kid again, like when I was fifteen and heard myself on the radio for the first time, because there wasn’t a whole machine behind it. A label, a publicist, people pushing me to do it. It was just sending my music out hoping that it would connect with someone, blindly. So I started letting some friends hear it, and they wanted to know where the rest of the record was. So it was then that I put energy into finding out what the rest of the story was, and the songs started evolving basically in the order of how the record is laid out. The record is pretty concise. It’s exactly how many songs I cut.

TIS: Wow, that’s really cool. So are you going to do any touring in support of the album?

JC: Yeah, in my mind I’ve always had a vision of being on stage and performing the album live, but in that vision I always saw Gregory, my friend and drummer on stage with me. So I guess when he passed away this year, that really threw me out of my comfort zone. I thought I knew what the future was and that all changed. So it’s taken me a while to get back to a place where I feel confident and ready to go, or even wanting to go on stage. Though playing with Remy Zero these past few months really renewed my love for being with people and sharing music with people in a live situation. I definitely want to perform it though.

The Language by Dead Snares from Tobias Stretch on Vimeo.

TIS: Well I hope you make a go of it, and include the East Coast if you do. So guitars and amplifiers aside, can you tell me three pieces of equipment you absolutely can’t live without?

JC: Ok so the guitar and amplifiers are already there?

TIS: Yes, those are completely taken care of for you, so what else do you need?

JC: Ok, I definitely need tape machines. I need tape delays. Those are instruments to me. I need tape that I can manipulate, because I slow things down, and speed them up and detune things, so I would definitely need that. I would also need a piano, and a tambourine (laughter).

TIS: Great, I’m sure you could definitely make something happen with that lineup. So to wrap this up, I’m going to ask a bit of a cliché question which is, “what is one of the most defining moments in your musical career and why”, and I ask that because you’ve honestly done so much, in so many different facets musically, and while it’s cliché, I’m genuinely interested.

JC: Oh my God man.

TIS: Haha, I know, sorry.

JC: Geez, man that’s really a tough one because honestly, I get my mind blown every day, and I have for years. I’d have to say just the chance to be able to make music as my career, and to share that with people and let people in. I guess the first thing that blew my mind was the first time I saw someone in the audience singing along with our songs, just seeing the power of communication that music has and what it means to people. But I don’t know.

TIS: Honestly man, that’s probably the best, and most un-cliche answer I could have asked for. Awesome.

JC: Well it’s the truth, you know? I never want to get jaded to it, and I don’t think I ever will be. Anytime I get to perform music, and see how it affects people, and knowing that we can share that with one other, when I’m able to do that with people, what more could I ask for?

TIS: That is really a cool thing. So is there anything I didn’t cover you’d like to mention in closing?

JC: Well the main thing that I’m doing now that’s sort of outside of my record is that I’m always searching out new acts and other artists, or friends, or records I love and feel passionate about. I started a new label/music site called www.communicatingvessels.net and we’re putting out a lot of vinyl and downloads of artists that people have never heard which I’m anxious to share with the world. And the new Dead Snares video is going to be ready tonight I believe.

TIS: Right, and that was made in with stop motion maniac Tobias Stretch right?

JC: Yeah. That’s another one of those moments where I felt very lucky to even be able to work with somebody who I’d never met with face to face. We did this collaboration for a few months and it’s been a really amazing experience. I’m really excited to share it with people. It’s for the song The Language.

TIS: Cool man. Can’t wait to see it!

JC: Awesome. Well thanks for giving me a call and checking out the album. Now you’re site is called The Indie Spiritualist? I like that.

TIS: That it is, thanks. It’s an eclectic mix of everything under the sun fused with non-dogmatic spirituality.

JC: Yeah man, it’s really cool. Amen to that.

Visit Dead Snares Here

Visit Remy Zero Here

Visit Communicating Vessels Here

If you liked this, you may like these:

The Indie Spiritualist Interviews Aimee Mann

The Indie Spiritualist Interviews We Are Scientists 

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Chris Grosso is a writer, public speaker, mental health youth group facilitator, and author with Simon & Schuster. He also writes for Revolver Magazine, Fangoria, and has spoken at a bunch of fancy-schmancy festivals and conferences (as well as even more events that were significantly less than fancy-schmancy). Chris's podcast, The Indie Spiritualist, is hosted on Ram Dass's Be Here Now Network.