Endless Midnight- An Interview with Jeff Caxide of Crone

October 4, 2011 by Chris Grosso

The pervasive shadow, this all moving darkness.” – Thomas Ligotti

None of us are privy to the film screening inside Jeff Caxide’s head, but we certainly have an idea of what that picture sounds like thanks to Endless Midnight, the debut album from CRONE. Yet it’d be lazy of me to describe the first post-ISIS project by the bass player as merely a soundtrack searching for a movie. Sure, Endless Midnight is cinematic, bleak as a Blade Runner soundstage and noir as a moonlit Mulholland Drive, but the record inspires imagery and more so—a state of mind—than it references the work of other composers. First to acknowledge the influence of filmmakers Terrence Malick and Andrei Tarkovsky, Caxide makes it clear CRONE’s intentions were never to mimic. “I was worried about emulating the music from some of my favorite films and had quite a few false starts,” he told me, “but eventually fell into a rhythm where I was thinking about mood and atmosphere and not technique.”  Surprisingly, Caxide’s new project draws inspiration not just from inimitable auteurs but literature as well, particularly the work of reclusive horror scribe Thomas Ligotti. “I wanted to bring to life the cerebral sense of dread and unease that are in his stories,” he explained. Indeed, a sense of melancholy and detachment pervades Endless Midnight, the music at times lush and majestic, elsewhere sparse and despairing…shifts in tone that often occur within a single track and call to mind the strongest (and strangest) qualities of Ligotti’s fiction. Although his love of soundscapes was partially explored by ISIS in interludes and segues, Caxide can trace the fascination to childhood. “As long as I can remember I’ve loved ambient sounds,” Jeff recalled. “I’ve slept with a fan on since I was a boy, and distinctly remember this big humidifier just outside my bedroom, the loud humming it made. It accompanied whatever I did, and even had a presence in my dreams.”

As creatively satisfying as Endless Midnight proved to be, the album didn’t come to fruition without its share of challenges. Working from a foundation of bass and keyboards, Caxide wrote CRONE material while simultaneously learning new recording techniques—two processes that weren’t always compatible with one another. And despite contributions from Candiria guitar player John LaMacchia, ISIS drummer Aaron Harris and multi-instrumentalist Cliff Meyer, the reality of a “solo” effort became a surprising source of frustration. “I’ve never been in a situation when I didn’t have people to bounce ideas off of,” Caxide admitted. “And that was more difficult to adjust to than I originally expected.”

Gaining confidence as a writer was complimented coincidentally by Jeff’s current home of Los Angeles. “I often took demos with me on hour-long hikes and nighttime drives. Usually it was during these moments when I discovered where certain songs needed to go.” It’s the artist as tactician, and much like a novelist plotting a book during a fit of insomnia or a director blocking a scene on the back of a cocktail napkin, CRONE is the result of many sleepless nights, eyestrain and bad posture, along with a healthy dose of what down south they call “mulling time.”

The results speak for themselves.

From graffiti-tagged neighborhoods to breathtaking canyon vistas, the perpetual thrum of a helicopter, sirens, street walkers, warm summer twilights and low-hanging smog, CRONE was shaped as much by Caxide’s affinities for fiction and film as it was the city of the project’s conception. But no matter where you might find yourself, Endless Midnight is above all else the perfect sonic companion to that “magic hour” loved by a Hollywood camera…and the darkness that follows.

Peter Farris

Cobb County, GA

 The Jeff Caxide (Crone) Interview

TIS: So for being an atheist Jeff, this album comes across as insanely spiritual to me, albeit a hauntingly dark and meditative spirituality, but I think that’s part of the beauty of the record. That being said, can you tell me about your creative, mental and emotional processes while writing/recording Endless Midnight?

JC: Well there’s so many different emotions and thoughts that went into the record. As you know my band of 13 years Isis had just split up so that was in the back of my head. I’d had one specific kind of creative process for thirteen years and then suddenly I was on my own. I had to sort of relearn how to make music again on my own and it was really difficult. There was a lot of self-doubt that led to a lot of frustration and anger, feelings of failure and things of that nature but there was also a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride. So there was definitely a wide variety of experiences going on throughout. And I get what you’re saying about it being spiritual but I think a lot of people throw that term around and really don’t know they mean by it.

TIS: Sure, I’d agree with that.

JC: Yeah, I just hear so many people describe things as spiritual but it seems like it’s used out of context. I wouldn’t call it a spiritual record myself because I come from a place where I believe in creativity which comes from within but I don’t relate that with spirituality. I don’t think it comes from any sort of spiritual sense, anything greater than oneself, but that’s just me.

TIS: Yeah, I completely understand what you’re saying. Maybe I should have emphasized meditative more than spiritual. I just find that when I listen to the record I sink into it in a way that there’s nothing else there but the music.

JC: And I think that’s great. I think that no matter what it means to me it can mean a lot of different things to other people. Someone could even pray while they listen to it, haha. It’s not up to me what someone does when they listen to music. It’s all open to interpretation especially something as abstract as Crone.

TIS: Absolutely agreed. So on Endless Midnight we see a sort of  Isis reunion as Aaron Harris (who also mixed the album) and Cliff Meyer make musical contributions as well as art contributions from Aaron Turner and wife Faith Coloccia (Mammifer). How was it working with them in a setting different from Isis?

JC: Well it was interesting. I was in charge for one thing. Isis was five people working together with equal say and this was just all mine. It was a different dynamic. But I really wanted to keep those guys close. We’re all still friends. We didn’t part ways because we hated each other, it’s quite the opposite. Aaron Harris is still a good friend of mine and he’s quite talented behind the board these days so why wouldn’t I use that? Why wouldn’t I go to him? I think sometimes people have this whole idea about solo projects, which goes to their heads and they think they have to do everything themselves but for me that would be a form of self-sabotage. Aaron is better at mixing than I am so of course I went to him.

As far as Cliff, he played some guitar on the record. I had originally played the guitar tracks myself but it just wasn’t turning out the way I liked so I asked Cliff to come down and give his interpretation of what I was doing. So he did a few takes of what I wanted and said “Ok, that’s cool. Can I try something over it?” and so we worked on it until it was exactly what I wanted. It didn’t take long with someone like Cliff. He’s an insanely talented musician. I just gave him a little direction and he went with it.

Turner doing the artwork was a no brainer. He’s been doing the artwork for Isis as well as a million other projects for years now and I really like his abilities. I knew if  I gave him my vague ideas he’d take them and run with it. For instance, the idea of packaging it like a DVD was his idea. He said the music had a cinematic nature anyways so why not package it as such and I think it was a great idea. I think the CD came out beautifully and I’m really happy with what he and Faith did.

TIS: Nice. And can you tell me about your decision to release the record on Waylon Recordings and how it was working with Randy (Larsen) and Christian (McKenna), Waylon’s owners?

JC: Well it was an easy decision because they were the only ones who expressed any interest, haha. I started this project up in New York. I was there for a week with my friend John from Candiria recording some ideas. I went back to LA and John messed around with what we’d worked on for a while and then sent it back to me. One of the first people I played it for was Randy because he’d been bugging me about hearing it. I was very insecure about it at first, I didn’t want anyone to hear but I finally emailed him a very, very rough basic idea for Ghost City and he got back to me right away. He actually called me to tell me he really loved it and if I was ever ready to put something out he would love to do it with Waylon.  And again, this is my first time on my own and I wanted to stay close with friends and people I trust so it was a no brainer. This isn’t something that’s made me money, it’s something I’m doing because I need to be creative so I want to surround myself with some people who will make this a great experience and I did that.

TIS: Awesome. So do you have any plans on touring for the record or possibly a show here or there?

JC: Loose plans I would say. I actually got an offer to do a tour in Australia that came out of the blue a little while ago. It was weird when I got the email because I hadn’t even really begun to think about how I could pull it off live and make it interesting. So I had to turn it down because I have no idea how I’ll do that yet, but it got the ball rolling. I’m starting to think about how I’m going to do it live being just me and maybe one other person. So I think a show will happen within the next year or two maybe. I’m still focusing on trying to get better at what it is I do. Like I said, this is all still very new to me and I’m still learning as I go along, one thing at a time. If I tried to tackle a live show right now I’d probably have a complete meltdown, you know?

TIS: Sure, I could only imagine. So are you doing anything other than Crone musically in the meantime?

JC: Well Crone is my main thing but I’ve been playing with some old friends out here in LA. I’m not sure what’s it’s going to turn into but I can say I don’t think my focus is ever going to be on being in a band again. I had a really good run with Isis but as far as the whole rock thing goes, I’ve done it and I don’t know what else I could do with it. And the touring lifestyle…I’m not sure it’s for me anymore. So the full time touring musician thing I think is done, but never say never I guess. Something may come along that I find interesting which may make me want to go out there and do it again. I keep myself open to interesting opportunities if they arise but starting a new band from the ground up sounds like a nightmare at my age. That’s a young man’s game.

TIS: You’re preaching to the choir my friend. So in the spirit of the season, I know you’re a huge horror fan and watch a horror movie a day for the month of October as well as review it on your Facebook page. Can you tell me what got you started on that and about the how and why of the movies you choose to watch?

JC: Well it’s kind of easy. Being out in LA I really miss New England this time of year. I miss the atmosphere, the gloom etc and around this time I get a little home sick, so to make it feel more like October I watch a ton of horror movies. I draw the curtains and watch one a day which helps me feel a little more at home. The whole Facebook thing is just a way to talk to my friends about horror movies because we’re all nerds for that stuff. As far as what I chose to watch, it’s usually something from my own collection or possibly something someone recommended to me. It’s really whatever to be honest.

 TIS: Right on. And how do you typically spend Halloween itself?

JC: You know the last few years has consisted of my wife and I taking my step daughter trick or treating and that’s really it. I don’t think I’ve been to a Halloween party since I lived in Boston however many years ago. It’s a very strange to see Halloween here in southern California. It’s not cold, there’s palm trees everywhere, it’s sunny and beautiful.

TIS: Gotcha. So let’s say it’s fifteen years ago and you were out here in New England?

JC: Hmmm, that’d make me 20 so I’d be living in Boston at the time which means I’d have been getting shitfaced to celebrate Halloween and that’s the best I can describe it. But I don’t know about this year, my daughters twelve so I don’t know if she’s done with the trick or treating thing. But I’ll probably hang out with my wife and watch two horror movies instead of one. My poor wife has to suffer through the horror movie a day with me and she’s not exactly a huge fan of the genre, but she’s a great sport about it. She’s awesome.

TIS: Great. So in close is there anything I didn’t cover you wanted to talk about.

JC: I don’t think so. I’m just keeping most of my focus on the Crone stuff right now.

TIS: Well right on. I’m really digging the record and wish you the best with it. It’s cool it’s gotten a lot of good feedback.

JC: Yeah, it has. I mean there’s been a few bad ones but you have to take those on the chin. I’m really psyched on the response though because I was expecting a mostly negative response. Maybe it’s the eternal pessimist side of me but I’m really happy with it and believe it’s doing as well as a record like this can do. I don’t expect people to jump all over it because I played bass in a band they liked. I’m just really psyched that anyone gives a shit about it and hopefully something further will come from it.

TIS: Very cool. Thanks for your time Jeff.

JC: Yeah, thank you too man.

VISIT CRONE’S FACEBOOK PAGE HERE!

VISIT WAYLON RECORDINGS HERE!

VISIT AUTHOR PETER FARRIS’ THE SENTENCE SALVO BLOG HERE!

VISIT ISIS HERE!

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Chris Grosso is a public speaker, writer, recovering addict, spiritual director, and author of Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spirituality (Beyond Words/Simon & Schuster) and Everything Mind: What I've Learned About Hard Knocks, Spiritual Awakening and the Mind-Blowing Truth of it All (Sounds True). He writes for ORIGIN Magazine, Huffington Post, and Mantra Yoga + Health Magazine, and has spoken and performed at Wanderlust Festival, Yoga Journal Conference, Sedona World Wisdom Days, Kripalu, Celebrate Your Life and more. Chris is passionate about his work with people who are in the process of healing or struggling with addictions of all kinds. He speaks and leads groups in detoxes, yoga studios, rehabs, youth centers, 12-step meetings, hospitals, conferences, and festivals worldwide. He is a member of the advisory board for Drugs over Dinner.
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