|THE ARCHIVE ORGAN INTERVIEW... LONDON - FEB 2002 HOME|
three years ago, Remy Zero released a single called 'Prophecy.' Our
American spy Shaari Sue Ginsburg was lucky enough to get to hear it on
the one radio station in Southern California that actually played it......
From the very second that I heard those gripping first chords of the song and those amazingly haunting vocals, I knew it was something special. I noticed that Remy Zero were gonna be playing live a few weeks later and I decided to invest in a ticket. Suffice to say my life was changed that night. I picked up their brilliant CD Villa Elaine at the show and have scarcely stopped listening to it since!
There is something about Remy Zero's sound that just seems to touch the souls of its listeners. To start with, lead singer and sometimes guitarist, Cinjun Tate, has a voice stolen from heaven. It's somewhat reminiscent of Thom Yorke's voice in that it's high and a bit nasally, but Cinjun has such an intense wistfulness to his voice that it's almost hard to believe that it comes from a human being and not a deity. The rest of the five-piece: brother Shelby Tate on guitar, keyboard, and backing vocals, Cedric LeMoyne on bass guitar, Jeffrey Cain on lead guitar, and Gregory Slay on drums, play their instruments in perfect resonance and harmony with Cinjun's voice - creating the ideal tool for reaching into the listeners' heart and psyche. When it comes down to it - it's no great surprise that they mind-meld the way they do - they've been friends since their childhood back in Birmingham, Alabama, where they came together because they all felt so different from everyone else there_..
Remy Zero's third album, The Golden Hum is released in the UK in March. On this album, they continue to deliver textured, moody rock, haltingly beautiful one minute and aggressively surging the next. Remy Zero's music has the power to make you feel as rocked by the rockers as you feel warmed by the ballads. Three of the stand outs from The Golden Hum are `Glorious #1' which feels like reckless abandon and relief, `Perfect Memory' which is the most beautifully moving song ever (I cry nearly every time I hear it...), and 'Save Me' which showcases all the facets of the band's magic (and is now being used by the television show `Smallville' as its theme). Please rest assured, my singling out these two songs is by no means meant to denigrate any other part or the album - it is a truly fine album that deserves at least one listen by the uninitiated. I'm pretty sure that a first listen guarantees you'll return for many others.
When I interviewed
Remy Zero, it was the day after their sold out show at the Borderline in
London. They were exhausted not only from the night before, but from the
many interviews they had already done that day. Although I should have
probably taken pity and eased into this interview - I only had a limited
amount of time and so many esoteric things to discuss...
Are Remy Zero original?
CT: Yea, in that
every single person in the universe is unique.
Can you elaborate on that?
JC: We are just inhabiting these bodies but we're carrying thoughts and vibrations and conceptions or ideas that have been going on for years and we are just the ones that are putting them back out while we are here on Earth in these bodies
You mean like in a Jungian sense that we are all carrying memories of our ancestors?
CT: Like the collective unconscious?
JC: Yea - like thoughts from the Renaissance years and so on.
CT: Well, I think that that theory holds true even beyond the sort of fantastical thinking and the karmic ideas... there is definitely knowledge that is universal, but once you get past the 'ego' which is really hard to do--you get to the collective unconscious which is probably more like artistic expression that evolved in more than one way from one period into the next.
JC: Artistry is a double-edged sword because it's all about `you' and at the same time about letting 'you' go. So you have to go away from yourself - that's what we are kind of here to do. That's what we're trying to do. But were from a long line of people that think that. We always talked about how Man Ray (the artist/photographer) lived at the Villa Elaine...
CT: Which we romanticise a lot - he lived there when he lived in America for ten years.
JC:...That's what I mean by lineage. In the future there is going someone after us, another Remy Zero, but they aren't going to be called Remy Zero, but they will certainly have that flame inside of them.
SG: With the re-release of George Harrison's 'My Sweet Lord,' I've been listening to and hearing that song in a whole new way - it reflects to me some of what Cinjun was just saying about how difficult it is to get past the self and the ego and get to the collectiveness of the human race - the song seems to be about how hard it is to see God. Not the God of church, but the GOD, or what I see as the thread that connects us all. It's just about how difficult it is to get past all the garbage in your head.
JC: That's something we struggle with every day. I mean you wake up daily and the world is against you in a certain sense - and in that world....
CT: This three-dimensional world is full of pretty lights and things that are going to keep you distracted from getting inside. There's an old Chinese quote that's meant as an insult "may you live in interesting times..." So that may you live in a time when there are so many things to distract you from you from your inner truth. It's beautiful. I mean, I'm guilty of it - maybe *the* most guilty of being distracted by, if not what's outside, than by thoughts and...
GS: Yea, you really have to make a strict commitment to looking inside - otherwise, and even with that - you can get so pulled away.
We all pause at this point, as this conversation that we started only ten minutes earlier has already gotten so deep and heady - we look out at the amazing view from the hotel suite which is over looking Central Park. The light and dark contrast of the clouds against the sun is a rare, but beautiful sight to us Los Angelinos. We talk about how much of a step up this all is from Villa Elaine, the shabby apartment building that they used to live in and for which their second album is named. We talked about a different band (Bad Religion) that I had interviewed for this issue of the ORGAN and tried to discern what is and isn't punk rock...
JC: It confusing at some point - older bands can get too used to luxury and not know it's not average any more. I mean, we're still enjoying this - I do know what this looks like...but we are so enjoying this room and this view...especially because we've had both sides of the coin.
CT: Yeah, the whole idea of punk was a form of bravery, of standing out - it's really the opposite now. The true ideals of punk are being betrayed - it's too easy now.
JC: Yeah, it's ridiculous - in a way it's more punk to be vulnerable.
CT: I mean post-punk music is now more acceptable than anything else_.
JC: You go to stores now and everything is pre-made punk rock clothing - the zippers are just so and it costs $120 dollars to get that perfect zipper look. But there's four hundred of the same perfect zipper jackets there and that ethic of individuality is lost. It used to be that people would just go and sew things on to their jackets and make things and it was about what you were doing and it started out as individuality, but then naturally everything turns into code-ish things and in-groups and societies of it and before you know it punks are judging each other like: "you're not punk enough for me" and it happens with religions and . . .
Oh, like that Tubes song, yeah? "I was a punk before you were a punk..."
JC: Yeah - all that stuff - you know you aren't Methodist enough for me. It all comes down to that whole thing. And none of it is real - it's not really real. Individuality is the only thing that's going to keep you going and once that's lost... Once something becomes a trend, it's no longer what it was, the ethics of it have changed. So if that band was sitting there drinking £8 Cokes....
SG: Uh, sorry, I really shouldn't have said anything - it's just that the irony of it was playing on me all day...
JC: Well, the irony is definitely there. But it's like David Bowie said: Just because you see us sitting in this hotel, doesn't mean that we could actually afford this hotel - it's just that the record company wanted us to talk to everybody, because we have to put our record out - I'm sure there is irony there as well....
Who do you think Remy Zero are a voice for?
CT: That's a good question - I've always felt, even as a kid, that I wasn't singing for myself. It was more a lot of ancestral voices in my family. I sing for those who couldn't, but wanted to. They had a lot inside of them and they wanted to get it out, but somehow they genetically depended on me to sing out for them. I mean, I would rather express myself through painting or film making...
So do you make films or paint?
CT: Oh yea, I paint, but ideally, I want to make films about modern parables - but that's way off in the future. I love painting.
JC: I was going to say we're the voice for the underdogs. The people that are off in left field and they think they are alone there. But then they find out that we've always been there too. People that in their young life are considered... I don't want to say misfits... but considered not there in the centre. Then later as they grow, it actually serves them well because they are open to all kinds of things. We meet a lot of people that have the most open of minds - people that listen to our music and listen to it in a deeper way - and that's flattering because they give me ideas that I would never have had, ideas that I'm already closed too at my end.
Ideas about your music or...
JC: Ideas about life. Ideas about staying true. You know, you see the responsibility when you see how great the people that listen to your music are. All of the sudden you are think Ah! I better be careful because these people are important people. These people do what they can to change the world. And just listening to them talk, and they're very powerful. I realise it's our responsibility as the artists, to respect people...
What do you think appeals to people about the band? You were just talking to me about your fans - what do you think they see in Remy Zero?
JC: I think it's that we let ourselves be fragile in front of people and I think they respond to that because usually people don't actually get a chance to be that way, even in front of their family. It's liberating, in a way. So people see us at our strongest and our most vulnerable too.
CT: Some people are just on the same wavelength as us. It's like that with any band, some times certain people just resonate with you. I think they think "Oh that's what I would be like if that was me up there." And they know that we have the awareness that things could fall apart any moment up on stage or it could be totally great. And I think that's something we've always had - the fans know we're real people.
GS: I think another factor is that they can sense the communication we share with each other. They can tell that even if we aren't talking with words, when we're up on stage we are talking to each other with our bodies - we share that in our music and in our work - and I think the fans know that. I hear from our fans that they get nervous for us before a performance or if we are on TV. You never hear about that, about fans being nervous for bands that they like, unless they consider them their friends or part of their family....
CT: It just seems like there are invisible strings that connect them to us and they are having the experience too.
GS:... And they were like "we felt for you guys and we were with you every moment" and that`s a great thing...
That must be so cool to hear....
In unison - even Cedric (the quiet one): "YEAH!"
GS: No, no, it's
just so cool that someone could feel so deeply about us that they would
be watching so closely. It's not something that is just a fly-by-night
thing in their lives. Sometimes it seems like it's scarier to them than
to us. We pass it off and move on to the next thing, but they hold it up
for us and say "no, this is a treasure," and that to me is so nice - you
can't ask for more than that. You can have all the fortune in the world,
and that's nice for buying things, and everyone like that too, but the
fact that people really dive into Remy Zero, and except it and want to
go on the journey with us, and don't want us to stop doing this.
Do artists have a responsibility with their craft?
CT: With their craft? I think artists have the same responsibilities that every one else does, as people, which is to live your life in a certain way. To be cautious about what you do. To be cautious about what you say. You need to have some sort of ideal by which you live your life - to be constructive. I don't know if you should consciously try to fit it into your music - but then if it's in you, it will come out.
GS: I think there is a responsibility to not be lazy. I think you have a responsibility to be true to your emotions, to keep progressing and searching and to not uh, I don't know_ I think some artists in certain ways become complacent and cut themselves off from people and just lock themselves into a world of their own creation and let those things go and just never move on, they leave the truth behind and get too caught up in their identity and over identify with the things that they made. It becomes something to capture or concur - like Caesar in a war. You don't want to put all your faith in the things you've done. You kind of always want to be moving ahead...
Since you all come out so strongly on the issue of living a good, respectful, spiritual life, I'm wondering about your feelings about the responsibilities of musicians that sing about misogyny and violence.
JC: I don't know - because some of them do live that way and there are others in the world that live that way so_ so maybe if they didn't write about it - they wouldn't be being true to themselves. But it seems the bigger responsibility of the artist is for the art to come from one place - from the heart realm - and if that's how they are feeling then they need to be able to express it.
GS: I think there is a kind of anger that's revolutionary anger, like the Sex Pistols had. They were screaming about no one supporting their fellow man here in England and strikes and things like that. Then there's second tier anger which is like commercial anger that goes: "If I make my instruments like this and I pitch my voice like this I will sell this many more records," and that's just not the same - I don't think. I don't know that for sure. I think they just think it's the sound to have right now.
CT: Can't you hear the energy in the anger, though? I look at it that you have to turn to face that anger - one is more about anger and the other is about creativity and it's up to you. Just like in a river you can put down stones to determine which way the water is going to go, you can do the same with that energy. I mean it is primal energy after all and it's very powerful.
GS: I think that all that angry energy might just be a form of therapy - kids that didn't get what they needed from their parents and now they get it out by writing about it. It could be healthy in a way. The more I think about it - I think I do believe the people that sing about it: "AHHH my parents never loved me!" really mean it. It's just that it's not always pleasant to listen to because you don't want to hear stagnation. I mean you want to hear the sentiment, but have it combined with "this did happen and this is where I went from there." You want to hear the vulnerability and bravery of change. And maybe that's actually where music is going to - maybe that will be the next trend. I think about the way Bob Marley came up in the '70s and everyone was singing and dancing together, and reggae became the new rock'n'roll for a while and everyone was caught up in 'One Love' and maybe it will come back to that it. But you know, he was singing about trouble - not just flowers, but it was all metaphors for war and famine, but he sang it in such a way that all of the sudden people felt up-lifted and they could see that there could be a positive side. I hope it's turning around to that again. Presenting things where it's still the same pain, but where you can go inside and change it and grow from it, instead of letting it slam you into a dead end where you can never get past it. I hope that Remy Zero are part of that. Not that I am comparing us to Bob Marley, because he is beyond compare, but once again that whole idea of lineage, the idea that we are the vehicles or bodies that have been chosen to help bring this message and change.
CT: Sometimes even when we are in the studio, we feel really strongly that the message is just coming through us - we have to play everything into Cedric's answering machine so we can remember it all. It sounds so great at the time - but we can't remember it otherwise.
CT: It's liberation from the three dimensional world. It's liberation from ego and identity and being able to be part of the greater whole....
What do you hope to be doing when you're eighty?
GS: I'm going to live on a big piece of land with tons of ratty dogs, and I'm going to be cooking with lots of shallots and painting naked and smoking opium...
Sounds pretty good, why wait?
GS: I've got to earn it first....
What about the rest of you guys?
CT: I'll be in an empty room, meditating and doing full on self-examination.
JC: I'll be having
dinner with Gregory...