Red Cain – A Progressive JuxtapositionThursday, 1st December 2016
Hundreds of submissions hit our in-boxes for Dead Rhetoric – so it takes a lot to impress us when you feel like everything in terms of instrumentation and songwriting has already been done. Even in a genre so adventurous as progressive metal, what’s new often becomes an amalgamation of numerous outside the box influences to combine and spit out a fresh approach. Such is the case when taking in the debut self-titled EP from western Canadian band Red Cain. Juggling a modern feel with cyber moods and clean to heavy transitions that hold your breath and ears in anticipation for what comes next, these musicians can be thoughtful and introspective one moment, then bombastic and aggressive a moment later. Names that spring to mind include Dream Theater, Symphony X, Nightwish, Kamelot, Opeth, Ihsahn, Sentenced, and even current modern hard rock influences – intriguing and delightful while diverse track to track.
Reaching out to vocalist Evgeniy Zayarny (who tells me early on in our Skype interview to call him Jack, as he knows his Russian name can be a tongue twister for most English speaking natives), this fascinating conversation delves deep not only into his immigration from Russia to Canada and how he’s dealt with the different cultures, but also his expansive outlook on a lifelong love and admiration for music in general. The future looks bright based on the work ethic and commitment to the Red Cain platform, and we look forward to future recordings and solid live performances down the line. In the interim, get up to speed with this band through this engaging talk.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell me about your childhood and how you discovered music- as well as how you made the progression from being a fan to deciding to sing and perform in bands?
Evgeniy Zayarny: I come from Russia, it’s where we lived until I moved to Canada when I was 11 years old. In my family on my mother’s side, everyone is a musician. My grandfather is currently living in Dresden, Germany and he’s currently playing in a big choir there- he’s an excellent musician. I think most of the talent I have personally comes from him- he plays accordion, but he also has picked up piano, guitar, and other instruments over the course of his career. He’s never had any formal education, he just took to it immediately, he has one of the best ears for music I’ve ever heard. That’s why I took to a lot of the music that he played or exposed me to. Russian music at the time was more folk or pop-oriented as I was growing up- there was a rock and metal scene during the late 80’s and early 90’s, but it was only just growing. So I wasn’t really exposed to much of that until later.
Russian music in general is very melodic, so that’s where I picked up my natural knack for melody. And it’s very oriented in storytelling. A lot of the songs go from point A to point B- and I think that comes down to the cultural tradition that Russia naturally has with literature. When I came to Canada I realized that I also wanted to be a musician, I had gone through music school in Russia for piano- so I had theory and the education down, but I wasn’t seriously considering pursuing it as a professional musician. Then I heard rock and metal bands from North America and Europe. The first real metal band I heard was HIM from Finland- that completely blew me away, along with the imagery they had around it. The dramatic content and the heaviness drew me in- so I kept looking deeper into the genre. These are the kind of stories I wanted to tell – HIM had the love and death thing going, that wasn’t present for me before. The extremes really drew me in. I realized I wanted to sing- I watched every single video and took in every song I could by HIM, that was my first attempt to sing was through Ville Valo.
I turned out to be quite good at it, then the second band I heard was Nightwish- obviously I was into a lot of Finnish music, that’s where my education in metal came from. Nightwlish blew me away because of the strong operatic vocals with Tarja, and heavy technical guitars- that clash of opposites. I took a couple of years of vocal lessons from a Russian opera singer here in Calgary, that shaped my vocal take and allowed me to do a lot more things. This was a long process, I was putting out shitty demos and trying to find the right musicians to get this going, but it was definitely worth it at the time.
Dead Rhetoric: Growing up in Russia, at what point did you move to Canada – and did you struggle with any sort of culture/ lifestyle shock at first?
Zayarny: It was a little bit different. I had some exposure to the culture before because I learned English from a very early age. So I had some grasp of it, we came to Canada through London, England – we stayed there for a few months, so when we showed up in Calgary I had a pretty strong English accent, which was interesting. I would stand next to the other kids, and they would say words like pants which I knew as trousers, it was a little bit of a culture shock there. The other thing is, how very much more open everybody is here. It’s not a bad thing that we have a bit more of a closed-up culture in Russia, I think it’s a historical thing. When I came to Canada, everybody was talking with each other about everybody. When I first came to school, a lot of people embraced me which was cool. The people are different, but different in a good way. I do miss sometimes the manner of speaking and speech that we have in Russia- we tend to focus on different things. We are a bit more melancholic, a bit more big-picture as well as self-deprecating about ourselves and generally about our experiences, and I think that comes from history. I think overall it’s a very positive place to live, especially in terms of my ability to create just because there’s so much freedom in what’s able to be done. Practical opportunity as well- I don’t think I’d be able to afford the same equipment I have here working on music back in Russia.
Here’s a funny story about first moving here. I was in grade 6 and was walking into a classroom and another boy blocked my path and wouldn’t let me in. I guess he wanted to pick on the foreign guy. My English was still not great at the time and this caught me unaware, but I guess my Russian instincts kicked in, so in my broken English I said “Do you want my fist in your face?” He backed off. The funny thing is a friend that was with me at the time remembered that and ended up playing guitar in one of my first bands years later. Our first song was called “My Fist, Your face”, and it was the very first song I had ever recorded vocals for.
Dead Rhetoric: The current lineup of Red Cain has been together for six months, but it was a process to get to this incarnation. What seem to be the biggest struggles/obstacles in attain the right members – does it come down to commitment, ability, personalities, love of the style – or a combination of these factors?
Zayarny: Obviously a combination. The biggest thing is the amount of grunt work that people are willing to put in. It’s getting people to buy into a long-term vision no matter what. It’s a cliché thing to say, but the biggest problem with our initial lineup is that people weren’t really seeing, or some of the people, where we wanted to go. I’m generally someone that once I establish an idea, I find ways to realize it- and I know I generally aim pretty high. I have an unwavering belief in success- until there is no possibility of it. We are all learning, so that might have been in at as well. It was a matter of seeing how far we were willing to take things, and there were some obvious bumps in the road the first two years. We had a really good live circuit, but we didn’t get around to recording anything solid, and that was the biggest road block. I take some blame for that as well, I didn’t push hard enough or in the right direction to get some material recorded. Every band goes through this- with this new lineup the people are understanding of how much work is involved, and what we want to achieve.
Dead Rhetoric: You recorded your self-titled EP in a recording studio, but wanted to keep the sonic qualities more organic and raw without overproducing things. In a digital driven recording world, how much more effort is necessary to achieve these outcomes?
Zayarny: Yeah, that’s a very good question. I don’t want to sound pretentious with what I’m about to say, but we wanted things to sound much more raw without being like the Norwegian black metal scene where they used to record in basements and everything else just to give things authenticity. Music is a game of margins- so many bands are sounding good already and so many bands are at a high level so you have to almost reach that level to be considered as a true, well-produced band. A lot of projects I’ve seen take things too far to sound modern, but they don’t capture that live energy that you get from songs. That’s what we wanted to achieve- we did go to a studio because we wanted to capture the intricacies of our sound. We also wanted to take almost a sandpaper to the sound, and not have it so polished. That took extra effort definitely- I went over the songs with my albeit limited producing experience and mastering experience. We managed to achieve a balance between having all the elements there and audible but having that bit of white noise that suggests how bands were recording in the 80’s, giving things a more organic authenticity. I think that’s something we will explore a bit more on the next album.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s difficult to describe all of the elements that are going on musically for Red Cain – it’s definitely melodic and progressive metal, but there are other outside influences that certainly put you in an experimental nuance. Tell us about the songwriting and aural/sonic outlook for Red Cain – do the songs take many transformations from initial concept to final outcome?
Zayarny: They do. So the process that we use, is pretty interesting. We write using Guitar Pro, the software has been a lifesaver, I don’t know how I would have been able to write music as well without this. Usually someone has an idea, in the form of a particular riff, a vocal line, or a lyric I want to implement. That idea gets shared by everyone, and we pass it around, there is a million iterations of the songs based on the construction- version 1.1, 1.2 all the way up to thirty sometimes. This is made even more complicated when our orchestration specialist makes incredibly complex, atmospheric arrangements with the symphonic elements which are fantastic but also difficult to manage.
We have a process by which there is a skeleton of a song and then there are all the elements that are added onto it later. Once the skeleton is established we leave that as is. We slowly experiment and add these extra elements over the top. I think that’s worked out quite well- “Unborn” the last track on our EP was written in the same way. We added and subtracted elements until it sounded to us the most appropriate version. With all the technology that’s involved between plug-ins, instruments, and applications we tend to use, it’s good to have certain things set in stone. We may have even more complex songs and arrangements in the future, so it’s good to have this foundation.
Dead Rhetoric: Another game-changer for Red Cain is your vocal delivery- which to my ears has nuances of Depeche Mode and Type O Negative beyond the obvious power/progressive textures. How do you weave in your melodies to the music at hand – are you conscious of where to lay back and when to go full force?
Zayarny: It’s a very organic performance. A lot of this is owed to the fact that I listen to so much music. I load myself with certain influences and certain ways of singing and it regurgitates out in the way that I sing. It’s become more of a personalized organic process. Initially I had to sit down and try different vocal lines out and modify them. I’m lucky to say if a song is written I’m generally able to go through and figure out quite quickly what works in terms of going strong or not. A lot of it is based on the lyrics as well- a lot of times I aim for the juxtaposition between some kind of phrase that perhaps can convey one meaning but can be sung in a different way to convey a little bit of a different meaning. The juxtaposition between the aggression and then the softness. We also try and do the same thing with music- it’s always good to experiment and have harder sections with softer vocals that breakthrough in certain parts. In “Dead Aeon Requiem”, we tried that in the verses where the vocals were fairly soft but the guitars are chugging and it created this ambient noise with strings and the violins that I felt captured the emotional aspect of the song.
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