When post-metal experimental band Isis announced their break up last month the world of music lost a really forward thinking spirit. From their first appearance thirteen years ago and through to their most recent album Wavering Radiant, Isis has been a band to look to for music that exists outside the box. Having fought a hard battle to not be seen as Neurosis II, Isis has carved out a unique niche that so many other bands have flocked to.
Despite the saturation of the genre during their tenure, Isis has always been able to remain an entity onto themselves. Combining aggression, ambiance and a strong need to create pieces of music not just songs; Isis remains one of the better bands to come along in the last decade. I got to have a sit down with bassist and original member Jeff Caxide who spoke openly about the break up, the new album and the future.
CRAVEONLINE: Why did Isis decide to break up?
JEFF CAXIDE: I wish I could just blurt out an easy answer but it’s something that has been developing over time. You could just kind of see it when we were recording the last record that people’s hearts were elsewhere and we were drifting apart, mostly musically. We all still get along as people, there’s no fighting or hatred towards each other or any of that stuff, so that’s good. Drifting apart musically, writing songs together just became more difficult.
One person wanted to go one way and somebody else wanted to go another, it felt like at times everybody was compromising. That’s not to say that we’re not proud of this record, in fact we’re very proud of it. That was one of the things we discussed that we had this really great record and maybe we should just put it to rest with this because we’re not sure that we could really do better at this point. It’s like we said in the press release we’ve seen bands just limp on and the quality of records goes way down and we didn’t want to do that.
CRAVEONLINE: Was there anybody in the band that was resistant to the idea or did you all agree this was the way to go?
JEFF CAXIDE: Well we all have different levels of feeling about it and there is this weird sadness and also relief that goes with it. It wasn’t really one person it more this intangible thing hovering above all of us.
CRAVEONLINE: Most bands when they break up just do it and end it. Why did Isis decide to carry on through this last tour?
JEFF CAXIDE: We had decided we were going to do at least another East Coast and West Coast tour about six months ago. Then we said that when that tour was done we’d go on a long hiatus, it was already discussed that we’d be going away for a while. It was while we were rehearsing for this tour that it came up to talk about where everybody was. The tour was already booked and we were looking forward to the shows to say goodbye to everyone the best way we know how.
CRAVEONLINE: Does the idea of life without Isis scare you?
JEFF CAXIDE: I’ve had time to get used to the idea of life without the band and I’ve made conscious decision not to make Isis my entire identity for a few years now. I’m married; I have a stepdaughter and a good home life. These are all things that define who and what I am. Isis will always be a part of me; those records will always be there I just won’t be up on stage performing or in rehearsal space writing with the guys. I came to terms with it a while ago and so I’m okay. I think really all of us are thinking that same way.
CRAVEONLINE: So what’s next for you post Isis?
JEFF CAXIDE: For me personally I don’t see myself starting over and getting back into a practice space with three or four other guys and trying to hash out songs. I think that part of playing music for me is over. I still want to play music I just want to take some time away from performing and really concentrate on learning how to read and write music and try to approach music from a whole other angle. I’ve always lover films and maybe I can translate that love into writing music for films or collaborating with some authors, just trying different things.
I’ve been doing the same thing musically for thirteen years and I just want to try something else. As far as getting up on stage anytime soon that’s probably not going to happen.
CRAVEONLINE: Looking back on Isis what are you most proud of?
JEFF CAXIDE: What I’m really most proud of is that we did things our way. We never had a manager, we never had people at a label telling us what to do, we always took out the bands we wanted to because we liked them and tried to expose our fans to different kinds of music. We always kept our aesthetic, even if we were offered tours with huge bands we didn’t do it if it didn’t make sense to us or the band wasn’t any good. There’s very little I’m not proud of, we kept our integrity until the very end.
CRAVEONLINE: Is the current album Wavering Radiant the last music we’ll hear from Isis?
JEFF CAXIDE: No we have some live recordings coming out and a final EP. The EP has two songs we recorded for Wavering Radiant but didn’t make it onto the record plus a couple of ambient pieces from the live show will make it on there and an acoustic version of a song from Wavering Radiant. There’s also a DVD, which should surface in a year or so of a performance in Australia and that’ll have extra stuff on it.
CRAVEONLINE: How does it affect the band to know that Isis have influenced nearly a generation of bands?
JEFF CAXIDE: It’s flattering but sometimes I hear some of these bands and I shudder because they don’t put their own spin on things. Though I do know what it’s like to live in another band’s shadow, we were in Neurosis’ shadow for the first three years we were a band. It’s not something I pat myself on the back about.
CRAVEONLINE: How has fan reaction been?
JEFF CAXIDE: After we posted that announcement on our site the outpouring of love has been amazing, especially from the Internet which is a weird place to get an outpouring of love from. Usually it’s people shitting on you twenty-four hours a day. It made me reflect on what we’ve done for the last thirteen years and I thought hey we were kind of a big deal. (Laughs)
CRAVEONLINE: Did your label Ipecac give you any grief over the break up?
JEFF CAXIDE: Oh not at all, if anybody understands it’s Mike (Patton) and Greg. Those guys and everybody at Ipecac have been the greatest to work with. They’ve never given us any shit about anything; it’s always been ‘So what do you want to do’. They’ve always left us alone and been an artist friendly label, which is what drew us to them to begin with. They were sad and sent us an email and we’ll see them in San Francisco but we’d never go to a label that would give us any shit over any decisions we made.
CRAVEONLINE: Moving onto the record from the break up. How did you guys end up working with Adam Jones (Tool) on Wavering Radiant?
JEFF CAXIDE: Well Adam has definitely been a friend. We toured with Tool in 2006 and just stayed in touch and he’s been a really big supporter of the band for a long time. Him and Aaron (Harris, Isis drummer) played Halo together and I think they were talking about we were recording a record with Joe Barresi who Adam is also friends with and he told us that if we had space for him he’d love to get on a track. We said sure why not?
What was strange was that he really worked on his part at home and we didn’t really see him. He just kind of sent it in and said if we liked it to use and if not he understood. Adam really didn’t take it lightly he really focused on it and thought about it and really added a nice layer of texture to the song. It’s the first song on the album. We didn’t really collaborate with him but it worked out really well.
CRAVEONLINE: How do you think Isis has matured from the first record to Wavering Radiant?
JEFF CAXIDE: We were just kids when we started and we’ve matured a lot both musically and personally. When you mature as a person and get older the music you make is going to change. I think our goals in the beginning were simple, let’s be loud and aggressive and nasty. We still maintain some of those elements I think our entire lifespan has been about redefining ourselves and going forward and forward until we couldn’t go forward anymore hence the break up.
CRAVEONLINE: Is there a theme behind Wavering Radiant and where does the title come from?
JEFF CAXIDE: That’s much more Erin’s (vocals) department I know this is a much deeper and more personal album for him. He was largely inspired by his dreams and recording his dreams, getting stuff from that. He was reading a lot of Karl Jung at the time and a lot of philosophical stuff but there’s no like narrative story.
CRAVEONLINE: What are some of your favorite moments on the new record?
JEFF CAXIDE: One of my favorite moments was listening to the record before we mixed it and just hearing what we had done. Listening to it come together considering what a struggle it was to make the record and thinking ‘Wow this is really god’, that moment was just great for me. As far as the songs on the record I think track two Ghost Feed is a good song that kind of sums up the band.
CRAVEONLINE: The reaction to Wavering Radiant has been all over the map. Where do you think the album lands in the Isis discography?
JEFF CAXIDE: Sonically it’s our best. I don’t think we’ve ever made a record that sounds as good as this one does. It’s hard to think about where it lands in our discography because I don’t see our records that way. I always see them as linear from the beginning to the end they’ve just been a constant progression.
CRAVEONLINE: Do you find that with bands like Isis and others who push boundaries that critics and fans expect the impossible?
JEFF CAXIDE: Sometimes I wonder. It seemed always like we were a critic’s kind of band but maybe on the last few records that interest has waned. We get accused sometimes of just Isis doing Isis and I think that maybe their expectations of us are higher than ours. There are so many bands now doing the kind of music we do that maybe we get the brunt of people’s negative ideas on that. I never really worried about it because we never made records for anybody but ourselves, to make ourselves happy. If people liked it than that was kind of a bonus.
CRAVEONLINE: Now that Isis is done what do you hope the band’s legacy will be?
JEFF CAXIDE: I hope there is a legacy that in and of itself would be great, that people would remember what we’ve done. If people remember our records and us, that we did it our way and stopped when we wanted to would be great.
CRAVEONLINE: As sad as the break up was it’s good you guys didn’t become a band that limped along and didn’t end this with lots of animosity.
JEFF CAXIDE: I don’t want to name names but we’ve seen it happen with bands a few times and we said to each other ‘Man that is never gonna be us’, let’s just part as friends and never turn it ugly. I mean the last year was little weird and there may have been some different feelings here and there but we really are still friends, everything is okay. We’ll all move on from Isis and maybe our paths will cross again musically.
I wouldn’t hesitate to play with any of those guys again just not under the name Isis.
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