Thursday, September 16, 2010

CAIN Interview With Vocalist Jiggs Lee

As I scanned the fine print of an ad for the Mid-America Music (MAM) Hall Of Fame Induction Show in a local newsweekly a couple weeks ago, I was shocked to see Cain listed as a performing inductee. Could this indeed be the legendary 70’s hard rock band from the Twin Cities reuniting for a live show? Cindy from the MAM Hall Of Fame quickly informed me that, yes, this is true! To make this news even better, Cain wasn’t just going to jump up on stage for a song or two, but would perform a substantial 5-7 song set. By the end of the day Cain vocalist Jiggs Lee and I were in touch, and he graciously agreed to an email interview. This chat focuses on Cain’s upcoming reunion show and a discussion about plans for the release of archival material.
A brief recap of Cain’s history is in order, and an interesting, detailed biography can be found at the band’s official website ( Cain arose from the Twin Cities music scene in the early 70’s, and quickly hit the Midwestern US club circuit where they played alongside other, at the time, unknown bands such as Kansas, Cheap Trick, and Styx. They eventually signed with ASI Records, and released two albums: A Pound Of Flesh (1975) and Stinger (1977). Tours in support of the albums expanded Cain’s reach, but half the members split in 1978 and the band quickly fell apart.
Although many bands disappear and are forgotten, Cain was part of a group of underground 70’s bands that achieved revered cult status. People don’t pay hundreds of dollars for obscure albums without good reason. Monster Records (now Rockadrome) stepped up and reissued A Pound Of Flesh in 2003, which allowed Cain to be discovered by a new generation of 70’s rock fans. No less of a rock authority than Martin Popoff has praised Cain, saying in his amazing book The Collector’s Guide To Heavy Metal – Volume 1: The Seventies, “Cain deserve to be ranked right up there with Truth  And Janey as one of the most capable, ready-for-prime-time bands, toiling away, shining metal in hand, throughout America’s underground.” Popoff calls A Pound Of Flesh “a classy piece of work…innovatively arranged,” and praises the “tight, immediate drum sound and tone-rich guitars” and Jiggs Lee’s “huge, commanding, mid-to-high voice and the phrasing and style to make judicious use thereof.”
Cain will be inducted into the Mid-America Music Hall Of Fall and perform a special reunion show this Friday, September 17 at the Sheraton Bloomington Hotel in Minneapolis. Over 20 bands will perform at this three-day event; go to the event’s website or Facebook page for complete details.
Click photo to see more vintage pictures of Cain at their website.
Twin Cities Metal (TCM): What was your reaction to learning that Cain is to be inducted in the Mid-America Music Hall Of Fame?
Jiggs: I think that Dave (Elmeer, bass) and I were both humbled and flattered that we were to be included in the mix of talented players being inducted. Kevin DeRemer (drums) feels the same way. Depending on schedules, we actually might see Kevin at the event. He’s been quite busy lately working on a project in New York. (TCM note: Kevin is also the husband and manager of Grammy Award-winning singer and actress Melissa Manchester.)
TCM: How did the current version of Cain come together?
Jiggs: Once it was established that Lloyd Forsberg (guitar) and Kevin wouldn’t be able to attend or rehearse, Dave and I turned to the considerable talents of musicians with whom we’ve had the pleasure of performing with over the last couple of decades. Brad Shultz is a no-nonsense, straight-ahead drummer who we knew could drive the effort. Adding John Kast on guitar alongside Marc Partridge gave us the raw – yet technical – blending we were after to recreate the brilliance that Lloyd added to Cain.
TCM: What can fans expect from your show this Friday?
Jiggs: We’re prepared to unleash six tunes on the ears of those in attendance. The songs will range from selections from both A Pound Of Flesh and from Stinger with the addition of a live version of a tune that was to be headed for a third album. I’m particularly jazzed about how well Marc and John work together. There are nods to the original guitar parts as well as stretches for them to really show their own considerable talents.
TCM: What were the circumstances that led to the band breaking up in 1978-79? As I understand it, a third album was partially recorded. Any plans to release any of this unreleased material?
Jiggs: We were thinking past the limitations that were a part of the ASI Records contract and were preparing quality material that would help launch the band into a better situation with a new label. We needed financial assistance to realize that goal and couldn’t find it. It was a very disheartening realization for us to finally acknowledge that they call it “The Music Business” for good reason. The re-release of A Pound of Flesh by Rockadrome includes the unreleased cuts.
TCM: When did you first begin to realize that there was continuing interest in Cain, long after the band broke up?
Jiggs: I think it was when we were being courted by record labels – maybe six years ago - to release our stuff on CD. We were amused (and flattered) that someone would pay $400 for a pristine copy of our record on the collectibles market. We were pleased that there was still a viable market for something that we had created in the 1970’s. I’m absolutely tickled that people still enjoy it today as much as we did.
TCM: Are there any plans for Stinger to be reissued?
Jiggs: We’re putting together the last bits and pieces now to allow Rockadrome to issue it. I expect that some yet-to-be-released live stuff will be included as a part of that package.
TCM: Are there any plans for Cain to continue playing live occasionally? Do you ever get any offers to play any of the European festivals?
Jiggs: One day (show) at a time. I think that we’d all give serious consideration to continuing, but it’s best to cross those bridges as they arise. It would be fabulous to perform at one of the European festivals, but no invitations so far.
TCM: What are your plans for your next solo album? Any plans for Cain to record again?
Jiggs: There is a second Jiggs Lee album in the can. I think that release plans for Cain are uncertain at this point, though.
TCM: You also mentioned in our correspondence the existence of some unreleased live material – what information can provide about this?
You can pick up a CD of some fabulous live stuff on Friday night at the Hall of Fame show. Ward Monroe – ex-Cain Renaissance Man – has assembled it and has promised to have copies for any interested folks. This will include stuff from a live radio broadcast in Chicago as well as our show at the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand in 1977. At the State Fair show we shared the bill with Kansas. They were good friends of ours through shared experiences doing Chicago club dates, and we enjoyed splitting shows with them whenever they were in the area.

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