Kool Kat of the Week: Nine Inch Neils’ Cage Loves Like Diamond and Hopes to Give You a Holly Holy Dream of a Time Rocking Around the Christmas Tree This Saturday Night

Posted on: Dec 15th, 2011 By:

Cage. Photo courtesy of Nine Inch Neils.

Forget the Elvis impersonators. The Rocking Around the Christmas Tree benefit on Sat. Dec. 17 treats you to a rarer form of superstar tribute and a delightfully different holiday party courtesy of Nine Inch Neils, who channel Neil Diamond in his ‘70s heyday, and Jagged Stones, whose name should give away the act they idolize that also came of age in the late ’60s/’70s. In addition to two rockin’ fun bands, a humble cover charge of just $7 and one can of food entitles each guest to one complimentary Chick-fil-A sandwich, unlimited sodas and a free dessert bar. Those 21 and older can enjoy up to two glasses of complimentary beer or wine. Such a deal! Proceeds benefit the House of the Rock (also the site of the party;731 Peachtree St., NE) and Lutheran Community Food Ministries, which do amazing work feeding Midtown’s homeless five days a week.

ATLRetro caught up with Cage, lead singer of Nine Inch Neils, to find out what made him and the band a believer in Neil Diamond, where Neil fits in the wacky world of rock tribute bands and what they have planned when they rock around the Christmas tree this Saturday night.

ATLRetro: When’s the first time you heard Neil Diamond and was it love at first listen?

Cage: I think it was “Love On the Rocks” and yes. I remember seeing it performed as well in some GLEE-like show and thinking, “I can do that song. …It’s in my range.” And his voice has a kind of a growl to it unlike the pop icons of that era. While the other songs on the radio at the time were all for tenors, that was something I could sing.

There’s got to be a great story about how you came to found a Neil Diamond tribute band?

It is a long story, but it starts with a picture in some magazine of this ’60s pop star playing a small club in England. He was dressed to the nines in his glitter and glam, but his back-up band at that particular gig were punk rockers with the spiked hair and dressed in all leather. The picture was priceless.

Cage performs with Nine Inch Neils. Photo courtesy of Nine Inch Neils.

What about the name, Nine Inch Neils? Goth-industrial doesn’t seem very Neil, or do you ever perform Diamond songs with a Reznor edge?

Guitarist 211 came up with that name after we decided to change the band’s name from Hot August Knights. There is a Neil Diamond tribute band in Canada that took that name this year, so there is no going back. It was funny at the time, and you have to admit it’s catchy. It also gets us gigs at some rock clubs who otherwise would snub their noses at a Neil Diamond tribute no matter how much it rocks. Our renditions don’t go the Goth way. It has the edge of the classic rock gods of the ’70s.

How many Neil Diamond bands are out there and where do you fit in?

In a quick estimation, there are about a dozen bands here inAmericaand others abroad and maybe 50 individuals using background tracks. The well-known acts are traditional acts that use the synthesizers and female singers and everyone knows what to expect. There are very few, if any, that do it the way we do. I think that with exposure on a wider level, we could be one of the top.

What can audiences expect from Nine Inch Neils at Rocking Around the Christmas Tree? Diamond holiday favorites? Greatest hits?

We’ll perform two sets. The hits, of course, gems as always and a couple of new songs for us as a band not covered on any of Neil’s albums. They were popularized by the Monkees but written by Neil Diamond. “Look Out, Here Comes Tomorrow” and “A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You.” We “Neil” them up, and rock them out. We haven’t found the right holiday song to perform. Maybe next year.

Some people might think the event can’t be hip, because it’s at a church. But to us this just tells us the House of the Rock is mighty hip. Tell them why they’re wrong.

The House of the Rock is a great venue. It is set up for live music. The sound will be amazing, plus it’s smoke free and clean! I hope they keep having shows there. Give it a chance. You won’t be disappointed.

What do you do beyond the music to perfect your Diamond impression?

I honestly don’t think of it as an impression. I do what music and lyrics move me to do. Beyond the music I draw inspiration from some great picture books of early Neil Diamond at live shows. The photographers seem to capture the emotion on his face and passion in his contorted body in those still shots. I listen to early live recordings and imagine what was happening on stage, what he was doing, feeling and thinking. I read and listen to interviews he’s done in the past and research the meanings and inspiration of the lyrics. It’s like an actor studying a role. The good ones embody the spirit of the person they portray.

What’s the coolest part about being a Neil Diamond impersonator?

The hair.

What’s next for you and the Nine Inch Neils in terms of gigs? Any recordings?

Cage. Photo credit: Lindsay Appel.

We hope to record something in the near future to give to fans. Nothing over-produced, just a live studio session. There will be a few festivals and events in the coming year along with some local bar gigs. We will keep you posted on facebook/nineinchneils.

What do you do when you’re not impersonating Neil Diamond?

I like to DJ weddings, mix music, run sound for bands at private events, and encourage my talented friends to pursue their dreams.

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