In an industry that often demands conformity for the sake of commerciality among emerging indie artists, Jimmy Cypher defies all parameters and transcends all single genre trappings. Fusing his lifelong passion for blistering rock guitar with an equal soul connection to the pulsating vibes and rhythms of EDM, the multi-talented musician and composer unleashes his empowering, one of a kind hybrid with his acclaimed debut album Rocktronica. With the release of a remix package of his explosively hypnotic debut single, an otherworldly re-imagining of America’s 70’s classic “A Horse with No Name,” Cypher’s found the perfect way to immediately impact the EDM/dance crowd.
Produced by platinum remix producer Ford (Mick Jagger, Ludacris, Michael Jackson and featuring the vocal talents of Michael Keith (from the Grammy winning R&B group 112), “A Horse With No Name”’s slate of top remixers includes DJ Kue (I Heart Radio & Promo Only Remixer of the Year), Dave Matthias (Ariana Grande, Alicia Keys, Gwen Stefani), Motoblanco (Adele, Ariana Grande, Rihanna), Jesus Montanez (one of Mexico’s hottest DJs and charting remixers) and Well & Dowd (Emily Perry, Toni Braxton).
Those working with Cypher have widely praised his visionary re-working of the song. DJ Kue says, “The remix was super fun to make! The song is classic and it was awesome to be able to jump on and give my own personal take on it!” Matthias adds, “Cover versions can be difficult to pull off. They’re heavily scrutinized out of the gates because by definition, they’re always up against the original. Even moreso if the original was a hit. Jimmy and Michael nailed it…they breathe new life into this timeless classic!” Jim Leavitt from Sony Red/The Orchard was blown away by the way Cypher “brought it into the 21st Century.”
Having developed his groundbreaking Rock/EDM sound over a number of years, Cypher likes to describe it in terms of other guitarists who have greatly influenced him. “Envision Santana’s albums featuring guest vocalists over the last 20 years, but replace the Latin flavors with EDM,” he says. “Of course, I sneak in a little Van Halen here and there. It’s tricky to play rock guitar over dance beats. I grew up upon this classic hard rock and blues, but this musical vocabulary doesn’t mesh with EDM if you play too fast. I’m not there just to shred. I’m going for the groove. I start with the idea that it’s like Santana or David Gilmour, creating an ambient vibe and catching that groove.”
Born and raised on the sounds of classic rock, Cypher began playing at 16 and learned from industry legends like GIT’s Vic Trigger, Doug Doppler and UFO’s Paul Chapman, each of whom instilled excellence, attention to detail & a modern, cutting edge approach to music. A two-year stint in medical school convinced the young guitarist that he was on the wrong life path so Cypher left to pursue the elusive sound he heard in his head. While developing his own outside the box artistry – and trying his hardest to convince others of its commercial viability – he played for numerous other artists on singles that charted on Billboard and UK Top 40, including Khia, Laura Ford, Atlantis Rising and Grammy nominee Kief Brown, while also working as a guitar coach for Justin Guarini, Michelle DeShon and Grammy winners Michael Keith (112) and Vashawn Mitchell.
Cypher’s emergence as a visionary artist is all the more remarkable in light of a debilitating finger injury he suffered back in 2012 that kept him from playing guitar for several years. During his several years of healing and rehab, “Jimmy 3 Finger Cypher,” as one of his many devoted guitar students affectionately called him, developed his longtime passion for photography into a full- blown sideline career. Over several years, he amassed about 20,000 photographs which are now being incorporated into his music videos, including clips for “A Horse with No Name” and “Daylight.”
The lightning flash of inspiration to create a new version of the America song hit him in the midst of a photography trip. “To keep my mind off of my inability to play guitar, my goal was to photograph most of the National Parks,” Cypher says. I eventually wound up in Moab, Utah which is just this very unique and magical place where lots of spaghetti western movies were shot, with no fences or borders, just near total freedom where you get on a dirt bike or jeep and just go forever on the old wild west trails from the 1800s. I had photographed Canyonlands and Arches National Parks the last few days and was deep in ‘the zone’ artistically, far away from the distractions of daily life and staying in a cheap retro hotel from the 1950s. It had one of those recessed windows that’s like a three-foot tunnel, and the sunlight woke me up about 7 a.m.
“I had always loved America's original version of ‘A Horse with No Name’ but never in any way thought about redoing the song,” he adds. “Yet there it was in my head, clear as day: The song, but with a driving tempo and modified acoustic guitar rhythm. It was vaguely reminiscent of the Dirty Vegas song ‘Days Go By’ with respect to how it hit me, all at double tempo with an EDM groove and complete with the signature outro octave guitar melody at time 4:00 playing perfectly in my head. It was as if it screamed out to be in a desert car commercial and I instantly knew the idea would work.”
Cypher took it to his producer FORD and the two sketched it out in about three hours. Realizing the challenges of singing it himself, he tapped his friend Michael Keith for the lead vocal. Keith stacked all the harmonies and insisted upon zero auto tune – a rarity for a contemporary EDM track. Cypher and FORD added backing harmonies from Jimmy Saint James (Gurufish, GA Music Hall of Fame) and Jeff Mullins (Brittania, Warner Bros.) to give it more of a group campfire vibe. Still the sound that Cypher heard in his head proved very elusive in the studio.
“Getting the feel of it exactly right required some unforeseen intricacy with respect to groove,” he says. “FORD experimented with the EDM drums playing both ahead of and behind the beat, while Michael dragged the vocals back and sung it with a heavy jangly shuffle feel like the original America version. Regular acoustic guitars were not cutting it in the mix, so I was able to borrow and record with very high-end custom shop Martin and Taylor guitars with Brazilian and Indian rosewood, which is why the acoustic guitars sound so vivid.
“The electric guitar solos were the most difficult to record on the entire Rocktronica album,” he adds. “The glissando slide had to be perfectly timed or it didn’t work and the octaves on the outro gave me fits. If it doesn’t groove and slide exactly right, the entire Native American/Western frontier vibe is lost. In all honesty, we never quite got exactly what I heard in my head and the session crashed the Pro Tools system many times wearing us out and we went through several final masters as well. I believe it was Da Vinci who said that art is never finished, it is simply abandoned., but when I listen to the entire remix package, it's really taken on a life of its own far beyond what I initially envisoned.”