An Interview with Cinchel


Describe a little bit about yourself.

I am a research chemist by day and make music and paint in my free time. I mostly create drone or oneiric compositions using layered guitar and effects. When I started playing guitar 18 years ago, I was mostly influenced by The Edge (U2) and Sonic Youth. This quickly led me into the symphonies of Glenn Branca and the electronic music of Aphex Twin. I began to think about using computers to manipulate guitar sounds.  I still wanted to keep a rich analog component and use guitar but, at the same time, I thought using a computer could enhance some of the textures I wanted to create and bring some of my more complex ideas into fruition.

I am an obsessive music collector. An internet/twitter junkie. I am addicted to coffee.

What gave rise to Cinchel?

Do you mean the name? Well.. In the spring of 1998 I met a girl at a show (who is now my wife “@kirstiecat“). It was the summer before her first year at university (and the summer between my first and second year). We were going to be going to the same school in the fall. We wrote letters to each other and talked quite a bit over the phone that summer. Just before school started we had a conversation where she told me her previous boyfriend was named Jason and she couldn’t think of me as a “Jason”. She told me about a children’s story she had just written where a dragon saves a princess. She named the dragon Cinchel and asked me if she could call me Cinchel. I said sure and the rest is history. Around this time the internet started to become more of a “thing” for me (1998-ish). Message boards/email/IRC/AIM became something I started needing a handle for. Not surprisingly, Cinchel was always available as a name. So I used it everywhere and became even more embedded with the name. Now, many of my friends call me Cinchel. My wife’s family even calls me Cinchel.

What other musical projects are you involved in?

Mostly, I just work on my solo stuff. A year ago, I played guitar/loops while my friend Alan read his monologues describing seedy late 80’s-early90’s NYC. This was a one off performance but we are working on recording some of these for a possible CD release.

I am in the planning stages of a few projects, one with a drummer and one that will be another friend and I using only pedals and having our guitars lying flat on a table.

I also participate in as many of the weekly Junto assignments as I can. If you are not familiar, it’s a soundcloud group organized by Marc W. of Disquiet. It’s open to anyone that wishes to participate. Each Thursday, Marc posts a new assignment ranging from sound collection/remixing/performance limitations/etc. All participants have until the following monday evening to produce something and post it to the group. It’s a great way to experiment with new techniques and keep the creative ideas flowing.

What are your inspirations as an artist?

The art of Clyford Still and Mark Rothko. The sound design in Tati films. Detail on a large scale, along with a sense of harmony.

Where do you see yourself in the next couple of years?

Not much different than now. Maybe play a few more shows a year around Chicago. Maybe play an out of state show somewhere. I would like to start collaborating more with some idols of mine. I feel I need to refine my work first before I have the confidence to even approach any of them yet.

Basically, I hope to still make music. It will most likely still be guitar based, although I hope to work more on learning piano/rhodes and violin. I want to do more work with video, creating something I will then score and possibly perform with.

Do you feel that ambient music has allowed yourself a greater sense of expression?

I like to think of my music more of oneiric music, music of dreams, imagined spaces. I only mention this because I sometimes worry that the term ambient carries a lot of baggage with it and I don’t want to be stuck. Whatever you want to call it, I am not sure if it allows me a greater sense of expression, it’s basically the only way I can express myself. I am not much of a writer so trying to express my thoughts/feelings in words/poems/lyrics was never going to work. I like to get lost in the making of these odd sounds from guitar. I like the space it creates and it’s closest to the sounds and colors I picture in my head while making it.

Describe the creative process you use to create your music.

I will start by tracking some small idea, a chord progression or weird noise, and loop it. I will then explore what I can do with that loop, what other sounds I can get from it. Or I will record a second loop and see how that fits. It’s an iterative process. I keep trying out edits, effects, new loops until I am happy with the final mix.

What sort of challenges do you face while creating music?

Time. I don’t ever have the time to sit down and work on a full piece in one sitting. I make music piece-meal after work, on weekends, when I have a spare hour. It’s meant that I have to actually schedule time with myself to finish projects. For Stereo Stasis I wrote meetings on my calendar “record samples for side A”, “mix side A”, “re-listen and final tweak/mix side A”, etc. It helped me focus and it kept me moving toward the goal.

I am also challenged by the sounds I hear in my head. The final track is always a compromise to that sound. I don’t let that get me down; I just use that to keep myself thinking of new ways of making/recording/mixing.

What was the drive behind Stereo Stasis?

I wanted to make a record, an actual 12inch LP. I didn’t want to wait until the “right time”. I didn’t want to wait until I couldn’t do it for some reason (money, physical ability, etc). I felt I could make a few pieces that would be worthy of pressing to vinyl. I also wanted to start taking my music more seriously. I thought that it would be a good reason to promote my work. I feel that it’s difficult to promote digital only releases. I also wanted to learn about the process of making an LP. It’s not all that daunting and the costs are mostly reasonable. I hope to do it again soon.

How would you compare this album to previous works?

More fleshed out. More detail to space. I really focused on the stereo field on this album. I really wanted to create an enveloping space around the listener. I also focused on chords and melodic movement a bit more. It may not have come across in the recording but I tried to pay particular attention to the chords I recorded before I manipulated the hell out of them on the computer. I think with this work I’ve abstracted the sound of the guitar more so than any before. I also think this album has the best low-end of anything I’ve made yet.

What advice could you offer to other artists out there who are just starting out?

Make something everyday. Practice, record, mix, just do something creative. Save everything. Back-up everything.

What’s your preferred format for releasing music?

I let the music dictate the format. I think long open ended pieces call for cassette release. I just finished a 60min track that I split in 2 for a tape release. I think because it’s hard to scan to a track on a tape, and that people will often stop/start a tape at various points, long open ended pieces work best. I like the fidelity of pressing LP’s at 45RPM which limits the length of the tracks. At 45rpm a 12″ LP can fit about 14min of music on a side. I think that is plenty of time to develop 2 or 3 ideas and still hold the listeners attention. While it’s easier to find tracks on an LP I tend to think (hope) that a listener will play a side all the way through. With that in mind, I think the 2 sides of an LP can relate to each other but I don’t think a piece should extend across both sides. I know that CD’s are kind of a dying format so I’ve thought about the best way to release on them. I am currently working on an all acoustic guitar and tape delay album that will be CDr released. The songs will all be around 2min long with the idea that you can just loop your favorite track on the CD as long as you want.

In the end, I also release everything digitally because that seems the most convenient for majority of listeners. That doesn’t really answer the question. Basically, I like physical releases over digital only releases because I like to hand paint art work/sleeves for the LP/CDr/Tape. I have made a few hand painted cards that I’ve written download codes onto but it doesn’t feel the same.

If you could pick a mascot to represent your music, what would it be?

A cat eating pizza because I love cats and pizza. My big orange cat Dr Pirate frequently joins me while I record.



About Nick H.

I'm a geek for music whether it be on vinyl, CD, 78 or whatever. My goal is to sniff out the greated music on Earth, specializing in the obscure. I make music myself as well, mostly ambient and sound collage (1 album out and a few remixes so far). I work full time as a professional mascot (it pays the pills) but will soon retire, i hope.
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