Some of us are driven by shiny objects and funny paper, some are motivated by drink and drug or carnal pleasure, but a much smaller sect are driven by the need to create. To these few people, to live is to create art. The process of creation becomes something of a second nature. Tribal instinct kicks in fueled by the passion to simply make something that did not previously exist. Day after day after day these people come back around to the same conclusions. I must create my art. I must perform my art. I must publish my art.
I feel that Colin Jones is one such person. With over 20 something albums released in less than a decade, I feel that one has no other choice but to adopt this view. In this deep dive, we will get to know Colin on a personal level, as well as take a close look at each individual album in his discography.
EB: Hi Collin! It's nice to talk to you. What have you been up to lately?
CJ: Hey EB, likewise! Thanks for taking the time to dig into some of this with me. At the current moment I am just wrapping up a new Ocular Panther record which is being mastered as well as a new full length Stereo Nest record. I have also been getting into doing some animations that will be paired with certain tracks when these records are released which I have really been enjoying.
EB: Can you tell us a bit about how you got interested in music?
CJ: When I was a kid I used to do musical theater following in my brother's footsteps. I think that gave me a general liking and understanding of music. I was able to learn a lot through singing. The moment when I really started to love music and want to get into it more was when I discovered Guns N' Roses in middle school. At that point, I had never heard music that held such power. My best friend at the time was a guitar player and we were both big into them. I could sing, and he could play guitar so we really enjoyed the idea of a partnership, like Slash and Axl or Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. We loved that dynamic. For the talent show in 7th grade we decided to try to put a band together and perform "Sweet Child O' Mine" and thus formed my first band The U.S. Kings which lasted 3 or 4 years. We went on to play a lot of fun shows, even opening for Blue Oyster Cult at Waterstreet Music Hall which was a dream come true. We played mostly blues rock and stuff like that. During that time however my brother was a big Phish fan and my fellow bandmate, Schuyler Skuse, was a big Grateful Dead fan. From there I found myself diving into the "jam world" and being completely swept away. That set me on a new trajectory that to this day I am still greatly influenced by.
EB: What made you gravitate toward the guitar?
CJ: During my time as the lead singer of The U.S. Kings I always loved and appreciated guitar. Listening to more guitar based music like The Grateful Dead and Phish I started to really crave playing the guitar myself. I also thought it would be cool to add another layer to The U.S. Kings, playing harmonies, rhythm guitar, etc. So, for Christmas when I was 14 I asked my parents for a guitar which I got and from there it was history. I couldn't get it out of my hands and naturally learned how to play through my intense enthusiasm and private lessons from an incredible guitarist named Warren Seidberg.
EB: Did you have any bands before your current groups?
CJ: As I mentioned my first band was The U.S. Kings. After that disbanded I really wanted to make my own band and play "jam music". Through various connections and craigslist ads I was able to put together my second band, Mobius Trip. One day we ended up opening for another band called Pia Mater. As it turned out, one of their guitarists was playing his last show with the band. I loved what they were doing and they had a dedicated fan base. At that show I decided to enquire about auditioning to take his place. The guys were all at least 10 years older than me so I figured it was a long shot but they gave me a chance. I will never forget the first time I came and jammed with them. Everything clicked. We improvised for hours and I had never felt anything like it. Lucky for me, they felt it too and decided to have me on board. At the time Mobius Trip was also disbanding so it seemed like the right move. I played with them until I was 18 and left to go to school at Berklee College of Music. When I was in Boston I ended up joining another band called The Silentypes. We played various bars and venues while I studied music. After that, through Berklee I got a gig with a band that was doing a 3 month long national tour and was looking for a guitarist. I got the gig and flew down to Florida where we would practice for a week and then go out on tour. The band was called The Wishing Well. The music wasn't something I was really passionate about, being more acoustic and folk. I was a hired gun. Unfortunately after a month of touring Florida and down south the tour failed. They ended up not having enough funds to keep paying the band. The tour ended in Charleston, North Carolina. At the time my brother lived in New York City so I decided to take a train up to him from there. I stayed with him for a couple of weeks, kind of floundering for what to do. I decided to take a train back to Rochester and start gigging as hard as possible and hopefully form another band. Which takes me to your next question...
EB: Take us through the individual histories of your current groups.
CJ: On my way home from New York I saw a craigslist ad. It was written by Ben Chilbert. The ad had all the right words. It sounded like we wanted to make the exact same type of music. So, I gave him a call and left him a message. He called me back almost immediately. We talked for a very long time and it was obvious we were on the same page. We arranged to get together the very next day and jam. He told me his roommate at the time played drums as well. When we got together, I honestly wasn't sure how I felt. I was feeling certain parts but from my viewpoint at the time, they were beginners and it wasn't solid and professional enough. Even so, I kept thinking about the certain moments where we were totally in sync and created a feeling. There is something special to be said about that and it's a rare feeling. I also simply enjoyed their company and hanging out. We had a blast exploring. We got together every day and would play for 8 hours if not more, learning each other's language and practicing together. Over time, we started to get pretty good. I decided to show them some songs I wrote and we ended up writing some songs off jams we had. At the time, we were playing in the basement of a "party house" that our drummer at the time, Riley Dicharo was living in. As we would practice, there were constantly people stopping through the house and they ended up listening to us. We noticed people actually really enjoyed what we were doing and were convinced we should play a show, so we did. We played our first show at The Bug Jar and to our surprise had an immense turnout. This fueled us to keep pushing forward as hard as possible. Over time, we added a keyboardist, Dave Brooks. He also had played in Mobius Trip and was a great friend of mine so it seemed fitting. We then added our good friend Sean Chimento on turntables. He would add textures, samples, scratching, etc. Over time, Dave ended up moving to Colorado. We kept playing as Bass, Drums, Guitar and Turntables until Riley moved to Rhode Island. At that point Haewa took a small break to reassemble. During that time Sean also ended up gravitating towards other endeavors. Ben and I were determined to keep it going and he told me he had met a really good drummer, Brendon Caroselli. We linked up and immediately clicked. We were back in action as a trio again. We did this for a few years until we decided to add keys again. We had played a few shows with a band from Erie, PA called Gnosis. I had always clicked with their keyboard player, Troy Evans. We were both playing a festival, The Gathering at Chaffee's and at the time and they were playing their last show. At that moment Ben and I decided to recruit Troy. We went back stage and immediately talked to him about joining Haewa to which our surprise he was down for, even having to travel from Erie, PA. At the time, we also were changing drummers. Such as Ben found Brendon at a jam, I clicked with another really good drummer at a jam I used to host. This was Marco Cirigliano. He was younger, fresh out of music school and was currently not playing in any bands. I asked if he wanted to join and he said yes. From then we were a four piece again with keys. We played for a few years until Troy moved even further away to Pittsburgh and could no longer make the trek, understandably so. We were back as a three piece. This time, we figured out how to play all of Troy's parts with sample pads, synth pedals that Ben plays with his feet and various other technology. This has been our current line-up until this day.
At the same time Haewa was forming, I had just gotten back to Rochester and my good friend and bassist from Pia Mater (my band before college), Jason Gilly, asked if I wanted to jam and try to put something together. We also recruited Pia Mater's old drummer Matthew Blauvelt and Gilly's old childhood friend Mikey Pantano on guitar. Thus began Ocular Panther. We played for years until Matthew ended up leaving the band. We had various drummers taking his place but never really got anything to stick. At this point we were experimenting with a lot of electronic music. We had bought a drum machine as well as some other tools and decided we could play as a three piece, triggering the drums ourselves. This worked for a little but ultimately was not a long term solution. Some shows went great while others fell flat. It became obvious a drummer would keep the energy alive. At the time we all kept bumping into Tristan Greene at jams. We recruited him and that has been our line-up ever since, incorporating synths and the drum machine along side Tristan.
On top of my bands, I had also developed an interest in electronic music and looping. I had a vision to create a project that is a one man band incorporating electronic sounds. I ended up creating Stereo Nest, which is my solo project that is geared towards live improvisational electronic music as well as studio production.
EB: What are your future plans in terms of upcoming releases?
CJ: Right now we are about up to release a new Ocular Panther record and I am releasing a new Stereo Nest record as well. Beyond that we will probably immediately begin on the next Ocular Panther record as we have a massive backlog of material that needs to be laid down. As always, I am also working on Stereo Nest tracks between everything else which will someday be released.
EB: What is your advice for people who want to release their own music?
CJ: Just go for it. Don't let anything hold you back. Stay true to your vision and do what feels right. I'm still navigating the business end of it myself so it's hard to give advice as far as that goes but I think the main thing is to just keep going and not give up. Do it to feed your soul and for the right reasons and people will pick up on that. Also, consistency is key.
EB: This is one of the oldest releases I can find, what went into making this? Where was it recorded? Did anything come before this?
CJ: This was our very first recording from 2012. It was recorded at River Bottom Studio by Matt Klock. This was almost all of our original music that was played live for about a year prior to this. We decided to lay it all down live, as in we played it with each other in the studio rather than overdubbing. We wanted to try to capture the live feel and energy between us.
EB: “Ghost Dose” almost seems like a musical centerpiece. Why did you decide to put it on the beginning of the album? Was the jam section improvised or structurally planned?
CJ: "Ghost Dose" is definitely one of our most played songs. It was a song that I wrote that became one of the first songs we learned together. The jam section was completely improvised. We decided to put it first on the album because it was simply the first song that we learned and came to mind to record. It always had a good reaction when we played it live so it seemed fitting.
EB: There are distinct reggae/dub segments on the first couple of songs, was that type of music a big influence on this project?
CJ: Definitely. I'm not really sure where that came from honestly haha. It was subconscious. I always enjoyed Dub music like Scientist, King Tubby, Prince Jammy and Lee Scratch Perry. We never really spoke about it, it just kind of came out I guess.
EB: Is the Ogopogo real?? What led to you choosing this name?
CJ: This is a fantastic question haha. You know, I'm not really sure. I'm open to the possibility but obviously don't have any concrete evidence or first hand experience. I hope Ogopogo is real! I love to dream about stuff like that. The name actually came from Ben. I think he just thought that this particular jam had an underwater, mysterious feel to it, which I agree.
EB: It seems that there is a good mix of instrumental and vocal material. How does the process of deciding which tracks get vocals go down?
CJ: I'm not sure we even really discussed it. I wrote all the vocal parts because I'm the only one who sings. We kind of just threw together what we had at the moment.
EB: Prog rock seems to be a big influence on this project as well. Are there any artists that fall under the prog banner that you were listening to in those days?
CJ: Absolutely. I think we all liked the proggy parts of Phish, Moe., the Grateful Dead and other jam bands that always held that influence. On top of it, we loved the original prog rock favorites like Rush, Yes and Frank Zappa.
EB: There seems to be a blues rock/hip hop influence on some tracks. Can you elaborate on this?
CJ: Blues rock has always been an underlying influence so I think that comes out naturally. The hip hop part definitely came from having a turntablist in the band at the moment. He could add that feel to what we were doing and led us in that direction. It kind of came naturally.
EB: There seems to be more of a focus on vocals this time around, what went into that?
CJ: For sure, we wanted to make an EP that were 4 very powerful lyrical songs. That was the goal. We were reaching for a more straight forward, digestible approach to what we were doing.
EB: This is the first Haewa record with keys, what went into the decision to add keys in spots?
CJ: At the time we had Dave Brooks joining the band on occasion. We had him come in and lay down as many parts as possible then went back and by feel took out what didn't fit and what did. We all just sat down and came to a collective decision on what felt right at the time.
EB: There were some cool guitar solos on this release. What kind of gear were you running on this record?
CJ: Thank you! I used the same gear that I have used since I first put together my rig. I bought my gear on a whim, learned how to use it and since it was working decided to never change it. That gear being, a Stratocaster (I also have a custom guitar I use now), a Fender Twin Reverb Amp, a Blues Driver overdrive pedal, Tube Screamer overdrive pedal, Vox wah and TC Electronics Flashback delay pedal. It's all very basic straight forward stuff but it has always worked great and still does!
Photo Credit: Tyler LePage
EB: Cool album cover, what’s the story with that?
CJ: We decided to hire Rodrigo Pradel, an artist Ben and I always admired. He made this custom piece of art for us. We told him our idea, incorporating totems and our logo and he went to town. The artwork turned out incredible and is still one of my favorites.
EB: The acoustic guitar and harmonica on the opener lends itself to pseudo southern grungy rock sound, almost akin to something like the Meat Puppets. What went into the band building upon this style from the previous release?
CJ: I'm not really sure how it came about but I think naturally we always had a pretty grungy sound. Nothing was ever discussed really. For me personally, I always loved the 90s and grunge in particular. I wrote "Swampin'" so I think that sort of thing just kind of came out subconsciously.
EB: With what sounds like acoustic bass on the second track, and a multitude of instruments on the first track, there seems to be a concentrated effort to expand instrumentation.
CJ: Absolutely. This was the first album that was recorded and produced by me. Over time, we didn't have the money to keep going into a studio so I took it upon myself to learn how to engineer and produce. This was my very first attempt. That being said, it gave us the freedom to add some different elements. We had the time and ability to overdub whatever we wanted so we took advantage of that to add different sounds we normally wouldn't have the time or money to be able to include.
EB: “Born Into Morning Light” offers a much different rhythm than other Haewa efforts, how did this come about?
CJ: This was a song I wrote originally on my acoustic that everyone liked so we decided to include it. I also love the band Morphine. They would always have one acoustic song on each record that they put out and I had the idea to do the same thing as an ode to Mark Sandman. To an extent, we still try to do this although we don't constrain ourselves to it as I'm sure you can see in future releases.
EB: You seemed to go after some “cooler” sounds on this record. Why was that?
CJ: I'm not really sure. It definitely developed naturally. Maybe it was what we were into at the time or how we were feeling. It kind of came together on a whim and was a big experiment to see if we could self produce our own record successfully.
EB: Right off the bat, we hear some new types of grooves that haven’t appeared on Haewa releases thus far. What went into that sound change?
CJ: This record was completely experimental. The idea was that we would go in and record whatever we wanted and make an album from it. We would jam for hours, or lay a beat on a drum machine down and play to it. Whatever we wanted really. Then we edited it down and added to it to create tracks. I think this format also allowed our drummer at the time, Brendon Caroselli to explore and let loose. That's definitely where a lot of the grooves come from. Also, this is the first time he could play keyboard on a record, which he is an absolutely incredible keyboard player.
EB: I’m also hearing significantly more layering. What made you decide to expand the scope of sounds on this release, particularly the opening track “88.7”?
CJ: Like the last record, this is completely self produced. So what we did was sift through hours of jams and experimentation until we found something we really liked. Then we cut it up and overdubbed different layers to it to create something interesting. Between Brendon and I we laid down different synth parts and sounds we weren't able to play live. The goal wasn't to create something that is to be played live but to just make the best recordings we possibly could no matter how we did it.
EB: Speaking on that ten minute opening track, was any of that improvised?
CJ: The entire track was improvised. We then went back and added different sounds and layers to fill it out.
EB: Why did you decide to lead the album off with a 10 minute instrumental?
CJ: We thought it would be funny to call the record "Radio Hits" and lead it off with a 10 minute track that could never actually be played on the radio let alone be a hit.
EB: There are definitely some more psychedelic spaces on this record, not unlike some of the late 90s spacey funk jams heard at Phish shows from around that time. Was there any thought to try and capture more of a “live show” feel on this record?
CJ: Yea, I think naturally that's just kind of what happened being largely improvised and built upon.
EB: There seems to be a running theme of short glitchy soundscape songs on this album. What was the thought process when adding those to the pool of tracks for this record?
CJ: Pure experimentation. We just sat down and explored until we found a sound we liked.
EB: Where did the idea for the “radio” concept come from?
CJ: We thought it would be funny to call the record "Radio Hits" because it was such an odd, experimental record. There's a sort of irony to it. Then we built upon it, adding samples from the radio and naming each song as if you are tuning into some sort of experimental alien radio station.
EB: This seems to be the first Haewa release that has a lot of major electronica themes, could you expand upon the reasons for that shift?
CJ: We always love those types of sounds. Since we had the capability to add some of those sounds we took advantage of it.
EB: Was there any particular reason for the switch to instrumental music on this release?
CJ: No reason other than the album is a compilation of jams and experiments. We didn't write a single song or idea ahead of time.
EB: What’s the story with that amazing album cover?
CJ: Once again, we contacted Rodrigo Pradel to create another amazing piece of art for us. We had a general idea of what we wanted and let him run with it. It came out amazing!
EB: There seems to more of a jazz fusion flare, continuing some trends established on the previous record. What influenced this shift?
CJ: Definitely. This was the first record we had Marco Cirigliano playing drums on and Troy Evans on keys. We had a whole different feel added to the same vibe Ben and I held together. I think adding the keys allowed us to write some more complex music. We always enjoyed stuff like that but having Troy fill out the space in an interesting way definitely pushed us to write music more geared towards that.
EB: I think that the track “Warlock” is so cool, what went into the writing of this track?
CJ: We wrote it based out of a jam we had. Then we kept working it and adding to it as a group, throwing different ideas out and chipping away at it until we organized it into a song. It was a collective effort.
EB: It seems like this group of tracks follows the same path as the previous release, but with a more defined and obvious song structure. Was this a conscious effort?
CJ: I'm not sure it was a conscious effort as much as we just had different people giving different input to various ideas we were building upon. Ben and I always had a vision and an idea of what we wanted to do and Troy and Marco took it to another level with their input.
EB: This release marks the return to an instrumental/vocal split. What went into this decision?
CJ: I think this was always the ideal balance we wanted to have on a studio record. We want to explore instrumental music but also bring the listener back to a grounded, digestible tune with vocals.
EB: Can people expect to hear more material like “Seed of the Sun” with acoustic instruments and so forth?
CJ: For sure, as I said before we aim to have an acoustic song on each record as an ode to Mark Sandman from Morphine. We also don't necessarily ALWAYS do such a thing because we want to be open to whatever the particular record calls for. In general though, that is a goal of ours.
EB: There seems to be a full on marriage between electronic sounds and natural human sounds. Why was this such a heavy emphasis for the last record?
CJ: I think this has become more and more of a goal of ours. We all really appreciate electronic sounds and the possibilities it holds. With Troy being in the band him and I shared an enthusiasm for electronic music, synthesizers and exploring new sounds. Naturally we wanted to dive into that some more. Also, the four of us had a fascination with Vaporwave at the time so we had it in our minds we wanted to incorporate that element to create sort of a "Vapor Rock" album.
EB: Spots on this record are probably as close to Jazz that we have heard on a Haewa release, could you expand upon the band’s appreciation for jazz?
CJ: I would definitely say this was the work of Troy. He has the ability to fill out the space in such interesting ways with different harmonies and definitely has a jazz influence. We all listen to stuff like that though, so it comes out in different ways.
EB: In addition to some jazzier sounds, I hear scattered parts that might be considered bordering on mainstream or approaching pop palatability. Was this something that ever crossed your mind?
CJ: We always want to bring the listener back to something simple and familiar. A big part of what we are trying to do is explore while maintaining a sense of balance. I also personally tend to write a lot of more pop oriented lyrical songs when I'm by myself so it just made sense to try to add some of that in as well.
EB: I feel as though this album is more rigorously composed that others, what is the reason for this?
CJ: This record more than any other in the past was a collaborative effort. We definitely all pitched in where we could and naturally we had a lot of ideas to sift through. This resulted in more composed and complex music.
EB: In regard to the “one foot in, one foot out” relationships between the natural and digital worlds on this release, are you able to recreate most of the electronic/rock fusion stuff live?
CJ: Yup absolutely. We are able to play all of these tracks live. That's something we took into account. Unfortunately though Troy moved to Pittsburgh so we had to figure out a way to still incorporate his parts as a three piece. It's not exactly the same but we were able to figure out ways to trigger his sounds and samples with drum pads, synthesizers, sample pads and synth pedals Ben plays with his feet as he plays bass. It's not exactly the same but still very close and we put out own current spin on it.
EB: In my estimation, this is the realization to a unique Haewa sound. Could you elaborate on this? Has the band shared similar thoughts?
CJ: Definitely, I think we all agree that this record was something that we have been reaching for for a while. It's something that built over time. Ben and I always wanted to create something like this from day one and we were finally able to do it with the addition of Troy and Marco and their input.
Photo Credit: Robie Design - Robyn Karma
CJ: I don't think it consciously was but I certainly love and appreciate Jimmy Herring. He is a big influence on me personally.
EB: "Stompgoat" has some space-age tones to be certain, but you could you tell us a bit about how these sounds unfolded?
CJ: At this point I had just gotten my first synthesizer, a Korg Microkorg. I just decided to mess around with some sounds I had and tried to incorporate it. I think that contributes to the feel of the song.
EB: "Fraktura" features some EVIL GUITAR HARMONIES, were you the only guitarist in the group at that point? Could you talk about the makeup of the group at this point?
CJ: Yes it does! From the get go it was always myself and Mike Pantano on guitar. This always lent itself to some interesting harmonies and ideas. Mikey is one of my favorite guitarists and we constantly inspire each other. At this point it was him and I, Jason Gilly on bass and Matthew Blauvelt on drums. We would continue to make three more albums after this one together until Tristan joined us on drums later on.
EB: The buildup in "Fraktura" at around 2:30 is an absolute primordial swamp of guitar noise, what mixing advice would you offer to people looking to navigate similar terrain?
CJ: We recorded this album completely live, as in we played together in a room and did take after take. Honestly this just happened to be a special moment that happened as we were recording it. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what went down to get that sound. There is always a looseness in our songs where we open up certain sections for improvisation. This was coming out of an improvised section and it just kind of blew up in a different way. I think a big contributor was the pedals we were using. Lots of reverb, delay and overdrive that kind of spun together between us to create that sound.
EB: Parts of "Jelly Beaver" are a definite departure from previous tracks. What kind of influences went into making a song that is so different from the rest of the tracks on "Troncoso"?
CJ: Every song we write, we write together. This was the result of us throwing different ideas out and chipping away at it until something came together. Since there are so many influences between all of us it's tough to say who was influenced by what while making this.
EB: Parts of this record seem a little less shreddy, a little more layered, and a little more thematic. What was the goal or theme when you set out to make this record?
CJ: I think naturally we were just building on our sound. We definitely honed in on it a lot more with this record. We wanted to start throwing in some more dynamics and spend more time on different ideas rather than jumping around so much. We also made a conscious effort to lay back and build soundscapes rather than just have guitar solos. At the time, our friend Matt Klock was helping us produce this record. He is also a synth wizard and has walls of modular synths. We wanted him to put in some of his own sounds and ideas into the mix. This definitely contributed to more layers of sound and we left more space for such things.
EB: What are some of the inspirations for spacy dance sections found on the likes of "Holy Jeffery"?
CJ: We always wanted to make upbeat, danceable music that is also thought provoking and interesting at the same time. Our drummer at the time was really good at playing those sorts of beats and this song came out of a jam we were doing one day. A lot of the earlier music came from us improvising and as soon as we heard something interesting we would stop and write off of it. Naturally he would play a lot of these dance beats and that's where these ideas were born.
EB: How did you arrive at the 5/4 groove on "Misunderstanding Hugs"? How can we avoid Misunderstanding Hugs and every awful that comes with them?
CJ: This came out of a jam as well. We consciously decided to improvise in 5/4. Suddenly, all these riffs started happening. We stopped and kept jamming out different riffs, adding harmonies and following it until we composed the entire song. haha, as far as the title, Matthew had come up with "Understanding Hugs" then I thought "Misunderstanding Hugs" had a more ominous and uncomfortable vibe to it much like the tension the song holds. As far as how to avoid them, I think that's the whole thing. You never really can!
EB: "Naga Jolokia" is kind of space-age. What sort of response does it invoke? What is the mission when setting out to make a track like this?
CJ: Well, This track was based off of a riff I was playing on my synth and we built off of that. For the middle section, we wanted to make something that was danceable but progressive. We decided to overlay riffs in different time signatures over a dance beat and composed it so they met back up at a certain point where we all locked in. I really love that section and think it is one of the coolest parts we have ever written together.
EB: Is there a good deal of studio improvisation on this record?
CJ: Definitely. As I said we already do a lot of improvisation to find ideas to write off of. Because of that we also want to incorporate sections within each song where we can expand and communicate with each other because that's when we find the most interesting things. One track in particular, "Waxhaw Hacksaw" is entirely improvised. It was a studio jam that we did as a soundcheck that ended up being really cool. We then took it, and sent different parts of it through Matt Klock's modular synth where he manipulated it with different filters, LFOs, effects, etc. He manipulated the modular synth as the track played and re-recorded it. This is still one of my favorite tracks because of this.
EB: "Progressor" seems to be looking toward some of the 70's prog wizards, what is the influence of that music on this track and record?
CJ: For sure! It is definitely the most progressive track on the record. We wanted to make a very detailed composition where time signatures constantly change and sections flow quickly. I think we definitely achieved that in our own way.
EB: There's a notable shift in sound on this record, any particular reasons for this?
CJ: I'm not sure, I think we just unconsciously just kept moving forward with new ideas and sounds. It's hard to pinpoint. We have a few tracks that are more trance and electronic based with electronic drum sounds and things like that, and I'd say that's the biggest component.
EB: The drums on this record sound pretty different, was there any mixture of live and programmed drums?
CJ: This was the first record where some tracks Matthew used an electronic drum pad with different sounds. He would loop a beat and then play drums live over the top. This is definitely the most notable change for us in this record.
EB: Tracks like "The Great Oxygenation" seem to be going for a smoother, almost dreamlike quality. This also seems to be a running theme in other tracks, what specifically are some reasons for this shift?
CJ: We wanted to start getting into more electronic sounds. I think this contributed to that. With the electronic drums we also added more synth drones and layers. The dreamlike quality was never a conscious move but with the new technology it just kind lent itself to it.
EB: On the other hand, tracks like "Yerkrewrun" seem to be more familiar to the group's sound. Was there any regard given to coming up with some songs that were familiar, as to balance the sound of the record between old and new?
CJ: This song in particular was written well before we recorded this album so I think it definitely holds more of an old school sound for that reason. This record is about 50/50 songs we had for a while and decided to record and newer material we wrote incorporating synths, more layers and electronic drums.
EB: This is probably the more heavily layered Ocular Panther releases in terms of guitar, with plenty of multitracking on tracks like "Mike Chases His Pony" and others. What were some heavy listening albums, or some guitar influences from around this time?
CJ: Ironically I don't think we were even listening to very much guitar heavy music at the time. We started taking more influence from electronic artists like Back Moth Super Rainbow, Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada and other stuff like that. As far as guitar goes, Mikey and I have always had such a wide range of influences over the years it's really tough to pinpoint exactly what's going on. However, with the electronic stuff being mixed in we consciously made an effort to try to recreate those sounds and ideas with our guitars to make it more organic. I think that really comes through on this record for the first time and that is the main change in sound.
EB: Mr. Tristan Greene joins the fold on this record! What is his influence on the group's newest sounds?
CJ: Yes! Having Tristan join the band was huge. His style is incredibly smooth and very tight. Prior to him joining the band, we played a few shows without a live drummer using drum machines. This worked well for a little while and we were able to pull it off and have fun with it but eventually it seemed obvious we needed to put some live drums back into the mix. As he entered the band, we had a whole new range of sounds, including the drum machine that he ended up playing with. It created a very unique fusion. He came in and made the new tracks groove harder than ever and it was a gamechanger to say the least.
EB: "Furniture" sounds to me like it continues various threads from the previous album, being more focused on motifs, grooves, and textures rather than shreddy solos. What went into the creation of this track, and do you also view it as a continuation of the previous album's themes?
CJ: Yes definitely. One major shift on this track and this record in general is the fact that Mikey decided to buy a Dave Smith Tempest drum machine/synth. At this point, I no longer played synth and let him take the reins with all of that. This was a track that was based off Mikey sitting down with the Tempest and going nuts making sounds, beats, etc. We then all came together as a band and arranged it, adding guitar parts and incorporating different ideas from everyone. I definitely think this builds on previous album's themes. We took those ideas and applied different tools and a different process to the same ideas to create something new.
EB: There is a great deal more track length variance than heard on previous Ocular Panther releases, was this a concentrated effort or something that came naturally?
This is something that came naturally, we didn't give it much thought and just kind of went where the music led us.
EB: The second half of "Myselves" gets pretty spacy, was this an improvised passage?
CJ: Yes, that is a common theme in a lot of our songs. We like to open up certain sections and just let it fly, whether we are playing live or recording. When we are recording and hit those sections often times magic will happen. Capturing that is what it's all about.
EB: To me, "Drongo" looks to the past and the future simultaneously in terms of the band's progression. Would you say that is a fair summarization? What went into the creation of this song, and what kind of mental image does it evoke for you?
CJ: Absolutely. I'd say you nailed it. This is the epitome of the past and future, especially knowing what our even newer music has turned into. This was another track initially created on the Tempest by Mikey. It was very much the same process as "Furniture". This is personally my favorite track on the album for that reason. I think it holds a very interesting quality going between dark and menacing sections and blissful sections that soar. It's a very interesting balance and it always stays interesting.
EB: "Protactinium" seems to be a pretty volatile chemical, but definitely has an intriguing look. I can see how this is reflected in the music, but why choose this for the name? Does someone in the group have an interest in EVIL chemistry?
CJ: It was named by our bassist Jason Gilly. I'm not sure what he had in mind when naming it but it definitely reflects the look! He must have an interest in evil chemistry, I'll have to ask him.
EB: The stairs referenced in "Stairs" must be from an Escher painting right? What is it like to walk up those stairs? How do the musicians featured on this delightfully oddball track feel about their creation?
CJ: Great comparison! I had never thought about that but it definitely has that whacky, never ending quality. It definitely feels like you are walking up those stairs infinitely. We all love this track and have no idea how we even came up with it. A lot of the guitar parts and harmonies don't even really make traditional sense which is how it came out so left field. We started with a dance beat and kind of just threw out different ideas as we went.
EB: "Compartmentalizations" features an almost 70s classic rock adjacent sound. What is the influence behind this track?
CJ: This was a song we wrote prior to Tristan being in the band off of a beat on the drum machine. I think we really just let the beat take us and lead us to create the different parts. 70s classic rock has always been an influence for all of us so a lot of the harmonies and ideas will end up leaning that way naturally.
EB: "Pathos" sounds different from anything the group has produced thus far. I hear a little bit of an 80s post-punk aesthetic. What is this song in your estimation? Is there usually a heavy improv element to the second half of this track?
CJ: This track is an odd one for sure and has only been played live once. This is the third song on the record initially written on the Tempest. We started with a million different sounds and ideas and just chipped away at it. As for the improv, the whole second half of this song is improvised off of a beat and a few different synth sounds we go between. It has a very loose feel to it because it was a very improvised section but it's also very tight due to the drum machine and the certain synth parts we had planned to drop in. I think that makes it different than anything else we have done up until this point.
EB: "Ellipsis" kind of reminds me of the sound that I hear in my head when I close my eyes at night, should I go to a doctor?
Evidently, I hear those sounds as well. Maybe we both should go! This was originally going to be a hidden track. On the physical CD it isn't listed but as far as digital goes we kind of had to name it and break it up from "Pathos" which it evolved from. After we did that take of "Pathos" we just kept going, making noise and going nuts for fun not even thinking we would use it. Listening back it ended up having a pretty interesting quality to it so we figured why not. It's definitely just a bunch of insanity and noisy guitar loops that trails off!
Just after the interview concluded, it was announced that Ocular Panther will release their new album, VAGUE PICNIC, on 9/2/20! Evil Bubble will definitely be covering this release!
EB: This record seems to inhabit two distinct spaces. On one side have more hip-hop adjacent work, while on the other side you have an approach grounded more in electronic dance music sounds. How did this sound emerge to you?
CJ: I think it subconsciously just came out. Also, with the tools I was using at the time it just kind of lent itself to those sounds. I was using a 4-track tape recorder and experimenting with every tool I could find to make sounds.
EB: “By the Tongue of the Elves” seems to dance between these two philosophies, what was your approach on this track? This is definitely a good example of that. A big part of this track is the drum sounds I was using which I made in Reason. I had drum loops that I built the entire track off of that had more of a hip hop feel so it kind of just developed that way.
EB: “Analogue Uber Fat” featured some classic dance music sounds. What kind of electronic or dance music sounds influenced this song, and moreover what influenced the project?
CJ: There are so many influences I pull from but for this particular track I definitely went towards an Aphex Twin sound. Overall my main goal for this project was to record everything on a 4-track tape recorder to get a very lofi analog sound. It was an interesting challenge to make all of the sounds fit on 4-tracks and was very hands on. The styles that emerged from it kind just came out by chance as it was a very experimental record. I will say though some big influences at the time were Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin and other lofi albums such as "PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone" by John Frusciante.
EB: Some tracks feature glitchy sections or have distinctly glitchy sounds, what led to your interest in this approach?
CJ: These sounds came about by chance as I was manipulating different gear. As I said this album was very experimental where I would just run different synths or samples through all kinds of different stuff just to see what would come out. As it turned out a lot of glitchy sounds started to develop.
EB: Multiple tracks, such as “I’ve Changed So Many Times Since This Morning,” seem to have a breakbeat type vibe. How do you approach using breakbeats and samples?
CJ: The beat was a loop I made in Reason and I thought it would sound even better on tape so I decided to use it and send it from my computer into my tape recorder. The sample in it is a part of "Alice in Wonderland" that I thought was an interesting quote, so I built around that.
EB: Parts of this record have a more chopped up or sampled feel, are you interested in J Dilla and that type of sample based music?
CJ: Absolutely! I love J Dilla and stuff like that. Pretty much all of my sounds are built from the ground up and not sampled, but I definitely take influence from that type of music while building tracks. Sample based music opened up so many different sounds that had never been put together before and couldn't have been otherwise so it's something I try to emulate at certain times.
EB: I also hear some 80s inspired sounds and spaces on this record, is the experimental nature of the 80s music something that resonates with you?
Going back to your previous question one of my favorite albums is "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" by Brian Eno and David Byrne. It's a very experimental record that was built entirely using samples on tape. It's definitely one of my favorite sample based records and has a lot of those interesting sounds on it that were made in the 80s. In general I can appreciate the 80s as a time of innovation, incorporating synths and drum machines for the first time. I will say though I don't actually listen to a lot of it for enjoyment. At the time the sounds were so futuristic but the technology improved so fast it quickly became out dated. It still holds a quality that is very unique and I can pull from but I just don't find myself gravitating towards it so much in comparison with other music that is out there.
EB: There is a juxtaposition of computerish drum sounds versus dirty drum sounds. How do you arrive at that conclusion without overindulging?
CJ: This record was also made entirely on a 4-track tape recorder to get those gritty sounds. Certain drum sounds I would purposefully clip the volume out on the tape recorder to dirty them up and others I would record normally. Certain tracks called for it while others didn't and sometimes they would even overlap. The key is to find the balance between those two worlds.
EB: "Dionysian Love Massacre" features some vocals, a relative rarity thus far in the career of Stereo Nest. What sparked the desire to suddenly incorporate vocals more?
CJ: Yes this is the first time I had any sort of vocals on a track. It was a spur of the moment thing that I made with Riley Fink who was my girlfriend at the time when we first met. We kind of just did it for fun randomly and it actually ended up turning out pretty cool so I threw it on the record. This is the only time I have had any vocals like this on any of my records so far as it's not normally a part of the sound I am currently going after.
CJ: I hope he would! I built this track off a beat I had and then started playing some loops to it on my synth and guitar. I then fed those loops through my tape recorder and kept building on it, adding and taking away layers as it called for.
EB: "Disguised as Clouds" and other tracks have unique percussion patterns and variance, what is the importance of variation in rhythm to you? Why do you use nontraditional drum beats, and where do you draw inspiration from in this regard?
CJ: I think variation is key in all music. It helps keep the listener engaged and drive the music forward. As far as non traditional drum beats, I pull a lot of influence from progressive rock from the 70s such as Yes and Rush. I also love classical Indian music and tribal beats. They all process rhythm differently. I think it's fascinating how much you can innovate rhythm and strive to experiment and do the same within my own context.
EB: Some drums such as "Old Sleeper Man Shish" have more hip hop influenced drums, where did you source these?
CJ: If I remember correctly, I believe this is a beat I made on a drum machine I had at the time. I sent it through my tape recorder to dirty it up and it came out the other end having that quality.
EB: This record seemed to have more compact songs that the last, was that a concentrated effort?
CJ: Honestly I didn't give it much thought. I think I just had more ideas floating around that I was working with so I was able to get straight to the point with the ones that were working best.
EB: There’s definitely conceptual continuity between the first two Stereo Nest album covers. What’s the story with them, are they indeed related?
CJ: Yes they are. Both are pieces of art that I made and I kept the same quality between the two because they are both made entirely on a 4-track tape recorder and are more of lofi tapes than an actual studio album. I wanted to signify that with more of grassroots hand made artwork rather than digital art. My goal was to create something totally organic, experimental and DYI with these tapes.
Photo by Eileen Mowrey
EB: Parts of this record have a certain technology vs nature vibe, had this ever crossed your mind? "Tracks like Beware the Quiet Observer"..
CJ: Yup definitely. That is a huge goal of mine in general. I want to create music that is a balance between those two worlds. Part man, part machine. Cyborg music if you will. On this record in particular it was my first studio attempt at trying to achieve this and I consciously made that effort.
EB: "Bury You in Myself" provides some good examples of dynamic range in electronic music. How can musicians navigate the question of dynamics when working exclusively with machines?
CJ: I think you have to view it as achieving balance. No matter what you use or how you get there, you need to create balance. In order to do so dynamics are a part of the equation. Machines have dynamics in different ways. It's a little harder to achieve but can be done.
EB: I can hear some light trap influences on "Dubble Yorora", do you ever get into that side of things?
CJ: Yup for sure. As time went on this influence started coming out more and more. This was kind of my first step into that world and I really enjoy incorporating some of those sounds while also not going too overboard with it.
EB: This project seems to feature some more progressive sections, was there any thought to making things a little more complex this time ?
CJ: This was the first time I built tracks using Ableton so it definitely lent itself to being able to make more complex sections. I always enjoyed progressive music so I wanted to dive into that side of things a bit more.
EB: "Glob Module" sounds like it has some guitar looping, is this any significant part of the Stereo Nest sound?
CJ: Absolutely! A huge part of it. On this record I really started to develop a bunch of different methods where I can use loops and manipulate them through Ableton in different ways. Over time I have developed new techniques that has become a big part of the sound.
EB: "Lateral Language" and others feature more vocal samples than previous work. How do you feel that vocal samples are significant to electronic music?
EB: I think its very significant because it adds in something more recognizable for the listener to grasp onto amidst less recognizable and abstract electronic sounds. It's a good way to even it out and draw the listener in. A big influence for these chopped up and sampled vocals on this record is Deep Forest's debut album. When I first heard that record it blew my mind how he was using vocal samples to basically create another language onto it's own. Now that I was using Ableton I wanted to try to implement something like that.
Photo by Eileen Mowrey
EB: What’s the story with this record?
CJ: This is kind of a strange one off record (at this point). It is a collection of live recordings from my first couple of years. I plan to release more volumes soon. I have a collection of recordings I am currently sifting through to compile. With this series my goal is to show how the shows and general sound changes and develops over time. I am constantly changing my rig around, taking away and adding new sounds so I wanted to capture that over time.
EB: The album art is insanely trippy. Who did this and how?
CJ: This is a piece of art that I sat down and created with my good friend Christian Carbone using a program called Mandelbulb 3D. It's a program where you can build different 3D fractals, change colors and do all kinds of stuff. Then you can zoom in or out on any part of it infinitely and capture different things. I plan to use this method for each Volume of Live Trance-Formations to keep it cohesive.
EB: What’s the instrument setup that is used to achieve this “live” sound?
CJ: I'm actually not entirely sure what I was using throughout these recordings. My setup was changing so quickly it was hard to keep track. Partly because this was such an early time of me trying to figure out all the technology. I just kind of went for it at this point. My main goal was to fuse electronic sounds with guitar.
EB: This seems to be the shreddiest Stereo Nest record yet. Is this the general vibe of the Stereo Nest live experience?
CJ: Yea it is! I would say at this point my live shows don't sound much like this anymore, which is a part of the fun. When I started Stereo Nest I was only a guitar player and I slowly started putting things together to build my rig that I envisioned and branched away from guitar. As it turns out, since I was a guitarist first a lot of the early shows were more focused around the guitar and not so much the other stuff. Now though, I have delved into the technology so much that I have a lot more to say and do with that and not just the guitar. There are still moments where I dig in but now I use the guitar in a much more tasteful manner to compliment the rest of what's going on. When you are younger you just want to shred and then over time you realize you can kind of hit a wall with that and want be more minimal and do something else. I like this record for the sake of having it out there to show the evolution of my rigs and sound but in all honesty I would never play anything like this anymore haha. That's what's fun about it though, it's always changing and every live show is totally different. I was so used to playing in my bands and just shredding I didn't know anything else. I slowly learned to be more tasteful over time and the electronic sounds developed much further.
EB: In slowly evolving long form music like this, how do you deal with the split second changes? What happens if you make a mistake ?
CJ: The biggest thing is to not sweat it. Keep it moving and fix whatever is not going right and before you know it you have moved on to something else. The audience forgets about a mistake immediately once you have them into the next thing. Also you have to remember the audience isn't going to notice half of the mistakes you think you made. Confidence is key.
EB: Again, the album art is incredible. A theme of electronic music that I have noticed is innovative and interesting cover art, could you expand upon this?
CJ: Absolutely. It seems to be a thing with electronic music and honestly I don't know why haha. I just love good art, make visual art myself and can appreciate it. I like to try to put it all together into an aesthetic package. For this record I used a favorite artist of mine, Oleg Postivit and had him make something that reflected the music. It turned out amazing and is something I could never even imagine being able to make digitally.
EB: This record seems to be focusing more toward a “wet” sound, was this ever a point of emphasis for you?
CJ: It was never a point of emphasis consciously. I think I just like that type of sound and the way it makes it all blend together.
EB: I think that there are a few threads of modern “trap” sounds on this record in the form of rattling hi hats and dirty bass drums sounds. Is that type of music anything that excited you around the time this record was made? Or is it more the idea of new sounds subconsciously seeping into an artist’s work?
CJ: I think at this point it was subconscious. I always liked those elements but was never really big into it. I was listening to totally different stuff at this time. Over the years though I started listening more and it becomes more apparent in my work. I never want to go full trap though, or any genre for that matter. I love putting it all together in a unique fusion you can't get anywhere else.
EB: There are definitely some glitchy sounding drums on certain tracks, “Elder Ladder” for example. How are some of these glitchy sounding effects achieved?
CJ: Honestly, I can't tell you the specifics because I don't remember haha. It was a series of effects and plugins that I put on the beat to give it variation. I also manually chopped it up a bunch in certain sections.
EB: “Gradient Peak” shows some rare up-tempo Stereo Nest. Have you always gravitated towards the less breakneck side of electronic music? What are your thoughts on fast styles like Drum and Bass?
CJ: I actually love old school drum and bass. I'd really like to do more in that realm honestly. I think for me though what comes out naturally isn't stuff like that but I'd like to consciously go outside of my comfort zone in the future and make more tracks like this.
Photo by Eileen Mowrey
EB: I’d have to say that this is the most avant-garde release to date, in terms of music and presentation. Why were you feeling like making something so experimental? Do you think you ended up with something different and original?
CJ: Oh definitely, this is by far the most experimental album I have ever put out. It came about as a fluke. As I was making "Inkiteka", I had my rig next to me and to break up time staring at the computer I would go over to my rig and do some improv for something more hands on and based in reality. Once I had something interesting happening with all the loops, I decided to record some of it into my 4-track tape recorder like how I made my older records, but with my new live setup. I just did it for fun really and didn't think it would develop into anything. As I listened back to the tape though, some of it really caught my ear. As it stood alone it wasn't album worthy but there was definitely something there. Then I had the idea to put the recordings from my tape into Ableton and chop it up and add to it. So, this record is kind of a fusion of old and new techniques. It has a very organic and dirty sound from the tape but also a glitchy chopped up sound from using Ableton and adding in other synths that weren't sent through the tape recorder.
EB: Truly, there are some robot-esque sounds on “Snkskn”. What are you using to make those, some kind of celestial ring mod? How long do you think it will be before robots can play jazz?
CJ: I'm not entirely sure! I think I was sending some synths and a drum machine through a master effects processor that I had mapped out to a fader and messed with it. As far as robots playing jazz I think you can argue it might already be happening!
EB: The overall length of this album is quite short. Everything seems very deliberate and concise. Was this a deliberate attempt at making something more stripped back, or is that just how things fell together?
CJ: A little bit of both I guess. It kind of just fell together like that but I also realized it was happening that way so I decided to make each track dense and pack it into short bursts.
EB: What kind of mental space does creating a song like “Bwdwn” take you to?
CJ: I wanted to make something that was gritty, dark, mysterious and swampy. The combination of acoustic guitar and heavily distorted bass definitely gets at that.
EB: This record seems to have a long form feel to it, not unlike what I imagine the Stereo Nest live experience could be like. Have many of these tracks become live favorites?
CJ: "Horrorscope", "Glossolalia" and "Fly Angelic" are definitely live favorites and get played a lot. I used to start most shows off with "Fly Angelic" just to get the energy going from the get go. Also before I released this record my live shows were 100% improvised. I consciously made this record to have some tracks that could be played live along with the improv. I wanted to be able to play a more diverse show and have moments where I could play more of my studio stuff as well.
EB: “Ultimate Possession,” “Orbweaver,” and other tracks have some Black Moth Super Rainbow/Tobacco vibes with the vocoded vocals. What made you want to explore that kind of space? For sure! I love Tobacco and Black Moth. Definitely a huge influence on me in general so I've always gravitated towards that sort of thing because of them.
EB: What kind of equipment are you using to produce this vocoder vocal style?
CJ: It really depends on the track. I used a variety of combinations of synths through different vocoders. I also wouldn't want to give it away! haha
EB: On “Horrorscope” I hear a bit of jumping back and forth between atonal sounds and thematic, almost anthemic sounds. How do you think one can go about occupying two such spaces without making the transitions too abrupt?
CJ: I think this track in particular is more of a journey. Things just kind of morph and blend into each other. That helps not making any transition too abrupt because you have the time and space to morph between the two worlds without changing too quickly. It's all about observing balance.
EB: I like the Eastern sounds on “A Human Within,” what are you doing to create these sounds?
CJ: That was a sound I made from sampling a vinyl I found in a record store that was of Indian chanting. I put it into Ableton, chopped it up and added a bunch of stuff to it.
EB: "Cannibal Tooth" is nearly Hip-Hop adjacent, what made you want to jump in that direction?
CJ: I honestly have no idea. I had the beat and then all of a sudden I had words popping into my head. That is something that had never happened before but I decided to follow it. I was back and forth on whether or not I should try to attempt something so different like that but in the end it came together really nice and still had the Stereo Nest aesthetic.
EB: Do you have some backwards loops going in "Situational Loyalty"? Elaborate if you can on the art of backwards recording techniques!