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?