Cinchel is the moniker and household name of Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist, scientist, concert patriot and every cat's best friend Jason Shanley. In this in-depth interview, Cinchel takes the time to cover the cautious origins of his career as an artist, his ability to create versatile gouache-based artworks, the oscillation between multiplex layers and quiescent silence as well as the best physical format for the right song. Join Cinchel in delineating the innermost nature of his Drone-oriented guitar-crafted Ambient works which, more often than not, are grafted onto the most intruiging barycenter: a luring leeway loop.
Photograph by Lindsey Best — lindseybest.com
All that to say, mostly self taught on guitar, recording techniques, computer software. While I mostly perform live using guitar I do play a bit of keyboard at home. I have a Fender Rhodes, a melodica, a glockenspiel and the previously mentioned violin.
Around the fall of 2010 Leonardo Rosado asked me to make an EP for the net label Public Spaces Lab. Paginated Overflow was the first time I set out to release a set of songs that I wanted to have some flow or common thread to them. I enjoyed that experience of collating these tracks and I noticed that people seemed to take to a “release” better then a stream of random one off tracks i would upload to a website. From that point forward I focused my thoughts on this idea of cohesive releases. I still would record a lot and save a lot but then I would go back and decided “oh, these four tracks here and this track there and this other track, they seem to be getting at the same idea: let's make a release from that!”
Over the month of Janurary 2012 I recorded and mixed the three tracks. My first setback came when I finished the mixes and the total runtime of the three pieces would not fit well on two sides of a 45rpm 12 inch and were too short for a 33 1/3 rpm 12 inch! I didn’t have anything more i wanted to record to just fill up the sides; I like the idea of 45rpm because the fidelity is a bit better. After a week of listening and editing I finally sent the tracks to my friend Samuel in Montreal (you may know him as @le_berger on Twitter). He listened and suggested some places to edit. It was a real eureka moment. His edits made so much sense and really made the tracks click together. Also, his edits made it so that I could nicely fit two tracks on side A and the longer track nicely on side B, all at 45rpm.
Sending the tracks off to Taylor Deupree to get mastered was pretty uneventful. He did an excellent job (obviously) and by early March I could send out the tracks to the pressing plant. The only setback came when the first master plates were made. I guess something was wrong with the first A-side master they made and it had to be re-cut. I got the first set of test pressings and they accidentally re-cut side-A at 33 1/3rpm. Not a huge deal. I asked them to make a new plate at the correct desired speed which they did at no charge and really only slowed down production by another two weeks. As I was releasing this myself I didn’t really have a hard deadline I was sticking to and didn’t mind the delay as it meant then that the record would be pressed how I wanted it.
I was kinda nervous about the reaction of the press, mostly because I thought to myself people are going to say "who's this kid?!, thinking he can just up an put out a record on his own. He hasn't earned that!" That didn't happen, thankfully. Overall the response was positive and that gave me the energy to continue. I'm still proud of the record, even if I haven't listened to it at all since I put it out.
Is this a blueprint for things to come? Kinda. I mean, I do stuff that interests me. What i liked about the WNUR recording was unique because I was totally alone. My wife and a friend were there but I sent them to the control room. It was just me in this studio, facing my amps. Playing really incredibly loud.
I think this connection with space is something i’ve been fascinated with since I was a kid. I read a lot of sci-fi and would day dream (like many) of being an astronaut. Being born in 1978 and my grammar school being named after Neil Armstrong (I'm not sure why: I don’t think he has any connection to my city. I believe it's just because the school was built the year of the moon landing, 1969) the dream of space exploration was always there. I learned some basic drawning techniques from a TV program that mostly focused on drawing these really creative alien worlds. My imagination is often about space so its fitting that when I listen to some of my stuff and need to name it, I pull from that well. It's one I’ve spent many mind hours in.
That said: I do often record the guitar straight into the computer, bypassing all that amp/room business. In addition I don’t have a real studio where i can record at concert volume, so equally important has been learning how to mic and mix at a reasonable volume and living with those “weird” room sounds. All these constraints are actually blessings as they force another aspect of creativity that keeps the whole process interesting.
For guitars I only have two and only recently (in the last six months) got the second one. My staple guitar is a 2003 Gibson SG which is a great all around guitar. The two pickups and the fixed bridge give it plenty of room to explore. The other guitar is a ’65 Fender Jazz Master that basically fulfills a long dream I’ve had of owning one. It is also a floating bridge with a whammy bar, thus allowing me some interesting detuning effects I can’t achieve with the SG.
While it's cold four months out of the year here, there is no place else i would rather be. It's a big city but without the pretense of some place like NYC or LA; there are decent rooms to play and wonderful support all around.
Vinyl, CD, tape, digital-only, you seem to embrace all of these “platforms” equally. Which format suits your visions best? Do you alter compositions once you know which label picks up the gems?
I don’t really have like a ton of labels knocking at my door though, so mostly I release digital with the idea of self releasing something physical once a year, mostly because I like to make paintings, record sleeves, or for A House… the photo zine and velum envelope.
Reign Water is all just the MicroBrute synth; it is a monophonic synth, meaning it can only play one note at a time. I'm used to thinking in chords coming from a guitar, so I set out to write all these melody lines that I could layer over each other to get all these weird moving chords.
In both I wanted to create “drone” music in so much as they could be listened to in a variety of ways and still provide something of interest. each track on A House… is actually meant to loop for as long as the listener wants. That's why it's a digital-only release!
This question may seem dumb and I really try not to mention that hideous movement called Eurodance in here (oops!), but is there a genre or alloy you severely love but would never consider as an inspirational base for the Cinchel moniker?
The last question is about your own upcoming arrangements: in which way is your sound going to differ? You have hinted at an upcoming drum-based – or drum-oriented – release. Do we look back in the near future and divide your works into early Drone, mid Glitch and late Noise sectors?
Lately I have been focusing on even more density, putting more things in the stew as it were, really challenging my mixing skills. I also want to pull back and try to make something that has more silence. Creating silence is really hard. I want to learn how to do that better.
I'm also going to try and work on more things with others. Long distance or short distance collaborations. We’ll see if anything works out.