Shelby Cinca is a music maker with many voices. Often, when a person is known for a distinct sound, remnants of that sound can be found in other projects that follow. This is not the case with Cinca. After the spazz core group he founded in the 90’s, Frodus, disbanded in 1999, Cinca went on to form The Cassettes, Travelers of Tyme and Triobelisk. Since moving from Washington DC to Sweden, he has started the digital label Swedish Columbia, which includes artists from DC, Sweden and elsewhere. Cinca does graphic design and has also served as an engineer on many projects, a job which is taking up more and more of his time. He has also released a new EP with his Travelers of Tyme which hasn’t released music in quite some time.
Through these different channels, Shelby has created a massive body of work with a precision that many artists do not have in one genre, let alone the groundbreaking work Cinca often creates. Between each project, whether it’s his retro-future DJ jams or his punk rock inspired yelps over fuzzed out guitars, Cinca is a musician and artist aware of every detail. His full on immersion into new ways of musical distribution are at the forefront of what is to come, home-grown labels and brands that benefit the artists who create them, not the media giants who seek only to profit from them’s. While he is quite aware of what a brand can do, his years as a graphic designer informing those capabilities, Cinca is not interested in a faceless relationship. It is the share and share alike nature of Swedish Columbia and all his ventures that truly puts him at the front of the pack.
SC: The label started originally as a flagship to release some t-shirts that my friend Håkan from Division Of Laura Lee and I were working on. The brand eventually morphed to release electronic records by friends from 90s punk bands that wouldn’t otherwise see the light of day. Word spread amongst my peers after I began making my own electronic tunes out of necessity to create some sort of music while on tour. I found out as soon as I started sharing my creations with friends that I wasn’t alone with this and many of my peers made it known that they also want to release something and then it naturally evolved to friends of friends, etc…
SC: Bandcamp was a no brainer decision because everything about it is user-friendly. For DJ types who want super high-quality they can get FLAC and the mp3s are at 320k which is still higher than iTunes and most everyone else. I found Bandcamp soon after their launch and everything about it made sense to me as it solved many problems simultaneously– getting the records out there for “Choose Your Own Price”, an embeddable widget for my website, full-song streaming, downloadable extras, and very detailed statistics.
KYS: What type of response have you gotten utilizing Bandcamp and the pay what you want model?
SC: Itaru was the drummer from Atomic Fireball whom Frodus did a split 7″ with in 1999. We kept in contact over the years after touring back in 1999 and he would send me some of the electronic music he was working on occasion. He didn’t have a solid plan with his own music as far as releasing it and I stepped in and offered to help. He’s definitely one of my favorite artists I work with since I feel he has a really unique and challenging approach to what he does.
KYS: One of your post-Frodus projects has been Triobelisk, which feels like video game music and post-culture dance music. I know you started making that music on tour with Frodus and the Cassetes, but you’ve continued to grow with it. What does working in that capacity offer you that some of the more traditional bands you’ve been in can’t?
SC: Triobelisk offers me a way to be in total control of all the decisions and trajectory of it. I can get as nerdy sci-fi gamey with it as I choose which is lots of fun for me. It has opened my mind in approaching instrumental music and making video-game inspired tracks that could work being DJ’ed or just listened to. I’ve also heavily enjoyed interfacing with different music programs– in particular Ableton Live. It’s really one of the only programs where you can fluidly jam with your own ideas quickly which is very rewarding and it pushes composition + creative sound exploration in more musical ways than in sound-engineer ways as other programs tend to do. Being that within the music and music-software alters how one thinks about sound/composing in ways that a band doesn’t. It is very structured due to it being on a computer so it makes you start thinking a little like that even when you are playing with humans.
KYS: The other thing I’ve been really drawn to with Swedish Columbia, aside from the music and the democratic distribution method is the art work for the releases. Each artist has a distinct visual quality, but all are really intense. Can you talk about some of the graphic artists you work with?
SC: Since all you are getting is a square for the artwork I really try and make the covers count. I have done many of the covers but for a while at the beginning of the label I was working with this Finnish artist Sakke Soini to do all the artwork. He is a photoshop wizard and established the aesthetic of Swedish Columbia with some of the first key releases such as: Jonathan Kreinik and his dystopian mini-soundtrack “Return to Precinct 13”, Triobelisk “1” and Tanimura Midnight “s/t”. I have also used some illustrators such as a comic artist Chris Faccone for the Triobelisk character in “Brain Traveller” and Kurt Lightner (http://flavors.me/kurtlightner) for the new Itaru EP.
KYS: Travelers of Tyme, your project with former Frodus Alumni Jim Cooper recently released a new EP. How did that come about? Had you and Jim been wanting to do this for a while?
SC: Yeah! Jim and I wanted to do this ever since we recorded the first Travelers of Tyme in 1995. Jim moved to Chicago to go to college soon after we recorded the first Frodus album “Molotov Cocktail Party” and we only saw each-other during subsequent summer/winter-breaks so it became hard for us to actually pull off a lot sessions but we did all we could to fit in a few back then. We actually did one remote track for a compilation CD “An Evening in Nivram: A Tribute to The Shadows” in 1996 where we recorded drums and guitars on Jonathan Kreinik’s open-reel 8 track in Arlington, VA and mailed him the tape to Chicago to record the rest. I guess that was a shape of things to come as technology caught up over the past 14 years during our inactivity so now its easy to work remotely.
KYS: Also recently you and Jason Hammacher released some new Frodus music with Liam Wilson from Dillenger Escape Plan on bass. You worked with Baltimore producer Joe Mitra, who has been doing a lot of great work with a lot of local bands. How did that session go for you guys?
SC: The session was awesome! Joe was the perfect fit for it as he was an old school fan and knew 100% where we were coming from. We all inspired each-other in a positive way to achieve the best we could do. It really couldn’t have gone better. And in true Frodus fashion we even had some mad-cap happenings like Jason’s car-battery dying and having to sleep in the studio one night and then the next day having to push the car out of the garage while interacting with odd street denizens and having a rap-battle!
KYS: I’ve read you guys are possibly working on more music under the moniker Frodus Sound Laboratories. With you in Sweden and Jason in DC, is this mostly a digital collaboration? Are you guys passing tracks back and forth by email?
SC: Nah- Jason hasn’t had much time to set up a home recording setup and I think we work best by jamming in the same room taking cues from each-others’ musical signals. So we need to block off time to create. We haven’t done anything in 2010 but I hope to start some sonic experiments in 2011.
KYS: I also read that you and Jason are working with a bunch of different guys from Refused and Darkest Hour. Any chance of collaborating with Nathan Burke? Part of why I ask is it seems both yours and his post-Frodus bands have had similarities in aesthetic. As a fan I’d be really interested to see what the three of you would come up with.
SC: We’re open to it if he has time so we’ll have to see if things align with everyone’s schedules/lives.