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Massive Chops Bayliss went to Illinois University for a little while for classical gui-

tar. Kris has the most extensive background as far as schooling goes.
Jake Cinninger of Umphrey's McGee I went out to Berklee for a little while. I took classical guitar for
eight years from a guy named Jerry Zupko in South Bend (Indiana).
by Adam St. James That's kind of where I got my tack.

Jam band and prog-rock heroes take notice: Umphrey's McGee is You and Brendan do most of the songwriting
coming to a stage near you and they're wielding massive chops. Cinninger: Yeah. And I do most of the lead guitar work, usually. And a
Guitarists Jake Cinninger and Brendan Bayliss may be simply two of lot of backgrounds. I sing two lead vocals. I sing lead on the country
the most advanced young players on the post-2K music scene. The tune, "Bullhead City," and "Mulche's Odyssey." It's nice to break it up
whole Chicago-based band is, in fact, pretty damn musically adept. a little bit. Since we have so many songs, the vocal duties get spread
With Anchor Drops, the groups third release, Umphrey's McGee has around. We have, I think, close to 85 originals by now, and probably
really laid down an impressive collection which demands attention. 12 or 13 in the works. Right now we're ready to do another album.

The disc, which hit store shelves at the end of June, is also the And your latest disc, Anchor Drops, just came out June
group's first on SCI Fidelity, the label owned and operated by 2004 29th (2004).
Lollapalooza headliners, String Cheese Incident. If you haven't Cinninger: Right.
heard of UM, chances are they'll be playing a club or theater nearby
soon - the band plays more than 150 shows per year and will look to How long had Umphrey's been playing around the
increase that pace with this new release. And if you can't catch them Chicago area before you went national?
near your hometown, you can always book your cabin on Jam Cinninger: I came here about late 2000. My band, Ali Baba's Tahini,
Cruise 3, sailing the sunny waters of the Bahamas next January disbanded. We were a three-piece, kind of progressive rock outfit,
(2005), with Umphrey's and many other great jam- and improv- kind of like King's X, or McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra. Fun,
based acts on board. (See link below). kind of funky at times. That band broke up, and Brendan had always
said, 'Man, if your band ever breaks up, bring all your songs over and spoke with Cinninger in mid-July about his own musical let's redo this thing.' So it was fun. It was a challenge for me to learn
journey, which he says got off to a quick and early start; his attitude the bulk of their songs, and a challenge for them to make more
of keeping his gear simple; and the music scenes in Chicago and arrangements of these old Ali Baba's Tahini. We just joined forces,
South Bend, Indiana - home of Notre Dame University and the nurs- and it's been great to bring a little bit of what I had to offer. We were
ery from which Umphrey's McGee sprang to life. all good friends. We all came from the same area. We were just in dif-
ferent bands, and we always used to play together at parties and gigs. Jake, both you and Brendan Bayliss are clearly highly
skilled players. Where is all this highly technical riffing coming In Michigan, before you moved to Chicago?
from? What are your influences? Cinninger: Yeah, in Michigan. It (our history) goes back like five or six years.
Jake Cinninger: Well a lot of stems from a lot of record collecting
since I could barely look in bins. My parents were fairly keen on lis- What part of Michigan?
tening to good music, so I kind of acquired their record collection, Cinninger: Right over the Indiana border from Notre Dame. That's
which consisted of anything from Weather Report to Zappa to Little where a lot of the guys went to school. We kind of created a little
Feat to John Lee Hooker. Pretty much a little bit of everything. I was music scene in South Bend, Indiana. It was kickin' back in the day.
really almost a rock snob at an early age, 10 or 11 or 12. I really
knew good music back in the day, and still collect a ton of music And Umphrey's McGee is signed to a record label
today, just a ton of different things. owned by jam band String Cheese Incident, correct?
Cinninger: Yeah, SCI Fidelity. I definitely hear some Zappa, and some Yes, and maybe
some early Genesis. I suppose you've played plenty of shows with those guys?
Cinninger: Yeah, all the early prog-rock stuff. Cinninger: No, we haven't, actually. We're friends with those guys,
we've been at festivals together, but we haven't played a show together. Are you guys schooled, musically? It was their record people who contacted us - Kevin Morris - and they
Cinninger: Yeah. Everyone kind of knows Kris, our drummer, has his have a completely different facility from the band. It's like a different
masters in jazz. I wanted to cut my teeth early and didn't really dig the entity from the band. They use that name. But we really wanted to get
college curriculum for music. I figured I could learn more out playing the album out, we didn't want to wait around for big label crap. These
in a live setting. I've been playing every weekend since I was like 12, guys were like, 'Let's get it out there now, it's been a year and a half
whether it be a rock band or whatever. Where I grew up in Michigan we for us since we'd released something, [Editor's note: Umphrey's
used to play roadhouses three nights a week, five sets a night. McGee self-released Local Band Does O.K. in 2002.] and we needed
it now more than ever. They just jumped on it and gave us a really From your early teens? good deal. It was a sweet thing for us. It wasn't like big label pressure.
Cinninger: Yeah. I'd be playing with older cats most of the time, and We could get it out there, everybody makes a little money, and that's
they would just hire me. I was in like 17 or 18 different bands, just pretty much how it goes. It's not a big deal where we're tied in.
even through my teens. That's where I learned. Everyone else - What do you have in the works for tour plans? Do you have any tips for guitar players on using effects?
Cinninger: Tomorrow we leave for the East Coast for two weeks, and Cinninger: I would say keep it simple. It starts with the wood as they
then we go back down South, when school kicks in. Then we'll do a always say. A good amp and a good piece of wood. I always go into a
West Coast thing. We pretty much hit every place at least twice a year. compression pedal first. I go directly out of the guitar and the first
We've pretty much been tour rats for the past couple years. We do up to thing in line is the compressor. It's on all the time. Use your ears: If it
150 shows a year, all over the country. It keeps us busy. We're pretty doesn't sound right, always pull back. Less is more, obviously. And I
much playing a gig every other day. don't like people who use tons of reverb on their live rigs. You're
already in a room (with lots of reverb, probably). Oh, and the big Well, that's good for your chops. secret to my tone is the Sennheiser 421. That's what I mic up my amp
Cinninger: Yeah, it is. There's a lot of data storage with our music (laughs) with. I've had a pair of those for 20 years. That's the be-all, end-all. Right, there's a lot of complex stuff to remember So you put two of them on?
Cinninger: Yeah. It keeps us intact. It keeps the band running like a well- Cinninger: No, I'll just use one. If we do two mics I'll use a condens-
oiled machine. In fact, we just got off a three-week break, and the first er mic and a dynamic.
gig was like, 'Whoops!' A little sloppy. But as long as everyone practices
at home and keeps up on their chops, it keeps us pretty consistent. How do you place the mic on your amp?
Cinninger: I put it just off of the center, right on it. We both live in Chicago. How do you feel about the
Chicago music scene right now? Pointing straight in?
Cinninger: I love it. It's really diverse. And there's a lot of really deep Cinninger: Yep.
jazz and blues. As far as our scene goes, there's just not a lot of the jam
thing. But it goes everywhere. It can be a tough town to play music in. And right up against the grill cloth?
If you don't have the support of the community, you're kind of screwed. Cinninger: Yep.
It's just there's so much information here to take in, and everyone is so
busy, they may not have the time to come out and see you. I'm very And what about recording? I know you did a few differ-
thankful to be as far as we are in such a short time. Dedicated fans and ent studios on this record. Did you use all the same guitar gear?
listeners are what it's all about. Cinninger: Well, we wanted a bunch of different colors, so we used a
bunch of different amps and guitars and stuff like that. But I mainly just Let's talk about your gear. What are you playing these used a Marshall. And I used an old ES-335 on a couple tracks, and a Les
days, as far as guitars, amps, and pedals? Paul Jr. on the first track, on the riff where I needed that tight, humbucker
Cinninger: I mainly play G&L guitars. That's what I've been playing since sound. Other than that we just went Pro Tools and then took it to Gravity
I started playing electrics. I started with an old, early Strat copy - the Studios and dumped it through a Neve console down to two-inch tape. So
G&L Legacy. And I've got a G&L ASAT (which is shaped like a Tele). then we could really edit it properly. And then we bounced it back to Pro
Right now my favorite, over the past three years, has been my G&L S- Tools. So we sweetened everything up to tape, ran it through this mid-'70s
500, the butterscotch and black one. I like simple guitars, single coils. Neve console that Steely Dan did Aja and Gaucho on - the actual desk they
My amps are a mid-'80s, Marshall JCM800 combo, a 50-watt 2x12 did those albums on. You could hear the air (or the sound of the board in
combo. I've had it since I was 12 (laughs). It's my one and only amp it's quiet state). We pretty much just went two-inch tape back to Pro Tools
that's been modified. I've got some old Jensen's in there now. so we could edit, and then we went from that to ? inch tape. So we got the
tape sound on the album, which is kind of what we were going for. What mods did you make?
Cinninger: I just had it redone. It's been really beat, so I had all the So you did all your basic tracks in Pro Tools, then went
tubes checked and replaced. And some guy said, 'If we put this in it to tape just for the compression and tone of tape, then brought it
will do this' And I said, 'All right, as long as it sounds good.' back to Pro Tools to edit?
As far as pedals I keep it simple. I've got three overdrive pedals. One I Cinninger: Yep. And it really just blew the mix wide open. It's that big
keep on all the time, even for clean settings. It's called a Cold Fusion trick of going from the digital domain to the analog world, where your
pedal. I think it's from Bonzai pedals. It sends like 60 dB of clean gain mix all the sudden gains this "air," a quality you can't get from digital.
to your amps, so if you're using Strats or whatever, it really works with
weaker pickups. It gets this slightly growly, snappy sound on your That's a great recording tip.
clean sound. I compress it with an MXR comp. And that's pretty much Cinninger: Yeah. I think the album has that natural tape compression
the start of my tone. I leave that overdrive on all the time; my clean sound on it. You can hear the passage of tape, the little bit of noise.
tone is fairly dirty. It's got a kind of Stevie Ray Vaughan grit. But it's like, 'fuck it, leave the noise.'
And then I use an old Boss OD-1 overdrive for my first phase distor-
tion, and then for my second phase I've got an MXR Double Shot. I like That one picture in the back of the booklet that comes
the second channel in the Double Shot it's real Warren Haynes-like: real with Anchor Drops, the picture with the micro Marshall and the big
thick, super meaty. And I run a phaser, a Bad Horsey Morley (wah), and condenser mic in front of it - did you actually record something that
my favorite pedal of all time is this little Guyatone Micro-Delay, the lit- way, or did you just do the photo 'cause it looks funny?
tle blue delay pedal. It fits in palm of your hand and sounds super Cinninger: (laughs) That was a photo op. It was like, 'Where's the
trashy. Trashy delay is likewhy would you want a clean replication? biggest, most expensive mic in the room? Let's use that.'
You want it to get nasty, like with a rock lead. You want it to have that
gritty, regenerated delay, rather than a digital sound. That's it. Too cool. Hey man, thanks for your time and have fun
on the road this year.
Cinninger: No problem man, thank you.