“THIS RECORD WAS MADE A LOT LIKE THE OLD ‘70s fusion records: get a bunch of great players in a room and just go at it. We came in to the studio with no ideas and we manifested everything in the moment during the week that we recorded.” That’s how OHMphrey guitarist and Umphrey’s McGee stalwart Jake Cinninger views OHMphrey’s second album, Posthaste [Magna Carta]. As the name might very well suggest, the band is composed of some OHM guys and some Umphrey’s guys. Cinninger, along with fusion maestro Chris Poland, 6-string fretless bass madman Robertino “Pag” Pagliari, keyboardist Joel Cummins, and drummer Kris Myers crank out mostly improvised tunes that sound surprisingly composed, creating a stew of jazz, rock, funk, metal, blues, reggae, and more, with astounding guitar solos sprinkled liberally throughout.
Can you describe your guitar roles in this band?
Poland: I do a lot of legato. I do a lot of whole- note pad stuff. I like sound effects. Jake is originally a drummer so his right hand is like a machine. He’s a very staccato player and he takes care of all that stuff that I just wouldn’t even really know how to do. I don’t even know if I could physically do it. I know this is a really broad stroke here, but I can compare us to Dickey Betts and Duane Allman. Dickey Betts was a very staccato player and Duane Allman was a very legato player. Not that we sound anything like them, but that was the ﬁ rst thing that came to mind.
Cinninger: Chris is a little bit more on the slippery, legato, Jan Hammer side of things when it comes to soloing. I do more of an Al Di Meola, Tommy Bolin picky kind of thing, using a little more of my right hand. It’s a nice pairing of two styles.
For a band with such amazing technique, there sure is a lot of space in these tunes.
Poland: That’s what’s so great about the band. Between Jake, Kris, Pag, and myself, everybody is always listening—listening to what they should and shouldn’t do, when to lay out, and when to be on. I think that’s the secret ingredient: We want it to be open like that so it’s not just a bunch of gobbledygook.
Cinninger: Because we only had a week to record and come up with these songs, that kept everything in its infant state. We didn’t have time to add too much to the songs because we had to get this done. It sounded so great and open.
The new record starts out pretty heavy with “Devil’s in the Details.” How did that song come together?
Cinninger: That particular song was left until the end of the session. I had an idea of recording a bunch of small snippets and messing around with them later in Pro Tools. So we came up with 25 different little riffs and recorded them all at the same tempo to a click track with the plan that later we could splice them together and make this crazy montage of riffs. When it was done it really spoke to us, so we decided to start the whole record off with that one.
Poland: Basically Jake told Kris, “This many beats per minute and we’re just going to keep doing idea after idea after idea.” I came up with all these wannabe Megadeth-style riffs and I was just having fun. It turned out we used a lot of them. I think it took all of 20 minutes to lay down all the tracks. Then Jake and Manny Sanchez went back to Chicago and basically cut and pasted the whole thing together and made a song out of it.
The angular breakdown that comes in around 5:15 has some really interesting note choices.
Cinninger: That was a total Frank Zappa mentality. We took a sentence, something like, “You should eat carrots, they are really good for you,” and we just played that sentence on our instruments in random notes. We recorded that 30 times and chose the best ten or so. We wanted to see what we could get out of almost nothing. It’s like doing the old Beatles thing—chop up the tape, throw it up in the air, and see what you got later. Some almost sounded like chords. It was like they were meant to happen, but it was a complete freak of nature.
Poland: I wasn’t even in the room when they started it. I heard them play it and I ran inside really quick and got my two cents in. I knew what they were going for. Let’s just freak out and then we’ll see if it works, and it did. That’s the thing about jamming. It’s just a magic that you can’t duplicate twice.
The whole record sounds very live. You’ve mentioned some Pro Tools edits, but how much punching in and overdubbing did you do on this album?
Cinninger: We didn’t go back and overdub anything, actually. As far as the solos and everything like that, everything was taken from live takes in the studio. So when Chris nailed a solo and mine was next, I knew I had better get a good one! It’s like the Billy Cobham Spectrum record or all the old Tommy Bolin stuff. They just grabbed the best take, and that’s the way we did it.
Poland: It’s so nerve-wracking. You’re thinking, “Okay, don’t blow it.” When you’re there, you know when it’s the take. I swear the hair on your head stands up. I think there is only one punch on the whole record, something that Jake did in Chicago that kind of sounds like a sequencer. When I heard it I thought, “I don’t even know how he’s doing that. I’m listening to it and thinking, “That’s his drummer thing. He’s basically playing drums on his strings right now.” I don’t know anybody else who could have done that.
You both are pretty bold with your use of effects on this record. What gear did you rely on?
Cinninger: The beauty of living today is that guitar effects sound better than ever. I still love those straight-into-a-Marshall tones but I think for a futuristic metal/fusion/jazz/ rock thing, we had to have a few effects in there. I used my little ﬂy pedalboard, which has a Boss Delay, Boss Flanger, and a Bad Horsie Wah. I’m pretty simple. Chris and Joel are more the pedal effect-y ones. For guitars, I didn’t play my G&Ls. I was playing one of Chris’ Yamaha SBGs into a new Line 6 amp. It was something we had rented for a few live shows at the Baked Potato. I just found a nice Fender-y sound, ran my pedals in front of it, and it seemed to work. I just plug in and let the hands do all the work at the end of the day.
Poland: Obviously I have the big rack. Jake had like ﬁve pedals and even though he’s just using stuff that everybody in America owns, he was coming up with unique stuff. I use a 1210 TC Chorus, and one thing I did on this record was make sure that if they only used one side of it, that it wasn’t the side that has that weird kind of out-of-phase chorus that it does when you don’t have both sides up. Then if they were just panning hard left, hard right on the guitars, at least my guitar had a little bit of wobble on it but it wasn’t going to be crazy and weird. For amps, I was using the red face Egnater, the IE-4. I think it’s one of the ﬁ rst 50 he made or something like that. I run it into a 25-year-old Engl 2x100 tube power amp. It’s all EL 34s and it’s the best sounding power amp I’ve ever heard.
What can do from a guitar standpoint in OHMphrey that you can’t do in the other bands you play with?
Poland: You know what the beauty of OHMphrey is? I can actually sit down and think for a second. There are enough players in the room that I can lay out at times. In a three-piece format, you’re always thinking two seconds ahead. You’re always on. But with Jake and Joel there to ﬁ ll up space, I can actually sit there and say, “What can I do now to complement this section or this moment?” I don’t get that luxury with OHM.
Cinninger: I would say I can cut loose a little more in this band. With Umphrey’s there’s a particular sound I’m going for—a little more of a “light-hearted, cover as many styles as possible” thing. With OHMphrey, I can take a little bit more of a gunslinger approach. It’s a real guitar-heavy thing, so I can really step forward and blaze as hard as possible. It’s fun.