the mad heiress interview:
shane cotee of the adaptive & in the branches
mh: why do you make music? how did you start? where there any albums or musical pieces that served as inspiration to get started?
sc: i have an uncontrollable urge to create music with whatever instruments (or even non-instruments) are around. it started when i was a kid around 10-11 years old, when a few of my friends and i got into my parents' bedroom and one of the older kids grabbed my dad's guitar. he did a quick "slide" down the neck and everyone got a kick out of it. i said, "let me try!" and completely fumbled it. my friends laughed. sliding was harder than it looked. a switch had gone off, though -- i was going to learn how to play guitar. i haven't stopped since; playing guitar nearly every day for over 20 years.i'm very lucky to have hippy parents with great taste in music. some of my earliest memories are of hanging out in our cabin in the arizona mountains, listening to vinyl classics from pink floyd, the doors, andreas vollenweider, led zeppelin, etc. my oldest sister also opened my eyes to tons of music when she was in high school. stuff like technotronic, the beastie boys, metallica, megadeth, and faith no more, and nirvana really made an impact on me. i soon stopped collecting baseball cards and started collecting tapes & cd's. the first albums to profoundly affect my life were metallica - ride the lightning and faith no more - the real thing. the blending of metal and rock with all those other musical styles was very fascinating to me, and still is.
mh: is guitar the only instrument you typically use?
sc: the guitar is definitely my main instrument, but i like to spice things up. i've played piano/keys for about 15 years, am an okay drummer/percussionist, and am quickly getting into playing wind instruments like native american flute and shakuhachi. i love collecting samples of anything that sounds weird or interesting, and i use any excuse possible to utilize unusual/foreign instruments and sounds in my songs.
mh: could you describe your process as far as layering- do you start with a constant sound and layer on top of that? do you have different approaches to layering, depending on the mood?
sc: my process for creating in the branches songs is usually fast, unpredictable, and fairly effortless. this is a stark contrast to how long it used to take me to release music (if at all) in the past. here's the quick version of how most of my ambient songs are created: i start off by picking out one of my electric or acoustic guitars, then running it into a handful of effects pedals (the key one being a strymon timeline delay/looper), out to a stereo cabinet simulator, running to a small yamaha mixer. i wear studio headphones and output the main mix to my portable tascam recorder via 1/4" stereo inputs. this lets me immerse myself into the music while recording everything in full modern studio quality. bonus: it's mostly silent to the outside world. the absolutely critical detail here is that i'm not fooling with software at all. i'm just playing guitar. at that point, i do what i've always done and "just play." the layering happens on its own while i experiment with the effects and try out a few initial chords. when something hits a nerve, i use it as the basis for the first loop. then i work on layering for a while, sometimes reversing or pitch-shifting the loops along the way. i tend to quickly get lost in the music, and a song is born before i've even realized it.
mh: your music sounds very celestial, and i note that the cover art for some of your releases reflects this. do you draw inspiration from stars, the night sky, and the heavens?
sc: i'm deeply interested in space and astronomy. i'm also a very open-minded person, but i lean towards carl sagan's view of things. years ago, when i finally took a moment to contemplate sagan's famous quote, "we are a way for the cosmos to know itself," it permanently changed me. now it seems like all i want to do is make love songs about the universe.
mh: what’s the distinction between the adaptive, one name that you create music under, and in the branches?
sc: the adaptive began as my electronic music project in 2013. it has evolved into a hybrid of the music itself, a record label, a photography reputation, and a registered business in oregon. when i perform at music festivals, people often call me "the adaptive" instead of shane, which is funny, but i do respond to both names.
mh: you’re also a photographer. does your imagery of landscapes and starscapes influence your music? how?
sc: i'm sure of it. my photography keeps me outside, often leading to wild adventures while chasing sunlight or setting up a night shot in the middle of the desert. the opening track to "expanse sessions ii" had me wondering: which place was i thinking of when i wrote that? about 30 places come to mind...
mh: what’s your favorite gear, and what does it enable you to do?
sc: i can't live without my strymon pedals. i plan to buy just about every pedal they make. i currently have the el capistan, timeline, and big sky. the looper on the timeline was an absolutely huge surprise. it somehow made loops sound so interesting and clean, especially at half-speed and reverse. i've tried so many loopers that kind of worked for me, but this one nails it.
mh: is music a full-time profession for you?
sc: i suppose it is. i've stopped doing everything else, even the stuff that actually made money. lol. i may pick up a few software or website contracts here and there, but i'm completely focused on music now.
mh: since so much of your music is layered, how do you approach live performance?
sc: for in the branches, live shows are primarily improvised. i'll keep a few samples around to blend in synths, field recordings, etc. and then i play as if i'm recording new material. sometimes i'll load a recorded loop and join in with it, or vice versa, but i prefer to do all the guitar stuff live.
mh: do you have any heroes, musical or otherwise?
sc: so many. i'll try to keep it as short as possible... in the ambient music world, brock van wey (bvdub), hammock, robert rich, steve roach, and vidna obmana (dirk serries), and erik wollo are my main inspirations. in electronic music, ott (he's also remixing one of my songs, "hillbility"!) and beats antique. for the guitar, i'm a huge fan of erik wollo (again), jeff pearce, david helpling, robin guthrie, paco de lucia, stevie ray vaughan, santana, and david gilmour. other than that, i need to mention arvo part because that man has a power with classical music that i've never heard before.
mh: if you could get a round trip plane ticket anywhere, where would you go, and why?
sc: austria. because of the alps and because it's been calling for a while.
mh: what projects are you currently working on?
sc: a collaborative ep between cody sparks, the adaptive, and stratosphere should be finished and released within the next month. i'm also recording guitar for songs with a few producers like subaqueous, smoke sign, and rhythmstar. otherwise, i'm going to focus on playing shows across the usa all year (the adaptive and in the branches).