Chris Cihon, better known to most Macjammers as PickQuick Records, is a 39 year old rocker from the Chicago area and has been a member of MJ for nearly 2 years. His tracks all have great production values, are clean and driving, and display excellent rock guitar skills. (He had a long list of posted tracks but has taken most of them down as he reworks and remixes, in an effort to present only his best efforts to the public.)
After playing in numerous Chicago area metal bands for years, doing originals and covers – Sedition, Animosity, Krom, Soul Fight, etc. – he’s decided to start his own record label in an effort to promote himself and his music…
Are you in a band now?
“It’s been 3 years since my last band. I want to start my own independent record company that will become a base to sell and distribute my music from. So, as of now, I’m pretty content in just composing music in my home studio. I’ve had many many years of experience playing live, but little in the recording department. It was only in 2005 that I finally acquired my first computer, but it wasn’t until a year later that I actually took an interest in home recording. So it’s pretty new to me and I’m still learning. Besides my on-line activities at MacJams, that’s what I’ve been up too.”
What goes into starting your own record label?
“Well, I’ve done some research and from what I understand is that ANYBODY can start a label. Even if you have no musical experience at all, you can still start your own company. It’s fairly easy.
“There are some basic steps that you must start with: First, you must find investors, or ‘angel’ inventors, or your OWN money. If you need to use someone else’s money, a three year business plan would be a good start.
“Second, you must procure the talent. Find someone or some band that you believe in. After getting the talent, you should get them recorded. If you don’t own a studio you can rent one.
“After that, depending on what your goals are for the band, comes promotion and venue scheduling. CD marketing, photo sessions, radio appearances and so on. The one main thing from my understanding is IF you are selling music CD’s, you ARE a record company.
“Now one of the most important thing’s that I’ve left out is the legal ramifications of the whole process. You need contracts, for ANYBODY that you deal with from the talent to the recording studio, the engineer, and so on. This is an essential part of the process, but for me and many people here at MacJams, we have this already covered. We ARE the talent. We already have our own studio or home studio. CD marketing is VERY easy with the internet. Photos and CD artwork can be done on lots of different software available and so on.
“The only thing that will take you out of your home office will be, if you want to play live and start doing radio appearances. But for some like myself, I will be using my company to establish my CD sales only.
“Now with that all said and done, I’ve considered maybe trying to branch out and promote other people’s music, but I want to have a better grip on the whole process of running a record company before I ask anyone to climb aboard.”
I’m sure lots of members are considering starting their own labels. Your plan is kind of general. Do you have any specifics that might be of interest to others starting out?
“LOL. I know, Tobin, I have done SOME research but not near enough to give better answers. I just finished re-mixing/mastering my library and then I was going to dive into the record company thing. So I’m not quite sure about a lot of my answers. It’s still the the planning process.
Do you hope to do more than sells CDs online? That’s a hard way to make money.
“Well, the other thing that I was thinking of using my label for is to help distribute sample/loop CD’s or downloads of riffs that I would like to make available in the near future for folks to use in there own music.”
Any legal issues to consider?
“Where do I start? I don’t want to get into details, but my advice for anybody who writes is NEVER record your tunes with other band mates until you have registered your copyright. If you do not and record the song with others, even if it’s just band practice, they now have the RIGHT to use your music to their own discretion. If you do not establish the fact that it’s your music before you record with them, and that they are just ‘appearing’, you have forfeited your right to exclusively own your music. In layman’s terms: The artists that you recorded your music with now will have the right to use it anyway they see fit, from rerecording the tune, to distribution of the piece and so on. But, they must also give you a cut from the song of yours that they are using from any sales or live performances. This is the bright side to this mistake, but it very hard to get the actually money in your pocket. You’ll need to retain a entertainment lawyer for sure. So like I learned the hard way, DON’T record with others until you have written up a formal agreement or contract stating that they are only appearing as a backup artist and not the writer. This way you retain your exclusive rights to the copyright. So remember, if you want to retain your rights as sole writer (which I lost because of just this same situation that I was in) get a written agreement before you start recording explaining that you are the sole composer. This may cause waves with your band, but it will guarantee that they will never be able to use your music even if you leave the band. Other wise they can do what they like with YOUR tune.”
Is the main reason you want to have your own label your ability to own/control everything yourself?
“Yes, I would like to own everything. That seems to be the basis of why I wanted to start one in the first place, but I’m hoping that starting this company will help me understand the business side of the music business a little better. Like I said, I’m pretty wet behind the ears when it comes to starting this.
“I’m not to worried about actually making money at first. Sure, I would like to, but the truth of the matter is that I won’t see a profit for some time by just selling CD’s. So I figured I would expand it to loop downloads also. Also I would like to offer possibly a re-mix/mastering process that would be available to anyone.”
To start off you’re only going to distribute your original stuff?
“Yes, for now I will only be using the Internet for the distribution process. It will save me money on the duplication process. This way it will cut down the money I would spend on the actual physical CD. This way I can make one CD per site. One for iTunes, one for CDBaby and so on. I will have the actual CD for sale, but this way I don’t have to make such a huge order of units. I can start small with just a few units and then if demand increases, I’ll be able to duplicate them to order. I don’t want to be stuck with a huge inventory.”
Several distributers are only interested in professionally-duplicated shrink-wrapped CDs, especially in Europe, and they won’t handle home-burned copies…
“I’ll bypass them, for now.
“I guess in the end I would like the company to be the base of my operations. HOW this is going to fall in place? I’m not quite to sure. I have these ideas but nothing is in stone. Also I’m thinking of licensing my music so people could use it in commercials or in DVD’s that they are producing. I’m not quite sure how I must go about doing all of this, but it’s a ‘rough draft’ if you will to work from. So I’m learning as I go.”
I hope it all works out. Should be an exciting endeavor. In the meantime, what do you do for a living?
“Well, I’ve had MANY different jobs. I was an auto body man at one point in my life. I owned half of a carpet business at one time that specialized in creating custom rugs, I worked for a company that would sub-contract work from the rail yards. We would plow the yards in the winter and maintain them in the summer. Then I worked for a little interior/exterior painting company for a while. Finally I’ve been doing roofing jobs with a friend of mine as of now.
“I’ve actually been asked by my roommate recently here to possibly provide in-home care for her. She is a really good friend that fell victim to rheumatoid arthritis. She’s been having the problem for years, but just recently it took a turn for the worse and everyday activities for her are a huge problem now. So, if I decide to take on this endeavor, it will leave me with huge amounts of free time for my music and starting the record company. So I’m still considering it. In-home care is REALLY expensive these days and it would save her a ton of cash. So I may be changing jobs yet again.
How many hours a day do you practice your guitar?
“As far as practice time, I used to play when I was younger in high school as much as 5 to 7 hours a day. I really didn’t have much of a social life (still don’t have one! lol). I was more interested in playing guitar more than anything. Now I at least try to practice an hour a day at the minimum, but it’s usually 3-4 on a good day. I would like to play more, but sometime there just isn’t enough time in the day.
“I was in a number of local Chicago-land area metal bands over the past many years. Unfortunately, they went nowhere. As far as schooling for music, I played in the school band for a couple years when I was in 5th and 6th grade. I studied the trombone, then I found the guitar in 7th grade and took a number of guitar lesson from a teacher named Mr. Cidell. He worked for this small music store in my home town at the time. It was Hanno Music in Hazel Crest IL. After about a year, and feeling that I wasn’t learning the things I wanted to play, I decided to teach myself.
“So after that, it was records and guitar mags for me. I have all but forgotten how to read music, I really play by ear and experience, and reference tabs as I need to.”
Do you miss playing live?
“I’ve been throwing around the idea of starting an instrumental act spotlighting my solo playing, but I haven’t came across the right guys yet to get it done. The problem with starting a solo act as an unknown is finding musicians who are willing to put their music aside, take a step back and help you highlight your own. That is no easy task, to say the least.”
If you start an instrumental band, will you do covers?
“Well, If I do start a band I will definitely play some covers to start with. Eventually I would like to replace them with all originals. I feel that if you want anybody to take notice of you that originals is the ticket. Personally I feel that if you have the luck to have a record company representative or promoter in the audience, they will be more interested in what YOUR music sounds like instead of covering a well known tune. Just my opinion.
“If this does fall in place I would like to play live were ever and when ever I can. I’ve played in Chicago at the Rivieria and Metro with other bands and numerous clubs in bars through out the city and suburbs. As of now I live outside of Joilet IL in a town called Lockport. So for know until the band has a decent following, I’ll probably just play locally.”
How old were you when you first started getting into music?
“That’s a hard question to answer. As far as I recall, there were instruments all around the house since I was a toddler. There was a second hand piano, an acoustic guitar, a small air organ, recorders, harmonicas and other various small wind instruments. So for me, playtime as far back as I can remember could have included a number of different combinations of these instruments.”
“Besides having a great arsenal of instruments to choose from, I believe my early influence to be my mother. She always had some type of music playing on the family stereo during the day. She loved music, so I would write little song’s for her to listen too. It was really out of love for my mother. So she was my earliest influence.”
Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
“My first song ever written? Hmmm… I would have to say good and bad. It’s a song that I wrote for my mother on the piano when I was very young. Through many years I would re-write it a number of times and then eventually adapt it for guitar in my teenage years. I finally had a chance to record it in 2000 at a semi-pro studio, the music was fantastic, but due to complications with my former music partner, it was released with a poor mix and some awful vocals. Lately I’ve been thinking of re-recording that particular song plus the other 4 that were released on that CD here in the near future. But due to some copyright problems, I may not be able to release the original arrangement and titles as they are written now, so that particular idea is still up in the air. So I would not feel comfortable releasing the song title at this time.”
What are your hobbies?
“I like to collect coins and stamps , both foreign and domestic. I like to model railroad, I have a N-Scale track. Unfortunately, I recently moved and no longer have a room designated for it. I have a few cats that like to play Godzilla on it, so I need an extra room just for that, but my new place has no such thing, so it will be in storage for quite some time. I’m in the process of designing a fold up table that will allow me to store it mounted on on a wall in one of my rooms, and fold it out when I want to work on it. Also, I’m a BBQ fanatic. So I at least have the grill out three times a week in all sorts of weather making something on it.
“I also like to rescue stray cat’s. I have quite a few that I own, seven in all. But the the ones I rescue and don’t keep I try to find homes first before I give them to the Humane Society.
“I’ve been putting my cats to work. (laughs) I’m in the process of making a cat calendar and would like to start selling it here pretty soon, I have some prototypes, but nothing ready for production.”
What musical gear do you use?
“My main instrument is the Ibanez Prestige Series, JS 1000BP. My secondary instruments are a couple of Fender Strat‘s that were made in Mexico, or maybe just assembled there, not sure. An old 80’s Kramer Baretta, a Dean Bass and the M-Audio Keystation 49e.
“I use a PowerBook G4, and MBox for my interface. My monitors are JBL Northridge series, and to power them, a NADY stereo power amp. My headphones are ULTRASONE HFI 450’s. As far as my guitar sound, I use the Boss GT-8 for all of my tones. I’m really happy with it and recommed it to any one looking for both a ‘live and studio’ setup.
“The software I use: GarageBand, iTunes, Pro Tools, T-Racks Analog Modeled Mastering Software, then finally Audacity.
How do you mix and master? What’s your process?
“A lot of prayers and luck! (laughs) No really, this is one of the hardest things for me to do at the moment. I’m still in the learning process and it’s kind of trial and error. It takes time to learn, but the results can very exciting as long as you put in the time and effort. It’s like anything else in life. You get back what you put into it. I really don’t have a set way of doing it, I feel that every song is unique, so you are always changing your approach. I don’t have any set ways of mixing, I just try to do what’s right for that particular song . For the mastering side, That’s much easier. I use the T-Racks Stand Alone Analog Modeled Mastering Software. They provide presets that give you a base to start experimenting with. Then I just work from there.”
“My advice to anyone who just starts home recording: Learn to play with the very minimal amount of effects on your instruments. You can always add them later. This way your never stuck with an over effected track that you’ll need to re-record because of too much reverb or whatever you used.”
What’s your strong point, musically speaking?
“My strong point I would say would have to be my soloing. I spent a lot of time in the 80’s and 90’s trying to replicate the great shredders of the time, like Yngwie Mallmsteen, Vinne More, and many others. I always had the desire to play extremely fast solo’s, so I spent a lot of my practice time just doing that.
“My weakest point would be playing slow and tastefully. When I was growing up the thing was, ‘How fast can you play?’.
“I never really appreciated the more tasteful side of playing until a few years ago. Now I spend a lot of time listening to Jimi Hendrix, Randy Rhoads, Joe Satriani, players who have a more well rounded approach to their playing than just using speed and super technical riffs. Now I find myself starting to enjoy the ‘one note/feeling’ solo approach, more than the ‘How many notes can I play in a single minute?’ approach. Knowing where you need to play and where not to play I believe is the basis of any well rounded guitar player. So that’s an aspect of my playing I’m still working on.
“The way I write a song varies. Sometimes I’ll start with a riff that I came up with during practice, or it’s just as simple as saying to myself, ‘Today I’m writing a song’. But most times I’ll write it in my head first, try to work out the parts by humming the guitar riff and then build it from there. But it usually takes a couple days of pondering before I actually start recording anything. I like to have an idea of what I want to accomplish before I put aside the time to start the recording process. So all my songs start with a visualization process and then it grows from there.”
How has Macjams affected your music or career path?
“My MJ experience I feel is just really starting to blossom. All the friends that I’ve met through the site have been essential in my home recording development. I’ve had a couple artist that were willing to help me lay down vocals for my songs and took my music in directions I never thought I could reach. The commenting process has helped me develop relationships through the site that are essential to my writing and recording process. So I’m hoping that it continues to help me grow as a musician for years to come.
“If you visit my profile page you’ll notice that I only have a handful of songs uploaded at the moment. I have ten others that I removed and are in the process of getting re-mixed and mastered. I finally picked up some mastering software and decided to give them the treatment. I’m hoping to have my library back up soon.”
We look forward to that!