“I never thought I would become a musician, but my mother was very musically oriented, and from a young age she would always have me listen to cool music from her childhood and have me try out new instruments. I tried a bunch of instruments like violin, piano, drums—I played drums for a year and I was terrible. Finally, when I was 13, she put a guitar in my hands. I don’t know if it was the earlier music experience that helped me out, but I took to guitar really quickly. Before I knew it, I was in the middle school band, which led me to apply to the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. I got into NOCCA and went there for four years, which introduced me to jazz. Then I continued that education at the University of New Orleans and got further into jazz, but also further away from it.
The Cliff Hines Quintet evolved out of that mindset of moving away from jazz, and melding it with fusion, world and rock elements. As it got further and further away from jazz, it morphed into Cliff & Sasha [Masakowski], which then morphed into what is now Hildegard. And Hildegard is fully electronic art rock—the only thing jazz about it is improvisation. Except instead of improvising solos, we’re improvising sound design and going into experimental territory. I also have my own solo project called KL¥PH that focuses on my own sound design in Ableton computer world, with Khris Royal, John Maestas, Nathan Lambertson and Alfred Jordan rounding out the live band. I’m also working on my solo DJ techniques and going even further into that world by learning modular synths. I do a lot of work as a sideman as well. In 2012 I started touring with the Mike Dillon Band. Then after that I started playing with Christian Scott a little bit and got to be on his last four records. Now I’m touring with Rickie Lee Jones.
Conceptually, I don’t think of myself as a guitar player anymore. My mind is more set on the effects and the ways I transform the guitar. I often joke, in synthesizer terms, that a guitar is just an oscillator. When you have a synthesizer, you have an oscillator, and you put it through all these effects that create the synth tone. The guitar is just the starting signal for me. It’s just the thing I understand. But in terms of the tones I’m hearing, I’ve never really liked the tone of the guitar, and I’ve especially never liked my tone. Luckily, I’ve come to terms with that recently and have learned to appreciate what the guitar can do on its own, mostly so that I can get employed. But I’m definitely more into sound design, and the guitar is just my method of getting the ball rolling.”