Based in Atlanta, GA, where he performs with a number of genre-pushing groups, Erik Hinds has borrowed from a plethora of music styles to forge his vocabulary: folk, country, jazz, even heavy metal. He plays the H'arpeggione, a string instrument built by Fred Carlson. A cross between a guitar, cello, and bass, it has six strings with quarter-tone frets and 12 sympathetic strings. It covers a wide range and opens up the field of microtonal playing, giving Hinds' music a personal color. The guitarist also runs the Solponticello label and is a convinced environmentalist -- he designed his own solar-powered house. His first solo album, Cerebus, came out in 2001.
Born in New Jersey in 1972, Hinds spent his early childhood in a suburb of Tokyo, Japan. He was back in New Jersey at age five to catch a Kiss show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. All that glitter and fake blood planted a seed. A rabid listener, he sucked the very substance out of such diverse artists as Philip Glass, Metallica, Gordon Lightfoot, and Sun Ra. Self-taught on guitar from the age of 12, he went through the usual metal and punk garage bands but by college was working on solo guitar technique and improvisation.
After studies at the University of Maine, he settled in Athens, GA, in the mid-'90s. He soon made friends with a circle of likeminded musicians. His most frequent collaborators are guitarist Colin Bragg, saxophonist Mike Hough, drummer Blake Helton, and singer Julie Powell. In 2000 he formed the free jazz quartet SS Puft with Bragg, Helton, and trumpeter Jeff Crouch. For the group's first release (a collaboration with Vandermark 5 member Dave Rempis), he founded Solponticello Records, a company that also promotes avant-garde music events in Athens. Besides SS Puft, he performs in the Georgian Contemporary Unit (first album released in 2002), in the trio Thicken the Plot (with Helton and guitarist Kyle Dawkins), and in Powell's rock group Riveter. He has performed live with visiting musicians like Ken Vandermark, Chris Cutler, Frank Gratkowski, and Peter Kowald.