Erik Hinds calls the music he improvises alone under the name Killick "Appalachian Trance Metal," three words so full of internal conflict one could assume he's being coy. But he's not: Hinds wants something that doesn't sound typical, and that's long been his guiding principle. He's an omnivorous collaborator, for instance, often working with an array of improvisers steeped in the traditions of the free jazz movements in Europe and America. He performs with prolific German saxophonist Frank Gratkowski and made a record with Chattanooga, Tenn., iconoclasts the Shaking Ray Levis, the first American group to be released by seminal free guitarist Derek Bailey's Incus label.
But he's also recorded a tribute to Slayer, one of his favorite bands. Two years ago, Hinds—tall, with a shaved head and tattoos up and down both arms and along his neck—did a full-length interpretation of the band's classic, Reign in Blood. In his teens, he'd "freaked the fuck out upon hearing [it] ... one of the strongest artistic statements ever." Free jazz inspirations, of course, run through the work: Late double bassist Peter Kowald, says Hinds, made the record possible by showing him "what is possible through focus." British saxophonist Evan Parker was an inspiration for his work on "Altar of Sacrifice."
Such unexpected recombination is central to Hinds' work: Lately, he's been using the H'arpeggione, a cello-like instrument with six strings he can pluck or bow and 12 other sympathetic strings. With it, he says, he can improvise through a variety of styles and create mimetic passages less about orthodox accompaniment and more about atmosphere.
"I commissioned this instrument in hopes of expanding the possibilities of a guitar-sized instrument," says Hinds. "I'm very interested in lower pitches than a guitar has, as well as sounds with a white or pink noise component, and an approximation of wind, water and natural sounds."
Killick plays Nightlight Tuesday, Nov. 27, with Athens band Diet Rock Star. The show starts at 9:30 p.m.