The 405 meets Shigeto
Zachary Saginaw, better known by Shigeto was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He has since lived in New York and England, but has found his way back to Detroit, Michigan. He is signed to Ghostly records alongside the likes of Dabrye, Tycho, and Matthew Dear. We meet in his studio, which is simple and quiet. A line of small plants crowds the windowsills that look out at the city. He is welcoming and friendly, and after showing me around a bit we sit down to talk.
What do you think about electronic music growing and becoming more dense?
I think that in a general sense it doesn't necessarily apply to DJs or producers, but technology itself is so accessible that you can have a recording studio on your computer within minutes, you can have photoshop or some sort, and it's like we can make things so much easier, so naturally there's going to be that many more people making things. But I think it there's always a state of flux, always a state of change. And we've been in one and were still in one, but I think that the bar line for what is quality will change, and I feel that how we are entertained and by entertainment is going to change again. Before the mp3 it was very different. Before iTunes or bandcamp all this, there was a mystery on how to put out a record, it was something special and now you don't even put out a record you just sell your music from these sites and you can press your own. The industry is exposed and doesn't exist the way it used to. It's existing in a new way. It's a good thing in the end that we are finding ways to use this technology and come up with new ways of making art, but it is very saturated but that's just going to mean that everyone is going to have to make better stuff. It will happen, and it is happening.
What was the discovery like for you when you realized you could combine the drums and the computer to make music?
Well I always knew you could because all my friends were doing it, I had a lot of people around me making electronic music. I guess not being able to play the drums pushed me to actually open up a program and try to do it.
What is your ultimate goal for making music? Where do you want this to take you?
I mean, I don't have an ultimate goal, I just would like to be financially comfortable and be able to support a family and make my music that I enjoy, and make enough money doing it that I don't have to be on the road all the time, that would be awesome.
How do your live shows tend to go?
You'd have to just come.
What is your thoughts on dj's using purely computers and never wanting to use different instruments?
What I do is not DJing, and I am not a DJ, DJing to me is the art of track selection, and taking control of a crowd, and picking the right thing at the right moment. Yes there's technical side, if you are using vinyl, which I respect very much but really when you're using computers and syncing stuff or ableton, it's about track selection. What we do, what I do, I am a producer. I don't play other peoples music and I don't mix songs in a fashion that keeps a dance floor moving. If you want to ask what my live shows are like, I'd be like don't expect a dance party.
If you were not making music, what would you be doing instead?
I'd probably be doing something in the food industry, I'd probably try to open a small bar or café, little restaurant something with a small record selection. That was my old day job for years was working in specialty food, my family has been in the food industry, my fiancé is a chef. That's what I would do, something that had to do with food.
Where do you hope Detroit music scene goes?
I hope in general Detroit can pick itself up and create a better image than what is given to.
If you had to choose to play electronic music or just the drums which would you choose?
That's an insane question, I can't answer that. I mean, that's insane. What's the point of that? I really can't, it's more like I couldn't just choose that I would just have to be forced, then I would find a way to do the other.
Who would you be most honored to work with?
I used to say all the time that it would be Dabrye, but I have actually had the honor to start working on music together with him. So my long time kind of goal for collabing is actually coming true right now. I don't know there's so many people you know, so many people so many great producers out there.
Any other artists on Ghostly that you haven't worked with yet that you're hoping to in the future?
Well I don't know, I don't really have people I'm looking to collaborate with but there's many collaborations happening. I'm always up for seeing what can happen.
Overall, what is your purpose, why are you doing this and why do you choose to make music, why is this something that you're compelled to do?
When I don't make music I'm not happy. It's just something I have to do. And it's great that it's become a way of supporting myself. That's a dream. But the reason I make music is because if I don't make it I'm not happy.
Your music deals a lot with emotion, do you think its more or less difficult to express emotion through drums or on a computer?
It's much easier for me to express emotion through the drums. Which is one reason why I always have it as a part of my full live set. It's much easier, I can channel whatever, it's more human.
What sort of emotions do you think that listeners get out of your music?
What do I think? I don't know what they get.
What do you get out of it?
I feel like a lot of my tracks are very nostalgic, and melancholy but have an undertone of hope. And that's how I would describe a lot of the music I make. I have no idea what listeners get out of it, I'm interested to know what they do.
Why do you choose to make music that sounds melancholy and nostalgic?
It's the stuff I hear.
Do you think Detroit has influenced that?
Music from Michigan has definitely been a large influence, I'm very proud of the lineage of music that Michigan has in general whether it be techno or jazz or Motown or Ghostly starting there, or punk with Iggy and the Stooges and MC5 and all this other stuff, it's all very incredible. It's hard not to be influenced by it if you're from here, or even if you're not from here.
Who on Ghostly have you enjoyed working with most?
It's a good label to be a part of. Mux Mool and I are good friends, we hang out a lot. We've made music together I am friendly with most of the people on the label, it's a good time. The only one I've actually properly collabed with is Tadd [Mullinix].
Why do you think other people make music?
It's not like I'm here making music to make me happy, its just something we need to do. People make music for all sorts of reasons. I could say all these things about why people make music but they're all assumptions, because I don't know because I'm not them and then it would sound fucked up. I think people make their art for all types of reasons. But I think most true art is made because whoever is making it has an inside need to create. And that's their reason for it.
What have you been listening to lately?
I really like the new Shabazz Palaces album called Black Up, I've been bumping that a lot. I've been listening to a lot of old Madlib stuff, like Beat Konducta compilations, that's what's in my car.
Where do you want to take your listeners?
On a journey
Wherever they go.
Shigeto is set to play KOKO in London on September 15th, with support coming from Plaid, Eskmo and Illum Sphere.
- 09.11 Copenhagen, DK @ Huset I Magestraede
- 09.14 Opwijk, BE @ Nijdrop
- 09.15 London, UK @ Koko
- 09.20 Nantes, FR @ Scopitone Festival
- 09.21 Den Hague, NL @ Today's Art Festival
- 09.22 Bordeaux, FR @ Echo A Venir Festival
- 09.26 Madrid, ES @ Espacio Acústico, Museo Reina Sofia
- 09.27 Berlin, DE @ Gretchen
- 09.28 Leipzip, DE @ Distillery
- 09.29 Istanbul, TR @ Babylon Club
Purchase and listen
Do you ever wish your life played out the way a song feels? My new 'life song' is this Shigeto remix of 'Rock The Boat' by the late, great Aaliyah. The original was great anyway, but Shigeto has added a layer of sexiness even Timbaland would approve of. [read more]