Creative Lineage: Shigeto

“Where you come from is really important. Whether we are talking blood, heritage, art, whatever” – so says Brooklyn-based beatsmith Shigeto, aka Zach Saginaw, a young talent who’s sonics have caught the ears of many over the past three years. Having developed his earthy mechanical soul music on the Ghostly International-affiliated Moodgadget imprint, Saginaw has been a part of the Michigan music scene since childhood, where he was schooled in the disciplines of classic jazz and Motown by his parents, before moving to New York to attend the prestigious Greenwich Village New School University.

Following his debut long player ‘Full Circle’ for Ghostly in 2010, Shigeto now launches his latest project, the mini-album ‘Lineage’, an eight track expansion of his original sound that sees broken hip-hop rhythms, layered atmospherics, smudged melodic work and above all, his keen ability as a drummer pushed to the fore. With his production moniker chosen in homage to his great-grandfather and his own Japanese heritage, and the concept of the new album exploring his personal ‘Lineage’ this new album is without doubt a personal affair for the young producer.

We emailed him at home in Brooklyn to discuss the ideas behind the album, his use of live instrumentation, and his hip-hop influences…

So – talk us through the process of producing ‘Lineage’ – did you make each track specifically to appear on this album?
I spent the last year or so finding new instruments for my studio. In that time I acquired a Fender rhodes, dulcimer, xylophone and more. These instruments were basically my “pallet” of sound for making ‘Lineage’. I wanted all the sounds I used for the album to be in harmony with each other and I wanted them to be coming from mainly acoustic instruments. On top of that I wanted to be playing the majority of the parts live. Once I gathered up the proper sounds I started writing. I wrote many things and not all of them intended for the album, but I could pick and choose because of the sounds used. They all seemed to fit together some how.

Shigeto – ‘Huron River Drive’ (Free Download)

You have a real organic sound as Shigeto – do you try and mix up analogue gear with digital technology?
I’d like to a lot more than I do. I own one analogue synth and the rest of my sounds come from digitally recorded samples and live instruments. I try to record as much of my own samples as possible to keep that organic quality though. My rhodes is a definite staple for the sound on ‘Lineage’ though. Wouldn’t be what it is without it.

What’s your studio set-up like?
I have a Mac and use Reason 6.0. I run the Moog, Korg and rhodes along with a couple microphones into Reason and record exclusively through there. I also have a Tascam recorder for field recordings and various pedals and percussive instruments. I usually record the live drums at a friends studio since mine is so small and I don’t have the proper mics. All production is done in Reason 6.0. I tend to smoke a lot, forget to eat and sleep as well when
I’m working.

Being a multi-instrumentalist, do you have a particular favourite instrument, and what about it’s sound attracts you to it (we’re guessing the drums)?
You are correct on that one. I’m flattered you said “multi-instrumentalist”. I dabble with pretty much all “rhythm” instruments and fake them pretty well but I’d definitely say the drums is my main thing and the only one I can properly play. I would love to study piano seriously in the future though.

How much do you think New York affects your music, and how?
Waking up in New York makes me feel like I need to work harder every day. It’s just in the air. I think it’s good for me. Sometimes when I’m too relaxed I just troll on the internet all day instead of doing anything useful. I love New York for the way it makes me raise my personal bar line of achievement.

We heard you (like us) are a Wu-Tang fan – which Wu member would you relate to best and why?
Haha – I guess RZA or GZA cause they seem like the most normal dudes!

You’re also quite a jazz buff – what is it about classic jazz that appeals, is it just the music, or perhaps the atmosphere/idea of the time in which it was made?
It’s the music for sure. The time and scene are amazing and beautiful things but was definitely the music that attracted me at first. Also, my passion for jazz comes from playing it. I still have yet to experience the feeling I get from playing a killing jazz session while performing as Shigeto. There is something about these improvisations explosive quality in jazz that nothing else matches for me.

What would you say is the concept behind ‘Lineage’? It seems to be a very personal work to you…
Where you come from is really important. Whether we are talking blood, heritage, art, whatever. That’s pretty much the concept.

Shigeto – ‘Lineage’ (Free Download)

What is it about your great grandfather’s experience that inspires you?
I have no idea first hand the suffering and turmoil my elders went through. I think most peoples grandfather’s and great grandfather’s have had some serious shit go down. I respect that my grandparents were thrown in prison by their own country and still had the dignity and self respect to keep on living. I could go on but I won’t.

What do you make of the UK music scene – anyone in particular you’re feeling?
Love it. Always have. Huge fan of Mount Kimbie (great dudes) and really loving what I’ve been hearing from Lapalux. The UK has always been a big musical inspiration.

Finally, if you were cooking to impress, what would you make?
I would make spicy tofu with fresh scallions, soy sauce, chili paste, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and rice wine with a side of bok choi in fish sauce accompanied by a bowl of white rice and a crisp, cold beer.

‘Lineage’ will be released via Ghostly International on January 31. Read a full review here.