The debut LP of Sigha, aka James Shaw, comes as highly-anticipated as any release of its kind this year. Not only because of the consistent quality of the music he has released to date and the run of form Scuba‘s Hotflush seem to be on, but also the fascination to see how he will turn his undoubtable production talent to the album format.
This move from writing 12’s and EPs of functional techno to capturing that same aggression within an atmospheric and coherent album has been a stumbling block for so many before him. Sigha, though, seems to have found a mature balance in ‘Living With Ghosts,’ and the end product is one of the best long-players we’ve heard this year.
We caught up with Shaw to discuss the album title, his relationship with Hotflush, influences and why techno should be called trance…
Firstly, what can you tell us about the title of your album, ‘Living With Ghosts’?
Over the period I was writing the LP I found myself thinking a lot about identity and how much we’re shaped by the world around us. People in our lives come and go, events happen and get forgotten. We carry the imprint of these moments around with us everywhere and these help inform the people we are and who we will become, the way we live our lives on a daily basis. How we interact with the world is dictated by the past to a large extent. That is what I was referring to with the album title, these memories hiding in our subconscious.
What do you think links the tracks on ‘Living With Ghosts’ an makes them an album, rather than a collection of individual tracks?
That’s a difficult question. I thought a lot about how I wanted the album to sit together and it was really important to me that there was cohesiveness to the sound and overall picture I presented. I wanted to make something that someone could put on the headphones and listen to while walking about the city as much as play in clubs. There are definitely some more club friendly tracks on there but hopefully the textures and headspace they occupy tie it all together.
How easily did writing in the album format come to you? And, where did you write it? Did you feel your surroundings influenced you?
For the majority of the writing process it didn’t come easily at all. When I began I thought I was ready to write an album, it’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for years, but in reality I wasn’t prepared for the amount of soul searching and self-doubt that came along with the process. The majority of the ‘writing’ period was horribly unproductive; I ended up scrapping huge amounts of material. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though; it let me build a stronger picture of what I wanted to do with the album and where I wanted to go. The majority of it was written after my move to Berlin last year although I didn’t really feel like I hit my stride until maybe June this year.
In terms of surroundings Berlin has definitely had an impact. It’s interesting because at first, when I was being asked that question, I’d always answer quite honestly that it hadn’t changed anything. Listening back to the record as a whole now, I think there’s much more of a club awareness on there than on a lot of my previous 12’s. I think that comes down to the ease one can go out and find great techno in this city in an environment that sits alongside the music perfectly. For me techno should be as much a mental experience as a physical one, the music should take you somewhere, I hesitate to use the word because it’s been hijacked by another genre but techno should be trance music in its truest sense. It should be able to change you consciousness without resorting to drugs or alcohol. This is what drew me to it in the first place and seeing djs like Mike Parker, Silent Servant, DVS1 and Ben Klock at clubs like Berghain reminded me that you could do this without losing its dance floor edge.
What else influenced the process?
Inspiration can come from so many places, it’s hard to pin point one or two specifically. Generally though I find literature, art and film a big source of inspiration. I visit a lot of galleries when I have time and I’m always reading. I like works that tend to allude to a greater whole that has yet to be revealed, or deal with the darker side of the human psyche. Throughout the writing process I read a lot of Bret Easton Ellis and William Burroughs, as well as science fiction from guys like Phillip K Dick (something of a cliché for techno producers I’m sure)
I find certain designers hugely inspiring as well, Gareth Pugh, Sarah Burton, Kris Van Assche. The ability they have to shape a vision they have of the way the world should be aesthetically really appeals to me.
You said in a Sonic Router interview a couple of years ago that you feel more musically at home in Berlin. Is that still the case?
I still feel it’s the place that makes the most sense to me musically, it’s the place my sound fits best. Since then Techno has grown in London massively though, to the extent that I felt like I was leaving at the wrong time. But the move was never just about the music, the city its self is hugely inspiring.
What is it about Hotflush that has kept you releasing with them?
I’ve been working with them for a long time now and have built up a great relationship with Paul and the other guys on the label. I’ve always had the freedom there to move in different directions, and Pauls always been very supportive. I think that, for me at least, it’s important to have that level of trust and familiarity. I know that my opinion will be considered and taken into account, and that’s hugely important for me. For the album I was given free reign basically, and that’s something I’m really thankful for. It means a lot that Hotflush were happy to put such faith in me. Of course if it all goes wrong…… that’s kind of stressful haha.
What’s next for you? And, for your label Our Circula Sound?
Lots of gigs, interviews, podcasts all the usual stuff running up to the LP. In terms of releases, there will be limited 10” single (300 copies only I think) out on Hotflush in the next month. One track, ‘Scene Couple’ is taken from the LP and the other, ‘Brood’ is exclusive to that release so no digital of it at all. Then the album will be released 19th November. We’re doing a launch party at Berghain Cantina on the 22nd of that month with myself and a few friends.
OCS wise the next 12″ will be from Shifted and should be out the end of this month, and then we will be following it up quickly with a second release from Truss. I’ve had a no demos policy up to this point with the label and kept it for close friends, but I’m going to open it up a bit I think over the next year. Just to add to my work load!
‘Living With Ghosts’ is out on Monday, November 19, via Hotflush Recordings.