Recording under the name of Shigeto, jazz-orientated beatsmith Zach Saginaw has an interesting history. Shigeto means “to grow bigger” appropriate, given Zach’s premature birth-weight of less than a pound. His family have roots in Hiroshima and his Great-Grandfather was held in an internment camp during the Second World War. Nowadays, Shigeto refers to the beautiful textures and melodicism that inhabits Zach’s music.
Combining floating textures with quietly busy hip-hop beats and an abnormal attention to detail, his latest album ‘Lineage‘ bridges a divide between his past and present, conveying his families ancestry and heritage through a rich, kaleidoscopic lens. We caught up with him ahead of the albums release to chat about his history, what ‘Lineage’ means to him and how he conveys these messages through his new album.
As a brief overview, could you give us a quick background of yourself, where you’re from and what your currently up to?
My name is Zachary Shigeto Saginaw. I’m from Ann Arbor, Michigan and am currently living in Brooklyn, New York. I produce music under the name Shigeto and have a new album coming out soon on Ghostly International. I tend to think too much and have an addiction to food.
Do you have any notable first experiences with electronic music – Which producers really stood out for you whilst you were growing up?
The first electronic musicians that stood out to me were mostly via Warp Records. Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Autechre for example.
Later on in life Dabrye’s first album ‘One/Three‘ sent me onto another plane of inspiration. Definitely never heard anything like that before.
Is there anything that you regard as an essential aspect to your productions, or does it vary according to each release?
I’d say my process changes from song to song. Every track I make seems to go through many stages before it’s done and sometimes it doesn’t resemble the original idea at all. One thing that is very essential though is my use of my own samples. I need a way to record my own sounds. The use of external samples is definitely a major part in what defines my music in my opinion. Without that texture and feel they add, the music would be very different.
How do you think your musical style has progressed since your previous release ‘Full Circle‘?
I think it has changed a lot. When writing ‘Full Circle‘ I didn’t’ have the software that I have now. I was mainly using Reason 2.5 and Reason 4.0 for the tracks on Full Circle.
For ‘Lineage’, I used Record and Reason 5.0. I could record audio live, direct into the program and edit it all at once. It changed everything. I’ve also acquired new interments since then including a Fender Rhodes and a Micro Moog.
‘Lineage’ focuses a lot more on using live instrumentation and organic sounds. Live playing, improvisation and jazz influence. I feel it is also, less manic and aggressive than Full Circle. A bit more mature hopefully?
How long have you been working on ‘Lineage’?
‘Lineage’ was composed during the the beginning to the middle of 2011.
Could you tell us a little bit about the writing process behind the album – Where did you spend the majority of your time working on the album and did these environments influence your output?
The entire album was composed in my extremely small home studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Most of the tracks were 80% done within two weeks and it took me months to fine tune it.
The environment definitely influenced the output. I purchased many new instruments throughout the year for a purpose. I wanted everything in the room to sound like it was supposed to be together. I wanted everything in the room to be my pallet of paint. Whether it was the Rhodes or the Kalimba or the harp, I wanted it to fit.
The album ended up having this sonic familiarity no matter what track was on. It had a cohesiveness formed from the choice of instrumentation.
Lineage drops on the 31st of January 2012 – The title pays homage to your ancestors and family background. Why did you focus on these aspects?
I’ve always felt a separation from my Japanese heritage. Including them in my art/work is my way of paying homage to them or letting them know I want to connect with them and to show them how important my culture and history is to me, even if I am so distant from it.
The artwork for Lineage is particularly powerful, displaying your great grandfathers home in 1916 in Hiroshima and the inside vinyl sleeve includes a photo of your great grandfather at the Amache Internment Camp in Colorado. What message did you want to convey through this?
A lot of artists keep their “alias” separate from their “self”. Sometimes it is to great benefit. For me it is hard to be anything but myself. It’s easier for me to show the world “hey this is me. this is where i come from” and be super personal than to create a made up world in which Shigeto operates.
The images on Lineage are powerful and personal. For me there is no better way to show who you are than to share something powerful and personal to you.
Does the album allude to your musical influences and backgrounds as well?
Totally, the focus on jazz in the album is with out a doubt linked to my “musical lineage”. It shows “ours” as well. Artists involved in “beats”, hip-hop, experimental music, jazz is linked to all of this for me. The focus on moving back into more live playing all has to do with my “musical lineage”. It’s where I am most comfortable.
Also it’s a symbol of how important “lineage” is in all our lives. It has a direct roll in everything we do, sometimes in this world that is full of so much information being shot in every direction we forget where we come from.
Do you have any plans to diversify your label associations or is Ghostly International the only place you want to be?
I’m very happy with Ghostly but who know what the future holds. I love working with Ghostly. They are like family as well as a label and I’m lucky to be able to say that. I would love to release music under new alias’s or even Shigeto stuff on other platforms. Maybe release a jazz album at some point.
Is there anything else you have in store for 2012?
I’m currently writing the next album and working on several collaborations, which I’m very excited about.
Finally, when are you next in the UK?
Hopefully I’ll be heading back to the UK this spring. Fingers crossed.
Lineage is released on the 31st of January via Ghostly International.