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On Deck: Shigeto

By ; September 20, 2013 at 9:59 AM 


Detroit producer Zach Saginaw, otherwise known as Shigeto, creates music steeped in the experiences of his own life – and those of family.  His earliest work saw him using his grandmother’s memories of time spent in a U.S. internment camp as inspiration and had him fashioning ambient, nostalgic beats and hiccupping rhythms alongside segmented melodies and chopped vocal samples, courtesy of her.  His subsequent work found him drawing from his personal relationships, though he often made reference to some detail concerning his extended family – such as the image of his great-grandfather’s house in Hiroshima being pictured in the liner notes of his sophomore album, Lineage.  And by incorporating aspects of jazz, hip-hop, funk, and a handful of other genres into his music, he makes these tenuous emotions connections between the past and the present feel alive and extraordinarily relevant.

And as an extension and evolution of this immediacy between our memories and the present, the producer’s recent work has begun to focus more on the perception of individual moments that we have now, which we often, and easily, take for granted.  And on his latest record, No Better Time Than Now (out now on Ghostly International), Saginaw invests these moments with a grounded reverence and oddly quirky humor that meshes well together.  Even the title of the album seems like a statement of intent from Shigeto – a call to arms, possibly, and a yearning to never overlook the everyday extraordinariness of our own lives.  And he explores these ideas through washes of liquid synths, meticulous production, and percussion-centric rhythms – all filtered through half a dozen different genres.

Recently we spoke with Saginaw about a few of the records which have helped to shape the direction of his own music.  It should come as no surprise that Miles Davis is listed among his influences but choosing to mention The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails might seem a bit disparate until you understand the obsessive production aspects that Reznor and Shigeto exhibit in spades.  And it’s not even necessarily a controlling facet (though with Reznor, who knows) but more an attention to detail that far surpasses his electronic peers.  Electronic innovators Jan Jelinek and Dabrye also find themselves listed among his influences.  You can check out what he has to say about these records below in the latest installment of our On Deck series.

Mile Davis - The Complete Concert 1964 - My Funny Valentine - Four & More
Mile Davis – The Complete Concert 1964 – My Funny Valentine / Four & More

This for me is some of the most amazing and compelling examples of musical virtuosity and live improvisation ever. It was the quintet with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams but instead of Wayne Shorter on Tenor, who mainly played with this quintet, George Coleman was on this gig. As well as this album being incredible, Tony Williams is quite a big influence on me as well being a drummer myself.

Jan Jelinek - Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records
Jan Jelinek – Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records

Jan Jelineks use of texture and ambiance has been a long time influence for my own music. On this album especially, the jazz theme it has had a huge impact on me when I first heard it. It’s also one of the few highly “influential” records for me that I will still listen to on the regular.

Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral
Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral

Trent Reznor was way ahead of his time. The production on this album is phenomenal and when I listen back to it now I’m even more blown away. I listened to a lot of heavy music when I was younger and this has a spot in my heart forever. I even got caught stealing a “Downward Spiral” t-shirt from a little shop in Ann Arbor when I was in 7th grade. My mom made me write them an apology letter and they framed it and put on their wall.

Dabrye - One - Three
Dabrye – One / Three

For me this record has influenced me more than most. When I first heard it in 2001 “mind blown” are really the only words that come to mind. I had never heard it done that way before. I would almost bet that if you were in a room with 20 odd producers in the 25 to 35 age range, that came up on hip hop and were involved in the “beat” scene they would agree. It was everything I loved about hip hop but so future. It was that Detroit techno influence fusing with the hip hop and it was on that next shit. Tadd Mullinix has always been a influence on me as a musician and as a person. I’ve never known a single musician to have so many alias’s, all so different and every track quality. So carefully crafted with every hit chosen to be exactly where it is and so minimal yet so big.

Shigeto’s new album, No Better Time Than Now, is out now on Ghostly International. 

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