Part of the famous Ghostly International family, Zach Saginaw, better known as Shigeto, produces and performs ethereal music most closely associated to instrumental hip hop. Catch him performing with Mount Kimbie and Matthew David at the Mezzanine on April 2nd.
With roots stemming from his days as a jazz drummer and an avid collector of old Motown records, his music boasts a wide array of old school and contemporary influences coupled with deep bass sounds.
SF Station (SFS): For those that don’t know, could you please give us a little info of where the name Shigeto originated from?
Shigeto (S): Shigeto was my great grandfather’s name. Also, I was nine weeks premature and weighed less than two pounds. “Shigeto” means to increase in size, which might have had something to do with my mother naming me that, as well.
SFS: You used to be a jazz drummer, and now make music electronically. What was the weirdest part of that transition?
S: Honestly, I feel like I’m still in that transition. When I’m playing the drums or in a live setting with other musicians, I feel at ease. I have the ability to express pretty much what ever I feel at any given time. I have still to reach that level of comfort with my live sets. Right now, every show is a new journey.
Also, It’s been interesting adjusting to a more club kind of atmosphere. Growing up playing shows where 90 percent of the time the audience was sitting was really different.
SFS: Ghostly International is one of the best record labels around the world. How did it make you feel signing with them?
S: Great. It’s more than a label to me — it’s home, it’s friends., it made me want to write more music! (laughs).
SFS: Oftentimes instrumental hip hop gets a bad rep. Why do you think this is?
S: There will always be haters. Don’t pay them no mind.
SFS: Your previous release was called Semi Circle, and your most recent release is Full Circle. Is it symbolic for the way you’ve grown in between these releases, or just the transition of EP to full album?
S: I chose both names before choosing the tracks. The tracks on Semi Circle were focused on having a nice range of tracks but not giving too much away for me. Full Circle, was, I guess, showing the me for what I was at that moment. A first “hello,” if you will. Full Circle was the whole picture. I felt Full Circle did represent my journey to becoming part of Ghostly and was fitting for the first release.
SFS: Although full of simple melodies, there are also many complex layers with your tracks. What was the inspiration behind Full Circle?
S: Taking my art more seriously yet more freely than ever. Sharing things I love through my music.
SFS: Was there a story you were trying to tell?
S: I think I was just saying “hello.” Showing clips of my life. Segments and pictures through music but not full stories yet. The stories are coming soon!
SFS: Since you lived in Michigan, NYC, and London, which place has had the most influence in your music?
S: I think I’m influenced from whatever my surroundings are at the time, but Michigan is the winner on that one. The Detroit sound. The Ann Arbor people. This is the music I obsessed over growing up. Going to see Athletic Mic League (Mayor Hawthorne’s crew) in high school with Binary Star. Tadd Mullinix (Dabrye, JTC) and Todd Osborn used to have a weekly for $3! Or you could just go say what up to Tadd at Encore Records, the favorite local shop. Not to mention Ghostly started there in 1999. I was surrounded by amazing talent my whole life in Ann Arbor. I’d say the biggest influence of all was my friends. I think we all still push each other to this day.
SFS: Who are some producers/DJs that have caught your eye this year?
S: Two LP’s I can’t wait to hear are Devonwho’s coming out on All City and the local homie Shlohmo’s full length. Also looking forward to hearing more from Tower of Light, an amazingly beautiful and dark project out of Brooklyn. Oh, and digging on that new Austin Peralta. Big ups to Brainfeeder for releasing jazz records these days.
SFS: Is there anything you’re looking forward to doing in SF?
S: Catching up with friends. Mission Burrito. Also, really looking forward to coming back at the end of the month with my New York homies Praveen and Machinedrum as Sepalcure. That will be a blast. Chin chin y’all!