Photos: Press (Sigha)
British artist Sigha alias James Shaw has been around in the techno scene for quite a while now. He started off releasing on Hotflush, where his first album Living With Ghosts came out late 2012. Now, four years later, it’s time for his sophomore long player Metabolsim, which will be released on Token. We spoke with Shaw why it took so long for his second album to come, what religion has in common with great DJ sets and how Regis helped him cope with internet hatred.
You said in an earlier interview that you always have quite specific idea what you want to achieve with a certain release. What was the idea behind Metabolism?
James Shaw: Metabolism came out of a period of creative dissatisfaction, I guess. I found myself starting to feel unsatisfied creatively and quite depressed because of it. And there was a good year and a half of feeling like I was struggling when I came to sit down in the studio. I was making a lot of non-techno stuff, a lot of ambient music, and really getting my kicks from that. Then I started to really wonder why this was and why I was feeling like this. I came to the conclusion that maybe I’d kind of let things become a little bit too easy. You go away every weekend, and there are certain records that you can play and certain tracks that you can play and styles that you can play that will definitely set a crowd off. I think it’s very easy to slip into that routine. I’m not taking anything away from DJs that do that kind of thing. But for me that was never what drew me into techno in the first place. I always wanted something a little bit more cerebral, something that worked for the head and the feet, and not just straight up party music. But I guess over the last few years I slipped into that kind of slightly easy mindset. And things started to become stale for me creatively because of that.
Stream: Sigha – Metabolism (Snippets)
So I started to try and address that, like both when I played and also in the studio and really try and work through this process rather than just throwing everything out of the window and thinking ”I don’t wanna make techno anymore.” What I was really missing was elements of contrast. I love powerful, hard pounding party music, I love greyscale, bleak techno tools – but none of that means anything if you don’t set it off against something that contrasts that. Whether that’s melodic elements and beautiful pads, or shimmering strings. Otherwise things just become flatline very quickly. The thing that I get most excited about in music and the moments that I remember on the dance floor are the moments when it’s been slamming out for half an hour and it’s been super dark and then suddenly the DJ will inject this incredible, beautiful moment of just epic melody. Those are the moments that I will remember the next day and the next week or the next month. Those are the things that stick in my head. It’s that kind of juxtaposition of sound.
When did you start working on Metabolism?
Shaw: Working on an album really started at the beginning of 2015. But a large part of that was under this creative malaise, where I was basically writing an ambient album. I wrote like a kind of slow, sub-hundred bpm sort of weird technoie bass music album. And both of those got thrown out of the window, just because I didn’t know where I was in myself, creatively. Halfway through the year I had this kind of like epiphany, for want of a better word. I decided that what either I knew what I felt I was lacking and so I would try and address that in a record. And then Christ Figures came out of that and the Our Father EP came out of that, both on Token. I knew that I wanted to say something a little bit more long-form. From there, I guess I’ve just being trying to find my feet more and more with it and Metabolism is a culmination of that.
And gear-wise, did you use any new gear or were there any specific machines that you used for this album?
Shaw: I’d say about a good 85 to 90 percent of the record was written on my modular. That’s been massively responsible for slowing down my musical output, but to me it’s a more interesting way of working. It’s not right for everyone for sure, I’m not one of those hardware or modular guys that’s like “This is the only way you can make music”. If some people want to make music and can make incredible tunes just sitting there with their laptop – it’s what comes out that matters, that’s the main thing. But for me, when I dove into modular synthesis, really quickly I started to feel lost, but very comfortable being lost. It’s taken a while, but I finally feel able to utilize the power which that machine is able to unlock.