Photos by Jenz. Shot on location at Brainwash Cafe, San Francisco.
Earlier this year Mux Mool and Shigeto embarked on a US tour in support of their albums both of great acclaim and both released from Ghostly International. Mux, aka Brian Lindgren had just dropped High School Planet, just as Zach 'Shigeto' Saginaw released Lineage right about when we caught up with the two at a trendy combination cafe/bar/bistro/laundromat/venue across from their designated venue at 103 Harriet. We joined their table where a brutal open mic caterwaul had conveniently drawn to a close as we made our introductions and the two placed an order of pastas and salads. We began swapping tales of impossible festival navigations, tour stories, swapped some electronica shop, retro game console talk, all while light sax jazz played overhead.
This begins the 6 show tour together?
MM: Yeah, we got all those east coast dates.
Is there any kind of collaborative air going on?
MM: No, none at all!
S: Ha, maybe by the third show, but no we don’t like each other very much!
MM: This is the first time I’ve met Zach.
S: Ha ha, what was your name again? It’s going to be awesome, l I don’t know, we had a lot of fun on the last one…
MM: Yes, we, did!
And you just played Low End Theory?
S: I played Low End a few nights ago.
MM: Then we’re going to Missoula Montana, then New York
S: Then we got a small break and then an east coast tour. Basically, Brian just has his tour and I’m just hopping on it.
MM: This was supposed to be the album tour. That was what it started as when it was being planned I think changed a little but yeah…
You both have releases out.
MM: We both have releases out, we have the same agent, we have the same record label, we hang out, so it was like, let’s put you guys together, that makes sense.
So, Zach: there’s a lot of live drumming going, Javelin incorporates it into their sets, Tycho and you are an avid drummer yourself in your live sets, is there a renaissance in electronic music of live organic drummiing
I think in general electronic music is moving back towards incorporative instruments, “traditional instruments “ so I don’t think there is a renaissance in having drummers play but I think there was a time when we used to be in bands and we were using instruments to mimic the traditional instruments and then we got into synthesis of making crazy sounds that couldn’t be produced by these instruments. And now I feel with electronic music people are starting to go back to using more traditional instruments and taking both of the appeals and going further with it if that makes any sense.
It’s something I’ve have noticed is people returning to that simplicity and that base where so much of electronic music is dependent on that beat.
S: I think it goes real deep that question, for instance the industrial time of music; the industry is harder now to sell music so it’s more about playing music. Brian and I can guarantee you that we survive from performing, we don’t survive by selling our record.
MM: Not so much.
SS: I think now that the focus is on performance we have to make performance better. People aren’t just going to want to see someone standing there behind a computer forever. And if you are behind a computer you have to do something else like Brian talks to people.
MM: I tell comedy jokes.
S: Seriously, He gets so involved with the audience and I’m like, hey, uh heh-eh, how’s it going? Heh-eh!” You know?
MM: Hey, I’m really uncomfortable, what’s up?
S: But it’s like we both do our thing and everyone else does their thing to involve the audience more so I think getting back into acoustic instruments or just playing things live goes back with the whole industry changing.
MM: For me that’s strange because I never thought about live music at all when I first started making this stuff so sometimes it’s hard to translate it to live setting , does that make sense? I don’t think of it live, I don’t make it live so I have to deconstruct it to make it live, do you know what I’m saying?
Well yeah, you think about it different terms too like in the promotional video for Planet High School that looks like an NES game or even Skulltaste was a hybrid of 80s systems to create this grandiose vision. What effect for you has video and computer gaming had on your music?
MM; Well I think part of it is that I probably have listened to video game music more than any other music because of so much gaming over time without actually sitting down and listening to the music it just has been going on all those sounds and everything . But being able to tell what gear and midi instruments are on everything and just having a knowledge base unwittingly. I think also when I sit down to makes songs it’s not that much different from playing a video game; it’s late at night, I’m like this (gestures in front of his nearby lap top) I’m just moving colors around and they kind of go hand in hand so I guess the schedule works out for me, how about that.
Do you think of the structure of works having as consciously having an expansive, rising quality?
S: I guess I am trying to take the listener somewhere and have them stay interested and also be able to say what I want to say. I don’t think I am consciously trying to expand most of the music I write the final product is very different, I’m very manic about the way I work. Usually I just will record and take 15 minutes of material and just work with that and build it up, but no I don’t think it’s a conscious thing.
MM: Sound dynamics!
S: I think as lame as it sounds it’s just a maturity thing in knowing when you don’t have to add anything. There are a lot of producers that I respect so much because of their minimalism…
MM: …of what you don’t like.
S: For what you don’t do! like what Miles Davis would say, who did he say it about? Was it Ella? I think it was Ella he said, ‘I like your space,’you know, ‘I like it when you don’t sing’ but it was a compliment because he was like ‘I like when you’re restrained.’
MM: I think because so much of popular electronic music right now is all sounds on all frequencies compressed and turned up to absolute maximum for an entire album that is like 90 minutes long and every song is the same and your senses get rubbed so fucking raw that when you pull back from that even a little bit and you just let a song or a loop play out a little bit or add some subtlety and people are like ‘ohhh what is that I haven’t heard that’ they don’t even know what that is. Actually that makes people sound like they are all dumb that’s not what I mean! But it’s really surprising to people what happens when sometimes you let things breathe because they’re not used to hearing that.
And one thing that Ghostly roster almost everyone is concerned with doing things with air escaping from pipes, a crack in the door and I don’t think people were thinking that deep before about the electronic medium a decade back in the popular arena.
MM: I don’t think it was always so easy to add that but I don’t know about [Zach] I suppose you get a lot of wind tone because you record your drums so it’s already in there but I have to add that in there it’s a canvas of everything else to go on. Digital silence is not great there has to have something like wind tone in a silent room. You have to have that in there or it’s really unnatural is my thinking.
One thing that stood out was the jazz on “Huron River Drive” and you went to school for jazz, right?
S: I was actually talking about this earlier today there is a lot of misinformation. I have been playing jazz a long time but I only studied jazz for 3 semesters in my whole life. I learned a lot but yeah, I just learned from playing a lot with a lot of great players and getting my ass handed to me. And going to music school in New York I learned so much mainly piano and theory stuff but I didn’t study traditional stuff that much, so there still is so much to learn.
It’s funny because [“Huron River Drive”] is actually a jazz song that I started writing when I was in college.
MM: Wait, you went to college?
S: Yeah, I dropped out!
MM: Me too!
Are your parents supportive of your music?
S: They really have been embracing it and I feel really lucky for that but they have always been very supportive you know, it wasn’t just me incorporating family history into my current music. My father has always stressed me to do exactly what I want and I have made it very obvious that I want to be involved in music and they have always been very supportive. They get very excited, they’re very supportive definitely. I didn’t want to directly (make Lineage) for my family, it’s easier for me to tell people who I am. I am not an entertainer in the sense of a name alias if that makes any sense. A lot of people can use their alias as a different character, it’s a different person, for instance Marilyn Manson, or Lady Gaga that’s not who they are it’s their alias. Those are extremes but I think Brian is the same way in that he is so personable with his internet presence the way he interacts with his fans. So it’s just easier for me to be me so if I want to get deeper or if I want to talk about something or do something important it’s just saying where I’m coming from.
MM: My parents are both struggling artists themselves in different ways. I think just the fact that I have even made any money off it they’re blown away, but they are both very supportive.
Brian, I was wondering if “Death 9000” is updated with “Raw Gore?”
MM: When I made “Death 9000” there was actually a whole other song built around that and the main part of that song was the breakdown and a buddy of mine was like, ‘you should make the whole song out of the break down.’ And so I did so when the time to make “Raw Gore” came up I think I thought the same exact thing, just make the whole song the break down don’t bother with anything flashy because there was so many other songs that I had spent way too much time on for the album. Just keep that one…raw. So I knew that going into it ahead of time because I had already done that once before.
Speaking of video games and composers “Soaring” has that Final Fantasy theme music harp. Was that on purpose?
S: No, I don’t want to disappoint anyone but I never really played video games!
MM: Ha ha, I’ll be all yo Zach I got this new game and he’s like (deadpan) cool.
S: No, there were very few video games that I played mainly because every year for Christmas I would ask for a Nintendo or Gameboy and I would never get it so eventually I stopped caring, seriously, I wanted it so bad! And finally got it but it was after my younger brother was born and he wanted it too and I was already just…yeah.
My mom wouldn’t let me have Nintendo or none of that when it was out but she let me have Turbo Grafx 16.
MM: Oh shit!
Because nobody cared about it and I wouldn’t get in trouble.
MM: What did they have for Turbo Grafx 16?
Bonk’s Adventure, Raiden, the first Street Fighter…
MM: Fighting Street or whatever
S: I played Coleco Vision a lot at my cousin’s house.
MM: That’s good too though!
S: Crocodile Hunter and Pitfall , or was it just Pitfall?
MM: There was Pitfall and then there was Super Pitfall.
S: Okay, I’m not going to act like I know about video games
MM: What the fuck man, you don’t hear me talking about jazz!