For music-lovers, our musician's chosen stories often make the songs themselves more interesting. Or maybe, in the era of TMZ, we've just become obsessed with the personal lives of those we support. In any case, we can't turn away. (Remember Behind The Music?) Ann Arbor's Shigeto, who will play his first Movement festival this weekend, has a unique perspective on the artist's loss of privacy: "If you are going to be an artist, how are you going to be perceived?" he asks. "It's easier for me to tell people exactly who I am."
Shigeto, an electronic music composer, has one of those Behind the Music stories — he's a musician shrouded in symbolism, starting with his name. Shigeto, Zach Saginaw's middle name, means, as he says, "First to cross over, as in first born, and to increase in size, or to grow larger." He was born nine weeks premature, weighing less than a pound.
Crossing over also describes Saginaw's musical career and his progression through different aural genres. He began, growing up in Ann Arbor, as a jazz musician. While living in London, Saginaw says, "I felt like I wanted be part of something like a renaissance and be a part something I could add to." He's quick to add that it's not like he felt like there was nothing to be added to jazz. Combining electronic music with his jazz influence "was a good way to find a new sound and have a new sound so that I was giving back to the musical community rather than keeping something afloat," Saginaw explains.
There's also a mission behind Shigeto's EP, Half Circle, and his forthcoming LP, Full Circle. The album is a sonic exploration of his grandmother's experience during WWII, when she was imprisoned in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans. "I wanted to show her how much it affects me and how much I care, because sometimes the relative you care about you can't be as close to as you want," Saginaw says of his grandmother, whom he describes as having "shut out" most of her experiences in the camps. "This was a way for me to express my feelings to her but without words; it's easier for me to express myself through music." He also felt it was important for his family's personal history to be released, the story along with the songs. "It was difficult, a part of me was selfish. I believe that for me, with music, it's easier for me to express the most real parts of my life rather than create an alias to hide behind," Saginaw says.
Being discovered by Moongadget and Ghostly, and being allowed to release the record, also satisfies another goal. "I could not only achieve that goal with my grandmother, but also, in a way, let the world know about an event that happened in U.S. history that a lot of people still don't know about," he explains. And to bring up the meaning of Shigeto — crossing over — it seems as if his music has been able to reach across generations, at least in Saginaw's family. "My grandma heard it and likes it," he says. "She is more blown away that I am talking about this stuff; she is swallowing the fact that I am regurgitating [these] kinds of terrible memories but making them less terrible and making them easier to accept."
Think about the name of the LP: Full Circle. For a grandson finally exposing his grandmother's story, his people's story, there's significance. But Saginaw says, to him, it's more about leaving Michigan, and finding his way back. "Just doing an interview for Real Detroit Weekly is amazing," he says. "I love Detroit ... you go back to where you came from but on a different level. Having started in Ann Arbor and going out in the world and eventually joining the Ghostly circle is full circle."
Welcome home, Shigeto.
Shigeto • Movement Festival 2010 • 5/31, 12 to 2 p.m., BeatPort stage 1 Hart Plaza, Detroit • 313.877.8077 • paxahau.com/movement • $60 for three-day pass; $150 for VIP.*Saginaw's name was mistakenly attributed as Zach Anderson. RDW regrets the error.