James Shaw's debut album on Hotflush blends understated techno with foreboding ambience.
Real name James Shaw, Sigha is an English techno artist with a soft spot for the avant-garde. His debut album was written over the past two years, partly in London and partly after his recent move to Berlin. It's due out this November on Scuba's Hotflush Recordings, the same label that released his debut EP in 2009 and most of his records since then. It shows his understated approach to techno continuing to develop, with a deeper vein of ambience than any of his previous releases. Chatting on the phone this week, he gave us some background on Living With Ghosts:
How did the idea of making the album come about? is it something you've wanted to do for a while, or is it something Paul [Rose, AKA Scuba] suggested?Living With Ghosts will be preceded by a limited edition ten-inch with the tracks "Scene Couple" and "Brood," the latter of which will be exclusive to that release.
Paul first mentioned doing an album a long time ago, quite soon after I'd put out a couple of 12-inches on Hotflush. I didn't really take him seriously to be honest. I think it's every recording artist's dream to record an album on a label you respect, so I thought it was too good to be true. Then I saw him in Berlin and he was like, "so what's happening with the album?" and I finally started taking it seriously [laughs]. It's been in the works for a couple of years. There were some hard parts—my studio computer went down about halfway through, a year and a couple of months ago, and I lost a lot of stuff basically. So yeah it's been painful at times but we got there.
You're relatively new on the scene, having debuted in 2009. What did you do before Sigha?
I was just working up to that point, if that makes sense. Everything I was doing was geared toward getting to where I am now. I went to music college in the early '00s, but I was studying guitar, taking that very seriously, listening to a lot of noise bands and shoegaze stuff and that's what I wanted to do. Then I stumbled across techno at a warehouse party completely by chance, and that basically completely tore up the map I'd drawn out for my life. So yeah I just became really focussed on electronic music. In the exact run-up to that I was working at Black Market and writing tunes, hoping someone would take notice.
Do you feel like your sound has evolved a lot since your first release?
100%. If you're looking at my first stuff, there are sonic elements there that I've always been interested in, that immersive quality that drags you in without any big hook or drop. But at the same time there's been a very natural evolution to the more current, contemporary 4/4 sound. If you listen to my early Hotflush stuff, I mean, I was listening to a lot of techno, but I was in London, surrounded by dubstep, and that was a massive influence as well. So it wasn't one thing and it wasn't the other.
This is the first time we've heard such full-on drone and ambient material from you. Is that a new thing, or just something you've never had the chance to release before?
I've been making drone and ambient stuff for a long time. It's probably my favorite kind of thing, I can just kind of lose myself making weird noises, being really self-indulgent, letting it loop on for 20 minutes. Paul's always telling me to cut things down, which is good, not to be as self-indulgent.
Stylistically, did you find making an LP at all liberating compared to making a 12-inch?
I think so, definitely. But it was also more stressful, because like I said, it's a dream of every recording artist to make an album that will see the light of day. I've been wanting to make music professionally for so long, and this is the end game. This is it, so I was kind of thinking "don't fuck this up."
But generally speaking the album is the most coherent picture of myself as an artist that I've released. Before there's been things where it's like "well, that's not exactly how I see myself, and now it's out there and it's going to effect how people see me." The album is pretty much exactly how I see my style.
Are you happy with how it turned out?
To be honest, I've never been totally happy with anything I've put out. Every artist I speak to says the same thing. I'm happy with the overall product, how it represents me as an artist. But there's always things where you listen back and you think, "Ah, I should have done this, I should have done that." But I think that's always the case. If you ask me the same question in a year I think it would be easier to answer.
Hotflush is a label with an increasingly open-ended style and identity. How does that affect your experience as part of the roster?
I think it's a really positive thing. My own development as an electronic artist wouldn't have been given the same room to breath and grow if I hadn't been working with Paul and Hotflush. Around the time I signed to the label, he's always said, "I don't want it to be a dubstep label," but it was always perceived as that, that's what it was for me as well. Anyway it was kind of happy accident, joining a stable that would end up developing in this free fashion, giving me the room to explore different areas. If they'd said "Look, we make dubstep," I would have felt left in the cold. So it's a really positive thing and I'm really thankful for it to be honest.
04. Scene Couple
07. Dressing for Pleasure (Ideal)
08. Faith and Labour
10. Dressing for Pleasure (Extract)
11. She Kills in Ecstasy
Hotflush Recordings will release Living With Ghosts on November 19th, 2012.