James Sigha has cemented his name within techno in the past few years from his unique sound. Carving his name within a popular field from his ‘extremely immersive sound design’ techniques and his ‘staunchly British take on the genre’. With releases on James Ruskin’s Blueprint to teaming up with Shifted as ‘A Model Authority’ we caught up with Sigha to see what he has been up to ahead of his upcoming album on Token.
Q) You grew up in the UK but now you’re based in Berlin. What are the fundamental differences in the scene between the two places?
A) Traditionally Berlin has been a very cheap place to live, which has attracted a slew of people working in creative industries where income was potentially less stable. This pool of artistic thinking drew more like minded people and the city became a bit of a mecca, not just for electronic musicians but creatives in general.
I’m not the first person to say it, but things are changing slightly now. The cost of living is going up as this creative energy draws more people to the city. More business seem to be moving here looking to cash in on its ‘cool’ factor. The same cycle happens everywhere, look at Shorditch in London in the 90’s with the YBA movement, now it feels like it’s just banker’s apartments and stale bars.
That’s not to say Berlin is stale or not a great place to live in 2017. When I first visited the city in 2008, people were saying it was over, and it clearly wasn’t. But these days increasingly the original factors like the low cost of living and ease of finding studio space that brought myself and so many others to Berlin are no longer relevant.
Q) Yourself and Shifted have been dominating gigs together. There is a lot of rumors around the scene that you two are the duo ‘SHXCXCHCXSH’. Can you put these rumours to rest?
A) Haha, no we aren’t. I can’t even pronounce their name, let alone spell it. The only record myself and Guy have made together was as ‘A Model Authority’.
Q) How did Shifted and yourself first meet? When did yous decide to start playing together?
A) I’ve know Guy for many years now. We had mutual friends when we were both living in the UK, and this led to him getting in touch and asking if he could send me some music.
This was when he was very much still part of Commix, but he sent me through a bunch of techno tracks that seemed very much in-line with my own ideas. We began swapping tracks almost daily, and exchanging ideas and influences. This came at a time that was very formative for both of us, so in all honestly, I don’t think anyone has had a bigger impact on my music in that sense.
The idea to play back to back came a while after that, when we were both a little more established. We just thought it would be fun to travel more together and so came up with the idea of a back to back set. I didn’t really anticipate how popular it would be. I feel like I played as many shows with him in 2015 as I did on my own.
We decided to take time away from it last year. While a back to back can make for a dynamic journey, I know Guy would agree when I say that the push and pull that creates that can also get frustrating when your playing together week in week out. We both have our individual voices too and inevitably these can be a little drowned out when you play together.
Q) When did you first start producing and DJing techno and why?
A) I fell I love with techno when I was at music college studying guitar. I’d not been exposed to it at all until then. I’m sure it’s the same story the world over. There was a ‘moment of clarity’, I suppose you could call it. I’d ended up (entirely against my will) at a warehouse party, and as soon as I walked in and heard the sound system and the 909 it just made sense. Very quickly after that I began messing around with an early version of Reason and bought some decks, I just knew that this is what I wanted to do.
Q) How do you go about approaching a new track, do you have a certain method or is it all about spontaneity?
A) It’s about spontaneity for the most part. Sometimes I’ll begin with an idea already in mind, but often I’ll just be playing with a specific bit of kit and at some point things come together to fire my imagination in a certain way. Making music is something I take very seriously but the act of creating anything should be fun.
Q) I read that you’re a fan of art. Have always been or did you find yourself becoming more in touch with as your career progressed?
A) I’m very lucky that growing up my mother would regularly take myself and my sisters to galleries and exhibitions. As a pre-teen standing in big rooms looking at paintings or sculptures wasn’t always my idea of fun, but it did open me up to the experience of interacting with and enjoying art very early.
Q) What type of visual artists do you most admire?
A) It changes and is pretty broad. I love a lot of the Pre-Raphaelites, but I also adore Richter for example. I love Turner’s almost Impressionist use of light, while I also enjoy Mapplethorpe’s flower series. I just look for something I find stimulating and beautiful.
Q) Why do you think music and art are so intrinsically linked?
A) Music is art.
Q) Has moving to Berlin and maturing had much of an effect on your sound? Do you think you sound would have been more different if you stayed in London?
A) That’s a very difficult question to answer, who knows what I’d be making if I stayed in London. I think what is around you inevitably has an effect on your output, but it’s not possible to say how your effected by what is not around you. I was making Techno before the move to Berlin and I’d still be doing that had I stayed in London. It’s entirely possible the nuances might be a little different had I not had the same experiences though.
Q) Can you tell us what 2017 lies for Sigha
A) Well my second album Metabolism is out this February, so I’ll be touring that with lots of live shows and extended DJ sets. I’ve got a few other projects in the works, hopefully they’ll become more fully realised this year.
I’m planning to kick start my label Our Circula Sound again once the LP tour is over. I’ve had a lot of people asking me what’s going on with it – It’s not dead, but between working out what album I actually wanted to make and then writing the record, I couldn’t give it the attention it needed, so I put it on the back-burner for a little while.