We sat down with talented producer and artist Shawn Wasabi.
Photography and interview by Christopher Brown
MANGOTALE is your first full-length album, how long have you been working on this project and how does it feel to finally release it?
I feel amazing about being able to finally show the world the project I’ve dreamed about! But also I’m still continuously evolving the music and art and am still sculpting it into a bigger deluxe version. It’s been out for a month, so I’ve had some time to step back and appreciate it. “HALO HALO” and “tokyo tea” both started in 2016. I began “HALO HALO” with Hollis one day after making Otter Pop with her and “tokyo tea” was a sketch I did with Spacegirl Gemmy shortly after we made “Burnt Rice.”
You work with exclusively female vocalists on this album, how do you go about choosing collaborators?
I wholeheartedly believe that people who have culturally intersectional experiences have the best and most important stories to tell. Masculinity can easily get in the way of creating wonderful art. We’ve built it upon ourselves to dampen and compartmentalize our emotions – men do this more often than not. Maybe it comes out when we’re alone. But when “bros” hang out together there’s a collective energy that I appreciate but don’t really find my art needing to express.
It’s so audiovisual much like all of your work – where did you come up with the concept for Mango Island? And who’s your favorite character?
Inside each of us – and by us, I mean the giant neural networks that make up our wrinkly brains – there lives a world that’s buried deep inside where everything seems perfect. If my head was an island, it would be Mango Island with its own music and people and lifestyles and art.
“The biggest part of that is I love making music that my Mom would probably enjoy.”
You released this project during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month – what are some of the cultural influences embedded in the album?
The biggest part of that is I love making music that my Mom would probably enjoy. Most of the songs on the project have bits of the cultural influence I adopted from my parents growing up. It’s kinda obvious in some parts, especially “HALO HALO” and “MANGO LOVE.”
What do you hope listeners will take away from MANGOTALE?
Everyone who listened to the album has told me they’ve replayed it a bunch of times. There’s so many things and steps to what I want listeners to get out of the project, but the most important out of all that is – is it good? Do you like it? Does it slap? There’s more stuff I don’t want to give away yet so I’ll be happy to finish answering this question in the upcoming months!!
You produced this album almost entirely on your laptop – for your next project, do you plan to use any other hardware or instruments?
Love my laptop. I really use anything and everything. Part of the modus operandi behind my creative workflow is just to make use of my environment as much as I can and not let anything go to waste. I love how chefs find utility for all the ingredients and tools they have in their kitchen, and I try to work the same way. I was borrowing a guitar and a bass guitar for a bit but I had to return it last week! I still have my trusty Yamaha keyboard and midi controllers though.
“I think it’s cool to give presence to yourself outside of the internet.”
How have you been staying creative and productive in quarantine?
Literally finishing up the album and nothing else, (laughs). I try to have as much fun with the process nowadays. Being that I do this for a living too, it’s important to create and maintain a mental association that it’s still fun as heck.
Are you learning a lot about yourself during this time? Things maybe you never would have expected.
Yes, I’ve been spending so much time being introspective. When it takes 20 minutes for a song to render, you just gotta sit and stare at the wall for a bit and contemplate. When you learn a new instrument or figure out a new program, you have to unpack your brain’s learning patterns and stitch it back together. Sometimes the experience of that is thoughtfully existential. Sometimes it’s meditative. Sometimes I’m thinking about the best case scenario of all the cool things in the future.
What does the rest of 2020 look like for you?
I don’t know. So many things I want to know but I’ve been shifting the goal posts a lot and spending less time on social media. 2020 is a year of uncertainty and confusion. I think it’s cool to give presence to yourself outside of the internet. I’ve been trying to relax more and just take in things around me.
Describe your style in 10 words or less.
Colorful ADHD party but still emotionally vulnerable.