Sound Gallery is a Fuss feature where we interview a DJ or producer and invite them to curate a mix which exhibits their style, skill, and talents. In this edition of the Sound Gallery, we feature Sage Hitomi. We discuss his relationship with music, his fascination with Japanese culture, his production methods and the SAGECLVN.
Hitomi is a Japanese word which translates to ‘pupil of the eye’. What does Sage Hitomi mean to you and why did you choose this artist name?
I actually got it from Hitomi Tanaka as a funny joke. If you Google her you’ll know why.
Your previous moniker also had the word Sage in it, referencing a loose global collective. Tell us more about this collective and what it is that brought you together?
SAGECLVN is a collective Dante, Thomas and I started about 2 years ago. It’s pretty much all three of us collaborating together on music and art. We have other members like Eight Elements and Matthew Prins who are affiliated with us. It’s one big family even though we’re spread out across the world.
Your personal identity is quite removed from your musical identity. Was this a conscious decision to keep your identity hidden and, if so, why?
I’ve always wanted my music life and my normal separate. Unfortunately, it’s very hard in this day and age where anyone can get information on just about anybody. Right now I’m trying to get mask’s done for live performances and press photos.
Talk us through your early relationship with music as a listener. What was the first genre of music you really resonated with and can you recall the first piece you paid for?
It was pretty much a mixture of hip-hop, indie-pop and indie-rock when I was growing up. My mum would play stuff like Snow Patrol and my Dad would play dirty south chopped and screwed stuff. I still remember him playing a Paul Wall CnS mixtape that was mixed by MikeWatt3000.
The very first album I bought with my own was the Gorillaz’ Demon Days, I still enjoy that album to this day.
Eventually, your relationship with music evolved from being a listener to being a creator. When did this happen and what triggered the desire to create music?
I originally wanted to become a chef funny enough. But one day I realised that I enjoyed writing music more than cooking an apple pie. I used to play around with Fruity Loops 3 – the one from 1999. I didn’t have internet back then so it was harder for me to buy digital audio workstations. I eventually went on to FL Studio 10.
Visually, in your name, and in the titles of some of your music there is a reference to the Japanese culture. What is it that fascinates you about Japan and its culture or subcultures?
Japan is such a weird place man. I like things that are out of the norm. I didn’t want to appropriate their culture and its something I have respected.
Musically, some of your early music was rooted in the microgenre of vaporwave. What is your understanding of vaporwave and would you say your latest music is still influenced by this style of music?
I really enjoyed the whole post internet scene and I liked the fact that they brought back an era that most of us weren’t even alive to see and experience. A lot of people pass vaporwave as ‘Slowed down Diana Ross’ but to be honest its an art form.
Your sound is a future based interpretation of RnB. What other genres do you take influence from in your production?
A lot of EDM mostly. But, I also take influences from trap music, R&B, bluegrass, shoegaze and more. I’ll listen to anything that has a really good melody is coherent as well as harmonic.
Love and heartbreak seem to be a recurring theme throughout your music. Why is this so and is your music based on personal experience?
My music is based on experiences that I’ve had in my normal life. I use it as a personal diary for all the stuff that’s happened. I enjoy making music that’s relatable. We’ve all been though heartbreak. People can use music to get over a love that was lost. I made Winter Heartbreak after a year-long relationship that ended due to a situation that was out of my control. I don’t know how to express my emotions through a vocal exchange. I keep things inside a lot and with music, I am able to express those emotions. Whether I’m in love with someone I’m with like on ‘TIED2U’ or I’m getting over someone like on ‘over u’ I show it through my music. It’s corny and cringe-worthy but it’s how my mind works.
Tell us about your production set-up. What hardware and software do you use to produce?
I went for a less is more approach with my current set up. It’s my Lenovo laptop and an Akai EIE Pro to handle processes and take the load off my laptop. For writing and arranging I use Ableton Live Suite 9 and for mixing and mastering I use Protools 12. I recently broke my second Akai LPK25 so I’m looking to replace it soon.
Fill us in on your production style. How do you go about using your hardware and software to produce music?
I usually write a progression and go from there. Lay a pad or two, an arp if needed and a big main synth that I grab from Massive or Sylenth-1. After that, I program drums and create a melody with a vocal chop.
When I arrange I work in parts. Chorus first, then intro and a drop. I then cut out parts of the chorus for drum fills then finish off with something.
Production or live-performance. Which do you prefer more?
It’s really tough to say. I enjoy that feeling when you have a song that just comes together. But, on the other hand, I enjoy entertaining people when I perform live and just going crazy.
What have been your favourite releases this year? Both locally and internationally?
So far I’ve really been bumping a lot of Pi’erre Bourne, Grisfx, Helix and Genesis lately. Locally I’ve been looking at guys like Vox Potent, Omar Morto, Jayden Lewis, Ethan Crowie and Tsukudu.
As an artist, what is your definition of success and what level of success do you hope to achieve?
My definition of success would be a steady growth in one’s career. Being able to plan ahead of time and release material without any hiccups. Also having a new Bugatti. But, everyone has different values. Right now I’m trying to start the HitomiWorld company, which would have products ranging from clothing, music, videogames and more.