Shawn Wasabi swung by to chat about his debut album MANGOTALE, how he deals with writer’s block, his custom Midi Fighter 64, and plenty more!
Over the years Shawn Wasabi has stayed true to himself and his music production. He has never tried to imitate a hot, new genre of dance music or take on a different persona. Instead, he’s released some unconventionally catchy tunes that have his own flair to them and gained an immense following in the process. His creativity is unmatched and you can see that shine on each one of Shawn Wasabi’s tracks!
You may recognize Shawn Wasabi from his viral YouTube videos for “Marble Soda” and “BURNT RICE” from 2015. They involve Shawn finger-drumming out these amazing full-length songs on his custom Midi Fighter 64. Each of these videos has 30 million plays and if that does not speak to Shawn’s innate talent, he has recently released his first full-length project MANGOTALE which has been met with critical acclaim.
Looking to dig deeper into the album, we caught up with Shawn on his process in making MANGOTALE, the immersive Mango Island listening experience, and on how Shawn deals with bouts of writer’s block. Read about it below!
Take a listen to MANGOTALE on Spotify below, download or stream it on your favorite platform, and read on for our chat with Shawn Wasabi!
Stream Shawn Wasabi – MANGOTALE on Spotify:
Hey Shawn, thanks for chatting with us today! Let’s talk about your first full length album, MANGOTALE, that’s out now. What was the process behind making this album and did it differ from your previous releases?
The process, I love the process of finally putting together an album. MANGOTALE is my identity project and it sonically represents myself and how I’ve matured and also really how much I love collaborating and sharing ideas with people.
For real though, the whole of May (being in lockdown and not have people to hang with or anywhere to visit) was a big grind fest of sitting in front of my computer all day and not leaving my house to get it completed. Which I probably shouldn’t have done and I encourage people to take time with their music! Looking back in hindsight, I’m glad I got it all together. I couldn’t be any more excited and proud of it.
MANGOTALE features an all-female cast of singer-songwriters. Was this a coincidental occurrence or something you set out to do when creating the album?
I collaborate on songs with everyone! The songs I chose to be on my album are perfectly personal, conversational, fun, nurturing, colorful, and immersively tangible in ways that I identify with. I wholeheartedly believe that people who have culturally intersectional experiences have the best and most important stories to tell. And also masculinity isn’t as much of a nurturing energy or feeling. I feel like the best music and art I make happen when I take a step back from that.
The album provides an immersive listening experience for your fans. Each song is represented by a specific character and they all inhabit Mango Island. In a time where so much is going on in the world, how important is it for listeners to be able to be transported somewhere else while listening to your music?
Thank you! I’m glad you feel that. MANGOTALE is the light at the end of the tunnel for me. it’s the thing balancing the emotional and mental equilibrium in my head. And it’s own whole ecosystem of sorts. We each have a world that’s buried deep inside where everything seems perfect. For me, MANGOTALE is exactly that.
One of my favorite tracks off the album is “MANGO LOVE” with vocalist SATICA. How did that collaboration come about?
Sati is great!! We made that song in a house in Hollywood (specifically Justin Tranter’s house) that was in the middle of being constructed. Justin co-wrote the song with us. It’s the first time I mentioned mango as a song concept. That song is literally about mango sticky rice, and it was just a fun idea we made that night that I sent to my Mom later that week and she loved it.
How do you deal with bouts of writer’s block? Do you have any tricks that help you get through it?
I have too many ideas right now. Like my head is a fountain of creative vomit at this very moment. But I do experience writer’s block. And the most recent thing for me that actually worked is packing all my music gear away and finding other things to do with my time. If you’re talking to your creative brain but they’re not talking back, you gotta hang up the phone and call again later. Maybe you have some other stuff you need to deal with first before your creative brain visits you.
What has been the biggest struggle that you both have faced so far in your career, and how did you overcome it?
Realistically this year it’s been the album release itself, bursts of fragileness and depression, and trying to enjoy every step of the process. There are so many little things you can do to make it enjoyable and something to look forward to. What helped me overcome that was stepping back and literally taking long breaks of doing absolutely nothing.
Back in 2017, you teamed up with DJ TechTools to release your one-of-a-kind Midi Fighter 64. Now, three years old, what would you want to improve in a Midi Fighter 64 version 2.0?
The original Midi Fighter 64 dates back to 2014! The one we released in 2017 is version 2.0. For version 3.0, I would love it to be lighter and thinner and more compact. That mostly means the buttons need to be re-engineered more than anything because the Sanwa arcade buttons take up 80% of the vertical height of the controller. I need more engineers to hit me up; if you’re reading this please do.
You have posted some recent videos on Instagram of you hooking up your Midi Fighter 64 to household items such as bread, jelly, and peanut butter. Each item makes a distinct sound and you essentially create a fire beat from these items. Where does the inspiration come from with these videos?
I have a hard time trying to explain this but in my thought process and brainstorm process. I have so many abstract situational ideas but not enough immediate ways to express those ideas traditionally.
For example, think of Cars (the Pixar movie). The main idea behind it is that these different cars have lives and faces. Someone thought “you know how cars kinda have faces? what if that was real” and made a movie.
In the same way, I think about “that soda machine has a mechanical switch. The same way midi controllers have mechanical switches. hmmm,” And it starts from there. And I have so many of those ideas that I’d love to share eventually!
Finally, if you could offer up an inspiring message to your fans during this uncertain time, what would it be?
I have this thought I’m thinking of right now so very important, go tell your family you love them and clear up the grudges and emotional wrinkles you might have with people in your life. I’m learning more and more in this time of world-on-fire and pandemic that life is short and impermanent.
And listen to MANGOTALE!!
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