3/18/2016 UPDATE: Since this interview took place 2 years ago, Shawn Wasabi has been rapidly increasing in popularity. We thought it’d be a good idea to re-share this interview with him by fellow masher Ricky Cervantes, and include some of Shawn’s newest creations.
ORIGINAL POST 1/9/2014: Hey guys! I’m Ricky Cervantes, you might have seen my mashups and edits posted here on Too Good For Radio a few times. I’ll be doing some guest interviews here on the site from time to time, and our first comes from Salinas, California native Shawn Wasabi who took YouTube by storm in 2013 with his live mashups. I sat down with Shawn to find out a little bit about him, his fascination with Midi Fighters, and to find out how his brain works, Enjoy!
RC: I know a little bit of your background, but for some of our readers who might not know much about you, how long have you been making music, and how did you get started messing with sample-based music and controllers such as the M-Audio trigger finger and the Midi Fighters?
SW: I’ve played piano on and off since I was 7, but I began making music when I got this cool blue Jackson RR3 electric guitar for Christmas back in 2008. A bunch of friends and I got together and started a little band, and we wrote a bunch of these cheesy guitar riffs that we later turned into songs. They were some of the crappiest songs ever, but it was arousing just to be able to write our own original material for the first time. I started my https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXLrdG_ZVt4US1iV40ytiQQ“>sssShawnnnn YouTube channel around that time too and uploaded a bunch of guitar covers and originals as well.
It wasn’t until 2012 that I knew about MIDI controllers when I borrowed my buddy Aaron’s M-Audio Trigger Finger controller to DJ at a rave. My best friend Ian bought a Midi Fighter 3D that same year, and it was the coolest thing with all the lights, arcade buttons, and whatnot. We DJed and produced together, and usually, we’d leave stuff at each other’s houses because we’d meet up again the next day anyways. That Midi Fighter was at my house for the longest time in May of 2013, and I got inspired to do sample-based work after seeing videos of controllerists like AraabMuzik, Jeremy Ellis, and Madeon tear it up on drum pads and buttons.
RC: Having been a follower of Boy In A Band, I first discovered your youtube channel through that Dubstep Metal collaboration you guys did, but it wasn’t until your first live mashup, “Pizza Rolls” that you REALLY got my attention. Was that your first time experimenting with mashups? what was the driving factor to make you want to create something like “Pizza Rolls”?
SW: Yeah, in a way! I had a bit of experience with non-live genre mashups before “Pizza Rolls” if that counts. The collaboration with Boyinaband is an example of that. Moving towards a song and sample mashup like “Pizza Rolls” was sort of a shot in the dark, but I felt it wasn’t too much different from what I had done before. I still liked the idea of combining genres, and I attempted that another time with “Pizza Rolls”. Sometimes, I’ll listen to a song and think to myself, “What would this sound like in a different genre? What if instead that synth was a huge distorted guitar?” Experimentation is fun, like seriously.
RC: I felt that Pizza Rolls really raised the bar on these live/launchpad mashups we see from time to time, but your latest single “Mac ‘N Cheese” really blew me away. What is your thought process going into these things? how do you determine what songs and samples go into these, and how long does it take you to set something like these up prior to recording?
SW: Thanks! It’s a lot of small things that build inspiration. Much more thinking and brainstorming goes into it than actually sitting down at a computer putting things together. I’ll usually listen to a bunch of old disco and motown records and pick out stuff I like, or listen to a random Pandora station and find tracks that appeal to me. Song and sample selection is tricky. I try to create original melodies and chord progressions from “stealing” parts of other songs. Even though the individual bits of sound themselves are ripped from other tracks, the melody feels very personal and intimate. The actual hard work part does take a while, mapping samples out and remembering where you put them, but it’s pretty fun and I enjoy jamming out on the Midi Fighter trying to come up with different combinations.
SW: That has a weird story behind it! Derek, the lead singer and guitarist of Pinn Panelle, contacted me asking if I would like to do a YouTube collaboration. It would’ve been like a Pinn Panelle ft. sssShawnnnn kinda thing. Anyways, we figured out that the camera work split-screen thing with a whole band plus me wouldn’t work out. Instead, Derek opted to fly me out from California all the way to Chicago, so we could record everything together in person. We recorded a couple videos together in this ghetto studio space in Chicago, ended up connecting together really well, and BAM, we’re all together as one band family. I trigger samples and play synth and keyboard lines in the band now. It’s pretty neat.
RC: With just shy of 1 million views between your two mashups, you certainly made a name for yourself in 2013. Do you plan on pushing the envelope further in 2014? What kind of stuff can we expect to see and hear from you in the next 12 months?
SW: I’m really excited for 2014! I’ll admit though, I have no idea about the direction the music will go. I feel like trying to 1up “Mac n’ Cheese” with more samples and synth lines and solos and lights and whatnot would be overly redundant. I’d like to do something simpler but just as creative. It might not even be a mashup! I don’t what it is yet, but for sure, I hope to push the envelope even further and open people’s minds up.
RC: Are there any producers or musicians that you draw inspiration from or look up to? What producers would you like to work with someday?
SW: I draw inspiration from everyone and everywhere! My favorite producers at the moment are lesser-known guys like Zanski, Ninth Parallel, and my friend Ian. I discovered Son Lux a couple months ago, and his new album really moves me on a visceral level. I know this sounds excessive, but I’d really love to work with Skrillex or Madeon, or at least meet them in person and talk for a bit. Their music is really inspirational to me as a producer.
RC: If your song titles are any indication, you’re clearly a fan of food. What’s your favorite food?
SW: My favorite food is always changing! A few weeks ago, my favorite food was Chicago deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati’s. The cheesy bread at Giordano’s is the best cheesy bread ever. I tried French macarons the other day and my mind was completely blown! I just bought like 20 of them last night from some random bakery. Those are my favorite food right now, for real.
RC: Final words?
SW: 2014 is going to be amazing. Isosine and Ricky Cervantes make cool mashups too. I’m making a chiptune band with Ian. Shoutout to the short cool dude at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles I took a picture with. Thanks to everyone who has Mac n’ Cheese in their YouTube history and iTunes library. There are some ass claps in Mac n’ Cheese I recorded and resampled, but no one has pointed them out to me yet. Just letting you guys know. Also, I’m single and so are all my friends.