Matthew Masurka, who you may know better as beloved producer Gigamesh, has a lot going on. In August, he released Time Travel Volume I, a cutting-edge house EP packed with feel-good gems. Now, the Minneapolis-turned-international headliner is on tour with Strfkr and releasing a new EP today, Time Travel Volume II. We got to chat with him a while back about Minnesota, Prince and technique.
I thought I’d start this interview off by asking you this: what’s your favorite thing about yourself? What’s that special characteristic you bring to the music industry that no one else has?
Gigamesh: I’m never satisfied. However, that characteristic is obviously a blessing and curse (it’s also common among creative people). I will often spend way too much time working on projects that should probably be abandoned, but that tendency also has saved me from releasing things I would have regretted on many occasions so I tend to embrace it.
You have toured around the world, but Minneapolis is where your heart is. I know it’s home for you, but I have to ask: what does Minneapolis bring like no other city? Sell me on the city of lakes.
G: I live in LA now but I miss Minneapolis. It’s an awesome place to be in the spring and summer. Everyone has so much pent-up energy from being indoors all winter that people look for any excuse to be outside. Minneapolis is also very bike-friendly, politically liberal, and inexpensive, so it’s a very good place for creative types.
Congratulations on the release of Time Travel Volume I! What impressed me most about this EP is how each song started with its own unique and buzz-worthy melody, and then exploded with that renowned and hypnotic Gigamesh funk that we all know and love. Some say that smooth transitions are a must for an album to work. How important do you think it is for songs to transition well?
G: Thank you! Song transitions and album flow are probably less important than they were when I was growing up, but there will always be value in those kinds of details. My original goal was actually to make the album flow as one endless mix similar to Chemical Brothers – Dig Your Own Hole or Justice’s first album, but because of several factors, I decided on a more traditional format that still has a logical arc (I hope).
From Radiohead to Michael Jackson to Theophilus London: your remix portfolio has no boundaries. Could you talk about your transition from remixing to releasing this explosive album? Did you face any major challenges while producing this masterpiece? Or did it all flow naturally in the studio?
G: Yes — remixes and originals are two very different beasts, at least for me. Making the album was a long and often frustrating process, but I learned so much along the way. It also prompted me to start taking music theory and keyboard skills more seriously as I’ve come to realize how they open so many creative possibilities.
When I think of vibey bangers, “History,” immediately comes to mind. Already an impressive track, you recently released an even more impressive music video on August 24th. I have so many questions. What’s the story behind the girl and the flowers? Why did you decide to film it in Manhattan? What was it like working with Josh Ethan Johnson and Isaac Gale on this project?
G: Being that the song has a pretty uplifting message, I came up with idea of someone going around the city doing random acts of kindness. Josh is a long-time friend from Minneapolis who moved to New York several years ago. He’s a street photographer and has a lot of experience in video as well, so he was the perfect person to shoot it. Isaac is another Minneapolis native who is very embedded in the music scene there, but he also does freelance video editing. It was a pretty smooth and fun project overall.
In life, we have our highs and we have our lows. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail. In the end, it’s how we react to events that shows our character. You have mentioned in interviews that listening to Prince’s, “I Would Die 4 You,” was an iconic moment in your life. Could you share with us any other events that made you ask yourself: “Is producing really for me?” How have you learned from that event?
G: There are definitely many moments when I second-guess specific details of what I’m doing, but overall I’ve always had a weird sense of optimism that I’m on the right track. I think it’s rooted in my answer to your first question: Never being completely satisfied. It creates an endless drive to keep moving forward. That sounds like a cheesy cliché but it really sums up my outlook on life. Nothing is ever perfect but there is always room for improvement and innovation.
I know it’s a sad topic, but I wanted to talk about Prince. He’s been your idol from the start of your career. It’s crazy to think that it’s been about five months since his passing. I am curious what Prince has done for you personally and musically? Would you say your overall sound and perspective on life are a result of Prince?
G: Yeah it’s really unfortunate. To be honest, I’ve had a complex history on how I view Prince. I was a fan toward the end of my teens but I didn’t completely fall in love with his music until my career was getting started. On a personal level, I tend to really dislike people with inflated egos even if they are really talented so I think that prevented me from appreciating his brilliance until I got older. But he was clearly a musical genius and his death was a big loss for the world, especially Minnesotans.
There are people who insist that electronic music is not a real genre of music; just a bunch of button mashing and mixing on a computer. Clearly they don’t know what they’re talking about. If you tell these people one thing about the creative process behind your music, what would that be?
G: I would tell them that there is good and bad music in every genre, so you just have to make sure you’re finding the good stuff. I would tell them that like myself, many electronic musicians are deeply influence by jazz, orchestral music, 20th-century minimalism, etc. There is a pretty clear connection between those idioms and all modern music.
How do you keep the gear on drive for Gigamesh? What keeps you motivated to produce and remix new tracks? Anything you have planned for the rest of 2016 that you can tell us about?
G: The things which keep me motivated are mainly coffee and all the great music being made by other artists. My plans for the rest of 2016 are tour with STRFKR in November, practicing piano (which I’ve developed a minor obsession with lately), and making songs to release in 2017.
Catch Gigamesh in your city on one of these dates.