Artist Name: Mas Sato
Band: The Sames
Tell me about your background. Where you’re from, where you grew up, what interested you as a kid.
I was born in Flushing, Queens NY and spent the majority of my childhood in the quiet suburb of Port Washington on Long Island. Growing up I enjoyed riding my bike, pretending to be a ninja, playing with G.I. Joe’s, reading manga from Japan, and drawing. My dad was an architect working in NYC so from early on, he exposed me to a lot of design and architecture. At the time, I wasn’t terribly interested in it but I must have absorbed it because I find myself returning to those things for inspiration. My mother was a stay-at-home mom, who until recently practiced piano daily. Both my dad and mom were musical and really encouraged and supported all of my musical endeavors.
How long have you been performing music and how long have you been with your band?I started taking piano lessons when I was about five. I struggled to improve because I hated practicing. In fourth grade, I picked up the alto saxophone and around middle school I got pretty serious on that instrument. I played in all the performing groups (jazz band, concert band) all through high school. I even went to the Orange Bowl and Rose Bowl Parade with our H.S. marching band. Sometime during my sophomore year in H.S. I picked up the guitar and that was it… the beginning of the end:) I played in a heavy metal/thrash cover band in H.S. and played in a heavy blues outfit Cody Cods with my buds from Duke until 2003. During the recording of a Cods album, I met Zeno Gill, and played bass with the Sames from 2001 to 2006. I have since played with North Elementary and participated in the recording of Berandals. I currently play bass with Nathan Oliver.
Was there one defining moment that made you choose music (and/or art) as a profession and life style, or did it happen over time as the sum of many smaller moments - or in a completely different way?
After graduating from college, I made a conscious decision to pursue a lifestyle that would be allow me to continue playing music. I of course had aspirations of making it big with a band but I was pretty content with having some 9-to-5 job and playing music in some capacity. However, I was selective with my 9-to-5 and chose jobs that were related to design. I bounced around jobs in t-shirt screen printing, graphic design, and architectural drafting. Around 2004, this girl Jeannine who I was dating (she’s my wife now :) made me do this writing exercise where I visualized myself in my dream job, with dream co-workers, utilizing all of my skill sets. That helped me realize that where my passion and professional aspirations intersected was in furniture design/production. So I found where I wanted to work, went after a position, and I work there now. I was extremely lucky to have found the job, and I am forever indebted to Jeannine for helping me through that.
When did you find yourself getting into visual art?
Around 2004, I started experimenting with stencil / aerosol paint art. I’ve been a fan of poster makers (Ron Liberti) and graffiti artists (Futura 2000, Banksy, Logan Hicks) and I was really interested in mimicking the screen printing process with the use of stencils. I liked that there was a mixture of controlled and uncontrolled elements to stencil art. There was the predictability of the stenciled image but the unpredictability of how the aerosol paint was going to land: no two images were the same. I also liked that there was this painstaking disciplined part of cutting out the stencil but in the end the application of the paint was fast, immediate and free.
What has been your biggest influence in the art world (both music & visual)? Where do you find inspiration for both your music and your visual art?
I would say that my peers who are busting their asses to get their music or art out there — out of their mind and into the world — are my biggest influences. Additionally, in no particular order, here are the people and things that I look to for inspiration: modern architecture, sculptor Isamu Noguchi, Japanese carpentry and joinery, hip-hop/soul/funk, NYC, geometry, Chopin, Zen Buddhism, origami, Raleigh designer Holly Aiken, the way things were back then, and playing with my daughter.
What mediums do you prefer to work in?
I prefer to work with wood. For the MSR4 show I used Baltic birch plywood for most of my pieces. Baltic birch is the material I also use for my line of kid’s furniture (www.inaiinaiba.com). While there is nothing special about it like most wood (i.e. lack of interesting grain, and color), the material is very durable, stable and consistent. The generic quality of Baltic birch makes it challenging to do something interesting with it. My next creative endeavor will be sculptural furniture pieces with intricate veneer patterns.
Do you have a routine or process that you like to work through?
Every piece of mine starts off as a kernel of an idea, or a gesture of some sort. Then I mull over how the piece would look while thinking about how it would function in some utilitarian way. In the process of balancing form and function, I’ve usually added things and taken away things. And, in the end my hope is that I’ve peeled away all the layers so that what I have left is a succinct expression of that original idea. Then I obsess over the details in its construction. By the time I actually get around to building, I’ve built the piece in my mind a half of a dozen times. I also make a point of drawing my pieces in CAD; it helps me flesh out details that I may have overlooked.
Is there a particular piece of art that you are most proud of? (In other words, do you have a favorite?)
My favorite piece is always going to be the one that I’m about to make. I’m the most excited about a project when it’s still incubating in my head and is on the verge of materializing.
How did you get involved with the Minus Sound Research show?
One day at North Elementary practice (probably in 2006), I showed John (Harrison) a stencil piece that I had done. I guess he kept me in his mental Rolodex of musician/artists and he asked me to participate in this year’s MSR. To which I said “hell yes.”
Have you shown your art in any shows or galleries previously?
Nope, this is my first time.
What would you say to someone who is new to this show?
This is an eclectic show of artwork created by local musicians who also express themselves through visual art.
What would you say to someone who saw this show last year?
Please come check out this year’s show. The featured artists are different from past years and there’s a variety of media represented in MSR4.
Do you get something different out of visual art than you do from music? Or do you see a direct correlation between the two art forms?
In visual art — well, at least for me — I have an opportunity to be consumed by the whole process of creating (or should I say discovery), from it’s inception to the delivery of the piece. There’s something very gratifying about being on that ride. The tendency for me, however, is to be a bit more self-conscious creating in this isolated bubble but I usually manage to push through that. That in itself is another gratifying accomplishment. With playing in bands, I really enjoy the collaborative nature of creating. The “fabric” that’s woven amongst musicians in a band is constantly mutating but following an arc, a sound if you will, that somehow everyone agrees on (most of the time). Every player brings something unique so it’s really hard to have an idea what the end result might be whether it’s a song or an album. There’s something very electric and exciting about collaborating with others.
Anything else you want to share about this upcoming Minus Sound Research Show?It’s awesome, you need to check it out.