Date: 2005
PM Entertainment Magazine

Sacha Sacket: Out of the Shadows - An interview
by Jed Ryan

Singer/songwriter Sacha Sacket is a rising talent on the independent music scene, a standout in the new generation of young artists determined to create new genres and challenge the listener's notions of pop music. Sacket's debut album Alabaster Flesh was nominated for a 2001 Outmusic Award for Best Album, and charted at #1 on the OutVoice Top 40 Charts. The striking performer doesn't rely on his exotic looks alone; in fact, his face doesn't even prominently appear on the cover of his latest CD, Shadowed. For this self-styled musician, it's all about the music: He describes his sound as "acoustic alternative", and just a bit experimental. Sacket's voice is ambient, haunting, and moody, imbued with just a slight amount of pain in many of the songs. "Desire", one of the standouts on the CD, may remind electronica lovers of Robert Miles' 1996 trans-groove instrumental smash hit "Children". What makes Sacha Sacket different as an artist? Sacket himself tells us, "I'm just all about experimenting and trying some different stuff out, even in my songwriting. My goal is to show my heart as much as I can. I would say that one of the things that makes me different from the mainstream is that I'm not about being cool. I'm all about just being open and honest, showing my heart and exposing the places that I have difficulty with or struggle with in life-- and showing a path of how I'm fighting through it. That's what the songs are: They're me kind of fighting through something and trying to get to the other side. That is somewhat different than mainstream, I would say. A lot of mainstream is just about what you're wearing more than what you're hearing." Currently touring the country, Sacha Sacket spoke with PM Entertainment Magazine's Jed Ryan about his work and the state of pop music today.

JR: The first thing that I noticed about Shadowed was that the CD cover art is very cryptic and mysterious. It's hard to get a feel of what the music inside is going to be like. And then, there's some of the song titles-- like "Sweet Suicide" and "Cruel Attempt". The first instinct is that the music must be a bit on the dark side. Do you think that people may interpret the music as too dark?

SS: Actually it's funny, because I was just talking about this last night with some kids after the show. They didn't think it was dark at all. I have a new album that's probably going to be released in February, and I was very happy that I was just in a more positive place, in my mind at least. So I see the new one being considered a lighter album than Shadowed. But these kids were telling me they didn't even think that Shadowed was dark at all. I've gotten that it's a romantic album. I do think that the photography-- which, I love the photography-- paints somewhat of a darker image for the album itself. I know some people will be like, "That's! dark." You know, 'cause I've been through stuff. My music is somewhat confessional and somewhat just trying to deal with the stuff that life throws at me.

JR: Like, a catharsis... getting stuff out through music?

SS: Yeah. A release. Definitely. It keeps me balanced, I think.

JR: Well, you yourself put it the best. You have a very distinctive sound, and the listener tries to figure out: What is that distinction? And then I read the description of the music on your official website, and it described your sound as, "baroque-like strings flow into electronic soundscape", and "acoustic instruments fuse seemlessly with electronics". So, it's like, you're blending raw, stripped-down sound with technological special effects... and I noticed that there's definitely a classical element to it also.

SS: Yeah! I go after things I like. I love the computer, I love a lot of different kinds of music... so, you know, people ask me: How did you figure this sound out? or, How did I figure out my style?... and it's not logical in that way. I like strings, so I'm gonna put strings on it. It's very straightforward in that way.

JR: Yeah! Let's go back for a minute to the CD artwork. It is very mysterious. What were you trying to go for? You don't even get a clear picture of you, the artist, right away.

SS: I don't think with any album cover it should be like, "Hi, here's my face." and "I'm gonna look cute in these clothes" or anything.

JR: That would definitely be breaking away from most of your peers!

SS: This is why; I don't think the album should necessarily even be about me, or how I look, or what I'm wearing, or anything. It should be about how I see the mood of the album or how I envision something in my head. The photographers (SpiralEyes) do a lot of Tool stuff. Do you know the band Tool? They're kind of a very dark band. I liked seeing their stuff, and I just felt it explained where I was emotionally. There was a burnt forest. Recently burnt, I think it was the San Bernardino forest in California. So we went out there weeks after, and it kind of felt... like, otherworldy.

JR: It certainly looks otherworldly.

SS: Yeah, it was amazing. I love what they did. The trees weren't really burned fully; they were charred. It was very, very cool. Very weird-- like you almost felt like you were on Mars or something.

JR: What kind of an audience are you going for? The independent music scene is so vast and so diverse. But a lot of gay artists feel that they have to conform to a certain sound or style to appeal to a certain audience; for example, if you're a gay artist, you should choose a genre that appeals to gay men, like dance music. But your music definitely seems to be a step beyond that. There's a really sophisticated element to it.

SS: The thing is, I don't consider myself a gay singer/songwriter with "gay" being the first word. I definitely consider myself a musician first and being gay as part of it. I'm not gonna hide that. I feel like it's against what I am as an artist to lie about myself or hide things. So, the audience that I have-- that I've seen, that come to my shows, the fan base that I'm building-- is everybody. It's weird... I get 40-year old moms coming to my shows, or Josh Groban fans. But then I'll get some people that have problems in their lives, obviously. And people that have had issues: a lot of gay people and gay kids. I think that a lot of gay kids feel somewhat disenfranchised by gay culture. I feel like they're not represented. I definitely felt that from them, that they don't necessarily relate to gay clubs or dance music. They want something with more depth to it, they want something that speaks to their heart.

JR: You probably meet a lot of these kids on the college circuit, right?

SS: Yeah, college kids are definitely a big part of it. A lot of gay kids, and women in general is what I would say. I don't often get the frat guys coming to my shows! (Laughs)

JR: A lot of your music can be described as "quietly stimulating" or "gently stimulating"-- but the song "Kite High" is one of the more uptempo ones. It's very uplifting.

SS: Well, the goal of the album is not to depress everybody to death! (Laughs) I know some people have said that they thought it was too dark. But, I always kept it in mind when I was recording. "Sweet Suicide" is a good example: I'm writing a song about suicide, but I don't want people to kill themselves when listening to this song. And that was always in my head. I can't just write about somebody killing themselves; that's a hard song to write. I mean, I went through a really rough time with "Shadowed": I had a horrible relationship; I was dating an addict. I was having a lot of trouble figuring out where I was going to go with the music; I hadn't figured out the business aspect fully. Friends were kind of dropping by the wayside and I felt very alone. It was a very hard time for me. The album wasn't about that time; it was about me pulling out of that time. Basically I had to have blind faith just to get myself out of that, which I did. That's why I love the album so much too, because it pulled me out of that. I pulled myself together and got my career together. I got my relationship stuff kind of sorted. I had a very co-dependent nature about me: my needing to fix all these people, or get in these relationships needing to fix everybody, instead of taking someone on as an equal, where they didn't need help and I just took them as they were, no work needed. So... I forgot the question! (Laughs)

JR: (Laughs) Oh, I didn't interpret Shadowed as being dark; I just figured that some people would if they had a pre-conceived notion. One of the things I got from Shadowed was that you deal with a lot of heavy issues-- like self-destructive behavior-- but you make it very accessible to the listener through the music and through your voice. The music sounds very ethereal, very elegant. Only after you listen to the lyrics more closely do you realize how complicated and intense it is.

SS: The way I sing is a certain style. If you would have heard my first album, I would argue that the style between those two albums is very different. I'd improved so much, in my opinion, with Shadowed. And I see that now with the new album coming up: my voice has changed to a degree. In my opinion it's gotten better. It's funny to me how I see my voice, the way I sing, and the way I look at music changes so much... We'll see! You'll have to hear the next album and tell me what you think.

JR: There's a song on Shadowed that, I assume, is about a sado-masiochistic relationship: "Cockatoo".

SS: Well, when I say, "I'll let you beat me", I never meant physical abuse. It's about emotional abuse.

JR: If it was about S&M, it would be the most elegant song about that subject I've ever heard! I don't think anyone expresses it the way you did. "At a Time" seems to be your bona-fide love song.

SS: It's not a love song!

JR: It's not?

SS: If I would say "love song", it would be "Paris and September". "At a Time" is about me leaving that relationship, like "I can't stay anymore". It's an apology, actually... but "Paris and September" is when I found a different thing afterwards, and sort of found myself trying to run away from a new relationship, but succumbing to it.

JR: What song means the most to you on Shadowed?

SS: It does change, and I play different songs live, and different songs come, and in another two months from now, I would say a different song. "Desire" is, right now a strong song for me, just 'cause I resonate a lot with it. It's also a song that I pretty much did a lot on my own: I programmed the computer myself, I did all the beats, I did all the vocals and recorded the piano. The only thing I didn't do was put the strings on there; but, you know, I feel very proud of that song. And it's a lot about following your dreams, so I guess right now it resonates a lot.

JR: What's the state of pop music today, and how do you feel about what we hear on the radio? It seems that the public is resistant to try music that breaks the mold.

SS: Sometimes I wonder how much of it is the labels. What you hear on the radio, versus what people really want to hear. I do question that.

JR: Yeah... and who's making these decisions?

SS: Because you hear so many people complain about it. It makes me wonder. Also, what I see with labels is that if you're gay, you're not allowed to make music. There's this attitude.

JR: Let's take "American Idol", for example. Do you ever watch it?

SS: Hmmm... once! One time.

JR: Yeah, me too!

SS: I think also, when you're a musician-- not now as much but maybe two years ago-- almost every person came up to me after a show and said, "You should try out for American Idol", and it gets a little frustrating after a while, 'cause I don't resonate with "American Idol"... The only reason why I say I don't look at myself as a "gay artist" isn't because I'm ashamed of being gay at all; it's just because I always get tarred with that brush, every time. Every article, every interview is like "Gay Singer/Songwriter, Gay Artist Sacha Sacket". And I just feel like it misses the point of my music. My music's not about being gay. It's not what I do. And even with the labels, it's like they're so scared of me because I'm gay. I don't know, I think it's kind of crazy. It'll change.

JR: I would hope so! I guess that the powers that be are still afraid of openly gay singers/songwriters.

SS: We'll, they're just worried it won't sell; that's what it comes down to. From the response that I've gotten on the road, and just from me doing this with my little label, it seems a little insane because I have a lot of threads to different labels. People who help promote me work for different labels too. Bigger labels. And so I work with these people, and I have a whole crew of people who love me at a label, and I see them working with artists that they hate that don't get any response. And then I see the label kind of passing me up because, "Oh, he's gay. We can't do that." And I get a response to it, 'cause there's not enough of it. There's not enough people being open with their sexuality, being open individuals. I'm not even just talking about gay sexuality. I'm talking about just being open about sexuality, not having this strict view on what sexuality has to be. It's just closed in that way.

JR: I think there's a fear, too, if someone comes out of the closet. People are too quick to blame that as the reason an artist might not do well.

SS: Well, I don't think they try enough. As far as I know, Rufus (Wainwright) is the only one... Everyone else has sort of come out "after the fact".

JR: How about this scenario: You have one "American Idol" finalist who does come out of the closet, who releases his CD independently, and the CD goes nowhere. Then you have another American Idol who clearly in the closet, and everyone knows (Both laugh), and he achieves some kind of mainstream success... and some people are all too quick to say "That's the reason."-- because one of them came out of the closet, he wasn't embraced by the public.

SS: Well, I don't know yet. Ricky Martin for me was a good example. He came out, in my opinion, because he said he wouldn't talk about his sexuality. And that's when his career kind of flubbed-- nobody bought his CD's anymore. But I think that if you're open from the beginning, from the outset, and you don't place any level of shame on it, you don't act ashamed of it, you don't even try to hide it from the beginning-- in fact, you say there's nothing wrong with it-- then I think that people are a lot more open to it. I'm not singing every song about being gay, and how gay I am, and how I love gay things. I think that when the song comes on the radio, people just like the song. If my song came on the radio tomorrow, people who didn't know me wouldn't know I was gay to begin with. They're gonna like the song.

JR: Is it hard to get audiences to experiment or to try new kinds of music?

SS: For me it works, I think, because I just do what I want to do. I don't censor myself. I don't try to copy anything directly. I think that works well because when people hear my stuff, they feel like they've never heard it before... it's something entirely new to them. And that helps me, as a musician, because obviously, they don't hear it on the radio, they don't hear it anywhere. It's important; I gain audience, I gain fans doing that. That's why I often wonder who's picking the hits on the radio, who's doing that whole thing-- because from where I am, I see a good response to things that are different and things that are open and honest, and not just about posing.

JR: You have three fan sites, right?

SS: Yeah!

JR: That's great, So, people are listening!

SS: Yeah, it's starting to get there. I'm starting to get some pretty packed shows in certain cities, so that's always really cool. I'm just doing my thing. I'm just lucky that I can make music and live off of it, you know...

JR: What city do you call home?

SS: That's a good question! I don't know. I'd say Los Angeles. We recorded up in the Bay, in the San Francisco area... but I grew up in Los Angeles. I guess where I put my piano would be home.

JR: Lastly, what would be the biggest affirmation of success for you, as an artist?

SS: That's a good question for me, because it's changing. If you asked me that when I first started, like three or four years ago, I would have said being signed to a major label and selling 10 million records. That would be great for me, to sell two million, whatever million records... but as I do this, and I see myself being able to do this on my level, without having to compromise-- which I value a lot, because I know a lot of artists have to compromise all the time-- then obviously it's important now for me to do something that I believe in; that I'm not just doing this to get the "number one" or because some random guy on the label thinks I need to do it. It's just to continue making a living doing what I do, continue being able to support myself doing my music, which I'm doing now. So, I guess just to build from that. Basically, my goal is to sell as many records for as long as I'm honoring my voice, not having to change myself for current trends or anything.

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