An Inside Conversation with Umenos, San Diego's hardest working underground event organizer
There isn't anyone in San Diego like Umenos.
As one of the most prolific experimental DJ's and event promoters in the city, his track record with constantly pushing the boundaries in the scene are unmatched. Where many local event groups are scared to take that risk in honing into true underground talent from all corners of the world (yes, we're also guilty), Umenos and his event group GLYPH aren't.
Producing shows with international talent almost weekly, playing sets almost daily and still having the time to study charged particles and magnetic fields for a PhD at UCSD, it is astonishing how much Umenos is able to get done, and do so with seeming ease. So, naturally, we wanted to figure out how and why. Read below for a little Q&A with the man and learn a thing or two about San Diego's hardest working underground event organizer.
First and foremost, can you introduce yourself?
Shota Abe is my name. I’m a DJ and also a student in Plasma Physics, which brought me to San Diego from Japan in 2012.
As someone who just came to San Diego recently, how hard was it to establish yourself here and begin to book shows around the city?
During the first year, I had no friends in the music community. After I started to go out to shows at the Casbah, Hideout (now known as SPACE), etc, I became friends with the Kill Quanti crew. They were super nice and threw amazing shows, and I learned so many things about hosting shows from them after being a resident DJ in their series. Once I met them, I got into I really got into San Diego’s music scene.
I’ve never felt that it was hard to play shows or host them here because so many kind friends helped me out. The only obstacle was that I felt it took a long time for me to be paid attention to from the scene. I was usually playing for a few people on the floor, which was fun, but 2017 was really a breakthrough year for me. Since last year, I feel that I've gotten a lot of recognition from the scene, especially because of shows hosted by forward-thinking crews such as Weird Hues and The Travelers Club (you!). That had a part in motivating me to start GLYPH last year.
Much respect! So tell us, what is GLYPH and how did it begin?
GLYPH is my show series, mainly hosting artists from the left-field and underground electronic music scene. I started GLYPH in October 2017 with Phoebe (Nastea). I had hosted shows before starting that label, but I thought a brand would help to keep people paying attention. My main motivation behind curating shows is that I want people to see my favorite artists in San Diego and I want to introduce their music to our scene (and vice versa).
You're the first non-visual artist I've highlighted in this series, but at the same time, your DJ sets and events feel just as well-thought out and artful. What inspires you to keep pushing against the grain?
Thank you. I was visually inspired by photographs, architects, fine arts, anime etc. along the same time I started to listen to electronic music, such as Techno/Ambient/IDM/Electronica years ago. I also think I was also really inspired by scenes from my home island, Hokkaido.
Currently, I am just inspired by music itself. I might still be influenced by other art sources, but I'm not sure. I’m always thirsty for new music that I don't know; I really just get bored easily. Even for my sets, I don’t really play the same tracks I've played before in another sets. I just feel so happy and excited when I find new music and talents.
What I love about you is that you have this very kind and gentle aura about you, yet the music you play often times is very fast, aggressive and experimental. What do you think attracts you to that?
I like abstract music, which can be interpreted in several different ways and enjoyed by anyone who has no knowledge of the context behind that music. I'll play any genre as long as it’s abstract. Ambient/Noise music usually tends to be abstract, so I like it, and I’ve played ambient sets too (a lot of ambient sets are uploaded on YouTube).
On the other hand, aggressive or drum oriented music also sometimes has that same abstract structure. I love to be overwhelmed by a shower of loud sounds at clubs -- it's almost like that aggressive sound has become my remedy lately. I might change that style in future though, so I’m not sure if it's too related to my personality, haha.
I read that you're going to begin experimenting with a live show set up. What does that include?
It’s a simple and abstract set. I’m pretty much creating a sound collage with drums. I've used drum machines before, but lately I prefer to make beats only on software, so I'll only be using my laptop when I play my live set. As of now, very few examples are uploaded on my SoundCloud account.
When are we getting an official Umenos release?
I’m not sure! haha. I made a mixtape in 2016, but it’s all handmade cassettes. I would probably send that live set demo to friends running labels, then I hope I can officially release it.
What's your favorite part about San Diego?
People! Then Mexican foods, and its size maybe? As I said, all my friends here are really helpful and kind. It would be more difficult if I wanted to do the same thing in Japan. I'm going to really miss the burritos when I leave this town. Though I’ve never lived in any another city in the US, I can’t imagine life in LA. It’s too big, haha.
Footwork or vapor-wave.
Hmmm… Footwork? Hmm I would pick Pocari :p
Big events or intimate shows.
Taco Bell or McDonalds.
McDonalds. I went to McDonalds almost everyday with friends just to hangout when I was a high school student.