Aesthetic:Sega BodegaTrenchcoat: Dries Van Noten
Shirt: Dries Van Noten
Words: Josie Thaddeus-Johns
Photography: Jana Gerberding
Styling: Lorena Maza
People get into music for all sorts of reasons, not always the most honourable. “I started DJing because I thought it looked cool,” Sega Bodega confesses, chilling on the photographer’s studio sofa in between shots. “I was 17 or 18, and the way I looked at CDJs at the time was the same way I used to look at guitars when I was 10. I knew that if I got hold of it, I would practice, and I did.”
Luckily for us, the electronic musician, whose real name is Salvador Navarrete, didn’t stop at looking cool with CDJs, instead moving deeper into music production. His sound is difficult to categorise. Meandering soundscapes might juxtapose heartwarming strings with heavy, churning drums and spitfire samples – perhaps from a video game or a cartoon series. From his 2015 EP Sportswear on Activia Benz to last year’s EP Ess B on Crazylegs, his songs are clearly influenced by the bounce, climaxes and thrust of club music and yet also continually conjure up new and unexpected ambiences.
Today in Berlin, Navarrete is stepping out from behind the laptop, getting styled in Louis Vuitton and Dries Van Noten in a courtyard studio on Karl-Marx-Straße. Quite a change for someone who admits that working with the visual elements of the music industry is all quite new for him.
“I didn't think it was going to be something I found fun, but it is,” the Ireland-born, Glasgow-raised, and London-based producer admits. He’s been getting into the idea of finding a visual aesthetic to match his music more recently, since founding collective-label NUXXE with DJ and lyricist Shygirl, and French artist Coucou Chloe. “They always get so into the fashion end of things and it makes everything feel so much more like an event. Before, I wouldn’t have even thought of it. I didn't have my face on things because I felt ugly in the pictures, but I think it's important for me to get over that – it doesn't help me in any way.”
Shirt: Louis Vuitton
It’s clear that working with the NUXXE crew has made a tangible impact on Bodega, and not just in terms of the visual focus. Indeed, he chose to put his album SS out on the NUXXE label last year. As well as being his best friends, they have been invaluable sounding board for his music. “They just tell me when something is shit,” he laughs. “That helps you grow. It's like therapy almost, working with other people so closely.”
Alongside the show he does on NTS with his fellow NUXXE members, Navarrete also runs his own show on the internet radio station that is dedicated to film soundtracks, which fits the producer well, given the undeniably cinematic nature of his music. “It seems like it's where I get all my inspiration from,” he says of the medium. “Essentially a good soundtrack to a good film is just a really good music video.” Despite this, he says isn’t particularly inspired by the visual aesthetic of certain films – apart from one – The Matrix: “It looks cool as fuck.” Apparently, he has also been told that he bears a passing resemblance to Jonny Lee Miller in Hackers, from a similar era of cyberpunk cinema. “People say that I look like I try to copy him but I haven't even seen it. So maybe I'm just naturally drawn to that era without even knowing…”
As anyone who has watched Hackers, with its skateboarding villain and Pacman graphics, can attest, films can also be a demonstration of how easy it is for an artwork to become simply an aesthetic product of its time. “It's always interesting to see what lasts,” Navarrete says. “Some films that are really of their time, you watch five years later, and it dates so terribly! It's the same with quite a lot of electronic music that was so important at its time.”
Partly, it seems like trends move so much faster now, with movements in art, fashion and music often feeling like they’re over before they’ve even begun. It presents a tough landscape for artists who really want to make a mark. “It's interesting how quickly things move now,” Navarrete says. “But I'd like to be able to listen to my music in 10 years and think that it sounds all right. I think part of it is not hiding yourself away from it, to have people connect to it in some way.” And if the cyberpunk films of the 90s can hold their value, why not the whirring, cinematic beats of Sega Bodega?
Sega Bodega appears at Hyperreality Festival, Vienna, 24-27 May
Trenchcoat: Dries Van Noten
Shirt: Dries Van Noten