Artist to Artist: Sha Ru & Piezo
Electronic duo Sha Ru discuss early influences and formative experiences with Piezo.
Sha Ru are relatively fresh faced to the world, a band made up of Ma Sha and Rù, who live and work together between New York City and Berlin. They have released records on the likes of Pressure Dome and Infinite Machine with their latest outing coming on EMA’s Woozy label.
The pair have a dynamic approach to dance and electronic music – their sets often feature a mutant hybrid of live instrumentation alongside more traditional DJ’ing practises. In respect to sound they are hard to pin down, drawing upon elements of UK bass, Techno, Dub, Spoken Word and beyond. It makes for interesting and at times daunting listening and bangs loud in the club.
Piezo is a musician who shares a similar array of influences – based in Italy he has been championing a new wave of Electronics in Milan and beyond, challenging the preconceptions of Italy for its love of House and Techno and breathing life into underground experimental music cultures in his hometown.
He has released music on the likes of Idle Hands, Swamp81 and Wisdom Teeth, as well as on his own label Ansia.
We asked the group to reflect on the experiences which brought them towards their sound.
Sha Ru (Ma Sha): Piezo and Ru, both of you are from Central Italy but also have both lived in the UK at some point – how have these countries impacted your artistic style? What did you learn during that period?
Piezo: Italy can be a very inspiring and uninspiring place at the same time. I grew up in the countryside, pretty much in the middle of nowhere: you live a gloomy repetitive provincial life, but luckily you also sometimes meet some incredible people. Some of them introduced me to Autechre and Aphex Twin when I was 16, while at the same time I was discovering the illegal rave / free-party scene, which was one of the few really active things in central Italy – and they were mounting some pretty decent sound systems too. This combo was crucial to me, and I can still feel these roots pretty strongly.
Sha Ru (Rù): I also grew up in central Italy on a farm in the middle of nowhere. I was lucky enough that as I became a teen, someone close to my family introduced me to a lot of good music from the 80’s and 90’s. At the same time I decided to learn to play guitar. I used to spend hours locked in my room experimenting with my multi effect pedal, just making loops and trying to make my guitar sound as weird as possible. I think that those times really shaped my love and approach to sound design. During high school I started a punk band and had several local performances. During those years I was also attending a lot of raves and parties and slowly with one of my band mates we started switching our instruments for synths and CDJs and we fell in love with electronic music.
Piezo: I discovered UK bass music much later on, but quickly became obsessed with it and started producing at 140bpm exclusively. That went on for a few years, but luckily I then moved to Bristol, where the multi-faceted local scene really helped me to grow. I realised how silly it is to have strict divisions between music genres: of course I’ve always listened to all sorts of ‘hybrid’ music, but there’s a difference between understanding it and being able to make it. All the incredibly talented people I’ve met in Bristol definitely gave me the inspiration to move forward.
How about you Rù?
Sha Ru (Rù): I think one of the best decisions I took in my life was after finishing high school, I convinced my band mate to book a one way ticket to London. Living in such a multicultural city from 2009 to 2014 highly shaped my view on the world and my taste in music. At the same time I only started to really consider myself an artist after I moved to Berlin in 2014. Living in such a more affordable city gave me the possibility to have much more energy and time to invest in my art, working much less on my daily job to pay my bills. It was definitely a game changer.
Piezo: What about you Ma Sha? How have the cities you grew up in impacted your journey?
Sha Ru (Ma Sha): I wouldn’t say that the city was influential for me but rather my surroundings. I grew up breakdancing all my teenage years and our teachers showed us very cool electro, breakbeat and hip hop. I was used to groove and jam to amazing music from the time I was 12 years old or so. Then I moved to NYC when I was 18 years old and I immersed myself in the music scene pretty much right away. I moved in with my friends who had a vinyl setup and from there on we started throwing Kindergarten parties in our backyard where I met a lot of people from the NYC music community.
Sha Ru: What is your perception of the NYC scene? Are you looking forward to your gig here later this year?
Piezo: Of course I am! It seems there’s a lot of cool stuff going on – or at least, that is the perception through my social media bubble lens! For sure there’s more than a few decent venues and promoters: most line-ups are definitely well-curated and most friends who recently played there said the vibe was pretty strong. What’s your opinion as insiders there though? Of course things might not always be what they seem.. I’m actually really curious to know what it’s like to be a foreign artist living in the US these days in general – especially after covid…?
Sha Ru (Ma Sha): Things are definitely very exciting at the moment! I think the scene has shifted focus a lot on the local artists since the lockdown. With all the amazing talent we have in the city, the scene became even more powerful than before. Some venues brought back the idea of the residents’ nights and their curation. I think this made the music community stronger and more dynamic. Being an artist in the US is extremely difficult. Touring is not as nearly as simple as in Europe and of course the cost of living is high. It’s extremely inspirational for me to be a part of such a hardworking scene. And of course, living in NYC as a foreign artist has a lot of extra challenges. Just starting from a visa application where you need to present a full portfolio with everything you’ve ever done… So every time I meet an artist on an O1 visa, I already have so much respect for them. But again all these challenges are making this city so unique and motivating. I like to compare the vibes of NYC to the scene from “Finding Nemo” where Marlin gets inside a moving water stream with a huge group of turtles. He gets very confused on what he is supposed to do. And then he just suddenly gets full confidence that he is doing the right thing and decides to follow the turtles. That’s how I feel since I moved here. I get so motivated by everyone doing their thing and being so confident about it, that it makes me move along with the city stream and enjoy it a lot
Piezo: How did your sound as the duo Sha Ru come about?
Sha Ru (Rù) : Me and Ma Sha first started dating and we were both really into music, so soon after we started producing together. It all came very spontaneously. At the beginning we were mostly jamming with hardware and making music out of those jams. During the pandemic tho, due to travel restrictions, our passports and visas, we spent our time in Belarus, Ukraine and Georgia without having any equipment but computers and monitors with us. So our approach to music became much more DAW based. During that time we started making more politically charged music. Using Ma Sha lyrics became one of the best ways to express that. Nowadays we are experimenting more with voice, exploring balance between making emotionally or politically charged music with full on lyrics and more club-focused tracks.
Sha Ru: Do you have any creative rituals that help you overcome any difficulties when working on music?
Piezo: I keep this in front of me all the time…but it doesn’t always work.
Sha Ru (Ma Sha): Love this! For me, if I am stuck with a track, I would go to run and listen to what I am working on. Somehow, this is the time when I can focus on the music in a different way and it helps me to understand what works and what doesn’t. Besides that, having a break for a cup of black tea with oat milk makes me have a good recharge pause.
Sha Ru (Rù): I am very bad with self discipline, a sign like yours unfortunately would never work for me.
Music, for me, has mostly been a way to release my feelings. Sometimes I treat Ableton like my therapist. When I was living in Italy, it was the way to escape boredom. In London, working my ass off in a hospitality job, music was the way to release my frustration. Any time I would feel anxiety, making music would be the best cure for it. So yeah, if I feel uninspired and stuck, nowadays I would just do something I really hate for sometime, like for example laundry or cleaning dishes. Once I’m back in front of the computer, I would truly value how lucky I am to have the time to just make my art. Also for me, taking a break is always a way to have a different eye and understand what I am doing.
Piezo: You guys play a sick live set, and your music feels very ‘live’. What’s your process in the studio like? I mean, how much of it is ‘just jam and hit record’ and how much ‘sit down and edit things off-line’? Curious to know if / when you prefer leaving things more ‘free’, if that makes sense…
Sha Ru (Ma Sha): We don’t really work with hardware anymore as we sold most of the stuff during the lockdown (besides the MPC 3000 that Rù adores more than me), so only the music that was made before pandemic was recorded in a “just jam and hit record” way like the very first EP we released on Sorry Records and our first record on Kindergarten Records “Zer0”. Since then we just do sessions where we work on the track together or we do solo sessions and show each other the progress. But of course, since the vocals are an essential part of our music, there is quite a lot of free flow happening all the time.
Sha Ru (Rù): I think that my early days playing in bands were a big influence in our music and especially in our live set. Performing electronic club music with me playing a midi guitar and Ma Sha singing and dancing like crazy on a big stage has been one of the best experiences of my life. I managed to connect my teen dream to play in a band with my love for club beats.
Sha Ru: Piezo, you have a huge discography including 12 inches, LPs, mix CDs, basically covered everything! What has been your most personal work to date?
Piezo: Maybe my release on Idle Hands (‘Lume EP’), especially the B-side. Not many people got into that, so I guess that is very very personal.
Sha Ru: WZY003 Match My Sway, is our latest output on wax, with many more to come, Piezo do you remember your first wax and what does it mean to you now?
Piezo: Oh yes, I do! ‘Ptay EP’ on Nomad Records: at the time I didn’t really think anyone would ever put my music on wax. It really felt like a dream back in the days, especially because of the importance of vinyl within the dubstep scene. So I’m still super grateful to the old Turin gang for the opportunity. Nobody bought that record, but who cares?!
Sha Ru (Ma Sha): Wow this wax was released ten years ago – we should celebrate the anniversary when we meet IRL 🙂
Sha Ru (Ma Sha): What’s the plan for your label Ansia? Do you think you will continue to put out music on wax?
Piezo: I think I’ll keep the main Ansia stuff on wax, releasing 2 or 3 EPs a year – but I’ll most definitely be releasing more digi-only stuff on bandcamp, that’s for sure. I sometimes just feel the need to put out music more quickly.
Any plans to put some wax out with Kindergarten Ma Sha?
Sha Ru (Ma Sha): Kindergarten fam has a lot in the works and some truly exciting things are coming up, including more vinyl 🙂 As I started a label in the very first months of the lockdown, the first wax came out when all the record shops were closed… So it wasn’t an easy release to start with (and it was the first Sha Ru wax!). It was quite obvious that we would proceed with digi only releases for a while, however, now after 13 releases over three years, we are ready to release a first LP on the label and it will be a wax affair.
Sha Ru: You are heading to Dublin for the first time soon right?
Piezo: Yeah, I’ve a Woozy gig coming up in Dublin and I hear Sha Ru does as well! I’ve Never been in Ireland so don’t know exactly what to expect, but I’ve been told some pretty interesting things, so… I have to admit I’ve got a little problem though: am I the only person in the world who doesn’t like Guinness? I know this is gonna be very unpopular, but it just never really clicked with me…how about you?
Sha Ru (Ma Sha): I don’t like Guinness either! Haha Meanwhile, Rù is literally drinking Guinness while answering questions right now lol Maybe we just didn’t have the right one yet, let’s see what happens. In terms of expectations, I’ve also heard some fun stories. So I expect nothing less but the best beginning of our EU tour possible 🙂
Sha Ru: Piezo, what’s next for 2023?
Piezo: Two EPs coming out in the next 4 months, a couple of remixes, more than a couple V/A appearances, my first time in Japan and my first tour in US / NA in September! What about you both?
Sha Ru (Ma Sha): So looking forward to hearing your new releases! As for us, we have a new more club-focused EP coming out in Spring, plus we are working on a new release coming out later on with a fresh direction which we are excited about! Also, we will be back in Europe in the Summer to play some live and DJ shows, can’t wait!
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