Yoshinaga’s musical menu is based on Fenders and Gibsons, but she adds lots of effects-based spice. “I wanted to play weirdly like Devo and entertainingly and fun like Rick Nielsen,” she says. Photo by Yoshika Horita
suGar Yoshinaga’s Widescreen Strategy
suGar Yoshinaga may not be a household name yet, but she’s well on her way to establishing herself, with a broad skill set that also includes composing and mixing. Her work in those fields is an important component of the sonic tapestry that is Halo Orbit.
Yoshinaga grew up taking classical piano lessons from the time she was 4 years old, but gravitated to the guitar simply because she loved rock music and wanted to play in a band. She started playing acoustic when she was 10, and bought an electric by the time she was 12. Devo and Cheap Trick were her biggest influences at that time.
“I wanted to play weirdly like Devo and entertainingly and fun like Rick Nielsen,” she confides. “Jean-Jacques Burnel of the Stranglers was a big influence, too, even though he was a bass player.” She cites the late ’70s to early ’80s post-punk/no wave scene as her biggest overall influence. “I listened to all those bands on the radio, recorded them on cassette tapes, and listened over and over again.”
Since the early stages of her career, suGar’s interest in multi-track recording evolved alongside her development as a guitarist. In the beginning, she used a 4-track cassette recorder. In the ’80s it was an ADAT. In the ’90s, she gravitated towards Macintosh with Logic, which is the configuration she still uses today (albeit updated). “My first paid job as a professional musician was to make computer game music,” she recalls. “There were only three melody mono tracks plus one noise track at that time. That’s where I learned to compose.” Today, she composes soundtracks for TV, films, and commercials when not playing in the band. “I do mixing sometimes, too. We used my mix of ‘Warped Descent’ on this record.”
Halo Orbit features Lisa Papineau (Big Sir) on a few tunes, and since she’s not performing with them, suGar handles these vocal parts live, using a vocoder-like approach through TC-Helicon’s VoiceLive 2. “It was a new challenge, but it also created some interesting sounds and opportunities. I think it went very well. I'd like to explore more of it on the next album.”