BEYOND THE SOUND recently spoke with California based visual artist Rob Sato about finding inspiration, vulnerability and more in the interview below!

When did you first take an interest in art?

As far back as I can remember it’s all I ever wanted to think about.

Being born in California, how did living in such an artistic place inspire your style?

Oh I don’t know but I suppose it’s all wrapped up in there somehow. I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s in Sacramento and Modesto which were very rural and suburban, not hotbeds of cosmopolitan art scenes at all, but they are beautiful places and super diverse ethnically and culturally.  I read somewhere that Sacramento is the most ethnically diverse county in the world, and even back in the 80’s it seemed like half the kids I was in school with were mixed race like me. It never felt terribly different to be half-Japanese because practically everybody was all mutted up. Even with all the rampant development I love the landscape of the Central Valley. It has this mythic, haunting quality to me, probably because I spent my childhood there and everybody’s childhood is mythic and haunted. Then I went to college in the Bay Area and have lived in LA for the past 15 years. I’m from all over California at this point. I don’t know what that really means, but I love this place.

Most recently, you’ve been working with Young the Giant and they’re using one of your pieces as their album cover. How did you guys originally meet?

They found my work on Instagram and came over to my studio to share the songs they’d been working on and we talked about art and ideas for the cover. It’s been a fun collaboration.

A lot of your work seems to tell a story. Does history play a role in your creative process?

Yes sometimes, but it’s barely a conscious thing and it usually ends up in my work through stream-of-consciousness or almost for joke purposes. Because my work does tend to be pretty narrative and I’m interested in history, it occasionally gets folded into the fabric of what I do. 

What advice would you give for aspiring artists?

Fuck-up a lot. Perfection is overrated. Positivity is overrated. Don’t pander. Don’t compromise. Don’t be fooled by the appearance of artists who look like they have such romantic and picturesque creative lives. They are partial to complete frauds. Sometimes even I am one. Emotional pain and anxiety are par for the course. If you’re disgusted and dissatisfied with what the results are most of the time and you keep wanting to make art, you’re in a good place. It’s the compulsion to make art and not the desire to be an artist that makes an artist. Sorry, that all sounds a bit hard-nosed. I’ve had a lot of coffee.

Any big plans for the rest of the year?

I seem to experience a shift in style and focus every 6 months to a year and I’m smack in the middle of a new phase now. I’m restless. I’ve been trying to take a break from showing art this year so that I can explore this next body of work in private. I’m diving deep into a cave and won’t be sharing what I’m really up to for awhile.

Written by Cameron Capers

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INTERVIEW: Megan Schaller