Tiki Taane - Underground past, popular present, double album future...
Author: Karl Puschmann
But lest you think he’s hating, he also jokes about the hardcore kids that turned up to a gig clearly promoted as an acoustic set. Predictably they were “pissed of” that he didn’t played anything heavy like Don’t Tell Me or Tangaroa. Laughing, he finishes these stories with a relaxed, “So it goes both ways.”,
Hard as it is to believe, it’s been four years since ‘Past Present Future’ dropped. The long-lived ubiquity of Always On My Mind makes it seem far less.
“I know, it’s crazy,” Tiki agrees. “I think it’s because I’ve kept a presence in the live scene and I’ve still released things with other people. In four years a lot can happen, but it doesn’t feel that long. And that’s the thing. I don’t want to rush anything as well. I definitely take my time with my music that’s for sure.”
So at his own unhurried pace Tiki began work on the follow up to his debut album. He began writing, recording and collaborating with various chosen artists and, as the pieces started to fall into place, started thinking about out how to fit the heavier drum’n’bass and dubstep numbers alongside the pop-friendly acoustic jams.
And it was right about then that he realised he had a problem.
“It was crazy. I had so much material and I was finding it hard to make a proper cohesive album. I was racking my brains going, ‘I’ve got all this material and I really want to put it on the same album but it just doesn’t feel right to me’,” he says.
“‘Past Present Future’ was really experimental and I threw everything at it. I wanted to do everything I was into, but with this album that didn’t sit right with me.”
After pondering it all for a while, and taking in his unique position in NZ’s musical landscape, Tiki came up with a novel solution – and one that matches the experimental nature of ‘Past Present Future’. Rather than releasing one follow-up album, Tiki will instead be releasing two.
“I only decided on it about a month ago,” he explains. “And once I made the decision that I needed to break the songs up and make two albums, once I did that everything just clicked. And I went, ‘Wow, this is exactly how it should be’. Make a cohesive, beat heavy, bass-driven album, and then make the next album a cohesive acoustic album. It’s about having that art and making sure that that art is delivered in the best way possible. And I thought that breaking them up and making two albums was the best way possible.”
So rather than attempting to please everyone and risking pleasing no one, Tiki has instead decided to please both his major fan camps by giving them exactly what each want. The first album, which comes out on Dirty Dub (his collaborative label with Dirty Records) in early March, is titled ‘In The World Of Light’, and aimed directly at the dance underground. The second, which has a pencilled release date of November, will, he says, be a purely acoustic record, filled with catchy sing-alongs and big anthemic choruses.
“With this next album it just seems right that I’m gonna strip it back and throw it back towards the culture that I really, really love, which is bass culture – especially NZ Aotearoa bass culture,” Tiki says. “Even though I know that ‘In The World Of Light’ won’t be a mainstream commercial success, because it doesn’t have any big singalong, Top 40 tunes on it. But it’s gonna hold its ground as a really, really progressive album that will definitely hit the underground nice and proper.”
In part it may be that he doesn’t want his bass culture fans thinking he’s sold out – a fairly laughable idea considering his history – but the main reason the stubbornly non-conceding, non-commercial bass record is coming out first is because of what Tiki describes as his “responsibility” to the scene.
“I feel like I’ve got to throw back to that because I was around at the beginning of it,” he says. “When I hooked up with Salmonella Dub no one else was doing what we were doing. I was there when drum’n’bass first hit, I was there when dubstep first hit, so I feel responsible for paying homage back to that. That’s what this album is about. ‘In The World Of Light’ is about pushing those boundaries again and the next album will be about, ‘Okay, I’m just gonna do some nice acoustic pop songs’. The acoustic album’s got some really big catchy acoustic anthems on it. Once I separated the songs, it just became very clear that it felt right.”
It’s an oddly sound idea, a most logical move for someone in his unique position to make. It must be nice, I say, to be able to dip into commercial waters and then retreat back to the familiar comfort of the underground scene.
“Oh yeah, without a doubt,” he answers quickly. “And I’m not dissing either of them. I’m just trying to really make sure that the fans that like their bass culture music, that like that progressive, underground, not-mainstream type of dance music, that they’re happy. And then later on I’m gonna make sure that people that like the acoustic stuff, who love the Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, Tiki Taane styles, I’m gonna make sure that they’re happy as well.”
“I’m really grateful that I’ve managed to be able to keep my foot in both worlds. I’m just trying to very strategically make sure that everyone’s happy. I mean it would be nice to be able to drop the two albums at the same time but I thought that might be a bit too confusing,” he says, finishing this explanation with a sly chuckle.
So now that we’re all up to speed, it’s time to discuss ‘In The World Of Light’. It’s a suggestive title, one that instantly conjures up images, and it’s not surprising to learn that the title itself acted as the album’s inspiration.
“When you hear that title it’s quite a positive, uplifting, almost enlightening way to look at something. That’s the kind of vibe I wanted to come across. In Maoridom you have Te Ao Marama, which is the world of light, which is what we’re living in right now, it’s the present time.
“Another outlook is that sometimes you’ll see things one way, and then two or three days later, or a week later, you’ll see that same thing but in a different light, and it looks completely different. That’s what I want people to hear in the album. When you first hear it you’ll hear this, when you second hear it you’ll hear something different, and when you third hear it you’ll hear something completely different. It’s all about what you hear at that present time, and because of what you’re feeling at that present time you’ll pick up different things from the music. There’s a lot of different meanings behind it.”
This idea of things changing in the light – or with regards to music changing depending on your mood – is an incredibly tricksy musical feat, but one he’s amply pulled off. Getting that kind of emotional ambiguity happening is no easy task. At its most simplistic, major chords make you feel happy and minor chords make you feel sad. So on a purely mechanical level what chords do you use to write a song that expresses both these emotions depending on the variable state of mind of the listener? And on an artistic level, how do you go about creating a suitably shifting palette for the listener to emote their own ever-changing moods onto? Both great questions. Wish I’d asked them…