Tiki Taane - Underground past, popular present, double album future...
Author: Karl Puschmann
Instead I agreed with him, saying that many of the tracks on the album had generated that exact response out of me. Having listened one morning to the heavily slow, bass-driven dubstep number Soundtrack To Forever I found it musically inspiring and uplifting. The very next morning when I’d been running a little late and was fairly grumped out, the same track perfectly matched my much more melancholic mood.
“Yeah totally man, things can look different in different shades of light,” an enthusiastic Tiki responds. “You might listen to that track when you’re feeling good and it might be inspiring or uplifting, but if you’re feeling depressed or bummed out it might make you feel even worse. That’s the whole theory of ‘In The World Of Light’. It’s all up to the listener. I try to look at the more positive side of things but I’m asking a lot of questions. I’m looking towards myself and going, ‘Once a king / but now a fool / upon his broken throne,’” he says reciting from the track’s lyric. “So I’m being quite honest about shit that’s happened in my life. There’s a track called Light Years Away that’s about a good friend of mine who drowned two years ago. So it’s things like that I’m singing about. Things that are quite dear to me.”
Is it hard to bring so much honesty to your work, I ask?
“No, it’s too easy for me, that’s the scary thing,” he laughs. “I’m a Sagittarius man, we shoot from the hip. It’s a good value to have, there’s no bullshit. So singing about things is really easy for me because the best way for me to get my feelings out is through music.”
So, as you may have picked up, there’s a lot going on with this album. There’s also a third meaning behind the title, and it’s a major.
“I’m a dad now,” Tiki says. “My son’s nearly two, and having him born into this world, born into the light, is another big thing about it as well.”
He says becoming a father “totally” affected his outlook on, well, pretty much everything. At one point he even thought that he “… should stop everything and get a real job”. An idea he only dismissed because he later thought that, “If I was my son I would want my dad to be out there doing something that he’s passionate about”.
He didn’t stop but he did resolve to go at it a lot harder and to also involve his son in his music as much as he could. Tiki already takes him to festivals, gigs and even pulls him up on stage for a bit of a dance every now and then.
“One day it would be cool if he could start his own band and rock out onstage as well,” he says.
You do like to keep it in the family I respond, which prompts Tiki to crack up.
“Yeah, you’re right,” he laughs. “My sister manages my company, my other sister manages my merchandise. My dad’s onstage with me. My mum’s the biggest fan, she’s got a scrapbook and she’s been there since my first gig when I was 14 or 15. So my family’s definitely a huge foundation for what I do.”
We move on to talking about the recording process. Because the two albums had originally been thought of as one, recordings for both happened consecutively in Tiki’s home studio on a Woodhill farm block, augmented with the occasional session at his other house in Palmerston North. (The sales and serious sync revenues from Always On My Mind have allowed him to invest in real estate and a bar business.)
Describing his studio rig as “a really, really simple set-up” he nevertheless has an enviable array of toys at his disposal, including a Summit DCL 2000 duel compressor/limiter, an Apogee Mini-Me pre-amp compressor/limiter, as well as an Empirical Labs Distressor, two Korg keyboards, a Juno, a “whole bunch of beautiful guitars,” a variety of traditional Maori instruments like flutes, drums and shells and a small mixing desk everything runs through. An endorsement deal with Shure ensures he’s hooked up with microphones, his preference being the KSM313 dual-voice ribbon mic, and he switches between three sets of monitors to cross reference his mixes. Some “outdated” Event 20/20s (his main workhorse monitors that he mixed three Salmonella Dub albums, the ‘Shapeshifter Live’ album and ‘Past, Present, Future’ on), JBLs and also some Mission speakers.
His process is to mix the tracks himself and do the first steps of mastering, applying all the limiting and EQ’ing, before handing the dubs over to Evan Short “… the Rick Rubin of NZ”, to finish up and add the “icing on the cake”.
By now time’s running short but it’d be remiss of me not ask about the many collaborations sprinkled liberally throughout ‘In The World Of Light’.
“That’s something I’ve always been into, just working with heaps of people and heaps of artists,” Tiki answers. “It helps me step my game up and I think it helps them step their game up as well.”
“So there’s drum’n’bass tunes I’ve done on there with Dub XL and Concord Dawn,” he says. “There’s dubstep with Bulletproof, Optimus Gryme, Crushington and Truth. And I’ve done some crazy, crazy, crazy stuff that’s kind of tribal that I call ‘haka step’ – it’s got vocals from Hollie Smith and this Spanish chick called Bebe. The main thing was that I wanted to work with people I hadn’t worked with before for this record. It came out really good and it’s a really experimental, bass heavy, beat-driven album.”
During our 40 minute chat we’ve talked about the past, we’ve talked about the present, so to wrap things up, I ask Tiki about the future.
“March 5th at Homegrown at my merchandise tent, we release the album. So we’re booking a tour through March/April for NZ,” he says, “Then I go to tour Europe with Shapeshifter in April and May. They stay over there because they’re moving to Berlin, but I come back and tour my album through Australia for May and June.
“Then I go to Japan and then it’s back to Europe to do some Shapeshifter dates. Then I come back for the Rugby World Cup and basically during all that time I’m still working on the acoustic album. Then I go back over to Europe to do some stuff for Shapeshifter and then head to Australia in October. Then I come back, release the acoustic album in November, and then it’s touring December/January/February/March plus April. So yeah…” he says trailing off, “It’s non-stop bro.”
That is a full on schedule I say.
“Yeah it is,” Tiki answers with a laugh, before getting a bit more serious. “And during all that also trying to be a dad, and a partner, and trying to run a couple of businesses and trying to put on parties and stuff like that. It’s definitely full time. But it’s awesome. I’ve asked for this career and I’ve built myself up to have this career, so I’m definitely not complaining. It’s wicked.”
But with all that going on, are you sure there’s enough Tiki to go around? There’s a slight pause and then Tiki properly cracks up.
“Is there enough Tiki to go around, babes?” he asks off phone in between laughter, then he’s back talking into the speaker.
“My wife’s saying ‘Yes’, she’s nodding,” he says still chuckling. “Yeeeeah, there’s enough Tiki to go around!”