Ex Pat Files: MC Tali
Author: Stephen Jewell
Tali may be one of the rising stars of the UK drumíníbass scene and a key member of Roni Size and Reprazentís influential Bristol-based Full Cycle collective but the Taranaki-born MC hasnít forgotten where she came from, or who helped her out along the way.
In fact Tali, whose given name is Natalia Scott, pays tribute to her roots repeatedly in her debut album 'Lyric On My Lipí which Roni Size actually produced. On Soul Star, one of the stand out cuts, she name checks the likes of Tiki from Salmonella Dub, King Kapisi, Che-Fu, Concord Dawn, Shapeshifter and now defunct-drumíníbass promoters Scientific.
"The first verse and chorus of Soul Star is dedicated to Tiki because he wrote Long Time, the first track from Salmonella Dubís last album, 'One Drop Eastí about me," says Tali, who returned to New Zealand just before Easter for a promotional tour.
"I did a lot of touring with Salmonella Dub and Tiki is one of my best friends. We were born a day apart kind of thing. In the album credits, it says that Tiki is my 'soulstarí. If you listen to the rap it says, 'Once upon a time a certain King had savage thoughtsí, which is all about King Kapisi and the day that he pushed me to talk to Roni Size and encouraged me to bust a rap that I canít forget. And 'late nights listening to Che on misty frequenciesí is Che Fu, who, again, has been a huge influence and a great inspiration to me musically. Iíve never actually met the guy but Iím a huge fan of his music."
As she says on 'Lyric On My Lipísí opening track and first single Blaziní, Tali was 'born on the west of the northí and before leaving New Zealand also called Christchurch and Wellington home.
"I was born and raised on a dairy farm in Taranaki. I moved to Wellington first of all and did a couple of years at university. I then got accepted to a performing arts school in Christchurch, so I moved there in 1996. Through going out and the Christchurch scene being quite small, you just meet people, and I just happened to make friends with some people who are into raving. We went to raves and in í96 it was all genre raves, drumíníbass didnít really have much of a profile back then. The raves were house at the beginning, trance in the middle and then drumíníbass. I started hanging out, getting into trance mainly. I didnít really like the music but I really loved the whole vibe of the scene, how people were unified together and dancing to the same thing."
On one night Tali happened to stay at a rave until four in the morning - which was a mission as she was still a school girl.
"The DJ, I think his name was DJ Silencer, he dropped (Reprazent member) Krustís remix of Maintain, which was an amazing tune. It absolutely blew my mind and completely changed my attitude. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was listening to a genre of music that really touched me and really made me feel like Iíd found somewhere where I belonged," she reflects.
|'The whole thing with the album was that I wanted to create a story, a journey, that took me from being born on the west of the North Island to being here in England."|
But it was actually an appearance on the popular talent contest Showcase that provided Tali with the crucial inspiration to pursue a musical career.
"That was acoustic music, it wasnít drumíníbass," she says.
"I was well into my drumíníbass by then but I hadnít started MCing when I went on Showcase. I was a bit confused as to whether I should make a career in dance, music or acting, because I was doing all three. So I thought 'If I do well on Showcase, I should take that as a push that I should go with the musical side of thingsí."
Tali won her heat, her semi-final and came third in the grand final and the rest, as they say, is history.
Tali moved to Melbourne, where she impressed Roni Size with her confidence and vocal skills at the Big Day Out 2001 side show. Size offered Tali the opportunity to make some music with him and she subsequently relocated to London, and then Bristol. Apart from Reprazent, the West Country port town is also home to seminal dance acts such as Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky, who in the early í90s defined trip hop and the so-called Bristol sound.
"I love living in Bristol," declares Tali. "I wouldnít want to live in London for anything. I lived in London for the first five months of my time in Europe and, to be honest with you, I found it a complete drag. In Bristol, you can go to different clubs and if thereís a big queue outside, you know everybodyís going to get in. Bristol is not up itself in any way. People mix socially when theyíre out. Youíll have big names like the Massive Attack crew and Roni mixing in a club attended by students, plumbers and builders from down the road in Bristol."
'Lyric On My Lipí was released in Europe early this year through Full Cycle, who licensed the album to Shock Records for Australasia. In New Zealand the album hasn't made a mark on the charts, only selling just over 1500 since its release in late March. And while the admittedly patchy album hasnít lived up to its early hype, 'Lyric On My Lipí is still a decent first effort. Taliís best is hopefully yet to come.
"The albumís doing pretty well," says Tali. "Itís been quite slow with the general public in England because Blazin didnít get picked up by Radio One. They were like 'Youíve ticked all the boxes Tali but there were too many other releases you were competing against that weekí, so I missed out on getting play listed. But weíve just done the video for Lyric On My Lip and weíre going to be releasing that as a single. Hopefully that will do well because that was the one Radio One were demanding. But the album and Blazin are doing really well, incredibly well in Europe actually. Iím getting smashed every day on day time radio and the Japanese ordered a whole lot as well, which is quite exciting. The albumís doing well in drumíníbass circles obviously, but I think it might take a bit longer for the general public to catch on."
As tracks like the trip hoppy Grey Day indicate, Taliís influences extend beyond drumíníbass and encompass everything from hip hop to soul.
"The whole thing with the album was that I wanted to create a story, a journey, that took me from being born on the west of the North Island to being here in England," explains Tali.
"It starts with Blazin, which is an obvious introduction to me. All the moments after that are like defining moments: leaving Christchurch, moving to Melbourne, falling in love, leaving Melbourne, coming to Bristol, finding my feet, falling in love again...
"The whole thing was like a complete process and the album ends with High Hopes, which is basically my outlook for the future. High hopes - good, positive things are going to happen from this journey that Iíve taken.
"The second album will be different again. That will be talking about other things that maybe I havenít had the chance to express on this album because I really wanted to concentrate on the journey, and illustrate that Iím a very unique person from an amazing, unique country on the other side of the world. Iím very proud to be from New Zealand but Iím also not afraid to make my mark on another country."