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A Sit Down With DJ Tiga

14:21 Mar/29/2018

Having spent part of his childhood in India, Tiga was introduced to the party scene early, beginning his career as a teenaged DJ. Developing into a club owner and founder of his own label, Turbo Recordings, his influence has only continued to grow. Fifteen years after the 2001 release of his breakout single, an aggressively modernized update of Corey Hart’s 1984 synth-pop smash “Sunglasses At Night,” he has provided remixes for the xx and LCD Soundsystem, collaborated with Soulwax and Hudson Mohawke, and produced three albums of his own: 2006’s Sexor, 2009’s Ciao!, and now, No Fantasy Required, released March 4.


"When I started making music I was just getting something finished and wasn’t so uptight…"


What was the first dance music experience that really stuck with you?

I’m not sure. It was the Haitian music, or Carnival in Haiti. As far as Jersey goes, block parties & meeting Tameil when I was 11. Got to chill with Diplo backstage at Mad Decent Block Party in High school.

You have an album in the pipeline. What can you tell me about that?

I’m looking forward to the day that I know exactly what to say to that. I would say…it’s started. I haven’t hit that critical mass yet, where I know exactly where it’s going. But I do have a bunch of songs written, and it’s going pretty well. There’s a target to have it finished in the summer, and I’ve taken some time off touring in order to make that happen. I have a long list of collaborators, some of them real and some potential. As usual, I’m wrestling with the song-versus-track thing, like I always do—but this time, I’m hoping to resolve it. And I really want to have an album right now, which sounds obvious, but isn’t always the case. I’m having more trouble than usual in finding music to play, and that’s usually a good time to make stuff. You can fill your own needs.

?ou’ve talked in previous interviews about how you initially feared singing on stage, but that when you did it, it came very naturally.

My whole life I’ve wanted to be a performer. The idea of being on stage and performing is something I like. It doesn’t make me less stage-shy, but once I actually got up there, it felt quite natural. After so many years of DJing, it’s not exactly an alien concept, being in front of so many people. It’s just part of my personality — something I wrestle with. I have no regrets about my life or career, but I would have started [singing] earlier. Every show you get a little bit better. For me, the main thing is that it feels nice when you’ve built something up in your head, and you conquer it. It’s liberating to just be playing your own music.

Your favourite style of music.

I have quite eclectic tastes. There are all these different things that I really love – I kind of love simple pop music, I love techno; I love kind of deep dance, kind of dark dance music and acid. I like all these things that don’t necessarily fit together, and I feel like in albums of my work I’ve kind of always been trying to fit them together, and I don’t feel like I’ve ever really gotten it totally right.

How has techno and the Montreal scene changed since then? You are still the man behind Turbo, and you owned a nightclub at one point.

Well, 15 years is a lifetime. Things have changed in a million different ways, and they can even change back. I kind of lost track of all the different phases, to be honest. For me, a big shift was that, starting around 2002, I began traveling a lot. My “connection” to and my focus on my hometown switched a little bit after that. Before, I was very much about building things at home. “Sunglasses At Night” ended up being the invitation to join the club, so to speak. My first international show was at a restaurant for ten people in Munich. I knew I had made it. I was at the Miami Music Conference [in 2002], and DJ Hell and some of the people from the German label, Gigolo, which put out “Sunglasses At Night,” were there. I met my first agent — that was a big step. Then I did three shows: Frankfurt, Munich, and this little city called Regensburg, which is in the south of Germany.

How does online communication and social media play into your music/performance practice? Can these tools be used for community building?

Honestly I’m getting better at the online communication thing. I’ve had to because I like to build a friendship beyond music. Before, my DMs consisted mostly of messages like “Can I get tracks?” or “Send me a zip!” then once I would send shit to people, you never hear back from cats. When you have a friendship with someone, you’re going to communicate. I would happen to be in some of these guys town, and would try to go out to support their event and I wouldn’t hear back, until I drop another gem and people wanted something from me. It’s more genuine when you develop a real connection and have a relationship with someone. What I do now is lock in numbers and text my main friends regularly, push a few tweets to support my brothers and sisters.

What are your inspirations right now?

Right now’s a little bit of a low period, which for me always happens after an album is finished. I’ve used a lot of my ideas over the past little while. Basically all I want to do right now is just read books, listen to records, and watch movies. Just fill up again with ideas. My brother’s just discovered, like, 500 more Aphex Twin tracks, which should keep me busy for a few weeks. I’ve been listening to more hip-hop than I have ever before. I’m pretty obsessed with Young Thug, mostly Atlanta stuff. It doesn’t directly inspire me, musically, but it excites me.

How did you get less one-dimensional? OK...less annoying.

A lot of that is the age. I was 18 and finishing school, and I had this passion. At that age, you want to be identified with the things you love. It also felt like we were riding the wave of something quite revolutionary. It could be my perspective, but it definitely didn't feel like now, where things are more spread out and there isn't this same kind of singularity of a movement. Or, for that matter, a drug that sweeps a nation. I also became much more interested in the craft, the artistic side of making things and less the more social and business side of pushing and preaching it. The other thing was, at a certain point, the battle was won. It became a case of preaching to the converted. When everyone I knew was either a DJ or at the record store, what was I going to do? Going around whining that techno was the future?

What does it mean for you to be a real DJ?

Real DJing is about something that can’t be packaged or replicated: it’s about timing. It’s like stand-up comedy: you’re only as good as the connections you make and the speed with which you make them. DJing is wit. Oscar Wilde said that. Sometimes you have seconds to make a good decision. It’s style (your choices) versus fashion (your collection), and no amount of money can change that. Although if you can afford a pheromone mist to spray on the crowd that can paper over a questionable call to “go hip-hop”, that helps. I’m a romantic at heart. I believe that all DJs who deeply love what they play are doing things the right way. It doesn’t matter if people are pointing and broadcasting the set on the web for people to mock without pity. If you’re really feeling it, then you’re the luckiest laughing-stock in the world.

Your day-to-day interaction with the label over the years has seemed to ebb and flow, depending on what you're working on elsewhere. Where are you now?

Now I'm entering into a more hands-on phase. Originally, it was all me. All the minutiae. I was making rubber stamps, running to the post office, doing royalty reports. But I was lucky, as my younger brother came along and he's been managing the label for the past couple of years. Between him and my career going great—especially with traveling in Europe—it was easy to take a hands-off approach for a while. But now I'm getting back into it, being more involved with the artists, more involved with the release schedules. It's really a bizarre time to be running a record label. There's no business model. It's just a weird soup. The past two years have been so depressing. I've been spared because my own personal career has been on the up, but the model of an independent record label has become murder. It's such a challenge now, though, that I'm getting really interested. You're really problem solving. Not figuring out how to get people to like your music, because we've had great response. But more how do you actually earn money for the artist? How do you transfer Facebook action into something concrete for the label? It's not easy, but it's a super exciting time.


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