There’s tension at the heart of Tiga’s musical soul. On the one hand he’s the underground techno don, the producer who made ‘Mind Dimension’ (2008) and, together with Audion, the pounding ‘Let’s Go Dancing’ (2013). On the other, there’s the pop sensibility that led him to record electro versions of Corey Hart’s 1984 hit ‘Sunglasses At Night’ (2001) and Nelly’s ‘Hot In Herre’ (2003). It’s this duality that makes him one of electronic music’s most engaging characters. He’s about as far away from your faceless techno DJ from central casting as it’s possible to get.
His new album, ‘No Fantasy Required’, is a case in point. It neatly balances the two sides of his character. Recent single and club smash ‘Bugatti’ is included, with its typewriter beats and deadpan, slightly daft vocals. The re-rubbed Mad Decent version featuring “unless it’s getting played on the beach in Ibiza“ Pusha T cemented its hip status. This is the kind of dance music that works as well driving around on a sunny day as it does at 4AM on a darkened dancefloor. The pulsing sub bass riff and twittering hi hats on ‘Make Me Fall In Love’ are offset by a restrained yet infectious vocal from Scissor Sister’s frontman Jake Shears. “Jake is an old friend,” says Tiga. “He sang on ‘Hot In Herre’ and ‘You Gonna Want Me’. He seems to be the only co-vocalist I can work with.” Then there’s the harder edged ‘Don’t Break My Heart’, which sees a pile-driving kick drum underpinning atmospheric, Burial-like disembodied voices. And ‘Planet E’, a collaboration with Hudson Mowhawke that channels classic Detroit techno and updates it for 2016. This is dance music that’s about so much more than just dancefloors.
It’s been six years since Tiga’s last album, 2009’s ‘Ciao’. There’s no particular reason for the gap, aside from a punishing DJ schedule. And there have been a string of killer singles, including his aforementioned collaboration with Audion and solo outings such as ‘Plush’, one of the standout tracks of 2013. Never one to take himself too seriously, Tiga says of ‘No Fantasy Required’: “You can enter any of a number of cliches here: new direction, more mature sound — take your pick.” Actually, there’s a bit of truth in both, but at the same time it’s vintage Tiga.
It seems Tiga was always destined to be a DJ. When he was growing up, until the age of 12, his parents spent half the year in Montreal, the other half in Goa. “They were hippies,” he says, “But it’s not like we lived on an commune.” It was, “wild” however. He remembers getting up at 6AM and cycling to meet his parents at Goa’s legendary beach parties. “I wasn’t allowed to go at night time,” he says. “There would be people out of their mind, swinging from trees. The music was kind of like they played in Ibiza in the late ’80s. My dad said it was music you did ‘serious dancing’ to. I guess that’s something that stuck with me. Never underestimate the power of being lost in the moment on the dancefloor. The funny thing is I grew up oddly conservative. And I’ve never found and of the after hours party scene shocking. I’ve never felt the need to rebel.”
Tiga’s first proper job was packing clothes in a factory. Everyone else that worked there was Jamaican. “It was so boring,” says Tiga, “But the people and music were great.” It was at this time that he started DJing, playing rave music inspired by the UK scene. In 1994, he bought a record shop called DNA. Two years later, in 1996, he opened his own club, Sona.. Then, in 1998, he launched his own record label, Turbo, which has since developed into one of techno’s most trusted imprints. Acts signed by Tiga who’ve gone on to become major dance music players include Chromeo, Azari & III, Gessafelstein, and Duke Dumont.
Tiga had been DJing for a decade when he released his ‘American Gigolo’ mix on Turbo. Featuring tracks including ‘Frank Sinatra 2001’ by Miss Kittin & The Hacker, ‘I’m A Disco Dancer’ by Christopher Just and ‘Poney Part 1’ by Vitalic, it chimed with the emerging electroclash scene. It also featured ‘Sunglasses At Night’, recorded with Jori ‘Zyntherius’ Hulkonnen (who went on to become one of Tiga’s long-term collaborators). The song became one of electroclash’s defining moments.
Electroclash was seen by electronic music’s custodians as trashy, something that wouldn’t last, In fact, many of electroclash’s key figures went on to dominate dance music over the following decade, none more so than Tiga. His debut album, ‘Sexor’, was released in 2006, followed by ‘Ciao’ in 2009. Then there are the singles such as ‘Mind Dimension’, ‘The Worm’, ‘Vulkan Alarm!’ and ‘Let’s Go Dancing’ and ‘Fever’ with Audion. Together they add up to one of the most impressive catalogues of any electronic producer.
Tiga has played a huge part in defining the dance music landscape. He counts some of dance music’s biggest names as friends and collaborators. Indeed, collaborators have always been important part of Tiga’s make up. “Each album has had a few key players,” he explains. “The first album was me, Jesper Dahlback and 2manydjs. The second was 2manydjs and Gonzales. This time it was mainly Matthew Dear and a friend of mine from Montreal called Clarian, who used to record as Footprintz. This album made me realise that if there a secret to my longevity it’s the people I work with. More often than not we’ve become close friends. It’s the favourite thing about my career is getting to spend time with interesting people.”
It’s the same urge to cross-pollinate that’s made Tiga such a prolific remixer (he’s reworked tracks for The XX, Depeche Mode, Iggy Azelia, Human League and Ninja Tune co-founders Coldcut, amongst many others). And he’s been remixed by some impressive names too, including Maya Jane Coles, Brodinski and Loco Dice.
Given that Tiga is such a character, it’s puzzling that, until recently, he’d never performed live. “It’s was on the cards for a long, long time, as far back as my first album, but I put it off because I was insecure about singing live,” he says. “And DJing was going so well. I guess I reached a point in life where I cared less about making a fool of myself than doing something new. The newness alone was attractive.”
Tiga’s live show sees him performing alongside Jori Hulkonnen in front of a back drop of Venetian blinds inspired by Berlin’s Panorama Bar. Kindred spirit and close friend Stuart Price helped Tiga curate the music. “He’s a ridiculously talented person. I trusted him. We sat down with my whole catalogue, with the songs broken down into parts, and we decided which songs were in, which were out, what sounds we wanted to push, how we wanted to control the energy levels.”
New album, a live show: it feels like a new start for Tiga. But also a return to what made him so fresh and exciting in the first place. “The new album is definitely a little less clubby than the stuff I’ve made recently,” he says. “The thing I feel good about now, and I can hear on the album, is that I feel more honest, open and playful. I think those things were more prominent at the start of my career, and it’s good to see them back.”
Only a fool would argue with that.
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