Interview with DJ Tiga

by Anna Denejkina

Tiga, Always Caring

Written for Future Entertainment

Originally published on December 20, 2011

“Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Yes to all those things,” Tiga responded through the telephone line, discussing the silence he kept on his project with Munich-based Zombie Nation, under the moniker of ZZT – an endeavor of a personal and musical escape, as compared to his solo work, and an escape from attention and, ironically, the media.

“… I don’t get so involved in it,” he continued. “First of all, I live in Montreal; most of my work is inEurope, and it’s not like I live inLondon, or live inBerlinor something. So I’m a bit removed, and that’s kind of deliberate.”

His intentional removal from the hackneyed “hype” holds its pros and cons, albeit Tiga [James Sontag] described himself as lucky not to care so much for the content of the coverage – specifically, never feeling particularly criticized – and not being sucked into what he calls the “distorting” place, an emotive space created through judgment and myriad of opinion.

“If anything, one thing that is a little stressful now is that now there is so much coverage of everything,” he expressed. “It’s all on blogs and at the end of the year in the Pitchfork, in the Resident Advisor, in the DJ mag [sic], in the charts and the lists.

“What I do find is that everyone gets kind of sucked in to a little bit of this… I don’t know how to say it,” – almost getting lost in thought, he began to underline his view of how an artist can become absorbed by the discussion surrounding them. “… I find it can be a little bit – what’s the word I’m looking for – distorting. It’s easy to get sucked into this thing of “okay, where does your music fit in with all these different little groups and opinions”, which is not a healthy thing to care about.

“I guess there’s this part [to] the modern age. There’s so much information, and there’s so much discussion and so much of it’s out there, it’s easy to sometimes get caught up in that, and it’s not such a healthy place to be if you’re trying to make [music] – best to ignore it all.”

Returning to the Australian shores for the annual and imminent run of new-year-celebration music festivals, the topic of changes within these circuits, globally and generally, came through the concept of producers and DJs taking to performing with a full band line up. Indeed this is a change that makes sense to Tiga, due to the increasingly rising popularity of DJs as headlining acts and pop stars, but it is one that also signifies a transformation in the notion, the connection and interaction of the artist with his audience.

“I think the days of just one, lone figure standing off in the distance and playing his records alone – that might be a thing of the past. I might be one of the last,” he commented, for whom the idea of a full line-up has crossed the mind, but was never thought of seriously. “I guess me personally, I always thought it was kind of lame,” he stressed, “it just seems so fake.”

“The DJs that I always liked,” he continued, “the DJs that I always looked up to when I was really young – it was just a completely different aesthetic. The DJ was providing the soundtrack; obviously he was still the star, we were aware of him, but [there] was just much more modesty involved. It was more: heads down, everyone dancing, and [now] it’s just been transformed into like a kind of cheerleader type of thing. And I’ve no criticism of that – it’s just a different aesthetic.”

Through Tiga’s above portrayals, and his previous commentary that the 2011 ZZT full-length release, ‘Partys Over Earth’, was pointing fun at how bizarre the development of big festival and big party music has become – asking the question of “what’s next?” – a sense of cynicism began to linger behind his words on the current musical climate. But this idea was misheard and misread, as “I’m actually, I’m pretty optimistic,” he explained.

“Like anybody I have my moments of doubt and everything. But no, I’m pretty optimistic actually. I think there’s a lot of amazing music being made right now, and I think there’s a lot or really, really exciting stuff.

“There was a period of time,” he continued, “I think the past couple of years, but I think it was more personal.” As he minutely alluded to his private moments of doubt, Tiga returned to the growth of the industry, its evolution and its overt changes.

“… There have been so many changes; I think that’s the thing. I think dance music, not electronic music in particular, but music in general, has gone through kind of a revolution during the past five years or so, I mean really much more than most industries,” he expressed.

“How people access music, how people buy it or don’t buy it, the styles; the popularity; everything has really changed quite a lot…”

“I mean, just as a stupid example,” he began, “when my first record came out… I don’t think there was even such a thing as Facebook, there was no social [networking], there was nothing. You go from a period where that’s not even in existence, to a period where that’s like the dominant PR tool.

“So there are some major changes, and with those changes there are moments… I guess there are moments of cynicism because that’s human nature. You kind of [think] “oh god, I liked it how it was”. But all of that has disappeared for me now, and I think it’s a glorious, golden era that we’re heading into right now.”

Having been active as a musician, producer and DJ for over a decade, it was bracing to hear Tiga’s words come through hand-in-hand with overt passion. Fittingly depicting himself as an artists who does not take much conciliation in the past, Tiga spoke of the intended follow-up to his 2009 sophomore studio effort, ‘Ciao!’. Describing the stages of planning and scheming, and “when you actually start to get anxious,” Tiga currently falls into the latter of the three phases, “which is a good stage to be at.”

“For me, about a month after a record is finished, I’m like “oh god, I haven’t done anything. What am I going to do!?” So I’m kind of deep in to that right now, where I’m very excited.”

He continued, “I feel lucky to be in the position I’m in, I’m very excited to make something new and to kind of redefine myself. I’m looking forward to it.”

With a feeling of zero external pressure whilst working on a new record, Tiga explained that his pressures grow internally; massively, “like uncomfortably massive,” he laughed.

“It feels like not, not, not especially pleasant,” he began to illustrate. “It’s easier once you really get started, once you’re really working on something, then it becomes more manageable – because you’re tackling individual music problems… But when you’re just planning in broad strokes, it’s easy to get carried away with too much expectation from yourself.

“It’s dangerous. Sometimes you start, and that’s when artists lose the plot, when they’re too obsessed – “it’s gotta be new, or it’s gotta be different, and it’s gotta be original”… these things are all illusions anyway.”

Revealing his ultimate anxiety, Tiga voiced that his “greatest fear is just not caring anymore.” Nevertheless, this idea does not fall under the cover of becoming stale or redundant within the niche, purely two concepts which he emphasized to be someone else’s judgments.

“It’s different… my ultimate nightmare is just that I don’t care.”

“If you just wake up one morning and you just don’t have that drive. You just don’t have the ambition anymore; you don’t have the desire… I would say it is losing desire,” he explained.

Giving an allegory of “it’s not someone else saying you’re not attractive, it’s you not caring if you could sleep with them or not,” for his above beliefs, Tiga spoke of what is behind his passion to continue creating music, something that came forth as a metaphorical puzzle, which he is still trying to piece together.

“I have quite eclectic tastes,” he began. “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.

“At this stage, for a third album, for me the ambition, the drive, it’s to kind of really find a way of putting those pieces together. Like properly. That’s how I see it now.”

Growing up in the 80’s with a love for classic, vintage, synth pop, the 90’s saw Tiga fall deeply into the techno, acid and rave culture, “and I don’t know too many people where those were their real informative influences,” he expressed. “I guess it’s my mission to try to find it, and forget intelligent, just a cool way of putting those things together.”

“I’ve come close on occasion,” he continued, “but I think there’s room for improvement.”