TF Archives

Tiga - Tiga! Tiga! Tiga!

Author: Tristan Burke
Friday, April 24, 2009

Old school techno DJ, earnest ’80s dance throwback or calculated electro-pop construct – just who exactly is the man they call Tiga- 3D’s Tristan Burke goes straight to the artist who gleefully refuses to be pigeonholed.

Behind the decks aesthetics barely register; the Montrealer born Tiga James Sontag cuts a rather diminutive figure. Gently nodding his head to beats that are short-circuiting cerebrums around him, only the florescent hues of his trademark cap conspicuous against his otherwise unremarkable attire, Tiga the DJ defers importance to big tunes and better crowds.

Tiga the producer, as unleashed on his first full-length SEXOR (2006), is an altogether different animal: an electro-pop prince who struts, covers Nelly and hails from an orb where sexy lightning always strikes twice. His debut LP bore all the trademarks of this split personality: half techno-tinged club killers, half synth-kitsch foot-tappers, it flamboyantly upended expectations. While some turned away, others learned to embrace Tiga for what he is: electro’s most compelling contradiction.

Sophomore record Ciao!’s three-year making has done little to dent his exuberance – “I’m 80 per cent kid-in-a-candy-store, only 20 per cent jaded old fuck,” Tiga laughs, and he’s certainly thankful that fans are a little more prepared to expect the unexpected second time out.

“Whether by accident or grand design,” he begins, “somehow between the DJing, the remixes, SEXOR and all the imagery, I’ve ultimately built up this quite open-ended perception in people’s eyes. I’m not really part of one scene, I’m not purely anything, and that’s liberating when you’re making something new.”

Ciao! is again characterised by its producer’s shared focus; his feet planted across two decades. Glitched-out tracks like What You Need and lead single Mind Dimension with its endlessly quotable refrain recall the acid rave of the early ’90s. While others like the opulent Shoes – Tiga’s playful call-and-response ode to his favourite threesome: footwear, hair and gloves – are firmly entrenched in ’80s glam.

“If there was one debate in the whole process, that was it: how do you play these two different styles against each other, or how do they work best together-” he admits. “I remember there was one night in London where I completely thought, ‘Okay, I have two albums; I’ve got 11 dance tracks, 11 electro-pop tracks,’ and I just decided, ‘you know what I’m gonna do- I’m going to condense them. Even if they are different, they’re sides to my character and I’m just gonna go with it.’”

If Tiga’s own approach to music making is typified by the push and pull of different abiding interests, consider the added preoccupations of Ciao!’s gifted co-producers, among them LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, Gonzales and returning from planet SEXOR Soulwax’s inimitable brothers Dewaele. Says Tiga of the unique melting pot: “I think everyone naturally wants what they don’t do so much. I end up pushing for my ’80s pop fantasy, Soulwax want crazy techno shit, Gonzales is amazed by a big house track – it’s always the grass is greener, y’know.

Techno may no longer be Tiga’s default setting, but his adoration for the movement which spawned his formative clubbing memories remains, despite the term ‘rave’ being watered down by years of misappropriation. “Whether it was the drugs, the idea of partying all night, the music… to me rave culture was a revolution. It coming back was unavoidable; it was too big not to. I just find it funny how little anyone who wasn’t actually there in ’91/’92 gets it right; they use the words, they wear some Day-Glo colours, but the real essence of it has been missed.”

Given his underground musical education, Tiga’s steadfast desire to maintain DJing as a traditional discipline is unsurprising, however strong the cry to have him marry the performance factor of his producer alter ego. Yet he insists: “I never thought that line should be blurred; I really believe the best DJing was really perfected in small clubs and doesn’t always benefit from live projection. I would love to do a live show, with a band, dancing, running back and forth, making jokes… the whole nine yards. I just want to do it right; what else am I gonna do, play my records and have a synthesiser and a mic- That’s bar-mitzvah shit.”

The pressure to consolidate his many facets may forever follow Tiga’s career, yet whether he’s playing label boss by championing his Turbo Recordings artists like The Proxy and Popof in the industry’s cheekiest press releases; a DJ whipping a dancefloor into a frenzy; or an ’80s electronica glamourpuss, it all equates to a package that’s not as shrewdly manufactured as many imagine.

“Whether it’s in the music, the lyrics, the liner notes, the photographs – everything for me has to be genuine,” he explains. “Now when I say genuine I don’t necessarily mean honest. There can be mystery, there can be deception; what I mean is it has to come from me, something I’ve actually thought about, something from my life. I find if you don’t do that, that’s when people begin to detect that you’re basically full of shit. It loses its interest and becomes false. And I do think people can detect the difference.”

Returning to Oz “probably in September for a series of festivals,” you’ll get to check out the enigma for yourself. If it’s your first time, you may find your first impression coloured by the man in the cap looking disappointingly commonplace. Until Tiga drops one of his own tracks, and his wry smile recognises your limbs are no longer your own; that’s when you appreciate exactly who’s pulling the strings.

WHO: Tiga
WHAT: Ciao! Through PIAS / Liberator
WHEN: Friday 1 May