Published: October 4, 2013
By: Alex Silva
As the American electronic music scene continues to grow at an exponential rate, and at times oversaturate itself, the influx of musical influences that have breached our borders have only fueled the progression of the movement. With every new producer that climbs the ranks, with every new label that curates a style and, most importantly, with every new fan that hydrates a trend, there is something genuine to be discovered. This year alone, the industry has witnessed the rise and revival of countless branches of EDM, from deep house to nu-disco, electro soul, future bass and more. Even then, there are artists that are working hard to develop their own unique sound altogether, such as German producer TAI who has being collaborating alongside BOT, formerly of Crookers, for the release of their recent EP, Nuthin But Fire.
While TAI’s reputation as a producer is still relatively underground to many electronic music fans in the U.S., his presence in American dance music goes much deeper than you might think. In the few years that he has been producing electronic music, which in comparison to his career as a hip-hop producer in Germany is quite minimal, he has released numerous tracks in collaboration with some of America’s biggest named talents from Diplo to Felix Da Housecat, Steve Aoki, Bart B More and more. And although TAI has only just recently performed his first ever show in the States, this is only the beginning of his journey into the heart of American EDM culture.
The recent release of Nuthin But Fire on Dim Mak Records, which TAI and BOT have been putting together for quite some time now, is a hot plate of addictive melodies and high-powered beats that truly are nothing but fire. Each of the four tracks stands out on its own and contributes to the overall image of the EP which aims at delivering an eclectic and non garden-variety approach to a style that has been hammed by the scene’s over-flatulence. Teaming up with TAI for his first ever online Skype interview, The Untz was fortunate enough to get some exclusive feedback behind the making of the EP, in addition to some extra insight on his future prospects.
What have you been up to now that you’ve finished your new Nuthin But Fire EP with BOT? I know you were just in L.A.?
Yeah. I just flew to L.A. last week, crazy actually. I flew from Munich to L.A., so from one continent to the other, in order to shoot my [music] video for my single coming up. For the video shoot, which was a big video shoot, I had just a one shot because I had to walk into a swimming pool with a girl and once my clothes were wet obviously we couldn’t shoot it again because I had to walk in with dry clothes. So I actually traveled for like 20 hours in order to do a one shot of 10 seconds [laughs]. [Image: TAI and My Name Is Kay during video shoot].
Did the take come out good?
Yeah, he [the director] was happy. He was happy but actually it was two shots because the first one I did too slow and so I just changed into some other clothes I could find to do it again. The girl Kay [My Name Is Kay], whom I’m featuring in it, was in the water and it was freezing, she must have caught pneumonia that night. She was like [makes shivering noise] really freezing and I had to change myself to do the shot again. So, actually, I did two shots but my shot is not even 10 seconds or something like that. So that’s the next single, “The Thrill,” featuring Kay and the B-side is going to be “Pink Noize,” which has been a giveaway already but is now going to be remastered and released with that. That’s out like, I don’t know, in November?
Her name is Kay?
Yeah K-A-Y, I think on social media it’s My Name Is Kay. She actually just did a track on Dim Mak, I think she just did a track with Steve Aoki and Angger Dimas called “Singularity.” So that’s the single up next [“Thrill”] but then once I was over in L.A. I also played the opening show of the new Dim Mak party, which is Dim Mak Sundays at a club called Create. I opened up the party basically for the first night.
That was with Felix Cartal, right?
Yes, Felix and ETC! ETC! Us three Dim Mak artists played, that was the first night and it was really good.
How do you feel working with Dim Mak has helped push your music in America and build your fan base over here?
I don’t know that much of what’s up over there [America]. The last few years I’ve been playing in Europe a lot, which is really cool because we have so many different countries in one little spot. You can really just hop around all the time. Then I was also playing Australia once a year, sometimes even twice a year doing the Future Festival and Tai tours over there. I toured Asia also every year, like Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong. And that’s cool too because in all these countries over there it’s more spread out, it’s like America in a way, so you’re flying longer distances. I’ve been over there a lot really but now I’ve sorted out my green card and I want to come over [to America] and play again. This gig at Create was my first one, which was loads of fun. I’m just been playing every weekend basically Europe and everything to the right [laughs].
How was it? What was your reaction to the crowds over here?
In L.A. the party was really good, the whole Dim Mak Sunday thing. I’d really like to play there again and just come over to start setting up an American tour. I don’t know if it will start at the beginning of this year or the next but yeah hopefully soon.
That’s exciting. I’ve been waiting a while to see you perform. Boys Noize always brings a bunch of his exclusive BNR artists over for WMC but he hasn’t brought you yet.
I was actually supposed to play WMC this year and I had a gig for Dim Mak and with Diplo for the Mad Decent night. Then I had SXSW lined up in Austin [Texas] too and I also had a gig in L.A. but three days before I was meant to fly, the American Embassy gets back to me and tells me they need more assets or info for the visa. We had given them everything but they told Dim Mak that they couldn’t give it to us yet and needed a few more things so that cancelled me out for the states. Otherwise, you would have seen me already [laughs].
Going back to your new EP with BOT, how long did it take you guys to complete it?
We have been in and out of studio sessions for a year to make this.
Is that why it took so long to release?
It took a long time on this EP because it’s not a conventional, typical dance EDM EP where you have these typical elements that are happening right now all over the scene. On this EP, we invented ourselves newly and the music we were creating. We were going in using stuff we hadn’t used before and we were just trying to get a sound that hadn’t been heard yet, not the typical synth. Not the, I don’t know, Knife Party type [makes beat noises] and all these typical things. On this EP it was important for us that we really get sounds that haven’t been heard before. We designed every little tiny sample, none of it is from any sample kit – not a kick drum, nothing. We made this all from banging tables, adding EQ positions and bringing them through analog compressors, we molded every little bit of this. That’s why it took so long because for this particular EP we just created our own absolute own sound and as soon as soon as we had heard it somewhere else, we threw it away. We just wanted to get this as a BOT and TAI sounding thing and that’s why it sounds so weird.
You can definitely tell it’s your style. Your style has always held a very underground sound in terms of not going in the direction or catering towards any sounds that are high in demand. I feel like over time a lot of artists end up doing that but you’ve always stuck to your niche approach.
Yeah and that’s what it’s about. To me, being an artist is to do what comes off the top of your head; what happens without you thinking, that’s what it’s about to me no matter whether it’s a big room track or something underground. I need to feel comfortable doing it and I try not to think too much when I’m making music. When I get into my state of making music, I need to be able to block out all thoughts. I don’t want to talk to any management or see any Facebook friends, all of these need to be blocked out in order for me to do exactly what’s in my head.
How is the chemistry with BOT? I know you’ve worked with Crookers before, was it the same or do you feel that working with just BOT alone that you guys have something different going on?
BOT and I are friends, we’re super cool. We hang out together so working together is good. I get along with everyone anyways; I’m an easy person. Meeting BOT was great, you know, some people you just meet the first time and notice that you have something to talk about, something to share. Then you go to the studio and [bouncy noises] ping pong effect, it just happens without too much planning or thinking about what to do because we feel like doing something together, it wasn’t like that. It just happened super naturally. I was actually in London making a Sunday roast dinner when he saw I was in London and tweeted me and said, “Hey dude, if you’re in London why don’t you come around and say hi.” So I said, “Yeah, I working on a roast dinner,” and he was working on a track, so he called it “Sunday Roast.” And he sent it over.
So we were already on this food vibe so I came around the next day and we are both total food people so we went to the Bottega, which is an Italian restaurant and started eating. Just talking about food, food, food. I’ve noticed that I get along well with people that are into food, where you can just eat nicely and recognize the food and acknowledge it and all that. Then we went to the studio, he played “Sunday Roast” for me, I had these ideas and we were both using Logic anyways so I went in there with my ideas and he did his ideas and we just ping-ponged off of it. Before we knew it, we were in the studio for fifteen hours and had the beginning of a track without even ever talking about doing music together. And then, at 3 o’clock at night he was like, “Hey, we should meet up tomorrow.” So we took it from there, did another day and then just always flew to each other and did this for the last year.
What was the first track you guys started on?
The first one actually, I don’t know whether it was on the EP or not because we’ve been changing them.
You guys made more than the four tracks featured on this EP?
Yeah. We did another one or two tracks but we thought four was a good number. Maybe the other one sometime we will give away if people give enough love.
Do you have any plans to release an album soon?
I’m talking to Dim Mak right now, looking for either an album or an EP. Most likely an EP for January or February, after the “Thrill” single. So for now it’s the Nuthin But Fire EP with BOT, then “Thrill” featuring Kay in November and then in February my Dim Mak EP, maybe album, we’ll have to see how I feel about the songs but it will be a bunch.
Hopefully in line with an American tour.
Do you feel that you learn anything when you produce with different artists in the studio it or that it fuels a different artistic expression?
Yeah. To me, I’m a super anxious collaborator. I love working with people in the studio because that’s where I come from. I come from producing hip-hop music so I’ve always had the rapper in the studio with me doing the vocal part. It was always a mixture of working with people for the last 15 years that I’ve been in the studio collaborating. It just feels natural to me to work together with people. I didn’t grow up, like a lot of producers in electronic music nowadays, with a laptop in the bedroom doing everything on my own. I did all my music on my own but I always had someone with me so socially I’m used to this and I like this. That’s why I’ve done all this collaborating with Steve Aoki, Diplo and Felix the Housecat.
I recently did a track with The Subs that’s not out yet and I’m working on a track with Angger Dimas as well that’s not out yet either. Oh gosh, I just love getting in the studio together and I like to do it old school, like being there together. Like the Diplo track, we just went there [in the studio] together and rapped the vocals on it. I just like that, I don’t like being in the studio on my own that much. And of course, every time you work with people it’s just refreshing. It’s different heads and different ears, I like swapping and changing and asking things like, “How do you like this bass drum.” I’m a super engineering freak so I go through processes and processes of the smallest things, like on hi hats I’m doing ten different little EQ positions for one high hat. It’s always good to have someone else in the studio to be able to ask which EQ position they prefer. It’s nice for me to share.
Who designed your new music video for “Nuthin But Fire?”
These are two girls, Sara Kwon & Kathy Kwon [KWON&KWON], in Berlin that are incredible. They do all these automated visuals and it takes ages for them to do these visuals and the rendering, they put a lot of work into it. I really like it. It reminds of a very trippy kind of thing, it really suited the music I made with BOT. The music we’ve been creating, it wouldn’t be right to have like a video I did with “Thrill” with a sexy girl in a swimming pool. This music is meant to have visuals that are just as weird as the music. I’m really happy with these two girls and they did an awesome job.
It reminded me of an abstract, Andy Warhol-type pop art fantasyland with all the vibrant colors and mirror patterns.
Yeah that’s exactly where we wanted to go with it [laughs].
Did they just approach you with that idea? Or whose idea was it?
We just threw in ideas together and then let them do what they do.
Have they made videos for other artists or was this their first one?
I think they’ve done one for BOT before? Not quite sure.
Tai is your first name correct?
Did you produce hip-hip under that name?
Yeah I produced under the name Tai Jason, Jason is my middle name.
What do you miss about working with hip-hop now that you don’t have time to do that anymore?
I miss the music. It’s not like if I missed it too much then I’d be doing it but I always loved the sample-based stuff. To me, the Nuthin But Fire EP has a lot of hip-hop rawness to it because BOT also grew up listening to hip-hop music. This to us is not all the electronic drums, it’s really a lot of samples that gives it that raw attitude. So that’s all in the music still.
Do you feel that the German hip-hop scene has changed at all or taken a new direction in style since you stopped producing?
When I started producing, I was producing for a lot of German rappers. This was underground music; we weren’t getting respect from any radio or TV stations, even magazines. We were this really hardcore clique, we just really did our thing and started super underground and over the years, pretty fast actually, it just exploded. All of a sudden the first full album compilation, which I produced for this group of rappers called Aggro Berlin, went Top 10 in the German charts in our billboards. I didn’t even see that coming and then, like a week or two weeks later, the record went gold over here, it’s now already platinum. It just really got to a point where hip-hop exploded over here, especially street rap.
We built up a fan base that was so big that it pushed us into the media and all of a sudden radio and TV stations had to play our videos because of this record. I still have a feeling that the media didn’t want us there at all but because we had such a big fan base, it catapulted us into there but it started as an absolute underground thing. It was just doing what you like doing everyday, having fun. I’d wake up for years just to make music all day, everyday. This was the music that landed on gold records and after this one every year I was producing Top 10 records and getting gold. It just evolved there, never ever could I have imagined that until it got to the point where it got too big. I wanted to do something underground and new again and that’s where the electronic thing came and started.
And you’re music is still very underground. Your music is always going to have that “wow factor” that catches someone by surprise and blows their mind with something they’ve never heard before.
That’s exactly where I feel comfortable. I’ve always liked the aspect of being underground and the feeling of doing what you want and not giving a shit, this sort of anarchistic attitude. At the same time, I’m a big fan of big melodies and big sounding drops. I just feel really comfortable between hard drops and big melodic breaks, I can be anywhere between that really.
When you have that first TAI album, are you going to include any hip-hop on it?
I don’t know yet. It will be a surprise to people out there and to myself too.
How would you compare working under the wing of Boys Noize Records and Dim Mak?
To me it’s always important to be open to anything. I’m not a friend of people who are close-minded. It’s important to be with multiple labels and not get corned into one niche; I’ll do a track on Boys Noize and do a track on Dim Mak. Stay fresh. Boys Noize was an awesome thing, it was a cool home for this music with D.I.M. and all that with “Lyposuct.” Funny enough, I was talking to Tiesto a bit ago and he said he would have signed “Lyposuct” to his label straight away. That was interesting. And he plays my music too, he’s played “Ion” and “Beat Down,” Paradise Poltergeist” and “At The Disco.” He finds his spot for it in his radio shows or in his sets, you’ll be astonished what an incredibly good ear he has and he really knows his music.
You just recently worked with Bob Sinclair in L.A., how’s that track coming along? You played it at Create, right?
[Laughs] Yeah. It’s still kind of a secret but I had to give it a spin to see what it sounded like. And actually, I was at the Zombie Nation studio to mix this track to put it through a bunch of analog stuff and right after this interview I go back to finish mixing it. It’s going to be called something special but I don’t know what yet. I’m going to finish it as fast as I can because he wants to play it this weekend. I’m going to be playing in Italy this weekend, so I’m going to be playing it there and he’s going to be playing it also in Paris or Brazil, somewhere.
Did people react well to it?
Yeah. This is actually one for America. He’s a good guy [Bob Sinclair]. He’s got a very good ear also for music. He’s not so much a the nerdy producer-type like me, he really gets the whole picture and knows what to put in it and what not to go big on a track. He’s a very nice guy. He’s now officially a friend of mine.
Keep an eye out for TAI as he continues to release new material with Angger Dimas, The Subs, Bob Sinclair and more, and make sure to follow up with the oncoming possibility of an American Tour in the near future!
‘Nuthin But Fire’ is now available on iTunes, Beatport and Spotify.