James Hutchins, - on 28/3/12
James Hutchins speaks with first lady of Serbian Techno Tijana T about mutant folk, serbian multitasking performing with Abe Duque and Exit Festival.
Having so far had a career in TV and music with presenting, singing and Djing all under your belt, where do you feel that your loyalties lie and why? Well, that must be the hardest question which has been haunting me for my whole life. For some reason I could never settle with just doing one thing. When I was in elementary school I also pursued ballet and went to special mathematics school, during high school I went to music school at the same time, after that I studied two universities and was working on TV at the same time. Then I became a DJ, then I went on tour with Abe during which I was working for Exit festival. I guess I can't really imagine myself having one profession, but everything I do is music-related, so my answer would be my loyalties lie there; In music. Through my whole TV career I was trying to educate people of something besides local mainstream (which is called turbo folk, a mutant genre hardly imaginable) and at times I went really far with the "alternative" approach. That was basically my only motivation to be involved in TV. I'm not interested in television as such, unless one uses the power of this media to do something different. Or at least try. Also, here in Serbia, young people are mostly multi-talented and everyone is multitasking. It's the only way to survive. The rules in the game are a bit different than in some, let's say safer societies.
You’ve got a recent release with Teichmann who are known in Germany. Tell us about the Berlin connection. That one came really naturally, we've known each other really well for some time now. Teichmanns had their famous Balkan tour some years ago and that's when they met all our mutual friends from Belgrade, Bosnia and around. I was spending a lot of time in Berlin while I was working with Abe Duque, basically I was living in Berlin and Belgrade between gigs and Teichmanns were my close companions. We were sharing the same booking agency at the time (Escorteaze) and we survived many parties and hangovers together. So, they invited me to contribute to their album, the one they were making for two years I think. I was allowed to play with their analogue machines, I sang a bit, came up with some lyrics they added pieces of their music, put it together and we have track now. It's titled "Hangover", of course.
So how did the partnership with one of the techno legends, Abe Duque come about, and what was your experience like working with him in the studio? That was a crazy story. It's like a movie plot. Abe came to Belgrade to play a party and my friends who were promoting the party asked me to help them out and take Abe to a radio station where he had an interview. In that interview he said his aim is to become the new Quincy Jones and he's looking for his Michael Jackson. After he finished he asked me if I could sing and invited me to come on stage with him and improvise something. I was excited, but at the same time totally frightened. I told him I can sing, but I don't know his music nor any music lyrics I could use. He really tempted me with leaving one spare mic on the stage and his managers where pouring me champaigne. After a few glasses I went up and improvised something and it turned out well. Steve Bug was witnessing this historic moment, we still talk about it and laugh. Abe instantly invited me to come to Berlin and record something. I was in Berlin two months later and a minute after arriving I was informed we're taking a train to Frankfurt tomorrow morning to play at The Groove magazine birthday party. In Robert Johnson. Alongside Ricardo Villalobos, Luciano, Magda, DJ T and some more I can't even remember. Again we improvised, we even had our equipment dying while we performed, but it still went really well and we got good reviews. So, we continued to work together and travel around. Abe tought me a lot of things about production, we made several songs together. I'm really grateful for that period and all the knowledge, although I didn't turn out to become the new Michael Jackson, obviously, but that was solely my responsibility [Laughs]
Now when you perform live, you have quite a big set up, [literally taking your studio on stage] What is it in particular you enjoy about performing like this? We were literally taking our studio out, cause we had like ten machines on stage. It was a proper live, not just Ableton + controller set. It was quite wild, to be honest, and for the most of the time I wasn't even aware of the scale of things. We performed at the best parties and festivals around the world, from Space Ibiza, to Moscow to Beirut to France, Berlin, crazy massive after hours in Madrid. The wildest thing was the actual performing, it was always an improvisation of some sort. So we never knew what's gonna happen. I really enjoyed it, it was exciting, adrenaline level was always high. I'm much more aware what happened now then while it was happening, it was just too unreal for me. But it's good, I learned to appreciate music from a different perspective.
Your also becoming a well respected DJ in the Serbian circuit. How does performing as a DJing make you feel in comparison to singing live? I hope I'm not only respected only in the Serbian circuit [Laughs] I do have gigs internationally, luckily enough. Well, DJ-ing should be a safer ground than singing, but the way I approach it, it actually isn't. I usually don't play the safe tracks and safe mixes, so again it's exciting. But of course it's different than singing a lot. You have more time and more options, you can literally go to any direction. That's not so easy in singing. I enjoy long sets, it usually gets really heated after three hours of playing. Just recently I did an allniter and after five hours I thought "Now I can start!".
Tell us about your time working with Exit Festival? I refer to Exit as my marriage partner or, well, ex-marriage partner. That's how close and intense the relationship was[Laughs] I was connected to the festival since the very beginning, as I was the most devoted reporter and I helped them around with artists. The people who started the festival really didn't know what they were doing in the beginning, nor did I, we were all super young. But, since we all had so much boldness it turned out to be a success. It had to be. I officially started working for them in 2003. doing PR, a year later we started Exit TV production which I was responsible for in the next 5 years. We had several music shows on national TV and I was producing and hosting them. Fun times, I got to interview all my heroes - from Beastie Boys to Johnny Rotten to The Pet Shop Boys, Franz Ferdinand, Underworld, Tricky, Ian Brown, Paul Weller, Scissor Sisters and not to mention all the DJs. Wow, now that I say it like this, it seems huge! Funny thing is that people from Serbia don't even know what they have, Exit is really different than any other festival I've seen (excluding Burning Man), and when I started touring around with Abe I realized how beautiful it is. I'm still excited about it every summer.
What are your thoughts on the contribution of festivals to the music scene? Well, theoretically festivals should contribute a lot. That's what most artists live from - festival gigs, right? But, not all the people go to festivals just to listen to music and not everyone is there because they know each track playing. Some people go there just for the fun of it. And it's festivals' duty to be innovative and to educate. I really wish every festival would have a curator. But mostly it's just copy paste, playing it safe. I can understand the need not to take risks, but if you use just a little extra effort, the success and impact can be much much bigger.
How do you feel that the EDM scene in Serbia has changed over the years? Oh well, it has changed. Thanks to illegal filesharing and youtube. Honestly, if it wasn't for this, it would be impossible to have a scene here. There were maybe three record shops that I remember in Belgrade. Each one lasted a year and the last one was closed in 2004. So, basically it was a real pain in the ass to be a DJ here back in the nineties and beginning 00s. But, it was always wild partywise and general music taste was always somehow sophisticated. I guess it's because we were not infected by MTV, we just didn't have access to it, so we developed our own taste. I think Depeche Mode is still more popular here than Madonna. As for electronic music - it's good, there are more DJs than ever, several clubs work really well and have quite impressive bookings, we just need to work on expanding the audience. I'm thinking of importing some ravers from Berlin or trying to make all the girls from cheesey trash clubs cross the the dark side. [Laughs]
Can we expect to see a solo project from Tijana T? I don't know if I can expect it [Laughs] It seems everything happens unexpectedly in life. I gave myself a promise to go back to the studio in 2012. So. let's see what happens.
You’ve kindly recorded an exclusive mix for us! What can we expect to hear throughout the mix? It's not my typical set actually. It's a bit more banging than usual. It was the mood of the day. Normally I would have a milder flow and more vocals, but here you have a selection of raw-sounding tracks. I don't believe in polished sets, they're boring . I didn't practice this set, just went to the club and recorded it. There's no post-production whatsoever. So, it's as raw as it gets. This mix reflects all the things I like, I'm a big fan of old school house, acid, Chicago, vocal house, jackin house all of it! Here you can hear Marshall Jefferson's - Do the do, one of my vintage favs ;) In the beginning there's also one Dachshund track, I really like his productions a lot. Hope you'll enjoy it.
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