If you've been following the output of Turbo Recordings the past couple of years, you will have noticed a move away from the electro house the Montreal imprint built its reputation on towards a rawer, techno sound. The same goes for the label's fearless leader, Tiga Sontag, whose techno-focused set for Boiler Room this year had us in such a tizzy that we heralded it as our best mix of the year so far back in July. Tiga's directional change has culminated in two recent cuts, 'Plush', and his collaboration this year with Matthew Dear; the ubiquitous 'Let's Go Dancing'. In essence they're techno tracks, but have successfully cut through the genre divide to find their way into the record bags of a large cross section of DJs, something Tiga takes great pride in.
On the eve of his Australian tour, we spoke with the affable and eccentric gent that is Tiga, touching on his recent studio work with Matthew Dear, his thoughts on celebrity beefs and how Sven Vath named his son after him.
Pulse: Hey Tiga, what are you up to? Tiga: I’m at home in Montreal just relaxing and doing interviews before I go back on tour tomorrow.
Whilst I’ve been waiting I’ve just been reading about Miley Cyrus being kicked out of a DJ booth by a guy called Chuckie. What are your thoughts on all these celebrity DJ fueds and twitter fights that seem to be happening all the time at the moment? I’m OK with it, it’s entertainment, you know? I think the fact that even the word ‘DJ booth’ has become so mainstream that it’s being talked about in that kind of way is pretty cool. It is strange for me though, seeing that after all these years - all that stuff to me is just comedy. It almost sounds like it’s scripted; a child entertainer walks into a DJ booth and some Dutch DJ kicks her out…it’s almost surreal. [laughs] I don’t know. I like the twitter feuds, I wish I knew more of them. The ones that I’ve casually observed are kind of entertaining.
They are. I wonder if perhaps they’re PR stunts? I don’t think so. Well, maybe. Perhaps they’re subconscious PR stunts in that they start innocently and then they realise the more fuel on the fire, the more people will follow it. I’m a little bit naïve, I’m too idealistic to believe that someone cooks that up in a laboratory. I could be wrong.
You’ve hooked up with Matthew Dear recently on ‘All Night Dancing’ which is getting played by a massive cross section of DJs, as does much of your work. It must be rewarding that your productions don’t really get pigeonholed as such. It is actually, I’m happy you pointed that out. It’s kind of been one of the nicest things about my career in general. It comes both ways though; sometimes it feels like it would be nice to be definitively linked to one very specific and focused sound or scene. But in general I like how it is, which is exactly like you said – you make a record and you’re embraced by the techno guys who play it, the progressive guys, the indie guys. It’s good and I think it’s nice too because that’s kind of who I am, so I feel like it’s accurate; I’m friends with a lot of those different people and I like a lot of those different records. It’s a good feeling. I know a lot of people like to pretend and say they don’t care who plays their records, that it doesn’t matter, but I don’t think that’s really true. As a DJ I know that what you say to someone is one thing, and what PR people or magazines say - that can be manipulated. But DJs actually playing your record out of every other record in a 90 minute set, that to me is real because they’re trusting their performance with your record. In the end that’s kind of the biggest compliment you can get.
For sure. So Matthew Dear is the lead producer on the new album you’re working on. When I think of you and he working together it makes perfect sense in my head. You both love and make pop music, but come at it from different angles. How has it been working with him? It’s been amazing, I’ve been a fan of his for ages. When I bought his ‘Black City’ album, I remember I was stuck in an airport and I listened to the album about three times and I was…jealous. I remember thinking, oh man, this is so very close to what I want to make. But at the same time there were things that…not that I didn’t like, but I saw the framework as something that I could really add to, and that he could add to what I do. Like you said, it made perfect sense, but that doesn’t mean that it’ll really work – that’s a fantasy world, that’s just a hunch. Though the amazing thing is that it really did work, both as friends and as collaborators. We challenge each other and right now – and I don’t want to jinx it – but it’s a very good vibe we’ve got going in the studio, it’s exciting. For me that’s the most important thing about every album or cycle, that you have that excitement and feel like you’re making something new. Or new to yourself at least.
Where is the sound of the album sitting? I know you’ve moved towards more of a techno sound in your DJ sets, as has your Turbo label. Is it somewhere between pop and techno? It’s definitely sitting somewhere between pop and electronic. It’s not very techno. It’s not as techno as the records that I play, or that Matt plays as Audion. I don’t seem to be able to make techno records, I don’t know why. I find them really hard to make. ‘Let’s Go Dancing’ was deliberate – that was me trying to make a techno record with a pop hook. The album is kind of hard to describe; there’s a bit of industrial stuff, a bit of house. There’s definitely a techno influence on there, but it doesn’t come across as a techno record.
People have been making quite a note of yours and Turbo’s move towards a tougher, techno sound, which is understandable I guess, but at the same time it doesn’t feel all that surprising. It still feels like a similar energy to the electro house stuff Turbo is known for. Even if you move around the spectrum, if you’re still using your taste, then there is a continuity. For the past few years at Turbo my brother and I have been doing the A&R together and we have similar tastes, so the odds are that if we both give the thumbs up to a record, then there’s going to be some consistency there, even if it’s a techno record, or a downtempo record, or an electro one. The thing with the more banging electro house stuff, we were some of the first people to play those records and push that sound – the crazy energy and the big build ups. At some stage for me it all went a little cartoonish and to such an extreme musically that I didn’t find it interesting anymore. If I heard a crazy electro house record now that I thought was great, I’d still be interested and sign it, but the records that I began to hear that I found more interesting were techno records. And coming up we don’t have that many techno records lined up actually, it’s other stuff.
When I was doing a little bit of research for this interview I re-watched your mock video interview, ‘Ciao! Means Forever’. Have you ever considered going into acting? I’m a horrible actor, like really abysmal.
I think you pulled it off pretty well in that video! Yeah I pulled that off well because it’s basically me, that’s an exaggeration of who I am. That’s the delusional me, the black version…perhaps who I was at 21 or something. It’s me without any humility or connection to the rest of the world. I actually did a movie about chess with Gonzales and my character is similar to the one in that interview. But as soon as any range was required, like actually acting and showing a range of emotion, I just found it impossible, I was like a robot. I’ve seen real actors in motion and it’s a very different phenomenon. I have a lot of friends who are actors and it’s almost like…they’re like empty vessels and then they have this ability to project and come to life. I’m like the reverse; too full of ideas, thoughts and opinions I guess.
Something interesting I heard about you is that you like to keep your office in a particular fashion and you even have special coloured pens in your desk for signing contracts. [Laughs] I’m laughing because I’m wondering who you heard that from! I do have a lot of different pens. I’m quite particular about a lot of things, I have some eccentricities. I’m very into my desk, I really like my desk…
Is it also true that Sven Vath named his kid after you? Yeah that is true.
How did that come about? Well I’ve come to know Sven over the years, we know each other quite well. He called me up and he told me that he loved the name and he wanted to tell me that he named his son Tiga. Being a techno kid from the 90s it was the ultimate affirmation. I was like, I can retire now because it doesn’t get any cooler than that. When I was at Love Parade in 1993, totally spaced out with Sven DJing, had you told me that was going to happen I never would have believed it. I love Sven, I think he is a real force of nature and I was really happy that that happened. I was also happy that it was Sven too – not naming any names, but it would have been kind of annoying if it was some mid level guy who rang me up and said, hey I’m gonna name my kid Tiga, you know?
Ha so true. Yes, probably best not to name names! You know what I mean though? At least it wasn’t some guy who’s like #99 on the Resident Advisor chart or something.
Tiga 2013 Australian Tour
22.11.13 - Motorik @ The Imperial, Sydney
23.11.13 - Royal Melbourne Hotel, Melbourne
24.11.13 - Strawberry Fields, Victorian Bush