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Despite the fact that it’s early on a grey Monday morning, Tiga has the relaxed air of a man still lightly buzzing from playing to 2,500 fans at London’s Matter on Saturday night, content with his position in a scene he help trail-blaze and with an album in the bag he is more than happy with. The 34-year-old DJ and producer hails from Montreal, where he still lives. He came to prominence in 2001 with his cover of Corey Hart’s ’ 80s hit Sunglasses At Night. Together with his a penchant for lippy, it made him a figurehead of the influential electro-clash movement. His 2006 debut album Sexor yielded club hits like You’re Gonna Want Me and last year he remained at the top of his game showing young pups like Justice he could still make noise with the febrile Mind Dimension and The Worm, a collaboration with Zombie Nation as ZZT. For his second album, Ciao, released at the end of April, Tiga has collaborated with Soulwax and LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, as well as long term cohorts Jesper Dahlback and Jori Hulkkonen, plus fellow Montreal maverick Gonzales. The result is an album that successfully marries hook-filled mutant techno and synthetic songs with lyrical content as frothy as cappuccino. For example, lead single Shoes, which is about sex and stylish footwear. “I’m living out a fantasy,” he smiles.
You’ve worked with a lot of producers on the new album. What do you bring to the record?
I fight hard to keep things relatively simple. My voice helps, the fact that I’m actually singing. With Gonzales it’s a challenge because there’s a level of musicality there. We both understood we needed to keep it kind of simple. With Soulwax I will say straight up if something is too complicated when it needs to be simple, or if it’s boring or if it’s not sexy enough. I have to be excited and be dancing to it in the studio. I like basslines to be prominent and there is a lot of things I try to avoid.
How did you come to work with Gonzales?
It was the first time I’d blatantly reached out to someone. It was out of the blue and we had never spoken a word or been in the same room together. I was always interested in him from afar. I just thought I’d get along with him. Similar sense of humour, we’re both from Montreal and then one day I got his e-mail from Peaches and sent a one-line message saying, I think we would get along well. We met in Paris and had a first date in a café. After 60 seconds it was obvious we were brothers from a different mother. We were extremely productive and I‘ve nothing but good things to say about that guy. He’s an amazingly intelligent, inspiring renaissance man.
There’s often a camp element and a girl-friendly element in your music. Is that important to retain?
Yes, I remain a fan of my own music, it has to be fun and at the same time not a joke. So I like to walk that line.
You write lyrics about shopping, clothes, watches and sex. Are you intentionally escapist because of what’s going on with the world at the moment?
I like to think my material helped cause the global recession. No, I guess the sex stuff is escapist, living out a fantasy. But the material stuff… I’m interested in that. We were going for an American Psycho side, an amoral view point on the whole thing.
Why did you choose Ciao as an album title? It can mean both hello and goodbye can’t it?
That was a bonus meaning for me. Of those two it feels more of a goodbye to something. But as you get to that stage of an album where you need to title it everything is a goodbye, Please God let it end! I wanted to be eternalised to the Italian people; Remember me? I called my album Ciao. I love Italy, a lot of the disco stuff has an Italian feel. It’s a good word, a brand unto itself. It feels good to say it, a happy word.
What You Need has a nod to your hardcore roots. Do you see rave as your Year Zero?
Yes definitely. It’s so long ago. I feel musically almost all my really good ideas originate in the early 90s and my understanding and genuine love of techno. Especially when I’m working with James Murphy and Soulwax as they don’t know a lot of those records so I can bring that to the table.
Jake Shears from Scissor Sisters sings on that track. Did you have to explain rave to him?
Jake and Baby Daddy were ravers. Scissor Sisters used to rave. I met them at Sonar fully raving to my set, front row, white gloves, raving. Jake loves the stuff. He’s a willing collaborator.
Is there a nod to A Guy Called Gerald’s 1989 hit Voodoo Ray on Overtime?
A nod? You’re so gentle. I’ve always really wanted to copy it. Everybody knows and loves that melody. It was on my list of things to really rip off but I only got a partial rip off of it.
You’ve said you see Mind Dimension as ‘a silly party track’ and yet it became one of the biggest club tracks of last year. You were being modest, surely?
The things that come easier to you are the things you naturally underrate. When I made Mind Dimension me and Jesper had a day in the studio and we were having a shitty day and we were arguing more and more. As he gets older we fight more, I’m ageless of course. I was like, We are going 45 minutes and just do as you told. I know you will think this is stupid but we’re going to have fun. I loaded up all my old Ice T and NWA samples and we got the machines going. It originally had a rap and a laughter track on it. The hook is a genuinely good house music hook (“Everytime I look into your eyes I see the future.”). When it was done I didn’t really rate it but I sent it to David and Steph (Soulwax) with all the demos. They were like, This is a bomb. When I started playing it out I realised it had that magic quality. You play them and people’s hands go up as if they’ve heard it a million times. In dance music if you can tap into some primal energy you have a good chance of success. It’s not about thinking it through.
Shoes sounds like it should be a single…
Yes it will be a single. It’s quite a sexual, playful song. Like a Prince or Morris Day
idea of what a relationship is like. It’s a bit like Pleasure From The Bass. I wrote the chorus with Gonzales. I had the idea as my manager has these stupid boots and they’ve transformed him. He moved to London and got these boots and he’s a power broker now.
Despite beavering away on _Ciao you still stayed connected to the club scene with your Turbo label going through a renaissance and the huge ZZT tracks you have made with Zombie Nation. It seems you are going through a creative purple patch?_
I have a short memory. I can never find solace in what I’ve done. Dancefloor tracks make me feel real good. You don’t get the same feedback from everything else. After I’ve made a track like ZZT’s Lower States of Consciousness I feel great for a week. I felt like I have just staved off retirement for three more months. If you build up a few of them you are good for another year. With ZZT it was a response to the Ed Banger stuff. As we entered this crazy phase of music it felt good for two old techno guys to show the youth a different way of doing it. It was Justice’s favourite record which is why they did the remix. The Turbo stuff is great as my brother has come into his own with that (as the label’s A&R), it’s great when you find new blood and they excite you. It’s important.
The last few tracks are more song based. Turn The Night On even sounds a bit like Joe Jackson, doesn’t it?
The last three songs are the ones where I would like to show the world I have feelings. It’s not all watches and shoes. Turn The Night On is a nod to Joe Jackson. Maybe. It’s the opposite to Mind Dimension. It’s important because it’s more of a real song. It was a challenge and it’s a step above for me. The title of Gentle Giant comes from this giant Yamaha church organ. A really warm analogue sound that informed the track. Then I thought about The The’s Giant where there is a lot of chanting at the end so we all sang together at the end. Love Don’t Dance is my favourite. Purely on a production level, on realising an idea it’s the best thing we’ve done.
And you got through a whole album without doing any cover versions…
It never even came up. I’m happy, it’s a good thing.
We are entering a renaissance in pop. Could you see yourself becoming part of that and playing out live?
I don’t see myself part of any pop scene. I’m not pushing in that direction. I realised I make music that flirts with that but I’m comfortable that the origin is techno. As far as playing live it’s a fork in the road career-wise. It will define what happens next. This album is meant for live, I think I will try it. Maybe one show in my hometown of Montreal on the outskirts for 50 farmers or something. I have to try it. I’m pretty sure I would love it.
You like dressing up so maybe if you play live you could wear an ostentatious cape or something?
I have the cape already. I have the cape!