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Tiki shaping his own future

Interviewed 2008

Tiki Taane

Tiki Taane was born in Otautahi and studied audio engineering at the Ngā Maata Waka training institute. He was in several bands, then went on to become sound-man for Salmonella Dub. He later wrote for the Love of It, one of the band’s most successful singles.

Read more about Ngā Maata Waka.

Ex-Salmonella Dub frontman and Shapeshifter mix master Tiki Taane has released a new album and is touring around the country in 2008.

In this interview he speaks openly and honestly about leaving Salmonella Dub, his new career prospects, giving up drugs, taking control of his art and his quest to be the world’s fastest Māori.

Kia ora Tiki, thanks for spending time with us. You’ve got a busy schedule at the moment — how is the new album tour going? Are the crowds supportive?
The album’s selling very well considering I’ve come out punching with 2 heavy and challenging singles — Tangaroa and Now this is it. I’m only a couple of hundred off gold sales, and tha LPs been out for 3 months so Im very happy. Tha live crowds are rocking it big time, singing tha words and loving tha new tunes.
The album came out in October — but it feels like there’s a lifetime of experience and happenings in there. How long did the writing process take?
I first started Tangaroa 4 years ago. Tha album concept didn’t really become certain until I left sal Dub, then I could focus 100% on tha project. So tha first 8 months of 2007 was when I did tha main body of work. That’s musically, bizniz wise, tha art work, and all tha logistics that are involved in setting up your own label and release.
It must have been hard to leave Salmonella Dub behind to stand on your own. How do you feel about it now, with all your new projects on the go?
At first I had doubts, only becoz I was still in tha production process. When tha record started to take its final shape I became confident and excited about tha new direction. Its always scary when you take risks and put yourself on tha line, but if you stick with it and give it everything you’ve got then tha out come will always be fruitful. I left Sal Dub on January 1st 2007, and I think that will be tha most important move I could possibly make.

I e tahi wa
Me mau ke
Ki to toihuarewa
Kia maiangi ake
I ngā pororaru o te wa
Ka raparapa ke te uira
Tohu ara hou

Translation: There are times when we must grasp the opportunity, take the risk and create our own history.

Is this album a breakthrough for you? There’s a strong sense of complete, confidence — you’re making a statement, saying ‘this is where I stand’ — you have mastered your craft. Do you feel that?
I’ve pushed myself as a musician, as a writer, as a producer, as a singer, and as a bizniz man. I’m being pro-active about my art, taking control and directing tha vision to where i would like it to go. I haven’t mastered my craft and probably never will, but I do own it, and that to me is tha most important part.
You cut your dreads off and buried them — do you mind sharing that story with us?
I cut and buried them at Ngatangiia in Rarotonga. Ngatangiia is tha launching point of my waka, Tainui. It was my way of saying thank you to all those who took tha maritime voyage. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.
Did the whole album follow on from that? A journey into your past, present and future?
Yeah, that trip definitely awoke sumthing within me. I really felt connected to Rarotonga, like it was home and I’d been there before. I started to think about things differently from then on.
Does the album mirror your personal journey — from doing the sound-desk at the Jet Set Lounge (or whatever it was called back in the day) to solo artist?
Yeah totally. I’ve been very open with this record and also in interviews as well. It makes for good reading that’s for sure. It also helps me understand where I’m heading, nothing heals more than talking about it, and I’ve got plenty to say.
Now this is it – it kicks. How was that written?
On a juno 6 keyboard and sum sampled drums. Sean Deans, a friend from Melbourne, hit me with this riddum. I took it home and fleshed it out to wot it is now. I’ve been using Logic Audio for about 8 years now.
There’s three generations of family on the album: Grandma in the kitchen, Your dad singing and doing haka, and you (doing just about everything) — that probably hasn’t been done before on any New Zealand album. Why did you take that approach?
It just fell into place really. I didn’t make tha connection until I’d finished nana’s tune. Thats when I realised that I’d captured 3 generations on 1 piece of art…w kinda spooked me out for a bit, then I just started buzzing on it. And tha title 'past present future' really became apparent. Funny how these things happen; I’ve just learnt to roll with it.
You’re a versatile performer — and now you are branching out into audio production, licensing, recording projects. You’re going to be a boss and a manager that’s a very different role for you – it must be a challenge. What’s next?
Challenging indeed. But made so much easier with my sister Nina-kaye managing Tikidubs logistics. She takes care of tha numbers and tha paperwork so I can concentrate on tha next project etc… If it wasn’t for her I’d be a mess by now. Thanx sis. Wot’s next you ask..? Ive gotta shoot tha video for 'always on my mind' in mid feb. Release that to radio and tv. Release, promo and tour tha record in OZ. Finish tha Tangaroa short film. Release tha remix LP. Release tha Tikidub dvd with all vids, short film and behind tha scenes footage. Finish my hot rod to become tha worlds fastest Māori. Build on tha TIKI merchandise and posibly start a store. Also tour shapeshifter as their soundboy thru out tha world. Publish my tattoo/music book, and start tha next LP, so yeah there’s plenty to do.
There’s been a lot of change for you in the past few years. Youno longer use drugs or alcohol — it’s a real danger for musicians and artists isn’t it — it’s kind of hard to avoid in the music scene. It must take a bit of courage. Is that also part of re-defining yourself, and of moving forward?
Yes I’ve given up drugs but i never gave up tha drink. That was a journo misprint. But wot i have done is stopped getting drunk, which is an achievement, considering I loved nothing more than drinking away tha weekend. I was taking a lot of drugs though, u name it. I needed to make a serious lifestyle change if I wanted to progress as a human, as a soul. It’s an easy thing to fall into, and I’m grateful that I did as I learnt a lot about wot my body, mind and soul can endure. But I did a lot of things that I now regret while being wasted, and that’s not me at all. So it was time I stopped and took sum responsibility for my actions, especially since I’m dipping into tha kaupapa Māori world. But at least all these experiences  gives me good ammo for when I have kids and they give me shit for being old and geeky.
Moko — the rainbow god was the first — when you were 14 or so — tell us about the moko and what they mean to you.
Tiki Taane Moko, tattoo, tatau is in my blood, as is music. I can’t and will never ignore that, or apologise for it either. Its tha most powerful form of art, tha most painful yet rewarding. Spill blood for ink, not for oil.
You recently went to Taiwan — how did they react to the moko?
They were very interested and keen to look. When tha Japanese invaded Taiwan they beheaded, killed and tortured anyone who wore tha moko. This threatened tha existence and future of indigenous Taiwanese moko, so that part of their culture is mostly gone. That almost happened here in Aotearoa, which makes me very sad. One day I’d like to return to Taiwan with sum of my friends who tattoo and teach tha indigenous people tha art of moko. Give them back tha uhi.
It must have been an amazing trip — can you share some of the highlights?
Meeting tha Atayal people and communicating via sign language, waiata, and sharing musical instruments. To be able to connect with one of tha world’s most ancient peoples was unforgettable. 
Who are your favourite storytellers? Writers / musicians/ artists?
My dad is tha best story teller i know. No matter how many times I hear tha same story, he still manages to captivate me. There are so many amazing artists that I adore, like Inia Taylor, Otis Frizzell, Sofia Minson. And I’m lucky to say that my favourite musicians are my mates, like Shapeshifter, Hollie Smith, Warren Maxwell, tha list goes on and on…
Tiki TaaneLife on the street is murder – tell me about that line – where did it come from?
Tha vibe’s taken from an awesome line in a Damian Marley track called 'welcome to jamrock'. I can really relate to it, life on tha street is murda. Its tuff and survival of tha fittest. Unfortunately a lot of US hip hop glamourises tha streets and a lot of kids are aspiring to be gangstas, pimps, and drug dealers. I used to wanna be that too, but music was my way out and my way of expressing tha anger and rage that I was carrying.
There’s a few feathers in your cloak — is there anything you really want to try that you haven’t ?
Oh yeah tha skies tha limit. I wana tattoo that’s fo sure! I'd like to see Cuba before Fidel dies and America takes over and ruins it. I wanna be tha world’s fastest māori down tha quarter mile. I wanna tour womad with my band. I wanna have kids one day and show them tha world. I’d like to see earth from outer space. Tha list goes on and on…
What advice would you give to aspiring creative types?
Keep your head in tha clouds and your feet on tha ground.
Tiki you’ve done millions of interviews — please tell us what you’ve learned, your hopes and dreams…whatever you like …kick it out, vent, scream, guide, teach, take it away… and thanks!
Dreams are signals. Learn to understand and acknowledge your dreams and you will unlock your future. Keep it real, look under every rock, ask all tha questions and challenge all tha answers, don’t believe tha hype, television, radio or tha internet. Always speak tha truth and if you don’t know, take a guess, it works for me. God loves a trier. And tha best one of all, keep your nose clean. TIKI stands for Truth, Integrity, Knowledge and Independence. Mauri ora!