It’s an undeniable fact that TAI is one of the forerunners in the electronic music scene. If you’re a current reader, you’ve seen our love for TAI on numerous occasions. If you’re a first time reader, get this: this pink lovin’, party crashin’, versatile German musician has worked with some of the biggest names in the electronic music industry and the Hip Hop industry, played at some of the world’s most famed festivals including Tomorrowland, and still finds time to lock himself in the studio whilst cranking out some of the beastliest Electro and House tunage. Needless to say, it felt like Christmas when TAI agreed to add to our guest mix series with his own assortment of bangin’ tunes. So please, take the next 50 minutes of your busy Monday and groove out to the 9th installment in our guest mix series. In fact, rage out to it, we don’t care. Then, check out what TAI had to say in the interview regarding the difference between producing Hip-Hop and electronic music, his phone’s uncanny ability to always end up in a pool after a show, and what happens when stoners decide to “borrow” his MPC.
Hey TAI, how are you doing today?
Oh good man, I’m working on a remix and my ears are bleeding. [Laughs] I was working on it for 16 hours and today I’ve gotta finish it. Been on it for 10 hours a day.
Well then I can’t wait to hear the remix. With that, why don’t we jump right into the interview?
Let’s do it.
You’ve played all over the world from Thailand to the UK to America. How does playing in different countries change how you prepare your set?
Actually, I don’t prepare my set according to the country that I go to. I prepare my set really just when I get to the club and see what the DJ before me plays and what the people are into. And usually, I have the first two or three songs that I know I want to play and I just see what the crowd is like and take it from there.
So you base it off the crowd?
I stay for the people and theres always a different crowd. You can’t say one country’s like this or this country’s like that because it depends on the club or the venue or the festival that you’re playing at, so really I just see what the people like and I get there and then do it on the fly.
You mentioned playing at festivals and I remember that you recently played Tomorrowland so I’m curious, were there any memorable moments?
Oh yeah man, Tomorrowland is like one of the craziest – I think its like the biggest festival in Europe. It’s amazing. I played there last year too and so I was really looking forward to playing this year. It’s one of the craziest, biggest, nicest, dopest festivals really over here. Last year, I played on a stage that turns 360 degrees while you’re playing and yeah, this year was amazing again. We had different flags: Germany flags representin’ and others from all around the world which was a really cool thing where so many countries and people get together. It’s very special. We had a little pool on the stage and after my set I managed to throw my iPhone in the pool. [Laughs] It happened last year too. I was at an after party in Vienna with a swimming pool and then I fell into the pool and my phone was dead and then I had to get a cab at 8:00 in the morning drenched. I looked like some drug addict. This year at Tomorrowland I was walking past the stage and the tour manager bumped into my hand and whoops, there’s my iPhone in the pool again.
[Laughs] Wow. Do you notice a different crowd response at festivals?
A festival to me is always special because you have shorter time and I usually just play my own music there cuz’ I just bang out my latest tracks so yeah, I enjoy it; it’s always a very fun thing to do.
Let’s switch gears a bit and move onto production. You’ve worked with a wide range of producers from electronic artists to Hip-Hop artists. Do you notice a difference in your creative process when you work collaboratively vs. working solo?
Yeah, I really like working with people and I think it comes from, you know I’ve been releasing Hip Hop artists for 10 years now, so I’m really used to working together with people. I have rappers in the studio and I’ll be working with them on their lyrics, coming up with a hook, recording them, mixing them. They live in my studio when they come down from Berlin or wherever so I think it’s a really natural thing for me to work with people; I just enjoy it. So in electronic music where theoretically, you can do everything on your own, I’m always very happy to collaborate with artists who’s music I really like and I just really enjoy getting together in the studio since it’s just the way I’ve worked in for the last 10 years. I just did a track with Diplo and Kreshawn actually, a female rapper from the States; we just did a track for her upcoming album and I also did one with Felix Da Housecat. I actually did a track with Tiesto too; I just do it for fun, like tracks here and there. This week I had a buddy in my studio and we did a new track called ‘CRANK’ coming out [I hope] this year before a festival in Australia.
Sounds like you just like collaborating on music?
Yeah yeah yeah. I just got that vibe from the Hip-Hop phase. The only difference is now with the electronic artists I don’t have any guns in my studio [laughs].
Let’s take it back to when you first started producing. I know that the MPC spoke to you in the beginning. What about the MPC first spoke to you in the early days of production and do you still use the MPC to produce in the studio?
I think I found my way to the MPC like a lot of other producers back then just because it was the Hip-Hop production machine really; if you wanted to produce Hip-Hop, it was all about the Akai MPC. Then the 2000 came out back then and um, I started off even with fast track on the computer before I heard about the MPC. But when I heard about the MPC I said, “I need that machine”. It’s all about sampling, it didn’t have any sounds in it. Especially the MPC60 which DJ Premiere used. That was a big producer that everyone looked up to. I think you just had to have an MPC back then. Actually, I still have it in the studio; since it was one of my first machines. I’m looking at it now….But yeah, I don’t use it anymore because I just have different gadgets and I work with Logic a lot. It’s just easier for me. I actually had someone chase down my MPC because someone lent it; this dude who I don’t know who smoked a lot of weed and never put it back, so I had someone chase him down because I wanted my first important machine back in my studio just to have it, like a photo album.
Yeah exactly. I also have here the Maschine, but I don’t use it. It works in a similar way.
You’ve produced all sorts of different genres from Hip-Hop to Electro to House music. What was the catalyst that made you decide that you wanted to produce electronic music, or do you still produce Hip-Hop from day to day?
No, I don’t have enough time to produce much Hip-Hop anymore. Not because I don’t feel like it, but I’m just really tied into my electronic TAI stuff and um, yeah it just kind of came naturally. In my Hip-Hop stuff, I always had a lot of electronic influentials but a lot of people don’t know that even 7 years ago when I was in the middle of my Hip-Hop albums I produced a punk rock album and I did some remixes but I never really had my name out on that really. I’ve always been interested in electronic music and now that I’ve produced myself as an artist for the first time in a few years it just came naturally to make music that I enjoy.
What would you say is the major difference between producing Hip-Hop and producing electronic music?
I think they’re both musical directions which really have a lot of energy. Electronic music, at least now is all about really being in your face with distortion stuff and having a massive synth that just growls and screams at you. It just has a lot of sound working on this one note, even if it’s just one note throughout the whole track whereas Hip Hop has a different sound to it, depending on the sample or depending on what type of music you’re making. I used to sample stuff so it was all about finding the right sample and how it sounded. Once I had it, I didn’t really do that much like EQing or distorting it. Electronic music is just about getting that sound right by turning a lot of knobs whereas Hip-Hop was more about the melody and the feel and not just one sound.
Were there any difficulties you faced when making the switch?
Well I just had fun with it. If it was difficult or I didn’t feel comfortable then I would’ve rejected it.
On that note, you recently released your Lose Yourself EP on Dim Mak Records. Can you let us in on any new projects, collaborations, releases or tours that are coming up?
I’m looking at finally releasing the track I did with Bart B More for his ‘Spezi’ release which we’ll be releasing this year. Then there’s CRANK with Bloody Beetroots and also Bart B More. Man, I live in the studio basically. When I’m not DJing, I’m just in the studio so I’ve got like, tracks and tracks that just need to be released…and I’m not gonna stop. [chuckles]
Can I get an insight as to what your favorite piece of gear is?
Um in the studio I like the MS20. Anything really that I can get my hands on but I think the MS20 is attractive.
And do you have a favorite track that you’ve produced? Or what project has been the most fun in the studio?
I did a track with the Diplomat in New York. That was pretty crazy and fun, kind of gangsterr-y dude. I really enjoyed being in the studio here in Munich with Steve Aoki. I had fun, we went out clubbing after that and had an afterparty in the hotel with his manager. I’ll always enjoy working with Bart B More, he’s a really good friend of mine. We work like, 17 hours every day for like 5 days in a row. Last time I was there I didn’t even sleep; I flew in at 6 in the morning, I left his house at 7, went to Vienna and did a gig there and went out after the gig too. For some reason I don’t sleep when I’m with him.
Is there a certain reason that you think you and Bart B More work well together?
I think it’s because we get mistaken for being brothers. [Chuckles] It’s really crazy because everyone I work with looks so similar to me that some people always come up to me and ask, “Man, are you brothers?” It’s happened with Bart B More every time. Even my girlfriend mistook him for me from behind; luckily nothing crazy happened after that. Even on Twitter and Facebook when people see a picture of us together they’re like, “Dude, is Diplo your brother?” [Chuckles]. So, I have like, three really good producing DJing friends which people always ask whether or not if they’re my brothers and yeah, we should do a long body track together.
Can’t wait to hear it. My final question is for our younger readers. Do you have any pieces of advice for upcoming producers or DJs that you wish someone told you back when you started?
I think as a producer nowadays, it’s gotten really easy to be able to produce just because you can download everything to your laptop or computer. The possibilities are there for everyone, whereas when I started there were less producers because you actually had to have hardware, so it was expensive and not everyone had it so you had to know someone who had it. I think nowadays there’s just much more opportunity and so there are many more producers. I think it’s important to not listen to the other production so much and wonder “how did he do this” or “how did he do that” and “I wanna try and do this and that” and more just do stuff and not think about it and then you’ll automatically come up with your own kind of style. That’s what I think is really important nowadays for young and upcoming producers; just to do whatever the fuck and don’t worry about whether or not it’s the style that people are listening to today or not. You can see that in your country with how many producers now sound like Skrillex. Try to be original; come up with your own shit and if no one understands it, even better.
Alright TAI. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today and I wish you good luck with the festival in Australia.
Yeah man, it was a pleasure.
TAI – TAIland (Unreleased preview)
TAI – Steroid
Bart B More – Glow
Wiley “Can You Hear Me (Ayayaya) ft Skepta, JME & Ms D (TAI Remix)
TAI – Burnout (Unreleased preview)
Steve Aoki & Angger Dimas – Beat Down feat. Iggy Azalea (Afrojack Remix)
TAI – Beatdown
Peo De Pitte & Jay Robinson – The Bagger
Josh Wink – Higher State Of Consciousness (bootleg by Bot aka the friendly half of The Crookers)
TAI – At The Disco
Bart B More – TheBox
Karin Park – Thousand Loaded Guns (Don Diablo remix)
Tommie Sunshine & TAI – Free (Unreleased preview)
Tiesto and Wolfgang Gartner – We Own the Night (Kayjay TRVP edit)
Enya – Orinoco Flow