Tiga on "Bugatti," Shitty Books, and Being Beautifully Weird
This is Tiga. He's reading Infinite Jest. His crime is having a personality.
When you think about the perks of being a DJ, what comes to mind is all the time you'd have to read books, right?
Maybe that's weird to you. But it isn't to Tiga. Then again, he's always been a little different. The celebrated Canadian producer has always defied dance music's fads while still finding success. And he owes much of his prosperity to just being himself.
Being Tiga most recently led him to write the runaway hit "Bugatti," a track so beloved on the dance scene that it inspired a rap cut from Pusha T and nine more remixes.
We at New Times caught up with the DJ-producer to learn why "Bugatti" has become one of his most treasured successes. And to hear what he's reading, of course.
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New Times: Your career seems to be aesthetically defined by a fierce individuality, to the point of surrealism. When did you first realize that you were a weirdo?
Tiga: I think about it often. I guess a lot of people do. You wonder sometimes why you don't fit in a little bit more. You don't envy it, but you kind of wonder. I can trace it all the way back to being six years old. Even my name was pretty weird, when I was a kid. I always had a strange name, I always looked a bit different, and my family was kind of different. I guess if you start different, you have a choice pretty early on: do you try to assimilate, do you chase something to fit in, or do you just let it ride?
Clearly, it's working out.
I think if you're in a creative profession, obviously your individuality is what you have to offer. The more you feel free to express that, the less self-conscious you are. It's nice when you stop caring about fitting in or where your place is. It's quite liberating.
It's also a bit challenging sometimes. As a DJ, for example, there have been times when I fit more neatly into an existing scene; there was the old rave days, and then there was the electro years, and then pre-EDM. It does come in and out of phase where I feel like part of a group, then something happens and either I move out or they move out. Sometimes that constant movement, it's not as simple.
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How do you feel now?
I think I'm floating, but it depends. Right now is a really good time in general. I feel amazing about what I'm doing, but also about the scene. There's a lot of interest for electronic music and dance music. It's very healthy. There's a lot of parties and a lot of energy and attention being put toward it, and a lot of enthusiasm on all sides. I think the massive EDM wave that started to rise up four or five years ago, that first giant generation has crashed -- not in a bad way, but now you reap more the wide benefits. Especially in America, it's finally more established as a culture, and that benefits everybody.
Like Aphex Twin getting a Grammy.
I'm a very big fan over the years. He's been a constant musical companion for, like, 20 years. If you would have told me when I was a kid, this guy is going to win a Grammy, it would've been so mind-blowing. That encapsulates what I'm talking about. The fact that Aphex Twin walks away with a Grammy is awesome and he deserves it.
A victory for the weirdos.
It's just a victory for quality. If nothing else, Aphex is a perfect example of if you're that good, nothing else matters. It's the same thing for Daft Punk too. For a lot of people, seeing Aphex get that mainstream recognition is pretty inspiring, because for all kinds of producers making all kinds of music, it's hard to tell yourself now "my music is too weird." All bets are off.
I don't see myself as weird. For me, a lot of the time it's the other way around. I don't understand a lot of the things that are so popular, because I don't see the quality. Like books, the bestsellers are just shitty books. So you have to ask yourself, "Is that me? Or is it other people's level of literacy or knowledge?"
The other thing I think is really important is I'm not into some crazy underground aesthetic. I believe in success and capitalism. I'm not into being some outsider weirdo. I think a lot of the time, that's a story people tell themselves to put themselves to bed at night. I'm so underground and that's why my apartment is shittier or whatever it is. For me, the Holy Grail is like Aphex or Daft Punk. I sincerely believe if you're good enough, and with a bit of luck, weird with enough quality and determination becomes normal.
It's cool you mentioned books. I've heard you're a big reader. What are your reading now?
Reading is my favorite thing in the world, pretty much. This is the least rock 'n' roll answer to a DJ question, but to me, one of the big benefits of my lifestyle is I have so much time on my own, on airplanes, that I get to read a lot. I like reading. It feels good. It does something to the brain. The inspiration of reading is just system wide, it's like traveling, it just feeds who you are.
For me, it's a direct link to intelligence. You're building up your vocabulary, your ideas, and you're sharing time with brilliant minds. I don't want to share time with some mediocre writer. I don't want to talk to that person by reading his book. We only have x amount of time in life. The closest I can relate to death is when I think of a library of unread books. That's when you realize your real mortality. You're not going to have time to read all the books you want to read, so you can't waste time with trash. I don't think a lot of people realize that, how they consume content. They're just wasting their time.
That's a long answer for what I'm reading right now. This is a supercliché answer, but I'm finally reading Infinite Jest. It's quite dense. Actually, I don't like Kindles, but I got a Kindle, so now I'm reading all books that are so huge, I can't travel with them. I'm reading Infinite Jest. I'm reading a book called The Organized Mind, kind of the neuroscience about human's inherent desire and satisfaction with organizing, which is my oblique way of dealing with my music library. And I'm also reading a book called The Story of the Jews, which is a history of Jewish culture up to 1492 or something. It's a little dense, but it's good. It's fun.
Wanna say something about the "Bugatti" package?
I really love it. It's one of my favorite tracks I've ever made. For me, "Bugatti" is a beautiful hybrid of weird but successful. It's a classic case of a strange record done with absolutely no agenda, and not fitting into any category, really. But at the same time, it's been massively successful.
I guess when a weird track makes it, it feels ten times better than when a more formulaic record makes it. I've had both. A year before, I did that track, "Let's Go Dancing," and that was a big club record in the DJ world. It felt amazing, obviously. But at the same time, it was slightly more calculated. It was like, "I want to make a record they're going to play at a closing party in Ibiza." It feels good, but it doesn't have the same mystery. But then with "Bugatti," you hear it on BBC 1 and the guy in the taxi is humming along. That feels amazing. That's my mission in life.
You know it's your idea they like.
The thing is, there's a bit of a personality gap in a lot of the shit we're all exposed to nowadays. A lot of the shit is quite conservative, quite white bread, and quite straight. That's what I get especially from dance music, which is strange because it was meant to be all futuristic. I think I'm just a real person, same on Twitter. I just say what I think. It's not revolutionary, but I think considering how measured and boring a lot of other people are, maybe it jumps out. I just have personality. That's my crime.
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