Tiga Finds the Humor in Dance Music

From covering Nelly's "Hot in Herre" to answering the question of what's he driving — "Bugatti," natch — Tiga has never been afraid of being a bit tongue-in-cheek with his music. In a genre that so often sees lightheartedness as a bad thing, the Canadian DJ/producer relishes in it, not being afraid of sounding too pop with touches of new wave and electro influences.

"I don't take it too seriously in the sense that I don't believe there are rules you have to follow," says Tiga. "I think when it's all so serious and conservative, especially in dance music, that's weird."

Skirting the rules is what brought Tiga attention when he released "Hot in Herre" in 2003 — only about a year after Nelly's original cut topped the Billboard charts. The video featured a dancing marionette in a tracksuit standing in for Tiga along with a cavalcade of marionette backup dancers twerking to the beat.

It all looked very much like a humorous spin on Nelly's definitive pop moment, but Tiga insists he covered the song out of admiration, not necessarily looking to poke fun.

"I didn't think it was funny, sincerely," he says. "For me, I loved that Nelly track, and I was going to try to rap and do it in a different way. I completely understand how people see it as tongue-in-cheek, but from my angle, sometimes I just don't care. I'm just trying out things and having fun with it."

So when Tiga returned in 2014 with "Bugatti," it shouldn't have surprised anyone that he was back to singing about the seemingly inane with an addictive yet simplistic beat. "Girl comes up to me and says/'What you drivin'?' I said/Bugatti" the track drones over and over. In any hip-hop trope, Bugatti is a reason to brag, but on the record, Tiga sounds unimpressed by his response. It's in that sort of deadpan delivery — perhaps a leftover from the electroclash era — that has set Tiga apart on albums like Sexor and Ciao! 

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His follow-up, No Fantasy Required, coming out on March 4 via Ninja Tune, will complete the trilogy with production work by Matthew Dear and Hudson Mohawke. As with his previous release, Tiga continues to explore fitting dance-music genres like techno, electro, and acid house in a traditional pop format, giving cuts structure and balance and trimming tracks to radio-friendly lengths, lest they feel like they are going nowhere.

"There are things that I like [about dance music and pop]. It kind of happens naturally. If I try to make superunderground music, it doesn't really work for me — I just don't really know how to do it. At the same time, if I were to make legit megapop, I don't seem able to do that either."

Tiga admits he doesn't know how it all comes together, but he knows that tiptoeing the line between alternative-dance-music sounds and pop seems to work for him.

His pop appeal also bleeds out in his visuals, though he says he doesn't place too much importance on that over the music. Still, 2 million views and counting, the mix of Wes Anderson-esque visuals and quick cuts in the "Bugatti" music video took the track from quirky electro throwback to shareworthy.

"When it works, [the visuals] are really important, and 'Bugatti' is a good example... Having the visual identity is oftentime the difference between something being the cool track and something taking a life of its own. For 'Bugatti,' the visuals add to the song."

Still, for all of Tiga's pop tendencies, he's long been known as a skilled DJ with a sound that's decidedly more techno and house than pop.

"At its best, DJ'ing is really hard to do," admits Tiga. "When you're at the right party at the right time, and you're in the right mood and playing sick records — when it really all works, it's pretty amazing."

When it comes to live performances, Tiga says he has less experience, having performed for audiences only a dozen times. So he admits it still makes him nervous yet thrills him at the same time. However, his DJ sets are the form most people are familiar with, and he is still pretty enamored with setting the tone for a party.

"The difference is with DJ'ing, you can get very close to what it means to be in a party, that energy. Live is different. It's more about your music and personality and your creation."

Tiga With Ms. Madda and Bakke. 11 p.m., Friday, February 19, at Trade, 1439 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-531-6666; trademia.com. Tickets cost $15 to $25 via residentadvisor.net.

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