Ta-Ku Interview and Mixset

Chase: “All right everybody, this is Chase March. We have a very special guest today on the program, all the way from Perth, Australia. Welcome to DOPEfm and The Word is Bond Podcast, Ta-ku.”

Ta-Ku: “Thanks for having me.”

Chase: “It’s definitely nice to get in touch with you. I am sure a lot of people have heard of you, but if not, can you give us a little description of who you are and where you are coming from?”

Ta-Ku: “My name is Ta-Ku, from Perth, Australia, born and raised. I’ve been making beats for about seven years now. I first started in hip-hop production and with the whole beat scene up and running now, I’ve kind of branched out to some electronic stuff as well.

I’ve been featured on a few compilations, releases around the world. I’ve worked with many artists, but just concentrating on my instrumental work now and representing a few labels at the moment, HW&W out in LA, Project Mooncircle out in Germany, Soulection out in San Diego, and Paperchain out in Perth. So, yeah, it’s a good year.”

Chase: “That’s amazing, so you’re doing production for four different labels right now?”

Ta-Ku: “Yeah, the labels have been pretty amazing because each is a little different with what kind of music they want from me. It gives me a chance to experiment and be creative.”

Chase: “What made you get in to music production?”

Ta-Ku: “To tell you the truth, I first started deejaying. Well, I say deejyaing, but I guess I was trying to deejay. Mainly collecting records made me listen to more samples. And listening to people like Dilla, Pete Rock, and Premo made me want to have a go at trying to sample a record. It really just sort of evolved from that. Trying to be a DJ, I guess, is how it started.”

Chase: “It’s actually really cool to see more people becoming DJs and getting started with production. It seems like it is now more of an arena than it was in the past. Everyone wanted to be a rapper back when I was coming up and trying to make a name for myself, but now it seems like there are a lot of DJs and producers out there.”

Ta-Ku: “Everyone thinks being a DJ is easy because when you see a DJ, it doesn’t look like they are really doing too much. I was more into the turntalblism, that stuff is really hard. I think beat-making is a lot easier than being a turntablist.”

Chase: “Yeah, I think so too. I used to actually make beats a long time ago, on an Akai X7000. I know some people don’t like to give away their secrets, but would you mind telling us what gear you use?”

Ta-Ku: “It’s pretty minimal. I’m still using software like Fruity Loops and Cool Edit Pro to cut samples but when it gets to synths, I use a lot of soft synths and VSTs. I got a micro Korg that I use quite extensively. That’s pretty much what my set-up is, and it works for me. It’s simple but it’s effective.”

Chase: “That’s cool. I don’t think you necessarily have to have a particular piece of gear, as long as you can make it work. That’s the musicianship, being able to make whatever you have sing.”

Ta-Ku: “Yeah, definitely. There are guys out there with great technical abilities who know how to use amazing equipment, and that is just as effective as someone who cuts a record up and chucks it into a sequencer. No matter what you use, whether it is simple or whether it is quite technical, it’s what you really do with what you have, the end product, that really makes it shine.”

Chase: “I definitely agree with that. So you are going to spin for us now, give us some of your dope beats.”

Ta-Ku: “No doubt.”

Chase: “Excellent. So, you get on the wheels there and on your production tip. Everyone listen to this. Ta-ku is going to spin some tunes for the next 45 minutes and we will definitely be back to talk some more with him right after this.”

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Chase: “All right, you just heard an exclusive mixset from Ta-Ku, excellent producer / beatsmith all the way from Perth, Australia and we are lucky enough to have him on the phone lines.

I know a lot of the music from Australia doesn’t seem to make it’s way to North America, to USA or Canada for some reason.”

Ta-Ku: “The hip-hop music that is made here is really good. It’s different, that’s for sure. I guess because it is different cultures that it doesn’t really translate to the North American hip-hop scene there.

I guess, without offending anyone, I think the Australian hip-hop is slightly behind what people in America or Canada are doing but by no means am I saying it’s less quality. I think, just in regards to the kind of style that Australians are putting out in hip-hop music, it’s just a little bit different to what people are doing in the States.

In saying that, though, there are some really good artists in Australia, both emcees and beatmakers who are really world standard at the moment. And you see them popping up, for instance people like M-Phazes. He’s one of my biggest inspirations. He’s a beatmaker from Melbourne, Australia. He’s world class on the production, so people like that, always peak through.”

Chase: “Yeah, M-Phazes is definitely amazing. You’ve put out quite a few projects and when you do a search for Ta-Ku online, your output is crazy. You have so many releases you can’t even keep track of them all.”

Ta-Ku: “I was actually looking through my Soundcloud the other day and I think I have 103 songs uploaded there and I’ve got about 20-odd releases on my Bandcamp. And I was just thinking that’s too much.”

Chase: “It’s not too much. It’s awesome. I was just listening to you 50 Days for Dilla and you have another project that I looked at for September and it looked like you had a track for every single day of September, you have tracks for 50 Days for Dilla, so is beatmaking something you do every day and you just sometimes tie that in as a theme?”

Ta-Ku: “That’s the thing. Beatmakign for me has always been a hobby even whwen I picked it up. Since I work a 9 to 5, I find it really hard to find time to make beats. And if I don’t set myself a goal or a project to do, my interest in actually making beats weans a little or my creativity dulls down a bit.

September was just an exercise in beatmaking to see how many beats I could make, every day. I only did it for sixteen days in September so I didn’t actually get to complete it because I had some things in my personal life some up.

The 50 Days for Dilla was really an exercise to see if I could set myself a goal to make a Dilla-inspired beat for every day for 50 days. I made it but it wasn’t easy. It was pretty hard. I really had to put work into it every day and night.

But it’s just nice to set yourself a goal and try to keep yourself motivated, especially if you have other commitments in life. You never want to let your creativity die. Being creative is also relaxing and makes life a little bit easier.

50 Days for Dilla was a really fun project. It wasn’t easy, but it was fun.”

Chase: “Yeah, he definitely was a huge talent and it is a shame that the hip-hop world has lost him.”

Ta-Ku: “Yeah, and J Dilla’s memory lives on in so many different genres and in so many different musicians around the world. My 50 Days was just as small aspect of how he actually lives on in other people’s music today.”

Chase: “You’ve had a chance to work with quite a few different musicians. Do you have any favourites or any stories, you’d like to share?”

Ta-Ku: “I worked with a few MCs. I’m actually still working with a few MCs because I like to concentrate on doing instrumentals. I guess the biggest story for me was working with Sci High the Prince, who was actually working on G.O.O.D. Music, which is Kanye West’s label.

When I got word that he actually picked a beat of mine for his mixtape, I was pretty geeked and I was really happy they were going to use it. He got in touch with me and sent me a video which showed him in the studio working on the song we did together. That was pretty buzzy for me. It was good to see that group of people tied into Good Music and mainstream hip-hop, to hear my music come out the speakers in the studio, and to know that earlier that day, Sci High said that Kayne was actually in listening to the whole mixtape, made me spin out a lot. It’s amazing what the Internet can do for your music, where it can go, and who can hear it. That’s probably the biggest story I’ve had with collaborations.

Chase: “Speaking of the Internet’s influences there, you should let us know how we can get in touch with you or find out more about Ta-Ku and your amazing beats and the projects that you have going.”

Ta-Ku: “My main spots are Facebook, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp.

Chase: “So what is the main project you are focusing on right now.”

Ta-Ku: “50 Days for Dilla is actually coming out on wax and it is now available on HW&W. I’m very excited to release that on vinyl. Apart from that, I’m just working on my first instrumental LP. I’m just chipping away slowly.”

Chase: “It’s really cool to see people still releasing vinyl. That’s where hip-hop started and to see that culture still come alive. And you like you said before, you started as a DJ and I know you use sample-based production, so you are still big into using vinyl, right?”

Ta-Ku: “As a musician, to have your music on vinyl is the ultimate dream, even audio wise, the quality on vinyl is probably the best you’ll ever get. The sounds are in the grooves on the record. I actually think now the resurgence of people wanting vinyl is coming up a little bit more. It’s always going to have a special place in people’s hearts.”

Chase: “I think it has some staying power, a lot more than some of the other music formats we have.”

Ta-Ku: “Defintely. I mean, CDs are gone. In my opinion, CDs are dead. But with vinyl, it’s just taking that next step where you have the whole sleeve, the whole artwork, 2 LP. It’s more tangable than a CD. It’s something you can open up and hold and collect. And it actually looks cool too.”

Chase: “You online presence is labelled Ta-Ku Got Beats so if there are some MCs out there that want some of your beats, can they buy some from you?”

Ta-Ku: “Yeah, definitely. I’ve got a catalogue and normally when MCs hit me up, I send them a catalogue. For those who are serious about collaborating, all they have to do is let me know what beat they want. I’m flexible and always willing to help out starting artists or people who are established. Whatever your budget is, I’m sure we can work something out.”

Chase: “That’s very cool. One of my pet-peeves is all these young up-start artists making mixtapes where that are rapping over someone else’s beats, when there are a lot of producers out there, like yourself, so they could find beats fairly easily enough and do some original stuff.”

Ta-Ku: “That’s my same pet-peeve. I actually had a 13-year-old from New Zealand hit me up. He wrote me a huge email saying this is what he wants to do and his vision. He even said, ‘I’m not sure if you are even going to respond. I was hoping you could hit me up with a beat. I’m only in school now. I have a limited amount of money, but I can work weekends at my dad’s grocery store to help you out.’

I read the whole email and at the end of it, I emailed him back and said, ‘You know what, ‘cause you actually took the effort to get in touch with a beatmaker instead of just jacking someone’s beat, I’ll give you one for free.’ He was pretty geeked about that.

But, you’re right, Chase, Just get off your ass, hop online, and email someone. You don’t have to jack for beats.”

Chase: “That’s such a great story. I’m a teacher so just to hear that a kid reached out to you and that you helped him out is very inspiring. I think hip-hop is such a great art and we should be able to expose the kids to it and have them creating.”

Ta-Ku: “Hip-hop is universal. No matter how old you are, or how young you are, it speaks to everyone. And you could tell it spoke to this kid because of the way he talked about it.

The culture now, the producer is becoming what the deejay was, back in the days. The DJ used to stand behind the MC a lot of the times, but when turntablism got big, they kind of stepped out in front of the MC.

And I think with this beatmaking scene, it’s stressing the importance that whilst you can be a very dope MC, the fact that he saw at 13 that production is very important, and to have a working relationship with a producer is important for an MC. It was pretty impressive to me, seeing he was so young, I was more than happy to help the kid out.

The beat scene is getting pretty big and people are starting to listen to more instrumental hip-hop now too, which is great.”

Chase: “And not just beat tapes for MCs to freestyle over either. It’s an entire genre unto itself now.”

Ta-Ku: “Yeah, Dorian Concept, who I went to Red Bull with often said that he used to make beats for MCs but then he got sick of working with them so he made instrumental music and to make sure that no one could rap over them, he made them so busy that no one would even attempt it. ‘Cause he’s a crazy pianist so he would just make this really intricate and amazing beats that MCs would have no room to be on.

I guess what I am trying to say is that producers are becoming more artists themselves now rather than just a co-producer to a track.”

Chase: “Which is awesome to see. A lot of people I talk to don’t even think that rap is really an art but there is a lot of musicianship to it. I always feel like I have to emphasize that and say, ‘You know what, we’re musicians too!’”

Ta-Ku: “Yeah, you’re right. When you look at the difference between rock music and hip-hop music, people always say there is more intricacy and more technical ability when you make rock music. And whilst is some cases, it may be true, people like Slo-Mo who connect hip-hop into the more indy-folk-rock world, they are starting to see that it’s not just drums, bass, and a sample. It’s actually more.

To sample a record is just as technical as knowing how to play guitar. Not everyone can do it.”

Chase: “Very true! Producers can totally chop up and make a sample completely unrecognizable and do all sorts of creative things with it. It absolutely blows my mind what they can do with it. I wish more people could see the talent behind it.”

Ta-Ku: “That’s what’s really inspiring, when people like Premo or Dilla can take five to ten seconds of a five minute song and recreate an entirely new song that sounds entirely different, which flips up the original composition entirely. I think that’s what really amazes me.”

Chase: “It has been a pleasure talking to. Thanks so much for coming on the radio and on the podcast.”

Ta-Ku: “Thanks so much for having me. Big respect to DOPEfm and The Word is Bond. Much love and all my support goes to them.”

That concludes the transcript of this interview. You can listen to the entire interview and hear the exclusive mixset Ta-Ku laid down for us with the player above. You can also download this podcast for free to play it over and over again whenever you like.

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