You know what they say, there isn’t a single thing in this world that hasn’t been damaged by the global financial crisis, except for maybe Robert Peston’s journalism career. The truth is, the recession has hit a lot of us really hard, some people have found themselves out of work, some can’t keep up with their mortgage re-payments, the entertainment industry is buckling, bankers have lost their proud reputation and pristine ethical image, and there have even been some, largely unsubstantiated, rumours that David Cameron may soon struggle to find the money to replace the spokes on his cherished fixi-bike. Here at GIITTV towers, we can no longer afford to fly people business class to all tropical corners of the earth to have little chit chats over mojitos with interesting music folk. Fortunately, we have yet to lose access to our Conference Call facilities (Skype), so were able to catch up with Florida based musician, Tako Tomago, to talk about his recent debut release and his ongoing musical adventures.
Your first EP was called Hydro, what was behind the aquatic theme?
The art-work was actually from a long-board that I got over the holiday break, that’s really as deep as it goes. But for a while whilst I was recording the EP I was long-boarding pretty much every day, it was my sort of connection with nature, and being grounded where I was in that moment, not floating around, dreaming about somewhere else. So that’s what it is, my connection to Earth, and getting down to Earth, and that’s what all the songs are really about. It fits because that was when I recorded in Florida, which is perfect long-boarding weather, but it’s getting too hot now, it’s ridiculous.
You recently started work on a full-length record, do you have anyone in particular lined up to contribute towards that? Where do you think it will go compared to the first EP?
There’s a few tracks that are already almost completed, and I have an instrumental track that I’ve recorded to show you (here). I went to school in New York for a bit, and my friend, she’s a musical theatre major at NYU, and we did a song which is already recorded, she’s got a really interesting voice, because she was trained to sing classically and in a musical theatre style, so she’s very technically trained. I’m going to California in April, and my brother has a Harpsichord, and basses, and all these classical instruments that we’re going to lay down some stuff with. But my main answer to that, is that I’ve been sampling again, which thus far is going to form the majority of the full-length, I’ve picked up a bunch of records here in Florida, and hopefully I’ll pick some up in California too.
You worked with a few different people for the first record, and obviously you’re doing that with the second one too, so when you collaborate with other people, how much creative input does the other person have?
With the first EP, everything you hear was basically a matter of thirty minutes to an hour, working with the other person. But that’s something I’d like to change, I love giving people pieces of music and asking them to do something with it on their own. It’s very liberating to give something to someone else, and even if you decide not to use it, it’s a lot more fun to get outside of your own head for a bit. I think the most I spent with anyone on the first record was about two to three hours, so I already had it in my head and they just sang it, and everything was manipulated after. So they’ll definitely have a lot more of an input on the second record.
Do you think it’s difficult to put your own personality into something when you’re giving that creative freedom to someone else? I guess there’s a balance to try and cut.
Yeah, it’s definitely a balance, I really think of myself as more of a producer, I never really had a strong voice, I have a very limited range. When I was younger, I was always hesitant to have other people feature, because I always wanted to be in the limelight, but now I love the quality that bringing someone else in, especially female voices, brings to a track. I was talking about this to a friend, it’s almost as if the magic of the track is when you put that female voice in there, it adds a colour, or a quality to it, that you could never imagine sitting in your own head. It’s almost the most human quality to the song, because it happens in a split second and it’s completely out of your control, it’s like an Alpha Omega thing, the girls can only do it, you can’t do it.
Is the live show something you’ve thought about?
Yeah definitely, that’s actually my goal right now, everything I’m doing right now in terms of promotion, is to get a live show set up. I definitely want to show people a good time I guess, with the songs, because they’re not exactly suited to a club mix, or a dance mix, but it is something I’m familiar with, I did a few DJ gigs while I was in New York at a venue called the ‘Cake Shop’, which is like a really condensed venue, but the energy in there is really cool, and I had so much fun purely just making people dance. It was quite a limited experience, but it was enough to get me excited about it.
Obviously a live show is more cathartic, so how do you think adapting to something like that might be different?
Well, in the past I’ve used the programme ‘Ableton Live’ where you basically trigger samples. I have a lot of respect for when people, I guess the most obvious example would be Aphex Twin, or anyone really, Flying Lotus does it too, you go to a live show and they’re playing you the songs, but they’re glitching and breaking the beat in a way that you don’t hear on the record, so that’s something I’m really interested in. It kind of messes with your head a bit, and makes it experimental, and I also want to bring singers, so that everything is as live as I can make it, so people aren’t just staring at me with a laptop.
Have you thought about how you want the project to progress, is there any sort of model of success that you’ve thought ‘that’s the kind of thing I want to re-create’?
I have thought about that a lot, because what’s quite interesting for me, is that I want to collaborate with visual artists, there’s a huge art scene that I’m interested in in Miami, there’s ‘Friends With You’, Jen Stark, ‘Freegums’, all these visual artists doing really experimental stuff, and it really inspires me, and at some point I’d really like to collaborate with them. I’m really interested in having musical and visual art translate into each other, and translate into something on your own personal level. So that’s something I want to do with the next project, but as for modelling after anyone particular’s success, there’s no one particular artist. I think there’s a lot more of me, and my own personality and qualities that I’d like to express, and put my fingerprint on my music in a way that I don’t think I have yet.
Coming back to the visual aesthetics side of that, it’s something that keeps coming up more and more, I don’t know if you think it’s to do with the way people connect with music and media over the internet these days, but it seems a lot more people are talking about the visual side of music, and creating something that is more than just the music?
I think a lot of it comes down to education and the way music is taught, I remember watching an interview with 9th Wonder, and they asked him, ‘Where do you want to see Hip-Hop in ten years?’ and his answer was, ‘in schools’. It’s not really something that’s really thought about in an academic way, and I definitely think it could be, along with things like painting, because to me all these things are visual, music is painting a picture in the mind in a way that you can’t really do with any other art form, because it’s sonic. I think there should be a lot more discussion about that, and a lot more emphasis on how the album relates to the art-work, because it’s a very powerful tool.
Do you think that could then threaten the ‘organic’ nature of the music, as such?
Going back to another quote, I think Ingmar Bergman, he said that if you put music in movies, I believe the word that he used was ‘barbaric’. Obviously that’s a different argument, but as you said the argument in music, would be that music isn’t about art-work, it isn’t about visuals, it’s about the spiritual, emotional and even sensual sense that you get just from the vibrations of music. I definitely feel that argument, but I love putting music in movies too, I think it’s just an artistic opinion.
Obviously music’s slightly different in North America than over here, so would you say there’s anyone that maybe you hadn’t heard a year ago, that has really captured you, or grabbed you recently?
Totally, I was hoping you’d ask that question. The artist ‘Grimes’, she just came out with her full-length, it’s huge, everyone’s listening to it, it’s really magical, I really love it. She’s actually from Montreal, though I didn’t get to catch her when I was there, but I wasn’t really hip to her, I kind of jumped on the band wagon and now I’m pretty obsessed, ha. I listened to Asap Mob when I was in Canada, but just recently I’ve started listening to an affiliate, his name is ‘SpaceGhostPurrp’, he’s also really huge, but he’s got like a really space-y and different vibe from any other Hip-Hop I’ve ever heard. It’s really inspiring, because I work with bpms at like 100, 120, because I’m just locked into having something that even if someone doesn’t like it, they can dance to it, and everything that he does is primarily say seventy or eighty, it’s like half-speed Hip-Hop, so I think he’s really original.
Have you always been interested in the dancier side of music, or did you begin elsewhere, or is there a lot that maybe you listen to that you think would surprise people?
I made a beat CD just coming out of High School, that’s primarily what I used to do music, and get DJ gigs and stuff, and it’s all beats, all dance music, some of its Hip-Hop orientated, but mostly I’d say it was electronica beats. So that was my first real production, it was a little bit all over the place, a little bit amateur. So I’d say I’ve always been interested in electronica, I’m just now beginning to float towards other influences, some more space-jazzy type stuff, and psychadelic music, it’s kind of all branched from electronica.