As one third of the Australian Hip Hop act Thundamentals, Tuka is no stranger to Hip Hop and music lovers across Australia. As a member of the band, Tuka has not only gotten to enjoy success, he has gotten to do it with his best friends DJ Morgs and MC Jewson, but he felt he still had more to express and more music to make. And now he has finally found the time to create his second solo album Feedback Loop, which he is touring throughout September and October with Daily Meds, True Vibenation, Loose Change, Reverse Polarities and Sketch the Rhyme, after he performs at BIGSOUND.
Somewhere in between the crazy schedule that is created by doing his solo work and being part of Thundamentals, Tuka found the time to answer some questions for the AU review about going solo, playing BIGSOUND and being part of Big Village Records.
You’re on the line-up for BIGSOUND this year with an amazing line-up of artists and speakers. Are you looking forward to it and will you be getting involved in any of the industry talks?
I think I am going to stick with catching up with Musicians and mates up there, leave all the shop talk to the people who like talking about shops. Bunch of good bands I’m keen to check out, I have a night off before the show so will no doubt be wondering around trying to cause some trouble, ha.
What kind of role do you think ventures like BIGSOUND play in the Australian music industry?
It seems like a good ole fashion get together for a lot of people, and that's awesome for any industry. I played last year for Thundas and it was great to hang with press, see all our team up there meeting people and shaking hands :)
You’re signed to Big Village Records, who are themselves a collective of Australian Hip Hop artists who formed a label to sign and support other Australian Hip Hop acts. Do you think as technology becomes more accessible and affordable that we will see more and more musicians start their own labels?
Its been moving that way for years, a label these days is just that, a label. Most don’t even need distributors, publishers, publicists or anything. We are still honing our system and the playing field is constantly changing but an independent option for artist these days is a more valid option than it ever has been before.
Do you have more artistic freedom with Big Village Records than you would other labels because they are all musicians with a respect for the art form instead of just a want for money?
We are all co-owners so there is absolute freedom, that's kind of why we put it together in the way we did.
Are you involved in the running of Big Village Records, or just signed to the label?
I don’t really get involved in the day to day, especially with things so busy with my solo stuff and Thundamentals, I had a lot to do with setting things up, help with the A&R side of things if someone needs it and generally helping out with guidance with a few tricks Thundamentals have learnt over the years. Rapaport is the glue holding all us artist types together though; man is a tireless beared work master. One day I might take on a hands on management role but first things first, albums.
Obviously you’re also a part of the Thundamentals. Is performing alone and performing with the group different?
In one word, completely. I find it really different, I am HEAPS more nervous with the Tuka stuff for some reason… Thundamentals is my main focus and has been for close to 7 years, so when it comes to performing it's more evolved and you can feel a little more confident stepping out on stage. Especially when you are next to your two best mates, who are absolutely no slouches on stage themselves. The Tuka live set is definitely more experimental and loose in nature, I like challenging myself. With Thundamentals touring schedule, Tuka shows are a rarity so off the bat they feel much more foreign, in a good way of course but it's not the cozy old pair of kicks that the Thunda live show is for me.
What are the major sound differences between your solo work and the work you do with Thundamentals?
Largely the production to begin with, Thundamentals is majorly produced by DJ Morgs, I have helped out here and there with Thundamentals but I am predominately a vocalist/songwriter. A lot of the production for my solo work comes down to me, I’ve worked with an awesome production team on my new album Sleepers Awake and gotten beats from a bunch of friends and cohorts but pulling everything together and the shape the album in terms of theme and concept weighs entirely on my shoulders. I definitely like to explore darker themes of my personality in my solo work. It's more like theRAPy, Thundamentals is more like real life.
There seems to be a pretty big change in the beats and samples you use as a solo artist and the ones the band use. Are there different influences at play there or are you just going for a different sound as a solo artist?
Definitely different influences, DJ Morgs obviously picks the samples in Thundamentals, we have similar tastes in music but of course there are some major differences as well, that push and pull is what makes Thundamentals what it is, with my solo stuff that conflict has to play out by myself, which is awkward because I like a good argument. When it came to making Feedback Loop I spent most Sundays in record stores looking for specific feels and grooves from the most unknown records I could possibly find. I went out of my way to find stuff that Morgs wouldn’t already be across, quite a task. Most of which ended up getting replaced anyway throughout the recording process with live instruments but the frame work and feel of it is sample based. There is LOTS of live instrumentation, less obvious hip hop influences; lots of synth work as well, less hip hop ‘boom-bap’, more emphasis on songwriting over rap technicality. I feel like I’ve covered my bases when it comes to writing rap songs, this is my 6th studio album all up and I needed to express some more… well just more.
Your solo work seems to get rather political and personal. What are the most important messages you want to share and how important is the message behind the music to you?
All my solo work is up for interpretation, I’d rather not comment on what my messages are and would rather discuss them with someone else to see what they take away from it. Even though some tracks are highly personal in nature, I’ve covered a few heavy themes to do with my own depression, life experiences etc but still I feel that the songs themselves aren’t a representation of “me” more of tinted social commentary through my lens as a earthling. I have a pretty dark humour a lot of my friends can’t even tell if I am joking or being sarcastic most the time, gets me in a bunch of trouble, I enjoy provoking a response from people, particularly in actual life. I can only hope Feedback Loop does the same. They told me to question everything, so I asked them why?
I interviewed you with the Thundamentals at Peats Ridge and you guys were not in the greatest of states, I think you’d just arrived from one performance and you still had two to go in the next 24 hours and the trip between them. Yet you gave one of the highest energy performances I saw at Peats and your New Year’s Day performance had the same energy levels too. How the hell did you do that?
Hahaha, yeah those New Years runs always leave me in ‘not the greatest of states’. That one in particular was a big one, I think I lost my shoes that night as well?! Anyway… The thing is about performing that I remind myself when I’m not feeling crash hot, is that someone has paid their time, money and attention to come and see me perform, so I feel more than obligation to give it 110%, not only is it your job but also your duty. On those big runs you just need to save every bit of energy for the show, hence why I probably seemed a little worse for wear when we saw you haha. This year I will have been performing on stage for 10 years, with I have no idea how many shows, close to 100 in the last 12 months I’d say, and lets be honest, performing to large crowds is the pay off for all the hard work I have to do making music.
Australia has been facing venue problems since the popularisation of poker machines. As you’re on the road so much, do you think there are parts of the country that are more affected by this than others?
To be honest I think its probably on the decline now, or at least it seems that way, maybe most music venues are now trying to separate themselves from that vibe or the gig going public don’t get the same enjoyment of wasting their money vs watching a band and having a laugh. Its always more apparent in regional gigs I guess?
What can musicians do to combat venue problems and stop things like pay to play getting even more popular with venue owners?
I don’t really buy into this argument a lot, I think getting treated well at venues starts with writing good songs and playing good music. If you do that you connect with an audience, that audience attend your shows and the venue is happy. Dodgy venues only last as long as people keep agreeing to play for sub-par terms.
BIGSOUND live happens September 12-13 in Brisbane and will include performances by Clare Bowditch, Ball Park Music, Tuka, Hungary Kids Of Hungary and a heap more. You can see the full line up and buy tickets at http://tickets.oztix.com.au/?Event=27717
Tuka is also about to hit the road and tickets are available for his shows now.
Sept 14th: Oxford Art Factory, Sydney NSW, tickets from www.moshtix.com.au
Sept22nd: Northcote Social Club, Melbourne VIC, tickets from http://northcotesocialclub.com/
Oct 5th: The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle NSW, tickets Available from the venue, www.moshtix.com.au & 1300 GETTIX
October 6th: Gearins Hotel, Blue Mountains NSW, Tickets from www.moshtix.com.au
October 12th: Hussle Hussle Mojos, Freemantle WA, Tickets available on the door