Sharp, confident, yet emotionally honest: Tiga seems to have developed a new sensitivity in his music of late. The producer and singer, raised between his hometown of Montreal and Goa, is in the midst of releasing his third studio album when Clash gives him a bell. Last year he began work on an album in a newly designed studio, and this new, personally crafted space reflects a change in his outlook. “I think I’m just a more sensitive person than I used to be,” he reveals. “I just wasn’t very thoughtful in general. I’m softer and open to all kinds of things.”
The album format places Tiga in a new light, and ‘No Fantasy Required’ is his first opportunity to really nail this. It’s something he seems particularly excited about. Endless editorials describe his ability to combine pop sensibility with dancefloor prowess, and it might be one of the defining characteristics of his music but such clichés don’t get to the heart of it. His output stands on the border between pop and the underground, but isn’t a combination of the two.
Tiga has a workman’s ethic when it comes to producing club-ready tracks. “I’ve had a tough time lately, making real bangers. It’s harder than it used to be,” he admits. This is especially interesting when you consider Tiga produced one of the last few years’ most-rinsed cuts, the sublime and sinister ‘Bugatti’. “Without sounding arrogant, I was pleasantly surprised by the success of ‘Bugatti’,” he says. “But more than surprise, I felt vindication because I did think that record was very special. I’m quite honest about my own records. I think ‘Bugatti’ had that little drop of pop magic. It’s hard to quantify what that is.”
Tiga and Hudson Mohawke might not be the most likely bedfellows but their collaboration, ‘Planet E’, kicks like a horse and demonstrates just how far outside of his comfort zone the producer has strayed. “[Hudson] contacted me, because he liked ‘Bugatti’, to see if he could get the parts to do his own remix, and that was the beginning of more regular contact. He played an important role to me. He was one of the first people I played a lot of the album to especially the non-club tracks. We kind of had a moment,” Tiga laughs, “where he felt it and it gave me a lot of confidence.”
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It’s these so-called non-club cuts that really make ‘No Fantasy Required’. Ballads, slow numbers; call them what you will, they’re the tracks that mark Tiga’s step from track producer to album artist. Tiga’s roots are in Montreal’s old hardcore scene, and for this reason you might be surprised to hear the emotion in some of the tracks. But they maintain a delicate balance between subtlety and tough as nails beats.
“When you get into those records young, there’s a toughness you’re not afraid of... Hard music. Things with a bit of edge to them.” Even the softer tracks on the album, like the undulating ‘Blondes Have More Fun’ and ‘Don’t Break My Heart’, belie this sharp underbelly. “‘Don’t Break My Heart’ isn’t a hard record but it does have a certain grit to it a ghetto side that works well.”
The LP sees Tiga coming into his own as a singer, willing to delve directly and self-effacingly into his own emotions. “It took me many years to get comfortable with the word ‘singer’. I would never describe myself a singer. But now I’ve found a little niche for myself, a distinctive sound,” he says.
With a string of successful singles, his goal now seems to be perfecting the album as a complete art form. “My first album was great because it was naïve. It was a collection of songs; it wasn’t quite conceived as an album. This one, it makes a little bit more sense. It’s a bit tighter; as a listening experience it flows quickly and makes sense.” ‘No Fantasy Required’ is a testament to that, changing gears repeatedly, drawing the listener into its complex patchwork of almost ballad-like dance tracks and heavy hitting acid-laced cuts.
As the art of the album is becoming more niche with the corporate focus on big-selling singles, Tiga’s work emphasises both sides of the equation: the club-ready single as a tool, the album as a labour of love. “What an album is, is strange: an old fashioned idea; a romantic idea. It’s so the opposite of the real world: make a killer track, put it out, reap the rewards, move on.”
Three albums in and Tiga is still asking questions about the musical process: “When does it finish? What does it mean? The first 90% of an album is easy. It’s that last step that’s the hard part.” For Tiga, it was the track that gave the album its name that signalled it was over: “I just felt like I loved that song enough and it felt new enough that there was a reason to glaze the whole thing, like pottery. When you’re done, it’s set. It was that moment.”
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'No Fantasy Required' is out now. Tiga's XOYO residency kicks off on April 9th.
Words: Alex Green
Photography: Dom Smith