TIGA Burning Bright


“Everything you put out is not really private – the more people the music reaches,
the happier you are.”

In the wake of his 2014 hit, Bugatti, Tiga brings his DJ set to The Court Garden Bar on Sunday, March 15. ZOE KILBOURN reports.

For someone so prolific, Tiga Sontag remains a bit of a mystery.

He’s made and mixed an enormous amount of music from techno through house and remained unflappably suave throughout.

“At the beginning I never wanted all the attention,” he says. “Sometimes when you make an original track you want to have a bit more privacy, not to be so crowded by so many people’s interpretations. You just want your original to have the spotlight a bit longer. But then, the response is so massive and so many people like the record, you know? I think a lot of people want to remix my tracks specifically because they’re easy to remix. It’s, like, a good simple vocal and a few key elements. I think for a lot of producers, it’s almost like they can make it their own track, get their own version of it. I was happy, in the end. Everything with Bugatti’s made me really happy. It’s a nice story, there’s a lot of support from everybody. It feels good. The remixes – I joke about it, but I’m happy, it’s cool.”

Despite keeping a low solo profile in the years after his second album Ciao!, Tiga’s been absurdly busy – he moonlights as ZZT (with Zombie Nation), founded the Turbo Recordings label, furiously works the DJ circuit, and had a long-standing stint as a Canadian radio presenter.

“I mean, everything you put out is not really private – the more people the music reaches, the happier you are,” he says. “Some things take off and others don’t. Some things take longer. I like that it’s so easy to put music out now. Things spread really quickly, and if people like them, they take on a life of their own. It’s easy to balance it. I try to – you don’t want to put too much out at the same time, but I’m not so worried about that. I think at the level I’m at, I’m not worried about confusing people. The other thing, for me, it’s a question of whether you like something enough to put it out. Whether it’s ZZT or my own stuff, remixes, it’s no problem to balance it.”

Only a few months before Bugatti blew up, ZZT released Givin’ In, a techno foray into vocal house territory.

“The thing is, in hindsight, some things end up looking a bit smaller than others, but when you put them out, you don’t really know,” Tiga says. “But then, some releases are done with completely different expectations. On my label, I can put a record out with no intention of doing a music video, or no intention of doing press to support it. That ZZT record was just put out like that. The expectation’s totally different. Bugatti started like that, but pretty soon it became obvious that it was gonna be all this other stuff surrounding it, so we went, ‘Okay, let’s make a video’. You never know which ones are gonna end up being so much more popular.”

One of Bugatti’s most popular variations was the recut with Pusha T, which marked Tiga’s first foray into hip hop crossover work.

“It was a record label in London that had the idea,” he explains. “I never really wanted to collaborate with vocal collaborators, I never really pushed very hard for it. They had the idea, and it started because someone heard Vic Mensah on the radio. By accident, he’d heard Bugatti – my version – and he said he loved it, he could rap on top of it. I think that’s what gave people the idea that there might be some interest among the hip hop community. One thing led to another, they suggested a bunch of names, and Pusha T was the only one that I wanted – cause I actually like him, and it didn’t seem contrived. And that’s it – hooked him up, sick verse, and I was very happy. And now I have some crazy-ass street cred now with my 10 year-old cousin.”

When asked about the neat intersection between hip hop opulence and Bugatti’s venture-capitalist chic, Tiga only admits, coyly, “I do like cars.”

Tiga denies a conscious performance undercurrent to his production work, but his music and persona is unquestionably connected to New Wave nostalgia, luxury goods and the ironic distance of a French Vogue spread. His 2006 debut, Sexor, is a pop-house concept album filled with detached covers of ‘80s pseudo-classics and references to an orgiastic sex planet; Ciao! and its accompanying videos are riddled with references to obsolete commodity culture. Even Bugatti’s casually elitist hook is reinforced by a video set in yesterday’s boardroom, ski lodge, and bachelor pad.

“When I’m DJing, I’m just DJing – it’s a different thing,” Tiga says. “But with the artwork and the record sleeves and the videos and stuff, anything that’s visual, there’s an opportunity to do something that looks good, that I look good doing, and that’s kind of fun. I wouldn’t call it performance art. Sometimes I’m not in it – like the Shoes video, I wasn’t in it. It’s just an opportunity to add visuals to the music. It usually ends up fun.”

Increasingly, Tiga’s found the link between his solo releases to be his coolly controlled vocals. “I never really planned it that way, but it has emerged,” he says. “My tracks seem to all end up now vocal tracks. I guess in a way that’s become my sound. I like it, though. It’s fun. I mean, it’s frustrating sometimes when you’re trying to come up with the right words or an idea, but when it works, it’s a good feeling.”

It’s been six years since Tiga’s last solo album, and naturally buzz has been building about his upcoming release.

“The album’s going well. A bit slowly, but well – it’ll probably be ready this year. I do have a lot of new music, which I’m really happy about, and as luck would have it, it’s all kind of getting finished right now, so Australia’s definitely going to be the testing ground for a lot of new music. The DJ tour coming up is gonna be good. There’ll be a lot of sneak peeks at album tracks and new music. It’s good for everyone – it’s good for me, it’s a good place to test music. I’m doing five or six shows, all the major cities, quite whirlwind, but every time I play Australia, it’s a lot of fun.”