Ta-ku: “Music Listeners Have To Just Learn To Enjoy Things”
Written by Cyclone Wehner on 14th July, 2014
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Perth’s Ta-ku, aka Regan “Reggie” Matthews, is a man of many guises – he’s a DJ, producer, label boss, audio-visual curator and now, awesomely, a barbershop proprietor.
With a Maori and Filipino heritage, Ta-Ku grew up listening to urban grooves, especially hip-hop and neo-soul and only later embraced electronica. Influenced by J Dilla and Drake, this gentle “genre killer” has since put his own touch on illwave, that futurist and frequently abstract hybrid of hip-hop, R&B, synth-pop, IDM and bassdom.
A pupil at 2008's Red Bull Music Academy in Barcelona, Spain, Ta-ku has circulated a succession of EPs, including 2012's Re-Twerk, as well as singles and remixes – both official (BANKS, Childish Gambino) and bootleg (controversially Disclosure). Recently, he released the EP Songs To Break Up To.
Come September, the shy DJ will appear at Listen Out 2014 alongside his sometimes vocal collaborator Chet Faker and Flume. Last year, Matthews remixed Flume’s Left Alone (featuring Faker), still among his most popular tracks. “I actually had fun making that,” he says. “Normally the best ones take the quickest – and that one happened really quickly.”
Listen: Flume – Left Alone feat. Chet Faker (Ta-ku Remix)
You’re touring with the Listen Out festival, but before that you’re opening a “barbershop and shave parlour.” Westons, in Perth.
Ta-ku: Yeah, that’s tomorrow! We’re outside of it now and it’s looking good.
Do you have a barber’s licence yourself – or are you just the boss?
TK: I’ll be the owner, yeah. There’s four barbers in there. I’d like to learn how to cut hair, too, but not any time soon, I don’t think.
You were working in health insurance at one stage, but it sounds like you’ve given that up?
TK: Yeah, definitely. I was in health insurance for, like, five years, working my way up the ladder or whatever it is. I wanted to quit for a while but I’m quite a safe person, so I just wanted to make sure everything was all good before I could say good-bye to all that.
Killer Mike has a hip-hop-themed barbershop in Atlanta. Why did you decide to open one?
TK: I’ve always had my hair done and I’ve always had the same barber and, whenever I go travelling, I like to visit different barber shops. It’s just an industry I’ve always been fascinated about.
I started a barber apprenticeship a year ago, but never was able to finish it, just due to being kinda busy with a lot of things. It just seemed a natural progression – just me and my barber, Justin Howley, working together. So that’s pretty much it.
Your sound is a hybrid – it’s almost post-genre, there’s so many different aspects to it. How are you developing that?
TK: I think it’s just like an experimentation with different sounds that I enjoy. I started off from a hip-hop background, sampling a lot. There’s so many cool genres now, like house music and then there’s downtempo. It’s almost ridiculous.
But I like taking influences from the different genres and incorporating them into my own sound. It does make a hybrid sound which I think is my own. But, yeah, I think it’s just a lot of experimenting.
Listen: Ta-Ku – I Miss You
The urban music landscape has changed with Drake and his spacey synths – it’s an ‘anything goes’ culture now. Are listeners more open-minded?
TK: Yeah, definitely. I think as the music scene becomes more and more diverse, the more people have to just learn to enjoy things that they [once] thought: ‘You know, guys, hang on, this doesn’t fit into this record, or this doesn’t kinda fit where this should’.
You shouldn’t really look at music like that, I don’t think. You should take things for what they are and listen to them for what they are and not try to pigeonhole them or put them into categories – ’cause I feel that, as a listener, you’d wanna enjoy as much as you can.
You’re apparently still planning to make a “proper” album…
TK: Yeah. The debut album is definitely something I want to do. It’s about 25 percent done, I reckon. It’s still early stages, getting in the studio, trying new things. But that’ll be on a label soon – I can’t say what label yet, though!
You’ve got your own label, too – Sunday Records. What’s the status of that?
TK: That one’s kinda on and off hiatus, but basically Sunday was just a thing for Perth and then showcasing other beatmakers who I was feeling at the time and putting them on a platform. But we’re looking to revamp that soon – this year or next. That’s all it is – like, I look at all labels as just platforms and I wanna keep it [as] that, but then also throw events and [do] vinyl releases, just do cool things with it.
You just remixed Seekae‘s Test & Recognise with Kit Pop under the new handle HWLS.
TK: Me and Kit Pop started that at the beginning of the year and it’s definitely an ongoing project. The Ta-ku music is becoming a lot more, I guess, ambient – I hate calling it that, but it’s not as electronic as my remixes and things like that.
The HWLS music project is a bit more dancey, a lot more bass orientated. So I’m looking forward to that one. We’ll slowly be trickling things out. We have a 12-inch coming out soon which you can keep your eye out on, if you follow us.
Listen: Seekae – Test And Recognise (HWLS Remix)
CyHi The Prynce, who’s aligned with Kanye West‘s GOOD Music, rapped over your beats for Hero. How did you spin into his orbit?
TK: I’m not sure how that happened, to be honest. I think I had a guy who listened to my music [and who] was playing it in the studio at the time when they were writing the Royal Flush mixtape – so it’s crazy how these things work. Working with MCs hasn’t always been the first and forefront of what I do, but I’m always willing to do it, for sure. [But] I think I like making my own music.
M-Phazes has shown that you can be an Australian-based beatmaker and tout tracks to big US hip-hoppers – but it doesn’t sound like that’s an aspiration for you?
TK: No, I kinda like instrumental hip-hop. I still love hip-hop music, but I find that, when you go through that route, it doesn’t become your song any more – you produce it, but… I’m pretty possessive, I think [laughs]
Are there any acts at Listen Out you’re looking forward to seeing?
TK: I think Four Tet is someone I’d really like to see – I’ve only seen a bit of his set and I’d like to watch it in its entirety. So, yeah, definitely Four Tet – plus I’ve been listening to him forever.
Do you have anything else coming up?
TK: Just keep an eye out for the next EP, Songs To Make Up To, which will lead up to the album – so no real date for that yet, but just keep an eye out.
Ta-Ku will play as a part of the Listen Out 2014 festival lineup, which kicks off on Saturday, 27th September at Sydney’s Centennial Park.
Listen: Disclosure – Help Me Lose My Mind (Ta-ku Bootleg)