By Eric Isom
Beat-maker Reggie Matthews, better known as Ta-ku, is ready to showcase all of his talents to the world. It’s been a long time coming: he rose to prominence out of Perth, Australia, a self-taught producer did it all while balancing a number of other passions: he’s a, photographer, visual artist, and owns a barbershop in his hometown.
Ta-ku started as many young producers do, working a day job while crafting remixes and building buzz on SoundCloud in his spare time. He went through the familiar growing pains, too—there were songs taken down, endless collaborations from all over the world (most recently with Wafia), and slowly, surely, a sound, brand, and fan base all his own. He’s the blueprint for internet success.
Ta-ku came to New York last week for his first sold-out live show, performing with a four-piece band at MoMA PS1 in Queens. We caught up with him after the concert, which exceeded all expectations: besides the live band, the Australian beatsmith brought out surprise guests and filled the space with projections that were tailored to his online community, who had come out in force.
It was a new experience for Ta-ku and his fans, and a confirmation that building yourself up online can translate into real world success.
Check out Ta-ku’s latest release (Songs To Make Up To) here, and get to know the man himself below.
How was your first live NYC show?
I’ve DJ’d here a couple times, but this was my first live show in that format, with a band and everything. It was dope, I’d rather do stuff like that than do a DJ set every week. Things that make an impact and are a little more special. It was dope.
Do you feel that way because music is still one of your many hobbies?
Music is important, and I am a signed artist to Future Classic so the are obligations still there. It’s very much still work in essence to me, I just don’t want it to become a burden or to become something that wears me out. I just want it to be something that inspires me all of the time. Just making sure that I don’t overdo it helps me stay inspired.
I know hip-hop was a big influence on you making music at the beginning, does it still influence you today?
I think it’s influential now for sure, but not like it used to. I think hip-hop will always have a place in music, I just come from the ’94-’98 era, that was most influential for me—Nas, ATCQ, Native Tongues, all those guys influenced me and still do today.
How do you feel about SoundCloud and its current state? Some people feel like the site isn’t acknowledging the little guys anymore.
I think that’s a bit unfair—what you need to remember is that SoundCloud has always been and is still here for the little guys. What you have to understand about the music business is that if you want to sample, if you want to upload someone else’s music, you gotta remember that it is someone else’s music. If someone uploaded or used a sample of mine, I wouldn’t really necessarily care too much, but credit—and making sure you give it to the artist—is important.
Young SoundClouders just have to know that music is property. When you make a piece of music, that’s yours. It’s very personal, so you just gotta think in that aspect. There are big artists that are signed to labels that don’t like their music sampled or uploaded by people other than themselves and their labels. You have to respect that.
Young SoundClouders just have to know that music is property.
SoundCloud’s always there for you to upload your music, for free. Build an audience, for free. So I get a little weird when people want to turn their backs on SoundCloud. You just have to think of the bigger picture, give some and lose some.
What’s your take on remix culture and how it seems like whenever there’s a new hot single, there are 400 remixes posted right after?
I did it, and I’ve had stuff taken down, and that’s how it goes. I’m not gonna kick up a fuss about it. But I think it’s cool that a song can inspire a bunch of people to remix it. They should embrace that, but maybe they could make some remixes and not always put them out, keep them for personal use and experimentation.
Could you speak on that experience a little more, and your personal history with the internet?
Yeah, it’s become the main way to connect. Definitely. For me it’s almost like the process of when friends find women on the internet: hit them with a follow, make sure they follow you back, hit them with a DM, get their number in the DM and then it starts from there. Then you meet them.
That’s how I meet a lot of creatives, from Steve Sweatpants (Irby) to musical artists like Ty Dolla $ign. We followed each other on Twitter, make sure we both knew each other and got each other’s numbers through the DM.
You wouldn’t be able to do that five or even ten years ago, you know? You’d have to reach out to labels. The internet makes it so much easier to get in touch with one another.
Can you talk about the process of making Songs to Make Up/Break Up To?
It was the same process for both. For Songs to Break Up To, I experienced heartbreak. I had to build myself up, heal myself. That’s what it was, writing about my experiences.
For Songs to Make Up To, it was learning how to get back into the swing of things, and loving again. Being okay with myself. So all of that music I wrote for both was me putting my feelings on a record.
Tell us about how important Red Bull Music Academy was for you.
I think the Red Bull Music Academy, for me, was where I solidified the idea that maybe I could make something of myself in the music world. It was nice because I never really knew before then, I was still unsure about my musical ability back then. Doing something like that just gave me the extra confidence to try and make something out of this. Aside from that, it was just an awesome experience to meet other musicians and creatives at different levels.
I saw you were fan of Lido. Have you gotten to link up with him this trip? Do you plan on collaborating with anyone else soon?
I can’t this time, haven’t really had much time to myself. Definitely hope to see Lido, especially if he comes to my hometown.
As far as collaborations, not yet. I recently started singing on my own music and I really want to explore that option more and make an album where perhaps it’s just me. I don’t know yet, I’m kind of in the early stages of writing the album and I’m yet to know what I want it to sound like or what I want it to even be.
I was just going to ask about the singing in this performance. Is it something you’re looking to do more of?
For sure. I’ve always wanted to sing on my own songs and I think the album will be some of that, not all of it, but it will be some of that. But yeah I’m looking forward to see what else is there.
Did you sing before you started producing?
It came afterwards. I always listened to a lot of soul, and neo-soul, folk even. I’ve always admired singers because I feel like they’re instruments themselves. Plus I’ve always sung in the shower or the car so you know, it’s a natural progression!
So what’s next for Ta-ku?
There’s a lot of stuff that I’ve been doing lately. I’m working on the early stages of an album, but I think at the moment I’m trying to extend myself and experiment a bit more in the visual field. Maybe gallery events, brand direction, things like that. That kind of stuff interests me too. Photography led me into that kind of world and I want to explore it, as well as do music, of course.
That reminds me, before we head out, how’s the barbershop?
The barbershop is going well. It’s one of those businesses that kind of ticks along without you having to be there all the time. It’s definitely a place where I can go and work, but also get my haircut.
Check out Ta-ku’s latest release, Songs To Make Up To, on iTunes