Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Interview With Tigerstyle Part 1

Tigerstyle are two brothers from Glasgow who have been making music since the late nineties. They have set up their own record label, recorded a live session for John Peel and even had their song featured on Britain's Got Talent. I caught up with them during the shoot for the Boss video to talk about their new album Digi-Bhang.

How did Digi-Bhang come about?
Raj:Digi-Bhang’s come out of people saying to us that you guys don’t seem to be just like the typical bhangra producers. The sound that you make doesn’t seem to fit the bhangra mould. So maybe the sound that you are coming through with needs to have a different name. Not bhangra it needs to be something else. So Digi-Bhang is an amalgamation of a couple of words. Its taking the concept of digital and electronic music and fusing that with bhangra and we’ve tried to play with a few different words and come up with a few different ideas and "Digi-Bhang" was the most resonant with us.

Pops:We have been trying to evolve the sound that we make. We’ve looked at the other music genres that are from niche backgrounds but can be blended well with bhangra. Like dubstep, electronic dance music, moombaton. The type of sounds that we’ve used are all borrowing ideas and blending them with the Punjabi bhangra music that we make. As a music form, bhangra has its own place in the world. It evolved out of Punjabi folk music to be a British sound but lately we feel that it’s become a copycat sound rather than being something exciting like in the late 80s and early 90s. Each artist or band had a different sound. When the DJs and producers came along, they were creating a sound which was signature to them alone. When you heard a Panjabi MC track or a Bally Sagoo track you knew straight away it was them. That’s the type of artist we have been following and that we have grown up listening to. To be a bhangra artist, to be a  British bhangra artist, we feel that we need to be making a unique sound that represents who we are. It as much British as it is Punjabi.

What was the reason to hand out remixes?
P:The coverage that we were getting from various other websites and DJs. It just clicked that there must be other people that are not from a bhangra background who are not Punjabi people. They don’t go out and DJ to Asian people but they still want to play our sound so it was a risk that we took. It gives us a lot more material to play with. We want our DJ set to be exciting. A lot of the music that is coming out in the scene just sounds the same. It doesn’t excite us enough to want to play that material in our set. If we have tracks of ours that have been remixed in particular genres or styles that we are fond of, then it becomes really exciting for us.

Was there a particular remix that surprised you?

R:For me the WAFA mix of Ay-Ha was really out there and it’s amazing to hear. He hadn’t taken many elements from the song, he’d been inspired by what was there and created something completely fresh, but had the Ay-Ha! shouts and little elements in there that referred back to our track. We follow the producers that have worked on our stuff and it’s exciting for us to hear what they’ve done with it. When we send out the remix parts to these producers we are always checking our emails waiting for someone to send us something because we are that excited about it. 

P:G-ta’s remix of Kudi is so intense. It didn’t have any vocals on it, it was mean. But it had these little elements of what we had put into into Kudi that he had played off and made his own sound.

You’re known for remixing other people’s music. What was it like having your music remixed?
R:It gives us a chance to experience what it must be like for people that are approaching us for remixes. It lets us see things from the other side. It’s interesting for us as musicians to see what other producers would do with something that we've done. There are a million ways to approach a song. When we did Ay-Ha! there was the synth line that a lot of the producers just liked and they played off that rather than anything else in the song. When we approach a song a lot of the production comes from the vocal so we’ll hear the vocal think about what would work with that particular vocal in that raag or in that structure. Whereas these producers aren’t really hearing the vocal they are more interested about what we've done with it, finding the catchy part and making something new out of it.

The album is very bass driven. There are no slower songs where you can have a break. Why did you leave them out?

P:It wasn’t a conscious decision to leave the slower ones out this time, we’ve just gone for bangers. We’ve gone for less tracks but the tracks needed to bang. The last album had 17 tracks and there were some nice slow songs on there but we felt from the amount of effort and ideas that had gone into the last album wasn’t really appreciated because we’d only done one video for Balle Shave. There were tracks that got picked up by the radio stations but the slower songs just got missed out. This time we approached the album differently. We weren’t looking to create an album of x amount of tracks. We were working on single tracks one after the other so every track had the same amount of passion and effort. Every track for us is a single. It’s a dance floor orientated album because we are DJs and we are a production outfit so we want to play the songs we make. With the last album they were good tracks but they weren’t hitting on the dance floor. You can’t do it with sad songs. With this album every single track on it you can go out and play. So it might give you a headache, hopefully in a good way!

What do you think you’ve learnt between Mystics Martyrs and Maharajas and Digi-Bhang?
R:I think we’ve learnt  how to be a bit more free. Just doing what we want to do and not thinking too much about our core market or where our music fits in. Just let the music do what its doing.

P:When we were working on Mystics we wanted to put together an album that had all these different ideas and artists from all the genres that we like. The goal was to release it and maybe one or two of the tracks would go further than the bhangra scene. That didn’t really happen. It happened with Balle Shave but it didn’t really go the way we’d expected. Sometimes when you work with too many artists it drags out the process. It took so long to get certain labels or artists that by the time the album came out it lost momentum. Whereas now we are completely independent. The remix artists are as hungry as us to get there music out there. It’s a quicker, more direct process and we are not having to go through a record label. We are able to quickly choose what singles we want to do, what remix artists we want to work with what video we want to do and just go ahead with it. 

From the three singles you’ve made so far there has been a lot of speculation about what Digi-Bhang is going to be like. What do you think the reaction is going to be?

R:We are defiantly going to get the typical reaction from the traditionalist fans: you haven't put enough tumbi, dhol and traditional elements in there, we want that Dhol Vajda Tigerstyle sound. But that was us 12,13 years ago. That’s not us now, we’re more mature in our music choice and our own production. When we want to do dhol tracks we’ll do dhol tracks but right now that’s not us. If those fans want to listen to dhol tracks, there’s a million and one producers making dhol tracks. But there’s not a million producers making Tigerstyle Digi-Bhang flavoured music. I think we’re defiantly going to get the really positive reaction that we are looking for as well. I know there’s a lot of people out there that love bhangra but hate whats going on in the scene and are hungry for that music that’s different and is cool. It’s not uncle music. It’s music for us and it represents us.

P:I don’t think people, some of the regular bhangra fans will appreciate the production level. They won’t understand a lot of the sounds are actually sounds that have been created. It’s not as easy as sticking on a keyboard and playing something.

R:Taking a tone that’s a sign wave and merging it with a square wave and then adding in something else over here like a triangular wave and then manipulating that with a LFO. Then adding an envelope on it to open up a particular filter here and there. Its a lot more complicated than turning on a synth thinking oh that’s a nice bass patch I’ll just use that preset. There is not a single sound on there that’s a generic preset. Every single sound that’s been used has been a preset that’s been edited so it actually sounds nothing like what it is directly out of the synth or it’s a sound that’s been created from nothing but just waves.

Read part 2 of the interview here

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