An Interview With Tu-Ki

The new issue of Lookleft has hit the shelves across Ireland this week. Here is an interview with Tu-Ki from the previous issue. Lookleft is available in every Easons north / south & other selected retailers.

Tu-Ki (aka Aidan Taggart) has a pretty formidable reputation as a DJ and his achievements as a turntablist speak for themselves. He’s a four time Irish DMC champion and winner of the 2007 Molvida World Mixing Championships. Taking time out from his busy schedule he spoke with Lookleft.

Although DJing for about 12 years, the Dublin of his youth was a different place to now. DJing, turntables and hip hop were not a major part of Irish teenage life. “I was always jealous of my American counterparts, who seemed to grow up with turntables all around them. Hip hop was something that existed across the water and on my Walkman. “

Tu-Ki began DJing at the age 19 or 20 which is quite old to begin learning a new musical instrument from scratch. In his own words he “sort of fell into it” after stumbling on hip-hop and falling in love with it, he immersed himself in the music. “I got a job when I was in 5th year and started buying records from Abbey Discs. I guess in the back of my mind I wanted to be more involved in this music I loved.”

He had no lofty ambitions and on borrowing a friend’s decks he started messing around before buying his first set of Techniques but “initially there was no reference point for what I was doing until I got a DMC video. When I saw it, I was like, so this was it’s all about. It was much more visual to the house or techno DJs I saw in clubs and it appealed to me from the off.”

Sometime later he entered his first competition in London, “for the fun of it”, he ended up coming second. This was a big moment and he fondly recalls what it meant, “To go along and meet ten other people who were doing the same thing was a big deal, it showed me it did exist outside my bedroom. I started getting booked for shows after this. There was no grand plan; I guess I was lucky in some respects.”

Today the ‘DJ scene’, so to speak, appears to be a healthy one. While also teaching a one year DJ course in Bray he sees plenty of interest from people wishing to learn. When he started out “two turntables and a mixer was a standard”, even though things are a little different now, if “the young kids hear a guy plays vinyl they are definitely more interested”.

As with other areas of our lives digital technology and laptops are common place. The debate around whether it devalues the art form of DJing isn’t one he usually gets involved in. “I use some digital stuff like Serato but I guess it does. It’s a tricky one to draw a conclusion on. You are either a selector or a DJ. DJing relates to the art form, it’s about devolving a set, learning how to mix tracks, read the crowd. There is a technical aspect too, knowing how to mix beats, blend bass-lines and scratching.” Adding, “It is kind of two different worlds but you can go and see a great selector and have the best night of your life.”

The big difference for him is feeling the music, being in the mix rather than looking at it on a screen, “It’s much more pleasurable to be using tools, like playing a piano on a computer than actually playing with your hands. Vinyl just feels better to me.”

Recently Tu-Ki took the opportunity to release his own mixes, something he always wanted to do but had eluded him while doing clubs and DJ battles. Two years ago he released Pre: Seed, a labour of love, “I needed to put a stamp on the last 10 years of DJing and an ode to the mixtapes I grew up with”

His latest mix ‘Just A Ride’ is equally impressive. It is “what I’ve been doing since then, what I’ve been playing in clubs and spent ages in my gaf mixing. I think it’s a slightly unique mix because I kind of have my own style I guess.” It is a joy for him to be able to share music with people like this, adding “it’s not about ego; it’s a great thing to do, putting music together for people, giving them deadly music they might not have heard. It’s great to hear feedback from people saying they enjoyed it or they never heard this song or that song before. It gives complete license to play whatever you want, which you might not normally get to do at a festival or a club.”

You can download both Pre: Seed and Just A Ride below.

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