Tuka recently dropped his third solo album, Life Death Time Eternal, which debut at number six on the Aria charts! Farley caught up with the busy man Tuka before he heads off to tour Europe with the Hilltop Hoods this week.
Hey Tuka! Things must be hectic for you at the moment, your album debut at #6 on the ARIA charts, you must be stoked!
Yeah totally stoked with that result, I don’t think my other two solo album even cracked top 50, so pretty stoked for sure.
Life Death Time Eternal was only released on the weekend and has already had a massive response, you seem so busy! It’s hard to believe you had enough time to make a solo album with all the touring you did with Thundamentals recently. How long did it take you to make this album?
That’s it hey, at least half the time I was making the album I was on the road, so it was a full time thing. It was pretty much music seven days a week since probably the start of December, even earlier really. I didn’t have a lot of time for anything other than music, pretty much.
Well after dropping the Thundamentals album last year, all the touring with them, your own solo album, Splendour, now you’ve got your own tour coming up right?
This week we go to Europe with the Hoods and do a month over there. Then I get back and i get a month or two off pretty much to prepare for my own tour.
So are you sick of touring yet or does it still excite you?
It’s like you’re rushing everywhere really quickly to wait at every place.
I guess you wouldn’t actually get to much of the places you go if you’re always flying in and flying out?
Now because I’ve done so many laps, I’ve become a bit more comfortable with the navigation of a city and that kind of thing. Like I’m pretty good in Melbourne and Peth and Brisbane now, so I can kind of find my way around. But for the most part you’re always trying to conserve energy for the 40 minutes or hour that you’re on stage, so it’s like if I’m going to meet a mate in a different city that I haven’t seen in ages, I really have to carve time out for it. It’s crazy, you feel like you’re working when you’re sleeping. The DJ from Thundamentals I reckon puts it classically, he says, “We get paid to have not too much fun’
Wow, that’s big. So you don’t get much time off this year?
Well the funny thing is, I’ve worked really hard, and I feel really blessed to be in a situation where, well my entertainment is song writing so, when I’m at home relaxing, that involves song writing. So its kind of productive in a sense. That’s how I’ve been able to make it work I think.
Well everyone is sort of chasing that dream job or career where they can do something that they love. A lot of musicians dream of having the opportunity to actually get paid to play their music, so you must be really happy with that.
Yeah, that’s what I mean, pretty much every album until ‘So You Can Remember’, I was a teacher at Tafe
during the week.
Wow, what were you teaching?
I taught like a Pathways to Employment course.
Oh yeah, must be much cooler to be doing what your doing now?
Well I think it was invaluable doing that. It was for disadvantaged minority groups, so like, people just out of jail, or kids about to go to juvenile detention, or kids with high anxiety and stuff. So I was touring on the weekends and making music on the weekends. And you know, you get a certain amount of praise I suppose, from your peers and people that come to the show on the weekends, but then when I’m in a classroom its quite humbling, because these guys don’t really care about Aussie hip hop, you know what I mean. They’ve got real life problems that they’re trying to address before they can really enjoy themselves. So it was a really good growing experience and I’m glad it happened like that.
I noticed you even got a little video sent to you from the Wiggles to say Happy Album Release Day! I mean the Wiggles are only one of the biggest names on the planet, must feel surreal to get love from The Wiggles.
That’s it, it was totally surreal! Haha. Oh my god. I think more than anything I’ve ever done, I’ve had more people comment that you’ve made it after the Wiggles.
The Wiggles know who you are!!
They’re almost like Nirvana or something.
Speaking of Nirvana… I’m assuming your a chilled kind of guy.. I’ve heard you say that your song ‘Nirvana’ is about finding a balance between positive and negative, zen-ing out and nothingness.. Its nice to see a some peace and love in the hip hop scene!
I suppose that’s what hip hop’s main message is about, or that’s one of the main themes that it started with.. I don’t know if Nirvana is really hip hop, more of a folk tune. It actually came from a space of getting over depression and anxiety and thinking back on it down the line and trying to write a song that could be a tool for someone that might be in a high stress situation and hopefully the universe throws that song on and chills them out. It was like an experiment more than anything.
And have you had a good response to it?
Yeah, it hasn’t been a smash hit, but the thing about it is I suppose its a pretty positive song, so not many people knock it. And then every now and then I get, especially when I released it, there were quite a few people who would reach out and talk about it in the way that I intended it to be used. Obviously a lot of people like wouldn’t connect to that song; its kind of niche-y and weird and quirky as hell, you know. So it was just kind of cool to get my toes in a different pond and a different genre for that one.
You have done that a bit with this album, like ‘Yeah Right’ is different again, that’s totally at the other end of the spectrum, so I’ve noticed you’ve been experimenting a bit there.
You kind of hit the nail on the head. The whole album is about duality, I didn’t want to spell it out, like call the album Ying and Yang or whatever. I tried to do it with my actions with how I rolled out the campaign. I put out ‘Nirvana’ which is one end of the scale of the album, then I thought I’ll try to reflect that in the duality, as hard a duality as I can, you know, the opposite, and show people the whole spectrum from the start. And hopefully people would fill in the blanks of what’s going on inside this album, as these two are so different. But I feel like if you listen to the whole thing it kind of makes sense, even though there is so many genres in there.
Have you got a favourite track on the album?
Yeah well if I was left to my own devices I think I would write a whole album of songs like ‘Yeah Right’ and “Don’t Wait Up’ and ‘Down For Whatever’.
They are definitely really fun, more bouncy sort of songs, I was definitely boppin while I was listening to them.
Thank you! I suppose that’s the direction I want to go in. The thing is with an album, sometimes you write songs that like I connect with them, but I wouldn’t listen to them in my own time. They just come out of you. And I just like honour that like, oh well this idea came from me, it might not be my favourite or the best or whatever, but it still comes from you, I still like the idea, even thought I might not like it musically, I’ll still ride it out, keeps it interesting.
Well sometimes even things you don’t like will appeal to someone else.
Yes, hopefully! I guess that’s the risk you run when you’re throwing out new ideas and different kinds of songs, you just hope you don’t loose people who have been following you from the start. But you also connect with people you never would have before. I suppose ‘My Star’ is and example of that, and ‘Nirvana’ as well. They just kind of came out, there wasn’t any pre conceived intention, they just kind of flew out of me. Whereas ‘Yeah Right’ and ‘Don’t Wait Up’ were songs that I knew I wanted those kind of songs on my record.
People often think its a really glamorous job but I guess there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that isn’t so glamorous.
Yeah, the thing is there is pros and cons and people don’t really see the cons unless you make a documentary about it, no one will know. You don’t generally shine all your failings onto the media, so deep down it just has to be a passion based thing, if you love photography or you love making music, that’s the pro. The pro is its creative and hopefully it inspires other people so you’re going to get shine off that. But generally people don’t make a note of their failings and they don’t really see that he was a mess on that leg of the tour or no one came to this bunch of shows, you know what I mean.
Even if two people come to the show, that hasn’t happened to me in a while, but every so often it does, you have a weird gig or shit goes pear shaped, and you know those two people that paid, well you cant blame them!! The only ones that have faith in you, I really honour that. I treat it exactly the same if not I would cater to it a bit more so when they do walk out they’re saying “They’re a really good band”, and then they say no one was there.
Well I don’t think you will have that problem, I covered Brisbane Thundamentals gig at The Zoo and you guys had to put on a second show because you sold out!
Yeah, it hasn’t always been like that.
Well the place was packed!
We love Brisbane. From probably our first record we’ve always had people come. Outside Sydney they’re our biggest shows, until we dropped ‘Brother’ really. Everything changed after we dropped ‘Brother’.
That was a big moment for you guys. When that song came on at the gig the room just stopped.
It was crazy. We fully didn’t see that at all. We were honoured that they asked us to do Like A Version. We wanted to do something for it and we just thought we’d be like, yeah cool we’ve done Like A Version now, but it really just changed everything for us.
Some amazing stuff comes out of Triple J’s Like A Version, but yours is definitely one of the more memorable ones.
Its funny how different bands kind of get cracked. And that was ours.
I saw you got a little feature in Rolling Stone!!! You’re on fire! Everyone wants to be in Rolling Stone! Is that a proud piece on your fridge right now?
Yeah it’s rad. They did review my first solo album as well, like years and years ago. So I have been in there before. But they are an iconic kind of heavy weight in peoples minds, like people really value that magazine. Cool flicking through it because Hermitude and Seth Sentry were in it. Like Tude I’ve pretty much grown up with in the mountains and Seth I’ve done a tour with, its quite surreal.
You know my friend Ariadne, she said you knows you from her free styling and battling days.
We were in a collective called ‘Outspoken’, it was in Glebe and it was run by the cat called Bravo. And we’d meet there every Saturday morning and pretty much just freestyle in this hall and people would turn up. Sometimes you’d get this really weird cross, it was open to the public, so we had some one who really like heavy metal who’d come in and try rapping. Then we got a women’s group in there. A group of strippers came in once. I met Ariadne because she and I were both regulars that always went. And that eventually built into some core members that went on to battle heaps. But I never really battled, I was always entertaining in free styling but my head was always in writing songs rather than battling for some reason. I really enjoy watching it and I get it, but I was always drawn to writing albums.
Thanks for the chat Tuka, catch up with you again soon!