Investing in Ta-ku is a safe bet. The Perth, Australia-based producer—also known as Regan Matthews—has a rare level of quality and consistency. If Ta-ku ever starts selling shares we're calling a stock broker immediately, but until then we'll be checking his social media accounts for music updates and news instead.
It's been an eventful month for Ta-ku. The arrival of his new Songs To Make Up To EP (which you can stream in-full below) comes on the heels of giving a talk at TEDxSydney, after the producer spent time in Canada working on his Team Cozy and Create & Explore projects, and filmed a documentary in his local barbershop, Westons. Ta-ku is always on the move, but he's also a generous soul who shares his wisdom. Here's Ta-ku's guide to the business of making meaningful music and forging a satisfying creative career.
1. Do what you love.
When I first started making music I wasn't business-minded but I knew I wanted to do a lot when I was young, and even now there's so much I want to achieve. But I think the difference between myself and some others, I never start an idea with the idea to monetize it, or to see it become anything in particular. I'm doing something rather just because it's something I want to do, I'm passionate about it and and want to immerse myself in it. And if that were to be a tip, I'd say that would be the most important one for me. Do the things that you're passionate about then things will follow.
2. Patience and persistence.
Music for me in the beginning was just a hobby. I had a full-time job. I was working at Medibank Private [health insurance company], going to school, going to uni and dropping out two weeks afterwards, finding my way. Throughout that whole time I was getting into music, learning how to DJ, learning about collecting records, and samples to be used. It was just a nice organic flow for me. Like most things opportunities lead to more opportunities, it starts snowballing. The turning point for me was being accepted in the Red Bull Music Academy. A guy from Perth radio station RTR, Ben Taff, he was the one who told me about it. When I applied I was only messing around, nothing serious. But when I submitted my application, and I heard back I was accepted I was bugging out. Even then I didn't quit my job, I stayed there for five years while I worked things out musically, but still, it gave me drive.
3. Learn a little and practice each day.
When I did 50 Days for Dilla it was to see if I could make a beat a day. I was really inspired by J Dilla at the time; he was the main person I was listening to and he was a person that once I would listen to any of his beats it would gee me up, excite me so much that I'd just have to make one myself. And doing something like that was a huge learning process for me, and having people follow me along the way. Then I started going into remix work—that's just another form of sampling really. You got the stems to work with. And that's when I started dabbling in future bass music and then I went into trap, and then I went to Jersey, and then kind of stripped it all back again and went into more of a hip-hop kind of vibe with Songs to Break Up To.
So it definitely has been me just experimenting along the way. I've been blessed to be able to do that and people still listen, 'cause they could very easily switch off and say "this guy's confused." It's nice to experiment and see what you're capable of, and that's what I've tried to do the most in my musical career.
4. Embrace the fear and share your emotions.
There's a book I'm reading, called the Art Of Fear by David Bales. It touches upon how scary it is to make art, because it is quite a scary process to kind of conceptualize your thoughts into this tangible product. And it's an even braver act to put it out there on show for people to criticise. But I feel if it's not put out to the public it's a shame to me that it can't be shared. You're not going to please everyone, but for the people who do appreciate it, the joy you can share with them, it's worth it.
The new EP Songs to Make Up to, it's the companion piece for Songs to Break Up To. A lot of people think it's about getting back with the lover that you lost or the person you broke up with, or falling in love again. Of course if you're fortunate enough to find love again, or perhaps mend any broken relationship you had in the past, I think that's great. But the main motivation for Songs to Make Up To is really finding yourself, as corny as it sounds. I found that after having my heart broken the best medicine for me was writing music and finding myself, and being ok by myself, and with myself. You do lose a lot of time and energy after having your heart broken. It seems like there's a big period in your life where it seems stagnant, and you can't force yourself or push yourself to do anything. Even get out of bed sometimes. And to me I feel like it's such a shame because it really is a mental state. Obviously in our heart we feel things, but it all comes from how we think and how we view things. So, Songs To Make Up To really is about being hopeful about just being ok again and getting on with life and making up for lost time.
5. Collaborate creatively
I'm a strong believer in collaborating creatively and connecting the dots with everything I do. I feel like the art of collaboration is more than the actual act; it's kind of developing attitudes about collaboration which help you really tie in everything you do. There might be so many aspects of your life that you can kind of tie in together if you really think about it and execute it properly. It's also collaborating with people that you like. Obviously in business you are always going to have relationships with people who might rub you up the wrong way. I find with all my businesses, the foundation is with people that I get along with and that I trust and people that I can talk about how their family is, or how their weekend was. It just makes it a lot more organic, and feel more natural to me.
6. Know your audience.
Connecting with your audience and knowing them is really important. With every single outlet that I have I'm really just appealing to other mes in the market: people who like what I like, and people who think similar to me. Connecting with them, knowing what they like and don't like is really important.
Songs To Make Up To is out now through Future Classic.