Sunday, 17 November 2013

SWOLLEN: Our interview with the superb Tiki Black!


What was your first musical memory and what pushed you towards pursuing a career in the record industry?
"My gran singing her favourite song. It was soulful, heartfelt and true to her. I wanted to make others feel the way I felt when she sang."
Had you been involved with any other bands prior to becoming a solo artist as Tiki Black?
"Nope. I didn't grow up associating making music with playing in a band. All I knew is that if I wanted to make music, I needed to have something useful to say that I had not heard before, write the songs and sing them. Then I also realised I had to play them."
Why did you choose to become a solo artist instead of forming a band?
"I don't think I purposely chose to become a solo artist. It is just the way I am: when I need something, I work to get it. I don't have the reflex to ask someone else."
How would you describe the sound of Tiki Black?
"Minimalist, live acoustic with multi-cultural accents, hoping to be universal."
You were raised in France and Cameroon and currently reside in Manchester. Would you say your surroundings influence your music and if so, how?
"Definitely. I always knew I had to live in England. There is something in the air here that is good for expressing the type of songs I wanted to write. I am thankful for the seeds that Cameroon and France have planted especially since Douala (the Cameroonian city I come from) is a port of multi-cultural inspiration and Paris (my birth town) is such an international and open music platform. I believe though that England had the most rain to water those seeds properly!"
In 2009, your song ‘Swollen’ was a finalist in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. How did it feel to get this recognition?
"I am not sure I understand what it truly means and that may be the reason I never really acted on it. All I wanted was to have my name in the same sentence as John Lennon considering that I was not lucky enough to meet, talk or sing with him."
What is this song about and what influenced it?
"I spent most of my life observing, listening and following the expected path. That and my unfulfilled dreams were enough to swell me up. I suppose it is a necessary state before any release, album or otherwise. I wrote 'Swollen' when my feet (then my hands) puffed up and made it a nightmare for me to walk (I had a walking stick for a year) as if they refuse to take me further down the path I was on. 'Swollen' was the first song I wrote and reminded me that songwriting and performing were my 'raison d'être'."
Your debut album will be called ‘Out of the Black’. Why did you choose this title for your album?
"I wanted to summarise the album theme with a positive title. A friend (fellow singer-songwriter and radio presenter-producer Geli) and I brainstormed and came up with 'Out of the Black' which I thought fitted perfectly and I liked the pun with my surname."
What can fans be expecting from the album?
"A musical space to breathe for 69 minutes and eleven seconds...and a virtual hug!"
Do you have any 'rituals' before going on stage?
"Yes, panic! Then set up my piano and mic pretending to be completely in control."
Any live dates coming up?
"Just did Oxjam and the 'Out Of The Black' album launch so I am having a bit of a rest before I tour to promote the album a bit wider. Dates are being arranged for next year in London, Paris and New York. In the meantime, I will be doing Chester in November and I hope to continue to do the North West as per usual! All dates are on my website."
Any new songs in the pipeline?
"A few. I have started writing my second album since releasing the first one was a bit of an un-blocker for my creative flow. I am actually finishing the title track of my next album but I cannot tell you the title without feeling like it will steal the thunder of this one!"
When can fans be expecting the next release?
"Wow, I have only just released this one and I planned to take the time required to promote it. I do hope the next one comes out in 2015 with maybe a single by the end of 2014..."
Who would be your dream collaboration?
"Someone I can make musical love to on stage... Gary Barlow?"
Who would be in your dream super group?
"It depends on the songs. I wouldn't want every song to have the same instruments just because everyone in the group has to play. There is this song that I co-wrote in 2012 and I always imagined that the song will be at its best with the gentle, expert touches of Boo Hewerdine on the guitar and arrangements (he co-wrote the song); Karine Polwart on vocals (I wish she had done some of the songwriting just because I love the way she writes); John Ellis on piano (I worked with him on the 'Out Of The Black' album and he is amazing); Taffetas on strings (Ibrahima Galissa on kora, Marc Liebeskind on sit-guitar and Christophe Erard on double bass - Marc will no doubt forgive me if I replace him with Anoushka Shankar on sitar); Sidiki Dembele on drums and Baba Galle on flute. I have not picked anyone for cello yet, too many choices."
Favourite Beatle?
"John Lennon."
Favourite band?
Favourite new band?
"At the moment, it is between Lily and Madeleine (especially the song Back To The River) and Little Rach (every song especially a lovely cover of Olivia's Newton John's You're The One That I Want")."
Favourite song?
 "Please don't make me choose. Anyway, it changes all the time. At various times it has been, Sankanda (Lambarena), Redemption Song (Marley), Etude In E Minor Op 28 N 4 (Chopin), ninety per cent of Brassens' repertoire, Wind Cries Mary (Hendrix), Marie (Groenemeyer), Show Must Go On (Queen), Myobe Masu (Lotin), Alive (Dingding), You Must Learn (Charles Aznavour), Gaspard (Moustaki), It Ain't Me (Dylan) and I am only stopping for effect!"   
Favourite album?
"A mixtape of my favourite songs, a small subset of which are above."
Vinyl, CD or download?
Style icon?
"My gran. I love the fact that she sewed her own clothes and thereby could define her own style. She was extremely stylish but I will settle for comfortable and classic, concepts that seem to vary in interpretations."
Favourite clothing brand?
"My knowledge of brands is not worth mentioning."
Favourite film?
"Not been invented yet. But there is a good chance it will be an animated period drama with martial arts and people breaking out from time to time into songs and Bollywood-meet-Hollywood style dance."
Favourite TV show?
"I don't have a TV...but I suppose I love murder mysteries, specifically Sherlock, Jonathan Creek or Monk."
Who would play you in a film of your life?
"A film of my life! Don't be silly!"
Favourite food?
"...has three essential elements to it: braised fish (preferably salmon or sole but definitely not tuna), chips (freshly peeled and fried in goose fat) or miondo (fermented cassava wrapped in leaves) and leaves stew (spinach or bitter leaves)." 
Football team?
"You're not getting me involved!"
Hope you enjoyed this feature on Tiki Black! Check out our previous feature on Red Sails!
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