Perth’s own Ta-ku is a true polymath. He’s most widely recognised for his contributions to music, including last years sweetly melancholic EP – Songs To Break Up To. But a lot of people overlook the fact that he’s also an accomplished photographer, a devotee of style, a barber-in-training, and is soon to be a restaurateur. A tireless work ethic coupled with a relentless passion for perfection underpin his every endeavour. In fact, Ta-ku shot and styled the photos and videos for this story himself. We caught the rising-star as he was about to the head to the airport for a creative sojourn in Europe, and tried to unwrap just how he goes about doing it all.
You’re jumping on a flight later today right? Where are you heading?
I’m heading to Paris. I’m going to France for about two weeks, and meeting up with a few people over there.
Your musical output doesn’t seem tied to a place, is that a reflection of that travel habit?
It’s definitely a global perspective. This year has been a bit quiet musically, but that’s allowed me to expand to other creative fields. I’m getting the itch to write more music again, which has come at a good time. I’ve just finished my next EP and I’ve got an album to write as well.
Have you always been looking for influences outside of Australia?
I never really travelled as a kid, but as soon as I started to make my own income it’s something that I always tried to do. Perth is really small, it’s great, but maybe it’s not the most culturally happening place in the world. You really have to go and find that yourself, or try and get perspective from other places. It’s always a good base to come back to though.
For a lot of people, not having access to that culture growing up can actually instill an urge to go and find it later in life. Is that true for you?
Definitely, I think you find that in a lot of places like Perth there’s always going to be a couple of creatives or acts who are on the same level. Being somewhere a bit more isolated will give you a bit more drive or hustle than others, I think.
What are you working on at the moment?
Just wrapping up Songs To Make Up To, the follow up to Songs To Break Up To. And working on an album that’ll be out next year hopefully, which is my first attempt at a full-length actual album. I’ve always messed around with beat-tapes and remixes, I’ve never really sat down and tried to make a cohesive album.
Would it be a concept album in the same sense that Songs To Break Up To was, with a strong narrative?
I definitely wanted to do a three part series, Songs To Break Up To and Songs To Make Up To definitely tell a story – and I’d like this LP to continue it. Just so if you ever wanted to sit down and listen to all three in succession, you could do so, and then you could find the emotional connection between the three.
You’re also doing a lot of stuff with HWLS as well at the moment, right?
Yeah, HWLS has its own legs now. It’s me and Kit Pop, a mate from Perth. It’s more of the electronic-bass side of things, which is music that I still love to make.
Is that electronic-bass stuff the flipside to the more introspective stuff that we get with Songs To Break Up To?
I think that it is. For a while there I was really into the whole remix, bass, trap kind of thing. But I feel like for me with the Ta-ku thing, I really wanted to go back to my roots. In the sense that I’ve always made hip-hop and electronic music, that’s what inspired me to make music in the first place. I feel like Songs To Break Up To, and Song To Make Up To are really low-slung hip-hop / electronic vibes that are more suited to the Ta-ku project than the trap sounds.
Would it be fair to say that music is just one part of your creative output?
Definitely. In my early days I had dreams of doing all kinds of things, when I left high school I wanted to be a graphic designer. I had always had an eye and appreciation for design, and I wanted to be an artist. But I’ve been colourblind since I was a kid so I was unsure if that was something that I could do. There’s a lot of thing that make up who I am, what I want to do, and what I’m passionate about. I think music will always be what I’m known for the most.
Is it important to be diverse? Do you feel like you need to channel creativity into different pursuits?
For me, I don’t like to be pigeonholed as “Oh that’s what he’s know for.” I like to try different things and not be defined by one thing. It’s fine if people want to talk about Ta-ku as one thing in the media or whatever, but for me I just want to know that I can do other things. Basically expressing myself through different mediums is creatively refreshing for me, and it’s inspiring for me to keep going and pushing in different areas to see what impact I can make. Even it’s just for me personally.
You co-own a barbershop now, do you see that as fitting in with your creative identity?
I’ve always been passionate about Perth and trying to give it a little more cultural influence, even if it’s a small thing like opening a barbershop. It adds to Perth and what it can be, and that’s something that I’m passionate about. The shop is something that I’ve always wanted to open, and I’m really happy with it.
You’re learning to cut hair yourself right?
It’s a slow process, because I’m away a lot. I’m always at the shop, because I feel like when you step into a new creative field or profession you have to earn your stripes. So when I’m there I observe a lot, sweep the floors, make sure the towels are done. I just watch the other boys cut, I’ve got a mate of mine who trusts me enough to cut his hair, it takes me a bit longer than the other boys but that’s alright. I once nicked a mate’s ear and drew blood, but it was free for him so he shouldn’t complain. [Laughs.]
I’ve heard rumours that you’re opening a restaurant as well?
Being half kiwi, and half Filipino, eating is pretty much all we do. I’ve always been passionate about food, and I think Perth has so much room for it. So end of this year, or middle of next year, we’re looking at rolling something out. I’m really excited to share that with you guys.
You don’t seem to do things by half measures.
For me, everything that I do I just want to give it my all. I would never agree to do something with someone that I knew I couldn’t put my all into to make sure that it does well.