TFword In Conversation With Tali

We spoke to one of the most influential names in drum & bass music about her journey, her style of music, her recent releases and plans for 2023.

An influential part of not just New Zealand’s but the global drum & bass scene’s rise to one of the most forward-thinking genres and communities, Tali is an award-winning musician based in Aotearoa. Making her debut in 2002 on Full Cycle Records, followed by a string of releases on Roni Size and DJ Krust’s Full Cycle Records, Tali has built a catalog that exemplifies her love for soulful, positive and intelligent vocals.

Delivering groundbreaking solo material along with heavyweight collaborations with some of the biggest names in the scene, Tali has released a whopping eight studio albums; a feat that is unattainable for many. Selling over 20,000 copies of her albums, Tali has also been the recipient of many accolades, like the Drum&BassArena Awards and the New Zealand Music Award, and had a UK top 40 hit with her very first single, ‘Lyric On My Lip.’

Showing no signs of stopping, Tali is set to release more new music in 2023. We wanted to know what Tali’s plans are and also get a glimpse into how she looks back on her pioneering journey. Here is what she had to say:

TFword: You have been an influential part of New Zealand’s trajectory as one of the global powerhouses for drum & bass music. How has the journey been for you?
TALI: It’s been a roller coaster ride for sure! Many ups and downs, learning curves, and adventures. My journey has seen me go from a time when there was hardly any social media, where we were releasing music on vinyl and CDs, and cutting dubplates – through to the digital era of Spotify streams, Instagram and TikTok.

It’s crazy seeing how much the scene has changed. There is definitely a certain nostalgia for when things were a little more straightforward and simple, but it’s also awesome being able to connect with fans in a way we never could before and get our music out to a much wider audience.

Plus, there are way more Women in DnB nowadays which is so refreshing, and makes things a lot less lonely than they were when I first started! My journey has also taken me from Aotearoa New Zealand over to Australia and onto the UK where I was for 10 years and back to Aotearoa. One thing is for sure – there’s no place like home.

TF: What was your gateway moment into drum & bass?
TALI: It was around 1996 and I’d kind of heard incarnations of Drum n Bass for about a year here and there at all genre raves, but nothing that had really caught my attention. It was when breaks were crossing over into more straightforward DnB and it was actually a local all genres gig where Trance was the main act and DnB was on last.

It was about 3 AM and the last DJ Came on and opened his set with Krust’s track ‘Maintain’. It was completely different from all the other music I’d heard that night and I was transfixed. From that moment on I actively sought out DnB and luckily it became more and more prolific in terms of tracks we were hearing and International DJs who were visiting Aotearoa.

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TF: It’s not just drum & bass that you have an insurmountable command over; it goes across the board. How do you keep yourself motivated while working on such a wide range of styles and music?
TALI: It’s making a conscious decision to not just work on DnB that keeps me motivated! If I was only working with DnB I think I would get bored. I love lots of different tempos and styles of music and this keeps things interesting, especially when I’m in the producer’s seat.

I love going to Techno and House gigs, and listening to Soul and Hip Hop at home – these genres inspire me lyrically and sonically and therefore keep my musical landscape interesting.

TF: Talk us through some of your recent releases. How has the experience been?
TALI: My most recent release was my album Future Dwellers which I self-released on my own label Reign Recordings. It was my first time releasing an album where I had produced all the beats and only sang on a handful of songs – instead preferring to let my production shine and the vocals of the guest artists whom I asked to be a part of it. The album itself was nominated for Best Electronic Album at the Aotearoa Music Awards, and went to #12 on the NZ Album charts.

I am really really proud of what I accomplished with that record… it really is a testament to how far I have come as an artist, and gives an insight into where I am wanting to go with my future. As well as this, in the last year I have started composing for film and television and am currently working on composing the score for an American Documentary.

This is a whole new world that presents its own set of challenges and opportunities and I am loving it! I have also been producing and co-writing for other non-DnB artists, and again this is an area of the music industry that I really love and hope to become more prolific in.

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TF: You released an inspiring documentary as well in 2020. What was the experience like while witnessing your journey being documented?
TALI: It was all shot and edited during lockdown which was really challenging as everyone had to film themselves on their phones or get friends and family to help. There were a lot of things that I wanted to have in the documentary but couldn’t because of the covid restrictions, but at the same time I like that it captures very much –  a certain point in time.

It was also really nostalgic to look back at old footage and reminisce on my journey, the people I met and the amazing adventures I experienced. It also bought up lots of old emotions and feelings of just hard things were for me, being one of the few women trying to make it in DnB in the 2000s and the difficulties that I went through. in saying that though –  those experiences made me who I am today and taught me a lot about how I choose to treat others, and expect to be treated in return.

TF: You are one of the first female MCs in drum & bass. Is there any message you would like to share with up-and-coming artists honing their skills?
TALI: Find your own unique sound and brand. While it’s good to be inspired by others, it’s what you have that no one else does – that will make you stand out in a sea of others doing the same thing. Don’t be in too much of a rush. Practice and learn as much as you can about what you are interested in, and then start getting yourself shows.

You may have to hustle yourself many small gigs before you finally get on the big stage, but that will only help hone your craft and give you the skills and experience to take on the big crowds and sound systems. Don’t be deterred when things don’t go your way.

Most of us have heard no, and sorry and lost out on shows or other opportunities (It still happens to me today!) but it’s important not to give up. The music industry is fickle and challenging, but when you persevere the opportunities come! Be kind and polite to everyone you meet. You never know who you are meeting, what they do, or how they may help you.

TF: What are your plans for 2023?
TALI: I am off to Europe in June for a month to play some shows and festivals. I’m super excited as the last time I went over I only got to play a couple of shows, but this time I have around 6/7 shows. I am working on the score for an American documentary and that should finish up this year.

I am also producing new music and working on some collaborations with other artists whom I’m super excited to be writing with. In September, my husband and I are hoping to take a much-needed holiday and hopefully, that will include stopping by Sun and Bass to play a set or two!

Explore Tali’s full catalog here:

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