Tuka: “I listen to my gut instincts…That’s never let me down”

Just days out from the release of this third solo album, Life Death Time Eternal, things are looking pretty damn good for Tuka right now. No stranger to the spotlight being one third of Thundamentals as well, this album sees the rapper delve deeper into all things spiritual, as we heard on the lead single Nirvana. Pushing limits and genres, Tuka is taking on more challenges with this album, and we can’t wait to hear the release in full come July 10.

Ahead of that date, we were lucky enough to ask Tuka a few questions about his new album and got to dig a little deeper into the mind of one of Australia’s most exciting artists right now.

You’ve said that your new album Life Death Time Eternal is a perfect balance emotionally between happy and sad. How did you achieve this on the album and what inspired it? 

I wouldn’t say that it’s perfectly balanced, that’s impossible. Let’s just say I tried my best haha.. I’ll leave that up to the listener to decide I guess. It’s true that I put a lot of energy into the idea of balancing the album though. I was mostly trying to make sure the music and the song writing wasn’t lopsided in anyway. Not too much rapping, not too much singing, not to pop not “underground” for example. I tried to keep things holistic as well, if I covered a more sombre topic I’d counteract it with something uplifting, often within the same song. Humans are extremely complex beings so I tried to tackle a lot of grey spaces, emotionally speaking.

To probe a bit deeper, do you think this balance is achieved in your life generally? 

I maintain a personal balance as best I can but to be honest, I wrote, produced and recorded the album more or less while I was touring with Thundas at the same time. So a lot of personal sacrifices were made. I didn’t really have time to socialise or get the right amount of exercise. I could improve in some elements in my life that’s for sure. I’ve never found the music industry to be a very balanced working environment… I need to practice what I preach perhaps.

Do you enjoy more creative freedom working by yourself as opposed to the group dynamic with Thundamentals?

Yes. The creative freedom is refreshing. It’s also very testing though. There’s no band name to hide behind, it’s just me, out there for the world to see. However, one of the best things about it is that I learn heaps of new things from the solo work. Which means that when I do start writing for Thundas again I have something new to bring to our sound. I feel like my solo work indirectly has made Thundas a better band, all the extra experience in song writing and collaborating with people outside the band has taught me so much. I hate getting caught in the trap of saying things like, “That’s how we’ve always made music”. I enjoy being as progressive as I can. The solo projects are great for experimentation in that regard.

What does working solo allow you to explore that perhaps Thundamentals restricts? 

With my solo stuff I can get a lot more involved with the music production side of things, so that means I can see through my song writing ideas way more streamline. Sometimes I really have to sell an idea to the guys which can be frustrating at times.

Why now? What inspired the decision to release solo work? Is it something you’d been wanting to do for a while?

Hehe, I’ve been releasing solo projects for a while. This is my 3rd studio album. The first two were paid for out of my own pocket and were as independent as they come. I’ve always had solid radio support but LDTE is the first solo LP that has had proper label backing and I guess with Thundas doing their thang, a lot more people are paying attention to my solo work. I tend to release solo work when Thundas are off cycle so I don’t disrupt what we have going on. Solo work is like my 2nd job I guess. I really love music, it’s literally all I do with my time…

You’ve said that you’re passionate about illustration, what inspired the (incredible) visual artwork for the album, and how did you select it?

I wanted to balance the art with female and male energy, so I actually got my homie Cole Bennetts to take s photo of me and a friend. Then Ben at April77 went in on it. He knows I love bold line work, geometrical patterns, snakes and skulls so that’s why they made the cut haha… But in terms of the symbols for #LDTE, we wanted to create a tittle that anyone around the world could understand or decode if they wanted too. After all “Life Death Time Eternal” are all universal themes.

Considering few people still buy physical music and can appreciate the visual aspects of albums, how important is this visual aspect of music in the age of Spotify and iTunes?

Because of my previous solo works and the fact I post a lot of other peoples art on my socials I feel like my core following appreciate it. It’s not even out yet and some super keen peeps have already got the symbols Tattoo’d… When I released the stand cover (photo not illustration) heaps of people were disappointed. The deluxe version is illustrated and is designed for people that have supported me from the start, regardless of what platform my music is available on. I consider them to be my boss. A collective boss yes, but I feel like they are my real employers, no mangers or labels or media, people that listen and support are the reason why I can continue to do what I love, and I love them for it, I’m blessed. So I wanted to honour them by releasing the illustrative style that they know for me. That’s being said If some people just want to listen to my music digitally that’s fine, it’s true that unless they follow me on FB, Tumblr or Instagram they may never get see to art that comes with it, but that’s cool. At least they care enough to listen!  To be honest though, by the time this comes out I’ll have my very own vinyl with my very own cover art and that’s something that I’ve wanted since I started collect records, so yeah… Thanks boss, I owe you one.

Which tracks on the album are you most proud of and why?

Don’t Wait Up, Down For Whatever and Yeah Right all came out fairly close to what I had in my mind. Don’t wait in particular is a style that I’d like to explore more in the future. I like them because I feel like it my most progress work to date.

How much attention do you pay to fans’ response? How much impact does the response have on your opinion of your own work? 

I do read a lot of the comments when I release something. And to be fair every now and then I take on some of the feedback if I feel it’s valid. But I pick my battles when it comes to how much impact it has on my actual writing and self expression. I listen to my gut instincts first and foremost and that’s never let me down, that’s what got me this far. The most important thing about writing /releasing music for me is to make sure my songs come from a genuine mind state, if an artist caters to the public too much it’s quite obvious they are in it for fame an money. I honestly make music because music is what I live for. It keeps me feeling human, that’s my motivation. Everything else is just a bonus regardless of what others may think. I feel like my listeners know that about me. I’m like an open book for them. The other thing I try to remember is to focus on the long game, not the short lived ego boosts you get from one song or a period of time you you’ve “buzz”. When Thundas put out a track called Noodle Soup at first people hated it, now when we play it live people throw chop sticks and packets of noodles on stage. Go figure. Sometimes music takes time to sink in and begin to resonate, often those are the types of songs that hang around longer as well. I try to respect my audience’s intelligence as much as possible so I don’t think it will serve them in the long run if I make music that only gets a certain response, that’s how artists go out of date… You can only play the same card so many times before people become complacent.

You’ve said that this album was the fastest you’ve ever written (9 months). What was different this time around?

After TM finished So We Can Remember I was still pumped to write so I didn’t stop. Literally the day after it was mastered I began writing again. When you’re on roll don’t stop, creatively is a very strange beast so when it there just let it flow. You never know when the well will dry up. Hopefully never…