Interview with Tkay Maidza

Adelaide’s Tkay Maidza has been stomping into the clubs and into the spotlight as one of the most promising Aussie music exports. Whether she’s playing to a thousand sweaty people, laying down beats in the studio or pretending to be in a shootout with other musos, the young Tkay has shown a tenacity to continue to grow and learn.

tkay illustration

This totally sick illustration of Tkay comes from Sydney based illustrator Chris Yee. His influences include 90’s post-apocalyptic manga, rap and punk aesthetics and the legendary work of Jack Kirby

HAPPY: It’s funny we’re speaking today of all days, as not even ten minutes ago I saw you in the new Kingswood video. So it’s really weird because the most recent image I have of you in my mind is you wielding a pistol in a bikie shoot out!

TKAY: That was scary. I was just supposed to be shooting a blank gun. It was loaded but just with blanks, and they were like “It’ll be fine!“, but I was kinda scared. Before we started they said “Don’t point it anyone because if you shoot someone and if you shoot someone they might die”, even though they were blanks they might kill someone. So they were like “Yeah, you have to be careful!”, and I’m like “Okay! Thanks!” But it was great, it was fun. It was really loud (Laughs).

HAPPY: And then you had to pretend to die as well!

TKAY: (laughs) I had this blood thing on me. I don’t know what they did. They pressed this thing and pressure goes through, then it squirts in your face. So when I was pretending to die it was actually me just being kinda shocked because I had red dye on my face and I was like “Eeeew!“, and then I fell backwards because I forgot where to fall, and it was kinda funny in the end (laughing). And when I fell I had my hand on the trigger, so I accidentally shot a blank into the sky, and they were like “What are you doing?” I think I shot Jake (Stone). Luckily it was my last one. It was sad, but it was funny though. I was pretty happy I got to do it.

HAPPY: Cool. Well lets get back to your stuff. Switch Tape just came out a month ago, and definitely has some of your cool club vibes that your previous stuff had, but when I listen to it I think your lyrical flow is even more fierce than ever. Can you tell me a little bit about the writing for these last few tracks?

TKAY: My manager was overseas having meetings, and they were just asking him to send me beats to write to for producers and stuff. All the songs on the mix tape were that kind of thing. They were songs I’d been writing for people, and they were like “Oh coolcan this go on the mix tape?”, and I was like “Yeah!”, but weirdly because I’ve just been writing stuff they all came together, but even more together in a sense. And I was working with producers just writing. It was kinda just us going “Okay, lets just some sort of tracks“, and obviously when I was writing I was trying to put stuff into it and see how everything comes together. When it comes to the final touches I was like “Okay, I know what this track should turn into and should sound like“. So yeah, it was fun and it happened really quickly as well which was good.

HAPPY: So what is your writing process? How do you get ideas for songs and then map them out so they become a finished product?

TKAY: Sometimes I’ll have ideas where the song has to sound like a certain thing or I’ll come up with some key words. I’ll be like “Okay, this has to be the key word!“, and then I’ll build around it. There are a few certain ways I come up with songs, but I think key words is the most important thing to me, because I won’t go on the track if I don’t have subject. And sometimes I’ll just write stuff and be like “Okay…” Sometimes the song kinda makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t.

HAPPY: Does it help to have people like Elk and Paces in the studio with you as well?

TKAY: Yeah they help. They tell me when thing make sense or not, so they help me. I think the most important thing from them is the production. I’m the kind of person who’s like “You do your thing and I’ll do mine“, coz I like having someone else’s ideas on songs and how they feel like the songs should be. And hopefully I’ll try to meet them halfway and put in my own ideas. It just brings variety and they bring something new because you both kinda have your own interpretation, and that’s what I like. That’s how we go about it. And just working with them, they’re really cool and it’s good to have people who are also like “Errrmmm, I don’t really like this, it sounds bad“, it’s good.

HAPPY: You’ve been releasing music for almost over a year now, do you feel comfortable working in a studio now? I know you have a very strong musical background as well, so how is it working professionally as a muso now?

TKAY: It’s fun. Sometimes I’m just like “Aaagghhh! What’s going on?” You can’t really complain because what else would you be doing? That’s great, that’s just fun! But yeah, it’s overwhelming when you have time to think about it. You’re like “Okay this is actually something. It’s actually happening!“. You realise you have to keep doing this, otherwise I’ll be a no one or something, you know that’s part of the game. I guess that’s how it goes.

HAPPY: Also on Switch Tape you have some cool remixes from Luke Million and KLP. That must’ve been pretty sweet to have people of their calibre doing remixes for you. Did you approach them or did they come up to you?

TKAY: The labels look for people to remix. Everyone is always busy as well, so whether people want to remix things or not is usually how it goes. So yeah, when KLP and Luke were available to do it, and they did a great job!

HAPPY: Let’s rewind a couple of months to Splendour in the Grass. Was that your first time playing there?

TKAY: Yeah! It was really good. It was amazing having, I think it was 1000 people or something to play to. It was really great. It was such a good weekend. Nothing bad ever really happens. Unless you go after something bad. But the shows and stuff have good vibes and it’s just happy times all the time. So yeah it was really great.

HAPPY: And you said there were 1000 people there?

TKAY: Yeah. Well, I don’t really know how to count people, but it was pretty full (Laughs)

HAPPY: Was that the biggest crowd you’ve ever had?

TKAY: Yeah, I guess so.

HAPPY: What’s that like, having 1000 people watching you doing your thing onstage?

TKAY: It’s kinda daunting because you’re like “Okay, this has to be perfect“. But it’s fun, because all these people could be watching other people, but they came to watch is. So it was fun!

HAPPY: That must be pretty encouraging the, considering how big Splendour is that so many people came to watch you guys.

TKAY: Yep, it was definitely really encouraging.

HAPPY: And at the end of the year you’ll be heading to Falls Festival as well, are you amped for that too?

TKAY: Yeah I’m really excited, I think it’s gonna be really good.

HAPPY: Is there much of a difference for you between doing the festivals and the club shows in terms of environment and how you perform your love show?

TKAY: Well you can’t have certain things. In club shows, some clubs don’t really have an amazing light show, or you can’t have an A/V screen behind you. There’s less stuff you can do. But it’s great because if you have the place full it’s really sweaty and the people there are just there for the songs and nothing else really matters.

HAPPY: So the sweatier the better?

TKAY: Yeah exactly! (laughs) Which is kind of bad at the same time!

HAPPY: So after all this what else do you have planned in the new year?

TKAY: Yeah I’m working on some music and I’m trying to get some cool collaborations going.

HAPPY: Could I ask as to who you’re looking to work with?

TKAY: I can’t say!

HAPPY: You can’t give a hint?

TKAY: It’s definitely people you would know, people who have come to Australia. Everyone’s that cool, it’s not like Whatsonot, but that kind of crew, like those kind of people, I’m working with a couple of those so maybe a song might come out or two, but who knows?

HAPPY: Do you know what kind of sound you’re going for or how it might turn out?

TKAY: Not really, I’m juts trying to improve. And as I’ve been going I’ve been finding new stuff anyway. So that’s, yeah I don’t know, it’s still kind of random still (laughs).

HAPPY: You just said you’re always trying to improve, how do you try to push yourself as an artist?

TKAY: To me improving means writing a lot more, finding different alternates like singing and trying to sing things I probably wouldn’t sing before, and just explain, not explain. What’s the word? Express! Just to express myself better. Yeah, that’s the word!