Chicago-based musician Tahif Attiek is behind Nunca Duerma, and his hip-hop, funk-laced electronica, while complex, is more than accessible to so-so fans of electronic music. We talked about influences, music theory, and the new album. See Nunca Duerma on Saturday, November 8 at the Ottawa Tavern—their first show in Toledo.
You just played Low End Theory 2 weeks ago in L.A. How has touring treated you?
Playing shows in other cities is amazing and has definitely taught me a lot about performing in general. Touring is still in its infancy, but getting out to Low End Theory was definitely a big milestone. Knowing that the live show can evoke emotion and grab attention even in a music intensive city like Los Angeles has given me a lot of creative and positive energy. I spend most of my time in the studio, but the shows lately have been so inspiring and super thankful for every opportunity I've received.
Nunca Duerma is based in the Midwest (Chicago). How much does geography influence your music?
Geography has definitely played a big part for me. I grew up mostly in a small town in mid-Michigan and didn't really see much of the world until I got older. Each time I visit somewhere new, it's a whole new world for me and gives me a ton of inspiration.
I lived in Seattle for a year and I think even the music I was making there was different than the stuff I’m making in Chicago. It could also be that I was at a completely different part in my life, experience usually being a big influencer on any creative outlet.
Nunca Duerma means 'never sleep' . . . why this name?
The name was originally derived from a propaganda campaign located in the factories of Juarez. The story is really depressing, but it was basically how they tried to keep over-worked employees in factories. I tried to use it more as a way to stay motivated, not necessarily specific to sleep deprivation (laughs). There’s artists like Rick Ross who will glamorize only sleeping for 3 hours a night and rapping about power naps (laughs) but I think it’s important to stay motivated no matter what. Constantly working on your craft and practicing everyday are really important to me.
With tracks like "Rhodes"—and really, a lot of phrasing in Shapeshifter—it's obvious you have at least a working knowledge of jazz composition. How did you get started in music?
I started playing music in sixth grade, like a lot of people it started in band. They give you this test to take to evaluate your music proficiency, and I remember doing really poorly. (laughs) For some reason the band teacher saw something and really encouraged me all the way through high school.I started playing electric bass by Freshmen Year and by the time senior year hit I was drum major for the marching band, played in jazz band, was taking music theory classes, lessons, cadet teaching at the middle school and played in local bands when I was free. Jazz band really helped me understand how to listen to music and taught me to try and think outside of your limits.
Your sound appeals to a broad audience, as it combines hip hop and Detroit-esque funk elements with the precision of traditional electronica. Who are your biggest influences?
Weather Report by far. They were my first introduction into combining music genres and the power of surprise and risk. Classic icons like J-Dilla and Madlib are producers are ones that are hard not to mention and really don't need much explanation. But like a lot of people there's so much; the Def Jux catalog, Autechre, Burial, Flying Lotus, The Roots, to name a few.
Hypomania has a harder-hitting vibe than Shapeshifter, which contains more of a complex, atmospheric sound. How was the process different for the second album? What have you learned?
I think Shapeshifter was the first time I really wanted to make an album and not just a collection of ideas. I've always loved making music and sharing it but doing something full and conceptual just seemed a bit too premature. With some encouragement from my friend Matt Black and Eliot Lipp listening to some of the beats I was working on, they both encouraged me to really take more of a songwriting approach to this record. Instead of running with only loose style boom bap drum patterns, Shapeshifter's drums are more refined, varied, and the arrangements feel more like real songs than just a few patterns. I played more keyboards, recorded some of my own drum patterns, and used my electric bass on a number of the songs, which were things I didn’t do on Hypomania.
What's on tap for 2015?
Continuing to make music and always looking to progress, making sure I’m always better than yesterday. I want to start scoring films and licensing my music to commercials/movies. Spreading the sound to a larger audience, travelling, doing more shows, and always trying to take it to the next step.
Me and TJ (my drummer) love playing out. If we haven’t played in your city, request us to your local promoters! Hit us up on Twitter, or just feel free to say ‘hi’ if we are in your city.
See Nunca Duerma with Toledo band Flamtronic at 10pm Saturday, November 8 at the Ottawa Tavern, 1817 Adams St.