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Tone Glow 110: Tatiana Triplin (Nondi_, Yakui)
An interview with the Pennsylvanian producer about microgenres from the early 2010s, being an internet musician, and her latest album 'Flood City Trax'
Johnstown, Pennsylvania-based producer Tatiana Triplin made her debut on Planet Mu this past April with Flood City Trax under the alias Nondi_. Like other artists coming out of the wider IDM tradition, Triplin’s music repurposes dance music forms at a creative distance. The results are free-floating and impressionistic; her tracks are visions of dance genres across the proverbial map, from techno to footwork to gqom. But there’s an underlying sense of conviction in Triplin’s ideas that orients them in time and place—specifically, her upbringing in Johnstown, an isolated, economically-depressed city devastated by two floods in 1889 and 1977 that give the album its title, as well as the gravitational pull of various 2010s internet scenes. Post-album experiments, collected on releases like ibiza, emo_bunny_ep and shadow—all released via her netlabel HRR—have unlocked a more brusque, bass-driven new side of her oeuvre.
In the decade-plus prior to her breakout project as Nondi_ on Planet Mu, Triplin released music under a number of aliases, most notably Yakui, and steadily amassed a fanbase and collaborative circle online. She’s worked closely with affiliates of EAT DIS, a label founded by the Detroit-raised, Texas-based artist Terri Shaska a.k.a. DJ Girl, a longtime internet friend and fellow dance music nerd who also debuted on Planet Mu this year with her album Hellworld.
On September 23rd, 2023, H.D. Angel and Triplin spoke over Zoom about her various influences, her creative process, making the transition from a net musician to a “serious” musician (if such a thing exists), her family—including her younger brother, buzzing rapper-producer Eem Triplin—and the perspectives she is, and isn’t, trying to advance with her work.
H.D. Angel: How’s your day going?
Tatiana Triplin: It’s going pretty fine. I was watching a baby all morning, but I’ve been fine. I’m a little sick, so I’m sorry if my voice is a little scratchy or anything.
You’re fine. Wait, watching a baby? Like, a friend’s kid, or something?
It’s actually my kid. I have a son (laughs).
Oh, awesome! How old?
He’s six months.
Amazing. Is that your only kid?
That’s my only child. He was a surprise!
How’s it like being a new parent?
It’s… it’s pretty intense. It’s a lot. I really enjoy it, though. It makes me happier than anything else. It makes me feel like I’m really doing something with my time.
What’s a day in your life like these days, now that you have a kid?
Pretty much any day that we get to chill together is a pretty good day for me. Which is most days, since my partners both have jobs are are taking care of me, essentially. I just gotta stay home and work on music, and take care of my son. That’s a good day for me.
You mentioned in your email that you’re tied up most weekdays. What’s a schedule for you, then, if you’re mostly working on music at home?
If I’m not working on music, I’m watching my son and my nephew, ’cause I watch my little sister’s son as well. And it’s a pretty random schedule, so I can end up being really busy or doing nothing all week. It really all depends. It’s taken a lot more time away from making music than I thought it would, but I don’t have an issue with that.
I read that you lived in Philadelphia when you were 10, and some of your old Bandcamp uploads say Pittsburgh. Have you moved around Pennsylvania a lot?
I lived the first 10 years of my life in Philly, and then I moved straight to Johnstown, PA. I’ve been to Pittsburgh often, but I don’t live there. I don’t really feel a connection to Pittsburgh, even though it’s the closest big city to me. I sort of put Pittsburgh on all my social media and Bandcamp info back in the day because I didn’t want people really knowing I was from Johnstown.
Was that a, “I don’t want them to track me, because it’s such a small town” kind of thing?
It was that, and also because Johnstown, not many people really know about it, so no one’s gonna care if I’m from Johnstown!
I was looking at your old music and different aliases, and it seems like you’ve been putting stuff out for over a decade at this point.
Yeah. Overall I’ve been producing for 16 years and releasing music for like 12 years.
Are there any formative musical experiences that you credit with getting you on that path as a kid?
There’s a couple. I actually got into music through rhythm games. I played lots of StepMania and DDR and stuff. There were these really complex and difficult songs I would play that turned out to be IDM and breakcore, and I wanted so much to figure out what that music was. What really pushed me to start making music was I used to listen to a ton of Aphex Twin, and it went from me thinking it was the coolest music ever to wanting to make music like that. I remember I was in, probably 9th grade, when I started getting that urge to make music just like Aphex Twin.
What was it sounding like at that point?
I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I have most of my really early music still, and it’s interesting going back to it because I experimented a lot. I didn’t start out making music with any sort of structure. I was making real experimental granular and ambient music, because that was the only thing I knew how to make good.
Do you think that’s still true for you? Have you tried making traditionally-structured stuff and it’s not for you, or it’s just, “this is the only way my brain works”?
I guess you could say it’s basically the only way my brain works at this point. I think, as an artist, I have developed into having a more structured sound that at least resembles club music, even if it’s not gonna get played in clubs or anything. But it’s really hard for me to make something that just sounds straightforward. Every time I attempt to do that, it ends up becoming weird no matter what.
I know you also had a lot of experience with internet music communities on Last.fm and Tumblr and stuff, right?
Yeah. On Tumblr, I was really caught up with a lot of vaporwave people and different plunderphonics-type musicians. Also forums, and imageboards too. I would do a lot of stuff with those types of people. I never considered myself really making vaporwave at the time. I was obsessed with net music and everything, but I was really obsessed with trying to make my own thing. So all the music I released back then is influenced by vaporwave and a lot of internet trends at the time, but it’s also meant to be a response to them. A lot of my earlier stuff is real contrarian, because I was trying to be cooler than vaporwave people (laughter). I always felt a little underwhelmed by what I was hearing, especially with how cool the concepts were to me, so I was always like, “I wish this sounded a bit crazier than what people were doing.”
Were there any people from back then in those internet scenes that you remember as being really important to your taste or ideas?
The biggest vaporwave producer I can think of who influenced me is Internet Club. I really liked her stuff. Specifically, I forgot the exact name of the album, but people just call it the Speed Racer album, because it’s this screenshot, I think from Gundam, of a character who’s wearing a helmet. That album really captured me because it’s really fucked up. It was a bunch of random sounds and clips from advertisements and Japanese media I couldn’t possibly know anything about, and I was just obsessed with how disjointed it was.
Around when did you start getting into this stuff?
I would say it was around 2011 because before then I hadn’t had an internet connection for years. I didn’t know what was going on online, and when I came back I was really amazed with what the net music scene had turned into. It was mostly just me lurking and talking on different forums and stuff, and then I think around like 2012, 2013, is when I started publicly releasing music as Yakui.
How old were you, at that point?
I think I was, like, 20 or 21 around that time.
Did you have any friends older than you in those days?
There were people who were older than me that influenced me and gave me recommendations, but I can’t remember any of their names, because we haven’t talked for years. I wouldn’t say we were friends or anything. They were sort of people who were around. For the most part, I think everyone I talked to back then were either my age or slightly younger than me.
In communities like that, there’s always “here are the things you have to listen to.” What were the cool things to be into?
Back then, I remember people were in love with witch house. I really loved witch house, not just the concept, but the music as well—I thought it was amazing. I really loved Balam Acab. I really liked him because he was also from Pennsylvania. There’s a band whose name was just triangles that I really liked, and I liked, fuckin’ SALEM. People were also pretty into seapunk. I didn’t really listen to it. But it was mostly… everyone I knew sort of gathered around vaporwave and synthwave. Retrofuturistic music like that was what I saw most people being into.
Any older music that really resonated with those crowds?
I would say, when it came to older music—and because this was a time when I feel like, for people online, club music was a lot more niche—people would be into IDM like Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin. I actually felt pretty alone because at that time, when I was getting back into music again, I had sorta shifted my tastes from IDM more into minimal techno and the dubstep scene that was happening then. That’s another thing that people were really into, was post-dubstep stuff. Future garage, James Blake. Burial especially, as one of the newer artists who were cutting-edge at the time, even though his albums were a couple years older. If people were gonna be into some club music, it was usually gonna be something involving dubstep. Even brostep and Skrillex and stuff. People loved Skrillex. And I really felt completely alone. People didn’t really share much of my same tastes.
I remember reading that Moodymann was a big gateway for you.
Yeah. Moodymann, actually, I think he was the first Black person who was making club music that I ever discovered, and I remember when I discovered him I was so amazed. It was weird, because I would see all these people who were getting into more alternative dance music, but they really weren’t listening to the classics like that. They weren’t listening to Detroit techno, they weren’t listening to Chicago house or Detroit house artists like Moodymann. The only person who I really knew back then who would have tastes like that is DJ Girl—who has [her label] EAT DIS, and also her album Hellworld that she released on Planet Mu. I bonded with her a lot over that.
Y’all have known each other for a long time, right?
Yeah. I’ve known her basically for as long as I’ve been releasing music.
Why do you think there was this aversion to “real” dance music? Was it a cultural thing, reflecting on it?
I think it was a cultural thing. And I guess this isn’t reflective of the internet, but I was super isolated in my music taste because how people viewed things was super racially divided. People would listen to what they thought white and Black music was. Like, “Black people listen to hip-hop and R&B, and white people listen to rock and metal.” The fact that I was listening to a bunch of club music was completely alienating to people. I would play Aphex Twin or some minimal techno or Detroit techno, and people would not get it or understand it at all. And when I started interacting more online with people about music, I noticed people were coming more from a place of listening to different genres of indie rock, and shoegaze, and different types of metal, and stuff. If they were into electronic music, it was just sort of a curiosity to them. They mostly were looking at the IDM artists who were supposedly “subverting” all the stereotypes of club music. People really didn’t understand where they were actually coming from and what that music actually meant.
Places like Rate Your Music have these enormous knowledge gaps when it comes to dance music, whether it’s Chicago, Detroit, wherever.
The past five or six years is when I’ve noticed more people are actually caring about club music, not as just some novelty, or something you subvert, but just the music in and of itself.
Back then, how were you learning about this stuff, if you were kind of on a lone-wolf path?
It was a bunch of blogs, really. I can’t even remember the names of any of them because they’re all gone. But it was a bunch of blogs that were putting me on to different techno music, specifically. Techno is what really got me over the past decade. I fell in love with Detroit techno, minimal techno, and I had to get way, way more of it. Through doing that, I started getting a wider understanding of different club music. It was also the dubstep scene back then, was what took me out of IDM and started getting me to take other things seriously, because I noticed how serious all of the dubstep people were about their music and authenticity and everything. It was through following those people, and basically looking at a bunch of different Discogs links and going through different labels that I would discover everything. That really pushed me to have a wider understanding of the type of music I was into.
Who were some of those dubstep people?
So, Burial, Zomby, who’s not a person I really appreciate anymore, Milanese, James Blake especially—I really loved James Blake’s music—Coki, Loefah… I really loved the wonky artists, who were adjacent to [dubstep]. I loved HudMo’s music, especially, when I was like a teen. And also LA beat stuff, too, like Flying Lotus. I loved his music, and I loved when he started participating more with UK producers too.
To go back to your earlier point about the blogs dying, I know with the Last.fm stuff, too, I’ve never used it, but the social features on there suck now, apparently?
Yeah, no, it used to have really good social features. You could make groups and everything. I remember, there was a group we were in, it was an EDM group. And that was before everyone had a completely different conception of what the term ”EDM” meant. People were literally using it to refer just to actual dance music, rather than just the mainstream of it. We would do weekly listenings, where one person each day would pick out an album and we would all listen to it together and give our opinions on it and everything. It’s a culture I don’t really see anymore. It’s probably all cordoned off into different Discord groups where they’ll do that. Before it felt more public, I guess, and anyone could go in and join. That’s really how me and Terri [DJ Girl] met.
What’s your Internet diet like nowadays?
Right now… (nervous laughter). I wouldn’t say it’s very healthy. It’s just Twitter, where I go to promote and say crazy things and get stressed out. And then TikTok, which is actually a really good tool for discovering forms of music you would never hear, but there’s also no control over it at all. And I also spend a lot of time on SoundCloud just listening to whatever the algorithm will give me, because that’s also a real good way of finding new music. But other than that, the internet is a much smaller place than it used to be, and I find myself using it less.
When you were younger, did you have a pretty consistent social life in Johnstown, or were you getting a lot of that online at that point?
I was getting a lot of that from the internet, because I had a very isolated and traumatic life. Outside of being online, in Johnstown, my life was mostly chaos, and I was mostly not wanting to deal with anyone at all. I didn’t really have much of anyone I could share anything with in real life, and I did most of my socializing stuff online.
What about now? Has that changed for you?
Yeah, that’s changed completely. I’d say I feel like I have much more robust connections in real life than I do on the internet anymore. I do, of course, still have internet friends who are dear to me, and I’m never gonna stop talking to them. But it’s definitely not what it used to be.
I had some questions about your process when making tracks. A lot of them, it seems like you kind of pick one idea and zero in on it, so I wanted to get insight about your workflow.
I have a bunch of different workflows because I have super different styles—it really just depends on what’s happening that day, what’s gonna come out. Recently, I’ve been focusing on making juke and mecha tracks that are all basically based around the same type of rhythms—like every track will have the same rhythm and the same things happening in it. And what I’ve been doing is focusing more on the sounds themselves rather than the composition or what’s actually happening. I’ve been focusing on making more discordant or strange sounds that take the place of typical percussion that you would hear in a track.
I feel like I’ve taken on more of this workflow recently, especially after I released Flood City Trax, which I think sounds pretty different to what I’m doing now. But I’m really trying to make genre music. The people I work with at EAT DIS, the producers I know there, influenced me a lot. The genre they created, mecha, is something I’m dedicated to building as a sound. So right now my workflow is based around keeping things in this sort of unified sound and pushing the limits of what I can do with things essentially being the same structure every time.
What kind of gear and stuff do you have, if any? Or are you just a DAW person?
Yep, I make everything in FL Studio. That’s the only gear I have, is my laptop and FL Studio. I also have FL Studio Mobile, and sometimes I make tracks in that (laughter). And those are the only things I use.
I feel like that counts as two! Do you mix on headphones, or do you have a speaker setup, or what?
I used to be a headphone mixer, but I recently got a real set of speakers, finally. So now I mix on those, because the power of bass just isn’t something that really comes across on headphones like that. I could say 99.9% of my music is mixed on headphones. But since releasing Flood City Trax, everything [I’ve made] after that album has been mixed on speakers because I’m more focused on making deeper bass sounds, and having things sound cooler on a system.
Do you believe in the idea that constraints are productive to making art? Or are you just, like, “Give me unlimited money and I would make the best music ever.”
I think constraints are really important, actually. I learned making music under a ton of constraints. I had to, at certain points, make music that never went above using 50% of my CPU when I was producing because I had a laptop that would break down if it got to that point. So I started intentionally using techniques that weren’t CPU-intensive at all, and that led to me making more sample-based music, and making stuff with real cheap or free VSTs that didn’t require anything from my laptop to run.
When I started out, I did things completely unconstrained, and when I look back at that, my tracks from then are a crazy mess. I was doing everything, and I was also stressing myself out trying to make things sound really unique and technological, in a way that actually held my music back. When I started having to deal with all of these constraints, I had to become more creative in the type of things I make rather than just everything being super maximalist.
If you had a lot more resources, is there anything you’d look at as something to add to your process?
I am really focused on not staying stuck in one place as an artist anymore. So when I get way more resources, I am probably gonna change things up. I’ve gotten a lot more interested in live instrumentation, but it’s not something that I want to completely take over my music. At the end of the day, I really love the sound of something that sounds like it was made real quick, cheap, on a computer. But I also don’t want my music to be defined entirely by that. I’m definitely open to expanding my sound into different things. I really want to make something that’s more band-oriented, even if it’s just once.
When was the first time that you noticed that music you were putting out had an actual audience online?
I think it was sometime in the late 2010s. Someone messaged me on Discord to just start talking to me about music, and asking me all these questions. There was this album of mine called Pillars & Other Heart Trax, and they told me that it was some of the best ambient techno they’d heard, period. And the moment they said that, I was like, “Oh, I’m a good artist!” (laughter). That’s when I started having a lot more ego about my work; I guess I became a little arrogant after that. That’s when I really noticed: I actually have a fanbase, and people are actually paying attention to my music. Since then, I wouldn’t say I make music entirely for those people, but I do really appreciate and care for my fanbase. The fact that anyone at all will go and look at my backlog of weird-ass music I’ve made just makes me so happy.
There’s also the Fuuka ASMR nightcore stuff, and I looked and saw it had a ton of plays on SoundCloud. Did that take off in its own way?
Yeah, it did. People on Rate Your Music really like the Fuuka ASMR project. I sorta made it as a joke. HRR, the label, I wouldn’t say I made it entirely as a joke, or anything, but I made it to be something where I could release music under any alias and there’s no regard to quality or anything. For a little bit, I also released other people’s music, but then I realized I wouldn’t be able to actually support them, and I didn’t want to just release people’s music without paying them so I stopped doing that. But Fuuka ASMR was really just meant to be something completely deranged. That project, I actually ended up making it too pretty. I ended up making music that was too pretty with it. People really loved it. I don’t know where I’m gonna go with it in the future at all, or if anything, because I think it’s a really weird and immature project from my past. That’s how I think about it.
Is it weird, after the Planet Mu release, for people to approach you as a “serious” musician after so long just making tracks online for an ambiguous audience?
It has been weird, because I… I’m still processing it. I don’t feel like I’m this big musician. But then I’ll name-search myself, or look at what people are saying about me, and I notice it’s just way more people than ever before, and it’s way more serious than before. And it doesn’t feel right, because I think of myself as such a fangirl? Especially when other artists I respect are saying this stuff about my music, or following me, or even replying to me, or something. I don’t even know what to think of that!
What artists have you gotten accolades from that made you fangirl a bit?
Loraine James, recently. I was like, “Oh my God.” Because I think she’s so cool and amazing.
Dang, I’m trying to think… Lone followed me on Twitter, and Lone’s music is something I used to listen to so much. Eomac, who’s also signed to Planet Mu, had singles that I was obsessed with, and he’s been playing my music in sets. I haven’t talked to anyone directly yet because I’m overwhelmed. I feel like I shouldn’t. I don’t know what’s gonna happen, really… yeah (laughs).
I know DJ Girl is doing shows in Europe right now. Do you have any big aspirations, or places you’d wanna go?
I would love to start touring. Globally, ideally. But right now, I’m still trying to figure things out. I don’t know anything about this industry at all, really, other than the things that I learned from articles, and what people tell me, and just learning a bit of the history. All of this for me, up until recently, has been my passion and a hobby. So ideally I want to tour, but I don’t know if that’s gonna be exactly my destiny. All the money and resources haven’t come in yet, so I’m not in a place where I can even take any steps to do anything right now. I’m just waiting.
When I talk to artists who are in that position—and it’s cool if you don’t want to talk about this—but I hear stories where people will take advantage of them because they don’t have as much knowledge. Have you ever had experiences like that?
I feel like no one has ever successfully, completely, taken advantage of me. But I have had people who I would say were definitely trying to use me to boost their own careers, and I don’t think any of those people succeeded in doing anything, actually. They mostly ended up alienating themselves from a ton of people. For the most part, I feel like many people have been working with me in good faith. If people dislike me, they just ignore me. I prefer for things to be like that. I’m always very vigilant about being taken advantage of, but I haven’t felt that seriously happening to me yet. I really trust Planet Mu. EAT DIS has its ups and downs, but they’re my friends, and I’m willing to work with them through things too.
I know you said you don’t feel like you know much, but are there any big lessons you feel like you’ve learned about how to conduct yourself?
Something I learned is to never sell yourself short at all. Don’t be an arrogant, hateful person, but you should always move with confidence, and you should always have confidence in what you create. If you beat yourself up and hold yourself back from releasing things or sending things to people, all you’re gonna do is lose opportunities. I think that’s the biggest lesson I took, because looking back on it, I feel like in the 2010s I could have had a career, too. But I was so convinced during that time that my music was so weird and bad, and people wouldn’t listen to it, that I didn’t end up taking any risks. I don’t regret it, because that meant I focused more on experimenting and building a fanbase of people who really love what I’m doing regardless of what I was doing. But at the same time, it prevented me from getting to where I am now earlier.
Besides what your friends make, what’s the most interesting new music to you right now?
I really love underground hip hop right now. Everything that’s coming out of it. I love the Milwaukee rap scene—Certified Trapper, AyooLii. I also like the weird internet jerk music that’s been coming out, like xaviersobased, and a ton of different artists who I barely even know their names because they just release “type beats” on TikTok and YouTube. I wish people were talking more about that stuff, because it’s really crazy and experimental. I also love plugg music. There’s a producer on YouTube who has some really good sample kits called ohissmcqueen who makes these really crazy, beautiful beats that barely anyone’s listening to. It feels like that person’s influencing a lot of plugg music, and no one’s really plugged into that (laughter).
I also love baile funk. I like funk mandelao and bruxaria. DJ K, who just had something come out on Nyege Nyege Tapes. I really love all of that. There’s another baile funk producer, d.silvestre, whose stuff is basically power electronics, and it’s real intense. I like how this music, there’s this experimentalism to it, but also what stands out about it is that it’s super functional, approachable music, despite the fact that it’s so intense and otherworldly. That’s probably my main influence right now. I’m trying to get all my sounds to sound a little closer to baile funk because I think it’s the most futuristic, crazy music out in the world right now.
The underground rap stuff is crazy because I feel like rap usually is so regional, and now you have these kids who just do everything on Discord. Can you talk more about some of those artists you liked?
xaviersobased, he’s definitely an internet artist. Certified Trapper and AyooLii, who are Milwaukee rappers, I feel like they have this combination where they’re making music that’s regional, but also super online. It crosses this barrier, I think, where you can have people making these crazy-ass Milwaukee beats and a Milwaukee rapper will hop on it, and it doesn’t matter where they’re from; it’s still a Milwaukee song.
I wanna reach that place with my music. A big thing where I’m at with my music is that I wanna do things for Johnstown. I wanna represent Johnstown, and represent where I am. But I also wanna be true to the fact that my music is influenced by the internet and how people interpret genres on the internet, which is completely different to how it’s been in the past.
What’s the Johnstown “aesthetic,” then, if I were to make a moodboard of it?
Johnstown, it’s a folk punk city. That’s for sure (laughter). I’m not really into that sound, but the people who are super musically-inclined in Johnstown, if they’re not making some sort of metal, they’re making some sort of folk punk. My brother Eem Triplin, he’s really elevating Johnstown hip-hop, too. He’s touring with Launtrezze, who’s also local. I love that he’s bringing more light to the hip-hop scene here. Which does exist, but the thing with Johnstown is that it’s such a depressed city, and it’s a city where, for so long, people have had this idea that nothing good can come from it, that people here just keep to themselves. I want to find the talent here and show that it doesn’t matter where you’re from in this day and age. You can be from some town that’s gone through nothing but a bunch of trauma and is barely even known aside from that, and you can still make something that’s meaningful and impactful to the whole world.
I read in a profile of Eem that he actually started making music because of you, when he was watching you make footwork tracks.
I would make music around the house all the time and he started watching that. Afterwards, he started producing his own beats and stuff. He and his friends, and people from around the neighborhood, used to rap together all the time. It really grew off into its own thing. The interesting thing about me and Naeem is that we have a similar release type, in that we were both just releasing all this music we had for free, constantly. It really worked out for us. It worked out for him in a much bigger way, if only because hip-hop is the more mainstream, acceptable music right now. But I think there’s something to be said for just becoming prolific.
Have you ever worked on music with him before?
I haven’t, yet, and it’s because Naeem has such a particular sound in what he’s doing. I talk to him about it, and his thing is: if and when I move closer to a hip-hop sound, [he] totally [would]. But right now, he’s not trying to make some fucked-up, distorted club music!
Does he still spend a lot of time around Johnstown, or is he on that New York, LA, rapper trajectory?
He still comes to Johnstown all the time. He’s sort of secretive about it. He’ll show up, and my sister will tell me he was in town, and I’ll be like, “Oh! He didn’t even tell me!”
He comes around a lot. He still loves the family, and everything. I don’t think he’s abandoned Johnstown at all, but he’s trying to build his own path, and I don’t think he’s tied to the city. He’s a global artist.
Since you’re a good bit older than him, do you notice any generational differences in how the two of you think about music?
Definitely. He’s not a person who comes from reading a bunch of blogs and articles to discover music. That’s for sure. Mostly, I feel like the difference in our approach comes from the difference in how we discover things. I still don’t use any streaming services aside from SoundCloud, because I just don’t like them. I get all my music from… less than reputable ways…
Soulseek, let’s go!
Yeah (laughs). He, and a lot of younger people, have this approach and understanding to music discovery and listening that’s different, just because of how the technology is.
To close it out, I wanted to ask: what’s something that you feel like people misunderstand about you, or your work?
I just hope people understand where I’m coming from with my music. Understand that I’m trying to represent my town and culture, and I’m trying to be honest about where I came from with understanding club music and everything. I’m up-front about being an internet musician, because I think the internet is what’s going to be the biggest influence on music going forward. What I hope people will take from my music, and take from the themes of Flood City Trax, isn’t that it’s this internet music and that I don’t understand anything about club music or where it came from. I’m trying to combine the culture I’ve grown up around with the culture I’ve come to know online, and create something new and authentic out of that rather than forgetting where I came from or just acting like I’m this super rural person who don’t know anything.
Recently on Twitter, I saw you talking about being frustrated with people putting you, or people like you, on a pedestal, and expecting you to be this perfect, unproblematic person when you’re just a weird person with your own opinions.
Yeah, that too. I’ve had many people, just because of the type of person I am, they put me on a pedestal and they treat me like I’m some sort of perfect person. I’m really tired of it, because I’ve noticed it’s a lot of people who I thought were friends who would do that, and we actually just had this real shallow relationship. Because they don’t know anything about me, and they’ll act surprised when they find out certain things about me. Or if I mess up, or something, they’ll be like, “You’re not being the person you were supposed to be!” But I’m a person, I have my beliefs, and I want to stand on those beliefs, even if I mess up all the time, or even if I’m not exactly perfect in the public eye. I wanna be known for my music, and known for being a human. Not for being this big, untouchable figure.
Do you run into those misunderstandings in real life in Johnstown too, or is that mostly an internet distance thing?
It’s in real life too. Especially since I’ve become more social, and become more known in the city, and people know my brother more, they also treat me the same way. It’s sort of hard to escape unless you make it very apparent how you feel about that type of thing.
What are some surprising things about you, then? Things that would catch people off guard?
I think a lot of people would be surprised by how unserious I am about a lot of things. People don’t have to keep their guard up around me. I’m a very understanding person, and I’m very understanding of where people are gonna have their failings in understanding other things, or being progressive. Not that I’m saying I’m gonna let people slide about that. But I’m a person who grew up in the ghetto. I’m a person who grew up in the rural ghetto. So I know what things are like, and I know people are struggling to change themselves and understand the world, especially as it’s chaotic and people are being forced to learn their family members aren’t the people who they thought they are. They’re their own people.
Especially as a queer woman, I’ve had to deal with so much complete fucking bullshit from people, and I’ve also had to understand that I still gotta love these people, too, and these are people who really will stick out for me once I put in the work. I’m not the type of person who completely abandons someone, I guess.
Is there anything that you wanted me to ask about that I didn’t?
If you asked what my favorite albums of the year are right now, Gentle Confrontation from Loraine James is fucking amazing, and, they’re my friends, but nohighs and elevation put out an album [Rex DeKalb Live at Golden Glide 2054]. They’re starting their own label called Paroxysm that is completely beautiful. But it’s this crazy mixup of breakbeat and mecha and juke sounds. All the different things that EAT DIS and a bunch of other people have been doing recently.
Final question. If there’s somebody who’s like the younger version of Tiana, like a zoomer in their early 20s making weird stuff from a difficult place and they don’t feel like anyone understands where they’re at, what would you say to that person reading this?
Never allow anyone to hold you back. Even when you’re in your darkest place, have love for yourself, even if it’s real difficult. Because you can get through it. When you think you have no one, you can actually get through it, and those periods of your life are gonna be something you’ll look back on. They’ll be a bad memory. But they can be distant in your mind. Even if they haunt you a little bit.
Thank you for reading the 110th issue of Tone Glow. Have some love for yourself.
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