Following the release of his debut album 01953 on Monstercat, genre-bending artist Tisoki took the time to in a candid interview. In Behind The Project, we aim to highlight the individuals behind the names we see on our screen. Too often as listeners, we condense a great amount of music into streamable commodities, hopping from one song to another. However, there’s always an individual or more working endless hours to put something out into the world for us to possibly connect with.
With that in mind, let’s get to know the person behind the project in the interview with Tisoki below.
How was the feeling of doing your album 01953 different as opposed to looking back at your discography? Is there a particular difference that you’ve felt?
I’ve mentioned it before, but when you take away that element of DJ sets or live shows/music, you don’t have to keep up with the rat race of what everyone is doing. It’s made me think a lot more positively and about how to approach things differently. I feel extremely comfortable with the records on the album, and people are going to be able to listen to them outside of the live setting as well. That was my main goal with it. Not to make an album that was specifically ‘dance’ music. I think I nailed it!
Since the album title is so particular to your individual self, do you think that showcasing something personal leads to a degree of cognitive dissonance, or does the personified experience amplify the experience of listening to an album in your opinion?
I think for many years now, it’s been a bit of both. I’ve made music that I’ve wanted to make, but also, in the back of my mind, there was music where I would make it a certain way to appease a particular group of people, such as the touring circuit or DJ set crowd. I think because I was so on my own and away from anyone with no real contact during the lockdown, I really just went…“F*** it. I’m going to make it for myself.” If it comes out and people don’t resonate with it, at least at the end of the day, I can be proud of the project that me and my team along with the people at Monstercat created. It can exist as its own blip in time, so it’s not the end-all-be-all. By the end of lockdown, I simply needed to do a thing for myself first and foremost.
In some manner, what lockdown has clarified for many people I think, is that what you’re doing is not guaranteed to be permanent or guaranteed by any capacity. Anything can come to a halt at any point. Socially speaking, within segments of electronic music, everyone putting off releases seems to have provided the ability for many artists to get their own time in the light. It seems to have enriched music diversity in some ways. Do you think any sort of shift has happened in which people are more accepting of particular sounds or music that reflects artists themselves, being on the reciprocating end?
First off, that’s a great perspective! I’ve never thought about that, as everyone was pausing releases because they couldn’t play shows. A lot of different music was able to be in the spotlight! I think from a listener’s perspective, anyone tapped into the electronic music community will listen to something if it has someone’s name on it, no matter the genre or style. I don’t necessarily see much of a shift in terms of the listener’s outlook, but definitely between producers and the like. There’s so much more diversity. There’s going to be a lot more experimentation happening when there’s not so many records to play in DJ sets.
Pointing toward the album title which particularly relates to heading homebound; beyond defining that sonically, to what degree do you think your sound was inspired by that sensation, and what do you think was something you thought was new and fresh, wanting to add it into the mix.
I think I always wanted to make these kinds of records. I don’t want to say I never had the opportunity, as I did, but never had the foresight to do it. A lot of songs I make that sound like ones on the album, they just don’t get released because of advertising, promotion, and normal music industry bull****. Associating the album with the feeling of being away from home, the feeling of being homesick, I think is the most important thing within it. I just didn’t really care for anything else. I didn’t want to make anything else.
Are you in Jordan?
Yes! Have you ever been here?
I haven’t! The closest I’ve been is Dubai.
What did you think of Dubai?
*laughs* too manufactured. Obviously, the old city of Dubai is interesting. The new part of Dubai is just so new, there’s not really much heritage. I like when you walk down the street and see a church that has been there for hundreds of years. All that you see there though is Louis Vuitton stores! *laughs*
Would you say you’re an adventurous individual that goes out of their way to see or experience something?
As I’ve grown older, I’ve definitely appreciated nature and heritage, alongside older cultures as well. When you’re 17-18, all the flashy stuff appeals to you, and you want the newest this and that. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve enjoyed the things that were here before me. So yeah, I would say I’m adventurous, but in my own way!
Funny enough, I think that particularly pertains to music too! That sensation seems to follow us, so instead of chasing the high of what’s modern and new, we can start to appreciate what was there before us. None of us are really pioneers, but considered as such due to individual perception and reflection on the past being filtered on a personal scale.
Damn! You hit the nail on the head, 100%.
In terms of the way you structured the album, why did you decide to go with ‘Hold On Me’ as the immediate song people hear following the intro? Did you particularly want a sort of shock or harsh factor to kick things off?
Yeah, I think a lot of people, especially in America, resonate with older UK music from which a lot of the inspiration within the album was drawn from. People in America will think about the classic term “old-school dubstep.” That’s all they talk about when it comes to bass music and stuff. Having that be the first full track (besides the intro), I think it’s part shock factor and part setting up expectations of like: “hey, this album is not like the music you’ve heard from me before, but it’s still something that can hopefully resonate to people who’ve heard my music before.” Obviously from there it goes all over the place to different genres, but I think coming from the intro track into ‘Hold On Me’, just starts things off with a bang, kind of setting the standard and expectations high from the start.
How influenced are you personally by the way people receive your music and what they think about it? In other framing, how susceptible are you to being influenced from the voices surrounding you?
When I was younger and a lot more naive, I definitely read every comment and message. That did play a big part in my process of making music. When I’m working, I would get flashbacks to what those comments said whether good or bad, pushing me to a conscious decision to change something in the music. Not to please one person like “here I did it, I took it on board!” It’s more so anxiety around what people are going to think. That was at the forefront of my mind when I was younger, but getting older, I’ve come to terms with the fact that you can’t please everyone. Regardless of who they are, where they’re from, how old they are, they all have an opinion whether it’s good or bad. The most important thing is that nonetheless, everyone is entitled to their opinion. If you think something is s*** or absolutely incredible, both are valid and noted. For me personally, it doesn’t make a difference.
I think we’re very blessed to have these social networks where people can share their thoughts. Like what you’re doing with interviews, podcasts, Q&A’s, and all that. We’re lucky to have an open forum setting since nobody had that before. Earlier, when bands were big, you bought a CD and that was it! It doesn’t affect my decision in terms of making music. I see them, I read them sometimes, but I’m not impacted anymore. As much as you’d like to try, you can’t please everyone, it’s unrealistic! Waste of time!
Beyond the obvious UK sonic influence, the inspiration does not stop there, as there are remnants of international scenes being filtered through the UK landscape or perspective. To you, was that a conscious decision, or do you think some stuff seeped their way through?
Obviously the core and basis is the UK feeling. Ever since I moved to America, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world and see all these cultures myself. Reflecting back to when I was in the UK, it’s kind of like I had blinkers on…tunnel vision. A lot of kids feel that, not realizing how great they have it when they’re in that situation. Once you leave and see other cultures along the rest of the world, you can look back to where you came from, realizing that it’s actually incredible! I’ve definitely been influenced by other styles and cultures outside, but that’s really only because the UK is so rich in culture. It’s a melting pot! There are so many diverse Caribbean, European, Asian cultures, especially closer to London. Growing up around that and moving away really made me open my eyes more to the fact that it isn’t just the UK…it’s everything.
From your travel experiences, did you discover something about yourself by being exposed to experiences and people that might live a fundamentally different lifestyle? In addition, pertaining to tunnel vision, how did those experiences affect your perception when looking back in hindsight?
For the first part, from travelling mostly alone, I’ve found that I’m more than happy being self-sufficient and by myself. I’ve grown a lot more confidence in my ability to plan and execute, doing things completely independently anywhere in the world. That’s a good trust to have in yourself! There’s no real anxiety when it comes to going to a new place anymore. Being in Thailand by myself, in a totally different culture…a different world essentially! I walked around some of the markets, and explored some of the things that weren’t so catered to tourists. It’s just so important to understand that as a human being, you can handle whatever you want to handle, and just to have confidence to do that. I think that’s the most important thing I have at least personally learned from travelling so much, mostly on my own.
On the second question, I think I just took for granted how great a lot of it was in terms of ease of doing things. Going to other places in the world, I’ve found myself thankful for a lot of the small things. Some places don’t even have clean tap water, and I can turn the tap on back home with nothing to be afraid of. Looking back all I can think is how I took much for granted, and that we really have it good. Regardless of circumstance, seeing all these different places has increased my appreciation for everyone else in a weird way. A lot of people go to school, then university, get a job, have a family and kids, then die in the same place. No one really sees the rest of it!
Do you think that part of not seeing the rest of it, is related to surrounding or being too acclimated? Maybe a sense of ego or cynicism that can cloud the screen per se?
I think it’s from the perspective of; “if you don’t know about it, you don’t really crave it.” Obviously we now have the internet, and anybody can view pictures of Jordan, London, or anything like that, and be able to get a look into what it is. I don’t necessarily think it’s ego, and ultimately if someone really wants to travel, they’ll do anything to make it happen. There’s that opportunity there. I think it’s just the unknown, and people not craving that sensation, being comfortable where they are. Sometimes, we don’t know any difference. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, as every person is unique! I don’t know what’s happening 5 miles away from here. Something good could be happening, or it can be bad. All I know is that I don’t know. I think a lot of the people that stay in one place forever may have that same feeling.
Moving toward your album, 01953, what’s your perspective in terms of it being your debut album? Does the fact that it’s the debut insinuate or mean something to you? Stress…excitement?
I think it’s just terminology. It’s definitely exciting to release my first album, and to have it be made in this time of our lives in which we’re either gonna look back in 30 years thinking: “holy f*** that was a crazy few years,” or look back and go, “Oh it’s still like that…” We don’t really know going forward, but when I get older, I can reflect on this weird time and recognize I made an album during it! That’s the most important thing that I personally take away from it. “Debut album” is just a marketing tool really. It is my first album, and something I put my heart and soul into, but that does not mean it’s going to change the course of my music in the future. I’m not going to pivot as an artist and make a completely different style of music for the rest of my career. I know some people do, releasing an album in a different style then sticking with it. That’s just not who I am. I always try to make different stuff! For my debut album, this was just a small moment in time that I wanted to capture and put it out into the world.
That’s a really good perspective to have!
I don’t want to sit here and change every song I make going forward to fit into this different bracket of artist or anything like that. At the end of the day, this is what I felt in the span of the year, this is what I made then, and I’ll keep going as usual.
It’s a bit of a semantics game, but for me, there’s a difference between what I see as an “artist,” or an “Artist Project.” Internally, I think one highlights the individual, while the other, the performance. Generally, a differentiator to look at can be in the way branding and marketing are handled. Therefore, in a project, the human is manufactured. Not to say that’s a bad thing by all means, as it can be a creative outlet that facilitates a meaningful dive into the world someone wishes to paint. From what I heard from you, it seems you’re heading in the direction of “artist,” treating “Tisoki” as an extension of yourself. What does your project mean to you from that perspective?
I think it is just an extension of me! It’s just a name. I wouldn’t even call it a brand! People around me like managers and agents might think differently, and there’s always that kind of industry talk. Personally, it’s just me. I never changed my name or tried to make any different projects that moved anywhere. I definitely resonate with the notion that “artist” is an extension of me rather than a project in which I’m essentially an employee of.
Do you think there are gains or consequences for approaching things in either the “artist” or “project” manner?
In terms of consequences of approaching things from the “artist” lens, for one, you’re a lot more vulnerable. As we’ve seen in the past with certain individuals, your personal slip-ups become more of an attribute linked to your artist name, and when you do something wrong, it’s identified with your music. Your face is at the front of it, whereas with projects, there’s more of an anonymous vibe to it. People can just step away or be replaced. That’s a bit of a pitfall, but at the end of the day, if you’re a good person, then that doesn’t even matter.
On the flip-side of that, one of the advantages that I’ve especially seen alongside my peers, is that there’s a lot more of a personal connection with the people that listen to your music. That’s invaluable because anyone can listen to an artist project’s record, not knowing who made it! The relationship seems built upon the consumer and business deal. If there’s that personal connection such as “Tisoki” being one dude who’s name is Bradley, and it’s always been him which won’t change, I think that overpowers any of the downsides.
There’s no better of the two! If someone does something well, whether it’s an artist project putting forth a vision and certain aspects they want to portray, or someone like me, both are great and obviously have benefits and disadvantages at the end of the day. Good music will always come first I think.
As you walked the road that evidently led to the career you have, were there notable artists who grabbed your attention and influenced where you are now, motivating you to do music? On the other hand, can you name some newer artists at the forefront of making music you find interesting?
Growing up, some artists, who I still pull inspiration from like Rusko, Skream, and Sub Focus were influential. However, bands played a role too, like Enter Shikari, Bring Me The Horizon, and a few other people like that. That mixture of…I don’t want to say aggressive…but heavier music that I resonated with while being young, I still draw from to this day.
For the newer kids, I’m really into stuff that looks cool as well. ISOxO is doing some dope work, same as Knock2 who’s absolutely crushing it, and then some different things on the more melodic side.
Bring Me The Horizon, Slipknot, Linkin Park, to the great many names out there have greatly shaped our musical landscape and the youth of so many. How do you think they influenced the generations of DIY musicians in the future? Since they were bands and groups, you might not imagine that things led to the dictatorship of the individual creating their own art.
There’s different elements from the band setup and perspective of making music that anyone can take inspiration from. Ultimately it comes down to the music. With the computer, you can essentially be a one-man band. Guitar, bass, vocals, just everything all at once. You can just do it all yourself, and that’s maybe why bands recently have not been as popular as rappers or DJs. Why split profits 5 ways when you can just do it yourself. It’s weird huh…Something I never thought would happen, but here we are. *laughs* I guess in recent years, everyone is just so used to the single performer.
As we get more accustomed to being able to create art individually, do you think that adaptation diminishes from the quality of art available or possible? Alternatively, does giving people the voice and complete control over their projects act in a way that is constructive to expressionism and art?
I think it’s extremely constructive because it forces you to look within yourself and understand what you really want, and what you want to create. When it’s time to collaborate or work with someone else, you know where your base is and what you want to do. This way, seeking out collaborators to elevate and complement your vision becomes an easier process. I feel like in bands, a lot of the time, it’s normally one or two people have a say, and the rest go along with it. However, if you have time to personally reflect (regardless of any other input), I think it validates a collaboration even more so than before.
Within that compass, to what extent do you think the pursuit of music in terms of a career is worthwhile for the individual? Now that it’s about the singular person, you put yourself at stake in a vulnerable manner in terms of shouldering the burden of that decision, including publicly highlighting your perspective, experiences, and creative filters. Notably though, that’s what makes following an artist a rewarding experience. Seeing more of what you resonate with is gratifying. At the end of the day, do you think that anyone can truly find their voice and crew?
It all comes down to the individual, depending on how much ambition and drive they have. Life is very fragile and temporary, we’re not here for a long time, and the past year has only cemented that. Ultimately, if you want to do something artistic or otherwise, regardless of what it is, you just go and give it your best shot. Life is too short. Obviously there are many contributing factors to making it difficult such as finance or people telling you it’s a bad idea. I honestly believe that if you truly think to yourself the pursuit is something you want to do and get good at, you will make it happen regardless of all those external factors.
Within a hundred years we’re all going to be dead anyway and none of it is going to matter. You may as well have fun with it! *laughs* Hey if it turns into a career, that’s awesome! If it completely flops and you tried for five years, now broke, in debt, and it didn’t work out, at least you can say you tried. The scariest thing is lying on your deathbed and being like “I never got to try doing that.” I want to be there thinking I did everything that I wanted to do, regardless of whether it was successful or not. It’s very vulnerable and a huge risk. Because of the position I’m in, it’s a lot easier to say this, but I truly believe that if you want to try something, just go for it.
On a final note, I would like to end things off by asking: Is there a point in time you’ve learned a life lesson that never leaves your mind?
I think…honestly, moving to America. First of all, I didn’t go to university or college, basically having dropped out of high school. There were no qualifications or aims for the future. Moving to America kind of solidified the feeling I mentioned earlier. I had something I wanted to do, so regardless of the circumstances, I just did it. Having that confidence and drive to move here, being fully self-sufficient and not having to rely on anyone was such a pivotal moment. It kind of changed the way I approached music. At the end of the day, I’m the only one who can make this happen for myself. I can’t rely on other people as much as I would like to think that I could. I was touring before and releasing music still. However, moving here was such a drastic life change for myself personally and career-wise, it just taught me the most I’ve ever learned about myself and the world too.
I’d like to take a moment to thank Tisoki for the great and candid chat. His magnificent debut album, 01953, is out now on Monstercat, and it’s an essential listen, so stream it below!