He’s one of the best beatmakers in the world right now, but Regan ‘Ta-Ku’ Matthews wouldn’t dream of leaving little old Perth, where he makes music in his bedroom and is part-owner in barbershop Westons. We chat to him about being an introvert who manages a high profile, his break-up soundtrack, and the beard he would never touch.
So I have to admit, when I first was trying to tee up this interview, I kept referring to you as Ta-Ku instead of Reggie – as if that was your actual name. Does that happen to you a lot?
Yeah, definitely, I think especially for those people that don’t really know me. It does feel weird – if any one of my close friends call me that I definitely cringe a little bit.
Where did the name Ta-Ku come from?
My dad’s from New Zealand, he’s Maori, and there’s a Maori word ‘Ta-Ku’. It actually means ‘me-myself’, so it just kind of made sense. And I liked the way the letters looked, and the hyphen – if you don’t have the hyphen it’s Japanese. It just stuck.
Was it weird for you, becoming famous through the internet? On the other side of the world, you have die-hard fans, but in your hometown of Perth people might not know who you are.
Definitely, but I think I’d rather have it that way. Being the face of something can be a bit hectic sometimes, especially walking around, like at a gig where there are
a lot of like-minded people. I think the internet is a bit of a safety net. Not that I’m saying people are monsters or anything (laughs), but I like my privacy and I tend to
like my own space. I think the internet is a good tool for anyone who wants to get a product out there without actually having to be out there all the time.
Songs To Break Up To is a very evocative title for your album. What was the backstory?
To cut a long story short, I had my heart broken and for anyone out there who has had their heart broken or experienced the end of a relationship – of anything, it could be losing a loved one in death, or just loss in general – it can kind of freeze you. You can seize up and not really function properly. Songs To Break Up To, for me, was part of the healing process. I knowingly and consciously tried to figure out how I was going to get out of it and how I was going to move on, and that’s where the tracks came from, in that order.
Was creating those tracks quite cathartic?
It was. It was pretty hard, starting, because the last thing I felt like doing was listening to music, let alone making it. But it’s funny how the creative process went along. When I was about halfway through making the EP and doing the final tracks, I was feeling really enlightened and I could feel myself slowly healing. That was really surreal to be experiencing that, like in real time, and then documenting it through music. It’s hands-down my most favourite project I’ve ever done, for more reasons than one.
Were there any other songs you’d listen to in the process?
Yeah… (laughs) You have those ones you listen to so you can have a bit of a cry. One of them was – you know the band called Air? – their song Alone in Kyoto would be one of those ones that would really put me under.
It’s so dreamy and sad…
Yeah. Another one is Sebastien Tellier’s La Ritournelle. It’s funny because I’d always listen to that one and get a bit teary, and then it was in a Gillette ad! So every time that ad would come on I’d have to walk out the room.
Baha! So do you cry every time you see a razor now?
(Laughs) I’ve been conditioned now. Nah, after that I can listen to the melody fine,
but during the time it was hard.
Did you have any angry songs? Like Ben Folds’ Song for the Dumped or something?
Nah, when I get emotional I really want to get angry because I know sometimes it makes it easier. But I’m the type of guy that would want to wallow in sadness for a bit. I can get out of it pretty quick, otherwise it’s borderline depression, I’m pretty sure (laughs).
You’ve remixed a lot of people, like Flume and Drake. Is there anyone who you 100 per cent wouldn’t remix?
Nah, even if someone came up and was like, “Hey, do you want to remix this
Taylor Swift song?”, if I liked the song it wouldn’t be an issue. I take it song by song. No one’s perfect and I don’t think artists should be judged like that. It’s all about personal taste for me.
Who would be your dream artist to collaborate with?
I really like FKA Twigs, there’s something about her music and something about her as a person, that’s quite alluring. I respect her as an artist. Pharrell, as well, is incredible.
Definitely. So tell me a bit about Westons, your barbershop.
My barber at the time, Justin, always wanted to open one and he’d been talking about it ever since I first started going to him. I came in as a partner, so there are three owners: myself, him and another barber. We pretty much just jumped in the deep end, we built everything, from the website to the actual shop itself, in about two weeks.
Wow! That’s insane.
Well, I say “we”, but they were the ones that got their hands dirty. I did the website. Making sure a barbershop runs smoothly is pretty easy due to the nature of the demand of what we’re doing – you know, people always need a haircut.
So do you think Perth guys need their hair saving? Do they have pretty bad
hair in general?
I think most guys have pretty bad hair in general! Not to say it matters, but there’s
always room for a man to groom himself. There’s always going to be men who think it’s a bit on the feminine side but we have to let that go finally and say, just because you look after yourself doesn’t mean anything about your sexuality or your preferences, or anything like that. Men are starting to come around, I know some pretty blokey dudes who love to get their hair done and are really meticulous about it.
What do you think is the ultimate hair/facial hair combo?
I’m half Asian so I can’t really grow the thickest beard, but I’d like to grow a semi-beard and combine it with a nice clean comb over, I think that look is really classic. I always ask Chet Faker if I can cut his hair because he’s got this lank, straggly kind of thing (laughs). But he won’t let anyone touch it! Obviously, I would never touch the beard. The day he shaves the beard is the day the internet will blow up.