The Goo Goo Doll 

Inside the androgynous, cyberriffic, electro world of Tiga.

Do you know any computer science or robotics nuts? If you live in the Bay Area, you probably do. Ask them about the Gray Goo Scenario. It's a possible fallout of nanotechnology: microscopic, self-replicating, intelligent robots that will perform certain tasks such as repairing the hole in the ozone layer. Some theorists are worried that nanobots, which transform matter at the molecular level, could go berserk and decide to turn everything into gray goo ... or the purple horseshoes from Lucky Charms ... or whatever.

Electronic music was supposed to be the ultimate sonic goo, a boundaryless artform. It usually has no lyrics, so it translates perfectly across international borders. It also comes from computers. Computers don't live anywhere -- they don't live at all -- so electronic music doesn't come from anywhere. That's why it's been oozing out of those prefab cool-guy bars that have been popping up in airports lately (check out the one at San Jose International -- it's called the Martini Mirage or some shit). It's the soundtrack for going nowhere quickly.

Tiga, a longtime DJ and onetime raver weirdo who used to throw huge parties in Montreal, is different. He's not on some Neo-from-The Matrix crusade against evil technology. He likes cute clothes and everyday pleasure too much for that. But he does feel that it's his job as a DJ -- the ultimate snake-oil peddler, as far as professions go -- to sop up as much of that bland breakbeat and synthesizer gravy as he can and then throw it all out. And he knows bland -- as a promoter and even a DJ, he pushed his fair share of it when that was the thing (the label he owns, Turbo Recordings, put a bit of it out in the late '90s and early '00s).

Now, as a DJ and burgeoning producer, Tiga only handles high-grade, very strange, yet hum-worthy synthetic dance music -- stuff the Bay Area has slept on for years. He's the perfect antidote to the neutered trance DJ; you know, the British middle-ager in a reflective turtleneck and androgynous Euro leather trainers you can buy on Haight Street. But Tiga, well -- he looks like a sex kitten, and he doesn't mind showing a little skin for cash (or at least publicity).

And Tiga does like to take pictures. Check out the cover of his album Mixed Emotions. He wears whorish red lipstick and is splayed out in black leather Underoos soaking in a bathtub of pink-lit ice water on the back (not quite spread-eagle; his ratty black hair makes it look more like spread-vulture). The booklet to his most recent disc, DJ Kicks (Stud!o K7), portrays him staring off into the distance like a plastic lawn deer in some faggy white blouse. And you gotta peep, which features an image of his face morphed onto Jackie O's body as she sits next to JFK in what might have been the pre-assassination car ride. In short, he's a freak, and was able to pull himself from the techno quagmire through the reemergence of electro, modern-day electronic music's primordial ooze (the original goo).

Since its birth in the late '70s, electro has never really been understood -- not by many music consumers, anyway -- and its robot-voiced odes to fringe sex and cybernetic crossbreeding were left to ebb and flow quietly at the far shore of popular consciousness for the last 25 years. Well, now electro is back, even though as of three years ago, it was only back for a very small number of people. In fact, some of the best machine-generated music in the history of sound came out during the late '90s with almost no notice. San Francisco's BPM Records, an institution for boring house DJs, had a box tucked into a corner on the floor, labeled "Weird German Shit," and that's where most of this stuff sat.

Then Tiga (his real name, by the way) released Mixed Emotions, a two-disc mix CD. The first disc was fairly featureless and all techno. But disc number two, his electro freak-out, drew heavily from stuff that languished in the Weird German Shit box. Especially noteworthy were the masterpieces by gay disco gangster I-f from Holland and German's Anthony Rother (his "Destroy Him My Robots" is a orgiastic tribute to artificial intelligence gone sinister and one of the best dance tracks ever).

Sadly, now even electro is getting turned into goo, too. It's called "electroclash." Electroclash can be fun, but it's basically electro lite, and anyone who says otherwise hasn't heard I-f's "Space Invaders Are Smoking Grass" or Rother's "Sex with the Machines" EP. Tiga plays electroclash too, partly because it's great party music and it's what people want to hear, but he was also right on the cusp of the revival of the real shit.

"Two or three years ago, there was a backlash to the blandness of electronic music," he says from his car phone while motoring to his flat in Montreal. "As far as the whole new wave, gigolo, electroclash thing, I think it's really simple to understand if everyone takes a step back and looks at what's happening. What it is, is people who have been raised on electronic music operating in a world where electronic music is no longer rebellious or strange -- it's pretty much the norm -- and they're trying to make pop music. ... The reason the media's writing about it is because it follows a rock template."

Tiga fits that description to a T. "Raised on electronic music" is a bit of an understatement: there probably isn't a person of his age on Earth who was exposed to electronic music as early as he. His dad was a DJ who shuttled the family off to Goa, India every summer until Tiga was thirteen. Goa is an international hobo junction for acid heads, tantric sex practitioners, disco bunnies, and hiker trash. Balls-to-the-wall drug experimentation mixed with all-night open-air dance parties -- now called raves -- were happening in Goa in the early '80s. His dad played there at its height and named his kid Tiga, so do the math on the number of brain cells he probably dissolved in an LSD deluge.

So now Tiga's moved on from stripped-down, paint-by-numbers dance music to pop music, and the payoff has been stardom. After years of DJing and pseudo-musicianship, he stepped into the studio to do some remake tracks. Not remixes, in which some elements of the original are maintained, but a total redo, with him singing the lyrics. Everyone went nuts over his and partner Zyntherius' version of "Sunglasses at Night" by Corey Hart. At last count, the record has sold over a quarter of a million copies.

"Sunglasses" is something of a bellwether of the electro revival, especially as it devolves into electroclash. It took Tiga and Zyntherius a whopping hour to do it, and they did it with minimal gear. By his own admission, it's a very simple track; infectious, yes, but lose yourself in your headphones to it? Hell, no. That it's a shameless retread of a nostalgic '80s radio classic is par for the course. Electro stardom is now the low-hanging fruit, but Tiga does it with style, and the humor and taste he injects into his DJ sets make him a highly recommended performer to check out. He's also done Nelly's "Hot in Herre" and Felix da Housecat's "Madame Hollywood," the original of which was sung by underground freak Miss Kittin. In keeping with his gender-bender steez, he sang it himself and called it "Mister Hollywood."

So the burning question is: How much of this is image? Better yet, if he dresses like a gigolo, and trots the globe like a gigolo, is he a damn gigolo? Should you approach him after his set in San Francisco with a cash offer for a hotel visit? How sleazy is this guy?

"I wouldn't say it's all image," Tiga says. "In my case, there's not much deception in my imagery. I don't know if I'm exactly image-conscious, but I obviously do care what I look like; you just have to look at a CD to know that. For me, the whole gigolo thing is about entertainment. There is a little bit of persona to it, but it's not outlandish, it's not a costume. It's based on who I am and the things I like." Hmmm.

He says he gets bored quickly, so he likes to stretch the visual component of his presentation to keep the ideas fresh, to "create something a little more three-dimensional than just putting out generic music ... it's not like, 'Okay, today I have to be bisexual and look really feminine, and tomorrow I'm going to go all tough and straight.' It's more me feeling a responsibility to keep myself interested -- it's an artistic motivator to explore all the avenues available."

Tiga might get a little squirrelly when it comes down to brass tacks -- he leaves the sexual orientation question dangling, for instance -- but when asked if the sex has gotten better since "Sunglasses at Night," he pauses and then offers a firm "Yeah, everything's gotten better."

Sweaty sex with a boy in black briefs beats a bowl of goo any day, right?


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