Moving from Australia 17 years ago, Tāmaki Makaurau producer and DJ Daniel Matthews, aka Dan Aux, is no stranger to working with name Kiwi acts. Artists who have sung to his beats include the likes of Ed Waaka and Raiza Biza. Matthews’ latest single Flick Ya Lighta features Tiki Taane on vocals, the result a huge, pulsing house tune with an irresistibly catchy vocal hook. Nur Lajunen-Tal catches up with him. Made with support from NZ On Air Music.
Although this is their first collaboration, Dan Aux and Taane go way back. They first met in Matthews’ hometown, Newcastle, when Matthews was opening for Shapeshifter.
“It was just a local promoter that asked if I wanted to support as a DJ and do the opening set. I had a bunch of New Zealand friends, so I knew who Shapeshifter were. At the time they probably weren’t as big as what they’ve become, but I jumped at the chance. I was like, ‘Hell yeah, I love those guys! They’re amazing!’ Tiki was doing the sound desk at the time, so he was on tour with them. Just watching him grow as an artist over the years has been incredible. He’s obviously one of NZ’s most iconic artists. Over the years we built up a friendship though various gigs and events and radio stuff. I sent him a demo one day and said, ‘Do you wanna jump on this track?’ And he was all for it!”
Having worked for George FM for 16 years (up until last year), his Dan Aux pseudonym and DJ personality is widely known. He notes that working in music radio for almost two decades he has come into contact with a lot of artists, and over the years has supported a lot of their music. Flick Ya Lighta had its beginnings on Christmas Day.
“We just had lunch with the family, and once you’re full of all that good Christmas food, one tends to take a nap!” Matthews laughs. “So I went and sat down on the bed to sneak in a little after lunch nap, and before I did I was working on this little idea, and wasn’t too sure where it was gonna go. I then had a little nap and I woke up and listened to it again and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s actually really cool! I think I’ve got a good vibe here!’ I’ll always remember it from starting it on Christmas Day.
Reflecting on the process from there, Matthews says Taane was the ideal collaborator, and the track came together quickly.
“I had a demo vocal from a Splice royalty free sample pack. So I kind of had the whole idea of the song and the vibe written. I usually use those vocals as guides to get an idea happening. It was a very reggae sounding vocalist, so I thought Tiki would be a great fit for that. I sent him that original demo, and he loved it, and was like: ‘Yeah, I can do something here!’ So he rewrote the lyrics and just did it in his own way to fit the song. He came up with all the words, the theme of flicking your lighter, which is like an old school term for, I guess, people putting their phones in the air now with their torch on.
“When he goes: ‘Get up with the rhythm making everybody dance/ Sound system frequency can put you in a trance’, I like it when he kind of goes double time on those lyrics – that’s such a signature thing that I love that Tiki does with his music.
“Sometimes, the ideas that happen the fastest generally tend to be the best. Ones that you spend a lot of time labouring over tend to be maybe not the best idea, because then you end up spending a long time trying to make it good. The ones that come together real quickly, and just have that natural feel to them, always for some reason end up being the songs that get released. I think what I love the most about it was just how it came together so naturally.”
The huge synth bass provided a starting point.
“The bassline had a cool melody. Most songs I start with a kick drum and the bassline to get the groove of the song going. I wanted the bass to be the most prominent part of the track. Obviously, when you play it in a club or at a festival, it really moves people.”
Story boarded by Taane and enlisting the skills of popular TikTok animator Jermaine Leef, aka Jammy Lammy, the song’s music video is something a bit different. A light-hearted cartoon narrative and dialogue takes precedent over the music itself, which is in the background for much of the video.
“We got a music grant from NZ On Air, which enabled us to do a cool music video, and I was loving Jammy Lammy on TikTok. He does super funny, very topical kind of stuff. A lot of his stuff tends to go viral because I guess he has a cool commentary about Kiwiana stuff, you know like a typical Kiwi way of looking at life. We hit up Jammy Lammy to do that, because we thought that would make a cool video.
“He’s animated us into the video, but we had an idea of wanting the video to be more something that would exist online with a bit of a story to it, instead of just a typical music video where it’s just the song. So there’s a fun little storyline weaved through the video, about some young kids that wish they could be at a music festival, and then they get given a magic lighter with a genie who pops out and grants them a wish, and they wish they could be at the festival, and then it ends with them being at Kanikani Land music festival where me and Tiki are performing the song onstage. It’s a super fun animation! I like that there’s a good mixture of NZ culture in this video as well, and the te reo language used is really well done in the video too.”