Speaking from home in a disaster-hit Papamoa, Tiki Taane shows his sensitive side by opening up about the environment.
The day I meet Tiki Taane at his home in Papamoa, the oil from Rena has just started spilling on to the beaches. Despite torrential rain, Tiki insists on taking me to have a look. The beach access is across from his house and Tiki marches ahead across the dunes. When we get to the sand, the rain is lashing down, it is misty and there is a huge swell. Tiki looks sadly at the crashing waves; his face is soaked as though with tears.
"It is frustrating to see oil on our beach that we can't clean up. We have to respect dangers but we are the kaitiaki - the guardians of the ocean. We should be able to do something. No one was expecting an oil spill. It makes me think back to Christchurch. My family lives there so I saw first-hand how it was so unexpected. My sister was pulled by a stranger from the wreckage of her shop. But that was a natural disaster. The oil spill is not. We should have been ready."
The beach is what Tiki loves about the Bay, where he has been living since January with his partner, Laurie-Rose Dahlkamp, and their 2-year-old son, Chico.
"I love walking on the beach and watching the waves come in. I wrestle with Chico on the sand. All the stress that goes with my lifestyle disappears when we are sitting by the ocean. I never tire of that."
Back at his house, Tiki parks his black Nissan ute with the number plate "Holler" outside the front door and welcomes us into the kitchen.<inline type="photogallery" id="9392" align="outside" embed="no" />
We sit around a black glass table. Chico nibbles at his lunch and plays with his cars. He is just back from a morning at daycare. Mum Laurie-Rose is an exotic pole dancer retraining as a beautician. She cleans up the kitchen bench and loads the dishwasher. Tiki jokes that her towels are getting wet on the line outside. "Oh good - they need another rinse."
Laurie-Rose is strikingly pretty, with white platinum highlights in her hair. A sleeveless sundress reveals one arm covered in tattoos of flowers and a bird on her breast. "I didn't have these when I met Tiki, so I guess he influenced them."
As Tiki ruffles his son's hair, I wonder what he would say if Chico wanted tattoos.
"I had them at 14 so it would be hypocritical not to let him. I would teach him about tattooing and help him choose."
Tiki has had over 30 tattooists work on him from all over the world. Every piece is a snapshot. For him it is not a fashion statement but an ancient art.
"Tattooing is in my blood. I believe in its energy. I carry these marks with pride. If you judge me negatively based upon my appearance then you are not the type of person I would like to know."
Starting a business in Tauranga
In this domestic bliss, I ask if Tiki found the love of his life in Laurie-Rose. Tiki's most famous song, Always On My Mind, was not written about his current partner but his ex, Jessilene. Is that girl still on his mind?
"Haha, not anymore. I do think about her occasionally. She lives in Barcelona now. My wife-to-be is always on my mind these days. She is my soulmate."
They met five years ago when Tiki was playing a gig in Palmerston North.
Tiki would like to have more children.
"I have always had dreams of a daughter, too, but we want to get settled here first."
The family is renting but wants to buy or build in Papamoa or the Mount.
Tiki wouldn't rule out starting a business in Tauranga. He already has his own business, Tiki Dub, a music production company which also sells merchandise. Tiki's older sisters Maureen and Ninakaye steer this while Tiki focuses on music. He would even consider opening a bar in Tauranga. He recently bought the Grand Bar in Palmerston North, which his best friend now runs.
"There is nothing like a Stella Artois pulled from your own tap. If the right opportunity came up in the Bay I would look at it."
For now, he is happy to be a homebody.
"I've divided my life into three parts. On the road touring, in my Auckland studio focusing on music and art, and at home in the Bay with my family. When I am in Papamoa I stay around home. We love hitting the hot pools, the beach, parks, and we hang out at Nanny and Poppa's house up the road for barbecues."
So Tiki Taane is in the Bay to stay.
"I am not going anywhere. We love it here. Some may have tried to get rid of me but we stuck it out."
We respect each other
He is referring to his notorious arrest back in April in Tauranga's Illuminati club, after singing a rap song deemed derogatory to police.
Last month, all charges were dropped following a mediation process.
"I walked away a happy man. Finally my name is cleared."
Tiki holds no grudges.
"I was arrested, handcuffed, and humiliated by being walked through the crowd and thrown in jail for five hours. At the time, I didn't have much love for the police. Through talks we were both able to say what went down. They admitted there was a 'misunderstanding'. I love the local police now. Well most of them anyways."
He says when he travels around the country police are always polite and friendly towards him.
"If I am driving in Tauranga, we give each other a wave. We respect each other. It is sorted."
Does he regret singing it?
"Not at all.
"The experience taught me a lot about people and the media. At times I felt like the tattooed brown guy judged guilty before innocent. Through the stabbing knives, I maintained a positive outlook. I never once bit back. I knew deep down that the truth would come out."
Throughout the ordeal, Tiki continued to give back to the community. The year before the arrest he had written a song, Starship Lullaby, to raise money for the children's hospital and continues with that partnership. He is also an advocate for animal welfare group Paw Justice and is involved in the "It's Not Ok" campaign against domestic violence.
A character crusade?
Here in Tauranga, Tiki has put his face to the local Breast Cancer cause, posing in a fundraising calendar in a tribute to his mum, who is a breast cancer survivor.
Children, animals and breast cancer - is he on a character crusade?
"Haha. No, I like my tough guy image too. I am not trying to redeem myself. I'm not a politician trying to get votes. I'm a musician but if I can use my position to do good, I will."
The debacle with the police has not affected his music career. On the contrary, it created international focus on his album In the World of Light, released only a month before the arrest and which shot straight to number one on the New Zealand charts.
He is rereleasing it in November with bonus tracks including My Lion (RWC Remix), which he wrote for the Rugby World Cup Opening Ceremony and featuring the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra.
Also in November, he is up for three awards at the New Zealand Vodafone Music Awards.
This year, Tiki has beaten the likes of Scribe and Dave Dobbyn in a list of New Zealand's hottest 100 albums.
"Dave's cool. We've known each other for a few years. We share something in common - we have both been arrested for 'inciting violence'. Dave was recently voted by The Herald on Sunday as being the number three bad boy of NZ music. I came in a sad fourth."
When Tiki gets out his handmade guitar to show me, Chico fetches his own guitar. They start strumming together.
"My own dad gave me his guitar. I was heading down a crooked path at an early age and music was the only good thing in my life. Instead of learning how to sell drugs and be a young gangster, I learned guitar riffs and dreamed of being a rock star."
Chico nods in time to the music.
"What I hope for my son is that he never stops chasing his dreams. I involve him in what I do because I want him to see that anything is possible in life."
After singing Starship Lulluby together, Laurie-Rose takes Chico for his afternoon nap.
Papamoa is cool
We go into the lounge where Tiki kicks back on a huge suede sofa.
He looks wistfully at the neighbour's fence and tells me how hard it was even to find a place to rent earlier in the year because so many people were judging him.
"But Papamoa is cool. I like this community."
I guess that the experience made him more cautious about his performances. He looks mischievous.
"As I say to Chico, never be afraid to be yourself. Wait till you see what I have planned at the Vodafone music awards."
So are you going to dress up in a police uniform?
"Let's just say I have asked the local police and they are cool with it.
"Wait and see."