Tiki Taane is basking in a new world of light.

Bringing his commitment to "living as sustainably as ­possible" home, the star Kiwi ­musician has built a solar energy studio in his eco-friendly Papamoa house.

And making music "powered by the sun" has had a stellar impact.

Rules of Engagement, which he mixed and ­produced for singer-songwriter Ria Hall, debuted in November at No 1 in the New Zealand Albums category on the NZ Music Charts.

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"It's wicked. It's everything I've ever really dreamed of," says Taane of ­preparing his own album — the most confronting yet — in the newly ­completed studio.

"Any time I've got any kind of ­inspiration, it's like a 30-second walk into the studio, hit the power switch, boom. I can be recording within a ­minute.

"The productivity is awesome. At the mo' I have about 30 songs on the go."

Taane, rejoining chart-toppers ­Salmonella Dub in December to kick off the group's 25th birthday tour, says his life is as busy as ever at 40, but he has "more clarity "about its direction.

"My life used to be based around the parties. I'd live out of a suitcase, had no worries in the world. It was just me and my guitar, suitcase, my band — and I'd just live everywhere.

"But now, it's actually about me, my kids, my partner, my business.

"It doesn't mean I'm less rock 'n' roll, it just means that there's a clock-in and a clock-out button. I've broken my life up into three categories.

"One is with the kids and the whanau and doing the dad thing. Two is on the road, gigging or mixing Shapeshifter. And three is in the studio."

Tiki Taane is aiming for a more sustainable exsistance by incorporating everyting from a solar powered studio to an electric car to vegetarianism into his world. Photo / Alan Gibson
Tiki Taane is aiming for a more sustainable exsistance by incorporating everyting from a solar powered studio to an electric car to vegetarianism into his world. Photo / Alan Gibson

Taane, whose award-winning 2011 album In the World of Light reached No 1 on the New Zealand charts, is working in his studio on "my most political, most questioning album", which he plans to release for free next year.

"The title, Get Rich or Try Sharing, gives you a clue as to where I'm going with things. It's tackling a lot of stuff I'm into — politically, ­socially, ­economically, environmentally.

"It's not going to chart, because the way that you chart is people have to buy your music. This album is not about charting, it's not about radio play ­— it's about actually tackling the things that are important and delivering it to the people for free.

"And I feel like I'm in a position now where I can do that. I'd rather have one million people download this album for free and listen to it and enjoy it than, say, 1000 people who have had to pay for it."

His commitment to social and ­environmental ­causes ­extended to giving up meat two years ago, ­encouraged by ­partner ­Rachel Axis, who is also vegetarian.

An animal rights supporter, Taane thought: "Here I am eating cows, and pigs, and ­chickens and fish — and that's kind of hypocritical".

The first two months — "heading into barbecue ­season" — were hard and he got ­fatigued.

"Then it just went bang, this ­really ­incredible hit of ­energy and I felt ­lighter and faster. After six months I felt ­amazing.

"I got blood tests and everything was great, my cholesterol levels were the best the doctor had seen, and my iron levels were perfect."

He felt even stronger about animal welfare "now I've taken them out of my diet".

"When I pass cows in paddocks, I'm like, give them a little wave and go, 'Look, all the best. I don't eat you any more'."

Taane put himself on the line with his 2013 single Enough Is Enough, aimed at exposing and eradicating dog fighting in New Zealand.

Tiki Taane and partner Rachel Axis at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards. Photo / Norrie Montgomery
Tiki Taane and partner Rachel Axis at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards. Photo / Norrie Montgomery

When Taane was a teen, a relative's partner used pitbulls in the brutal ­practice and he saw the traumatic effect on the dogs.

"I didn't see any fights but I saw the aftermath. Sometimes they were really cut up — not only physically, but their whole personality changed," he says.

"Once they were cute little ­puppies you could play with. As soon as they started fighting they turned and they were really, really intense, really ­aggressive.

"Their whole nature changed, and it was a really sad thing. And it made me always remember that it's not the ­animal's fault."

Before putting out Enough Is Enough, Taane consulted with whanau and ­animal rights ­agency Paw Justice, with whom he ­collaborated on the song and a powerful accompanying video.

Although the overwhelming majority of feedback had been positive, he had been called a "nark" and approached at a gig by two guys "in the fighting scene" who told him to "watch himself".

Determined to fly the flag for pitbulls and show they can be "really loving, ­really good dogs", he and Axis adopted a pitbull sharpei cross as a ­puppy.

Now 2 years old, Theia has "brought so much joy to our whanau".
"She's gentle, loving."

Theia became a hit with schoolmates of his son Charlie, 8, and Axis' ­daughter Karcia, 6, Taane says, when he ­collected them from their primary on a ­skateboard pulled by the dog.

Taane's dedication to living more ­sustainably has been recognised by Hyundai NZ, with which he has partnered in a new venture.

"I approached Hyundai as they're a Kiwi-owned business who are doing amazing things in the community," Taane says.

"They've also been ­progressively moving forward with their electric and hybrid vehicles, which I'm really into.

Recording artist Tiki Taane in the solar powered studio in his home at Papamoa in the Bay of Plenty. Photo / Alan Gibson
Recording artist Tiki Taane in the solar powered studio in his home at Papamoa in the Bay of Plenty. Photo / Alan Gibson

"So together we've come up with an exciting plan that will see me touring this summer in the new Hyundai ­IONIQ. This car is a fully electric-powered ­vehicle with zero carbon emissions and that's really exciting.

"My kids are so excited, too, and can't wait to ride around in it. This is the ­future and this will be their ­reality one day soon, so to be able to share this ­experience with them now will be ­unforgettable."

Taane will be able to charge the ­family EV from his home, which has been ­solar-powered for nearly four years.

Powering his house, music and car from the sun is "a beautiful concept".

Vegetarianism has also made its mark on Taane, in the form of a tattooed character on each armpit to celebrate his first anniversary of not eating meat.

"I grew up around big meat eaters. It was always, 'Get strong, eat your meat!' So, for me to make that switch and even just do a year was a massive ­achievement.

"So I just wanted to mark that by ­getting tattooed, and the only places I have left, apart from my face, are my armpits.

"I first started getting tattooed when I was 14. It was 50 per cent trying to find out who I am, and my Maori culture and my heritage", says Taane, who is of ­Ngāti Maniapoto through his father's side and Scottish clan McDuff through his ­mother's. "And the other 50 per cent was just to be a rebel."

Many of the works — "I've been ­tattooed pretty much everywhere and by artists all over the planet" — mark ­significant events in his life.

"It's a beautiful art form. It's the ­ultimate art form, it's with me until I die. Each one, I can tell you who did it, where it was, what part of my life I was in."

Before his son was born, he ­celebrated it with a piece covering his buttocks and thighs, designed and lined by good friend Inia Taylor from Moko Ink. The piece, a puhoro, took many hours over a number of sessions to complete.

"The first session I was a real mess. I was crying and very emotional. ­Probably the most intense session I've ever, ever done. But coming out of it, I'll never forget that commitment that I have to Charlie and now my daughter."

Taane, who also helps raise Karcia, is often asked to speak to schools and youth groups. He was also invited to share the ­story of his struggle with ­dependency through Buzzed, an Auckland Council campaign raising awareness of alcohol and drug-related harm.

Tiki Taane peforms at the Westpac Rotorua Business Excellence Awards. Photo / Ben Fraser
Tiki Taane peforms at the Westpac Rotorua Business Excellence Awards. Photo / Ben Fraser

Taane told how at about 13 he ­started smoking marijuana, which led to ­experimenting with harder drugs, ­before "sorting my shit out" at 30, after his life started suffering and he was making bad ­decisions.

"I got quite ­emotional in that ­interview.

"It reminded me of the space I used to be in and the dumb decisions I made, and the people I hurt, and also the friends I lost through ­suicide, drug overdose, and friends I lost just purely ­because drugs had ­taken over my life and theirs.

"To be able to talk about that was a really healing process for me.

"I didn't want to say, 'drugs are bad' ­because I do believe they have a ­positive side if used safely. I just wanted to let people know — ­especially ­people who are getting into it: what goes up, must come down."

Taane, whose No 1 hit single ­Always on My Mind stayed in the Top 40 Charts for 55 weeks and was the first digital single to reach ­platinum sales, is continuing to enjoy musical success.

His 13-city performing arts epic Tiki Taane Mahuta earlier this year received standing ovations and has been ­nominated in the upcoming ­Wellington Theatre Awards for the ­Excellence Award for Design.

He produced Ria Hall's hit album and a ­constant touring schedule includes shows with long-time friends Shapeshifter and the summer tour with Salmonella Dub starting on New Year's Eve at the Northern Bass ­festival in ­Mangawhai.

"I'm 40 years old. I left school at around 14, and was on stage at 15, so I've managed to ­survive, and I'm still busy as, and still have a future in music," Taane says.

"I've got it to a point now where I'm in control of my music, my art, my ­record label, my publishing, everything. I feel really comfortable, very grateful when I look back on those years — the fact I survived the ­industry and the challenges that come with it.

"I feel just really proud to still be around and still relevant. Surviving the personal stuff — the drugs, the ­alcohol.

"And just being able to be here in a better position and feeling like I've got another 40 years left."