Scott Kara heads to Tiki Taane's farm for a chat about his new album, a posthumous Pauly Fuemana compilation and Maori on Mars.

There's no answer at the door of the grand old farm house that's tucked away, out-of-sight down a rutted dirt road in Woodhill, west of Auckland.

There is little sign of life at all, apart from the faint thud of loping beats coming from another building around the corner - and it's in this vast bedroom-cum-recording studio that singer-songwriter and bass-obsessed producer Tiki Taane sits hunched over his laptop.

And who should be bobbing around behind him but Jon Toogood as the pair put the finishing touches to the Shihad frontman's debut solo album, which is due out in a few months.

"Here, pull up a seat ... do you want a beer?" asks Taane. He jokes that he's living like he used to when he was a teenager growing up in Christchurch - only now he's got three guitars by his bed. He also shares the space with his partner and son, Charlie, who have taken off on holiday for a week so he and Toogood can finish the album.

"Because if he was here now he'd be on the floor playing with his trucks going, 'Daddy, Daddy, Daddy', while I'm trying to get work done. But I miss him to bits," he grins.

In the last week, his hometown, Christchurch - where he went from a Slayer-loving bogan to being a key member of Salmonella Dub - has been on his mind too. His family and friends are safe, although his sister was trapped for five hours inside Cashel Mall. His mum works at the hospital and was dealing with victims and his father's house was wrecked.

"But he's pretty old school and he's like, 'she'll be right, mate'. But for my sister it was intense. She and a workmate were pulled out by a stranger. She managed to walk home and we didn't hear from her until later that evening because her phone and computer were crushed.

"But I've been on the phone to my mum and I could tell her vibe is to get into cleaning up, not sit around and think about it too much."

Meanwhile, back at the farm, Taane and Toogood are old mates - "I met him when I was 15 at a gig and I was in awe of him," says Taane, who is now 34 - and they're like excitable school kids as they play a song off Toogood's album with the working title Free Cars For Rock Stars. It features Hollie Smith in raw punk rock singer mode.

Toogood mutters something about how cool it is not treating her like a diva as he sidles outside to take a break, because TimeOut is actually here to talk to Taane about his second album, In the World of Light, which he is releasing at Wellington's Homegrown music festival on Saturday.

He settles into his chair, arming himself with a giant can of fly spray ("you're on the farm now, bro," he says taking aim at the flies that buzz around us), and declares the record "a killer".

It's not a huge departure from some of the more bass-heavy and futuristic songs off 2007's big-selling debut Past, Present, Future. However, it's a world away from acoustic mega-hit Always On My Mind.

There's graunching beast Bloodstone (featuring his father, Uekaha, and Smith again, who is turned into a distorted diva and sounds even more deranged than she does on the Toogood track); Moana and the Tribe are an eerie presence on A Beautiful Mistake, which is like dubstep innovator Burial-meets-the heavy haka dub of Taane's excellent Tangaroa; and then there's the reggae dubstep and very Salmonella Dub-sounding Nothing But Love with Christchurch heavies Truth.

"There is pressure for me to write another song like Always On My Mind," reckons Taane, "but I'm like, 'I'm going the other way'. I'm not even going to try and do that because that's not what it's about in the first place. The kaupapa of what I'm doing is about music and art.

"But if Mr Jack Johnson-listening, easy-listening person can somehow get a little bit into what I'm doing, then that's wicked. If not, that doesn't matter either."

Life is good for Taane. He owns a stake in this beautiful bit of farmland; he's loving being a dad (Charlie features on the album, with Taane teaching him how to say words like bass, dub, and dubstep); and with the success of his debut and Always On My Mind the Tiki Taane empire is doing very well, thank you very much.

Musically, this year is going to be a big - and busy - one. As well as releasing In the World of Light, an acoustic album of "unashamedly big pop songs" (which will include last year's single Starship Lullaby), and working with Toogood, he is also compiling a posthumous album by OMC's Pauly Fuemana that will be released on his label, Dirty Dub, later in the year.

Fuemana, the voice behind world-wide hit How Bizarre in 1995, died in January last year but left a mass of unreleased music behind. Through a friendship Taane struck up with Fuemana's wife, Kirstine, and their six children, he has been given the responsibility of trawling through the many CDs and songs on hard drives to create an album. So far he has come across hundreds of songs in many different styles, as well as what he believes are tracks sequenced into album form.

"I never met him so I've actually gotten to know him through his music," says Taane. "The stuff he released was so super-polished and very targeted towards a market, whereas the stuff I'm listening to now is very gritty, grimy, exciting and some of the stuff he's singing about is quite political. It's very fresh and very untainted.

"Pauly was huge for that one song really, but now I've got a chance to shine more of a light on what he was as well, which is a great producer and songwriter, and some of these songs are so, so good."

Taane has come a long way since leaving Salmonella Dub in 2007 after 11 years to fly solo.

Back then, despite being "on the bones of my arse" he knew going it alone was something he had to do. His mum remortgaged her house to loan him $20,000 to establish his record label and start recording his debut album - and it paid off.

Past, Present, Future, which went on to sell more than 30,000 copies, was a confessional album, dealing with everything from his Maori heritage (the fearsome Tangaroa), break-ups (Always On My Mind was written for his ex), and on Now This Is It he renounced the drugs, money, and other excesses he had became consumed by. In contrast the new album has a staunch strength to it and musically it's more focused than the sometimes difficult fusion of styles on Past, Present, Future.

"This record is definitely a lot more certain, on the last record I was asking questions, but this one is what I'm doing now."

And it's clear dubstep has been a big influence on Taane in the last four years. In fact when TimeOut was out at a seedy Auckland bar doing a story about the burgeoning dubstep scene in early 2008 he was there, bobbing about stoically to the bass-heavy beats.

"Most of my inspiration comes from standing on the dancefloor at 4 in the morning - and hearing something and going, 'oh my God', and running home and trying to do something similar."

And typically, the album is also futuristic in scope, at times challenging, and a little fruity - like Bloodstone, a song about "Maoris living on Mars".

"It sounds weird, you're going to think I'm a fruitcake. But aliens come down and scoop up the Lost Tribe from down south and suck them up to Mars. They finally break free, and they make all their weapons out of this wickedly heavy blood stone. So that seemed very futuristic to me.

"And, to be perfectly honest, I want to sell it to the Avatar people and make millions of dollars."

He's joking, but a film about Maori on Mars might just have some legs.

LOWDOWN
Who:
Tiki Taane
What: In the World of Light, out March 5
Where and when: Homegrown, Saturday, Wellington Waterfront, 12pm
Past albums: Past, Present, Future (2007); with Salmonella Dub - Killervision (2000), Inside the Dub Plates (2001); One Drop East (2004)

-TimeOut