Armed With Synths and Humor, Tiger & Woods Reveal Themselves

Shawn Reynaldo speaks to the eccentric Italian production duo for RBMA Radio’s First Floor

Fabio Germinario

For years, the two men behind Tiger & Woods kept their identities a secret, preferring to let their music do the talking. The strategy worked, and their sample-heavy, boogie-infused sound quickly found a home on dancefloors around the globe. However, when the time came to put together a second album, the duo decided to change things up. Not only have they stopped using samples, but they’ve also revealed their true identities as Italian producers Marco Passarani and Valerio Del Prete. With On the Green Again dropping this week, they speak with RBMA Radio First Floor host Shawn Reynaldo about the real backstory behind Tiger & Woods, what prompted their new approach and why they think “fun” dance music should be taken more seriously.

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For years, Tiger & Woods was an anonymous project. What prompted you guys to reveal your true identities?

Marco Passarani

Well, when we started the project, this was meant to be a very short one – just a bootleg – so we made up the name and came up with this funny story. Throughout the years, though, we’ve been doing this more and more. Of course, we still like the idea of keeping the focus on the music rather than on the project’s image. We always find that there’s an overload of artist profile over the net. On the other hand, after eight or nine years, we feel like it’s not a secret anymore. We’ve been traveling and touring, and met so many people, that it would be silly just to keep pretending. I am David and Valerio is Larry.

When nobody knew who you were, there was this fake backstory going around. Can you tell us how did you guys actually meet, and what prompted you to start working together?

Valerio Del Prete

The real story is of two guys living in the same city, Rome. Marco is older than me. He started producing music way earlier than me. Growing up as a DJ, I wanted to release something on Marco’s label because Marco was a big connection for Italian and Roman producers.

We had friends in common at the studio that I was going to, so I kept giving him demos and eventually I released a record on his label. After that, we started working on a few loops, and carried on working on them during the Red Bull Music Academy in 2008, which I was a participant in. (Marco came to do a lecture there, too.) We had very good working environment and free time to spend in the studio, and through working on those loops we started Tiger & Woods.

Marco Passarani

We came from the same city, but for some reason we didn’t get to spend much time together in that city. The Academy in Barcelona was vital. The name Tiger & Woods came to us at the final party – we were sitting outside, it was still pretty warm, and we were sitting around a table, eating and drinking.

Given that the project was meant to be a brief stint of fun, do you have any regrets about all the golf references? I feel like you guys are going to be answering golf questions for the rest of your life.

Marco Passarani

That is true. It’s a game, so of course maybe things went a bit too far with golf. But, on the other hand, somehow it’s a very nice distracting topic for some people.

Marco, before Tiger & Woods, you’d been releasing music under a few different names since the early ’90s. Were you surprised that it was this project that hit it big?

Marco Passarani

I was surprised that it happened, but on the other hand, I see things from a distance now. After eight years, I can tell that there might be a reason that justifies the fact that this became a bit more popular than the others. Particularly with sampling, our language has common ground with so many people. You could understand Tiger & Woods even if you weren’t into house and techno – and that’s the point. If I were a record store owner, I would understand why Tiger & Woods sold more than some other projects. Now, the challenge is that we’re not using samples anymore, so let’s see what happens.

So, at its core, Tiger & Woods has always been rooted in various dance sounds of the ’80s. What’s so alluring about the music from that era?

Valerio Del Prete

For me, it’s a matter of groove. It’s something that we love, because we still use some of those machines [from ’80s music production]. Marco is older than me, so he grew up with that music. I had to do my research and study this kind of music.

Marco Passarani

I would say it’s mainly due to the sounds. The quality of the sounds on even popular music in the ’80s was way higher [than now]. If you’re passionate about analog synthesizers and analog drum machines, the ’80s were paradise. It’s so easy to relate to that kind of stuff when you’re in love with the Moog or a Prophet 5.

You mentioned that Tiger & Woods isn’t using samples anymore. What prompted that change? That’s a pretty big shift in process.

Marco Passarani

When we started, it was more like a game. Then, when the attention towards us grew, we wanted to walk away with dignity, because we really respect music. Sampling is an amazing instrument and I think should it be preserved in dance music, but on the other hand you want to make sure that you have the rights to use the music. I think it’s fair. When you’re earning money from a project, you have to share that money with the guy who made the track that you sampled.

We started following certain ethical rules. If we cannot use a sample, we’ll make some new ones. We’ve spent at least a year trying to clear a potential Tiger & Woods album. We found that people were interested in doing that, but there were so many technical issues: they couldn’t actually get in touch with the author, or there was a sub-publisher involved that didn’t agree on the percentages; stuff that makes the whole process impossible.

The Tiger & Woods sound is a mix of what we love. It’s not just ’80s music... We used to make house and techno. You can have a more techno approach on the arrangement, but using a ’80s sound.

Valerio Del Prete

We were quite lucky in that we didn’t find anyone that was asking for much money to use the samples, but we were also unlucky because we couldn’t really finish everything. We were having months-long conversations with people that couldn’t reach other people. At some point, we started playing some kind of fake old music by ourselves, and it was an incredible journey to learn how to make those kinds of tracks. The idea was to create some “fake originals” that we could sample.

Basically, we tried to preserve the techniques that we developed in those previous years, but without accessing records. There are a few samples on the album, but all those samples are cleared. It’s mostly Italian stuff, and that was easier for us to clear because we could literally walk to the door, ring the bell and talk to the person. We still have to learn a lot, but I think we achieved a decent result and we’re really happy about it.

When people are describing the music from Tiger & Woods, they often just say it’s an updated take on boogie. I know that’s part of the sound that you guys make, but what other styles were you trying to explore when you were making this new album?

Valerio Del Prete

Generally speaking, the Tiger & Woods sound is a mix of what we love. It’s not just ’80s music, or boogie or whatever. We love house. We love techno. We used to make house and techno. You can have a more techno approach on the arrangement, but using a ’80s sound.

Marco Passarani

The spectrum could have been even wider than this, to be honest, but I think it’s just a step towards a new moment. Tiger & Woods will meld with Marco Passarani and Valerio Del Prete even more in the next few months.

Listening to the new album, and even some of the older Tiger & Woods stuff, all of it is pretty bright, melodic and fun. Do you guys feel like fun dance music is taken as seriously as the darker or more experimental stuff?

Marco Passarani

In the past few years, I’ve seen the fun side of dance music not being taken that seriously. Some people look for very deep, extremely intellectual aspects of dance music – which I really respect and love, and which I did in my early days – but at some point, we like to party. I think that this kind of music is extremely serious, but I always use the example of comedy.

I think comedy is a very serious thing. To be a comedian, an actor has to be really good, because it’s really difficult to make people laugh. I believe it’s the same challenge when you’re trying to make people dance. It’s really difficult to have people enjoying fun music without being stupid or cheesy. After all these years of electronic dance music, it is important to explore deeper themes, but we shouldn’t forget that it’s also about the body and having fun, and that’s the goal of Tiger & Woods.

By Shawn Reynaldo on November 3, 2016

On a different note