Interview: Elephante’s electric quest for artistic liberation

Interview: Elephante’s electric quest for artistic liberation
via Elephante
William Yuk
May 24, 2023
Amid the fame seekers and glory hunters of the music industry, Tim Wu, the electronic artist and producer known as Elephante, finds solace in his craft, which he turns to as a refuge from the depths of existential dread.
“A part of me became an artist because I felt like there was something missing,” Wu tells NextShark. “When I was a kid, I thought that by becoming a famous musician, then I won’t have this hole inside of me. Then I pulled it off, but it didn’t change anything.”
“To me, it’s sort of realizing that I think it’s that part of me is just terrified of being alone and insignificant,” he continues. “Being able to communicate the things that I’m going through and see other people react and resonate with the lyrics that I’m writing the music that I’m making sort of quiets that fear.”
Born into a family of two cultures and having been rejected by both, the pangs of isolation and insignificance are all too familiar for Wu.
“I grew up as an American, but then I didn’t look like a lot of the other kids and I’m also not Asian anymore,” Wu said. “I was always really struck because my mom, who immigrated here when she was 20, is made fun of for being American by her family. So she’s no longer Asian, but she’s not fully American.”
Wu battled crushing cultural expectations while carving out a lifestyle coveted by many except himself, complete with a Harvard degree and a comfortable corporate job.
“I think the math is different for each individual. For me, I was so miserable at the consultant job, I absolutely despised it,” Wu shares. “A pitfall that I experienced, and one I think is a pretty common thought structure for Asian Americans, is that you feel like you need to have a plan. It’s like if you want to go to med school, you got to go to college and study bio and take your MCAT right. It’s very concrete, like, ‘You do this to get this.’”
To escape the stifling rigidity of a life he no longer wanted to live, Wu escaped into the vibrant world of dance music, a sanctuary for those who refuse to conform to the ebbs and flows of the cultural mainstream.
“I think there’s something really really powerful and magical about that freedom and acceptance just from everyone around you. It’s a space where a lot of people can go to feel accepted where they don’t feel accepted anywhere else,” Wu says. “If you want to be a girl and wear a unicorn hat and a thong, god bless you if you want to. If you want to roll 15 deep with a bunch of dudes just wearing jean shorts, no one would bat an eye.”
To truly break free from his past life, Wu needed to break through the electronic music space by solving the “million dollar question”: could he craft a distinctive sound and musical identity with his producing prowess alone?  
“For me, it’s really about leaning into what makes me different and unique from other artists in the scene,” he shares. “I grew up playing guitar, writing songs and singing. And so it’s like, OK, I feel like I have a unique writing style and a unique sort of musical, melodic aesthetic that you know, and I like music that is pretty.”
“It’s just leaning all the way into, like, what makes me excited right now, what am I, what gives me chills? OK, how do I find that? How do I bottle that up? How do I express that in a way that resonates with people?” he adds.
As it turns out, many of Wu’s most successful songs emerged from spontaneous experimentation rather than calculated compositions. 
“All my best songs had been born out of this energy of like, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing. Like, I don’t know what this is. I don’t know what this sounds like,'” he says. “And so, you know, it is a little scary and hard because it does feel like you’re reinventing the wheel every time but you know, that’s, that’s sort of that’s part of the process and that’s what makes it that keeps it fresh and keeps it exciting from it.”
In embracing this more abstract method of making music Wu finds himself tapping into the well of inspiration that lies within his subconscious.
“Part of the creative process is letting your subconscious speak, and I do think that there is something incredibly powerful about putting that energy into a song and knowing and seeing it come out the other side,” he shares. “I’ve heard so many artists talk about the best songs they wrote. They’re like, ‘I don’t know where this came from because it kind of just appeared to me.’ So it’s really about just developing and harnessing everything that’s going on deep down.”
Wu’s artistic journey has recently taken a transformative turn fueled by a series of collaborations with Asian American artists, most recently with sibling producing duo BEAUZ and Mark Tuan of the K-pop boy band GOT7 for the shimmering summertime anthem “Right Before Our Eyes.” 

These creative partnerships have kindled a profound connection, enabling Wu to embrace and celebrate facets of his own identity like never before.
“For me, it’s just part of the process of working with all these Asian artists is also coming to terms with being Asian myself and being proud of it and really embracing it as a part of who I am versus earlier in my career when I wouldn’t want to talk about it,” he says. “This really shows up in my music and shows up in my sort of creative vision and what I want people to hear in my music.”

Share this Article
© 2024 NextShark, Inc. All rights reserved.