The Way of Tack

Features: March 2010 – There’s a disconnect between meeting Tim Tack–an Iowa City hip hop producer and PATV’s Assistant Community Programmer–and seeing Tack Fu, his alter ego, host of channel 18’s “85 dB TV.” But not what you’d assume. The former brims over with outsized energy for his professions, which he takes very seriously. And perhaps it’s this seriousness that infects Tack Fu, the host, as much of the time he introduces video clips and “underground” tracks in sincere, calming deadpan (if dashed with a bit of sillyness). Usually hosts of variety shows, even on public access, fake the enthusiasm. But Tack doesn’t front–he’s confident in his skills, both producing and selecting “jazzy, bouncy” beats (think A Tribe Called Quest) and his newfound forte into video editing–so he lets his talent talk.

“It’s more than just shooting and editing–which Tack is really good at. He has the energy and enthusiasm for video that’s hard for me to maintain these days,” said Josh Goding, executive director of PATV. “He’s made himself irreplaceable…I can’t really see a future without Tack.”

Most IC folk would likely remember Tack with the “Fu” addendum. “Fu” means “the way of”–in this case, “The Way of Tack.”

“People say, ‘you sound like you’re one of the lost Wu-Tang members,'” Tack said. “Well, those Wu-Tang members are just as old as me, and I grew up on the same stuff. That late-night stuff, that Saturday morning Kung Fu stuff. I enjoyed it as much as they did.” (When pressed on how old he actually is, he repeated that he was simply as old as the Wu-Tang Clan, which would put him over 35.)

As producer Tack Fu, he helped hold much of whatever hip hop scene the town had for much of the aughts, assembling 2005’s 85 decibel Monks, a production team which included The Chaircrusher, drumk, and The Beat Farmer and rhymes from Cousin of Bad Fathers, among others. In the five years that have passed, however, Tack moved away from wishing for another such album release.

“As Tack has been less active trying to make things happen in Iowa City, less stuff has been happening,” said Kent Williams, a.k.a. producer The Chaircrusher, a.k.a. Little Village’s arts editor (this town is small). “Tack was the guy who knew everyone, who tried to work with everyone, so he was a catalyst. At this point, I don’t see anyone stepping up to do that.”

Some of Tack’s lack of local activity can be ascribed to the fact that he’s been licensing more of his music to television, mostly to reality TV shows like MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16” and VH1’s “Best Week Ever.” A decline in hitting the music scene here, however, led to the creation of Tack’s relatively new day job at PATV, which he started in July of last year.

“It’s a pretty seamless transition, from audio to video,” Tack said. “I came in with audio editing skills and started using the same tactics. Going from scene to scene. In music, it’s like: 16 bars of lyrics to hook then back to the…you know. There’s a flow, a pattern. And television, it has the same sort of flow. You develop the skill.”

As Tack tells it, after years of temping during the day (as a forklift operator, factory worker, even tax assistant) and rushing home to produce the music he loved at night, he decided to develop a resume that he could use to “infiltrate” positions he’d be excited about. The evasive American dream of looking forward to going to work. After volunteering at a friend’s PATV show and securing an on-the-job training grant from Kirkwood, Tack convinced Goding to let him assist in the station’s summer community programming.

Community programming is increasingly important for PATV and other public access channels across the country, Goding explained. As budgets tighten and states gain the ability to syndicate public access channels from one state center, rather than spending the money on more locally oriented stations, pressure is put on the likes of PATV to prove their service is critical to the community. (PATV receives 85 percent of its funding from the City of Iowa City.) Luckily for Goding, Tack and Iowa City, our town has much to capture. Tack’s summer tasks included capturing and editing Jazz Fest, Arts Fest and Riverside’s Trek Fest–and current winter jobs include The Englert’s “The Nutcracker,” local arts fair “What a Load of Craft,” as well as various Prairie Lights events.

Music has never abandoned Tack, however, nor vice versa. Last summer he also started “85 dB TV,” his own hip hop variety show airing Friday nights at 9:30 p.m. and again at 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning. Watching it, you notice that Tack is starting to show his age but refuses to dress like it–he’s all about the pop culture t-shirts, baggy cargo pants and skateboard shoes, wearing a silver chain throughout it all. And whether or not you find his delivery odd, it’s hard to deny that the tracks he selects are pretty damn good. It’s a formula that seems to work well–Tack uploads his show to, a site that allows other public access channels to syndicate across the country (from Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine, and all in-between) and even, somehow, worldwide.

“[The show] is real popular in South Korea, too,” said Goding. “We have an international intern starting in the spring from Korea, and one of the things he said to me in the interview was that he was really impressed with ’85 dB TV’ and wanted to do his own show like Tack Fu.”

As for music producing, Tack recently “caught the bug again,” and hopes to collaborate with Iowa City Symphony Community Orchestra director Carey Bostian to create custom sample tracks that he and his producers can recut over their beats to spawn tracks free of sample licensing worry. If all goes according to plan, recording will start in June.

With PATV, he likes to keep his daily ambitions mostly small.

“I’m willing to go that extra mile for a better marriage between audio and video,” Tack said. “I have no intentions of moving on from Iowa City. I’m always just trying to improve, to make better programming.” Tack laughs, then adds: “I want to rule the world one day, of course. My goal is to rule the world and make billions of dollars…but one step at a time.”

For more info on Tack Fu, visit his website:
For more info on PATV, watch channel 18 or visit: They are always looking for interns.

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