In Conversation: Tasha

In Conversation: Tasha

Tasha is a DJ who has proven herself to be immune to the bullshit surrounding modern dance music. Her success has been hard-won: the Neighbourhood parties, which she started at much-missed East London venue Plastic People, were pivotal in bringing together key figures from the techno and bass scenes, an intersection which has defined the last ten years. Not one to be swayed by fads or fashions though Tasha has steadily refined her sound and honed her vision, as anyone who has followed the Neighbourhood label which sprung out of her parties will attest. It’s just one reason why today you will find her mentioned in the same breath as some of the UK’s most highly regarded techno artists.

Semtek: You recently played Freerotation and you were due to play at Houghton, which was unfortunately cancelled due to severe weather conditions, such a shame. How have you been and how are you feeling after that?

Tasha: Yeah gutted about Houghton, I really feel for Craig Richards and the Houghton crew, it must’ve been a really hard decision to make. All the love and hard work they put into the festival, I mean I’ve been the last two years and they have created something magical where you feel really free and enjoy the fantastic music, that keeps on 24 hours a day for the whole weekend and all Craig’s beautiful artwork is incorporated, Trevino’s area is so beautiful, yeah proper sad the weather prevented it from happening, but full respect to them all for prioritising the safety of the attendees and the staff.

I felt blessed to be invited to play there, it’s just down the road from where I spent most of my youth, I was due to be playing two sets, both on the Sunday at The Tantrum stage, which was one of my favourite stages when I went last year, super hyped! A techno set in the evening and a super special b2b set with DJ Storm in the afternoon, we were going to be taking everyone on a d&b history session! Also, something of a dream come true!

Jayne (Storm) gave me my first residency many many years ago, was proper buzzing and nervous to be playing b2b with her all these years on. I’d been digging deep into the vast d&b section of my records for that one. However, we are going to recreate this set another time and place soon and hopefully at Houghton next year!

Freerotation this year was the best one since I’ve been going and it was so great to play for the first time, a proper dream come true. I’m still riding high off that, and am really grateful to Steevio and Suzybee for having me. Mike Huckaby in the dome on Sunday was one of my highlights, I was there with my friends all together dancing like mad to this constant groove he had going on, pure vibes! The whole weekend was incredibly special. Freerotation is my favourite festival, it does a lot good for my soul!

S: With so many sets in your schedule do you try to plan them meticulously or do you take it one track at a time on the night?

T: I don’t plan meticulously. When I very first started dj’ing I used to plan my sets tune for tune and cue for cue and that helped with calming my nerves. It’s kind of the reverse these days, I find if I plan too much it generally goes a little bit wrong, and makes me nervous haha because I’m in my head thinking about the plan rather than being in the moment playing the tunes. I guess I’ll plan in the sense that I know roughly what tunes I want to play but I have to be in the moment, in the zone. Sometimes I’ll download tunes pretty last minute and skim through them and I might end up playing those if I feel they’re right to play in that particular moment, it’s quite a buzz.

S: You come from a drum & bass background but you’re known more now for your techno sets. Do you like to combine the two styles when you play?

T: Yeah, I do come from a drum & bass background and as I just said I was gonna be playing some d&b at Houghton, and in fact I did a few months ago for (Bailey & Need for Mirrors’ Night) Soul In Motion, for the first time in years because they asked if I ever wanted to play a d&b set out again they’d like to book me and I was like ‘why not?’ and it was a lot of fun. However I don’t combine the two styles when I play out. I just don’t really feel the need to. Back when I used to play on Rinse, the first time round in 2009 that was when I decided I didn’t want to just play d&b on my shows. I played a selection of all styles really including dub, reggae, hip hop, garage, house, techno and d&b, it’s radio, but now I’m predominantly known as a techno DJ. I guess it could get to a point in my sets where I might feel like playing some d&b but I don’t think that will happen. I find it a bit gimmicky just to throw in a few d&b tunes if I’m honest, I like to keep the two separate.

S: Do you think the style that you play is characteristically UK sounding? 

T: I guess I would say so, and also the next Neighbourhood, number five, is a compilation called The Hive, which is very UK sounding and I’m really happy about that. But if I look in my record bag I’ve got a real mixture of techno by lots of different artists that aren’t all from the UK by any means.

Actually when I go and play out for example in Germany a lot of people there will say that that they like what I play because it’s very different to the German sound and they often remark that it’s a proper UK vibe that I bring, whether the records are produced by UK producers or not. Perhaps I like the kind of sounds in a tune that feel unmistakably UK influenced.

On the other hand I’m really feeling Freddy K’s KEY label there’s a really wicked selection of tunes on there and I have been caning the Ausgang release which isn’t at all UK. I guess what I would say is that I like to play tracks with a groove. If it hasn’t got a groove I find it difficult to get into it. I like this sort of harder sounding techno and also the deeper, more rolling tunes, I like some more broken stuff but yeah, generally it’s got to have a good groove to it. So I think characteristically that’s probably what I play!

S: Your label Neighbourhood came out of the parties you ran at Plastic People and other London venues, is the label a reflection of the sound that you play mainly or does it reflect the broader sound of the parties?

T: Well the whole point of doing the label was to reflect the sound of the parties really. Initially the parties were about bringing DJs together to play from the local ‘neighbourhood’, which extended to other neighbourhoods in other countries and that then led to essentially putting out my friends’ music with the same approach. I wanted the ethos of the label to be the same as the parties. With the parties it extended to a wider variety of guests from sounds I was into other than techno but with the label I guess it does come back to reflecting the sound that I like and what I like to play.

Neighbourhood started at Plastic People and I also went to lots of nights there. It was an amazing meeting point for a lot of people. You could go there on your own and know you’d bump into friends there, but generally I’d go because I wanted to hear specific DJs play on that weighty sound system in that little dark space and feel the gut-wrenching bass. It had a big influence on the sound of the label, looking back.

S: Prior to its sad demise you worked in the legendary Blackmarket Records shop in Soho, how did that come about?

T: Working in Blackmarket was another dream of mine come true. I remember going there for the first time when the d&b records were in the basement and it was promo day, packed full of people, smoking spliffs in the shop and hanging out. It was pretty daunting but I kind of got amongst it and was definitely put to the test! I remember asking for specific promos and being given all the shit stuff, so I had to earn my stripes but I just loved it.

I started working there around 2012. I was doing teacher training and working part time in a clothes shop off Carnaby Street for a mate of mine. That got shut down though and we all got made redundant. That day, I left work and was walking towards Blackmarket I bumped into Parris, he used to hang about and help out in there all the time. He mentioned that they were looking for someone to work weekends at Blackmarket and they had been talking about me, wondering if I’d be up for it. I went straight to the shop and Goldie (not Metalheadz Goldie, but Goldie who ran Blackmarket) asked if I was up for coming and working in there, so that was it. Obviously I said yes! It was some of the best years of my life, it was brilliant and I absolutely loved it. Had I not worked there I wouldn’t have come across some of the labels that I now absolutely adore like Relative and Live Jam, John Swing’s label. He used to come in and do sale or return on their stock, and that was how I got to know about the label and I just love their whole vibe. They didn’t have a distributor back then and it was all real DIY and raw, which fascinated me.

A lot of the guys there were really into minimal and constantly pushing it on me, Jimmy and Eddie especially, and you know, I wasn’t mad about it but there’s definitely some killer tracks on Perlon that I perhaps would not have even thought about listening to if I’d gone in there as a customer. I’ve got to big up all the crew I worked with there, Miss Pink, Flight, Sigha, Youngsta, Eddie, Jimmy, Parris, Joe Seven, Frank, Maggs, Billy Nasty, Goldie and Dub Vendor crew who ended up setting up shop at the back who definitely helped add to my dub reggae sevens collection, shout to Ox!

S: Right now you’re based between Berlin and Norfolk, that must be a nice break after so many years living in London, what motivated the move away from the capital and is it permanent?

T: I lived in London for twelve years and it has been a nice break. I actually had a few things happen in the last few years in London and it was always on my mind to go and spend some time living in Berlin after visiting the city several times to go raving and visit friends who had moved out there some years a go.

I guess little things started to bug me like taking an hour to get from one side of London to the other, which didn’t used to, and all the usual issues people have living in such a big city. London is a grind! An opportunity came up where a friend of mine was moving to Ibiza last summer and she asked me if I wanted to take her flat in Berlin. So I did and it was a brilliant summer. Berlin has kind of become my second home. I go and play there very regularly, which is amazing. Unexpectedly, towards the end of last year I had to come back to the UK and relocate to Norfolk.

My nan got really ill and I made the decision to be her live-in carer for the last few months before she died and I’m so glad that I did. It was amazing to spend all that time together and make sure she was happy and comfortable, we were really close. That took over for a while, it was my priority but I managed to fit all my gigs in around it for the six months I was looking after her by sharing the care with my Mum.

Meanwhile it’s been nice being in Norfolk. I’ve been enjoying having the beach 20 minutes down the road and it’s a really calm place to come back to after my gigs at the weekend. I am away quite a lot so I kind of go away to the madness and then come back to the calm and do my thing and see my family and walk the dogs.

I’m not sure if I’ll move back to London in the future but I’ll carry on doing my parties there and it’s 10 years of Neighbourhood next year so I’ve got lots of exciting things planned for that!!

S: You must be proud to see the Neighbourhood concept come so far, have you got anything special planned to mark the ten year milestone?

T: The next release is coming out at the end of September, it’s a various artists compilation from a really wicked selection of artists who are all connected to Neighbourhood but not necessarily connected to each other so it will be interesting bringing them together on a compilation. The title of the project is The Hive. It’s a double-pack and I’m really excited to get this one out. There will be a mini launch party for this happening at The Glove That Fits on Friday 4th October, the first Neighbourhood party in nearly a year!

I also have a series of ten years of Neighbourhood parties that I’m hosting at Fold next year. There’s going to be more information on that popping up towards the end of the year. I did say I wanted to get ten years with the parties and I’m nearly there. It has been a pretty incredible journey from Plastic People to Dance Tunnel to Pickle Factory via hosting room 2 for Metalheadz at Cable, that was alongside the Plastic People days. I had Marcus Intalex coming to play a techno set in the Neighbourhood room after he’d played d&b in room 1, plus Josey Rebelle, Shifted and Sigha. Neighbourhood hosted the Sputnik Dome at Field Maneuvers with Ben Sims headlining, collaborated with Machine at Corsica Studios and also with Scand. It was great to work with Phil and Steve, we managed to get The Advent to come and play an old school 90 min electro set after wanting to book him for years and he tore it up! There have been some really memorable parties over the years, and I can’t wait for the ten year celebrations. I’m going to be inviting some people back who’ve played and also some fresh artists I’ve been wanting to book since the beginning. Keep your eyes peeled on the Neighbourhood Facebook for more information about those dates.

S: Last year Ben Sims released one of your first commercially available productions on his label Machine. Can we expect to see more productions from you in the future?

T: Yes, massive big ups to Ben Sims, I’m super happy with that release and yes you can expect some more productions for me in the future. Ben did a fantastic job of releasing 51 top quality tunes by top quality producers on his Tribology compilation and he cut 20 of the tunes to vinyl including mine, it’s really amazing to be sharing a record with the man himself, Oscar Mulero and Ø [Phase], three producers who I really respect and love their music. I’ve actually got a tune coming out on the Neighbourhood compilation in September, which is a collaboration with Chris, Kamikaze Space Programme. We go way back, to his Raiden days when he was producing d&b! I went to his studio after I’d played Tresor earlier this year and we had a lot of fun writing this tune, we rolled it out in 6 hours. It’s a very inspired tune, called Nine Spirit, which has a lot of meaning to it for us, and actually connects to our d&b roots!

Chris and I are planning a few more sessions in the studio together and I’ve also been working on another collaborative project with Cadans, and I am currently working to a deadline on a remix, which I’m really chuffed to be doing, news of which should surface soon.

You can catch Tasha on Rinse FM, first Friday of the month 11pm till 1am

Photographs: Jojo Mathiszig