Beloved artist Tasha Baxter swung by to chat about finding solace in the digital realm during the pandemic and its result, Full Moon Flex.
South African DJ, producer, and singer/songwriter Tasha Baxter has won over the hearts and minds of countless dance music lovers around the globe since first emerging on the scene. From her solo album Colour Of Me in 2007 and singles including “Ebb & Flow” and “Bigger Than Me” to features on Feed Me’s “Cloudburn” and “Strange Behaviour” along with Au5’s “Snowblind,” she’s proven to be one of the best in the scene.
While Tasha Baxter continued to bolster her career with new releases and appearances, the onset of the pandemic last year threw a wrench in many plans. Instead of just sitting idly by, she looked to streaming platforms like Twitch and further grew her community on Discord, Band of Hawk, to keep her creativity going and mind off the state of the world while in lockdown. This led to the arrival of the Full Moon Flex series on Twitch, and subsequently, the creation of a collaborative album with OMSTRB, DjangoZa, Shadow Wanderer, GXG, VACANT FUTURE, Imaginate, Exula, P.I.M, Stan Davichone, Familiar Oddity, InTaKe, Punker, and Magnole.
This year has seen Tasha Baxter truly blossom into the next era of her career. Not only has she reunited with Feed Me for “Reckless” off his latest album, but she also teamed up with rising superstar Moore Kismet for “Call Of The Unicorn,” a track off their forthcoming album as well. And after months of hard work and creative sessions, Full Moon Flex has also landed for the masses to immerse themselves in. Featuring 17 tracks in total, this body of work sees Tasha Baxter team up with artists from around the globe – a true testament both to her thriving community and her own dynamic artistry.
Looking to gain some insight on the creation of this album and more, we caught up with Tasha Baxter after the release of Full Moon Flex to pick her brain. The album is out now on all streaming platforms, with a limited vinyl run available for pre-order as well, so make sure to listen to it and read on to dive deeper into the mind of this brilliant artist!
Check out Full Moon Flex on YouTube:
Hi Tasha, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today, and congrats on the release of your album Full Moon Flex! During the pandemic, you weathered the storm by hosting weekly livestreams that included everything from performances to interviews. How important were these streams to keep your own creative juices flowing and mind steady?
Thank you! Great to chat with you about this lunacy! I’d say unequivocally Twitch and Discord kept me sane, entertained, and inspired. Our lockdown in South Africa was super hard and cases were ridiculously high. They even banned the sale of cigarettes and alcohol, not sure why about the smokes but they wanted to keep people out of hospitals hence the booze ban. So yeah, I existed entirely in the metaverse and loved every second of it.
These streams and the vibrant Discord community you cultivated (Band of Hawk) led to the creation of Full Moon Flex. When did the idea for a community-made album first enter your mind? Was it a spur-of-the-moment thing or did it just make sense after finding that connection?
Band of Hawk, bless this community. The name is inspired by Band of Hawk raiders from Berserk – a bunch of misfit strugglers who know how to face adversity and overcome it together.
Full Moon Flex started as a feedback stream, where I posted on my socials for producers to send through their tunes, I would freestyle to them live on Twitch while hearing them for the first time. They could then keep whatever I made and use the vocals. This was never meant for validation or release, purely to survive a shitty situation and make the most of it.
Over the course of the FMF streams, it kinda evolved, I had given three sets of stems out, and for flex 4 and 5 it became apparent that we were actually creating something beautiful. A couple of members from BOH suggested we actually put these out and I agreed, why the hell not? [Laughs] Of course, it wasn’t going to be easy, but nothing truly valuable is.
Working on so many different tracks in different genres with artists from all over the world seems like quite the task! Can you share what the process was like when collaborating on these tunes? Was it mostly sending versions back and forth or did you use platforms like Zoom to create these together?
Damn, it was! I haven’t really had a chance to stop and smell the roses and realize the absolute gravity of the situation. My old iMac took a beating with the streams, there were always tech issues and chaos, to the point that we did a PC donation goal to get us through and eventually met the goal with a generous donation from Freqnoir! Truly a lifesaver.
To be honest, like most of us I’m sure, I hit a really hard depression and just operated on auto-pilot. I’ve been on lithium for 10 years now and although it helps keep me stable, it mostly keeps me numb. Too numb. So chasing those endorphins is something the addict in me always craves in order to feel “alive”. Putting myself into uncomfortable places, feeling exposed, vulnerable, on the edge of myself, and throwing myself into impossible deadlines or challenges is something I subconsciously crave.
The initial vocals/guitar/melodic/lyrical core elements came from the streams, then we hashed them out on Discord after flex 5, I set up a schedule with all the artists on July 6 and we had a deadline for August 10 for mastering as I decided to press this photosonic time-capsule to vinyl. Which meant we really had no time. [Laughs]
I was in two, four-hour sessions a day, sometimes more, everyone is in different time zones and skill levels – Genin, Chunin, Jonin, etc – so it was delicate, a lot of love really, for these humans and our creations. Things got pretty prickly too, it was quite the undertaking for all of us, some had never worked with vocalists, or vocals, some cracked under pressure and almost didn’t make it to the finish line, but we were not going to leave any soldiers behind. And we didn’t.
One of the standout singles from Full Moon Flex was the second to be released, “Dreamweaving” with DjangoZa. It’s an absolute bop, so what’s the story behind this tune specifically?
Oh damn, thank you! [Laughs] Django is gonna be so stoked! It IS a bop, man I love it. Django is the only other South African on the album, from Cape Town, my hometown! We met on Twitch through another awesome producer’s stream (SH1) and then we connected.
Django has two imprints on the album, and both are vastly different! Dead Inside is a deep, dark DnB old school roller created on Halloween flex 2. His production is outstanding, a great DJ, streamer, he’s an all-around gem of a dude and Dreamweaving clicked into vahb mode instantly when I heard it. He is def one to watch!
Not only does this album mark a new major milestone for both your community and you artistically, but also has helped usher in your new imprint Polyoto as well. Can you share some of the goals you have for this label?
Absolutely! Poly (many) oto (sound in Japanese and prefix for ear) “Many sounds make light work” with a play on “light work” really referring to altruistic cause and effect. Yeah, I think the goal is really just to be the mom I intrinsically am. (my kids are 19 and 20) I want to nurture artists I connect with on a fundamental, personal, creative, and professional level. I have experience firsthand in dealing with majors and independent labels that don’t treat artists with the basic equality, care, respect, and attention to detail they deserve.
I want to flip the script and put out amazing music while pushing the art and the creators as best I can. No boxes to be confined in, the freedom to evolve and transform at will, with a hands-on A&R approach and complete transparency in the process. Also to educate them and equip them with the tools of the trade should they wish to leave the nest. Hence the term sonic incubation chamber. [Laughs] It is also a DMCA-free label, of course, it would be, having been born on Twitch. I realize I’m not the big league, but I will do for them what I would want for myself. Protect the artists and their art. Labels I look up to in that regard are Warp and Ninja Tune.
You’re no stranger to collaborations as you’ve worked with a number of artists over the years. One artist you’ve worked with that sticks out to me is Feed Me. I loved “Cloudburn” and “Strange Behavior” and your recent tune with him, “Reckless,” was an absolute treat. Can you share how the two of you reconnected for this track? What was it like working with him on these tunes?
Ah, thank you! Gosh, not going to lie, I love them so much! Well, I guess this covid thing had a silver lining as I’ve experienced. Life is short, carpe diem and you re-connect!
Jon and I had not spoken for some time, I can’t recall exactly the reason we reconnected again but he ended up helping my daughter with some tech on Adobe in creating the Polyoto logo, we spoke about my audio interface and how he suggested I get an Apollo (which Pockets in my server gifted me for my 40th this year and I almost died) He had sent through the tunes from his forthcoming album and had asked if I vibed with one or two. Actually, there were two sent prior that I couldn’t click with and the one that I wanted to sing on “Reckless” had been given to someone else to try, so naturally I wasn’t stoked, because I was missing out on working with Jon again.
I wasn’t going to force something to work and I pride myself in that. It has to come from the heart. But it came back around and this was the first time I had collabed without having written the vocal melody and lyrics. The only part I had contributed melody-wise was the bridge. Jon sent a sketch that he had sung and I loved his delivery and writing on it. I knew that I could nail what he had done and that our vocals would sit well together. Complimentary registers. So I recorded my bit that same day, he loved it and then I just needed some tweaking on phrasing with a syllable or two. But pretty effortless and easy going!
“Cloudburn” was done in my apartment on my Samson C01 condenser mic, set up in my kitchen. Inspired by the grey cloud-burn of London, the uncomfortably numb Tube rides that I found rather depressing, everyone seemed so sad, going through the motions of the life grind, not laughing, no chatting, just existing from one moment to the next. Being paranoid and anxious and feeling like you need to protect and isolate yourself, either from your vices or your mind. “Strange Behaviour” was also done remotely, in a studio where I was writing and producing music for film and TV commercials. I don’t think I need to explain this one, but I’m pretty sure we all have our own narratives of what it means to us.
I met Jon as (Sporlifted) on AIM around 2005 and we chatted over the years. I wrote and recorded an EP and sent over some of the tunes, “Ebb & Flow” and “Bikes” were on that EP. We chatted about him producing the EP which we never finished, although I put out “Ebb & Flow,” “Bikes,” and “Fake the Fall” independently which he produced. It then later saw a re-vibe on his album, Calamari Tuesday. Working with Jon is a treat, every single piece of music we have made is super close to my heart and he is a wizard in the studio as a producer, engineer, and songwriter.
Having been involved in the music industry for nearly two decades now, when you look back on your journey as an artist what are some of the most defining moments you’ve had on a personal level?
Damn. Loaded questions! [Laughs] I would have to say there were a few defining moments. The first was begging my dad to teach me to play the guitar when I was 12 before he moved to Joburg. That changed my life as a teenager and I found myself and solace through writing songs and meeting like-minded weird kids to start bands with. There is actually a video on my YT of me at 14 playing Zombie by Cranberries, and that was me. Nirvana-obsessed grunge kid.
The second is probably when I was 18, right before I had my first child, I met Roger Goode. This led to our song “In The Beginning” which then got me my first publishing deal with Sheer Music and Purple Eye. It was Number 1 on Pete Tong’s show and got a Ferry Corsten Remix. We shot a music video, I was deep-sea diving in latex and all sorts, only to realize I was four months pregnant at the time. When I told the label this, they removed me from the video entirely and canceled the tour plans, saying they couldn’t have a pregnant “pop star.” This was my first taste of how I did not want to be treated as a collaborator. Still leaves a bad taste in my mouth to this day.
Thirdly, this was probably my biggest milestone moment. I was DJing a regular DnB residency with my boyfriend at the time and I would sing while I mixed or on the dude’s sets. I met Andre Scheepers from these Reflex nights who is an incredible songwriter and pianist. We wrote a bunch of songs and collabed together which became nine demos. I sent them over to Noisia who I had also met on AIM, one thing led to another and I was on a plane to Holland, leaving SA for the first time. (2006) The only additional song I wrote there was “The Visitor.” This led to a three-album, five year deal with EMI now UMG, and delivered my debut album Colour Of Me.
In 2007 we then won Best Pop Album and Best Newcomer at the South African Music awards, People’ Mag Choice Awards for SA’s hottest artist and then they dropped me and our deal after the first album. I could go into that, but not sure this is the place. However it tarnished my relationship with Noisia and of course, no one cares about Bipolar Disorder unless it’s selling records. This was obviously the highest and lowest time in my music career. Many of the collaborations that followed came from this record. The lessons were invaluable but took me many years to digest and come to terms with. Also accepting where I went wrong and how not to take anything for granted. You don’t get opportunities like this twice in life.
Another moment was being recognized at the Drum and Bass Arena Awards in 2017 as “Best Vocalist.” I had been singing on DnB since 1997 or so and my first collab was with the local group Counterstrike who held monthly events called Homegrown and built the scene in SA. Being in the DnB world singing and DJing, this was how I met Noisia and how Colour of Me came about, so it was quite a pivotal moment and the beginning of my “collab” endeavors within DnB and Bass music. It was really just amazing to make a mark “overseas” with my contributions to these otherwise “underground” tunes that were exposed to a very niche audience at the time. And being in South Africa purely communicating on DOA and Aim, make it that much more of a challenge and a reward.
I have to say lastly, this moment right now, is a defining moment. After a decade of putting myself back together again, having two six months psyche ward admissions, my life turned upside down, my kid’s lives and my family’s – I am finally in a stable place to focus on the dreams I had of releasing my music and starting a label with my partner by my side.
If you could offer up a piece of advice to artists who are just beginning their own careers, what would it be?
Guard your heart, protect your art. Read your contracts, demand your contracts, don’t send your stems until you have that agreement and/or session fee. Work with those you truly vibe with. Not for clout or exposure. Educate yourself and understand the business behind the music. Don’t compromise or make yourself smaller to fit into someone else’s idea of you or your sound. Take constructive crit with grace and a pinch of salt. Be willing to learn and adapt. Be authentic. Be tenacious. Meet deadlines. Be willing to say no. Listen to your gut. All that glitters isn’t gold, this industry is rife with opportunists.
Finally, now that the album has been released for the world to hear, what goals do you have for the rest of the year and beyond? Do you have plans for more albums like Full Moon Flex in the future?
Definitely no Full Moon Flex in the future, this was for sure a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will live forever in this photosonic imprint.
There will be a couple of releases on Polyoto which I’m really excited about. One that I can talk about is my forthcoming solo EP, which has been put on ice for some time. A chapter I need to close and the catharsis I need to experience. We will be looking forward to the Vinyl release early next year and there will be something special we plan to deliver around the same time. I have some artists from within the BOH community we want to work with and hopefully get them out into the world.
Most importantly, right now, I need a holiday! [Laughs]