Name: Tasha Baxter
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, producer, label owner
Nationality: South-African
Current release: Tasha Baxter's Full Moon Flex LP, recorded in isolation during the pandemic and featuring a wide range of styles and collaborators, including DjangoZa, Shadow Wanderer, GXG, Vacant Future, OMSTRB and Imaginate, is available via Polyoto November 19th 2021.
Recommendations: The Full Moon Flex album of course! Out this Friday 19th ;) And the War of Art by Steven Pressfield, a must read!

If you enjoyed this interview with Tasha Baxter and would like to stay up to date on her work, visit her official homepage. She is also on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, and twitter.

When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

In primary school I played piano and sang in the choir, and when I was twelve my dad taught me a couple standard chords on guitar and I was hooked. A steel string that was originally a 12 string, became my best friend and I wrote my first songs then.

As a single child and really quite an outcast, I found comfort in defining myself as an emo grunge kid, get everything inside out, obsessed with Kurt Cobain, Pixies, Janes Addiction, Soundgarden, Portishead, and that entire crop of iconic 90’s music that became the soundtrack to my life.

One of the first songs I wrote was called “Death of a hippy girl” which I used to play at school during break or bunking class. The first line starts, “With Neon in her hair and acid in her brain, she broke her dayglo heart and exploded rainbow pain” (Laughs) So I was there.

There is a video on my YT that encapsulates this image of me at 14, playing "Zombie" by The Cranberries, in my bedroom with posters and alternative paraphernalia everywhere. It’s great. I frequently travel to that place in time.

Early influences were everything from Kate Bush, Billie Holiday, No Doubt, Nirvana, Röyksopp, Chemical brothers, Pearl Jam, Jeff Buckley, The Police, Sublime, Massive Attack, Prodigy, RATM and really just a plethora of music that shaped me.

I started producing in 2010 being thrown in the deep end when I got a job at an audio company as a composer/producer making music for film and TV. Protools was the DAW and I loved that job.

For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?

Totally true, subconsciously I think we are always taking from our influences in one way or another. I do find it hard to pigeonhole my sound but at the same time there are definitely similar sonic frequencies that spill out into my music.

Although, while learning guitar, I played many covers of the bands / musicians previously mentioned, it’s definitely how I learnt to be versatile and find my voice. I used to do a lot of voice over work and jingles, and being adaptable to any genre is a strength I like to think I have. I pride myself in being somewhat of an artful dodger but at the same time it makes it that much harder to “define” my sound.

To me, as long as it’s from the soul, authentically me and something I am proud of, I don’t care which box I do or don’t fit into. My music changes with my emotions as I evolve as a human and it would be impossible for me to stick to a genre or sound without getting very bored.

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?

Well, most of the time I feel my creativity influences my identity, so it’s actually pretty precarious! (Laughs) I’ve had many ebb and flow moments in my life and the place I have been musically, creatively for about the last decade is heavily influenced by my core values, struggles with Bipolar 1 and edifying others who share a similar story.

I live vicariously through my music and to be honest, being a mom and being a musician is the only constant when I try to define myself. The rest just gets messy.

What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

The main creative challenges during Full Moon Flex were working with different producers of all levels. The switching between sub-genres of electronic music wasn’t much of an issue, so improvising to what clicked was a natural thing. If I couldn’t click to something on stream, it was most probably because I didn’t connect with it and that’s okay.

The creative challenges arose mostly in the sessions we had after the final Full Moon Flex streams were done,  when we were solidifying the fact that we were now releasing all this music and it needed to be finished and polished, mixed and mastered for vinyl.  So there were more interpersonal challenges at play. Some of the producers had never worked with a vocalist or even collaborated in this way, so it was a huge learning experience for all of us, with a lot of patience and passion to get it to the finish line.

As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?

I started with my voice, then piano, went to guitar, moved to bass for a while playing in a Christian metal band (influenced by Living Sacrifice) and pretty much stayed with guitar and voice till 2006 when I got a taste of Reason, then 2010 with Protools, Logic, Bitwig, then finally Ableton.

I have to say I’ve never had the opportunity to collect hardware, family life is expensive, just the bare essentials. If I could I would have a full band set up, drums, bass, guitars, synths, harp, theremin and a pioneer DJ rig to boot. Don’t think I would ever leave the house - not that I do anyway. (laughs) The Internet is a tool I could not live without and has helped me forge most of the professional relationships I have today.

Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

Well, guitar definitely opened a whole new world into my music, that’s where it all began.

I was gifted a Boss BR 532 in 2001 and that was a major game changer for me. Being able to record drums, bass with my guitar, guitar bits, lead guitar bits, vocals with all the effects blew me away. I think that was my first intro into hardware that acted like a DAW for me and I felt like the possibilities were endless. I was no longer limited to writing down lyrics and recording songs onto a tape deck.

Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?

Collabs are great, especially as I was a full time mom trying to juggle music, there wasn’t much time to dedicate 100% to my music career. I love all aspects of collaboration when I’m in that zone, provided I really vibe with the person I’m working with on all levels, the whole “work for hire” “side artist” thing doesn’t appeal to me as it’s more about the integrity of the music, the creation we are making together that has a special sonic imprint from the synergy. I’ve had my fair share of those and they’re not my favorite. I much prefer a real connection, you hear it in the music in my opinion.

Jamming is the best, performing together, too, but it can also be a really solo endeavor when I’m just writing my parts without much feedback, sending them over and done. I appreciate being left alone to do my thing as well, it just depends on the nature of the collab.  

That's why this Full Moon Flex project was so refreshing. We did it to survive lockdown, we had no intentions of releasing the music or me starting a label when Flex 1 started during Covid. It was just us having fun, getting the endorphins going, keeping us creatively inspired and challenged.

At the end of 2019 I had ended my collabs to focus on my solo material, come 2021 and I’m knee deep in a 17 track collab album! (laughs) But this was a beautiful once in a lifetime experience I wanted to share with others and hope that it makes a difference to someone somewhere.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?

Blend, that’s the word that stuck out. Lol! Everything is blended, for sometime now, I get up, make coffee or my partner makes me coffee, feed the animals (2 cats and a dog) walk over to the studio and I don’t stop till about 4am. (currently 4:45am)

As I am running the label as well as myself and bringing 13 other artists along with me for this ride, the workload is unreal. I don’t have management, so I really handle every aspect of my career and that alone is quite a task, never mind the daunting task of getting the label off the ground at the same time as finishing this album. The day consists mostly of admin at this point, all the socials, business and then still finishing collabs. I really do love it though, if I didn’t I wouldn’t be doing it. It’s been a lifelong dream.

We used to take walks daily, go away, go out for a meal or watch bands or go to a bar/club, but we have not been to a restaurant in 2 years. Life is definitely not balanced at the moment, and with the album out on Friday we plan to celebrate and hopefully get away for a bit, out of this loop and into nature.

Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?

I would have to say this time right now. Although over a two decade career, I've had some apex points for sure, this is something I am really proud of and something that has affected me on a very real level.

Motivated by lockdown and losing my mind, I put myself in front of a digital crowd in the metaverse, over-exposed and desperate for endorphins, so I started the Full Moon Flex streams. What I didn’t anticipate was forging relationships with amazing people, recording and finishing an album and starting a label with which to house the work.

This is by far the hardest I’ve ever worked for myself or anyone else. But life is short, this pandemic taught me how ephemeral and fleeting it is, so create!

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?

Being broke, that doesn’t help. Interpersonal issues affect me hugely as I run on pure emotions. But I think I’ve written most of my best work being utterly depressed or deflated, so it’s hard to tell.  

Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?

Music absolutely heals, it is the most powerful tool we have on this planet. It could be used adversely too and I’m sure it’s a matter of time before that is exposed. From lifting megalithic structures to mind control, for both benevolent and malevolent motives, I don’t doubt the magnitude of it’s power. Before there was light, there was sound. This is very close to my heart and is the closest I get to God/Source & back to me. 432hz :)

It’s holy … it’s omniscient and it has saved me, consoled me, brought me back to photosonic memories I thought were lost, both painful and pleasurable. Music is the bridge, connection is the cure. Something I often say. Music is the best therapy I’ve ever had and sharing it with others is what keeps me alive.

There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?

Music is the bridge, there should be no borders or gatekeepers. Copying, mimicking is how we learnt as infants, discovering our world around us and what resonates and how we mould ourselves into the unique humans we are. As long as it’s done from a place of admiration, respect and love there shouldn't be issues.

Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?

Piloerections, our body's physical reaction to an emotion. Gets me every time.

Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?

Honestly, I’ve tried to avoid getting caught up in social, political, cultural, economic trends. If I feel passionate about something, I will speak about it or write a song about it. I have always worn my heart on my sleeve, which can be detrimental but also, I think I’m too old to care at this stage.

I will use my voice where I can and I go where my heart navigates. In the words of RATM “why stand on a silent platform”.

What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?

Not sure, I just know that my life has always had a constant bed of music as a soundtrack and that it always speaks loudest during some of life's most joyful and painfull moments, always healing, always there. (but also, it's 5:39am, and these are some quantum questions. HA!)