Name: Tasha / Natasha Klerks
Occupation: DJ, Producer, Label Founder of Neighbourhood
Current Release: The Hive Volume 1 on Neighbourhood
Recommendations: Emma Kunz's visionary drawings. My mate Banger’s “The diary of a bootlegger”.
Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this interview with Tasha of Neighbourhood Records, visit her facebook profile or the website of Neighbourhood Music for current tour dates, background information and music.
When did you start with your own label - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
When I was very young, I knew that what was standardly played on the radio wasn't all that was out there. I was excited about discovering a whole new world, which I did. I used to record so much to tape, Fabio & Grooverider, Annie Nightingale on radio 1 ... bought tape packs ... Randall at Telepathy is still in my tape deck! Me and my sister used to record our own radio shows haha.
Early passions - I started going to UK garage parties in Northampton when I was 14. I later got into Drum & Bass, my friend's brother was a d&b DJ and Luke, his MC, is still one of my best friends to this day. It was the bass that really drew me in, and I later got obsessed with the drums, different breaks and drum patterns. I've got lots of kool fm tapes, old kiss fm tapes, a favourite one, Zinc with Loxy.
I started collecting records and learning to mix drum & bass in 2001 on an ex boyfriend's Gemini belt drive decks and a vestal mixer. I then bought a friend's vestax decks and a citronic mixer so I had my own kit. Some of the labels that have influenced me are Metalheadz, Soul:R, Exit, Warp, Blueprint, Dynamic Tension, Peacefrog, Djax Up-Beats. Some of the artists I’ve been influenced by: DJ Storm, Flight, Marcus Intalex, Loxy, Photek, Source Direct, Calibre, dBridge, Fabio & Grooverider, Maryanne Hobbs, LFO, Ben Sims, DJ Rush, Neil Landstrumm, James Ruskin, Luke Slater, Surgeon, Regis, Steve Bicknell, Oliver Ho, Kool FM, Rinse FM, are some of who have influenced me. Generally though, listening to music is like a form of meditation, it relaxes me and makes me feel good.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as a label curator and the transition towards your own approach? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I basically got a lot of advice off friends who are label owners of labels I respect and admire about their approach, all their approaches were different. Still, I had a pretty clear vision about what I wanted and to some degree being slightly naive and not knowing some aspects helped me because I wasn't over thinking it and just went for what I wanted.
For example, I knew who I wanted to distribute my label's music, because they distributed a lot of other labels music I liked and I knew they had a good reputation for distributing other music within the same genre and I was very direct with them that it had to be them. Originality is key though.
What were your main label-related challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Not knowing everything about it, but the beauty, as I just mentioned was being slightly naive and learning so much along the way and building relationships with all the different people involved when putting out a record.
How do you see the role of labels in the creative process? What is the scope and what are the limitations of what you are capable of doing?
You can do anything if you put your mind to it!
Whom do you feel your obligation to – the artists, the buyers, your own demands in terms of quality?
All of the above.
What are the most important conclusions you've drawn from the changes in the music-, music-PR- and music-journalism landscape? How do they affect labels in general and your own take on running a label in particular? What role do social media play for your approach?
Sadly social media does play a part and also music PR and journalism. When I first thought about setting up the label I just wanted to put the records out and whoever was feeling them would buy them. I’ve never been one for pushing it in peoples faces though, with the party promo also. I started my night on a Wednesday and in London if you’re gonna go out on a Wednesday night it’s because there’s someone you really wanna hear play and dance to. My night attracted the proper heads.
I’m pretty old school in my approach but I do realise the benefits of music PR and I want the artists' incredible music to be exposed to more and more people to get into. It’s the same with the parties. I want to book people who I’m feeling, some who I don’t feel are playing out enough, I want people to dance to their sets like I do and go out and see them play again and buy their music, listen to their radio shows. That’s the point right?
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Both can be pretty intuitive and if both are in tune some pretty amazing shit can happen! I keep it pretty basic and minimal in the studio, but sometimes when I am really in tune, there is a flow where more comes out of the machines, which seem to sync in harmony with my human input and there is a cycle of feedback.
I was accused of being very old school when I DJ because I don't use Rekordbox. I don't care, I use CDJs like I do records, I started using them to play music that hadn't come out on vinyl yet, like a dub plate but a CDJ is functional in that way. Yes, I'll loop occasionally, mainly if the tune is about to run out haha ... but then again, all these DJs who have only ever known how to mix on CDJs with their USBs matching up tempos, syncing, mixing with their eyes and not their ears must need these extra functions to make it more interesting and challenging for them in the mix. I think it's how you feed your energy in response to the music through the machines...
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, including the artists on your label?
I wouldn’t be where I am now without collaborating with like minds and building a little community. We are all connected through the sounds and our love for certain ones where more meeting of minds occurs and collaborations have happened on my label, Metrist asked specifically for Cadans to remix his tune on the third release, very specific, it’s brilliant!! Collaborating with Kamikaze Space Programme producing our track 'Nine Spirit' on the Hive was just magical because we have a good musical connection from way back.
Can you take me through your process on the basis of a release that's particularly dear to you? How do you decide to release it, what did you start with, what sources did you draw from for all tasks related to it and how did the finished product gradually take shape?
All the releases on my label are particularly dear to me in their own individual way. However I’d like to talk about kamikaze Space programme's release, I was mulling over releasing another producer’s music at the time and he got in touch and sent me two tracks he said he’d made with Neighbourhood in mind. He’d really thought about the sound that represents Neighbourhood, I listened to them there and then with him sat waiting for my response! Instantly I knew I wanted to sign them.
What was also so amazing was the concept behind the tracks, a lot of the samples were from the masts and Russian spy recording devices. Side A ‘Numbers Stations’ finds its inspiration in encrypted shortwave radio used by spies for communication, espionage in the cold war era.
‘Duga 3’ on Side B takes its stimulus from the Duga 3 radar used between July 1976 to December 1989 by the Soviet government as an early warning network for oncoming nuclear threats. There is a lot of meaning to these tracks for both Chris and the label. We did a video for ‘Numbers Stations’, and my friends who wanted some experience with creating music videos and editing got involved, the whole process was loads of fun and the videos are fantastic.
My designer, Tim Parker, who has been with me since the parties started does the artwork, very simple and red was the colour for this one and fitted with the theme. Without realising we used all the primary colours for the first four releases..
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do the label and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Everything musically in my life is going great and I couldn’t be happier! When I’m not teaching I wake up, meditate, do my emails, have breakfast haha ... crack on with the day whether that’s sorting music, label stuff, my party, my schedule for the weekend, having a mix, making some music. I’m not too rigid in my schedule but I do try to keep Neighbourhood stuff separate from my DJ stuff.
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?
I do struggle with this sometimes because I always feel I need to set aside loads of time to write music but often when I’m busiest and I have a little window and I’m just feeling to get an idea down and not thinking too much about how it’s going to sound or that I need to finish some music, I’m just on a vibe to do it. That’s where the magic always happens and usually I produce something pretty quick that I’m happy with!
I do meditate a lot as I do love that feeling of total relaxation! I like to meditate on an idea and get proper in tune with it, free from distraction! I like to spend time with myself, going out in nature, there is a wonderful forest just 10 minutes up the road from me where I can be away from the distractions that are social media and other noise, such as people with their noise around me!
How is listening to the actual music and writing or reading about it connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
I think it’s all about listening to it! Reading about music doesn’t make me like it any more or less, if it’s pleasing to my ears that’s the indicator. My best written music is the most spontaneous, improvised sessions.
There has been an exponential growth in promotion agencies and there is still a vast landscape for music magazines. What's your perspective on the music promo- and journalism-system? In how far is it influencing your choice of artists, in how far is it useful for potential buyers, in how far do you feel it is possibly undermining your work?
I find it all very dull and boring!
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?
Taking in everything in from my surroundings and expressing myself from within, how I’m feeling and how I connect with certain sounds in relation to how I’m feeling or thinking about someone or something. Everything usually connects when it’s working and I guess as you say feeds back, a cycle of beautiful energy!
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of labels still intact. Do you have a vision of labels, an idea of what they could be beyond their current form?
I am pretty old school, so my vision is to keep everything very simple - vinyl all the way!