Feature Photo by Haley Lan
Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending the first ever bitbird showcase in New York City. bitbird is San Holo’s imprint, its most recent release was EASTGHOST’s album Misery & Wonder. Check out all of bitbirds artists and releases here: https://soundcloud.com/bitbird.
I was able to interview Taska Black before the showcase began, he has been with bitbird since the beginning. For those of you who don’t know him, Taska Black is an incredibly talented artist based out of Antwerp, Belgium. Although his style is always changing, he continues to release melodic tracks inspired by his love for dark pop music blended with his classical background. He was discovered by San Holo after sending his first ever release to the artist, expecting nothing from it. Luckily, San Holo recognized Taska’s talent right away and asked him to release his first ever single ‘Right Now’ through his label, bitbird. Taska is still under bitbird today and is also managed by Heroic, the same management company that San Holo is with. Taska has seen much success over the past few years, accumulating tens of millions of streams across all platforms. He has collaborated with many different booming artists like Nevve, Ayelle, Pauline Herr, Midoca, and more. He was also given the opportunity to release an official remix to Charlie Puth’s “The Way I Am” which was released on STMPD, Martin Garrix’s label. Additionally, he has gained recognition and support from Alison Wonderland, Marshmello, Zeds Dead, DROELOE and more. Read on to learn more about Taska’s journey thus far as an artist!
Festival Squad: How do you feel? Are you excited about performing here? I think this is your first time at this venue isn’t it?
Taska Black: It is. I just took a look inside the venue and it looks really, really good so yeah I’m super excited. It is also the first bitbird showcase in New York and it looks great so I am super excited.
Festival Squad: Awesome! I’m excited too. So, how did you arrive at the name Taska Black?
Taska Black: It’s a funny story, a friend of mine is a movie director and he made a short film about a homeless guy in my home town Antwerp. That guy has been on the streets for 10 years playing the guitar and he’s a legend, everyone knows him, and he has a dog with him and the dog is named Taska. At the time I was looking for a stage name, I was like ‘Taska thats a really cool name’ so I added Black and thats how I got to Taska Black.
Festival Squad: That is the best story ever!
Taska Black: I don’t know, I keep telling myself I have to come up with a proper story *laughs*.
Festival Squad: I just visited Belgium last year!
Taska Black: Where did you go?
Festival Squad: Brussels! I loved the medieval architecture and people busking on the streets. When you said that about the homeless guy it really resonated with me because I experienced that there.
Taska Black: Oh yeah, cool!
Festival Squad: Last year fourth quarter you released your debut EP MINDS, up until then you were only releasing singles. How did it feel to release a full body of music and tell a story?
Taska Black: It was really hard on me. It was the first time I’d ever [done that] – I wanted to make it cohesive and like one piece of art. It was so hard on me because I was so used to putting out single after single after single. So I started it in January of last year and it took me like 7-8 months to do the whole thing. I think all the singles released that year were intended to go on the EP but they were single material not EP material. It was a change of mindset to get into EP mode.
Festival Squad: Well I loved it. ‘Cant Get Out Of My Head’ is my favorite track.
Taska Black: Thank you!
Festival Squad: So, whats your creative process like? If you were to start making a song tomorrow from the second you sit down to the second it is finished what would that look like?
Taska Black: It kind of changed over the years. I used to start literally on my laptop and start with a synthesizer or something but nowadays I always start from a real instrument or an idea in my head that I record on my phone. Nowadays I start recording guitars or while sitting behind a piano. Mostly I come up with chords first on an instrument, then I come up with a melody, and then I go into my computer and go from there.
Festival Squad: I love that. You collaborate with a lot of artists because you’re a producer so obviously you need vocalists on your tracks. Do you let them come in on the creative process and influence the production at all or do you just have them lay down the vocals on top?
Taska Black: Oh no I think thats where I am a little bit different from other producers. Like a lot of producers make their song and then send it out or get together with a vocalist and literally lay vocals on top of the track. I like to start with the vocals, I get a complete empty chord progression that’s when I get into the vocals, I write vocals myself or I get together with someone else in the studio and I build the whole track around the vocals. That’s how I love to work.
Festival Squad: Wow the artist that I worked with from Belgium used to be the exact same way!
Taska Black: Really? Maybe its a Belgium thing *laughs*.
Festival Squad: Speaking of Belgium again, what about your culture influences your music?
Taska Black: It’s hard to say because the music I make is not really big in Belgium.
Festival Squad: That’s true, but that’s where you’re from so there’s gotta be something inside you from your upbringing that influences the music right?
Taska Black: I don’t know, I think growing up my mom always played classical music at home, then I got into rock music, then into electronic music, house music and everything. I think everything summed up is what I am today like all the influences from music I’ve heard over the years is what makes me who I am I guess.
Festival Squad: I love that your music is experimental and always changing. Is that something that will stay consistent or do you think you’ll merge into one sound?
Taska Black: Well, I’ve been trying to merge into one sound for a long time and more and more I’m starting to realize for myself its not about finding my sound its about keeping myself satisfied and that is a matter of constantly evolving and constantly doing stuff that makes me happy in the moment. I think that is much more important for myself than trying to find that one sound because that doesn’t make me happy and it just doesn’t work for me. So I try to keep myself satisfied, do what I really feel in the moment, and for some reason people always tell me that it still sounds like me and they can still tell its my song. So, it’s a good thing I guess.
Festival Squad: Definitely a good thing! Speaking of this, how does it feel to be an artist in 2019 with all the pressures of social media and the saturation of the market and the pressure to release music all the time?
Taska Black: It’s a lot. I think I also constantly am trying to find my way in this, like in creating. There’s a lot of ways to go about this, like last year I did a lot of singles as you said so it was deadline after deadline after deadline and it was just finishing songs, finishing songs, finishing songs. Now this year I really took the time to not have any deadlines, just have a couple months for myself and just write as much music as I can – try to get myself excited again because with all the deadlines and social media and everything sometimes you lose that excitement. I just took some time for myself and tried to find excitement again in music and I think I really found it. So I think for myself what I need is just a break from everything, from deadlines, and it’s hard to take a break from socials but even on socials trying not to look at it all the time.
Festival Squad: Yeah it’s important! I was just here last weekend and saw Disclosure who just went on a 2 year break and came back last year and I feel like that’s so important sometimes for artists because of all the pressure. But if you have real fans they are going to come back.
Taska Black: Exactly and it really helps to clear your head and make space for new ideas. I think keeping yourself excited is the most important thing.
Festival Squad: So two part question, what would you say some of your biggest inspirations are and who are some of your biggest musical inspirations?
Taska Black: I think it’s just traveling, meeting people, doing shows, helps a lot. But also my mind shifts like every day like sometimes I listen to a song that I’m super excited about and then another day I listen to it and I think its complete sh** and I’m like, “Okay I wanna do something else, I don’t wanna do this anymore.” Then the next day I listen to my songs and I think, “Okay I can do this again.” So my mind shifts every day and I think because when you’re on tour everything happens so fast, like you go from city to city every day, you meet new people that you don’t see again in your life ever again probably so I guess all those things.
Festival Squad: So the constant change is what inspires you?
Taska Black: Yeah the constant change.
Festival Squad: Really cool. And who are your biggest musical inspirations?
Taska Black: I’ve said this a lot of times, I love pop music. I love listening to the radio a lot, like radio music. I like more like Billie Eilish, LAUV, people like that – Julia Michaels is a huge inspiration for me. So really like the songwriting core of pop music and more of the darker side. But yeah pop music is a big inspiration for me.
Festival Squad: Sick, me too. Obviously you are under bitbird and San Holo gave you the platform to be where you are today. Where do you think you’d be if it wasn’t for him and Bitbird?
Taska Black: I have no idea, and I never had the chance to find out because I sent him my first two songs I made as Taska Black. From the moment I decided I wanted to do Taska Black I sent him my first two songs before I even knew bitbird was his label, I didn’t even know.
Festival Squad: Did you know of him well?
Taska Black: I knew him, I was a fan. So I sent him the songs and literally 5 minutes later he said “Hey we like this we want to talk and release this, greetings San Holo” – I was like, “Oh that’s San’s label, OK cool.” So that’s when everything started. I was still in college back then so everything was really slow, I wasn’t doing music full time. We got talking and at one point I was like, “Okay I need to take things more seriously”, and we were like, “Okay let’s do this, lets come up with a plan” and that’s when everything started rolling for me.
Festival Squad: That’s so awesome. Okay so my last question is, for people that are fans of yours and also musicians what would your biggest advice be to them as artists?
Taska Black: I think just put in the hours, I think that’s the most important thing – and try to have fun, that’s the other most important thing. Like, you can definitely hear when an artist is genuine and when it comes from the heart. But try to have fun, put in the hours and don’t worry too much about your sound and all the stuff that people say. Just try to be as good as you can at your craft and just try to create all the time, that’s the most important thing.
Festival Squad: Create forever?
Taska Black: Create forever. That’s it, literally.
Festival Squad: Well thank you so much I really appreciate you taking the time to do this!
Taska Black: Yeah of course.
Taska went on to play an amazing set with textured visuals on the 360 degree projection across the entirety of the venue. It was a very moody performance and he played all of his biggest hits, a mash up that stands out to be most is when he mixed ‘Midnight City’ by M83 with his track ‘Dead Inside’ Ft. Ayelle.
We spoke later about his single coming out this Friday 5/31 called ‘Backwards Love’ featuring TRACE. I had never heard of TRACE prior to this and neither had Taska prior to working with her, but he said that he truly enjoyed working with her and loves her unique voice. Do yourself a favor this Friday and check out their new single on any of his streaming platforms! If you don’t have any streaming subscriptions you can check it out on his Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/taskablack. Also keep up with Taska Black: https://taskablack.com/ and bitbird https://bitbirdofficial.com/ by following them on their socials!