Fresh out of lockdown with her own label, album and a thriving creative Discord and Twitch communities, Tasha Baxter has royally flipped every bit of negative energy the last two covid-ravaged years has thrown at the world and created something genuinely unique and special.
None of it was planned. All of it was done out of pure community and creative spirit to help like minded souls get through these challenging times. It shines the light on a whole host of exciting rising and underdog talents.
Say hello to Full Moon Flex, the peak of a whole load of different collaborative and engaging creative projects the South African musician has held online since March 2020. A 17-track album of collaborations, the whole project was spawned through spontaneity during a series of sessions held every full moon. Stretching across the bass universe, the album flexes from ambient-minded chill to full-throttle D&B and everything in between, pushing both Tasha and her gang of merry music makers (all of whom she introduces individually at the end of this interview) to brave and intense new places.
The album dropped last week and in time will go down as her most ambitious and game-changing project so far. Which is saying something; Best Vocalist winner in the Drum&BassArena Awards 2017, Tasha has worked with some of the biggest bass artists imaginable from the likes of Feed Me and Joe Ford to Flux Pavillion, Insideinfo, Brookes Brothers, Camo & Krooked and, just this week, inspiring young talent Moore Kismet.
Yet surreally, at the start of 2020 Tasha promised herself she’d do no more collaborations and would focus on her solo material. But when the world changed gears in a very volatile and unforgiving way, Tasha changed gears, too. Flipping every plan and mission she had intended for the new decade, Tasha made the situation her own and created something that could only have happened while the world was on lockdown.
Read on, meet the new talents involved in Full Moon Flex and get to understand much more about Tasha’s unique and inspiring journey…
Full Moon Flex… Take us back to the start of this project and how it developed into the epic beast it’s become!
Well, lockdown happened and it was like, ‘What do we do now?’ That was the start for all of us! But on a personal perspective, I’d just come back from the Red Bull Symphonic with Camo & Krooked which meant that 2020 had commenced with a very hopeful and positive energy. I had plans for quite a few international shows and things were shaping up with my solo material. Ironically I’d actually said 2019 was the end of collabs for me…
Full Moon Flex is driven by collaborations!
Exactly! The irony of it all.
So why were you looking to end your collaborations?
Okay, so to go back briefly… In 2007 I released my solo album signed to EMI,produced by Noisia. That was the start of my professional career as a full time musician. But I’d gone too fast, too hard and, by 2012, I had checked into a government psych ward and my life turned upside down. So collabs were my way of surviving and having an outlet to continue being creative but in the security of my own little bedroom. I couldn’t do shows and couldn’t function in society, I was a wreck. Then it happened again, and I was sectioned for another six months. So eventually after years of doing them I realised I hadn’t been treated particularly fairly or transparently with things like statements, credits, metadata, royalties, payments on the business side. I spent a lot of time chasing my tail trying to get these things sorted out and it was beating the life out of me. Singers are often treated like pieces of shit, to be candid. It was time for me to work on my own body of work. Then 2020 happened… And now I have an album of collabs! Haha!
Wow. During that time you were a prominent voice on UKF with collaborations with Feed Me, Joe Ford, The Upbeats etc. It’s sad to know that you were going through this around that time. Do you think it was the ‘too hard / too fast’ lifestyle that pushed you into that mindset or do you think you’d have become ill eventually anyway?
It was a matter of time, I was pre-dispositioned to it and I’d had a lot of traumatic events which had led up to this. But I’d also gone hard with the “sex drugs and rock n roll” lifestyle while also trying to manage being a parent at the time. It all led to a full-tilt psychosis.
I understand and have bipolar friends who’ve had incredibly vivid episodes, full-tilt is good way to describe it.
Right. And also my kids lived with me, so it was very scary for them to be removed from their home to live with their father and government psychiatric hospitals here in South Africa are like Silent Hill on steroids. It was very intense. I was like a demon then an angel in seconds and many things were said, many things were done. Access to social media was not helpful at all.
And even now, years later, a lot of the songs I write, and have written, are about those experiences. I was medicated to my eyeballs, which left me a drooling mess and I woke up three months later. It was a horrible place. So this was a very prominent thing in my life and everything I’ve done on Twitch or Discord advocates this and has always been intended to give people who might have gone through similar experiences, or can relate, a safe and communal space.
I think that’s great and also it’s really important to discuss mental health circumstances like psychotic episodes and bipolar conditions. People talk a lot about the common experiences of depression and anxiety, which has been vitally important, but mental health issues don’t stop there and are even more complex and important for people know about and know how to be with someone who is bipolar.
Correct. And I do see a lot people using mental health to sell things. It’s all good and well to be inclusive and understanding and have awareness…. Until the shit hits the fan like it did with me. Then people aren’t so quick to forgive or hold space or sympathise. And to this day, I do feel stigmatised and ostracised to certain degrees.
I did feel ousted, but that could be paranoia. When I went full-tilt, I was very vocal online and in real life. I told people Jesus was coming and did some shocking things during my psychosis and manic episodes. It’s been a long journey back to where I am now and I’m finally on solid ground able to focus on all facets of my life.
I’m glad you are and I love how collabs were a part of that journey of you getting back into music. It also led to you becoming a very versatile artist working across different genres
Yeah I don’t discriminate, I love exploring and trying new things. I thrive on being multifaceted and my music changes as my moods do.
Everything I’ve learnt from those situations, I’m making sure I don’t do what was done to me with everyone I’m collaborating with. All these guys are incredibly talented. Most of them are fresh to the scene and I want to do them justice and treat them fairly. The environment was right, it happened naturally and just evolved. We were making music and connecting online, it felt right.
All this began on Twitch didn’t it?
Yeah. Like so many of us, I wanted an outlet to connect with the rest of the world but I also wanted to make it interesting. So it started as feedback streams and a natural reaction during those streams was to sing along. So I was freestyling to tracks and people would say, ‘Dude can I keep this vocal?’ That was the start of Full Moon Flex.
I have a Sunday stream called Midnight Mass which is a group therapy space where we’d have confession sessions, I‘d pull some tarot cards and hold space. Then In my Discord server, which is Band Of Hawk, I have a therapy room and it was a huge salvation for a lot of us at the time, still is. Then we had Midnight Flip (sample flip challenges which was based around the Native American animal medicine cards I was pulling. Whatever card was pulled, I’d ask the community to make a tune sampling the animal and I’d put the best ones up on the soundcloud playlist and there would be a cute prize. It was just a fun thing and some great music came from those!
You collaborated with Kill The Noise’s server, too, right?
Yeah, so I was up in everyone’s streams, and there was a lot of crossover with Kill The Noise’s server Embrace The Insanity. We had a server challenge and merged our servers for a challenge and called it Band Of Insanity. We had four team members who had used samples from Kill The Noise, Bro Safari and myself. Some incredible music came from that and it was another one of the highlights where everyone was super active and connected. Another truly special moment in time.
I held some interviews over lockdown on my Twitch, with Kill The Noise, Feed Me and Muzz and a host of other artists, for the Boomerang sessions, where the purpose was to have a very real chat with artists I admire and respect. So yeah, there was all this stuff and I went in pretty hard and active, doing things people seemed to enjoy. Then Full Moon Flex took a more serious turn and that consumed every waking moment for about five months.
It seems like that was the peak of all this activity? By then you’d developed this very diverse and supportive global community…
Yeah a few people came along later but most people are part of that collective and we’ve formed friendships through this. From all over the world, too. All over the states, New Zealand, Australia, Bulgaria, Holland, Austria, South Africa. All different levels of abilities and at different stages of our careers. This was really the glue of this entire project, doing it together.
All very supportive of each other
Very very supportive of each other, especially during the process of the album when shit hit the fan a few times. It’s fun to collaborate but when it becomes an album it’s a very different situation. There were some intense moments – people get freaked out when things get real. Then I decided to put it on vinyl, just to add to the intensity. This meant a whole other level of vinyl specific mastering and preparation. Dan Smith did our masters for this purpose. We weren’t just going to put tunes on Soundcloud, so shit got serious and we learnt invaluable lessons getting this from concept to execution and delivery in such a short space of time.
This galvanised it all as a proper album. It’s a very seamless experience and not just a collection of tracks!
Ah thank you! The main thing was to create a photo-sonic time capsule. Something that represents this season we’ve all been through together and lived through and survived through. We had faith in each other and faith in the project. Shit was tragic for a while. Many people lost their lives, lives were changed, businesses ended for a lot of people. For me it was very important to cease the day and work with like-minded souls to create something that documents this time the collective shared.
Mission complete. And I guess you’ve made some incredible connections through this?
Yeah totally. It was a great thing of patience and surrender and learning for all of us. When you’re in a pickle or a spot, you have to very quickly get to know someone. It was a very interesting social experiment in that way. Some people were very shy and reserved, others less so, some were completely freaked out. And then, on top of that, also starting the label, managing all the social platforms and being hands-on with every artist. It was incredibly intense! But I don’t think I’ve been more proud, and I really hope the essence of what this world was, is heard through the earnest delivery of the music and captured through the visual experience. B_D_W_S on art credit!
Now you’re all part of this tight community, and you’ve got Polyoto. The album is the start of something…
What has begun, cannot be stopped! Haha. Yeah, I’ve been very cautious and guarded for a long time. I was hurt and coming out of bipolar 1 episodes. But putting myself on Twitch, being very exposed while hearing the beats for the first time while improvising and having many fuck ups and chaos, was priming me to get back to a place where I feel comfortable being exposed and vulnerable. It’s uncanny how it all worked out. Really felt like stars aligned and this was almost fated. Yes, it is the beginning and I’m excited for the present moment and our future plans.
Amazing. Now please introduce us to each of the artists on Full Moon Flex…
“He’s a big team player, very supportive and a great human. He was willing to help some of the others get through this and sat with me for many hours on getting tunes finished for the deadline. He’s been part of the community for a while and entered three tunes in different Full Moon Flexes. I adore Wait For The Night, the production is incredible. He’s from Texas, he makes some really cool tunes and we would love to work more in the future.”
“So P.I.M is from Holland and he’s had some great releases out already on labels like Bitbird. He’s a lovely human and was great to work with on Hourglass. He does a lot of the uplifting side of drum & bass, which isn’t my usual stomping ground, but this has been the great thing about the album – it’s pushed me and created this great widescreen spread of sounds on the album.”
“Exula is from Brisbane but originally from New Zealand and is another incredibly talented individual. He has two aliases – there’s Escaptive, which is more 4 to the floor, tech house material. Then Exula is his drum & bass alias and Voices is a firm fave by many. He’s a great producer and he’s also a talented writer as he wrote the intro piece ‘We are Polyoto’. This is just the beginning for him.”
“So Zach actually turned 21 when we dropped our single No Release, which was really special, and I’m not exaggerating when I say he is a young up and coming dude to watch. He’s so talented. As well as a great producer, he’s also an incredible guitarist, instrumentalist, musician and No Release was the first and only one tune he submitted. When I heard it I was like, ‘Holy shit!’ He’s so talented and I know you’ll be hearing a lot from him in the future.”
“Django is from Cape Town and he’s the only other South African producer besides myself in this collection. I followed him on his Twitch stream because he’s so damned talented and then we linked during this process. We’ve been solid ever since, he’s a great dude, a drummer, a fantastic producer and very easy to work with. He released a really sick EP early this year called Transmission Control which I thoroughly recommend and Dreamweaving and Dead Inside are both epic tunes.”
“Oh this guy! Let me tell you, Danny, works so hard! He puts out Black Octopus sample packs at a such an incredible rate it’s phenomenal. He has an album on the way and he’s a very awesome dude from Burbank California. It’s hard to describe people in a sentence, but Danny is a keeper.”
“Now Punker is pretty well established already and he does the grimier harder stuff. So our track Dreaming City was very different for him. I keep saying this but, like everyone on Full Moon Flex, he’s ridiculously talented. Not just as an artist but he also did some design work for us. Magnole, I don’t know too much about besides the fact he did some of the guitar and melodic elements on this. He’s from Germany and created some beautiful sounds for our track.”
“He’s a Cancerian like me. Ha! He’s also a father/husband and was very much the parent of the server, looking out for people and bringing us all together. Music hasn’t been full time for him because of parental commitments, but he submitted two tunes to this project and they had a lot of essence of soul to them. I did a lot of processing on my voice to maintain variation on the album – no one wants an album just full of me straight up singing – and his beats were perfect opportunities for me to do that.”
“So G is from Chicago – he’s also a father, he is an extremely talented producer that’s been in the game and had some success from many years of grind. Creeper crept into my heart the second I heard it. He’s an audiophile through and through, and his Discord server is a great resource for knowledge.”
“Shadow Wanderer is also from Chicago, he’s on the album with three tracks (Slip Away, Astronaut and Offline), and is another gifted soul. He came to me through the Band Of Insanity stuff and I would love to release his music and get him out there. The bangers he delivered for the Midnight Flip sample challenges were off the hook! I can’t tell you how amazing his tunes are! We worked really well together and really fast, which is great!”
“Stan is currently in the UK but is currently from Bulgaria. He makes really sick breaks and has a very strong moody vibe with his tunes. He loves his analogue gear, he used Reason and is a lovely guy who is super passionate about music.”
“So InTake is like the OG of the group. Our boomer, haha. From Florida, he’s been part of the drum & bass scene for a long time, which is a hard grind over there in the states. I believe he was considering putting his headphones to rest but then all this happened, we pulled him through the process, and I’m so glad he’s on the album. I really hope to hear more from InTaKe!”