Tune into almost any pop radio station and you won’t have to wait long before hearing Fade To Black. The voice sounds familiar but you can’t quite place it. Meet Tasha Baxter, the woman behind the song and, in our opinion, soon to be international superstar – thanks to her recently launched debut album, The Colour Of Me.
Tasha is one of South Africa’s most forward-thinking dance, trip-hop and drum ‘n bass innovators. Over the past few years, she has developed a reputation as a multi-talented artist who has lent her songwriting and vocal skills to many high-profile projects, albums and songs. Her most notable vocal contribution was on Roger Goode’s 2002 international dance hit, In The Beginning. Tasha also provided vocals and songwriting to four other tracks off Goode’s album and this relationship continues to this day.
She has made a substantial impact on the Cape Town and Johannesburg music scenes, working with the likes of drum ‘n bass producers Counterstrike, various house producers, and featuring on Soulsista’s album. Her raft of corporate work (composing tracks for commercials and more) is equally impressive and she has performed alongside some of the biggest names in the DJ world. She was also the resident drum ‘n bass DJ at Trailer Park in Melville for years and her continuing passion for being behind the decks will see her play in the Dutch city of Utrecht in early October.
However, our best kept musical secret isn’t a secret anymore as her debut album, The Colour Of Me, is now on the shelves. The album is the result of a partnership between Tasha, gifted pianist and songwriter Andre Scheepers, and NOISIA, a Dutch production team which was recently commissioned to remix Robbie Williams’ King Of The Bongo. February saw Tasha launch The Colour of Me to radio and, to date, two singles have been released: Who’s Sorry Now, which did exceptionally well, and Fade To Black, with its catchy melody and clever lyrics that are pushing the song further up the charts every week. The Colour of Me was also released through all of EMI’s European offices in April.
Tell us about your relationship with Noisia. Do you think you could have achieved such a polished album with an all-South African production team?
Do I smell cynicism? [Laughs.] Well, it wasn’t thought out at all. In fact the only reason I had contacted them in the first place was because I wanted to sing on something of theirs. After months of trying we eventually hooked up online and I sent them the raw version of Colour of Me that Andre and I had written. When they sent it back a day or two later, our jaws dropped and our juices started flowing. They flippantly said “Hey lets do a pop album” after sending two more songs to them and getting the same intense feeling. We agreed, at which point they paid for my ticket to Holland to polish and produce with them. Hence I did not shop around as I had found all I wanted with them. But yes, there are local producers I would have liked to have worked with. Felix Le Band is one of them. Guess Noisia got to me first!
How would you describe The Colour of Me? I don’t see it just as a pop album, but something that will not only appeal to the masses but could also introduce the mainstream to some less visible genres and styles?
Couldn’t have said it better myself! That was my exact intention. I really wanted to get the likes of drum ‘n bass influences to the masses, especially since I managed to get a few hit singles with the likes of Roger Goode and Ryan Murgatroyd to number one global status. I thought to myself, ‘for once let me use that talent to expose and educate people on the different genres.’ I can sing songs like All That I Can Think About and Don’t Need Money, which have drum ‘n bass beats and breaks, but by having vocals and melodies that are infectious, also make people sing along too. I don’t have to sell out, and that’s comforting!
You’re no stranger to being heard internationally, although it may have been limited to clubs and dance events. Did the international release of The Colour of Me come as a surprise?
The international release didn’t come as a surprise. It was more just a matter of waiting for it to happen. And, now that it has, it is surreal and I can’t quite believe it’s finally happening. After working at this for so long I’m just happy that my music will be heard by the masses and that it’s my blood, sweat and tears and not someone else’s.
What inspires you when writing songs?
I get inspired by merely consuming air on this planet: each day is a song waiting to be written. [Laughs.] But generally I am at my lowest or highest moment before I sit down and put finger to string or pen to paper. I do get inspired by women like Sophie Ellis Bexter, Gwen Stefani and their producers – I get envious and try to be better than them. And yes, I am very hard on myself most of the time; to get that perfect hook etc… I do tend to have Thijs of Noisia in my mind as he is VERY critical and pushes me the same way Andre does.
“Love ain’t in a bottle, or in a gram of coke, or in your boyfriend’s pants…”
Tell us a bit more about the first two singles, Who’s Sorry Now? and Fade To Black.
Who’s Sorry Now’s original melody was written by Andre, and when I first heard it I wanted to own it and make it mine as the lyrical content and tune was very Portishead. I kind of heard what had been done, then added lyrics and vocal melodies. I love the epic big strings and driving synths that glue it all together. Noisia are kings! Fade to Black started with lyrics from Andre and a basic melody: it started out sounding like a mixture between Sophie, Kylie and the Priscilla Queen of the Desert crew. I eventually put my touch into it, added lyrics and melodies. I love the play on words in this tune! It will also be the first song for our music video and it’s gonna be awesome!
How have the songs and album been performing locally?
Really, really well! I am happy to say that we have been climbing fast and furious up the charts, and I haven’t even spammed friends and family yet! The support has been great and the stations seem to love the first two singles. We haven’t been doing many live performances and we hope to do a tour so that people can put a face to the name. We are currently number seven on the 5FM top 40 which is awesome! Hopefully next week in the top five!
[Ed’s Note: as of 13 May 2007, Fade To Black was at number four on the 5FM Top 40]
Now that we’re on songs, tell us more about The Colour Of Me.
The Colour Of Me I wrote with Andre during a negative phase in my life, not too long ago, wheN I felt hard done by and hated the world for “hating me.” It’s about fickle people and their response to something unusual. I love the heavy guitars and beats in this one; it’s a winner. It was also the first raw vocal we sent over to Noisia to play around with and the first tune that came back confirming my belief in them!
Andre originally wrote Freefall with another guitarist but when I heard the little guitar lick, I, as usual, took charge, got excited and added my vocal melodies.
Keep On Moving?
Keep On Moving is an awesome song! We were messing around with a bassline that I did and Andre took it home after a long night and came back with some awesome vocal harmonies… I wanted to sing about sexual frustration – which is alway