The pandemic was waning, and Taska Black was, finally, on a flight from his native Belgium to a show overseas. He was 35,000 feet in the air when he had a revelation. A big one.
“I always have a moment where I started questioning my life, like halfway through the flight,” the producer says with a laugh. “This time, I realized the music I was making before the pandemic didn’t resonate with me anymore.”
By the time he landed, the new iteration of the Taska Black project had begun. When the producer returned home, he shifted creative gears from the future bass sound he’d become globally known for, to the soaring, thoughtful, introspective pop that makes up his latest releases: his 2023 album Expectations, his brightly anthemic May single “Power,” and his newest track, “Summer Nights,” a sweet, slightly melancholy pop song featuring Black and Loote’s Emma Block duetting on vocals. The single marks Black’s debut release on Kygo’s Palm Tree Records.
Black’s relationship with music has in fact been evolving his entire life. His mother signed him up for violin lessons when he was four, and as he grew, he also dabbled on his dad’s electric guitar. By age seven he was playing in a rock band in his native Antwerp and had started piano lessons as well. He preferred rock over classical and improvising over sheet music, finding he was most creatively satisfied when he could just turn the musical ideas that lived in his head into actual music.
This goal was fully unlocked when he started sampling a keyboard through his computer. “I had no clue what I was doing,” he says. “I was just going to the music store to pick up pieces of hardware that would enable me to record myself.”
He was also spending a lot of time in his bedroom absorbing all styles of electronic music, from house to dubstep to drum ‘n’ bass. Without really intending to, Black became a producer, using the money he earned working at a supermarket to buy more gear.
When he was 18, he decided to stop listening to other artists “and just create the music that’s in my brain.” This music ended up falling squarely into the future bass genre lifting off at that time, and when Black sent two finished tracks to San Holo’s bitbird label, they responded within five minutes saying they wanted to release one.
Black was soon touring heavily, supporting San Holo on the road, and playing other club and festival dates including Bonnaroo, Splash House, Paradiso and Moonrise. Meanwhile, his music earned 66 million on-demand streams in the U.S. alone.
Then the pandemic hit, and Black posted up at home. The time off gave him space to delve into new realms of music, primarily indie pop. He found a new fascination in working with vocalists and figuring out how pop music was made.
“I would listen to the radio, like an Ariana Grande song, and wonder how they did it. How can you make that vocal sound so interesting without anything behind it? All the electronic producers were putting more and more on their tracks, and after a while it felt like that was the easy option and pop music was harder. That was a challenge for me, and I wanted to crack that code.”
Just like he did when he was a kid tinkering in his bedroom, Black has had breakthrough moments. His latest releases and forthcoming EP demonstrate his agility in pop, as does his work producing for pop artists. Happily, he’s found that even his earliest fans are onboard for this new phase, but says the most important thing is just making work he’s proud of while following his curiosity.
“I want to stay true to what I like now,” he says, and I want to always keep evolving that.”