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TAAHLIAHCourtesy of press

TAAHLIAH is the Glasgow artist making club-fillers for empty dancefloors

On debut EP Angelica, the DJ and producer toes the line between hard dance and crystalline pop – we found out more about her boundary-pushing sound

The small town of Kilmarnock in West Ayrshire isn’t especially known for its musical exports, but TAAHLIAH is about to change that. Inspired by the hard dance and techno sounds that reverberated throughout the north of the UK while she was growing up, her sound also takes cues from the electronic pop prism of FKA twigs, Zola Jesus, and Purity Ring (whose Shrines is her desert island disc).

As well as spending some time in Berlin where she established herself as a club DJ, TAAHLIAH now lives in Glasgow, where she moved originally for art school, and touchstones of both cities can be heard in her music. Take her recent Boiler Room Hard Dance mix, for example, where she blended a pitched-up remix of Lady Gaga’s “Papparazzi” with trance heaters. One individual who made a long-lasting impact on her was the late SOPHIE, who she once shared a stage with, describing the electronic pioneer as ”one of my biggest inspirations, in both art and life. I feel grateful to have known you, your energy, your vision, and your talents.” TAAHLIAH has also played alongside LSDXOXO, A. G. Cook, and 100 gecs, and sonically her music could sit within the hyperpop universe (although she’s been openly critical of it as a scene).

Using her music as a vehicle to explore her identity and transness, TAAHLIAH’s debut EP Angelica has just come out via London label untitled (recs). She recently made history as the first black trans artist to be nominated at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards, and first single “Brave” is a celebratory anthem for the LGBTQIA+ community, based around a common phrase she found people would say to her after coming out. Elsewhere on the EP, “Never Lose” employs an industrial, metallic bounce, with vocalist Spent addressing the darker side of the trans experience (’some of my friends died for this’).

Following the EP’s release, and ahead of her supporting Jamie xx this summer, we spoke to TAAHLIAH about social burnout, virtual raving, and the Glasgow queer club scene.

How have you found the past year? Are you someone that doesn't mind being by yourself or do you thrive in company?

TAAHLIAH: I love to be alone, in all honesty. It comes in waves, though, I can get social burnout quite easily so I’m still trying to find a balance.

You’ve played various virtual sets in lockdown, including Club Quarantine and Lavapalooza. Have you found these to be escapist and a good alternative to the club, or are you itching to get back to the real-life dancefloor?

TAAHLIAH: Both. Alternative club spaces are necessary and make music a whole lot more accessible, however the need for physical club spaces has never been more prevalent. I think that’s something we are all particularly craving at this point.

Can you describe the scene that you’re part of in Glasgow? Where are you most looking forward to playing when things open up?

TAAHLIAH: Any and every Shoot Your Shot party. The queer club scene feels familial, everyone knows each other or is aware of each other’s ethos and sound. The wider scene... not so much. There are pros and cons to it, however I’m happy to focus on the good right now.

How did you first get into making music, and who were some of your early influences? Was there music played around the house that influenced your sound?

TAAHLIAH: I grew up on a lot of trance music, and music informed by club spaces – dance, pop, etc. I listened to a lot of indie and experimental stuff as a teenager. I would say that has all influenced my sound, in one way or another. Music was always a constant in my life and I was always passionate about it, however I never intended on making it my career. I moved to Glasgow to study painting at the Glasgow School of Art so I always thought I was going to be a painter. My interest in music production grew through DJing – it seemed like the next step in the journey that I was on.

You’ve previously expressed opinions about hyperpop and how it’s being driven by the middle and upper classes despite being rooted in working class sounds. What’s your take on how the genre has progressed since you posted that tweet? Do you see that as a problem within music and the industry as a whole?

TAAHLIAH: I mean, it’s not really progressed – has it? I’ve not seen much of a shift in perspective or opinion on it. Privileged white artists are still dominating the top of the playlists, the curation as well as much of the discourse surrounding that ‘type’ of music. It definitely is a huge problem within the music industry, especially for subgenres such as hyperpop.   

“Brave”, your single released earlier this year, is about you coming out as trans, and the EP touches on a number of personal themes. Is it important to you to be open about your identity?

TAAHLIAH: As a trans person, my identity will always be up for dissection. Therefore, I might as well take hold of the narrative and be my own storyteller. It’s important to find relatability in storytelling – especially when the focused topics affect only a part of the wider population.

The artworks for the EP singles are based around personal objects of yours. Could you talk us through those?

TAAHLIAH: They’re all quite personal and perhaps something I’d like to hold onto and keep to myself. The necklace on the “Brave” cover was the first piece of jewellery I bought after coming out as trans, the “Never Lose” cover is a manipulated photo of my own hormone prescription... it was a fun concept to come up with.

How do fashion and art influence your work?

TAAHLIAH: They all purposefully intersect. My image informs my art and my art informs my image. Materiality is an interesting concept to analyse, especially in the context of the music industry. Music and fashion have always gone hand-in-hand and I’m excited to explore that relationship more as my career progresses. 

“Materiality is an interesting concept to analyse, especially in the context of the music industry” – TAAHLIAH

Tell us about any future plans you’ve got coming up – I saw there were plans for a live show in the works called ‘The Ultimate Angels’?

TAAHLIAH: All my future plans currently involve live performance and production. I want to collaborate with interesting artists and make some beautiful sounds too. I’m planning on revisiting my concept of ‘The Ultimate Angels’, COVID got in the way the first time around. All in due course!

TAAHLIAH’s Angelica is out now