Interview: Tastexperience

Black Hole

November 9th, 2023

Russell Barker, Simon Barry, Richard Cornish, Sara Lones, and Nigel Palmer, are exemplary musicians who have thrived in the music industry for almost four decades. Their journey as artists has been a testament to their deep understanding of the evolving landscape of music, making them compelling storytellers in their own right. With origins rooted in the vibrant music scene of the UK, TasteXperience has not only thrived as recording artists, but also as accomplished musicians and producers, leaving an indelible mark in the hearts of music enthusiasts around the world.

From the euphoric mega clubs of Ibiza to the electrifying dance floors of Liverpool’s Cream, TasteXperience has consistently enchanted audiences with their diverse discography, comprising albums, singles, and EPs. Among their vast discography, three tracks have risen to prominence and left an everlasting impact: “Summersault” (originally released on Manifesto), “Highlander,” and “Tantrix.” These magnetic tunes have captured the hearts of music lovers worldwide and have received resounding support from acclaimed DJs such as Tiësto, Paul Oakenfold, and Nick Warren.

TasteXperience’s distinct fusion of trance and progressive house stems from each member’s unique sonic preferences. Recently, their acclaimed Beachcomber EP and album series, released by Black Hole, showcased thrilling collaborations and remixes with top artists such as Johan Gielen, ZOYA, Driftmoon and Madwave. The tracks have garnered substantial backing from industry luminaries like Markus Schulz, Cosmic Gate, and Aly & Fila.

This year they were part of Luminosity Festival, playing at progressive stage, announcing big comeback as DJs and showcasing some new projects. Naturally, my curiosity got the best of me—I was eager to learn about their endeavours throughout the years and how they’ve managed to sustain their industry presence for such a long time. Russell and Simon represented their decision to return behind the decks. Make sure to read the interview below because the story of Tastexperience is one of a kind.

Nina: Every festival needs a perfect warm up and Luminosity has made a fantastic choice to kickstart Friday smoothly. You have proven yourselves to be legends over impressive four-decade career in the music industry. How did this happen? So many years have passed since your first touch with electronic music.

Russell: Four decades? How did time fly by? (Chuckling)

Nina: Throughout your extensive musical journey, you’ve undoubtedly witnessed a multitude of experiences. Let’s explore the captivating story behind Summersault, a track from 1997, and the moment when Paul Oakenfold and countless others began spinning it so frequently.

Russell: It’s all about finding musical inspiration. When life’s good and you’re in the right headspace, great music flows.

Simon: We just had that musical chemistry, didn’t we? Like when we composed “Summersault,” my ex-wife Natasha Pearl was part of it. She had this incredible opera-trained voice, and we thought, “This track could be extraordinary with something distinctive.” So we incorporated an opera aria, and that’s how our tracks take shape, spontaneously and creatively. Ideas flow from all of us during our sessions, and sometimes magic happens. It certainly did with this particular track. We knew we had something special when we recorded Natasha’s vocals; it felt like a hit in the making. The scene itself has been a constant source of inspiration for us. Personally, I began as a rave DJ around 1990, playing at prominent raves and clubs. So, we emerged from that era, the rave era, and it played a vital role in our growth.

Russell: Back in the eighties, we were the vocalists.

Nina: You were a full-fledged band, weren’t you?

Russell: Absolutely, we were a proper band with various instruments like saxophones, guitars, and keyboards, and we also DJed.

Simon: After that, I leaned more towards a DJ career. I performed at major festivals and clubs like the Ministry of Sound in England. My DJing journey continued, and I occasionally dipped into producing some tracks. Nigel also had his hand at producing tracks.

Russell: But hey, it’s been 40 years - can’t blame him for not remembering! (Chuckles, teasing Nigel)

Nina: Could you share your earliest memories within the industry, along with some of your most cherished moments and the significant challenges you’ve encountered along the way?

Simon: Our inspiration often comes from playing alongside fellow artists. I had the opportunity to perform at major events, sharing stages with renowned names like Carl Cox, Danny Rampling, Josh Wink, and Sasha, among many others. Being in those environments, particularly at iconic venues like the Ministry of Sound, fueled our creativity. There was another significant club in the UK during the nineties where we spent a lot of time, and it was a major hub for us. Back then, our passion was solely driven by the love for music, not the pursuit of DJ or musician fame. Cell phones weren’t out recording everything; it was purely about music. However, the culture shifted as the ecstasy scene gained traction, notably around the mid-1997 period. We noticed a changing dynamic, with a criminal element infiltrating the rave and club scene, which led us to step back for a while.

Nina: Do you believe it is more challenging or relatively easier to be an artist today?

Russell: The music industry has undergone immense transformation in the last two decades, especially with the internet revolutionizing. It’s become significantly more challenging. However, when music is in your blood, it’s what you do; you can’t simply stop. I’ll keep at it, perhaps untill I’m 90… or 103. (laughs) Stay optimistic, aim high.

Nina: I highlighted the warm-up aspect, as your music is primarily characterized by a slow tempo. I’m curious to understand how you have managed to uphold such unwavering fidelity to your distinct sound throughout this crazy period of time. What factors or motivations have enabled you to remain loyal to your musical style?

Russell: We’ve had the fortunate opportunity to explore different parts of the world and spent extensive time in India. In fact, our latest album was crafted there. I wrote it while sitting on the beach. Additionally, it’s been remixed by all the clan of Black Hole.

Nina: So, it seems locations indeed hold a significant role in sparking creativity.

Russell: Absolutely. London, for instance, doesn’t always provide the inspiration we need. So we travel elsewhere to find that spark. We’ve also visited Thailand a lot of times, especially during winter. The beach vibes there have been a significant inspiration, much like our experiences in Ibiza. That’s where the influence stems from. We lay the groundwork and then return to finish it.

Simon: Yeah, just pack your laptop, head to a new place, and start producing.

Your 2023 productions have been prolific! The new album on Black Hole showcases your organic house tracks and exciting remixes by artists like Driftmoon, ZOYA, Madwave, Francesco Sambero. “Namaste” stands out as the sole track co-produced with Johan Gielen, adding a trance vibe to it. The consistent pattern of creating trance music exclusively with Johan Gielen, similar to “Serenity” in the past, is quite intriguing. Is there a story behind this?

Russell: It all goes back to the essence of being a musician. Personally, I enjoy creating music that starts with a relaxed, chill-out vibe in the first chorus, and then I collaborate with others to infuse dance floor beats. We still venture into faster tracks, but it really depends on the zone you’re in while writing on the beach. So, banging beats might not always be the direction.

Simon: The environment definitely has a more natural and organic influence, doesn’t it?

Nina: So we can say you are a group and you started as a band. However, what factors or influences led you to explore this fusion of electronic elements with your instrumental foundation?

Russell: Back when synthesizers and sequencers first emerged, we embraced them and integrated them into our band. Over time, we progressed with guitars and samplers, and it significantly influenced the dance scene. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Beatles, and that’s where it all began.

Simon: Our inspiration comes from a diverse range of artists. During my time at Strong Room Studios in London, where I used to work, we had the opportunity to interact with artists like Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, and Orbital, among others. Being in that environment with such influential artists certainly left a mark on our music during different stages of our journey.

Nina: It’s evident that you haven’t completely distanced yourself from the trance sound, as it continues to hold spiritual significance for you. What do you believe is the primary reason behind this profound connection, and how do you envision the future of this specific genre considering its significant evolution over time?

Russell: It’s a continuation, really. Music is constantly evolving, and a good song remains a good song.

Simon: Trance resonates more with Russell than with me. I’m more inclined towards house and progressive house. That’s more my style. I’m not as closely connected to the current trends in the Trance movement.

Russell: I sense you’re probing about the current sound and how the old-school trance vibe is finding its way into different genres these days. You’re wondering if those tracks all sound alike, right? Well, there are only eight notes on the musical scale. People are bound to reuse them, creating a sense of familiarity. It’s as simple as that. (laughs)

Nina: Now I’m curious about what lies ahead for you. Can we expect to hear you perform live at upcoming events or are there any new projects in the works that we can look forward to?

Russell: Currently, we’re juggling guest mixes on numerous radio stations worldwide, working on a fresh album in collaboration with Black Hole, and creating three new EPs alongside some exciting remixes. It’s been a busy period for us. We’re striving to increase our live performances, allowing more people to experience our music.

Simon: Absolutely. We’re looking to spend less time in the studio and dedicate more time to performing at events like this.

Nina: It’s great that you’re stepping back into it, but what prompted this decision now?

Simon: Our lives have shifted a bit. My kids have grown up, and there are fewer family commitments. It’s refreshing to step out and witness how the crowd responds to the music we’re creating, rather than being confined to the studio.

Russell: Absolutely, let’s get out there before we need wheelchairs! (laughs)