Then There Was Us

Shania Taint is an artist working over a multitude of genres

2022-11-17 – Interview

Techno, Ambient

Los Angeles based Shania Taint is a rare find in the world of music. A producer who’s Bandcamp showcases an introduction to his rich abilities, including a techno track full to the brim with acid, and his most recent release 'touncan flam', which takes you on a journey as if you’re driving a lowrider through the West Coast of California. This undeniable talent was employed as a studio manager for ambient mastermind, William Basinski, and has since joined forces with him to create Sparkle Division, a collaboration which they both describe as a profoundly playful project. We wanted to find out more about Shania’s music, his relationship with William Basinski and what the future holds for the California based producer.

What was your introduction to music and when did you start making it? 

I was introduced to music early on. My dad would play jazz, bossa nova, and funky soul records on the stereo almost every night. artists like Jobim, Dizzy Gilespie, Stevie Wonder, The Crusaders, etc. Those records are far more important to me than I realised at the time, but I loved them back then too. I would listen to this Antonio Carlos Jobim Songbook compilation CD every night to chill out. Shout out to my mum too, she hipped me to lots of classic stuff, more so in the New Wave department. I had a lot of different musical influences early on from family and friends, and even teachers who would make me mixtapes. I'm very thankful for all of that, and the people who got me psyched up along my way. When I was about 9 or 10 I started buying Beastie Boys CD's, Dr. Dre, Fatboy Slim, Destiny's Child, Korn and especially Blink-182 records. I have to give Blink the credit for getting me hyped to start playing instruments. I thought they were so whacked, not afraid to look silly and just go balls to the wall having fun, shredding. Alas, I just went deeper down the rabbit hole the older I got and the more I listened. I started with bass and guitar and played in a couple bands from then on till I was 19 or so, when I started using the computer to make music.

How did you come to working with William Basinski? 

I got lucky! I was already a big fan when he and our friend Ed Patuto came into the coffee shop I was working at and he got a cappuccino from me. I had to ask if it was really him, and he seemed flattered so we hit it off and chatted for a minute. He was going to a dance performance down the street. When I was closing up shop a couple hours later he came back, said he was looking for an assistant and asked if I would be interested. My mind was blown. So of course I followed up, and we've been best buds ever since. Pretty soon after we started sharing ideas, and after a little while that became Sparkle Division. 

Were you a fan of his music before you started working together? 

Absolutely. I had been listening to his music for a couple years before we met. I'll never forget hearing Disintegration Loops for the first time. LIfe changing. My good friend and roommate at the time John used to blast records in the morning on the house stereo before we'd go to uni, and one day he put that on at like 8AM. After that I tapped into that Basinski sound. For life! Haha, little did I know.

Tell me about your name - Shania Taint? 

haha, I better not say too much.

Your portfolio of music to date is a real eclectic mix of techno, drum and bass to more experimental world fusion styles. Tell me about this, why is there such a mix?

I'm glad you asked. I make whatever I'm connecting with, and what my friends and I listen to together and encourage with one another. But really whatever I feel connected to, I'll make, respectfully. Could be anything! If it's hyper in the spirit, I fuck with it. I generally like music with a lot of attitude and liveliness. Funky stuff. I want to have that religious experience. 

I imagine as artists find their rhythm with a certain genre of music, they tend to stick with what's working for them. Would you ever want to stick to one style as you learn and grow as an artist?

I don't think it's possible for me. There is so much music I love for so many different reasons, I love exploring it all. That being said, I think dance music in one way or another has to be my home base, and probably the closest thing to a style I could stick to.

I probably make more house music than anything but I have the least of that genre actually released. There will definitely be some big steppas coming soon though, and more to come of the styles I've been putting out thus far. It's gonna stay a mixed bag for sure. 

Let’s talk about your collaboration with William Basinki, how did this come about?

After a year or so of working in the office and on his music together, mixing and stuff, listening to lots of music, we kinda just started jamming! I made some beats he was into and he ripped saxophone over them.

What do you offer to Sparkle Division that William doesn’t have and what does William offer that you don’t have?

Billy on the Sax, Shania on the trax. I might start playing sax soon though too. We'll see. Also I want to connect with more trumpet players. Hit me up, let's work!

One of our upcoming records, "Foxy" was co-produced with Gary Thomas Wright, legendary engineer, and a dear old friend of Billy's growing up in Texas, who joined our team out here in Reseda about two years ago. Half the songs were written by Gary, and half by myself. Billy shreds sax on almost every track. One of the tunes, a particularly drum and bass tune, features my bro Max Kaplan on Sax, and Craig Varian of 400 Lonely Things on some of the drum programming. The features and collabs will definitely keep coming as Sparkle moves forward. We've got a couple records of different styles, waiting in the wings. Some finished, some in progress. A lot happening. I can't wait for it all to come out! The project's just going deeper and deeper.

What have you learned from working alongside one of the most profound ambient artists in music? 

A lot. Billy is such an important person in my life on so many levels. It started with his music changing my life, to then becoming my mentor and one of my closest friends, and directly changing my life every day. He's been there for me through highs and low, he always has my back, and keeps it real 100% of the time. He is one of the most "based" people I've ever known, which has been nothing short of inspirational to be around. Especially in his music. He's stayed true to his visions his whole life, and remained steadfast through his journey's. Billy's perspective and experience and knowledge of life/music have all been invaluable things for me to learn from over the years. I'm thankful that he and I get to share and think and create together. And we laugh a whole lot too. 

What’s next in your journey? 

Good question. A whole grip! I'm working on a slew of different tunes and projects. There will be an influx of Shania music and collabs soon. As well as Sparkle Division, We have an LP and EP in the cue to be released, hopefully in early 2023, and almost a third LP finished! And a fourth in early stages. I'm Stoked.

Thank you for reading

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