TÄ?LÄ? is an artist with vision. Pulling past and present together, her second EP Alchemy is a vibrant melting pot of Persian rhythms, hip hop beats, and UK garage-indebted vocals. Born to an Iranian father and an English mother, the South London-native sees something in the conflicting elements that lesser producers would not, and instinctively knows how to find the common thread.
HOMETOWN: South West London
WHAT’S IN A NAME: My aunt was talking in the kitchen one day in Farsi, and said “Tala.” I asked what it meant and she said “gold.” After researching the word, I felt like the name had found me: I believe that names find you and not the other way around.
GROWING UP: Growing up in a multicultural home when I was really young I used to think wasn’t a massive influence on me, but now I know it definitely was. Growing up with my dad being a classical musician—all these guitars lying around the house and crazy instruments I don’t even know the names to—was just really awesome. Just to have this Persian influence lying around. Then my mum would have pop music playing. My brother at the time was a proper, die-hard Prince fan and a Michael Jackson fan—had all the merchandise. Being really small, I was just absorbing all of that at once. When I got a bit older, I remember garage being this really big thing at school. Garage was a big part of music culture in a way that has definitely had a massive impact. Early 2000s R&B and hip-hop—Timbaland and Missy Elliot—all that kind of stuff is my go-to era.
FROM PIANO PLAYER TO PRODUCER: I started playing piano was I was about seven. At the time I really enjoyed it. I was classically trained and everything. It was a kind of therapeutic thing, playing the piano. I probably wasn’t the best technical pianist but I started playing around with making up little ideas when I was quite young. At school, a friend gave me a copy of Reason, which was this music software program, and he said, “You can record all your ideas on it,” and I was like, “Oh my god, I’ve needed this all my life. Now I can do anything!” [laughs] So I started on that and then realized I wanted vocals on my tracks and figured I might as well try singing. It was quite a natural progression, really.
ON HER FORTHCOMING EP ALCHEMY: When The Duchess came out I’d already worked on a lot of the ideas for the second EP, so it was more about trying to figure out which four [songs] fit together nicely and worked as a group. “Black Scorpio” and “Alchemy” fitted really nicely together. Then, “Everybody’s Free“ was an older track that I’d worked on probably a year before that. To take two things that are not really meant to work together and to put them together has always interested me. It becomes this finishing and developing process; it’s the most challenging part, but it’s also the most rewarding because you can take the smallest idea and stick it somewhere else then it becomes part of this journey. It is a journey. It’s an emotional journey—or it has been for me! I always perceive things in colors, and color-wise it all seemed to fit. It’s colorful. There was no compromise made making it. It was such a clear vision on my part. I knew what I wanted and was like, “That’s how it’s going out. It’s done.”
INSPIRATION: It all really depends. I love Cashmere Cat—I think he’s amazing. TOKiMONSTA too. I’d love to work with Björk as an artist or my dream collaboration production wise would be Noah ’40’ Shebib. I get into phases of things. Sometimes I’ll get obsessed with something quite random and I’ll crazy research it. For instance, recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Indian soundtracks. Delving deep into the world of that, even the ones that were never even released, and getting lost in odd, early ’90s Indian soundtracks, which is a really interesting era. This is going to sound a bit weird, but I think you can sometimes control what you’re influenced by to a degree. I have this thing where I’ll make a playlist for the next month or two and only listen to what I’ve put on that. I think by controlling what you listen to, you can control what you create. I think there is so much that can influence what you create in so many ways, and the brain is incredibly interesting when it comes to that.
VISUALS: The visual side is really important to me. It’s something that goes hand in hand with the music. It feels just as important to put as much effort into every area of that, of the whole aesthetic, because it’s something that represents me. I remember when I did the first EP I had so many ideas all over the place. I’ve been working with [designer and art director] Kate Moross a lot—she’s amazing—and I remember trying to explain what I wanted, what I thought The Duchess represented, and she totally got it. The whole idea of having something that is a mix of old and new with the stamp, I really love the feel of that. The stamp is quite an ancient thing, the look and the feel of it, and then you’ve also got the modern colors. I guess the fact that there’s a real kind of cultural contrast within it really represented what the sound was. Especially when it comes to video, it’s definitely something I want to keep doing moving forwards. If you imagine the video for “Alchemy” is like entering into a surreal kind of world, “Black Scorpio” is going to be the trippier, more hallucinogenic world—you get further into it. They bring another piece of life to the music as well, taking it somewhere else. There will be more projects in the future.
HIBERNATING: I grew up near the Twickenham/Richmond area. I still live in my family home. Nothing really happens there and it’s quite quiet. I like having a bubble I can run back to, but I also have a studio now in Soho, so I get the best of both worlds. I love being in my own little world, being able to create and being able to switch off everything outside that is going on. It’s that magical moment when you’re making a new idea and you’re like. “God, I’m onto something!” You’re in your own little hibernation so you can make all those ideas come to life. For me, it’s always been that escapism, I think if you can escape for three minutes or someone else can escape for three minutes then you’ve done a good job.
THE FUTURE: I’m working on my live show at the moment, which I’m really excited about. It’s a bit of a one-man band vibe or one-woman band vibe [laughs]… I don’t want to give away too much, but my first proper live performance is coming and it’ll be in London. I’d hope next year that the plan would be to work towards an album, definitely, but there will be some stuff before that. Maybe I’ll do another EP, some more collaborations. I’m just looking forward to putting new ideas together, really.ALCHEMY COMES OUT NOVEMBER 17 VIA AESOP RECORDS. IT IS AVAILABLE TO PRE-ORDER ON iTUNES AND ON 12-INCH.