Tatanka is one of the most original artists of the harder styles and has managed to stay on top of the game for years now. At Decibel outdoor 2019, he will showcase his signature sound during a special liveset. 25 Years of Tatanka says a lot about his personal legacy, but also about the history of Hardstyle. We spoke with this Italian mastermind to find out what this epic set will be like.
Where did it all start for you?
Well, this is a tough one! I remember I couldn’t stand house music when I was a kid. It all sounded the same to me, but that’s because the broadly broadcasted tracks through radio stations were the more commercial ones, in those days. As a teenager I discovered a different side of electronic dance music, one that was not for everybody, and I fell in love with certain tracks. In the year 1993, I bought by first 12” and I began practicing mixing, so I guess that was how it all started for me.
Do you think this situation still applies for newbies today, or do you feel they find their way into the industry in different ways now?
We are talking about 25 years ago so, of course, things were different…The scene, the clubs, the promotion and even the tools we had: it was obviously all different than what we have now. I believe that nowadays everything absolutely goes faster, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better …Nor worse, don’t get me wrong: It’s just a different era.
Newbies today face a totally different system as the music industry has changed a lot. But if you want to make it, the rules are the same: acknowledge when your gift (as a musician/producer/performer) is doing something special for the crowds and then work solidly, to deliver your own unique thing to the world. If you are meant to leave your trademark you will, no matter what.
What is your favourite memory within these 25 years of Tatanka?
I don’t think I can name only one. Simply because this beautiful job can give you so many different sets of emotions. It’s all related either to how your tracks are received in your audience’s lives (either as dancers or simply listeners) or what impact you have on a crowd when you are on stage, which, despite its size, can leave something special in your heart. That’s how memories are created for a DJ, I believe. But you see, they are all such different and incomparable experiences which would make it very foolish to stick with one in particular.
What things would you have done differently?
Pretty much nothing. I feel happy with who I am, and I accept the choices I’ve made both in my life and in my career. They made me who I am. You learn from your mistakes, so if I would go back in time to “fix” something I couldn’t learn out of that!
The landscape has changed, but you’ve managed to maintain your signature sound. How do you do that?
I really don’t know that. I guess my signature sound depends on a very specific touch made by small details that keep coming towards each other until they form “my” puzzle. I guess I just tried to be coherent even within the change (as evolution) of the styles of music that I produced and played as a DJ.
Why is it so important to stay true to yourself?
Because in the end of the day, you’ll be the motherfucker facing the mirror and you can’t lie to that person, ‘cause you gotta share that ass with that person for your whole life. Staying true to yourself is the minimum you can do if you want to live in peace with yourself.
How are you planning on maintaining your sound in the near future?
I almost stopped playing new hardstyle a while ago because I felt that releasing only a one or two tracks of my own a year wouldn’t be enough to engage weekly gigs.
Right now, you are probably thinking “why haven’t you produced more stuff?”. See, in the past I ‘had to’ release new music to keep up with the pace of my colleagues. Sometimes I ended up making something I wasn’t really satisfied with. To me every track needs to be special and sort of ‘never done before’. I don’t like to repeat myself. I’m not a factory. I’m always trying to create something special and unique to tell with my music and having to force my creative process by giving myself deadlines wasn’t working for me anymore.
Nowadays I tend to play longer sets in which I build up the night from the era before early hardstyle up to more modern things. It’s not that I don’t like new music, I just don’t find many tracks that fit my taste (speaking of coherence). But when I do, I play those tracks with a smile on my face. Because if I play those, they are telling me something I resonate with.
So far, I’m working freely on several projects; they might be worth seeing the light. Or maybe not. Who knows? If they do, they will surely have something to say about how I feel my music and how I’d like it to have an impact on my fans.
In what way would you adjust your sound a bit if the future asks for that?
I have no rush. If anything comes out of my head and it has potential, I’ll work on that giving it all my heart: whatever genre it might be.
You will perform at the Hardstyle Classics stage at Decibel this year. What can we expect?
This is a special year for me as I’m celebrating a quarter of a century behind the decks. B2S has given me the opportunity to have a special spot at Decibel. Despite that, I’d like to showcase this long path, this simply isn’t possible as I would need more than eight hours to give a decent summary. I’ll stick with the era that The Netherlands has known me best for, so 2002 to 2014.
Hardstyle Classics really grew in popularity the last year(s). How do you explain this?
As music evolves, every genre tends to leave behind old structures and sounds. Hardstyle is one of the most evolving genres within electronic dance music and it has changed so much, both in sound and bpm, that if you compare the new one with the old one, it’s basically another genre haha. Certain aspects of each hardstyle era belong with those days and are irreplaceable. I reckon that there’s nothing like that nowadays. The old ones are missing it and the new ones are discovering it: it’s a sort of evergreen limbo.
Do you think the Hardstyle Classics sound can still change a bit and why (not)?
You can pump it, edit it, cut it, scramble it, mash it up. But at the end of the day, you can’t change it. If you would, then it would be something else!
What is the main ingredient of a great Classics-set according to you?
Feeling good about the vibe you want to give to your crowd and enjoying the ride.
What will the next 25 years for Tatanka look like?
Well, I’m 39. So, I really have no clue, but anything is possible! I mean, I don’t see myself doing anything else than music, so it will be like that for the rest of my life, not just my career.
Maybe just go in to the near future then. What can you tell us about your upcoming plans?
As I said there are many projects going on, but I don’t know which ones are going to see the light. I’m in the middle of a very promising collaboration with my Italian mate Kronos, but we are working on it now and then since August and we are still not happy about the shapes it took so far. Besides that, I’m making an early hardstyle inspired track and it sounds very promising. However, I don’t know if it will be an official release because it is dedicated to a special fan of mine that needs tome extra pumping before his races: Andrea Dovizioso. We’ll see what the future will bring, and I’ll just go with the flow!
If we take a look at your list of gigs, we see a lot of shows in Italy. Would you say the Italian scene is still growing and how do you experience this?
The Italian club scene holds many parties that include some forms of hardstyle, which is spreading even into more “commercial” places. It’s probably because of the world-wide expansion of hardstyle, which is broadly reflecting on even the most mainstream based realities within the dance culture.
We will still see you around in The Netherlands, right?
For sure! Many classic-sets ahead for this season: tot straks!