Introducing Taiga Collective: Josh Teed’s newly founded underground artist roster mines the crosshairs between world and bass [Interview + Album Review]

What is Taiga?

In the most scientific sense of the term, taiga refers to a winter forest biome. The word translates from its Turkish meaning for “coniferous forests.” These forests represent the largest, oldest, and snowiest type of land territory in high northern latitudes, especially between the tundra and steppes of Siberia and North America.

It is also a great metaphor for how nature strives through the harshest of weather conditions. But for Taiga Collective‘s founder, Josh Teed, he thought it a fitting name with them “being a Conservation based effort based in the North East.”

Teed has been playing violin since the age of four under the direction of his mother, who was violin teacher herself. He reflects on how she taught him discipline and gave him 2-3 lessons a week from different instructors. The world bass producer is now 23-years-old and has been seriously committed to music-making for 19 of those years. Suffice it to say, the leap from classical to electronic was a gradual process that developed over his life.

I grew up playing classical,” he says, “but really quickly fell in love with bluegrass and jazz because of the musical freedom they bring.”

Taiga Collective Founder Josh Teed plays violin in a music studio
Josh Teed plays violin in his home studio in New Hampshire.

In 2017, Teed made the jump to bass music after the first and only Psychedelic Sleepover Music Festival in his home state of New Hampshire. By the following year, Teed was producing his own music. Still a promising up-and-comer himself, Teed has used 2020 to release his debut album, Emergent, and now makes the giant leap into founding his very own collective.

“Taiga is going to be 100 percent nonprofit, and our main mission is just to do our part in making the earth a better place through music, and to give emerging artists a platform while doing so,” Teed elaborates.

Originally the plan was to donate all streaming and merchandise revenue from the Taiga Collective to the Wildlife Conservation Society. In light of current events, with the Black Lives Matter movement grasping the national political conversation, Taiga is putting all the first month’s earnings are going to Campaign Zero for police reform.

To mark the Collective’s inaugural release, Teed has rounded up a number of underground electronic artists for a compilation that challenges perceptions of what bass music can be. While many underground bass aficionados would be quick to leap to describing the genre as “left-field,” “experimental,” “spacey,” or “heavy,” they leave out a whole realm of bass music emerging from the sector of world music.

Originally when I got into bass music I was really into the heavier stuff, and I’ve played violin my whole life, so I started messing around with them together. Very quickly I found out that a lot of heavy bass has a lack of like… serious musical structure. As soon as I heard CloZee, I quickly figured out that there was a whole other unexplored range of stuff out there that was a perfect complement to live instrumentation.”

– Josh Teed

The goal of the collective is to push natural, melodic, and world sounds, and intertwining them with heavy bass. A few names who are already leading this charge are CharlestheFirst, CloZee, Desert Dwellers, Phutureprimitive, and Govinda, among many others. But, as Teed rightfully points out, “you don’t really see as many of the underground artists” under this tiny umbrella, even though “there are so many great ones.”

The focus of Taiga Collective: Compilation 1, as well as the collective’s identity as a whole, sits between the musical crosshairs of world and bass, and with “the many different ways one can interpret that.”

Insofar that interpretation sits at the crux of all art forms, Teed knows this in his heart. This is especially the case with music. Music is entirely subjective. What one is attracted to in bass music, for instance, varies greatly based on personal taste, age, experience, region, and a whole laundry list of other variables. Herein lies the beauty of music’s subjectivity. This is exactly the theme Taiga Collective seeks to explore in its brand new catalogue and it’s extremely evident upon listening to the 11-track compilation.


Coming down the summit: Foraging through Taiga’s Compilation 1

In keeping with this Taiga metaphor, its only right dissect the album from the point where the icy tundra ends. This is the altitude that is dominated by spruces and firs, making the perfect climate for a moist, subarctic coniferous forest. It’s also the perfect metaphor for how bass music’s low-frequency emissions are perfect from coming down slowly from the peak of the mountain’s summit.

From the album’s outset, the artists are already primed for the downward descent with their unique bass offerings. Skysia‘s “Bridge of Roses” kicks off the journey with its melodic, ethereal approach to organic, tribal bass. Subtle gritty basslines, complex breaks beats, and beautiful piano chords mark the track. Then comes INTHE WOODS‘ contribution, “Journey,” which is rife with expansive atmospheres, wub-heavy breakdowns, and many more elements that all seem to have a way of stopping listeners in their tracks. Next comes

 

As the compilation takes shape, moving from heavier terrains to its vibey center, listeners come to realize they are locked into a higher uphill climb—a spiritual journey of sorts—even as they come into lower elevations. When asked how he chose to arrange the contributions on the album, Teed explains: “Honestly, I just went about ordering it in the same way I would a live set! I started off with some of the heavier tunes, worked into the vibier stuff in the middle, and then ended on some beautiful but bassier tunes!”

The album’s middle layers is where listeners really begin sinking into the meat of the compilation. From Entangled Mind‘s Tipper-esque track, “Bass Mutation,” with its glitch-hop structure, crisp progressions, searing synths, and soft tribal flutes, to Kapha‘s soothing psychedelic anthem, “Event Horizon,” with its jammy synths, soulful horns, and smooth structure that together feel like an ode to Pretty Lights, and listeners feel inclined into movement.

 

As the album takes a turn toward the more soulful side of bass, one cannot help but get remnants of Manic Focus, Break Science, and Gramatik. Glass Cannon and Above The Empire introduce some more natural instrumentation into the fold, from the acoustic guitar to the bongo drums, fusing them into bassier electronic elements. Wrapping the album, DeemZoo lightens things up a bit on “The Aye Aye,” a standout with soft arps that melt into upbeat tempos, crisp percussion, and sultry vocal chops.


Taiga means high altitude bass

After listeners reach the mouth of the trailhead, one is immediately called to forage back up the mountain into the taiga. There’s a sense of peace and tranquility here when contrasted with the hustle and bustle of human life below. Such is the beautiful thing about music: That you can go back in and listen again and again, although you’ll see something different each time. This is precisely what one gets from Tagia Collective’s very first compilation.

On coming together, Teed tells CE that he actually didn’t take any submissions at all for the compilation. “I’ve previously worked with some of the artists on it, and have a few collabs in the works with at least three others,” he revealed. “I curated the group of artists to fit the vibe of the project.”

Taiga Collective already has quite the year planned. They have already locked down biweekly releases throughout the remainder of 2020 as well as a monthly guest mix series, which they will host on their SoundCloud.

Very excited about the release schedule for the year,” Teed explained to CE. “I managed to schedule it so that there’s a release from an artist with a large following and a more underground artist each month. The hopes here are that people come to hear their favorite artists and leave having found a few more!”

Aside from music, Taiga Collective will be launching an online merch store in July and will hopefully be coordinating a few conservation events like “neighborhood or park cleanups” through the summer and “maybe a benefit show or two.”

Although festivals are not on pace to return until 2021, Teeds says he already has Taiga Collective stage takeovers as a goal in mind. “The big ones that I think are realistic in the next year or two [are] Imagine, Big Dub, and Envision,” he says.

Teed takes pains to stress that Taiga is a little different from your traditional label, which is why he went with the name Taiga Collective instead. “We don’t provide recording services, and we’re not doing any artist management. We’re pretty much strictly distributing music,” he points out.

Five years from now I’m hoping to open up a recording studio, and maybe by that point, we’ll be offering recording and management services, only time will tell!” – Josh Teed

For now, fans of underground world and bass music can bask in the vibrant sounds of Taiga Collective: Compilation 1, which stands as an exciting launching point for Teed and his band of talented artists. Stream the full-length effort now and read the entire interview with Josh Teed below.


CE: First off, give us a little bio about yourself. What’s your footing in the music industry? What led you here? What things are you most proud of in your career?

Josh Teed: I currently live in Manchester, New Hampshire, and I’m 23 years old, been playing music seriously for 19 of those now! As far as footing in the music industry, I honestly have just started to get that foot in the door. I’m a producer and multi-instrumentalist, and so far into my music career, my proudest moment has to be releasing my first full-length album in March this year, that’s a been a goal for a long time, probably 10 years at least.

CE: What do you love and hate most about the music industry?

JT: I can definitely tell you that what I love the most, is being able to work with and be friends with people who just appreciate good music, period. That segways right into what I hate about it though, and that is that a surprising majority of people always view it as, and try to make it into a competition. Everyone in this industry has been doing this for different amounts of time so naturally, someone doing this for 10 years is going to be more well rounded than someone doing it for 1.

CE: Yes, there’s a whole lot of that. When people start to realize that collaboration is so much more effective than competition is really when they start to strike gold. Everyone wins. With competition, its great for sports; not so much for the arts. 

JT: That’s like someone asking why Michael Jordan was better in his 5th season than he was in his first, it’s because he had 5 years to learn all the subtleties and nuances! The same applies to literally any field. If someone puts their heart and soul into a track, just learn to appreciate the individual song for what it is, there’s no need to compare and measure up to other artists.

CE: So your unique approach as Josh Teed is that you play a blend of live instrumentation (violin) with worldly, organic sounds, and left-field bass. How did you get here? 

JT: So originally when I got into bass music I was really into the heavier stuff, and I’ve played violin my whole life, so I started messing around with them together. Very quickly I found out that a lot of heavy bass has a lack of like, serious musical structure. As soon as I heard Clozee, I quickly figured out that there was a whole other unexplored range of stuff out there that was a perfect complement to live Instrumentation.

CE: When did you start playing violin? When did you make the leap into electronic?

JT: I’ve been playing violin since I was 4 years old, my mom (who was a violin teacher) had me in lessons with 2-3 different instructors weekly. I grew up playing classical, but really quickly fell in love with bluegrass and jazz because of the musical freedom they bring. I won the Florida Fiddle Competition at age 9, and stayed in orchestra and bands all the way through high school. I made the jump to bass music after the first Psychedelic Sleepover Music Festival (RIP) in New Hampshire in 2017 and started producing in 2018!

CE: What inspired you to take this giant leap informing you’re own label? Had the thought always been in the back of your mind?

JT: This is something I’ve been thinking of for about a year now. There are so many artists out there who work their butts off and make amazing music (Case in Point, go peep the dude Versible) but they don’t really get their music out there and heard by a ton of listeners, and I wanted to be able to provide a platform to do just that.

CE: What are some festivals you’d love to play one day? Could you see your label playing there as a collective or stage takeover?

JT: My big ones that I think are realistic in the next year or two, Imagine, Big Dub (had to pass because of a schedule conflict this year, but there’s always next year) and Envision. Next year I’m definitely gonna shoot for a few Taiga Collective takeovers!

CE: As for the very first compilation, tell us about your first official release. What’s the overarching theme?

JT: The focus is on instrumental and melodic sounds being intertwined with bass music, and just how many different ways you can interpret that.

CE: How did the artists come together for the compilation? Had you been working with each artist a while? Or did you find people coming to you?

JT: For the compilation, I curated the group of artists to fit the vibe of the project, we didn’t take any submissions for it at all! I’ve previously worked with some of the artists on it, and have a few collabs in the works with at least three others!

CE: The full compilation definitely feels like a full-on journey. Tell us about how you chose to arrange the contributions into a cohesive listening journey.

JT: Honestly, I just went about ordering it in the same way I would a live set! I started off with some of the heavier tunes, worked into the vibier stuff in the middle, and then ended on some beautiful but bassier tunes!

CE: Here at Conscious Electronic, we’re huge fans of the world bass genre and we definitely get a lot of those vibes on the album. Was this genre an immediate choice or did it come together gradually?

JT: This was an immediate choice all the way and I’ll touch on that in the next few questions!

CE: Okay, onto the Taiga–specific questions… What is Taiga Collective’s objective and mission?

JT: Taiga is going to be 100% nonprofit, and our main mission is just to do our part in making the earth a better place through music, and to give emerging artists a platform while doing so. Originally the plan was to donate all streaming and merchandise revenue to the Wildlife Conservation Society, but in light of our current events, all the first month’s earnings are going to Campaign Zero for police reform.

CE: What music are you wanting the label to focus on immediately? 

JT: We’re going to be focused pretty strictly on world and melodic bass. I feel like it’s just such a massively overlooked subgenre, there are big artists in it like CharlestheFirst, CloZee, and Govinda, but you don’t really see as many of the underground artists and there are so many great ones.

CE: Do you plan to expand on what sounds Taiga Collective touches on down the line? Or do you want to keep in honed and specific?

JT: Maybe down the road in a few years but I really doubt it. One of the best parts of music is that it’s constantly evolving. Even by sticking with the same honed-in genre for a few years, you’re bound to hear a ton of new versions of it!

CE: For our producer-readers who may be interested in starting their own label, tell us how this process works. What are some hurdles you faced?

JT: So Taiga is a little different from your traditional label which is why I went with Taiga Collective instead. We don’t provide recording services, and we’re not doing any artist management. We’re pretty much strictly distributing music! 

As far as the process goes here’s the massively abbreviated version…

  1. Figure out your general focus, and what you want to achieve.
  2. Branding, so logo work, social media pages, and cover art.
  3. Figure out how you want to distribute. We’re starting out using CDBaby and hopefully can switch over to Symphonic once we have a little base built up.
  4. PROMOTE! Gotta spend money sometimes and this is one of those times, paid ads are your friend.

CE: What are the benefits to being fully independent? The challenges?

JT: The huge benefit is that you 100% control the creative vision. The challenges in my case, are managing my time and resources between doing this, working full time, and furthering my individual music career.

CE: We’re huge fans of manifestation and the slogan, “Think it. Say It. Be It.” Tell us how long has your label/collective been in the works, from thought to belief to action?

JT: Getting everything in place to get the ball rolling took about four months!

CE: What are some of Taiga Collective’s plans for the year? I know you’ve got a full roster of artists and releases planned for the rest of the year.

JT: So we’re going to be doing biweekly releases for the rest of the year, as well as hosting a monthly guest mix series! Very excited about the release schedule for the year, I managed to schedule it so that there’s a release from an artist with a large following, and a more underground artist each month. The hopes here are that people come to hear their favorite artists and leave having found a few more! 

Aside from music, we’ll be launching an online merch store in July, and hopefully will be coordinating a few conservation events like neighborhood or park cleanups through the summer and maybe a benefit show or two!

CE: Where do you see the collective going in 2021? How about five years out?

JT: In 2021, more track releases and guest mixes, maybe host a few album releases. Definitely shooting for a few fest takeovers and another compilation! Five years from now I’m hoping to open up a recording studio, and maybe by that point we’ll be offering recording and management services, only time will tell!

CE: Anything you want to tell us that we may have missed?

Even though times right now are crazy, and we’re living through history in the making, I really urge people to not lose sight of their creative passions and the things that make you happy! Absolutely do your part to help with stuff, protesting, being vigilant of health risks, but don’t burn yourself out by forgetting to do the things that clear stress from your mind and fulfill you, because at the end of the day those things are what make you, you! Much love and thanks for this awesome opportunity 🙂