Interview: Tara Brooks

23 February 2017 - - - The DJ List


There is a line where the dark fuses with the light, the surreal with the sublime, the graceful with the powerful; it is within this line that TARA BROOKS has carved out her truly distinct sound. Whether playing at an intimate club, a packed festival or a magical sunrise deep in the Burning Man Playa, Tara's music envelopes the crowd, stirring them with deep grooves, hypnotic rhythms and haunting melodies. Tara is part of the Listed family, and is deeply involved in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, & New York underground scene, and playing at festivals all over the US. Tara was generous enough to answer a few questions for us.

Who introduced you to electronic music?

Growing up in Los Angeles, with a few scattered years in Houston, I was introduced to multiple raves in different areas. I started listening to Prog, Trance, Drum & Bass, and a lot of soulful House & San Francisco influenced sounds.

How did you first get involved in DJing?

After graduating college in San Diego, falling in love at a young age, while searching for my passion... I knew I wanted to do something unique, creative, and out of the ordinary from a young age. Working in the service industry in Downtown San Diego exposed me to the music of SASHA & Digweed, MARK FARINA, and MIGUEL MIGS. I also heard a lot of San Francisco House, Chicago House, psychedelic old school Progressive, and Trance. I was drawn to it because it touched the soul and made your body let go. As time went on, I found myself connected to the music and fell in love with the idea that this music brings people together in such a peaceful and powerful way.

How difficult is it to make it strictly as a DJ in this industry?

It's difficult everyday to make it as a DJ. Every year it gets harder because of its rising popularity and its accessibility - one could get away without even learning how to DJ properly. It's also extremely hard to make it as a full time underground DJ and just playing in underground House or Techno parties that touch the soul. The masses don't usually understand or want to hear underground music, so it makes our community more intimate, beautiful, and free of the bottle service and big hit EDM fees that come with the safe pop records & risk free tunes. Of course once you make it in the underground scene, you can be well off as well. However, that can take a lifetime - if you're doing it the right way.

Do you still feel that nervousness/excitement before each performance?

I wouldn't say I feel nervous, but I get an anxious and excited feeling - in a positive way. Because every DJ set is going to be different with every sound system and set up, you never truly know what you're getting into. You can never know what technicalities will come up, or the crowd's reaction, mood or feelings for the night. So I take each experience as something new and exciting. Although I can feel confident and experienced, I never get too comfortable - just the right amount of excitement and nerves!

How does what’s going on in your life and your state of mind at the time affect which side of you comes out when you play? Is it a subconscious choice?

I think DJing is so special because whatever is going on in your life at the time, good or bad, is put on hold when you step up to the decks. As a gift to yourself and the crowd, we are able to check out and take a journey into a positive place. I've been in situations where I've been sick or even lost a family member, but all of that is let go from the time you put on your first track and get into the groove with the energy put out by the crowd infusing it with your vision you have of the night.

What does your studio currently consist of? What's your favorite gear?

Currently my home studio is pretty simple and it consists of your basic but awesome affordable Yamaha HS80's, M audio Axiom controller & Roland handsonic HPD-20, and a few natural hand instruments like bells, shakers, chimes, rainsticks etc. I use Logic and work the hell out of my favorite plug-ins. But of course when collaborating, I take advantage of more synths. My favorite synth brands are Dave Smith, Arturia, and Roland.

What was the most challenging song or remix you've ever made?

The most challenging song I've ever made I'm actually just completing now. It's something special I'd like to send to JOHN DIGWEED's label Bedrock. I'd say it's challenging because I'm not one to make a track for a specific label. I just make music for myself. I make what I love and then find a home for it. This time it's making what I love with the sounds of Bedrock in mind. It shouldn't be too challenging as he's been a huge inspiration in my life but it's the idea of making your mind stay on track that makes it harder. I love a challenge but I'm usually at my best when I'm just flowing with no plans or pressure.

What makes a good party for you?

What makes a good party starts with the sound system. Doesn't matter how expensive the system is, if it's not tuned properly it's shit! So let's get a nice system, Funktion One, Danley, KV2 and tune it right, then we can have a party! Then of course, the music lineup and programming. Promoters, please think about the style of music each DJs play before programming, so you can create a good flow of sounds and a proper journey. Not some mind fuck of styles and energy that makes no sense. The underground is for me the lovely crowd that come purely for the music, to dance and let go. They don't just come to hang out and creep on chicks, they come for their love of the music lineup and programming, a true collaboration of energies.

Tell us something about you that people wouldn't know?

I think most people don't know I speak sign language. I'm not a pro but I took ASL in college and it was one of the greatest things I've ever done, to be able to understand their culture and communicate. Believe it or not, there are some deaf and hard of hearing friends who love the music as much as we do. They feel music through vibrations and solfeggio frequencies,it's truly beautiful to be able to communicate with them through more than just music.

Tell us about any upcoming productions and parties you have coming up?

I'm currently doing a remix of "Natural Flow" for ROBBIE AKBAL's label. Also I just released a set on the legendary John Digweed's Transitions radio show and HERNAN CATTANEO released his Balance Series with one of my original tracks "Yugen." I have loads of original productions in the works. I have SXM Festival and Desert Hearts Festival coming up soon, and my first ever European tour in July, starting at Katerblau in Berlin.

About the Author

Dale Take
hernan cattaneo john digweed mark farina miguel migs sasha tara brooks robbie akbal

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