In the spotlight – VAN TASTIK

In the spotlight – VAN TASTIK

VAN TASTIK is a one man blues band mixing blues, rock and american folk. He was born into a French-American family who travelled the world. VAN is currently based in the Netherlands.

What can you tell us about yourself?

“I go by VAN TASTIK, VAN, The Reverend VAN or The Rev. I’ve got a dark history with many issues which have given me, VAN TASTIK, the Blues. My stage name is a wink at the ladies and gentlemen of Burlesque and Classic Cinema. The Vons and Vans of this world always have darker names to most people around, except in the Netherlands where that’s just your average last name. I sure know how to pick ’em.”

“My family travelled the world for work and I continued to travel to escape from the pain and the hurt that they’d put me through. Now it’s become a bit of a lifestyle truthfully and I just travel because I love coming across new cultures and learning their ways. The more you broaden your horizons the kinder a human you become – I think. Certainly wiser if nothing else.”

How did all that traveling shape you?

“My travelling and my multi-cultural background has undeniably shaped the way I make music today! I believe my music speaks of displacement, homesickness and being lost/not having a home. At the same time I think it also speaks of the silver lining, hope and finding the good amidst the bad. That’s why I find solace in the Blues. I think if you listen to a lot of the Blues there’s a sadness so deep that it just cannot be expressed in words. It’s about being lost but not knowing why, it’s about not belonging but not knowing how and it’s about being outside looking in. The Blues resulted as a mix of cultures. The people making this music with all their cultures had no choice but to live in a culture that wasn’t theirs. So just like those who invented the Blues I often find myself in a similar situation where in some ways I belong and in others I don’t. Unfortunately the ways I don’t, usually outweigh the ways I do. That’s a big downside of travelling and being multicultural. Always there, never welcome/at home.”

When did you start playing/singing?

“I think the little me was singing and drumming on kitchen utensils before he could speak. I don’t truly recall a specific point. Just an ineluctable need to express myself and the feeling of finding solace through performance arts – be that acting, music, dance or other artistic endeavours. I suppose there were turning points – school shows where I sang or plays I was in and learning guitar from watching the pianist in Church. He would show me chords on the piano which I would replicate on the guitar. Those sorts of things.”

When did you become VAN TASTIK? Is the music you make now different from what you made before VAN TASTIK?

“VAN TASTIK started about six years ago and the first gigs that I ever played were in Edinburgh, Scotland 󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣- for what’s known as the Edinburgh fringe Festival. Depending on my projects I have taken on many different styles, instruments and genres. Part of what I find interesting is to approach new styles. I started out writing what I can only describe as Nu Metal, then going through groups of Neo Christian Worship Music, Old School Gospel, Pop Punk, Emo, Post-Hardcore and Singer Songwriter and Funk-Soul infused Jazz.”

“I’ve honestly never been a fan of using my own name; I believe artists should have a persona as it makes you as the artist easier to discern from you as the person. Your art is an outlet, but it’s not everything you are.”

Your sound reminds me of The Black Keys. Are you influenced by them? Who are your biggest musical influences? 

“The Black Keys had an undeniable influence on the music I make today. One of my first albums ever was ‘Rubber Factory‘ after that one I lost taste for them really. There was something so raw and honest about their music until ‘Brothers‘ and then they lost it. However my sound is mostly inspired by people like Ma Rainey, Lucille Bogan, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Muddy Waters, J Cash, Chuck Berry, Willie Dixon, Elvis, Skip James, Lightnin’ Jon Hopkins, R.L. Burnside, Amédé Ardouin and many more nameless singers and bards of Americana and Blues music. I took their sound and made it modern in my own way. With inspiration from other current bands like Reignwolf or the White Stripes. Still the influence is mostly from older artists musically speaking. I cannot omit the influence in my music of heavier genres that I have been involved in such as Deathcore, Grindcore, Melodic Hardcore, Doom Metal, Sludge, DSBM and so on.”

How did you end up in the Netherlands?

“I ended up in the Netherlands as a result of Brexit, living in Scotland at the time my status as an artist who was non-British was uncertain at best. Since my partner could not get a visa extension, we chose to move to another European country where English was still a possibility for her.”

How’s your Dutch? 😉

“I have a knack for languages so my Dutch is actually already pretty fluent, certainly conversational including my writing.”

You are preparing your debut album. ‘Ain’t No Man With Money’ (ANMWM) was the first single. ‘Hangman’ was the second single. I understood the album was recorded entirely live in an old biscuit factory in South London. What can you tell us about your album?

“The album was recorded with a group called The Animal Farm – the producer Mat Leppanen did an amazing job and I had a tremendous time working with him. I walked into the studio and he immediately understood what VAN TASTIK was about and what the music needed; so along with the ideas that I brought to the table we produced a full album in the space of SEVEN DAYS. Many of the songs have been waiting for a long time to come out so it was great to get them on record, but I’m tired of waiting now and I need to let them be free so I can continue to create and unburden myself, creatively speaking.

What are your favourite memories of writing/recording the album? 

“When it comes to favorite memories the two brothers who run The Animal Farm are great guys and were very fun to work with. We had a lot of good jokes and banter and the whole experience was seamless, easy and pretty much all in one take. Every one of the songs that you hear on this album was recorded in a single take for guitar, vocals, kick drum and foot tambourine. Once those were recorded, we added some additional percussion, backing vocals and bass on three of the tracks, so the bulk of the recordings are all in one take – solos and all. The idea for me was also to replicate the experience of my live shows as a one-man band and for the songs to vehiculate the same energy that I give off when I play live. So in other words: no click track, no 10,000 layers of multi-tracking, it was all live.”

Are you happy with the response for ‘Hangman’?

“So far the release response for ‘Hangman’ has been amazing. People are really enjoying the song and the same went for ‘Ain’t No Man With Money’. Considering that I have a grand total of four songs available online I couldn’t have asked for a better response. We’ve been approached by several publications, been granted airtime on radios across the world, and we’ve acquired almost 300 new fans on Spotify and Instagram and it KEEPS going!”

In the Release Talk you mentioned you pictured ‘Hangman’ as a Western. The video also has a Western vibe. What’s your favourite Western? 

“I honestly don’t know that I have a favorite Western – I am a big film freak and therefore it’s pretty hard to pick. However, if you were to press me… No… I still don’t think I can choose… maaaaybe Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man with J. Depp and Gary Farmer and a host of great cast members. I would certainly recommend going to watch Blue Steel – the western with John Wayne that I used for the ‘Hangman’ video clip which has long since been in the public domain.”

Speaking of films, if you were given the chance to rewrite the soundtrack for a film, what film would you pick and why?

“I think if I were given the chance to write a soundtrack to a film I would probably make my own film. Hahaha. If it were to be a film that has come out recently, I would love to be featured on anything that is Dark, Americana, Western. I mostly think of TV shows over films however; since I personally prefer it when films have orchestral music or tailor made scores. I think it’s more befitting of the cinematic experience. TV shows on the other hand can very easily have opening credits or closing credits of an up-and-coming artist and that would be great whether it’s Godless or Damnation, Peaky Blinders or West World; or even Yellowstone. Although I must admit I’m very curious about this up-and-coming Netflix production with Tom Hanks called News of the World.”

What inspires you to write songs? 

“I’m inspired by just about anything. It’s difficult to pinpoint that sorta thing for me. I’d say I’m inspired by my own difficult past as well as by coming to know, hearing about or watching the struggles of others. Some I know, some I don’t. I use music to exorcise my own demons or just as a catalyst for my emotions. There’s something meditative about it.”

What do you enjoy most as a musician?

“The best part for me is always the live shows and the communal experience with my listeners. That’s why I love performing old and new and original a cappella numbers. Music no matter the type is a communion altogether. Everyone in that room will share that experience and there’s something both fleeting and eternal in that. Once it’s done, it’s gone even the H-est of D recordings couldn’t do it justice but if it was worth it and if you felt alive, you’ll never forget it, ever. I’ve had people see me from the other side of the street and cross to tell me they saw me live and how much they enjoyed the performance because I got them involved and brought them fully into the Reverend VAN’s world. Warts and all no matter how rhythm-crippled and tone-deaf they were. That’s something you can’t replace and it gives us all a teeenie tiny bit of happiness in a world of darkness and mundanity coded by zeroes and ones. I think I reflect both that thirst for life and that gloom in my work. I hope I do at least.”

What social issues are you most passionate about? 

“I think there are few social issues that don’t matter. I think gender stereotypes are among some of the most harmful things in the world. Men kill themselves because they don’t believe they’re allowed to feel or experience failure or hide health issues until they are terminal. Women don’t feel whole without figure-correcting clothing and 3 inches of make-up. None of that is good.”

“I also want to stand for mental health in general from my days couch surfing/sleeping rough to the abuse I experienced from my family, I suffered greatly from mental health/emotional issues be that because of others around me or because of issues within myself.”

“For me the most important issue is probably education and equal access to it for everyone. If we start by giving everyone around us everywhere access to knowledge and a methodology to use that knowledge I think that most of the issues which we see as a species would be severely palliated without getting too metaphysical or altruistic. Haha.”

How do you feel about the current music industry?

“It’s doing what it can to follow its users I would say… poorly… but it’s keeping up as best it can. Like any giant conglomerate or lobby those at the top usually find out too late or listen too late to their users/audience. I have noticed recently that Facebook and Instagram have been making it more difficult for people to reach their audience organically and that is dangerous for us and them. If we small artists can no longer reach new audiences without having to pay for it at a time like this I think it may quickly bloat itself into annihilation. You know… it’ll be too fat to see its own feet and as a result lose the feet. I wouldn’t want to stay on a platform where all I see are paid promotion viral videos but at the same time for an artist like myself who has focused so much on Instagram because of the visual nature of what I do it could also mean losing a large part of my audience. So it’s an issue for all concerned.”

“If there’s one thing I do deplore it’s that we musicians these days have to … first and foremost – be business minded and that isn’t always very conducive to creating band folklore and legend or to creativity. You keep your business hat on for too long and it taints your creativity… or at least it takes a while to channel it into something else somehow. I feel it sometimes, and I’ve seen it happen and it’s a sad sight. Creating requires an innocence that not everyone has… a capacity to see beyond the mundane concerns of paychecks and debts and mortgages and phone bills and if you lose that innocence it’s hard to get it back. Watching a lot of Disney films and cartoons might help.”

What are your plans for 2021?

“Well, launching this album. Hopefully touring it. Playing virtual festivals although I cannot yet say which so you’ll have to keep an eye on my socials and SUBSCRIBE TO MY MAILING LIST hahaha… one way to overcome audience diaspora is mailing lists. They can be a nuisance, but emails have been around for almost 50 years so it’s not going anywhere. Some of my previous bands used to be on myspace and that died a hard death.”

What’s your favourite song in the Cool Top 20?

“Well, I think I might have to say Youth Antics – ‘This Moment‘. Reminded me a little bit of Joy Division especially with the vocals but also bands like We Were Promised Jetpacks and the candid happiness (although secret misery) of bands like Weezer and such. I have to say the selection is pretty good though… and I like the consistency in genres.”

What song would you like to add as a bonus track to our chart and why?

“I’d say probably ‘Coffee Grinder‘ by a guy I met recently called Caffeinated Rock’n’Roll he’s an awesome guy and a good musician from the mountains of Switzerland and also a One Man Band and I Feel like we don’t get enough repping in the music world. Or maybe Clarke and the Himselfs, she is a wonderful One-Woman-Band and whilst I’ve never met her personally I think I’d really love to. My favourite of hers is probably ‘So Sorry’.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

This is an RSVP to The Church Of VAN TASTIK my weekly Thursday livestream at 5pm CET.

Here’s the link to the new single and my Merch Page. 

This is all my Platforms, Outlets, Websites, Social Media all of it!