North East Social Club’s TASHASAN designs her own path as a DJ, artist and promoter

North East Social Club’s TASHASAN designs her own path as a DJ, artist and promoter

Best known as the influential head honcho of North East Social Club (NESC), and one of the country’s most prolific graphic designers, Natasha Hassan has been a key figure in Singapore’s creative scene for some time now. 

From art directing albums (Charlie Lim’s Check-Hook) and festivals (Sunda), to eye-catching artwork and illustrations for Singapore Biennale, MTV, Spotify and much more - her vivid and textural style is certainly in-demand. 

Beyond that, her work as a promoter with NESC has seen the events collective grow exponentially through a wide variety of high-profile gigs and parties. From live acts like Hariguem Zaboy, Amateur Takes Control and BGourd (among others) to high-energy raves headlined by Interplanetary Criminal, Salute, DJ Swisha (just to name a few) - NESC’s deftly curated shows have earned a deserved reputation as must-attend events.

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But more recently, Natasha has been balancing her behind-the-scenes role in Singapore’s music scene with a far more public-facing one as a DJ. Known as TASHASAN, the fledgling selector is barely 2 years into her DJ exploits, but she’s learned the ropes far quicker than anyone could have anticipated. Her blend of UK garage and bass music has already seen her play at renowned venues such as Tuff Club, Upstairs, Cherry Discotheque, Wild Pearl and Offtrack

Most notably though, she’s also slated to play at Boiler Room Singapore on 20 July. We spoke to the multifaceted artist to learn more about her DJ alter ego. 

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Before we get into DJing - you’re pretty sought-after as a graphic designer in Singapore. Name us some of your favourite pieces of artwork in recent years?

Some of my favourite works include my first official book cover design for Nine Yard Sarees by Prasanthi Ram, and the MTV ident animation I created with my friend Eric Foenander. That project was a full circle moment for me - I grew up watching those quirky MTV idents on TV and later worked at the network for two years. Being commissioned by MTV to create something special for their global audience was a dream come true. Finally, the art direction for Sunda Festival holds a special place in my heart. It was the festival's first edition, and our visual direction really set the tone and vibe for the event.

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Do you think your art style carries over into your DJ selections? There’s an element of maximalism they both share…

Absolutely. I grew up listening to a lot of noisy genres - post-punk, experimental, hardcore, dubstep. Within those heavy sounds, there's always been a rhythmic groove and breaks that resonate with me, and that definitely influences my DJ sets.

Why and when did you start DJing?

I started DJing post-COVID lockdown. I was organising a series called All Under One Roof under NESC, where I got local DJ friends to play. I needed an opener, so I thought, why not, and decided to play myself. What started as a casual, fun thing has now become a significant part of my life.

Who are the local DJs who’ve influenced you the most?

I've been lucky to be surrounded by incredibly talented people. Early on, selectors like RAH and Jaydah (ATTAGIRL!) showed me what it means to have fun while DJing. As a Brown woman, they helped me find my place in the scene. Dexter Colt, aka William J, has also had a significant impact on my sound. The many Good Times sets kinda help to define the things I listen to in my early 20s. He’s been a solid friend and mentor.

From your first gig till now, how have you grown technically or as a selector?

Like many beginners, I started with the intention of playing fun songs - remixes after remixes, bangers after bangers. But as I delved into the technical side of DJing, I realised it's about storytelling too. The progression from a good warm-up to a build-up and then a closing set is crucial. Initially, I wanted to play heavy tunes all the time, but now I'm learning to balance the tone of my sets, keeping the crowd engaged while playing what I love. Still a lot to learn and refining it day by day though. 

What have been the favourite gigs you’ve played?

Some of my favourite shows have been back-to-back sets with friends. Recently, I played a b2b set with Jordan (Dexter Colt) when we opened for DJ Swisha. It was one of my more consistent sets, thanks to Jordan’s help in keeping the sound steady. Another memorable b2b set was with Bongomann when we opened for Breaka. Although I was unsure about the direction that night, we managed to deliver a pretty good performance. For solo sets, opening for Salute stands out. The crowd's energy was on another level (good and interestingly weird), and hearing the boys shout "WOO WOO OI" during my set was unforgettable.

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You’re playing Boiler Room soon, which is a fairly major accomplishment for a fairly new DJ. How do you feel in the lead up?

I’m extremely grateful to Boiler Room for this opportunity. Throughout my career as a designer and now as a DJ, I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by supportive people who believe in me. This isn’t an overnight success - I've been working in music for the past nine years, curating my taste for people to trust it. Although I have imposter syndrome being new as a DJ compared to my peers, I'm determined to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and make my homies proud. I want to send a strong message about my beliefs through this set.

Your collective North East Social Club went through a bit of a revamp recently. Tell us about your new team… 

First, there's Amiril, an ex-colleague from a major label. He’s a digital specialist, great with numbers and digital ads, and provides fantastic emotional support. Then, there's Matt Sekiya, aka MZA, another former colleague who used to freelance write for Bandwagon where I worked. He runs his own label and plays sounds similar to NESC - garage, bass, jungle. He's an excellent DJ and producer, making him a perfect addition to our team. 

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North East Social Club has become a pillar in Singapore's underground scene. Among the many gigs and parties you’ve thrown, which has been the most inspiring?

The most inspiring event was collaborating with other collectives for The Last Mile. It was a significant moment, affirming that we are doing the right thing. It was reassuring to have the support of friends like Ulysses and Dang (MUGIC), alongside Bongomann and Daniel O’Connor (Ice Cream Sundays), and confirming that we have earned our place in the scene and contributed enough to be in this privileged position.

Are there any upcoming music-related projects you're currently working on that we should be excited about? 

The most exciting project I'm working on is the next instalment of Sunda Festival. Keep an eye out for that - it's going to be incredible.

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