Sitting down to meet Tañ at the end of a long, busy summer, on the back of a breakout year of highly billed sets at club nights and festivals, she impresses a cool confidence rare in artists this early in their career. But with Tañ, it’s not surprising – her taste-making selections and high-energy sets have earned widespread praise and attention of late.
Tañ, real name Tanya Sanadze, was born outside of London in the south of England before moving to Leeds for university in 2012 where she cut her teeth spinning dubstep, after having been drawn into the genre by Burial. "I got one of those really big Beats speakers for Christmas and I was listening to 'Archangel' like: 'Oh my god this is so good!'" she recalls. At university she became president of the student DJ society, and gradually established herself in the city's bustling DIY scene, playing her first bar set for beloved queer party Love Muscle and debut club set for Reference Mark, before co-founding the UKG-focused Spin City club night and label.
After a well-received set during a community live stream during lockdown in 2020, she's been in-demand since the music industry get back into swing, hosting a monthly Rinse FM show, streaming for HÖR BERLIN, and debuting at some of the world's best clubs, including fabric and Panorama Bar.
I spoke to Tañ following her set at the Keep Hush boat party on the Thames this summer. Now residing in Birmingham, she joins the call framed by her decks, some family photos and a line drawing: Tanya was an early subject for @badlydrawndjs.
We talk about her musical journey from loving dubstep, electro and breaks through to recent turns towards techno and trance, and she's shared a ranging Impact mix that represents her diverse tastes.
It's interesting hearing about your experience in Leeds DJ society, of course the scene in Leeds is pretty diverse. So dubstep was where it was at for you back then?
I first started university back in 2012, and that’s when I joined the University of Leeds DJ society. I bought my turntables around 2016, and I was trying to keep up with all of the dubstep releases, but then the second you miss one it was £50 on Discogs — it just put me off completely! I switched to digital which made it easier to play a lot of genres. I was like, okay, this way I can build up a tune collection and play a set out of it rather than having 10 records and not being able to change it up too much. But definitely dubstep was the big thing at this time.
I can imagine how building sets from the elusive and collectible records released at that time was difficult, I remember the way that the dubstep section in a record store I used to work at was regularly combed and cleared by collectors and DJs.
Definitely. I really wanted to get into it more but I didn’t have the time [to stay on top of new releases]. My friends loved the exclusivity of it so much, they were like “I’ve got this record, only a hundred people have it”. It’s definitely something I’m trying to get back into again, buying records. One of the problems for me was that in Leeds there wasn’t really that many second-hand record shops I’ve just moved to Birmingham a couple of months ago and they’ve got Digbeth Records here, which is mostly second-hand stuff and its not too expensive. I think that’s like my favourite thing: finding random, cheap records that are sick and playing those.
I’ve definitely heard some of that playfulness from your crate-digging approach inform your tracklists, hearing 'Jonathan' by Furucão 2000 and Jonjon in your HÖR mix. On the topic of Birmingham, what do you make of the scene there and have you got an impression of the city yet?
To be honest, not yet, because I was just finishing off my masters and didn't really leave the house. If I was playing on the weekend, then I just wouldn't be here. So, I've not really spent proper time here yet. It'll be interesting to explore the nightlife, because, I feel like you don't really hear about much of what's going on in Birmingham from outside of it. There’s Hare and Hounds, which seems to have a lot of nights on that I would go to.
I was chatting to one of the guys that works at Digbeth Records, he runs a night with one of the girls that I knew before I moved here called re:cord. I'll try and check that out as well. It'd be nice to connect with other people like that running nights and try and get into the community a bit more.
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Let’s take it back to the beginning of your journey in DJing, where were you first playing, and were you just spinning vinyl?
I would play records every now and again, but I wouldn't ever do a full vinyl set. I was definitely still learning, but I was a bit braver with it, to be honest, just having a go with it. I would like to get back into it again.
The first time I played out to anyone properly was playing a bar set for Love Muscle, which is a queer house and techno night. They get other other like genres involved, but that's kind of like the core. Then the first club night would be my friend James', who's actually moved to Birmingham now as well — he runs a night and label called Reference Mark Recordings, and also had me down to do my first guest mix. That's kind of where I started off, just before lockdown, then it was all just streams really after that.
This is where you start gaining traction, no? How did that happen?
I think like the first one really was the tribute to Alex T, one of our friends who passed away at the start of 2020. Then lockdown started, his brother Seb put together a week of live streams that were based in like different cities. I did one of the Leeds ones, and because there were so many people watching them who knew Alex and were in the DJ scene, I think that's how most people found out about me.
He was someone that I knew when we first started Spin City, which is the night that I run with my mates. He came down and he was always a big supporter because he was well into garage, and he was just really up for it. I knew him before as well, he was around when I did my first degree, so I met him at that time. I met a lot of people – a lot of my close mates – through him and going to Dimensions Festival.
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So a lot of people pick up on you through that, what are you playing on the stream, and what happens next?
For the stream, I basically just played tunes that I thought he'd love. A lot of my garage, breaks ,a bit of electro. I was absolutely shitting it, I was so nervous. Everyone was commenting on the streams. I was playing some speed garage and stuff, and people were like: “Yeah, this is it!” It was really special, and I felt really happy to be a part of it. Everyone felt quite disconnected during lockdown, and then for everyone to be on the same stream chatting, it felt very much like everyone was together. It was just like a party, you know, it was really special.
Then obviously I watched the other streams: there was one in Manchester, there was one in London, and they did two in Leeds. I was watching the other streams and finding out about other people as well through it, and being like “these people are sick”, and getting in touch with them. I spoke to Sophie K through that, and she brought me on to do a guest mix for her radio show which was on NTS. Then there was Northern Division, which is Luke Hurrell, Peaky Beats and Pinder. They do a garage night and have a label as well, so we were kind of chatting to them and they suggested I do a garage hour on Rinse FM, and that's how I got the link to do that, and then I got more Rinse shows through that.
I was trying to look for the way that your style sort of evolved over that time, but it seems like you're not moving in a linear direction towards something, you're still going back and you're playing the garage, breaks, electro, and acid, as well now playing styles like trance. Do you see yourself as moving towards something or are you just feeling it out?
I'm not really. I'm just playing around with different styles. At the moment I'm playing more techno and stuff. I really enjoyed the European gigs, and that sound kind of helps get more of those as well. I don't really have a plan in mind, like of where I want to be in like five years, I just take each weekend as it comes.
With regards to your interest in trance, is there someone you saw playing the trance that got you interested?
I guess Adam Pits plays wafty trance sort of stuff, and I think his productions are sick as well. I like listening to older stuff that came out back in the '90s, because it's quite nostalgic, I like the feel of listening to it. But in terms who actually does play a lot of trance that I see: A for Alpha, we did a back-to-back in Bristol not so long ago, Narciss, Angel D'lite, LUXE, and Rat Party, they're a super fab party/collective in Leeds with an incredible community behind it, which is a big part of why nights like Subdub and Love Muscle are so special to me too. On HÖR sets you tend to hear a lot of trance, and my partner listens to a lot of trance as well.
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I guess you pivoted to a bit more of a European presence being on German agency Suo Motu Bookings and being involved in that network as well. And then the Berghain set, how did that come about and how was it?
I guess they had Partiboi69 on, and I did a stream with him. It just came about, I was surprised! It was really, really fun. It was one of the sets that kind of went how I really wanted it to go I played for three hours, so it was nice to play a bit longer, because a lot of UK gigs you play are like an hour, and I feel like you don't quite get into the groove so much. When you have longer to play, you can get through a bit more. DJ Spit was playing before me and he was playing a lot of speed garage, so I went into it with speed garage, trance, some electro, and then more acid techno sort of stuff to finish off with. I think I finished on a donk tune actually, just had to be done before Partiboi69 started.
You just mentioned a minute ago as well some of the nostalgic components of trance; I was thinking about the enduring relevance of rave iconography and references. When you make some more vintage selections, playing hardcore and stuff, do you resonate with some of that?
Yeah, definitely. I love all the hardcore, really breaks-y stuff that people are playing at the moment. Even with speed garage reminds me of my childhood. So, it's quite nice to have that kind of come back in a way. I've actually got a book, which has all this old hardcore artwork, all the posters, which I bought because I thought it'd be cool to flick through and see all that stuff, I think you see it a lot more now. I like a lot of the artwork that's getting made for nights as well, that kind of like old hardcore aesthetic coming through. Even like people putting out tapes and no one has a tape player; I've got a few tapes I can't do anything with. I love all the memorabilia sort of things, I'm a sucker for that.
I was wondering, have you dabbled in production at all?
I think that my goal for the next year is to learn it. I actually did a bit over lockdown. I did the Rhythm Sister production workshop, which was really good. It was a few weeks long and they had sessions with an Ableton live tutor, but then they also had a guest producer do a session every other week. So, there was people like CCL, Yazzus. Hopefully over the next year I'll actually play around with it a bit more.
Do you have a tune in mind that you want to make?
Everyone that I've spoken to was like, just start doing mashups and edits, that's quite a easy in, and then you can kind of work out where you want to go from there. I'd love to make the garage; I think that'd be that'd be really fun. In terms of people that I really look up to as a producer, I think Anz is just incredible. Her breadth of genres as well is something that I would really, aspire to. I really enjoy layering vocals on top of other tracks, and I love watching how someone like VTSS does it, she's smashing it.
Can you tell me about how you out this mix together, what tunes were you excited to drop in there and what you are trying to do/show with it?
For the mix, I wanted to showcase a small flavour of the different styles of music that I love. Some UK sounds, some of the more floaty trance bits, and some harder electro and techno too. I’d say it’s fairly representative of the progression my mixes or sets will normally go through at the moment. I had to get one of the International Chromies releases in there as it’s a banging label, so I was really excited to play 'Neva Been' by Frenquency. 'Sounds from the House of Dread' [by Dreadzone] is a record I’ve been wanting to play for a while. It’s got all the fun elements: acid, trance, ravey warehouse vibes. I’m not much of a digger when it comes to records, so the ones I did play are nice and cheap.
A stand-out song for me would be Adam Pits’ remix. He’s a friend and incredibly talented producer/DJ and watching Space Cadets (Adam Pits & Lisene) drop it during their Secret Garden Party set was a highlight of the summer. Another is Casper Hastings’ track, taking me back to a time when I’d play a lot more electro, so it was nice to revisit some old playlists.
I found it difficult to fit everything I wanted in. One hour goes so quick! I think two to four hours is my sweet spot because it gives you a chance to get through some sounds and change the energy in a way that isn’t just linear. I feel like I missed so many tracks that come to mind as soon as the mix is done, but there will always be more chances to play them. It's definitely not perfect but a fun one anyway!
Fraser Dahdouh is a freelance writer
PMM - Starchambers
Bluetoof - Jinx
Amor Satyr & Sit Mata - Lights Off
Seo John - Dreams Collide
Subb-an ft. Oli Gosh - State of Flow (Adam Pits Remix)
Kiara Scuro - Habibi Fitness
Hammer & DART - Tint (Maruwa Remix) [forthcoming]
Dread Zone - Sounds From the House of Dread (Boomshanka Mix)
Vintage Millenium - Expanded
Arnaud - Plasma Mission (Shawn Cartier & Comic Book Guy Trance Remix) [unreleased]
Casper Hastings - Tangerine Meme
Dagga x Manao - Process Three
Sunju Hargun - Sēkrit
Three-State Logic - Gradient on Path
Von Riu - France Progressive
DJ DEEON - Yeah
Frequency - Neva Been