I got the chance to meet Remove Hyphen, aka Tanya Thurman, through a mutual friend who was also a member of the dance music community here in NYC. I knew I had seen her before, bouncing around the early morning warehouse parties and after-hours events that most of us gravitate to. She's been an active participant in this scene since she was a young teen and has watched it grow and evolve over the years into what we know it to be today. She's held gigs at numerous venues across the city and her productions are a clear representation of her musical knowledge and skill. I got the chance to chat with her about her humble beginnings, what inspires her to make music, and what she thinks of the local dance culture. She holds nothing back and speaks her mind, telling us exactly how it really is.
How would you describe the musical progression of your production style? I know you used play a lot of hip hop and you progressed from there. How has your style changed?
It's true. Growing up in NYC, Hip Hop was a rite of passage no matter what neighborhood you grew up in. There was also always the dance music culture which I was an active participant in since I was a teenager. 103.5 KTU provided the freestyle and house music soundtrack to my adolescence.
My older brother was a promoter for all the big clubs in the late 90s early 2000s. His friends were nightlifers and I was the little sister who was interested in what these insane people were up to. I don't think my brother liked to have me around because of the lifestyle but he did let me and my friends in for certain events.
It wasn't until college that I took a more hands-on approach to music. A friend of mine, Emily Angel, lived across from me in Harlem. She was studying music production at our college. I heard her beautiful voice one day in my apartment and was interested in what she was about. We rigged a rough recording studio at our places and invited the guys from the neighborhood to record their mix tapes. I helped them with their song structure and rhymes but Emily was more technical and she sang the hooks. It was an interesting time having been a part of that culture before Harlem became gentrified.
My first experience DJing came because my roommates were DJs, one of them actually works the door at Output ten years later. Being in college, I didn't have much money. I wanted a set of turntables of my own. A chance inadvertently came when my roommate destroyed the apartment during a night of whiskey and cocaine. I took his security deposit and bought a terrible pair of Numarks. The vinyl I had were classic hip hop and freestyle. That's what I worked with. Eventually I fell into the drum and bass scene when one of the original silk dancers at the House of Yes, Courtney, brought me to warehouses in Williamsburg at the time when my father would have killed me for going there. All other music disappeared for awhile as I lost my mind to 160 BPMs.
So my current taste and style maintains the raw analog bump of original Hip Hop, the heavy atmosphere of drum and bass, and especially of the made-it-in-my-parent's-basement flavor found in freestyle. The music of the working class people of NYC.
What is Remove Hyphen?
I don't know what Remove Hyphen is. I haven't been able to synthesize a cogent and clever explanation. I'm poking fun at the serious side of my world, as a former NYC public school teacher and now a New York Public Librarian. I have to work one of those stable jobs. My family are working middle class in a city that we weren't prepared for to become rich. So, I chose careers suited to my creativity. Remove Hyphen is a shout out to that history. It sounds like a serious techno name, which is indeed accurate of my style, but hyphens are these tiny useless, inconsequential symbols of language that separates words into ideas. I'm tired of separation. The dance floor is a great equalizer. I'm always confused.
How did you approach writing the new music? Are there any themes or emotions you wanted to express?
I write most of my music early in the morning after a great night of slumber. Hence why I'm not at every party anymore. Music in the morning is necessary to my happiness. It's like a cup of coffee. If something or someone gets in my way of writing I become a cranky, anxious dick. I get the bulk of a song down in one sitting and can spend the entire day doing so. My purpose here is to create and place sounds in a way that will help alleviate anxiety. I suffer from it. I know people come to dance to heal. That's the power of music and I find it in the dance genre. Throbbing drums, rugged bass and gorgeous chords, I try to combine the rough with the beautiful. Stuff to heal the mind and the body. Life can be difficult. Dance can make it better.
What are your thoughts on the ever changing dance music culture, especially in NYC?
Let's get the shade done first. We have a problem with poor quality drugs. People want to experience a great high in conjunction with the music but end up feeling weird, distorting the energy. And we don't hold anyone accountable. Stop buying from them until they change their source. There are people with egos that are so big they get in the way of what a community is about. Stop supporting them until they learn humility. Enough with the cool kid shit. NYC is a tribal town with folks operating within their clique, looking down at their noses at one another. Become more fluid and celebrate at different parties and try out different music. Give people a chance. Take some acid and flow.
What about the NYC music scene influences you?
I see spaces that are thriving with creativity. Places like Bossa Nova and Ana Fernandes's bookings at Good Room. Both are legends in the making as they are hot beds for sound experimentation and just good fucking dance music. No one talks, arms and legs are everywhere. There's sweat. TBA and Bushwick A/V celebrates homegrown DJs. And then there is Tucker Hill from Devotion. This guy is magic. He brings together a diverse range of artists and a happy, generous crowd. I've become a resident of this party and keep waiting for it to go away because it's such a lucky opportunity. It's where I get to fly. The NYC locals have been special to me. They are really in it for the community, not to be a cool kid. Hidden Roots and Keep it Movin' guys, like Mike Terra, Mario Polanco and Alex Loaiza always listen to my music, encouraging me. Joe Foxton and Steve Graham from the Fiction crew, Connie of Resolute, Chris Sanabria of DKDS the entire House On Mute gang, Ted Krisko of Ataxia. These are just a handful of the wonderful people in the NYC dance community who have been so loving. I would not be so confident in expressing myself if it weren't for their kindness and professional attitudes.
There are people who are doing wonderful stuff. Lots of great little and big parties. Lots of happy, good-natured, intelligent people. Just because it's not in your face doesn't mean it isn't happening. Fuck the hype machine. Go and explore.
Whats next for you? I know you have been working hard on some new music.
I am never going to be the kind of person that pines for acknowledgment or recognition. It's too hurtful and agonizing. I've always been DIY for better or worse. It's authentic, imperfect, human; counteracts the polished and manufactured. I make my music myself. Jason Bay from Plus Plus records provides mix down and mastering support, Jack Dove designs my EP artwork with more artists like Craig Johnson ll to contribute. This EP "Bad Grammar" came to life with the voice of Krystal Hawes. Harness the wonders of the people around you. I will continue putting the music I make out there. If one day the right label wants to help me reach more people with what I love, sweet, but I'm not going to remain silent and quietly create until then. There's too much within. I'm just really happy to share.