From the outside, the Tasker residence is an unassuming one. Situated in a quaint cul-dee-sac somewhere inside Stafford, the house sits comfortably in a row of others like it. Step through the door however and you’ll soon realise that there really isn’t anything quite like this house, as The Tasker residence is the home of Droma Records.
On a typical Droma day like today, the hall is where you want to be. Wires and cables snake along the floor, half a drum kit stands alone in the corner and amps, monitors and microphones have been abandoned in various positions in the room. On the table in front of the mirror, amongst empty beer cans, random scribbles and family ornaments, an Apple Macbook is open and Jack Tasker is concentrating hard.
The King’s Pistol, a three-piece dark folk outfit, are adding the final touches to their ‘Pistol Whipped’ EP (“It’s like The Everly Brothers on acid”), their first non-vinyl release to date. The thirty seconds I hear sounds good. Really good. Like The King’s Pistol we know and love but reimagined in a digital format.
Once happy, the band pack up in a well-rehearsed routine, stopping for a quick selfie with Mr Droma himself in the garden, before disappearing into the August sunshine, leaving me and my dictaphone to get to work. Sophie Bret Tasker, Jack’s sister, Taskrz band mate and fellow Droma creator, joins us for a short while as I try to understand what Droma is to this brother/sister project.
The big D
“Droma is, as a legal entity, a record label that was set up when we [Taskrz] released a double a-side of ‘A Man Possessed’ and ‘Hogs From Hell’,” Jack tells me, as he pours himself a glass of red wine. “We’d just been through a really frustrating period where someone had said, basically, that they would back us with some money and it all went horribly wrong.” The two tracks were awaiting release and without the backing of the small label they thought they’d have, the pair knew that they’d have to release them independently. “I was uploading the songs onto the system so they’d go onto iTunes and stuff and I was at work at the time. It was through Ditto Music. You can set up your own record label relatively easily – they give you a lot of the legal paperwork. I just said like “right, shall we set up our own label?” and we did.” As simple as that.
The name ‘Droma’ was taken from the full length Latin name for the Raptor family of dinosaurs, something that is significant in the history of Taskrz and one that Jack claims is the coolest thing he’s ever named. Droma has since grown into what Jack describes as a “music project”, with numerous releases from other artists under its belt, the first being their friend Matt Toner (Matt Topowski & The Wailing Synagogues).
“I’ll ask you a question”, Jack says, turning to Sophie. “Do you enjoy doing Droma things and do you see its worth and what it’s about? Do you feel proud to do stuff for it?” There’s a slight pause. “I like when we get people in who aren’t us and our mates. I like that. Inviting people in that you probably wouldn’t ever maybe play music with yourself.” Sophie recalls recording an album with Ingrid Schwartz, a record that she says she loves listening to. A quick visit Droma’s bandcamp page unearths the ever-growing roster of musicians that the pair have worked with, including the likes of Chris J Venables, TMC and Don’t Call Me Ishmael.
“I never imagined to have people approach me and want to do stuff and I think that speaks volumes for what we’ve done and what the people we’re associated with have done”, Jack says, shortly after Sophie leaves to catch a train. “I personally enjoy the story behind each record. Running a studio would be great and running a record label would be great, but actually running this thing that is so involved in the process is, I think, far more fun.”
But with the label/music project beginning originally as a way for Taskrz to release their music through, are Droma looking to reduce the amount of outside musicians they work with? “No. I’d be really interested to do stuff with other people, it just comes back to being able to do the right thing for each person.” This personal touch, the need to produce something that is entirely individual for that specific musician, is something that is an obvious draw for Droma. Listen to any one of the records that they’ve produced and you can practically hear the passion popping through your speakers, although this isn’t just down to Sophie and Jack. “Pretty much any release that we’ve done, barring the ones where I’ve mixed or mastered it, Tom’s had his hand in and he’s just brilliant,” says Jack as we discuss their relationship with UTC Studio’s Tom Bath, who mixes and masters nearly all of Droma’s releases. “I’ve never wanted to take stuff elsewhere because we just have such a good kind of working relationship. I think Droma is going to continue to do stuff with Tom. He makes the sound.”
Much like the dramatic re-branding of Taskrz, Droma have had a facelift; a changing of the logo from a fossilised Raptor skull to a vintage cassette tape seems like a natural progression. “There wasn’t necessarily some great big philosophy, but I had thought we needed to change things. I think the layout was still a reference to the first Don’t Call Me Ishmael album and I realised actually no, we need to have our style that is referenced in other people’s stuff. I’m literally making this up on the spot, but that does actually make sense! That each time, the colour changes to reflect the artwork that the artist has picked out. I’m a genius.”
Asking Jack to give me a potted history of Taskrz, is like asking for the moon in a jar – pretty much an impossible task. The band have been together for over five years, releasing a sizeable amount of albums, EP’s and singles along the way. “I’d recommend anyone to go and watch Taskersaurus”. A short documentary that gives you everything you need to know about the roots of the band and one that displays the strength of Jack and Sophie’s relationship, ‘Taskersaurus’ is a must-watch for all.
“The joke I often tell on stage is I’d come back from Liverpool, didn’t know what I was doing, but had a support slot for a rock covers band.” Jack had been booked to play the slot as Jack Tasker and The Wild Oats although there was only Jack in the “band”, “…which is a bit shit when you think it about it!”.
After accompanying him on pots and pans as a child, Jack took a chance and asked Sophie to join him on drums. At first refusing on the grounds that Jack’s songs weren’t up to scratch, she eventually agreed and the pair spent two weeks rewriting a set that mainly consisted of covers. From then on, the pair known as “The Taskers” began gigging more and more, often playing up to sixty gigs a year. “Those first two/two and a half years when it was just the two of us was just incredible fun. The stories you have.”
The band have since had a small handful of additional members, including Sarah Pickwell, Jack Rennie and Laura Ellement, three members who are heavily set in Taskrz last album ‘Wolf Party’. But after Rennie and Pickwell left and all members of the band experienced tough times in their personal lives, it was unknown even to Jack whether the band would continue making music. “The band that had been going for nearly five years, that ended. I would definitely say that ended. And whilst it doesn’t look like that to anyone externally, I can categorically say The Taskers who released ‘Wolf Party’ ended. It was done.” As of December 2016, Jack, Sophie and Laura were unsure of whether this path was one that they wanted to continue walking.
“Yeah we play a lot of the same songs, you can say it’s kind of like you press pause, now you press play, but mentally the space we’re all in… it is a different band. The way it wants to make records, the records it wants to make, it is completely different.” It’s odd then that the first release the new Taskrz put out was ‘Five Years Of Fuzz‘, a celebration of the five years that the band had been together. “[The EP] was really helpful in that process of just bringing some of the older songs up to scratch, musically. It was closure.”
Today, the band stands strong. The addition of Rob Haubus on bass and vocals has given Taskrz a new lease of life and it’s evident in their current release. “He just brings a kind of precision to it, but I think that’s because he’s mainly an indie guy, so it’s all about those real tight precise bass things.” Laura Ellement, on vocals and violin, joined the band after performing with them at a gig in Stafford in 2015. “Laura is just the glue. She could be in a band and not play anything and she’d still serve the most vital role. She just kind of humanizes us.”
The future and beyond
Moving forward as a band and a label, there’s a bright future ahead and one that Jack Tasker is happy to embrace. For Taskrz, the second part of their ‘Five Years Of Fuzz’ EP is due before the end of the year, as well as the promise of more records into 2018. As for Droma, the list is endless. The King’s Pistol, Attack Of The Vapours, TMC and Don’t Call Me Ishmael, as well as talks with Merrym’n and Sherry Counsellors, make for a rather exciting 12 months for the pair.
“A transition to doing other things like maybe publishing short stories or pieces of art or things like that,” enthuses Jack. “Maybe that will begin to happen next year. And maybe trying to create some kind of multimedia area, where you have a record label, you have short stories, you have artwork. That’s my dream but that’s probably a long way off.”
Spending an hour with Jack Tasker and his bubbling creativity and passion, is something that is hard not to get swept up in. As we signed off I asked him for one final ending quote that would inspire nations, halt wars and insight world peace. It might not do any of those things, but in his response, he speaks the truth: “I know I see Facebook posts like this every other day, people saying that the local scene is so much more exciting and interesting now, but I think it really is. I think more than ever, now is the time for artists to work together and to do different things and just mess about. We always go back to the music scene of Seattle in the early 90’s – that’s what inspired me and Sophie. The kind of grunge era. They were all so supportive of each other. If they weren’t gigging that night they’d be watching another band, or they’d be listening to their record, or helping do whatever. Everyone has a part to play in making a local area really culturally exciting and interesting, so I hope they keep doing it.”