Imagine you’re a virtual cat, surrounded by other virtual felines, all waiting with anticipation to watch Tinashe do her thing. It’s her first VR performance since 2020, and technology has become so advanced that though you are at the concert but standing in your living room, you can smell the sweat of other fans, feel them pressed up against you, a wall of anticipation. Smoke gathers onstage and the lights go down. Neon sparks fly as Tinashe enters, floating down from the heavens, an alien goddess ready to show you her world. You hear the screams of those around you, feel the music vibrating in the soles of your feet as 333 begins to play, and you are transported to an alternate reality.
Interview tak­en from METAL Magazine issue 46. Adapted for the online version. Order your copy here.
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Tinashe is not your average pop-star. Though like the Britney’s and Beyonce’s before her she loves choreography, fashion, and is passionate about making her performances experiential, she’s in a league of her own when it comes to her influences. Since shedding limiting label of R&B star that was wrongly attributed to her and is now free to explore concepts in her music that some may be surprised by; alternative realities. Tinashe tells METAL that she was that little girl in elementary school sitting in the library devouring books about the Loch Ness monster, aliens and later researching Buddhism and spiritualism; a day-one fascination with the metaphysical and paranormal. Even now she can be found in YouTube wormholes learning about AI and space travel. This curiosity for unknown and altered states of consciousness is infused into her work, and her latest album, 333, Tinashe builds upon her belief that we could very well be living in a simulation, that the world we see around is really just some elaborate video game, and our ‘selves’ just avatars navigating its story as it unfolds. Created during the pandemic, Tinashe drew from the darkness and uncertainty that was consuming the globe to create an album that was uplifting, other- worldly, passionate; a celebration of human connection and perseverance. Through her music she wants to encourage her fans to be excited about what the future holds, not daunted by it; to trust in the universe as she does. With a combination of self-love bops like Bouncin and hallucinogenic, angelic tracks like 333, you can’t help but feel a little lighter, healed from all the pain and trauma we’ve collectively felt.

While futuristic technologies like the metaverse incite fear in some, Tinashe looks onto the future and the development of these spaces with optimism; urging those who may already feel alienated by these spaces to get involved so “demons don’t take over” (ie. the very elite who run our present world). Tinashe is also deeply spiritual, and though some may think that spirituality could be at odds with the mechanical, unnatural realm of technological advancement, she is passionate that the two walk hand in hand. When discussing how close (but yet how far) we are from creating conscious AI, she states that the missing piece in the puzzle is drawing upon spiritualist teachings, where alternate realities and the nature of consciousness have been explored for centuries. In Tinashe’s words, “They’ve just got to get a little more magical, you know?”. Perhaps with Tinashe’s spiritual intervention, we may soon be able to attend a VR performance that doesn’t fall flat, that doesn’t feel like you’re sitting in your living room, but feels like you’re there, really there; Tinashe takes your virtual hand as you embark on a sonic journey never to be forgotten.
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You've spent a lot of your life in the limelight, from acting as a child to pop-stardom. How has the music industry changed since then and what remains the same?
The music industry has changed a lot over this decade. When I started, we were still selling physical albums in stores whilst releasing music online was lawless. I’d create in my bedroom with beats from producers I got in touch with then throw them up online. Now, streaming platforms have become the monopoly. I guess it’s like the new radio, while radio is still important, it isn't the only avenue anymore.
Definitely, streaming used to be much more of a freeing, creative space for artists to share their work and experiment. Speaking of which, you split from RCA Records in 2019 because you found it psychologically limiting; they wanted you to steer towards hit hunting instead of being purely creative. What is it about labels that you think stifles creativity,and would you encourage others to also follow in your footsteps and bypass labels?
This isn’t new, most signed artists have the same complaints about schedules and creative compromises. At the end of the day, labels are businesses, they want financial return on investment and relevant music that’s proven to work. From a creative standpoint that’s super limiting. But if you bypass labels, it’s nearly impossible without resources and support to tour, make music videos, do promo, and even record albums. Starting out at a label then branching out meant I got the exposure and support needed.
It’s strange that the business model of running a label is based on tried and tested formulas, because so many consumers aren’t interested in that kind of sound. People who love music want to be challenged, to hear magical things that aren’t easily categorised. Speaking of which, you’ve previously been dubbed an R&B artist, but find the label pop-star to be more comfortable. Why do you feel at home under this genre?
When I was growing up, I always saw myself as in the pop space, in the mainstream. I think that mainstream can have a negative connotation, the music can be too easy and commercial. But that doesn’t mean that there isn't great pop music as well. It always felt that R&B was a limiting term that it had a ceiling to it, like a sub-genre, a subcategory. It was never getting the big awards. Nowadays I'm less concerned about it, I’ve shown my music is very versatile.
Yeah, because being put in a box really stunts creativity, and you’re not free to explore other avenues.
Yep, you’re on the money. I think it’s once people have in their minds that they make this certain type of music, it just kind of closes everyone off from being creative in general and making whatever they want.
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Another way that creativity is limited, especially for women, is that there's not very many women producers and engineers. As you produced your first solo album, Songs for You, yourself, I was wondering what you think the industry could be doing to encourage more diversity, and how the lack of women in these spaces affects the music?
Yeah, I think that has kind of a top-down trickle- down effect. The fact that there aren't many women in production and engineering eventually leads to making this weird boy’s club in music that I think often happens. This then also leads to women being more competitive with each other. Personally, I remember never seeing women in those roles. I think I’ve worked with about two or three female engineers to this day. I could count them on one hand. Also, a handful of female producers. That to me is crazy, because, why? The only way that we can make steps to changing this is by people seeing women in that space. It's important to show first-hand that you can be in control of your own creative process from a musical perspective; you don't need to sign a production deal or find some guy to sign under to produce all your stuff. Classically this is what a lot of artists have done because it works, and those guys that they sign under have more power, control and respect, which then leads to more plays. The music industry is strategic, and it's messed up. But if you focus on creating the best art, and being authentic, that's what's going to be a part of your legacy. So, it's about encouraging other people, other young women to do the same.
In Reverie you lean into your interest in the metaphysical and begin to question how we could all be living in this dream state in a philosophical sense. You’ve continued this line of inquiry in 333 with spacey sounds and otherworldly hues. What sparked your interest in altered states of consciousness and how it fed into your music?
I don't really know what sparked my interest! I've always been a curious deep person; interested in anything that's paranormal and unexplained. I was the girl in elementary school that was always in the library reading books about the Loch Ness Monster and aliens. I've always been interested in things that make me question reality, things that encourage me to then think in a bigger metaphysical picture. So, you hit the nail on the head, because those are big concepts that I've been interested in for a while. I’ve been thinking about life being a dream and our perception of reality. And I think as I’ve evolved into the 333 era, I'm talking a lot more about virtual reality. Throughout the years I've got more involved and as technology has advanced it’s added to my questions in terms of spirituality and reality in general. The concept of simulation and traversing of virtual worlds with VR becoming more and more accessible, and just seeing how technology and spirituality could potentially overlap is really inspiring for me. In terms of development, I think that concept I am exploring is what really is our reality? What is this thing that we're experiencing day to day? And I’m just taking these steps further and further, adding new layers to those questions.
It’s interesting that you combine spirituality and technology so much, because lots of people would see them as being quite disparate. Spirituality as natural, technology as unnatural. In what ways do you think they complement each other and converge?
I think this should be something that people talk about more, because to me, it makes sense. But I haven’t really heard of too many discussions about it. But I think the concept of thinking of this life as a simulation, and the fact that this could all be some type of elaborate video game feels spiritual to me. It’s spiritual in the sense that it aligns with the ideas of manifestation and being in control of your avatar. Also thinking about being able to leave these different dimensions, and the thought that you're just not that important in the grand scheme of things. These are all spiritual concepts, karma, past lives, future lives, I think those all make sense to me in a simulated reality space. So, I like to beg the question of whether the death of the ego could be similar to realising that this whole thing is what you perceive it to be, aka not real, aka simulated, aka created by you, your perception, your point of view and your gaming experience in your version of this whole thing.
I’ve never really thought about it in that way! The way we perceive the world is all just a recreation of things that happen anyway, seen through our individual lens. So that makes total sense. Speaking of spirituality, as the term can be such a buzz word, I was wondering what it means to you personally?
For me I started really getting into my spiritual journey when I was maybe like 13 or 14, that's when I really started researching and reading about Buddhism and different religions. I started thinking about how people are understanding all this stuff that's going on. I've never really been religious or anything like that. But I think that by looking at and understanding all these different concepts from different religions, legends and different spiritual avenues that I've been able to develop my own general understanding of what it means for me. I think about a lot of those concepts and how they overlap and a lot of time, which is interesting, whether it be the concepts of karma, you reap what you sow, you get what you put out into the universe, manifestation, it’s all similar. I think that’s been an active part of my life, kind of creating my own career, creating everything for myself, envisioning how everything was going to happen and then going forth and making it happen. Manifestation through action. Spirituality has been a big part of my life, whether or not I was aware of it, for a really long time. I've been using a lot of the tools and practices that are now trendy for years.
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Your new album 333 is named after your life-path number. What does this mean?
Continuing with the spiritual concepts, I just wanted to continue to give people a touchstone to reference like their mind design. I made this album mostly during the height of the Covid era, so I wanted to create music that felt healing, uplifting, hopeful and moving towards the future. This was a direct result of being in a state of melancholy and boredom, not really doing much. So that’s why a lot of the songs have a range of tempos and explore these concepts that feel like we’re moving to a new stage as opposed to staying in the same place. In trying to encompass that I thought 333 made sense, because those numbers represent angel numbers, to me, that everything is going to be okay, and we are moving in the correct direction, divinely guided and protected. They remind me to just trust in the universe, in the timing of the universe. Since those concepts are important to me, I wanted to give my fans something to aid in their exploration of their spirituality.
I definitely feel that optimism shines through. Even when there are moments in the album that convey self-doubt or loneliness, human connection prevails. How did you manage to channel such positive, ethereal energy when there was so much uncertainty and fear going on?
I think I've always, artistically, been inspired by darkness. That's why I get so deep into heartbreak and things like that because it gives me inspiration; a place of pain to pull out passion. I like to have passion behind the things that I do. I feel like my best work usually has come from some level of darkness. In my earlier work I felt like I didn't have anything, so I created the work for my soul. For example Aquarius my first project out the gate, when I didn’t really have any type of presence in the industry yet, other than what I'd already created for myself. In that sense, that didn't feel like the secure place of ‘Night Ride’, which was created when my label wasn't really interested in putting out Joy Ride, and Songs for You, which came off the bat. It was a really devastating heartbreak for me. Then 333, which was when we were going through this whole thing collectively. I think that through these moments where I've felt low, emotional and deeply passionate, it has created my best work and led to my best art. That's honestly the most beautiful part of being an artist; being able to kind of transmute these negative energies into something that’s more positive or just something that's beautiful. With some kinds of art, you kind of take that depth of feeling and you turn it into something and that's always been a great therapeutic, cathartic ritual for me.
Yeah, I understand that as a fellow creative. I can imagine being able to finally go and play 333 live must be very cathartic, after doing VR performances during the pandemic. Now that live shows are returning, are you planning on continuing doing VR too?
It’s really fun to be back in a live space. I’ve been doing a lot of live lately, which has been really amazing. I love the ideas and concepts of VR performances which is why I was really exploring them in the pandemic, when it was something that made a lot of sense to stay active and to keep performing. Also there were a lot of people who were willing to collaborate with me on creating VR experiences. With my experimentation in the space, I’ve done fully animated VR shows, green screen VR worlds where I was real. I think we’re still at a point in technology where we’re really experimenting with how to make the concert experience translate to a VR experience. It’s so hard to feel that energy of being live at a concert and being around other people. There’s something so powerful about the energies of just like thousands of people together, listening to a song or dancing together, or seeing a song you love live, it’s such a special experience. It is so hard to put that in a computer or make that translate for people. But I think it’s something that is important in the future, especially because there’s so many people who live in areas who will never be able to get to a show, who can’t afford to get to a show who for whatever reason, don’t get the opportunity to see live shows. I think finding the answer to how to create that live feeling when you're not there is something that I’m really excited about and passionate about. I hope that we continue to work towards discovering an answer, but I don’t think we’re there yet. I probably won’t do too many until we come up with some better ideas. Once the technology gets a little better, we’ll see.
Being at a gig is such a multisensory experience – the smells, the sound, the feel of other people.
Of course, you can feel the bass, you can feel your feet vibrating. Those things are the things that we can’t recreate right now. How do we recreate that communal feeling, that feeling where the artist can see you and you can see the artist, or any type of personal connection? These things are really hard to recreate. But I think that as technology gets better, as VR becomes more mainstream and normalised, we'll figure it out within the next decade for sure.
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It seems like it will be possible. But speaking of which, I really want to hear what you think about the Metaverse. I wonder if you think that spirituality can exist in something like the Metaverse, that feels kind of a bit capitalist and dystopian?
I’m not too scared of the idea of moving into Web Three. Everything is going to change and move in those directions whether or not we have trepidations about them. So, I think it's better to get acquainted with it early on than try to avoid it, so you can add good ideas to it. This way it doesn’t become another space that’s monopolised or run by elitist, rich people. I think that when new things emerge, new opportunities, new technologies, new spaces, like Web Three, like the Metaverse, I think it’s important for people, women, minorities, etc. to get involved so we can add things that will improve these experiences, whether that’s ideas of how to protect people in these spaces so they can be safe and productive, and so it doesn’t feel as toxic as the social media space has become. It’s important to have these conversations. In terms of whether I think spirituality can exist there, I do. I think that anywhere that human beings exist, spirituality exists. We are energy that gets infused into whatever we’re working at, looking at, thinking about. So that’s even more of a reason from a spiritual standpoint that we should get involved, so demons don’t take over!
Yes! Populate these spaces with all the best people instead!
Bring in the angels!
Definitely! I’d love for you to tell me a bit about the things you’ve learnt through getting into YouTube wormholes by researching things like AI, VR and space travel?
I’m into all of that, so I’m researching constantly. The most interesting thing to me about the whole discussion is how close we are but yet how far we are. A lot of the leaders in the space still don’t have a strong understanding of what consciousness is, let alone getting close to creating consciousness in devices and really good AI. Even self-driving is something we can’t master because the technology isn’t that advanced. It is interesting how quickly everything is advancing; technology is becoming so surreal but there are still things that we’re yet to figure out. Honestly, I think that a lot of the reasons why they’re yet to figure out some of these answers is because they need to incorporate more spiritual understanding in their pursuit. If we’re trying to understand what consciousness is, then look to spiritual teachings, or at how people have thought about consciousness for decades; when thinking about how to get computers to be conscious or the different ways the brain works, psychedelics, how all these things affect us. Understanding that, when it comes to it, spirituality is crucial to the development of technology in a real way. It’s interesting because I think it’s going to overlap more and more.
I think you’re totally right; it does seem like there’s a missing piece. As consciousness is the essence of being human, what is more human than spirituality? Perhaps they should be thinking about it in a more abstract sense.
Yeah! They’ve got to get a little more magical, you know?
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I was really interested to read that you’re also a painter! What other creative work do you do besides music?
I just like making things! As a creative person I just like to make things. I like to paint a lot. I’ve recently been trying to make pottery but I’m not very good at that yet, getting into sculpting, obviously music, the visual side of music whether that be creating videos, directing, writing, writing music, writing stories, writing poetry. I just like making things! Fashion I think is part of that.
What do you think about VR fashion?
I think it’s awesome! It’s great and cool that fashion is considering technology, futurism and moving into that space as well. I think they’re smart for that, because they’re getting on the front end of what will be. If we’re going to be navigating different worlds in the future, whether that's different virtual realities, it makes sense wanting to express yourself, be involved in what you look like and how you’re perceived in that space. I think it's really cool that fashion gets involved. Obviously, there’s some level of commerce there that’s not really great, but you know, that’s part of this world we live in. Everyone’s got to make money.
Very true. So would you wear a VR garment in a music video?
Sure, that would be so cool!
So finally, what do you see in your future? A Tinashe movie maybe?
Yes, hopefully many! I want to go back into acting in the future and do a bit more in that space. I want to spend the next 5 to 10 years heavily still focused on music, touring. As I said I like to make things so much, it makes sense to me to move into a business space where I can add my creative ideas to different things! To be a mogul, but a creative one. Someone who has a perspective from an artistic point of view, and I think that’s important, as we’re innovating new things. I think I’ll continue to be a part of those ideas and conversations in the future. I don’t have anything super set, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I used to have even more of a sense of what was going to happen, like I’ll be this when I’m 25, I’ll be this when I’m 30, but I think as I’ve got older I’ve become less and less attached to the timelines. My goals are a lot more long term and legacy focused. I think more about how I’ll look back on this at the end of my life rather than focusing on my own personal point of view right now, and I think that’s been healthy for me.
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Jeans GCDS, top and jacket with gloves LILITH VIPER, necklace and earrings OHT, bracelet RARE ROMANCE.
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Top and skirt ANDRE EMERY, shoes PRADA, rings CRUZADA and RARE ROMANCE, earrings OHT.
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Dress, necklace and bracelets VERSACE, earrings and ring ARMS OF EVE, shoes NAKED WOLFE.
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Dress and coat BOTTEGA VENETA, shoes GCDS, necklace and earrings OHT.
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Chainmail jacket ASLAN, rings CRUZADA and RARE ROMANCE.
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Dress GCDS.
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Full look GCDS, earrings ARMS OF EVE, shoes NAKED WOLFE.ll look GCDS, earrings ARMS OF EVE, shoes NAKED WOLFE.
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Coat FENDI, trousers and bikini GCDS, sunglasses HARLEY DAVINSON.
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