Azari & III
Christian and Alphonze, the two producers and brains behind Azari & III did a comfty hotel lounge coffee with GT. It was ages ago, but their album is 'dropping' on 1 August and they’re playing Lovebox (i.e. the best music festival you’ll ever go to). So here ya go:
You're pretty much an unknown band, and there is very little about you online (translation: we couldn't find your wikipedia page), could you give us a quick biography?
Christian: It’s been a couple of years that we’ve been working together. We’ve all known each other for quite some time or known of each other. Setti, one of the lead vocalists moved to Toronto – there’s not a really big story behind it. Like minds getting together in a dirty part of town. That’s pretty much it. Not a really exciting story.
Alphonze: Just four blue collar boys hammering at something
We saw that one of the singers is Fritz Helder, who we've interviewed before, does he still do fashion?
Christian: He’s busy in fashion; he just sent an email making sure we have our stuff ready for fashion week.
Is he in charge of your look?
Christian: I wouldn’t say that. Everybody’s very individualistic. But he definitely has his look and Setti definitely has his look.
Alphonze: Those boys take charge of their own looks
Christian: I think we’re pretty fashion oriented ourselves, but they definitely take the cake on that one
Alphonze: We may be slightly more pragmatic
What are your live shows like for the people who haven’t seen you?
Christian: Its pretty live, we play the instruments
Alphonze: We can’t give out too much
Christian: We have the full group, all four of us playing and singing. It’s a mix of older retro analogue technology but we’ve found a way to bring it into the 21st century and we’re mixing it with some of the newer technology – we haven’t given up anything for our live show.
Alphonze: Basically like what we do in the studio
Christian: Ok, I do want to say one thing about this. Things are changing in the music industry. Now we say “live”. 20 years ago, I don’t know if you’d even ask “Oh how is your live show”, in that time everybody did a live show. But now we came through this whole DJ culture thing and that became the live thing of the 21st century, you’d go to that instead of making a big concert and seeing a live band. So everybody got confused when you’ve got live PA, you’ve got DJ live. But truly, I’d like to think that there’s a new type of live and a new type of band that’s forming right now. I’d like to think that there’s a new live show that’s way different than you’d have to approach in the past. You make an album, especially us with a lot of music that happens that moment. It’s a rare moment – we record it, but to re emulate that is not going to be the easiest thing in a live show. We’re incorporating in some of these…basically what I’m getting at is: I think the new live show, there’s so many different facets, like you’re playing live instruments but not only that we have to learn technology. I guess every band had to learn technology. The Edge has his racks…
Alphonze: The guy is on stage squishing 20 pedals for every song
Christian: So I’d like to think of it like that in an analogue road almost.
You can see how technology has affected most live shows. Mostly for the best...
Christian: You’ve got Ableton Live…
Alphonze: Even you’re the livest guitar band you’re going to find…
Christian: They’re using Ableton Live. Everybody. Lady gaga to Nickelback. Let’s not use Nickelback, lets use a cooler band. New order!
Alphonze: New orders an electronic band
Christian: But New Order now has had to change. They don’t do it like they used to. Now they have to learn Ableton Live or they have to learn these new modern technologies and it’s so the live…
Alphonze: Modern technology is a lot easier to learn than 80s technology that they had to use. So for those guys it must be a walk in the park.
Christian: I bet you it’s the opposite
Alphonze: Totally the opposite. For instance, syncing up a tape machine with an Atari and then dropping in all your electronic parts in the right order is way harder than on a computer and using blocks and a mouse.
Christian: But we’re talking about live, right?
Alphonze: And imagine when I saw those guys back then, pre computer days…
Christian: But just picture these guys trying to learn Ableton Live or trying to learn programming. They just play guitar or hit a drum. I love that. We’re trying to bring it to that, but we’re a 21st century band. We’re trying to bring it back to this really simple way of doing it but as I said earlier – these crazy analogue sounds and trying to re-establish them isn’t the easiest so we’ve had to find ways to make that happen and get that. Thankfully, there’s auctions out there.
Alphonze: That’s the beauty of the live shows, nothing can repeat quite the same because the nature of it is…
Christian: Yeah a live show is gonna be different…
Alphonze: You go see a band and you see them playing their songs exactly like the…
Christian: Ours is going to be a little more like – you never know. There might be a weird ass line that comes in on top of it. We both are going to be doing some freestyle over the top, whatever. And those sounds will maybe only happen that time. So we’re trying to establish that as our live show.
You mentioned retro, and pretty much every review written about you guys uses that word...
Christian: I think the only thing though, that we really find – I said retro but I was very specific about the machine
Alphonze: That’s like calling a guitar retro; I mean I don’t think it’s time for that.
Christian: The retro thing is a little bit vintage, you know?
Alphonze: Like the vintage machinery that we use. Retro implies it’s a throwback kind of thing
Christian: We don’t really go with the throwback
Alphonze: If you’re going to play guitar and want to play a 59 Goldtop or something in the studio if you can’t afford a…nobody’s going to say “well why aren’t you using a new guitar”.
Christian: Or like if you use a drum machine
Alphonze: You could use the sample of a drum machine…
Christian: Okay so we use drum machines. Well Chicago house used drum machines. Cool. So does fucking Billy Ocean. What’s your point? Everybody did, Cyndi Lauper – everybody used drum machines back then. You know, everybody was using drum machines. It’s not like we’re throwback to Chicago house. So I guess you don’t have to put any anger towards it because we accept it, we love Chicago house but we’re trying to do something bigger than just Chicago house. We feel that we took Chicago House up a notch, we’re making music. None of our songs sound like that. They sound like fully written songs.
Since you're chatting to Gay Times, what's the ratio of gays to straights in the band?
Christian: It’s probably 50/50. We wont mention who but maybe some people swing both ways. It depends on the day, we don’t like to make that a big part of it. We grew up in Toronto, it has one of the largest prides in the world. The whole city is engulfed with the gay culture. Everybody I started with in the music business was gay…
Alphonze: We’re all integrated you don’t even notice it
Christian: It’s just so casual. We don’t even look at it. That’s like saying “oh you’re black”. No, you’re just human and you do your thing – you know what I mean? It’s just a bunch of churchgoers that are the ones you’ve got to look out for.
Now, about this Lovebox thing on Sunday
Christian: Oh my god! Out and fierce! What a fierce line up. We did the after party of love box last year and loved it. We’re playing Glastonbury as well with Beyonce.
Amazing! How timely. Who are you looking forward to seeing at Lovebox?
Christian: Obviously Blondie’s going to be pretty interesting. I haven’t seen Robyn’s live show but I keep hearing she’s really good.
Alphonze: She’s able to reinterpret her songs which are all electronically produced into a live band format
Christian: We missed her last time because we were on tour when she played Toronto, but the boys got to see her and I think they met her. Maybe they did. So I guess the answer would be Blondie and Robin. Hard ton are pretty cool. We played with them in Paris last time. Very nice guy. He’s really shy, and quiet.
So who's responsible for writing your lyrics? Songs like Manhooker are pretty interesting...
Christian: We write them together, we just seem to have a common understanding of the topical matters at hand. We all have our nuances. And it’s such a great outcome. We’re all fighting for our peace, and our views. I’ve never seen other bands’ writing process. I’m like a baby virgin to this. Our latest song, “undecided” took around 4 or 5 sessions of just writing and beating each other up. You go through one song, come to another, then use bits of the first one and then change it completely for the second. We almost came up with 3 songs but we all got our piece in there.
Alphonze: It doesn’t come out as hodge podge
Christian: But it's really funky. I’d love to see how other people do it, I’d be interested to see how other bands write their music. I would think it’s just one guy or maybe two - but they write their own song, and the other has their other song and then they just come in. We’re in there banging our heads off the walls trying to come up with a word
So all 4 of you at the same time?
Christian: Not for every song. We wrote most and then the three of us, Cedric, myself and Alphonze wrote quite a few of them in to the night (Reckless) And then Fritz was involved with Hunger from Power and Undecided and Manic.
Do you write stuff with people in mind?
Christian: Not at all.
Alphonze: We’re naturalists in a certain way. We don’t try to make a scene too much or create a persona. I think our lives are interesting, depressing and happy enough that we combine many personas. We all have that soft at heart spots.
Christian: He’s right. I’ll be writing about something tragic, or somebody I know who is doing something so wrong. Alphonze will have something totally different but he knows where I’m going. He’s talking about his friend, or his person and his view, his words. Ultimately if he doesn’t like my words or I don’t like his words then we’ll try to have a democratic process and try to be as polite as possible, or we will be straight up front – nope, that sucks. In the end, we all are working for the same thing and we do a lot together. We’re a team
It's funny hearing you say that, tragedy isn't something that springs to mind when we think of your music
Alphonze: Songs are a beautiful juxtaposition. If you have a happy song with happy lyrics – well that’s boring. You’ve got to sneak in the insanity into the lyrics or the music and juxtapose the stuff.
So there is a darker side to the album (compared to the singles)?
Christian: Dark is a bit of a strong word. Its potentially abusive, chaotic, it’s about some of the negative things in life. But for instance “Hunger for the power”, that’s dark stuff. That song can be relevant. Right now – Gadaffi, Egypt, the power. Everybody’s hungry for it right now, or you could be hungry for the power of a relationship. Have you seen the video?
Alphonze: You’ve got some fun times ahead
Christian: Don’t be shocked at certain moments, because it definitely has a bit of shock value. There’s something that happens in it that’s very disturbing. We’re not trying to disturb people, it’s just that the shit is out there. We not only get into power, but the sadistic sides of people with power and you’ll see it in the video. We had fun with it but it could go so many ways. For example “Reckless With Love”, people think it’s about the gay culture and being reckless – of course it is! It’s also about my sister, a lost relationship, or somebody who is doing too much drugs and not taking care of themselves. it’s reckless abandonment of them and their own bodies.
Get tickets on seatwave, among other places and you can pre-order the album here