Get in on those moody Parisian vibes with Thomas Azier’s atmospheric electro sounds and soulful piano melodies.
There’s really no better place to brood than the shadows of Paris and Thomas Azier has definitely got look down (we’re feeling some Louis Garrel features). While he’s Dutch born, he’s moved around – first to Berlin, and now to the city of lights – giving him an eclectic array of influences, hence the classical shift in his music and underlying hints to various musical cultures. Azier’s sound has some New Wave vibes and is pretty evocative, both melodically and lyrically. To up his fashion creds too, his single “Red Eyes” was used by Yves Saint Laurent in one of the sexiest perfume adds ever (and that’s really saying something).
We’ve been given a taste of his new album with his single “Talk To Me”. It’s lonely and beautiful and melancholic, a little like the city where it was conceived. The electronics have a higher pitched video game sound that meshes well with the track’s focus on technology – “my tears are dry / I have wasted them online” he sings in a voice full of emotion – and the music video follows Azier as he traverses the city and languishes behind screens in his apartment, bathed in a dusty pink light. Pure poetry.
What’s your first music memory?
Where I was born in Holland there’s a large community of Hindi people from Surinam, so I grew up around a lot of Indian music. My first musical memory was in Rotterdam where there were large gatherings in halls with people singing and playing music together.
Sum up your sound in five words?
How does your second album differ to your debut? What’s changed in your sound and songwriting?
I wanted to make an album that was built around songwriting. After I got the music and lyrics right I was trying to get rid of everything in production that doesn’t necessarily need to be there and finding a way to program sound in an organic way on my computer.
You write using both your piano and laptop – what’s your writing process like?
I tried to surprise myself already in the core of songwriting before moving towards production. After my tour I bought this old German piano from the 1920’s in Kreuzberg. I put the piano in my empty living room in Berlin, and felt so inspired that I just had to put my hands on the keys every day and songs were pouring out. Songs were hitting me like waves, each stronger than the other.
Why do you like to mix live instrumentation with electronically-created sounds?
I guess a hybrid of electronic and acoustic, and not knowing what is what, is part of the sound evolution today. Electronic music is becoming a bit saturated and I personally felt not enough excitement from what I was hearing around me. I missed a certain type of air and textures. It’s funny because in Talk To Me, I sing: Tell me if it’s fake and if it’s real. In a way that is how I saw the production too. Most people won’t believe me if I tell them most of Talk To Me is programmed on my laptop. I just wanted it all to feel like waves travelled through air, and were not only existing inside of a claustrophobic virtual space.
“Every time I realise I fall into a certain pattern I want to try and break it. The rush and uncertainty of breaking patterns gave me new experiences and allow me to create better music.”
Can you tell us about your new track “Talk To Me”?
“Talk To Me” speaks about how we connect or fail to connect nowadays, about how we can spend hours online switching from one realm to the other, resulting in a social numbness. I’m not judging it, i’m just writing my experiences from a personal perspective. Maybe “Talk To Me” is an appeal for contact IRL.
What made you make the move from Berlin to Paris, and how do the music scenes compare?
I was already traveling between Paris and Berlin for the last 4 years so the switch went quite organically. After 9 years I felt it was time to go. I love Berlin and the city gave me so much. But every time I realise I fall into a certain pattern I want to try and break it. The rush and uncertainty of breaking patterns gave me new experiences and allow me to create better music. Personally, Paris feels much more intense. I can’t say much about the music scene, I love them both: the clubs in Berlin and the rich history of French popmusic. I would say Paris is more densely populated and definitely less comfortable than Berlin. Also there’s a bigger and more visible difference between rich and poor, so you get more confronted with reality every day which makes you more aware of things. In Berlin you can easily live with your eyes closed and exist it this bubble, almost like an enclave. Also Paris is expensive so there’s a healthier balance between commerciality and art I would say.
How did your track “Red Eyes” end up in the Yves Saint Laurent Beauté campaign and how did having your track on an international TV campaign affect your career?
It was an amazing opportunity to be connected to a respectable brand like YSL. Not only did my song ended up in the campaign but I was also acting as myself in the video. After it started appearing on TV we saw big boosts on social media and people were very happy to discover this type of music under a commercial.
What do you want to make people feel with your music?
That’s a question I ask myself as well. Somehow I hope some songs are consoling in a way. Especially in these times. I almost want to reach out and say, hey i get you, this is how i feel too. I definitely don’t want to make people sad, I want them to feel they are self empowered.
You went on an extensive tour in 2013-2014, with more than 120 shows! What are your favourite things about performing live and how does it compare to being in the studio?
I love the danger of it. The feeling of losing control. Almost animalistic, a primitive feeling of expression. The dancing, the moving. The seduction of the audience, communicating with them through sound. It’s totally different than in the studio. It’s a real live communication, a performance, anything can happen.
I am so proud of this album. For the first time in my life I feel I’m exactly where I have to be. I am working on my live-set now, that will be quite an adventure as I’m building a whole universe on stage. I’m recreating the atmosphere on stage that I have on my album.