‘I am deeply and personally concerned by the apparent increase of racism’ | Interview with Azel Phara

Super talented with a curious mind and constantly evolving. His music will satisfy the most demanding of listeners. Read our discussion with Azel Phara below!

  • Describe your sound in three words!

Eclectic, Electronic and Rhythmic

  • How would you describe your musical progress over the years?

Since I was a kid, I always made music. It is safe to say that my musical progress is closely tied to my entire life. A few years ago, I made this colorful house EP named ‘Pump’. I wanted to have fun with a loose and spicy four-on-the-floor vibe. However, before that, I had released a track named ‘Green’ that was much deeper and more elaborate… In my spare time, I make beats or twisted conceptual nightapes…

The common denominator of my work is still the loop. I have always been fascinated by ‘traditional music’ on one hand and Minimal music with artists like Glass or Reich on the other.

Now I think ‘DRKMTTR’ is probably the most introspective project I have done so far.

  • Your latest project ‘DRKMTTR’ consists of five songs about the ‘complexity and turmoil of today’s world’ as you’ve said. We are curious to know how you have selected the titles for each one of them.

I am deeply and personally concerned by the apparent increase of racism… the beating, the murder and the social misery in a context of this health crisis… so it was necessary for me to express myself to keep my feet on the ground. Those tracks reflect different points of views, and feelings that needed to be expressed and be put into some palpable form.

‘Watch your face’ is like an introspective warning. It could be understood as a call for self-consciousness: ‘beware’ or ‘look at yourself’. It’s a twofold reflection. Nobody is spared from the need to fight, and one might very well lose this fight and go down. That’s a possibility we all have to face.

‘Grow’ is a track about the only solution I think that we might have to raise our consciousness: Education. Not necessarily in an academic way, but in very general terms, in the transmission of knowledge. I like the barking brutality of the word ‘grow’ which is in fact the best thing that can happen to you, that you manage to grow throughout your life. It is of course an English word, but in a way it sounds like it could have been the first spoken word of the very first human…

‘Dark Matter’ is also the title of the project. For what we know about the universe, dark matter makes for approximately 85% of the all there is. It seems that it is the energy which holds the whole thing together.

‘Cortege’ is like a Gospel song mixed with a sub-Saharan vibe. By the way of my personal roots, I wanted to explore the connection between sadness and hope. A cortege is a funeral or a celebration. It’s all about a group of people sharing the same emotion at the same time but not necessarily the exact same way. Also, I am convinced that we can draw strength from the hardship we suffer in our lives.

‘Smile’ takes it even further, adding the idea that power can emerge from silence. This track builds itself gradually from almost nothing to a fat entity.

It’s not so easy to keep up your smile while you’re struggling, but I think it is part of the solution- in order to keep going.

  • Hearing your previous and most recent work, we feel that you are being very creative and not afraid to mix it up a little. We were wondering where do you draw inspiration from, music and elsewhere.

I always had difficulty identifying myself and my work with any form of ‘label’. I’m considering myself a music composer at large. I’m very interested in lots of things and it’s really hard for me to limit myself to a single path. I want to try the most consistent way to express what I want to share… Besides that, as a soundtrack composer, I am working with directors who call me for my ‘musical vision’ of a subject. They don’t necessarily call me because I have this one and only, narrowly defined style. Each movie deserves an individual approach.

I draw my inspiration from all artistic forms. I come from art studies and it made me develop the idea that art has no boundaries as long as you are aware of what you are doing. Sometimes, I like considering ‘popular music’ as a form of plastic art beyond entertainment. Labels like ‘Warp’ with ‘Autechre’ or ‘Ninja Tune’ with ‘Coldcut’ developed this notion till the late 90’s.

  • Would it be safe to assume that the UK rave scene of the 90’s has been one of your influences?

I was a kid at the time, mostly listening to my parents’ music, but when I first heard an artist from this scene -in a late-night TV program, I think- it was a revelation. From there on, my pocket money was mainly used for buying discs from UK artists. Always digging for the last EP from a good label… I think I’ve started building my electronic musical culture from there. I must say that I was always influenced by the UK scene: the musical innovations and the great capacity to merge different styles. From Drum’n’Bass to early Dubstep, including IDM and Trip Hop…

  • The first 3 songs of your EP have strong rhythmic elements. All of a sudden the last 2 tracks are ambient and lacking beat. We, personally, love that but have you thought that for some people this could seem like two different projects?

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that ‘DRKMTTR’ actually has the format of an EP, given the number of tracks and its quite short duration. I could have kept this a more clear-cut project, sure. But this work is more like an ultra-short album whose tracks are moving from an emotion to another. Rather like those kinds of EPs that we know from Squarepusher or Aphex Twin, where they take you onto a voyage into their mind.

I made this project in a very instinctive way. It was important for me to keep a raw energy in the making of ‘DRKMTTR’ even if it might, at times, sound off balance.

  • Which is your favourite electronic album of the past decade?

It’s a very difficult question…

The album I can definitely not forget is ‘ISAM’ by Amon Tobin. It’s an incredibly thought through masterpiece of sound and composition. But I don’t want to forget more experimental and audacious contributions like ‘Spiritual Leader’ by Ian Chang, or darker ones like ‘King Night’ by Salem. I think they helped me to make coherent this side of my music last years.

I think these are the personally most influential entries from the last decade, and I am unable to point at the one and only favorite.

  • One last thing we should know about you?

I made ‘DRKMTTR’ as a truly personal project but I like collaboration, too.

As I said, I’m used to working with several directors on different projects. It’s a thing that really motivates me because sometimes those are the projects that truly push me and make me dig into some musical aspects that I haven’t explored yet. I also made some musical collaborative projects about to be released. In general, I’m truly passionate about making my way into somebody else’s vision and creation, finding links with my own creative process and to come up together with a merged universe, in the end. I’m always looking for new experiences.

Thanks Azel Phara!

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