Dutch producer Thomas Azier is moving almost every day.
Flitting between Paris and Berlin, his international engagements mean that he has essentially lived out of a travel bag for almost 12 months now.
Along the way, though, he's managed to complete some pretty special music, matching impeccable electronics against some languid, highly emotional songwriting.
Deeply personal new album 'Stray' is online now, and it was largely written and recorded when out on the road, the world rushing past his window as he worked.
Out now, it's a special release - here's Thomas Azier with the full track by track guide to the record...
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The Dreamer In Her
After hearing the ceremonious horns that my friend arranger/composer Guillaume Poncelet recorded I felt very inspired to experiment with sound. I worked intuitively towards an explosive build up (a structure I seem to use a lot because it creates this feeling I have inside of me), using the baroque harpsichord as the main-drive. I knew I wanted to make a record full of life and energy and I wanted instrumental pieces to seam together the storyline of the album. It was only when Ellen Treasure, the art director I work with heard it and suggested to edit it shorter, I started to imagine it as a grand opening that will leave you longing for the rest. The Dreamer In Her refers to a poem by Ted Hughes.
This song stems from a sketch I wrote in Manchester with the talented Joseph Cross ages ago. I carried it across 2 albums and was never able to finish it until I found myself in an apartment in the 11th arrondissement in Paris that came with a small recording studio inside. I loved it because when it rained I opened the windows and recorded my vocals like that. Nightrunner fell into place when I felt restless during the nights and went into the studio to get my thoughts in order.
Echoes ‘The biggest lakes have never been too clear’. Becoming more independent has been an important step of this album. I think I felt at times like the puppet in my video for the song. Once you realize that you want to be in your own lane musically and you have the stamina to work and learn, only YOU are truly responsible for your work and you can’t really ‘buy off’ these responsibilities. I personally wanted more control on how the music was released and have an insight on what the economical aspect is on releasing music yourself, and by doing so find a way to exist and create longevity. The digital guitar-like sound I recorded with a small midi-keyboard on the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto. The choirs I added later in Berlin and the beat too.
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The Girl Beneath The Lion
This song tries to capture a sexual drive and focus that is spinning out of control. A feeling that is somehow more present on this album than on the others. Guillaume Poncelet once sent me a piano piece that was just him by the piano humming and playing this melody. I kept it in my head like a lullaby for quite a bit until the song became tangible and we arranged and recorded the foundation in Paris.
The lyrics and the final touch of the track arrived on top of a hill (near the Nanzen-Ji temple) in Kyoto wjere I walked or cycled around town during the days and worked at nights, capturing my surroundings and writing words to my songs. In the background you can hear the Japanese cicadas yelling along finishing with the bell on top of the hill at the end of the song.
This piece gave me a certain freedom in writing and singing that felt liberating. It doesn’t have a classic song structure and it’s sort of floating free so I was able to also be more free with my timing and interpretation.
The first time I felt this freedom was when 'Last Breath' was recorded with an orchestra at studio Davout in Paris. The music was written and recorded by Guillaume with the Scoring Orchestra of Paris and after taking the instrumental on travel with me, I remember recording the vocal in one take at the lovely Flux Studios in New York when I arrived there after Japan to record my new ideas. Later on in our studio in Berlin tension was added by Robin Hunt with our Vermona synths.
When my brother moved to Abidjan (Ivory Coast) I visited him two times to work on the record that would become STRAY. Because I was moving around so much my travel studio consisted out of two small speakers, a laptop and a usb microphone. Abidjan turned out to be a very interesting vibrant city with music everywhere, and it reminded me a bit of a tropical Berlin after the wall came down (at least that’s how I imagined it).
I composed and produced when I felt like it inviting local musicians to record with us. I also met local photographer Dadi and we spent time talking and moving through the city. I played him the music that I was working on and there was one song he loved most: Vertigo. I asked him to portray his Abidjan in the video.
Mother Of Pearl
After reading the lyrics of 'Woman' by John Lennon I felt compelled to write a song celebrating the resilience of a woman. In a time where we are all questioning the preconceived notions of how men and women should behave, I find it interesting to do my own research as I go along. Thanks to Ellen Treasure for coming up with this wonderful title.
This is a song that boosted my creativity and helped me to step out of my comfort zone. Obi Blanche made the beat and effortless as always, I heard his instant energy and attitude. I was very into the idea of not singing on this one, more abstract and this direction excites me very much. Boaz vd Beatz, great dutch producer helped me on the subs so if you play it in a club you are likely to become nauseous.
Smoke & Hymn
For me 'Smoke...' should is a song that should be listened to under water. I wrote and produced it on one summer-night in Paris. It was raining outside and I was feeling high on being in love. The song organically crescendo'd into something that yet had to be composed.
When I woke up the next morning I heard the drum and bass pattern of HYMN playing in my head. I programmed the rhythm section immediately on my computer speakers in bed. Later on I asked Schérazade to write the second verse and sing in french it because the song naturally asked for another dimension. I love her husky voice and in the song she represents the feminine voice inside of my head.
I feel this track sounds really good in terms of production and mix. I worked on it in a hotel room in Tokyo, and it was quite some work to get everything in order on headphones.
Big thanks to my friend and collaborator Robin Hunt who developed into an incredible mixer over the course of my albums… He did an excellent job here. For the end part I wanted a George Harrison sounding guitar solo and my brother played it beautifully.
You can hear the sea coming and going. An ode to a raging desire. I thought it concluded the record in a beautiful way.
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'Stray' is out now.
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