Collaborating with both Gorlillaz and Massive Attack and now with his debut album Our Father due out in May. We had a chat with East London singer-songwriter, producer and one of 2018’s hotly tipped stars, Azekel.
Hi Azekel, so how’s your year been so far?
A: Yeah it’s cool, I’ve been working away and albums coming out this year, it’s been good.
Can you talk about that moment when you had just finished your track New Romance which you recorded out of your apartment to all of a sudden being tweeted by Prince and then receiving over 3 million streams on Spotify?
Yeah it was surreal, the track was very organic the way I made it. I wrote it, produced it, mixed it and put it out independently as well and it’s been great how people have really taken towards it. It received a lot of love on BBC Radio 6 and from DJ’s like Lauren Laverne and Annie Mac which was cool and so then I made a music video to it and that was pretty surreal as well. I was just happy to have my music out online for people to hear.
I put out another EP after that which was part of an EP series RAW Volumes 1&2 which was good and then from then till now I had a family so it allowed me to take my time and realise I had to spend my time more wisely. I wanted to make sure that I was making an album that really told my story, it wasn’t about having like a really good song but allowing the songs to give an introduction into who I am and where I am in my life so that was my main point of focus when making this album
And so going from that to recording your debut album Our Father, can you talk about the mind-set and the process when it came to recording?
I always made sure I was telling my story, that was my main incentive. I’m usually influenced by my life and what goes on, as a person I wear my heart on my sleeve and that really bleeds through into my music and shows what’s been going on in my life.
Sometimes I would have the idea for a song and let it marinate for a while or there would be a theme or a message that I really wanted to talk about and I would expand on that through my lyrics and song writing.
Had the process changed from your first single to then being on tour with Banks and collaborating with artists like Massive Attack and Gorillaz?
Definitely, I learnt a lot about live performance which I wouldn’t say was my Achilles heel but it was the last thing I kind of spent time on because I was like a bedroom producer and then all of a sudden I have a song that does really well and before you know it I have to perform it so the tour was good for me and helped me learn the craft of performing so that’s one thing I definitely took from it.
What is the craft of performing in your own words?
Performing is about learning from every song you make and every performance you have you kind of learn from it. I think the main thing is making sure you let the music tell your story and express whatever you’re trying to convey in the music outwardly.
It’s interesting hearing crowd’s reactions to certain sounds but also it showed me what I didn’t want to go off and do and the music I didn’t want to go and make and gave me more perspective.
Would you be able to elaborate on that?
With the album, it’s a lot more soulful than say Massive Attack which have a lot more darker themes. With Gorlliaz, their themes are a lot more playful, especially with their last album Humanz that I worked on, that’s a lot more playful and it was a lot more electronic. For me I just stuck to my guns and I kind of knew what I wanted to go make and also because of the themes I wanted to talk about like family and babies, sonically it would have sounded weird over electronic beats.
Has London been an influence in your music?
Yeah without a doubt. So many sounds from East London and all around London and so many different cultures and obviously bass culture is pretty heavy here, I think that’s always had an influence on my music.
Can you talk about the music you listened to growing up?
Yeah, I’m a really big fan of D’Angelo, the new album I think is an amazing album. I love Radiohead, I really like In Rainbows, that’s a really dope album and OK Computer. I love hip hop and the classics like Nas, Jay Z, Illmatic, Blueprint and Kanye’s albums. I mean, I just like music that is soulful, whatever is soulful that’s kind of what I go for and that can be from any genre. I reckon Radiohead is soul music, I reckon Red Hot Chilli Peppers is soul music, I reckon Bjork is soul music, anything that comes from the heart is soulful so that’s kind of what I go for really.
What’s next for Azekel?
I take each day as it comes really, I have my headline show at St Pancras Old Church in London on Thursday 22nd March. I’ll probably do a tour and some festivals, I’m going back on tour with Massive Attack, obviously the main thing has been working on the album but I have some features coming up. Just put out more music and perform, it’s what I do.
Azekel performs at St Pancras Old Church, London on Thursday 22nd March.
Photographer – Eva Pentel