Shortly before the release of his Hylas 002 EP we caught up with Dutch talent Thomas Azier to discuss time, self-discovery, his latest work and Berlin as a base for budding musicians
The product of an artistic family, self-taught musician and avid composer Thomas Azier teases touching sounds out of piano and computer alike. Nevertheless, his work is no overnight success, but the result of a slow and conscious process of maturation and self-discovery: At the tender age of 17, he set out to explore the big, wide world to find and define a new outlet and direction for the sheer inexhaustible fount of melodies swirling around in his head and mind.
Nowadays, Thomas interleaves his catchy songs with synths and electronic elements that are miles away from formulaic playback. Together with collaborators Richard Veenstra and Robin Hunt he turns studio and stage alike into vibrant and intense soundscapes that capture his audience from the first note.
We caught the charming singer straight after his recent tour for a coffee, baked potato and a brief stroll through Berlin’s sun-flecked, autumnal parks and streets. Our verdict: a truly likeable and profound guy with a penchant for the city’s cosy corner pubs who loves – and lives – music to the max.
Thomas, you grew up in the Netherlands, but relocated to Berlin before you were even off age. What prompted this move?
I simply needed some time to experiment. Enough time to grow up and mature in my own way and pinpoint the sound that was buzzing around inside my head. Although I had quite a few ideas, I had to figure out what they were all about. Berlin is, well was, quite a bit cheaper than Amsterdam or Paris, allowing me to really focus on my music. Over the last few years I wrote and produced an incredible amount of music – for myself and others – so I learned a lot in a very short period of time.
Well, nobody likes to be pigeonholed, but how would you define the Thomas Azier sound?
My friend Sander Houtkruijer, who produced my last two videos – with the second one about to be released – described it all as communist wave tropicalia pop. I think that’s not too far off the mark! But I, myself, would be happy to just call it electronic pop music.
And who came up with your EP titles? Following the current logic, will the next one be called Hylas 003?
Hylas is my own creation; it’s something to do with my alter ego. Hylas is a mythological character. And while I can’t reveal everything already, I am really glad you asked about it because to me Hylas is something very special – and also the name of my label. Don’t worry, once the album is out it will all become a lot clearer! Initially, I had planned to do a trilogy of three EPs that would make up the album. That’s no longer on the cards, but Hylas will continue to play an important role and also pop up on new productions.
It took you four years to find your own sound or, to put it differently, a sound that you are truly happy with.
When you are 19, you first need to find out who you are and work on your own history for a while. It took me some time to become a better songwriter, lyricist and producer. To this end, I read plenty of books, battled my way through all those music programmes and wrote many, many songs. I wanted to wait until I felt truly ready to release something. At the same time I also realised that it can take more than three years to build up a real network – especially when you don’t speak the language! Back then, I didn’t know anyone in Berlin or even Germany. So, I had all these songs, but no one to pay them any attention. I would go to bars and play the piano, but no one seemed to care. That’s when I realised that I had to meet more people. And that took some time. Via a few detours – and writing songs for other people – I finally found the right team and environment. That’s why it took as long as it did!
Your debut album will hit the shops in 2013. How is it going? Anything you’d like to tell us in advance?
I am TOTALLY excited about it. It took five years of really hard work – and now this overall work of art is slowly taking shape. Besides figuring out all those production perils lurking behind every corner, I am constantly writing new songs, so that tends to create an ever-changing tracklist. I can’t wait for it all to be finished … and now we’re getting close! I am finally ready to take it on tour and see a bit of the world. In my head, I’m already working on the next one. It will be great!
You’ve talked quite a bit about taming and channelling the sounds in your head. Any outside influences or favourite artists/albums that might join the mix?
Wow, that’s a tricky question. I guess there are far too many to mention. Off the top of my head I would have to say classics like Hounds of Love or Kate Bush in general. Recently, I have been listening to a lot of Elvis Presley. And an incredible LA band called 18+, but also The National, D’Angelo & Jeff Buckley.
Any tips on hot newcomers?
I just heard the latest stuff from my friend TEPR in Paris, scheduled for release in the near future. Definitely recommended!
And finally – do you have a favourite quote by another artist or musician?
Maybe a line by my favourite poet Fernando Pessoa: "The poet is a faker: Who's so good at his act: He even fakes the pain: Of pain he feels in fact."
More information on the artist:
Listen to the Hylas 002 EP: