posted by Rob
July 2020

German producer Azaleh is a figurehead of the future garage scene. The wealth of iconic tracks in his discography helped to shape the direction of the sound as a whole and bring it to the attention of listeners across the world. He now continues to develop into previously unexplored territory, providing a fresh take on the genre while staying true to the unmistakeable sound that runs through all his music. I got a chance to ask him about this progression, along with his plans for the future and where he hopes to take his music in the next few years.

Your music has seen a stylistic shift recently, have you got a clear idea as to where you want your sound to end up, or is the change more of an unconscious one?

It's a little bit of both - the one thing I know is that I want my music to be more progressive and create moments that surprise the listener. Most of the time I used to stick to one kind of vibe in a track but now I feel like breaking up these rules that I've unconsciously set for myself helps me finding new interesting perspectives.

On the other hand, everything I do is a reflection of the mood I'm feeling when I'm working on music. So, I never really know what I will come up with. I try to choose the unknown over the known as much as I can even if that's inconvenient.

With this new sound you're introducing, you seem to be bringing a lot more complexity and intricacy into your music. What plans do you have to reflect this during your shows; have you got any plans to start performing your music live as opposed to doing a DJ set?

I think that it really depends on the vibe of the show, if I'm playing somewhere in the nature it will sound different than in a club, if I'm playing during the day it'll be different than at night. I generally want to bring on a more intricate sound but I'll always focus on the vibe and feeling of the music. I try to use complexity only as a tool to support the idea and the storytelling of a track. At some point, I'll surely look into playing live sets rather than DJing but I'm focusing on writing music for now.

Azaleh's Zeitgeist album gave the first hint of the progression his music was about to undergo. Fusing the classic atmospheric sound with an almost cyberpunk aesthetic, nothing quite like it had been heard before.

How did the alias Azaleh come about, is it a reference to some important event or inspiration in your life?

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I stumbled upon it in astronomy class in school as it's a name of a star. I instantly thought it'd be a cool alias so I went with it.

As a musician myself, I'm well aware of the personality-shaping effect that music production can have on someone. How do you feel music has shaped your character, if at all?

It has shaped my perception of our world I believe. Just as much as you can pay attention to a certain detail in a track you can pay attention to any little thing in the world out there. When I'm walking through the forest I watch the sun rays fall through the foliage and for some reason my mind associates sounds with that image. Music has opened my eyes to many beautiful things I wouldn't have thought of if it wasn't a part of my story.

I think this whole process of gathering inspiration and translating it into something that's accessible to almost anyone who wants to hear and connect with it is something that has had a huge impact on my personality.

Are there any inspirations of yours that people might not expect? Do you think it's a good idea to take inspiration from a wide range of places, or could that potentially distract an artist and make their work feel wayward?

That's a good and very individual one! You've probably guessed that nature is my biggest source of inspiration. Well, it is - but I can also draw inspiration from a city at night… Then I'll write something dark and mystic. If I go to the forest on a sunny day I'll come back and start working on dreamy arpeggios and atmospheres. My inspiration will influence what I'm doing.

So, if I have an idea for an album or an EP in mind I will most likely try to pick places that go well with the mood of the project I'm working on so I'm not distracting myself too much. I think that is something that everyone has to figure out for themselves. Distraction can also be a good tool to break out of headspace if it's in the right moment and amount.

"Qualia" is an excellent demonstration of the inspiration that nature lends to Azaleh's music. The rich soundscape and distant sounds give the track an organic quality that would allow it to fit perfectly over a sweeping landscape shot.

Your consistency and release rate is impressive considering the detailed nature of your music; how do you combat creative block?

That's very kind of you! I think in a different direction if I run against a wall. I used to try very hard but if you don't have the tools to break the wall, well then it just doesn't matter how hard you try. Nowadays I tell myself "Try easy…" and I don't have creative blocks that often anymore.

I don't expect to achieve something from every passing moment. Sometimes it flows and sometimes it doesn't. Once you figure out what helps you get into your own flow state then that is what you should be practicing.

Are there any elements or details in any of your tracks that you are particularly proud of?

There's probably something but I rather try to think of a track as a whole. You can have a great sounding riff but it won't shine unless the context is right.

It happens once in a while that I have a cool sound and I use another one to make that first one sound even better. It doesn't necessarily need to sound super good on its own, but once multiple sounds start to communicate and support each other then magic happens.

"Narande" is one of Azaleh's latest releases at the time of writing. The intricacy and quality it displays are unmatched, while still being beautifully composed.

Finally, just out of interest. Your music is heard by hundreds of thousands of people every month; do you ever get recognised in the street?

I'm still waiting for that to happen. Guess my pictures on the socials are too vague, haha!

Thank you so much for the interview, I really enjoyed these questions!

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