Interview with music cross-pollinators Azari & III

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Azari & III get their name from frontmen Dinamo Azari and the oddly monikered Alixander III. That there are four members in total would make new listeners think it’s Azari’s show with the three others in the background. But this is one tight act where every component is as important as the others. Interview by Antonino Tati


How did the four of you come together?

Alixander III : I was producing artists in my studios and doing some film scoring. I knew Fritz and Ceddy before Azari & III which started when Dinamo and I met DJ’ing.

Dinamo Azari: I had been working on various unique projects, developing avant garde modern vibrational medicine: Pan-Tiki who creates Caribbean techno), Fritz & Hanz Helder who make electro-pop, and Una Aventura with Sal Principato [a new wave organic kind of punk-funk].  All the stars aligned and Azari & III was born in Toronto in 2008. A local karmic connection was created.  

Fritz Helder: We all met each other through mutual friends years before Azari & III was formed. We all were active players in the Toronto music and art scenes.



How healthy would you say the Canadian music scene is currently?

Alixander III: The scene in Toronto is great and active. With friends like Broken Social Scene, Feist, K-os, Dragonette all blown up, there are still so many great underground and up-and-comers doing amazing stuff: Don Cash, Young Empires, The Weekend and Isis Salam to mention a few.

Dinamo Azari: Toronto has a unique scene, the conservative nature of the city manifests an underground dance community that thrives off of late night warehouse parties. Everyone comes together for these after-hour rebel raves that could get busted at any time, but no one cares.  

Fritz Helder:  The music culture in Toronto is rich and diverse. It’s constantly changing and evolving. You can find bands and solo artists from hip-hop to indie-rock,  folk, country and electronic music all thriving and doing well abroad. It breeds a confidence when you see your peers doing well. It’s a small ‘big’ city, overflowing with talented people. 



I’d like to describe what I’ve heard so far from Azari & III as clean electro-disco. Is there something in particular you’d like to call it?

Fritz Helder: I call it future neutral , but that’s just me!

Dinamo Azari: Drums that chop, moonbase-escape synths, fine crystalline mist, chambers of darkened warehouses chopped into a surreal construction of totemic mazes, the dry ice staccato beats awaken all kinds of beasts of vice.

Alixander III: Clean electro-disco? Ummm… Sure, it’s got roots in house and techno and R&B and such, but we’d like to avoid micro-genrifications as much as possible. We play many instruments and between the four of us we have a huge range of influences, most of which falls outside of the electronic or dance varieties. This record is what it is, and the next might be a lot different. That said, we’re exploratory artists, not club-for-lifers. 


Who were the artists you grew up listening to and are you still listening to them today?

Fritz Helder:  We love and respect all musical genres. It’s really difficult to say since there are so many.  At home, I play Morris Day and the Time, a lot of Prince, and Grace Jones. My ears are open to all sounds. 

Alixander III: For myself from back then I like Cocteau Twins, dance industrial and pop like Depeche Mode, JAMC, MBV, and Peter Gabriel. The now is Crystal Stilts, Yacht, Panda Bear, Tame Impala, Beyoncé, and my new crush, Rihanna.

Dinamo Azari: Lying in bed in Grade 2 listening to extended versions of Joy Division, falling in love with The Cure as my soundtrack, Pink Floyd live, Santana, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Jesus & Mary Chain… so many.


Do you believe Azari & III will remain a four-piece or will you be inclined to introduce guest vocalists and session players now and again?

Dinamo Azari: We might add a few ‘voguing androids’, who knows…

Fritz Helder: We featured guest vocalists and musicians on this first album. So it’s quite possible that we will continue the tradition on the next.

AIixander III: We have guests on this first record and have had so since we began doing this project: vocalists, musicians, visual artists. Some join us on stage here and there when the timing is right, Mathilde Mallen [singer of Manhooker] has been doing some shows with us lately. Generally we have no set structure and are open-minded to most any possibility, though for this record and tour the main focus is the four-piece. 


Do you feel music in its digital form is less sacred than in its hardcopy form (aka: CD or vinyl)?

Dinamo Azari: I personally enjoy the full 12″ LP. Sitting down with a drink and a jazzy cigarette, slapping that vinyl on my vintage 1968 Fleetwood pedestal record player, et voila! Sit back and relax with full control.

Fritz Helder: Less sacred? Yes, without the tangible element to music it’s easier to forget or be neglectful of the process of music. I’m not worried though, human beings will always crave tangible physical objects. It’s part of who we are. 

Alixander III: Vinyl has emotional depth that digital seems to lack. Digital has a modern sound the can be cocky and of the moment in the right hands. Personally I only listen to vinyl LPs at home, and I don’t buy singles or dance records unless they transcend the genre. 


How can artists make the most of the digital music experience? 

Alixander III: Run the shit through a good stereo, preferably tube-based to soften the harsh edges. Get rid of those awful earbuds and get some decent phones. Play music through them for four days straight at moderate levels before you put them to your ears, that will soften the high end and cause less  ear fatigue. Ideally I still use 2″ tape, so call me a dinosaur.  

What do you feel you could give the music fan today with resources of the internet and mobile technology, compared to the ol’ days?

Fritz Helder: Well the music fan wants their music in digital form because of its convenience, but it shouldn’t stop the artist from creating beautiful artwork or packaging. I’ve been seeing such brilliant uses of the USB ( in the form if sculpture / free standing art) to deliver special edition music. That way you get the best of both worlds!

Alixander III: An insatiable appetite for quick turnover. 


What is an Azari live set like, for those who haven’t yet seen it?

Starving Yet Full: It’s very much a lot of fun; it’s got a structure but improvisation as well. We like to mix the two on stage.

Fritz Helder: Excitement and pure energy.

Alixander III: It’s a lot harder, punkier, more psychedelic than you might expect.

Dinamo Azari: Come out and see for yourself.


Azari & III’s debut self-titled album is out now through Universal Music.

The band is aiming to make it to Australia to perform live in early 2012.