Azari & III

Dance music libertarians, acid legionnaires

Azari & III

By Sergio del Amo

Tiga's label, Turbo Recordings, discovered them back in 2009. The Canadian DJ, big fan of Barça and all things classic house, didn't think twice and released a first EP, “Indigo”, positioning them at the top of retroactive house with painful acid stabs. Since then, Dinamo Azari (Christian Farley) and Alexander III (Alphonse Lanza), accompanied by their two urban diva-like background singers Fritz Helder and Starving Fut Yell, have become dancefloor champions. Thanks to their much-awaited, eponymous debut album (released by Loose Lips), the four Canadians who call themselves Azari & III restored our faith in house. We had a word with them in a tiny Barcelona hotel room so they could explain to us how they rocked the hedonist side of the electronic scene.

You're one big family now, but how did you meet?

Alexander III: I don't really remember the actual date. We used to go to the same places and we had seen each other many times. At some point we found out we had some friends in common and our friendship started to grow.

Dinamo Azari: Before, everybody was doing their own thing, even though we had similar projects. Alexander, before we even met, already knew my music. In a way you could say we knew of each other's existence anonymously.

In what way did your past have an influence on your work as Azari & III?

DA: Before, our music was something more organic. It was always dancefloor-friendly, but each of us would use more traditional instruments for their compositions. In my case, for example, I was doing a Caribbean techno project called Pan Tiki. The idea for Azari & III was to fuse the past with new and modern elements, with the help of two vocalists.

And how did Fritz Helder and Starving Yet Full meet?

Fritz: We met at a karaoke bar while we were dancing to Donna Summer. In Canada, if you go clubbing frequently, you'll end up knowing and sharing time with everybody else. I had already seen Starving dance and sing incredibly well, and we became friends by visiting the same parties and me going to see him play live.

One of Azari & III's particularities is the importance of the vocals on most of the tracks. Something like a revitalisation of the archetype house diva.

F: What's more important in this room, the paintings? The notebook on the table? The flatscreen TV? When all elements come together and work as a whole, that's when it makes you feel good. The same goes for music.

AIII: It's fun to us to not only think about the melodies but also about the lyrics. Every track requires a different composition, I can't tell you what the usual process is, because it's different for every piece. A good vocal part gives you what the machines can't, a kind of universal humanisation that can reach more people.

DA: When you're on stage and the electricity goes, you can't do anything, no matter how hard you try. With Fritz and Starving we can entertain the public if something like that happens, until the technical difficulties are solved.

Should house be seen as an escape route for the carefree I everybody has in them?

AIII: Canada is a country of contrasts. There aren't clubs in every city and the dominant sound might be techno. You discover the music via the mixtape some cousin makes rather than by going to clubs. In spite of that, without it really mattering whether it's techno or house, the people can let themselves go with this kind of music without the need to take pills. Whether you're a hippie of any other kind of urban tribe, electronica is open to everybody. The clothes you wear or your looks don't matter. What matters is the spirit of freedom where you can feel like yourself without anyone looking at you funny.

Have you got any musical heroes we should know about?

DA: I love Peter Gabriel, although I have always been obsessed with Brian Eno.

Starving: When I saw the video of Rihanna's “S&M” I cried with emotion (laughs).

AIII: A while ago I saw her live and I fell in love with her. She very beautiful, although no camera can show how truly bitchy she can be on the inside.

What's your most memorable excessive hedonist moment?

AIII: It wasn't really excessive, but I remember that when I was 12, some DJs started to play at the skate park I used to go to. I had never heard anything like it. It was great techno coming from the speakers. I didn't really understand what was happening to me but I started losing neurons.

Can you explain to me what it was that was so controversial about your video of “Hungry For The Power”?

DA: That depends on where you see the controversy.

I don't see it anywhere, but I suppose you know the video was taken off YouTube for weeks.

S: People are scandalised by anything these day. Even now, after many months, I still can't see anything out of the ordinary.

AIII: There are much more explicit video on the web than that one. It could only be erotic to people who don't get out and jerk off in front of the computer all day.

Before the album was released, many people were saying that with tracks like “Hungry For The Power” and “Reckless (With Your Love)” you were starting a new era for house music. Do those comments help you or do you feel more pressure because of them?

DA: We don't feel more pressure, quite the contrary, we love it. However, there are still a lot of people who look down on house. I suppose that's easier than setting aside their prejudice.

But your music goes way beyond what can generally be considered house.

AIII: Right now there are very few artists who openly chose that style. After hearing us, some journalists told us that it's our fault house is coming back. But, without feeling the need to label ourselves, our songs go a bit further than that, like you say.

S: There are elements of late eighties dance music, but the main thing is the unitary concept. There are many other elements, like some experimentation and a conception of dance that sees fashion as an artform.

DA: When you see Fritz and Starving on stage, how they sings, how they move and how they dress, it all makes sense. Thanks to them we can transmit that feeling of freedom we like so much.

Even I got tired only watching you dance like that.

S: I understand (laughs). But I always get to a point when my body is so hyperactive I just need to move, even before the music starts playing. It's as if Fritz and I had it running through our veins. Azari & III, the four Canadian riders who came to make us dance to the sound of their fat house standards, talk to us about their role in present-day electronica, in the wake of the release of their debut album.

Azari & III

"Azari & III" (Loose Lips)

Azari & III Indigo EP

Review: “ Indigo EP

List: " June 2011 chart"

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