Azam Ali discusses her new album, becoming an independent artist and what’s next

Azam Ali encapsulates many gifts as an artist.  Born in Iran, schooled in India and having lived in Canada, the LA-based singer, songwriter, composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist has been named one of the most versatile and gifted singers and composers on the international stage today.   Spending her formative years in India allowed Azam to absorb the country’s rich musical and cultural influences, as well as to focus on her school’s emphasis on the arts and spirituality.  She moved to the United States as a teenager with her mother in 1985 and immediately began to study the Santour (Persian Hammered Dulcimer).  She later realized that through singing she could fully express herself and it set her on the musical journey that has carried her to where she is now.  The start of her music career began in 1996 when she founded the world music duo Vas.  After releasing 4 albums, the duo parted ways in 2004.  She met her husband Loga Ramin Torkian, a fellow Iranian who had immigrated to the United States following the Iranian Revolution of 1979, in 2005 and together they founded the group Niyaz.  By incorporating a blend of acoustic and electronic music into their sound, Niyaz’s lyrics combine Arabian and Persian folk sounds with mystical Sufi poetry that conveys the universal struggles of the human soul and experience.  She views her life’s work as creating something that transcends religion and culture and to show people that we are all the same.  Niyaz has performed in multiple countries around the world and their music has been featured in film and television scores.  Azam has collaborated in the studio and on stage with artists such as Serj Tankian of System of A Down, Peter Murphy of Bauhaus, The Crystal Method and Trey Gunn of King Crimson.  She has worked with renowned composers such as Christopher Young, Harry Greyson-Williams, Michael Danna and Graeme Revell and her voice can he heard on film and television scores such as ‘Thor-The Dark World’, ‘Matrix-Revolutions’, ‘300’ and ‘The Fight Club’.

In 2002, Ali began a solo career outside of Niyaz and released her first solo album, Portals of Grace.  She went on to produce 3 more solo albums, 2006’s Elysium for the Brave, which reached #10 that year on Billboard’s World Albums Chart, 2011’s Night to the Edge of Day, a collection of lullabies inspired by her son and 2013’s Lamentation of Swans-A Journey Towards Silence, a joint effort with her husband.  Over the course of the past decade, Ali has been learning production side of music and carving out her place in the male dominated field of electronic music production.  She recently released her fifth solo album entitled PHANTOMS and is responsible for every facet of the album—she composed every song, programmed all the instrumentation, sang every note, and produced the entire album, a rarity in the male-dominated realm of electronic music.  “This album is the castle of my dreams. It has transformed me, and opened me up to a new world of self-expression,” she says.  Having become increasingly frustrated over the years with the state of the music industry, she is has also become a completely independent artist, having signed a preferred artist deal with the distribution company Onerpm.  In 2015, in collaboration with interactive designer and visual artist Jerome Delapierreshe, she and her husband created a live, cutting-edge multimedia experience called The Fourth Light project that was based on their album The Fourth Light.  Wildly successful in the US, they plan to bring the live experience to 10 select cities across the US in 2020, one of which will be at the MET in NYC.  With Azam’s focus shifting from her solo album back to Niyaz, she and her husband will be focusing on their upcoming shows next year, as well as beginning production on their next show, a process that will take two years.  You can follow Azam Ali and stay up-to-date on all upcoming artist news and tour news, as well as stream and purchase her music, via the following links.  Also make sure to stay tuned to her website to stay-up-to-date on her soon-to-be launched online store entitled Azam’s Enchanted Boutique, where she will sell CDs, records, t-shirts, tote bags, as well as her own original fine art compositions and gender-neutral perfume oils that she collaborated on with Nocturne Alchemy (visit their website HERE).  Photo credit:  Borna Jafari.

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You will be releasing your new album Phantoms soon.  What can you tell me about the four year journey you went through to make the album and doing everything yourself?  What led you to record the album entirely in English?

 

I didn’t know that I wanted to write an English album, actually.  I’m not a conceptual artist in that way.  I just start composing and then once the body of work starts coming together, I let it define what it wants to be.  “Tender Violet” was the first song that I wrote for the album and that turned out in English.  Then I thought, “Ok.  I guess I’ll have a few English songs”, but as I kept writing, I found that socially I was tapping into a lot of music that I was listening to in the 80s and 90s…a lot of electronic, shoegaze and dark wave music.  I felt that the songs on the album naturally lent themselves much better to the English language and I let it be what it needed to be in that sense.  In terms of the production, I really felt after I recorded my last album with my band (Niyaz), which I had ended up doing a majority of the electronic programming for, I started to feel extremely confident that I was finally ready to do an album from A to Z on my own.  So that was the four year journey.  We’d go on tour and then we’d come home and I would keep writing and refining my production skills.  It’s really an incredible feeling, especially being a woman in electronic music.  We don’t have that many female electronic music producers so it became really important for me to make a statement.  It was not for others so much as for myself, in terms of being able to transcend the roles that I feel are often defined for us as female artists…we sing and we have pretty voices, but there’s so much more that we can do.  That became very important for me.

 

Along the lines of production, what led you to want to venture into the production side of music?  What strides do you feel that women have made in the production side of electronic?  Where do you see women’s roles as producers headed in the future?

 

I think so much of it is just the pressure of society.  I was always very interested in technology and I was one of those singers that when I worked with someone who was producing music, I would sit and watch and learn and then ask a lot of questions.  I never just sat on the couch and told people what to do.  I think a lot of it also was born out of frustration of sometimes not being able to get the sounds I was looking for and not being able to articulate it.  I often feel that when I produced music with others, there were a lot of compromises made because I was not hands on.  I think this is such an exciting time to be an artist because for someone like me…I play hand percussion and the hammered dulcimer, which won’t really serve me in terms of producing an album…we have this amazing arsenal of sounds now at our disposal.  It’s just a matter of making a commitment to educate oneself.  It honestly took me around ten years to really get to the point where I can now sit and produce a song in a day, from beginning to end.  Of course I’ll chip away at it, but you have so much at your disposal now that I almost feel that there’s no excuse anymore for us to not take on this challenge and this role.  I think female artists, when they create electronic music or produce music, it’s going to have a very different sensibility than a male producer.  I would like to see more and more of that.  There are already so many female artists that have already paved the path and are doing that, but I would like to see more and more of that happening.

 

You have included many different categories of electronic music on your new album, from ambient to techno to trip hop.  Do you feel that electronic music should be all-encompassing in it’s sound or is that just where your inspirations for the album took you?

 

I always hated the idea that when you tell people you produce electronic music, they immediately just think of techno, with the fast beat and the high hat.  They think of raves, but there is such a vast spectrum of styles within electronic music.  Like you said, there is ambient, there’s sort-of the mid-low tempo, there’s trip hop…there’s all kinds.  The kind of electronic music that I personally love and try to produce is something that’s sort-of a hybrid between acoustic and electronic music. I am inspired by acoustic sounds and trying to create this balance between the two.  That interests me very much.  Also, this combination of more soundtrack, cinematic qualities that you are hearing more and more with tv and film soundtracks, you are hearing this blend between classical and electronic music.  That is an incredibly inspiring genre that’s emerging.  I would also like to see electronic music expand on its definitions so that when you say electronic music, people don’t just go to one kind of electronic music.

 

Aside from your different musical projects that you’ve done over the years, you’ve also contributed to film and television soundtracks and worked with renowned film composers.  What led you to become involved in music in film and television?

 

That happened quite accidentally for me.  I live in Los Angeles, and as you know many of the composers live and work here and films are produced here so it all really began quite by accident.  A film composer had heard one of my records and contacted me to sing on a score and then once I did my first couple of jobs, it was just word of mouth.  It’s also a very small community, so people just kept recommending me to other composers.  I never even had an agent!  Before I knew it, I was working with the top composers here in LA on big film and big tv shows and games.  It was really quite arbitrary at some point, you know.  I also felt I was lucky because there was nobody really in the city who was doing what I was doing and I am stylistically so varied, so I didn’t really have competition.  Now you have a lot more people who are, even if they don’t record the kinds of genres that I record, they go and they learn them.  Now it’s a different game, but back then when I started there was really no one here who did what I did.

 

You and your husband recently scored your first full-length feature film with Samir.  What was that experience like for you?

 

Exhausting (laughs)!  I’ve worked on so many films, but always as a guest artist.  To do a score from beginning to end, though…by the end of it, I told all of my composer friends “I don’t know how you do this day in and day out, year after year”!  It is such a difficult job.  It is so difficult because with a record, you just write a song and you love the song and you refine it and try to make it as well produced as possible.  With film scores, it has very little to do with what you love because you are trying to capture someone else’s vision.  The producer and director of a film have a very clear idea of what they want so you end up writing something that you think is beautiful and they walk in and tell you it’s totally wrong.  With Samir, there were several cues that we had to rewrite three or four times and every time you have to trash something that you love.  It goes against everything that you feel intuitively as an artist, and having to sort-of go start again from a clean slate and approach it from a different angle was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.  That’s what made it exhausting for me actually, just having to sort-of second guess and try to capture what someone else is hearing without having any kind of very clear idea.  It’s a very humbling experience and an incredible life-learning experience.  I would love to do it again but I would have to get paid a lot more (laughs)!  That’s the honest truth!

 

You’ve said that in electronic music, the vocals and instrumentation are often viewed as a bit of an afterthought.  How did you and your husband develop your approach in emphasizing the song structure and having the performances of the instruments really shine through?

 

I think that’s one area where the work that we started doing together, in 2005 when we formed out band (Niyaz), in that sense it was very groundbreaking.  There were very few bands at that point who were experimenting with this hybrid sound of acoustic and electronic.  For us, we came at it from the approach of songwriters.  We first recorded the acoustic elements…not all of them, but a few basics that then would become the core of the architecture of the song.  We wanted to be sure that we had a very solid song that had very clear and defined parts to it and then would start incorporating some electronic elements and then more acoustic elements and back and forth until we felt like we had developed a good balance.  One of the problems I always had with that kind of electronic music is that they always felt like an afterthought.  There’s a beat that just goes on with a few changes and chord changes and then there’s a soloist that’s brought in, either a flute or a singer or one other exotic instrument, and then that’s kind-of your track.  I felt that approach was just so limiting and in many ways very lazy because there’s so much potential there for what you could do.  I’m a songwriter and I love this idea of verses and choruses and instrumental sections and when I listen to a song I want to go on a journey.  I don’t want it to just start and then already know what the middle and end are going to be like.

 

You’ve also said three’s a misconception out there that in order to be modern, one must be Western.  Having been born in Iran, schooled in India and lived in the US and Canada, how do you feel that your upbringing and cultural experiences have shaped you and your music?  How do you incorporate your roots and culture into your music while still staying modern?

 

I think if you are true to yourself as an artist, your work becomes autobiographical whether you like it or not.  Whether you are a writer, a painter or a musician, your life experiences are going to come through in what you do and you have to allow that to come through, otherwise you are not being true to who you are and you are trying to fit into something that you’re not.  I know a lot of world music artists become very frustrated that people just have them boxed as a world music artists and they want to be recognized as not being that.  I’ve always embraced where I came from because I felt that was only going to enrich the work that I did and instead of trying to break out of who I am, it became much more of a journey about going deeper into who I am.  I’m never going to be considered equally next to a white, American artist.  When you look at me, I am obviously a foreigner but that’s not a bad thing.  That’s what’s so important for me to always get across to other artists who are trying to break out of genres, especially immigrant artists like myself.  Go deeper into who you are and don’t try to break out of it.  Your work is going to do that eventually as you go deeper.  I’ve lived now in America and Canada for 35 years, so I am already Westernized and it’s coming through in the music that I make.  It’s more about just going within and embracing who you are and telling people your true story, that “Yes, I was born in Iran.  That influenced me in this way and that’s why my melodies sound a little bit different than other artists.  Or, I grew up in India and that’s where that influence comes from.  Now I live here and I was inspired by 80s music and post-punk music and that’s also coming through”.  You tell your story and that’s what’s most compelling, that your truth is coming through in your creation.

 

During the period in your youth, during the 80s and 90s, you became infatuated with technology and it’s immense power as both a destructive and creative tool.  What can you tell me about your thoughts on technology and the role you feel it plays in society today for good and bad?

 

Obviously, you watch a documentary like ‘The Great Hack’ and you see the dark side of technology and social media and how everyone is just so addicted to technology, walking around like zombies, just staring at their phones while crossing streets without even a thought that something could happen to them.  The dark side of technology is pretty obvious.  You could take that even into the political forum where you are looking at weapons and all of that.  Also, like any other tool in the world, it has an incredibly positive side.  I became interested in technology as a creative tool.  It was during a time…I remember in my first band, my musical partner in that band refused to even play percussion to a click.  His thing was that the human heartbeat is not a click so you have to play naturally.  He would insist that if you were playing a song from beginning to end, that you have to play it organically and there is a certain beauty in that.  I respected that, but after years it became so confining to me because I also saw the potential of what can happen with technology.  I actually dove into technology first on the visual side.  I became interested in learning photoshop and once I dove into photoshop, it’s like something just sparked in my brain.  When I became pregnant with my son, my husband, who’s amazing…I went to him and said “Look, I want to learn how to produce music, so can you teach me everything about engineering and all that?”.  So I learned from him and from a couple of other people and then I feel like the world opened up for me in such an amazing way.  I think that when you begin to use technology in a creative way and see that it can bring something beautiful to people’s lives and enrich their lives, you become more at peace with the dark side of it as well, because you realize that it’s two-fold.

 

What can you tell me about your fine art composites that you create and how you started out doing them?  What inspired you to animate them in After Effects and compose a unique piece of music for each one?

 

I started experimenting with and learning Photoshop and then became obsessed and ending up learning the entire Adobe Suite.  After Effects is another really powerful tool which is like Photoshop but for video, where you animate.  It’s so vast.  I think both Photoshop and After Effects are two tools that I think, even after 40 years of working on them, you can still find things you can learn.  That’s how deep it goes.  Then I started taking my own photographs.  I got into photography and just started collecting all of my images and then I started becoming obsessed with a lot of surreal art, surrealism in particular.  There are so many other wonderful artists who are experimenting with fine art composites with photography.  I thought that was something that I would be really good at because I have a crazy imagination and could easily imagine these surreal worlds.  I just started experimenting with that and before I knew it I had this series of artwork.  I was just keeping them to myself and then friends would come over and I’d show the composites to them and I realized that people were really responding to what I was creating for myself.  Also, it became a way for me to escape from music.  With having a career and touring and all of that, there are expectations because there are so many people depending on you and that creates a lot of pressure.  I needed another creative outlet where I was not going to feel that pressure of having to earn money or tour or anything like that.  It was just something to do to express myself.  Once I had about ten pieces completed, I decided to start sharing them with people and everyone loved it.  Then of course, crazy me, I said “Where can I take this next?”.  I thought to animate them and how wonderful it would be to create a piece of music for each one.  I’m going to do more and more of that in time.

 

You have said that the arts play and important role in society because what you do when you present your art to an audience is humanize yourself and allow people to realize you are no different from them.  With the divisive state of the world today, and the hate and fear towards people who are different, do you see music breaking down these walls and bringing people together and changing perceptions?

 

In my own microcosm, I have to tell you that one of the things my husband and I do a lot is residencies at universities and we travel a lot to the midwest and to a lot of places where people aren’t going to see people like us everyday.  We don’t just go to New York and San Francisco where they have liberal communities.  We don’t just go and perform and then leave.  I think music can bring people together and that art in general does tear down barriers, but I think we have now reached a point in the world where we need to become actual agents for change.  It’s not just about inspiring people.  It’s about convincing them and showing them how each of us individually can become and agent for change.  That, I believe, is done when we actually go and sit in a community and we have these outreach programs where we will go to schools or community gatherings and we talk.  We pick a subject and have discussions and disagree and agree.  I think when you sit with people face to face and you share your stories, that, more than anything else, tears down the boundaries.  I think that more than any other time as an American, I feel that I am obligated to do that because it is extremely frightening, the direction we are moving.

 

It is.  It’s very distressing.

 

Yes it is.  Even my American friends say they never knew there were people that felt like this.  We’ve realized how good we had it and now we just can’t be lazy about it.  Each of us has to be extremely proactive.

 

I’ve talked with friends about how people see so many awful things that have happened in other parts of the world and think “Oh, that will never happen here” until it does.

I think what I’m seeing globally right now is…that’s what the song “Hope” is really about, addressing the global trend towards ethno-nationalism.  There is this sense in the world of religious extremism.  We’re seeing a big rise in that and it’s almost always when you look at the rise of religion.  It’s almost always connected with ethno-nationalism and this sense of almost exceptionalism, of you being better than others.  Yes it is happening in America because we are living here and we see it and experience it more, but it’s actually happening in a lot of places.  It may have been sparked here, to a certain degree, but I see it much more as a global trend right now. We can’t go and change the world.  We first have to change our own communities and then we can think about the rest.  I do agree that it is a much more global trend.

 

You recently spoke with students at Miami Date College about “Feminism In The East” and said it was an indescribable joy to experience America through the hearts of these young people.  What do you find the most inspiring and hopeful about the youth of today?

 

Aside from Miami Dade College, we did a residency at Virginia Tech and there were a lot of soldiers, a lot of young soldiers in a lot of the classrooms.  What really inspires me about them is that they are not completely indoctrinated yet.  They are so open and even when they sit and listen to you, you can see and feel that they have not made up their minds yet about the world and about people.  That is SUCH a beautiful feeling to me, when you have not made up your mind and are curious and open.  When you have that, you are not afraid.  People are afraid when they have made up their mind about something.  To come in at that point in people’s lives…I cannot tell you how many emails I get after or people coming up to me after and say how inspiring it was or that I made them curious and they are going to go research this.  For example, when I say feminism in the East, often people say “There’s really such a thing?”, because we always think of women being so oppressed in the East.  But it was never like that.  It was not like that all of the time.  We have a lot of amazing feminists so I do a sort of correlation between a lot of feminist figures in the West and feminist figures in the East.  Once you connect their stories with someone that they can relate to in their culture, then suddenly it creates this bridge and makes them curious and they go out and explore.  That changes the world.  The next time they are sitting on the Metro or something, and a Persian is sitting next to them, they aren’t going to feel threatened by that.  The chances that they may smile or say hello are by far greater.

 

You count the Cocteau Twins as a major influence on you and your music and you recorded a cover of their song “Shallow Than Halo”.  What was it like to have Simon Raymonde compliment your cover of the song?

 

Honestly, I don’t think you could get a greater compliment than that.  No amount of press could stand up to one of the artists themselves coming to you and saying “I love what you did”.  What really touched me the most is that he appreciated the very thing that I was trying to capture, which is that I made the song my own.  I love the group so much.  They were such a major influence on me that I didn’t want to just come and copy what they did because it would never stand up to that.  I wanted to try to capture the influence that they had on me and I could only do that if I completely internalized the song and gave it my own voice.  The fact that it resonated with him, you can’t really top that.

 

 

 

 

What was the experience like for you to be interviewed for the BUILD series having never imagined that you would one day be on the show?  You have talked about being a fan of the series.

 

That was major.  When they wrote me and told me I was going to do it, I thought they were joking.  They have movie stars and so many famous artists on there and here I am, just this indie artist.  I thought “Are they messing with me?”.  I was so nervous the night before that I didn’t sleep.  I think I might have slept four hours.  I was so nervous to go on there, but it was an incredible experience.  It’s just amazing and is a testament that if you are an artist of integrity, remain true to your art, work really hard and don’t make compromises that the universe rewards that.  I felt extremely grateful to have been given that platform.  Even with you…every interview I give, no matter the size, every opportunity I have to speak about what I do is such a privilege.  I’m so honored.  I’m very grateful, because there is no radio anymore for indie artists.  Our music doesn’t get played anywhere for indie artists, if you’re not a mainstream Top 40 artist.  Every person who gives you an opportunity to be heard and to share your art…I’m so grateful for that.  And to the fans, the people who buy and listen to your music.

 

You will be launching your online shop soon called Azam’s Enchanted Boutique!  What can you tell me about the offering you’ll have in the store, as well as the artisans you collaborated with?

 

Yes!  Of course I will have CDs and vinyl because that’s the only place people can buy the physical forms of the music.  People still want physical CDs and vinyl of course has made a comeback.  And then I’ll have t-shirts and tote bags and really lovely artwork.  For the first time, I’m offering my fine art compositions.  I’m offering them as 20 by 20 or 40 by 40, depending on what scale people want, and they will be on really high quality velvet fine art print paper.  The collaboration I did was to create a natural perfume oil with a company in San Francisco called Nocturne Alchemy and they are amazing!  I have been using their oils exclusively for the last ten years.  The guy who makes them will go to Egypt and collect the amber from there.  He goes places physically and will bring things back.  Everything is handmade and hand infused and I just love his oils.  We ended up becoming friends because he ended up being a fan of my music.  He then said “Let’s make an oil for you” so we made a perfume together called ‘Phantom’.  It comes in this gorgeous hand blown cobalt blue crystal bottle.  He found this company in France and each one is made by hand.  They are hand blown and are very expensive.  Each one is like 30 dollars but we both saw it and we just melted and knew that’s what we wanted the oil to be in.  I’m really proud to have collaborated with him to create something like that and it’s gender neutral, which I love.  My husband steals all of my oils and I didn’t want him walking around smelling like roses (laughs)!  We have gender-free perfumes at my house and this is the one collaboration that I did.  Eventually there’s going to be more things that I’m going to be uploading, like jewelry and things like that on which I’m collaborating with artists.  That’s going to be coming up, as well.

 

What can you tell me about the artwork for your album and the singles you did for “Phantom” and “Hope”?  What inspired the artwork?

 

I do my own artwork, as well.  I’m a control freak that way.  I think for this album, especially the cover, it was inspired by Bladerunner.  If you think about the aesthetic of Bladerunner, I was going for something like that.  I wanted something that had a retro feel to it, but at the same time felt clean and modern.  That was my big inspiration behind the artwork.  The cover was just taken in my kitchen, actually, with the blinds that ended up making these cool shadows.  The rest of it is just architectural photographs that I’ve taken and then created the artwork from that.  For the single “Phantoms”, the duel image is really behind the concept of the album which is about how each of us creates multiple personas in order to navigate in a multi-dimensional universe.  I always tell people, you know you think of just who you are with the different people that you know and how we’re different with our mom or dad or partner or friends and have so many different personas.  We are so fluid between them and we never really think about that.   This album really made me think about it because I was tapping into so much of the music from my past and who I was during that era.  It made me think about these multiple personas that we create and how it’s not a bad thing.  It doesn’t mean we’re schizophrenic.  It just means how we can come to peace with all of the different personas that live within us and how we all struggle with these different personas and how to reconcile them as we make transformations.  Life is really just a series of small and big transformations and all of the personas that are a part of that journey all end up living within us and become like phantoms eventually.

 

You recently abandoned the comforts of a label’s business model and became a completely independent artist!

 

Hell yeah (laughs)!

 

What has that process been like for you?  What are your thoughts on the industry today and where do you see it heading?  How did you discover and come to sign with Onerpm?

 

The model has been unjust for a very long time.  I think once everything broke with Napster and all that, I think we all knew what was coming.  Everything was going to collapse.  The problem is that since the collapse, no new model has emerged that is fair to artists.  I was going to be happy with a 50/50 deal (with this album), if an independent label would offer that.  The problem is that you look at even independent labels and they’re still…I had a good deal with my record company.  I was getting 15% and they were getting 85% and that was considered a good deal.  Even after all of these years, it was not changing.  The one thing that was changing was the marketing.  They are now depending on artists to do almost all of the marketing, through social media, and artists are doing so much more work then they used to.  In the old days, traditionally, like with my first label, it was amazing.  They did publicity, incredible publicity, and marketing and everything so although their percentage was still not 100% justified, it was kind of like getting a shark loan.  They’d give you a chunk of money and you would go and make a record and then you’d pay it back.  They were shark loans.  Nowadays, they don’t even give you money to go and make a record.  You make a record and then you license it to them.  They are basically getting a product that they have not spent any money on and then expect to take 85% of that, so how is that justified?  As I’m getting older and raising a child, I’m starting to think a lot about legacy and what am I leaving behind, you know?  I’ve made thirteen records and I don’t own any of my own music.  It’s really depressing.  I finally just had to face the fact that that was not going to work anymore.  I started looking into distribution companies and what’s great about Onerpm is that they offer what is called a preferred artist deal.  You can distribute your music with anyone.  You just upload it and it’s distributed.  But with a preferred artist deal, they hand pick your music and someone listens to it, like an A&R person, and they decide that it’s an album they want to get behind and market.  They love the album and reached out to me and said “Look.  We really want to sign you on as a preferred artist”.  What they do is take a little bit more of a percentage and then market the album, as well, for you.  Suddenly you have a team of people who are basically functioning like a label except they aren’t taking 85% of your record, but rather 15%.  Now suddenly, the role is switched and you pretty much own your music.  Now it’s justified.  I’m working really hard.  I’ve never worked as hard as I have right now for this release.  For the past three months, I’ve been promoting it and did a waterfall release of releasing one single every month until the record comes out.  Every day I spend about four to five hours on my computer.  That’s the kind of work it demands, but it’s rewarding because at the end I own my music.  I can say that I own it and that’s a remarkable feeling!  I really hope that more and more artists start doing that until labels decide that the current model is really unjust and not going to work and start creating models that are fair, where there is a sense of equality.

 

You’re bringing The Fourth Light project, a live multi-media experience, to ten select cities next year.  What can people expect from the shows?  Will there be changes from the ones you have done in the past or will it be similar to what people have seen before?

 

The multi-media show is unlike anything people have seen before on smaller stages.  We wanted to create something that’s technologically really advanced but at the same time affordable and presentable on smaller stages.  The kind of technology that we are using is something that you mostly see for large arena shows, like Madonna uses a lot of this technology, but it’s expensive and a lot of people can’t afford to go and see these kinds of shows.  They aren’t really presented in small theaters as much.  That was the idea behind creating it and once we launched it in Montreal, we then brought it to the US and it became really successful.  Now there’s a huge demand for it in the performing arts series so the cities we are going to next are all cities that we haven’t taken the show to yet.  A lot of people are wanting to see it and present it and we are very grateful for that.  Until we have shown it everywhere, we’re not really going to change it, but this year we’re going to start producing our next show because the entire production takes about two years.  By the time we are ready to launch the next show, we will have hopefully taken The Fourth Light to as many cities as possible.  It’s also going to be at the MET in New York City next March, which will be really amazing.

 

What’s next for you?  Do you have anything coming up beyond The Fourth Light project?

 

A long nap (laughs)!  I’m a workaholic.  I love working.  I’m happiest when I’m working.  As I get older the pressure of time, or lack thereof, it looms over me and there’s so much I still want to do.  Once the record is out, the ship’s going to sail and I’ll shift focus back onto Niyaz and get ready for our shows next year and then start on the new production.

 

Thank you so much for your time today!

 

Thank you again for allowing me to share about my art, my life and my music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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