SBS: Alrighty…welcome Azwel! Many thanks for your time – I’m stoked to talk to ya! I’ve been checking out the new record & things I can find out online…and I’ve got a ton of questions about just about everything. Before we officially get cracking into it all…I always want to make sure everyone out there is on the same page as best we can do – so let’s get a little history from ya to start this off. Where did it all start? What’s the journey been like for Azwel to be where it’s at today? How has the band changed over the years…and what would you say sets Azwel apart from the rest of what’s out there?
Azwel: I started out doing these synth driven, keyboard songs in my bedroom when I was in college. It was easier to make them than work out the usually guitar driven songs with a drummer at a rehearsal studio in a typical band. And back then, it gained some momentum because, in general, the music community online was stronger. Even sites like Myspace would have music driven profiles with an audio player on them. That’s like… forbidden these days. You can’t even post a Youtube link anymore without being taken away from where you are. Since 2003 the sound has since taken many turns and I can blame that on the music I’ve listened to in the past. I don’t think Azwel has a certain ‘style.’ I will pick a certain style that I think is appropriate for the song. On the new album I go into ‘rock’ a lot more than the last release. I don’t even like most rock bands, it’s all a bit mindless and sounds the same. But I have no bias against any particular style. Having any sort of bias as a songwriter limits you. I look forward to writing a ska or rap song one day. Anyway, I guess I tend to use genres like they are different colors painting a picture.
SBS: I gotta say…my own first impression when I clicked play on your new record Mind Caliber…like I’m talking INSTANT first impression my friends…was like, man – what a combination of music I love like Blur and Stereolab…expressive, emotive, highly vibrant, colorful…I mean, it’s ALL there. And then of course I started looking into the band a lot more as I was listening, and I see those very bands listed with your influences & all that…certainly made a lot of sense to my ears. What I loved about that first experience with “Disaster Zone” from Mind Caliber was that it took the whole…hmm…EVERYTHING just that much further, know what I mean? It wasn’t just Blur. It wasn’t just Stereolab. It wasn’t just anything, other than YOU – and listening to the way that Azwel blossoms and evolves as you hit the chorus of this cut so uniquely & with such an inspired sound was honestly incredibly awesome to hear. Anyhow. I suppose it got me thinking about first impressions and album layout & all that comes with it…how much of a debate was there about that? I mean…with attention-spans being what they are these days, that initial click on any record would make that first song in the lineup an important decision to make, wouldn’t it? What made “Disaster Zone” the ultimate choice as the lead-song on your new record? Were there any other cuts you considered, or was it somehow a clear choice for what you wanted people to hear first?
Azwel: Thanks, yes I can relate to Stereolab and Blur since they fit the description of what I explained in the previous question. Disaster Zone was chosen as track 1 because it’s fairly up-tempo so that’s always ideal for a track 1. It sets the table for the rest of the album because of its sudden changes. It’s always hard to pick a lead single. I also think I picked it because it’s the first one we worked on as a live band.
Another thing is that this album, originally titled Soulcalibur, (as a reaction to the video game using the name Azwel as their new character!) was originally a whole other 11 track album. I don’t think any tracks from that version are on it now. I plan to release that compilation shortly after this one. Actually, they weren’t even new tracks. It started out as a b-sides album. They are basically tracks from 2010 to 2018 that didn’t make it to any of those releases. I thought of just turning it into an actual album because they fit well together. Then I write 10 more songs, and now they are b-sides again! Poor songs.
SBS: I feel like the depth of the melodies & material on Mind Caliber is freakin’ extraordinary, I truly do – I’ve had an awesome time listening to the new Azwel record. Not only do I personally dig it, but I can absolutely hear how genuine these tunes are, and 100% believe in the potential for these songs to connect with the people out there listening. That’s where I’m at. I started wondering about what in the hell would end up on the cutting-room floor for a band this ambitious & versatile in sound…what makes an Azwel song strong enough to make the record and what hits the cutting-room floor – and why? What is it about the songs that made Mind Caliber – what did they have to have to make the grade? The consistency of the new album is extraordinary…I’m assuming it must have been tough to leave some songs behind perhaps, but the end results speak for themselves…this is a highly unique & tight record.
Azwel: I didn’t have any reserve songs this time. It doesn’t usually work that way. I have a new studio this time, well, new location-same equipment. I feel it’s good luck. I kept rolling after this session and did a whole other record, which doesn’t sound anything like this one. Usually the tracks that are left off an album are ones that don’t fit stylistically or in some cases I can’t get the right lyrics or maybe the arrangement is all wrong. I wanted to make sure most of the songs were upbeat. Although I did throw on a last minute piano song, but I think it fits somehow.
SBS: Objectively looking at the album from your own perspective – is this going to be a tough sell to the masses? How do you feel like the everyday music-listener out there is going to experience Mind Caliber? What obstacles might there be in the way of your new record – and realistically, are there any ways to overcome them? If music always boils down to timing, as the suits’n’ties want us to believe, then is the timing right for Azwel right now? What makes it that way…or what doesn’t? I guess ultimately this all comes down to, what does success look like for this band, and for this particular record? Do you feel like you outright need to change the world with your music? What’s important?
Azwel: I’m always looking for new ways to get it out, which publicists to use etc. I’m still aiming to play a good amount of shows and share the music online. If anything, I think a rockier album will set me back a bit, with the state of ‘rock’ music these days being so geared towards dance beats and synths. Not that it’s all rock, the album changes quite a bit from beginning to end. But I’m thinking it’s the dominant sound compared to the last release especially.
SBS: “Rally On The Surface” – man…where do I even start? This is such an incredible tune and it’s one of many I found on the new album…something about this song really stands out to me as a single for sure though, I think the melody you’ve locked onto in the chorus is freakin’ audio gold as far as my ears are concerned – and more importantly, I know I’ll remember it. I’m generally on the side of ‘more is more’ when it comes to information on songs…personally, I don’t think it affects that ability for a track to mean whatever it might to us individually when we listen whether we know what the original intentions or ambitions of a song were about to begin with. That being said, I know I’m not everyone – and I’ve run into a ton of artists/bands throughout the years that don’t want to ever too heavily break-down a song into what it’s all about or what inspired it…for some, just putting the music out there into the world is both where it starts/stops…that’s it, that’s all…and I respect that too. So I’m gonna leave this in your capable hands…and you can answer this however you’d like to…because obviously I want to know everything/anything you’ll be willing to tell me about what created “Rally On The Surface” – BUT – in the event that talking about what inspires a tune or what it’s about ain’t your bag…if you’d prefer to comment on why it might be more important to leave out the details, I’d be just as cool with that. Good lord…I just read this whole question back & man do I sound starved for conversation – talk to me Azwel!
Azwel: It’s an interesting song. It started out by using the drums from another song that I didn’t like and strumming some acoustic guitar over it, followed by a vocal that I tried to destroy with some amp distortion, and finally broke out the synths for a mini solo at the end. I wanted the sound to match the lyrical content and I think it does. Along with many other songs, this song is illustrated on the album art. The art direction was a little different this time. The stories in each song were all interesting so I had the artist, Carol, depict most of them on the front cover.
SBS: I’ve seen the full catalog of tunes that are available out there online and there is a TON of music from you out there Azwel! Stoked to dive in and check all these past records out. For real though…we’re going all the way back to 2003 from what I can see – seriously…this is an inspiring amount of music & art being made by Azwel from its beginning to now. I guess the question is…what challenges you now? After all this time & experience – is there still more for you to learn when it comes to making music? Are there still facets of Azwel that haven’t been fully explored, or some priority for the band that’s still high-up on your list of things to accomplish that you have yet to conquer? What keeps your interest-level, creativity, and drive surging over time…what keeps you coming back to Azwel?
Azwel: There’s nothing to think about or learn, creating is probably the only thing that comes naturally to me. Most bands will say they want to explore more after they’ve done many albums. I think I’ve explored as much as possible within 13 albums. But when it comes time to write and record, it always sounds different when completed than when I first envision it. That’s where the songs take their own shape and keeps me interested in creating again. So the combination of a new song being written with a different arrangement /style always keeps the possibilities endless.
SBS: Just a short interview & gettin’ to know ya session I know Azwel, but many thanks for your time all the same – I certainly look forward to crossing paths with you & your music again in the future, 100%. We could have talked about or covered anything at all here in this interview, but of course there’s no possible way we could ever get to it all in one shot. That’s what this whole space below is for – it’s the SBS Open-Floor…a spot for you to fill in the final blanks and say anything else at all that comes to mind that you want the people to know about ya before we’re outta here & you’re back to making music where you belong, instead of answering all my rambling questions. It’s been more than a pleasure Azwel – you’re making music I truly believe in – keep in touch, and thanks again! The floor is yours.
Azwel: Thanks again!
Make sure to find out more about Azwel by visiting the official homepage at: https://www.azwel.com
We’ve got questions, you’ve got answers – be our next interview guest at sleepingbagstudios by clicking here!