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Azari & III reflect on 2011

We'd like to bet that twelve months ago many of you in the UK hadn't ever heard of Canadian band, Azari & iii.  A year on, and they're practically a household name thanks to some dark house production, perfectly pitched live shows, well chosen remixes from the likes of Jamie Jones and Sei A and some brilliantly choreographed videos.  Oh, and of course their big hitting releases, including Hungry For The Power which has topped many a 'Best Single' chart in 2011.  Reflecting on their year, the band caught up with Pulse on just what's made it so special and where they're heading next...

Pulse: It has been an explosive couple of years for you all. Can you pick out any points which stand out as highlights?  Azari & iii: I think our very first showcase here in London at Xoyo was a milestone, seeing all the fans, the fervour and everything really confirmed to us there is something solid going on. I think our live show definitely gives a refreshing twist on live music, it's indie fans and dance fans and ravers coming together in one place. Noone quite knows what to expect when they see us although people are starting to slowly get into what we're doing. Basically the live show is something that's new and fresh to dancefloors and festivals, but it also fits in the smaller places. You've seen it all before but you haven't seen it all before. It's an energy thing, it could be drum beats, it could be bongo beats, it's like a motown rave.

There are some obvious influences in your music from old school house music, but that's clearly not the whole story. What other types of music have influenced your style?  We have such various different backgrounds and ideas of what makes good music that our choices and are preferences in music that it's difficult to say. It's everything from Depeche Mode, to classical music to... it's so wide it's difficult to define. We love our funk music, our James Brown, stuff like Coil, dance industrial music, Ministry, Download, Techno Animal, there's actually a whole load of bands from Southern Ontario that we're into in that style. The Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, there's a whole bunch of stuff... When we're writing we all have an agreement on the mood and the theme, we make sure for each track that we're on the same vibe.

Toronto isn't known as a centre for youth culture in the same way as Montreal, for example, where did you all meet and how did the idea for the band come about?  I have no idea where we met in Toronto, it's been such a long time. It's not that fantastic of a story, to be honest. For sure, Toronto is a conservative city, it's one of those things. There was definitely a party scene. We met each other at parties, it wasn't really that long ago. It was 5, 6 or 7 years ago. We would be listening to music off someone's iPod, or whatever, it could be anything really.

You have started to play a full live set this year, rather than just DJ sets, how does that work, are you using a full band or is it mainly electronic?  We have a setup, there are two of us at the front, two of us at the back. We just try to put on a show, we interact on stage with each other, we have some choreographed bits and some spontaneous bits. It's like you open a door and let people in. It's a show. It's like any other concert you go to. Some crowds are standing there watching you and some crowds are going crazy. It's a mixture of everything.

The videos for your tracks played a big part in the way word spread about your music. Who produced the videos and where did the ideas come from, especially on Hungry For The Power?  We did the videos ourselves. Everything you've watched we've done ourselves. We collectively have a background in film, Alexander's worked on film sets prior to Azari & iii so we definitely have expertise in that area. It's very hands on.

There have been quite a few remixes of your tracks. Sometimes in this day and age remixes seem like something of an afterthought, but I know that certain mixes have become very popular in clubs, especially the Jamie Jones mix. Are there any that stand out for you?  The role of remixes has always been to take a fully formed song that has elements which don't work on a dancefloor. For me, you make it a little meaner, a bit more dangerous, and a little more pumping. Going back from the beginning, the Tuff City Kids remix of Reckless, the Fingerprints remix of Manic as well. One of the favourite remixes we've done for someone else is of the band Health. We've got a couple of things coming out like a Tiga remix of Reckless which will drop soon.

You're touring Europe at the moment, which places are you looking forward to playing most?  We're definitely looking forward to London and Amsterdam, and we're especially looking forward to going to Manchester where we haven't been before.

Any tour stories you'd like to share with us so far?  Johnny Depp came to see us at one of our gigs, the one at Shoreditch House, that was cool. There was also a big brawl with the bouncers at Ushuaia in Ibiza, that was filmed for the BBC in fact and we're still waiting to see the tapes. We were flirting with them and they weren't quite ready to come out of the closet. There have been some minor stage electrocutions as well.

For more on Azari & III and their European tour, head here.

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