INTERVIEW: KAZR

Hi Paul, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Well hello from Singapore! I feel like Tom Hanks stranded on a desert island minus the ocean views. Singapore is super strict on the lockdown, it’s very tightly handled. But I’ve always felt safe here and I guess that’s a good thing.

I’m one of the lucky ones, the isolation works for me. I have a great studio set up at home, and no distractions means loads of new music.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Tonight”?

Like most of the album, it’s me trying to put a positive spin on some personal issues. It has evolved a little as different friends have had different problems since I first wrote it. The common theme is a kind of call to action to move on to better things. It’s not a typical verse/chorus kind of song, it’s a long slow build to a release, an escape.

It’s the first song I wrote for the album and it’s loaded with memories.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

I had a dear friend stuck in a bad relationship. I wanted to write something to wake her out of the bad dream she was in, to let her know it was ok to leave. Later it became about other people too, about letting go in other ways.

Any plans to release any sort of video for the track?

Yes! I wrote music for a great play here in Singapore a while ago called Hotel. During the final days of dress rehearsal they let me film backstage. I’m friends with many of the actors and a couple of them helped me get a story together, a play within the play. I really learnt a lot, sharing their craft. I sat on the footage for a while and later realised it could become a great clip for this song. I was just really lucky, the song and the shots gelled. We did a 30 minute shoot by the ocean in Singapore for the ending, and that was it. I edited it myself. I know some great editors here but I’m so fussy I thought I’d save them the torture and do it myself. It became a nice process of self discovery for me. The song took on another layer of meaning and I actually went back and tweaked it for the video.

How was the recording and writing process?

I wrote the bones of the album on holiday in the Seychelles a few years ago. I’ve studied architecture and screenwriting so I’m structure obsessed. Right from the start I thought about how the songs would fit together on an album. It has the shape of a typical film script. Playlists are great fun but I still love listening to albums.

The production took longer than I’d hoped, but was worth the wait. I did most of it in the attic of an old shophouse here in Singapore. I have a laptop recording setup so I’d go out and track drum kits and guitars in odd spaces. An old mate in Australia has an amazing antique synth cave. We recorded some lovely sounds there, including the very vintage Hammond Organ you hear in the intro of “Tonight”.

I really enjoyed this gypsy process and since then I’ve been trimming down my gear. It’s much more fun and inspiring to do these remote sessions on fresh instruments.

Would you call this a departure from your previous musical work?

Absolutely! I mostly only wrote instrumental music before, this is the first time I’ve been serious about singing. Before I left Australia I toured a trio with two Aussie music icons, Jenny Morris and Steve Balbi. They encouraged me with backing vocals, I was learning from the best.

What role does Singapore play in your music?

I moved here on my own, running away from a few dramas in Sydney. It forced me to take a good look at myself and some of the songs are literally about that.

It’s an exciting multicultural city. Millions of people with diverse backgrounds crammed into a country that’s only 26 miles wide. Everybody gets on well and seems to respect each other’s space. It’s also a great base to explore Asia. While I didn’t use many ethnic instruments on the album I am definitely influenced by the amazing sounds I’ve heard here, especially when the music is woven into local society and ritual.

Having worked with some of the major names in music – what would you say you have learned from such experience?

I’ve found that the true talents are generally the most humble ones.

Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than working on your own?

I focus more on the context of the release when I’m collaborating, whereas with my own stuff the context is less defined, it’s more about self improvement. To be honest I’m not a great collaborator, once I have that musical worm in my brain there’s no getting rid of it. But I do work well with clients such as film and theatre directors. I love serving their vision, I always learn new ways to think about music. The music is just one part of the puzzle for them and it’s an amazing feeling when it all comes together on opening night.

How do you go on balancing your classic roots with your much modern sensibilities?

It’s always humbling when I play classical piano. Just one bar of Ravel can inspire a whole song, it’sso complex. And Rachmaninov, well he wrote some mean basslines. I had a great piano teacher in Australia who focused on phrasing and melody and I’m always aware of this organic flow when I play, even if it’s on an old broken keyboard.

Classical training helps a whole lot when producing too, it makes you more efficient and calculated with the colours. Even if there are twenty instruments playing at once, they all need their own space. There are some basic rules you can follow and they help you get to the crazy fun stuff faster.

What aspect of your personal life did you get to explore on this record?

I was lost in my own head for years but this record has made me less selfish. A lot of the songs started out all about me, but it felt great when the album grew into something which will hopefully empower other people as well.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

I had an overall structure in mind for the album, so it was more of a matter of filling in the gaps. Before bed I fed myself good writing or art, then when I woke in the morning I would just stream without thinking and edit later. I tried to get in touch with my subconscious. Dreams are usually wilder than anything I could ever invent myself.

My daughter was a big inspiration. I worry about the world she’s growing up in and I wanted to put a positive spin on things for her.

Any plans to hit the road?

I do miss touring, the buzz. With my old band Skunkhour we had some amazing times, all over the world. I’m not sure if I’d be brave enough to sing in front of a crowd, but let’s see what happens with the release…

What else is happening next in KAZR’s world?

New sounds, new clips and a new album are well on the way!

But most of all I want to get back in the ocean after this lockdown, drink wine with my friends, sit in a room and hear people playing live music again.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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