Life on tour as a musician is glamorized in the eyes of civilians, filled with visions of private jets, groupies, smashing guitars (although for Thomas it would be his laptop) in hotels, and nights of hedonism we shall never experience. Yet for an emerging and sincerely focused musician such as industrial electronic artist Thomas Azier, life on the road, while dotted with partying, is a focused and trying experience of artistic growth and development.
“I am the worst with sleeping on the road. I can’t sleep on planes or trains, I’m super sensitive. So I often try to find a room where I can just lie down for a minute and close my eyes. I don’t want to take sleeping pills so you just have to take care of yourself. It’s hard, that’s why I think a lot of artists go extreme, either all that yoga bullshit or some of the guys are going to drugs. I just try to be the middle of the road, you know,” Thomas told me over the phone while currently on tour through Europe after a sound check in Brussels.
“Being on studio and being on stage are such different things,” he continued. “I really don’t believe there is such a thing as a ‘born entertainer.’ People say ‘Oh, he was born to be on stage.’ Really, it is an extension of a beautiful word, ‘artisan.’ You might have seen the word at a bakery. I would translate it as ‘craftsmanship.’”
After a few EPs, Thomas exposed the world to his craft recently with his debut album Hylas, years in the making created in his “German factory.” Thomas moved to Berlin at age 19 after growing up in the Netherlands. Yet with his hectic tour schedule, it has been a while since he has been to his home city.
“Berlin is my home, yet I haven’t been home since December. I’m in an interesting place right now with traveling a lot, you just try to make everything your home.” said Thomas.
Always searching to find my own inner peace, I was curious how he went about this. “Sometimes I work with smells, like so they all smell the same. I have this inhaler for my voice, you put water and some oil in it so when you are sick or something, and when I use that usually the whole room smells and everyone is like, ‘Whoa this smells so good!’ It smells like eucalyptus, it’s a good trick,” said Thomas.
Intrigued by the wisdom behind the brain of this up and coming artist, the conversation deviated from typical conversation surrounding his music to picking his mind on self-soothing techniques. I have always felt with music writing I find it far more interesting to talk about the stuff I can’t find on their Facebook page. Both amused and wanting to try the smell trick myself, I asked Thomas how he prepared for each show. The expectations and energy of the audience, even for a bystander, let alone for the center of attention on stage who the crowd is there to see must be crushing.
“I am pretty stressed for the first song which is not a good thing,” said Thomas. “So what I am starting to do now is just clear my mind before a show. I collect vocal music, so I listen to vocal music, all kinds like from tribal to Russian choirs. It definitely works. It just calms me down, and I’m really into harmonies, so when I hear harmonies in its purest form as vocals, it’s like I’m connected to a sort of source. It’s just the most basic form of emotion, which leads me to deliver the emotion from when I wrote the song on stage.”
Mental check list: Download tribal and Russian choir vocal tracks and find signature sent to carry with me at all times. Yet even when armed with wisdom and a bag of tricks, not every night can be perfect.
“The other day on stage I was getting really anxious, and getting the feeling almost like fainting. It is very scary when you have that on stage. So I was just trying to stay away from the front so you don’t like, fall nine meters down. It was very scary but then when your body is saying ‘Fuck you, you’ve been too hard on yourself’ you need to tone it down so I am thankful for these negative things that have happened. So then you have to tone it down, maybe I didn’t get enough sleep, or had too many drinks, or did too much of this, too much that. So I have to take care. When you don’t listen to your body very carefully that’s when it goes wrong. You have to learn along the way. I’m just starting out, it’s going to be very hard.”
Beyond focusing on the present moment, Thomas manages life on the road by working towards the future.
“I’m very excited because I’m on the road I’m forced to work with just my computer. I always feel like as an artist, you have so many references to go to. So the first thing you have to do is find your frames. I had very strong frames for my first record because it was a factory that I worked in, it was my city, my sound, and I found my frames. But for the next one it is very digital, totally based on the computer,” said Thomas, giving us a tease of what to look forward to after Hylas.
Yet back to the present, the green room after soundcheck, with minute ticking until he takes the stage. I ask him what is going through his mind.
“I really believe you have to try your best and make your best decisions and every day try your best, and if you have a night where it’s not your best and you say ‘Fuck it, I just don’t see it tonight,’ you get it back from the audience. Like so real. I didn’t have a good night yesterday, and I could feel it, I didn’t give it my 100% because I couldn’t. There are so many lessons you can take from this. You can’t be too hard on yourself, but you also have to say, ‘Okay, I need to work on this.’ It gets you focused for the next time.”