I had the pleasure of sitting down with Azriel St. Michael – vocalist for Audio Porn, Black Sun, Acclaimed Musician, Songwriter and Author; In a time when talent seems to be an afterthought in the music business, Azriel is a multi-faceted artist who’s songwriting and vocal prowess is ready to set sail into the international spotlight.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: Tell us a little about yourself. You are an extremely talented musician and songwriter. What are some of the things that you write about and what inspires you to write?
AZ: When I write a song it’s different. I get a melody in my head and I just kinda rumble on with it. A lot of times, I don’t really know where it’s going until the song that works itself out. Those are the songs that generally I can write in 5 or 10 minutes, like, say “It’s Not Me” literally 5 minute songs. Then, like the song “It’s Not A Dream,” generally, it’s kinda based on like the entity type thing. “Above the Stars” was kinda like a story that I read about a guy that jumped off of a building and killed himself.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: It’s really cool to hear about how a song is written. What an artist uses as inspiration is intriguing and it makes you look at the song from their perspective.
AZ: It’s very factual. Some of it has the Sex, Drugs and Rock N’ Roll kinda thing, but it also has more story to it. With a song like “Sweet 16” everybody thought that I was singing a song about a 16 year old, but really it was about a guy who was stalking people and Sweet 16 was his 16th victim.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: Now that you brought that up, What a great song! Actually “Sweet 16” is the first Audio Porn song that Jeff (Westlake) sent me. When he sent it to me I said “Wow, what is this, I love it?” He told me and then sent me both cd’s.
AZ: Actually, the video for “Sweet 16” is the first video that I ever did, of my own. That was kind of a fresh thought for me that way, in that respect. I’d been in videos before, but that was the first for one of my songs.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: That video, I sent to my brother and he loved it, loved the song. We kinda have a fan base growing for you out here. LOL.
AZ: I really appreciate hearing that. People that enjoy the music. Its always good to hear.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: It always amazes me that artists like yourself just don’t get the huge recognition that you deserve. I mean it’s sad that the artists just are not promoted well. It’s like you have to have everything line up perfectly like timing etc…,
AZ: You know as well as anybody that the market dictates. There’s this side of music, I guess, it takes a lot more than talent.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: I hope that it happens soon for you. I really wish you the best.
AZ: Thank you. I mean, you know. We don’t sit down and try to force anything or try to write in a specific direction. If I have an idea I throw it at Jeff and if Jeff has an idea he’ll throw it at me. We just kinda take it from there. I had a bunch of ideas that I had just scratch tracked sent Jeff before we started. I had a couple of finished ideas. He had a couple of idea’s. When we actually got together. As we were finishing one idea, we’d get another. We would get up in the morning; 7 or 8 in the morning and work all day. Sometimes work all the way thru until like 4 in the morning. A couple of times I didn’t even eat. LOL.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: That’s what Jeff says, when you guys get together it’s non-stop. The creative juices just start flowing and you just work like crazy.
AZ: We should go out and get burgers and beer, but we just stay in the studio.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: What was the most unusual place that you were at or situation that you we in that an idea for a song formulated?
AZ: Man, that’s a tough one.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: I try to ask questions that are a little different. LOL. Instead of asking the same old questions that you always hear.
AZ: You know, when I first moved to Saskatchewan there was this scandal. A pre-school thing or elementary school thing. They we doing virtual skits. That was a big scandal. That was really the inspiration I guess for the song “Steeple” I just thought it took it a little further than the situation was. Had to change things a little bit. I remember that. So I guess that’s it.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: It’s always cool to hear what inspires the artist to write a song. People listen to songs and take them just for what they hear, but it takes on a new element to hear it from the artists perspective.
AZ: One of my favorite songs off of “Midnight Confessions” is “I’ll Be Your Man.” That’s a really unique song for me to write. It just popped into my head when I was driving one day. It kinda wrote itself. That’s the way it is sometimes, sometimes I have really good idea, but sometimes it just writes itself. What are you gonna do.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: When you write, do prefer to write alone or collaborate with another artist?
AZ: I have to say that Jeff is pretty much the only artist that I have collaborated with. The bulk of my writing has been alone. It’s just because I think that a lot of people that I know that write, they can only start with a riff and work off of that. I get a melody in my head and I hum along with it. Generally I start writing from the chorus and construct around the chorus. When I have to take music that is already written, I put a melody and lyrics to it first and stuff like that. I find that it works. It’s just my way of doing things. I hear it and I have melody and lyrics to it and I then I can start hearing how its gonna sound, certain guitar parts and stuff. Then its just trying to capture that in the studio. Then you take Jeff; Jeff will write a riff on the guitar and work completely off of that; build a song around that. It’s just different song writing. I gotta say with Jeff, it’s the first time that anyone has given me music and so I could put lyrics to it and compose like that. We just try to do what we do.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: How about any plans for a 3rd Audio Porn Album?
AZ: We haven’t really decided if we are going to do an EP or a full album. I know a lot of people are doing EP’s and a lot of people are just doing singles. I like doing albums, I don’t think that I’ve ever done an EP, ever, but it is what it is. The main thing is, I want to record as much as possible. I want to make it affordable for people. I never got into music to make money in the first place. I got into it to play music. I want everything that I do to be affordable for people. Regardless of how it’s packaged, sleeve or whatever.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: Right, as long as they get the music. If they’re a real fan they will buy it.
AZ: The economy in Canada is all screwed up right now. It’s a matter of timing. Maybe will do a shorter album, I don’t know. Maybe do a double album. LOL.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: LOL, Yeah, do the opposite. Who knows I’m sure that you have enough material.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: Tell me about the Black Sun project and why it did not last?
AZ: Brad Wilson, from Toronto, it was his band. I had been signed to Dynasty Records and his wife had been dealing with a company called Alpha Records at first. They were really gung – ho about everything, but the president of the company was a judge and I believe that it was a Jewish faith. Once they got a load of my song, they back peddled. Which was fine because I don’t want to work with people who are not behind the project. Who have some kind of problem with the content. Tammy Wilson was working with Alpha Records. She ended parting company with Alpha Records. Brad Was putting Black Sun together and Jeff was producing and co-writing. He didn’t have a singer, so Tammy called me up one day. Jezebelle’s Kiss had just broken up I was the only remaining original member left. I didn’t feel like pursuing it. I didn’t want it to be like Chinese Democracy or something. Tammy called me and said that her husband was looking for a singer. They sent me 3 songs, “Highway Made Of Pain”and I can’t remember what the other one’s were, but there were 3 songs. I went to the studio here and recorded the vocals for it and sent them to them. Then I ended up going to Kentucky and working with Jeff. I don’t really know. It was Brad’s band primarily, but there were 2 different people involved in the decision making. We did a few shows in Toronto and it was a lot of fun. Tammy had a band that she was working with called SMV before signing the Black Sun project. They kind of resurrected that and are doing very well with that up there. It was just a matter of people wanting to do different things. I wanted to go on the road, I live me life on the road, but not everyone can do that. That’s probably one of the roadblocks for that project.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: I hear that from a lot of bands here. There are guys that want to hit the road and other’s that say it’s tough for them to commit to go on the road because they have families and ties here.
AZ: You know I’m married and everything and it’s not like I want to get away from my wife, but it’s like I love playing music and it’s what I’ve done my whole life. I’ve had lot’s of people say “We want to put you on tour here, we want to put you on tour there.” I’d say “I’m there.” Like Dynasty Records, they wanted me to do a tour on the West Coast of the US. Shows in Vegas and stuff. I worked with them to make that happen, but they never held up their end of the bargin. That was unfortunate. As long as I don’t go in the hole. As long as I break even. I’m always ready to go on tour if the opportunity is right.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: You definitely have the talent. Your vocals are really cool on the Audio Porn stuff. Like on “Sweet 16” when the song opens it reminds me of the later Dokken stuff like the “Dysfunctional” album. It’s really cool.
AZ: You know that’s funny because I always get people who ask me to describe my music and I really don’t know. I can’t think of anyone that it sounds like. I just tell them to listen to it.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: What’s cool about the 2 Audio Porn CD’s is that they are both different. It’s a combination of different styles, but they come together nicely. It’s unique.
AZ: I think that you’re right. The second one is a bit darker and a little heavier than the first one. It’s still me writing and Jeff writing a little to and I think it’s a nice progression from the first one.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: Right, you don’t want to bring out anything that is exactly the same. You don’t want to sound like anyone. It’s a good thing to sound different.
AZ: Yeah, and it’s like, there are some bands that sound exactly the same on every album, like AC/DC, it works for them, but it doesn’t work for everyone. I don’t really think that works for me. I have to go with the inspiration that’s coming in and go with that.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: When you were in Jezebel’s Kiss did you guys ever release anything?
AZ: We released one album called “Box Of Hostility.” That we actually put out on Dynasty Records in Canada. Back then there were still hundreds of music stores in Canada. During that deal, HMV bought out a whole bunch and closed them out and what not. We had an album out in all the main stores in Canada and the places where they were really playing the singles, the albums sold out. It’s a matter of nobody followed that up. I thought that the album warranted more than it got as far as promotion. When I met up with Jeff and we decided the whole Audio Porn thing we took that album, remixed and mastered it to give it a little better sound and put it out as the first Audio Porn album. That’s why the first album is just my writing. We got it picked up by Music By Mail in Europe they distributed it thru a bunch of labels out there. I didn’t want to see those songs just die. I felt as a songwriter I had a connection to that album, those songs. You just hate to spend so much of yourself on something and I was really proud of those songs. To be treated so nonchalantly by people that were supposed to have my best interests, it just hurt. So, we got that out there and followed it up with “Midnight Confessions.”
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: I’m going to review the 2 Audio Porn cd’s and work to recirculate it. Get the promotion that it deserves.
AZ: There’s a lot of great artist’s out there and great bands out there that are trying really hard and never get the promotion. There’s so much stuff and the main means of promotion nowadays is the internet. There’s so much stuff on the internet that it just gets lost in the shuffle. Its very hard to make the connection. Being an independent artist, one thing that is in your favor, you don’t have anyone telling you to put out stuff that’s better than the last one or this is the direction that we want to go in. You have the freedom that you want, but you don’t have the money behind you.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: Being an artist, you want to have that freedom. It stops the creative flow.
AZ: There is a fine line between being an artist and being an entertainer.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: You are a well respected author. How about some of the books that you have written? Is there anything that you are working on now that you want to get out there?
AZ: I had a book called “Bedtime Stories For Naughty Children.” It’s not actually a children’s book, it’s a book of poetry. A lot of it is fantasy based, dark poetry. The whole idea behind the title is tongue n’ cheek where if your kid would see that, it would scare the crap outta them before they go to bed.
I have a book called ” Charge Of The Goddess.” It’s actually a series of books that I’m doing. It’s fantasy fiction, kinda like “Lord Of The Rings.” I have Part 2 of that out called “The Face Of Death.” Then, Part 3 which is coming out, hopefully in the next 6 months. Then I have another book that is a spin-off character from the first 2 books, called “Legend Of The Bloody Grail.” Both books I have literally just a few chapters left to write and they’re done.
I am working on so many things. I am writing these and I’m writing a collection of short stories, more poetry, playing bass in a Crue tribute, doing stuff with Jeff and recording some solo stuff. Sometimes it takes me longer to get stuff out than I really want. Sometimes that you have to shift focus to something else that is more priority at the moment.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: Do you ever use the things that you write about in the books and use it as inspiration for the music and things from the music as inspiration for the books?
AZ: Not really. I might possibly go in that direction in the future. Some of my poetry is based off of something that is going on in my books. Some of it, a lot of times I will use a poem to set the tone at the beginning of a chapter to set the tone for that chapter. There’s a bit of a cross over there, but not so much with the music.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: To be able to reach people from a musical side and a literary side is exceptional.
AZ: When I first started writing, I got married and I quit music for a few years. When I quit music I started writing books. I was writing songs at the same time, I just wasn’t doing anything with them. That’s where a song like “Cry Me A River” comes from, was during that era. I continued on with the book writing. I get a bunch of ideas in my head and I have to get them out of there. Just different avenues.
I am in the process of getting my book’s out there digitally. For all the people that don’t like to have something real in their hands. I just have not made that a priority, I’m a book lover myself. I like to have something real in my hands. I understand that when I’m traveling I listen to a lot of audio books and that’s cool avenue. Being a musician, I want to have a little more involvement than someone narrating it.
STAY TUNED FOR PART II OF THIS INTERVIEW WITH AZRIEL ST. MICHAEL…………………………………………………………………………………….