Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Interview - Ayah Marar

When I set up this blog, I never thought I'd be able to actually go much beyond my own thoughts on dance music, clubbing and Cardiff, yet thanks to Bedlam and a little bit of help from her management, I got a chance to get an interview with the lovely Ayah Marar.

Born in Jordan,traveling to the UK at 18 to study at Warwick University, becoming close friends with some of the UK's biggest names in dance music both mainstream and underground, including Calvin Harris and Toddla T and here sporting a suitably Mayan apocalyse based t-shirt, Ayah Marar has had a rather eventful journey through the UK dance scene.

Ayah's music first hit me when she sang on tracks from Harris's sophomore album. Ready For The Weekend was one of the first dance albums I really enjoyed, (she sings on Top 20 single Flashback, Stars Come Out and The Rain). Since then she's become well known across the UK music scene, most notably for collaborations with Camo & Krooked, Yogi and most recently DJ Fresh. Having delivered an explosive set at Bedlam at the end of November,  with a selection of her singles, collaborations and tracks from debut album The Real, she took a little bit of time out after her tour to answer a few questions, talking touring, her debut album and spare socks:

When did you first get into electronic music?
  • I moved to the UK when I was 18, it started then, when I helped run a DnB night at university.
Apparently you shared a place with Calvin Harris for a while? Any funny stories from having him as a flatmate?
  • Yes I put him up at my house for a while, we had a wicked time. Funniest story was hiding in the vocal booth he built and freaking him out when he got home from work. I used to tidy his room for him sometimes too. It's an annoying but useful habit.
Do find it funny that way back in 2004 you, Toddla T and Calvin Harris all knew each other and wrote songs together, and have all since got famous with your music?
  • I think it makes sense that people who share goals, dreams and aspirations are naturally drawn together. Wouldn't say I'm famous though, let's see!
Who's been your favourite person to work with on a track, and if you had a dream collaboration with someone who would it be?
  • I've always wanted to do a tune with Sean Paul, for a laugh. My favourite recently has been Cutline, they are such fun to work with.

Although she had previously toured as an MC with Hospital records, held a DJing residency in London and even formed a touring Funk Band 'SlinkyFix', 2012 was Ayah's first proper solo tour!

How was your first proper Ayah Marar tour?
  • It was wonderful finally being able to get stuck in properly and show people what we love to do, thoroughly enjoyed it!
Did you enjoy the Cardiff gig as much as everyone watching did?
  • Massively! I was having some voice issues towards the end of the tour which the magnificent Diane Charlemagne helped me through, but when I get on stage I forget all of that, it's a real buzz.
Where was your favourite performance? Did you keep the set the same throughout the tour?
  • My standout shows were Glasgow, Brighton, Oxford and Newcaslte for the crowds.
Was supporting Netsky fun? Did you get to spend much time with him?
  • Yes Boris is a wonderful friend, I love him and his band, they're wonderful, talented people.
What would say were your tour essentials? Anything you've got to bring along next time?
  • Funnily enough, I put together a tour kit to avoid being stuck without things, so that side is covered. Essentials depend on how far you are from the nearest shopping centre, there's never anything you can't live without but little things make it easier; things like a spare pair of socks or lip balm for example.
Ayah recently released her debut album on her own label, Hussle Girl, with singles and remixes played across BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra (who are big Ayah Marar fans) and I rather like it, with it's varied genres from across UK dance music past and present. Taking this template, merging powerful vocals and the ability to combine some emotional pull with seriously danceable instrumentals and beats, the album is a cracker! Personal favourites of mine are opener 'Mind Controller,' heavy hitter 'The Raver' and especially the subtle development through slow burner 'Stone Cold Heart'.

Your album, The Real, has been, at least to my ears, an excellent debut? What inspired it?
  • That's very kind thank you. It's a sensationalised autobiographical homage to dance music in its many forms. All the styles I love and gopefully something for everyone. It comes from a very real place, that's why I called it The Real. The real me.
Was it fun to be able to be releasing songs in your own right, and not just as a featuring vocalist?
  • Absolutely. I've never felt like being featured is any less of an achievement, but it's been nice to have a focus and a goal and work on my own sound, for sure!
What's your favourite track off the album?
  • That would be like trying to choose a favourite child.
What's up next in the world of Ayah Marar?
  • I'd love to start album 2 soon, in fact we will be starting in the New Year. Lots more gigging, singles and pushing my label, Hussle Girl.

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