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Spotlight on GAZ: Navigating the Musical Landscape of ‘Lullaby For The World’ with Underground Press

Spotlight on GAZ: Navigating the Musical Landscape of ‘Lullaby For The World’ with Underground Press

| Interviews

By Underground Press

Published Thursday, 07 March 2024 09:45

Welcome to Underground Press, where we delve deep into the soul-stirring melodies of alt-indie artist GAZ and his latest release, ‘Lullaby For The World’ In this interview, we uncover the creative journey behind the music, exploring the themes, inspirations, and artistic vision that shape GAZ's sonic landscapes. Join us as we embark on a musical odyssey with GAZ and immerse ourselves in the emotive resonance of ‘Lullaby For The World’.

Q: GAZ, ‘Lullaby For The World’ captures a poignant blend of protest and prayer. Can you share the catalyst behind infusing these elements into your music, particularly evident in this track?

"Late last year, I felt our world was in such a mess with all the goings-on. I felt sad, disillusioned, and angry with humanity and what we have become: wars, protests, pollution, politics, religious clashes, and the rest. It disturbed me deeply enough to imagine that this globe we live on is in dire need of intervention and change. Perhaps that intervention should come from up above? Perhaps that change should start with me? It dawned on me that the world needed a prayer, a lullaby, a cry for help. I knew I had to write something, even if it was for myself to get some relief. So, I did.

I set about questioning whether things were not already bad enough through the eyes of our creator and his helpers, who I imagined were going about their daily duties as if nothing was happening down here. On this basis, I started wondering whether heaven was perhaps a better place to be, or perhaps our creator has witnessed enough and has washed his hands of our collective mess. I felt we are all alone to deal with it ourselves.

All that is good and was once wholesome around us is slowly disappearing. I blame this on politics, extremists, and the deceit of modern newspapers and their agendas. These are the ‘black pearls full of lies’ that I refer to within the track.

I pray for God and his angels to take charge, to show themselves as now is the time. This is my prayer, my wish, and my protest. I believed that this song needed to be not just a powerful melodic piece of music but also needed to cut through the noise with hard-hitting provocative lyrics that make people question their existence, their tolerance, and to not be complicit in their individual approach to making change. While you may currently live in some form of safe haven, your bubble could be burst as the world is circular. On this basis, I approach the notion that it is not just the current affairs of the world, as history shows that many major cities have been through their own problems in the past and could be next. It’s a wakeup call for the people of the earth to change. While we still can."

Q: GAZ, after a hiatus from the music scene, what inspired your return to creating music, particularly as a solo artist?

"Truth be told, the lockdown period a few years back was the catalyst. I witnessed musicians who could not perform live gigs with audiences any longer, so they took to online shows for survival and monetary tips. I thought to myself, if these guys are brave enough to play to nobody in front of them, other than family, or a friend they had snuck into their house, to a cell phone of all things then surely, I could drum up the guts to do a song or two again. Their courage inspired me and reconnected something within me. We had a lot of spare time around then, so I picked up my pen and started writing again. The solitude of the lockdowns was replaced by inspiration, creativity, and a reawakening to my fondest passion, music."

Q: Since your days with CRUSH, how have you observed the music industry evolve, especially with the rise of digital platforms and streaming services?

"The days of CRUSH were about recording new material as a bunch of young guys who wanted to be in a band and play live gigs around Johannesburg. All we wanted was to get signed to a recording company; however, even after winning the battle of the bands, this did not happen, hence I left SA and went off to the UK. The era of the mid 90’s in SA music was one where bands were bands, a collective, and a brotherhood.

These days, and through my eyes, we see the dissolution and breakup of bands. We see more and more solo musicians emerging. Yes, this has always been the case as bands split up, but to make a few examples the following bands have all lost their frontman to some degree or play fewer gigs as a collective these days: The Parlotones, Prime Circle, Watershed, Springbok Nude Girls, Just Jinjer etc. These bands have come a long road as a collective, but ultimately have broken up to some degree as the lead men have pursued solo opportunities. I guess this could also come down to revenues or a need to create music solely for themselves and in their way without other members' influences.

On the modern front, its streaming, content, and popularity that are winning the vote. Online music platforms can literally bang out the music for you with a chosen genre, AI can write your track for you, and you can speak into a mic and sound like Frank Sinatra if you want. It’s all smoke and daggers for me without real substance and connection. I’m a purist and always will be. Streaming platforms pay a pittance versus the real input costs associated with producing, mastering, and promoting a traditional studio-grown track. We are starting to see a disconnect with the youth and streaming. They want to touch and feel something again as we did all those years back. Long live the live gig and concert!"

Q: As an independent artist who handles various aspects of music production in-house, what do you find to be the biggest challenges and advantages of this approach?

"Very often I have the sound of the track in my head along with the written lyrics. I find the best way for me to contribute to the production process is to go straight to the studio, sing the lyrics as well as the underlying melodies (even if it is just a bass line) and let the producer feel what he needs to contribute to the very basic skeleton. The beauty of this approach is that the producer is free to explore as they feel fit. Together we will add structure and content step by step in layers. Keep if they work, dump if they don’t. It’s always a collaborative process with the best intentions for the track at heart.

Working this way often speeds up the production process and both the artist and producer have carte blanche to their open approach. Also, working with a producer with the calibre of Mark Beling gets things in shape quickly. That is if what happens in the session from both the artist and producer are aligned and accepted by both parties then the process can be seamless. At the end of the day, thankfully, I am not a signed artist that must follow a brief or remain within a certain gamut of sound for popular play. I’m independent, and this keeps me nimble with changes in direction and putting down what I’m inspired to do."

Q: Can you share some of your personal inspirations in music, and how they influence your creative process, especially evident in tracks like ‘Lullaby For The World’?

"I have a quiet tendency to listen to dark lyrics and music

with minor key sounds. I love to feel the ache in music and appreciate a grungy bass line with a bit of distorted lead. I’m not one for light pop synth; it’s the darker tones that bring me to life. Anything 'goth-like' with twisted notes and shaped sounds along with unapologetic lyrics that break the mould is where I live."

Q: Who are some of your favourite bands and musicians that have had a significant impact on your musical style and sound?

"Anything from LIVE, Depeche Mode, Placebo, The Editors, Sister of Mercy, Radiohead, Suede, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, and the likes."

Q: Could you talk about the gear or equipment that plays a crucial role in shaping your distinctive sound, particularly in crafting the emotive melodies found in your music?

"I would say that it is a question for my producer Mark Beling and his ability to craft and shape sounds and melodies that bring my music to the fore. I will say that he has an uncanny knack when it comes to arrangement, delivering what he wants instrumentally as well as his high-end setup and mastery of all his equipment. Not sure about how many guitars, DAWs, or software suits he has, but it’s very impressive. My sound has evolved from what we were experimenting with a few years back and believe that we have found where GAZ lives now. It’s in the aching melodies, crafted sounds, and all the fine detail that Beling adds to the tracks. You don’t realize that you are listening to some of the most subtle sounds, but he painstakingly does hours and hours of tiny additions that fill the song. It’s what is not noticed, barely ambient sometimes that the subconsciousness hears that I believe makes him the master that he is."

Q: Do you have any interesting studio anecdotes or memorable moments from the recording sessions of ‘Lullaby For The World’ that you could share with us?

"Sure! Studio session 1 was almost a washout. We kept very little from that first night as we grappled to find the right direction for the track to get it sailing. I was struggling to deliver what was in me and Mark was doing everything he could to compensate. I do recall us have a lengthy chat that night where we just let go of a lot of stuff, stayed up late and just connected on a human level. I feel that long talk drew us together for the second session where the lights started to come on for the single. We had both had time to think about it and apply ourselves. Whilst it wasn’t perfect, there was a lot more flow and we managed to get the template of the track down. Upon listening to the night's work, I suggested taking a piece of music from later in the track and inserting it to the beginning which got a bit more life into the song earlier on.

We call this track the longest production is history as a laugh because from the initial recording in September 2023 it has taken until now (March 2024) to get the track out. I got ill, then Mark, then the whole track froze, and it was we built piece by piece from the previous. Then December holidays, then touch-ups, etc. What I am particularly thankful for was that we did not over-meddle with the track once it was down. We had plenty of time to fiddle and possibly overengineer it but avoided that temptation. I got the distinct feeling that something was holding this song back from releasing. Some strange eerie force, but in the end, we prevailed, and here it is.

This track also taught me that I can play the Wah-Pedal on a desk with my hand. Was hilarious… me pumping away at the thing with Mark jamming his face off while recording on the track. He said you may as well bloody play something Gazza, so I gave it stick. Turns out I’m the one take Wah-Man!"

Q: ‘Lullaby For The World’ navigates through themes of war, politics, and societal disillusionment. How do these prevalent issues influence your songwriting process, and what impact do you hope to have on listeners through your music?

"I had to get my thoughts out about these issues but knew from the outset that it would be a tough task, and that my writing could be deemed controversial. Nevertheless, and it didn’t matter if the track failed or not, it had to come out as honest and pure as it was conceived or not do it at all.

My hopes for people listening to this track is for them to not give up on positive change. Stand up for peace, their beliefs, and better circumstances. Stop wars, start friendships. Forgive and forget. To pray for change in our world and believe that this is all possible. Not to tolerate what is simply handed to them. Not to think that it is better anywhere else than here on earth until it’s your time to leave. To believe that the world can survive despite its challenges. I want the listener to wake up and not eat what is fed to them through the sewers of media, politics, and camouflage. I believed that the only way to get through to the listener was through some hard lyrics and tough questions, challenge the listener and their belief system, consider their own positions and lives and either say yes, I agree, or no this does not affect me. One can choose to be complicit or try to make a difference. I chose the latter. Lastly, I hope that it resonates across all age groups and that the song is ultimately recognized for a good cause."

Q: Your music often incorporates dreamy melodies with powerful undertones, creating a unique sonic landscape. How do you maintain this balance between introspection and intensity in your songwriting, particularly in tracks like ‘Lullaby For The World’?

"If we do not connect with a melody or are not able to ‘dream to a song’ without being told what to think, we simply cannot buy into it as listeners. If there is no connective tissue or honesty delivered, then there is nothing received. With ‘Lullaby For The World’ for instance, a dreamy start soon turns into some hard-hitting thoughts. This is where the listener buys in or doesn’t. There is a time for asking the questions, and a pause for reflection. There is a time for anger, and a time for sad."

Q: With ‘Lullaby For The World’ being your 9th single from the upcoming album, can you provide insights into the overarching narrative or concept that ties the album together?

"The album started out as a bit of fun with a mix of pop sounds, some electro-pop, but soon turned into more meaningful and less playful tracks. We were on our journey to finding the GAZ sound, we were close, but only started taking shape after the first two tracks. These will unlikely be on the album. The overarching narrative is concern for where our world is and where it is heading, touching on themes like paying for everything that should be free (Pay to Breathe), humanities reliance on substances for highs (Dopamine), transcending form earth to heaven (Into the Light), turning off social media etc and being more human (Slow Down). As you can tell by some of the titles, my writing has become more spiritual and to be more in tune with cause and effect. I like asking the tough questions through my music and like to challenge listeners to do the same."

Q: GAZ, your music is known for its emotive lyricism and captivating melodies. How do you approach crafting the lyrical content for your songs, and what significance does ‘Lullaby For The World’ hold in terms of its message?

"My writing process is always a poem with a soundtrack in mind. I write to the sounds in my head, which are often pre-recorded after a morning shower session. It all comes flooding in, the sound, the lyrics, and most dominantly a bass line. I can only think this is through the tranquility and white noise of being in the shower. It’s the strangest thing, I hum deep tones and then add words. You should try it! All truth aside, this was a very tricky song to approach, if not simply based on the magnitude of its title. Would it be worthy of what it stood for? It was a tough write! To the point that after the second studio session, I broke it to Mark Beling that I had rewritten the entire lyrics right up to the Mid-8. He just looked at me and said…cool Gazza…let’s go! My process was with intent and meaning. Each word considered before going down. I went through what people would think versus what I needed to say on most lines. Could I better it, was it worthy, does it connect, and repeat. The significance of ‘Lullaby For The World’ will be determined in the ears of the listener. Their conscience. And whether the song resonates sufficiently to make a difference."

Q: The production journey for ‘Lullaby For The World’ may have presented its challenges. Can you share any memorable moments or obstacles encountered while bringing this track to fruition?

"I think I have mentioned most of them above, but most considered would be. The re-write. The frozen track. The initial approach. Time off. A bit of illness. December holidays (bad time for release), and the resistance to put the track out until the time was right."

Q: As listeners immerse themselves in ‘‘Lullaby For The World’,’ what emotions or reflections do you hope to evoke through your music?

"I hope the listener will reflect on the state of our world and what they intend to do about it. Not be passengers in the process and stand up for what is right for them. I am fully aware that I have not covered all topics, but the essence remains. Don’t kill your world and mine. Pray for change, enlightenment, and a different trajectory for mankind."

As we conclude our insightful conversation with GAZ, we extend our heartfelt appreciation for sharing the depth and resonance behind ‘Lullaby For The World’ Through his evocative melodies and poignant lyricism, GAZ continues to captivate audiences and ignite introspection. Join us in celebrating the profound journey of GAZ's musical odyssey and embracing the transformative power of ‘Lullaby For The World’ on Underground Press.

Updated on:
>> Thursday, 07 March 2024 09:45

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About GAZ

Garry McCluskey better known by his stage name GAZ is a UK-born South African Singer-Songwriter. The former frontman of the South African 90s Rock Band CRUSH is no stranger to the studio or stage and has performed alongside some of South Africa’s greatest musical talents over the years as well as achieving chart status with his old 4-piece band.
Garry took an extended break from the SA music scene but returned to his passion for writing and recording music in 2020. A fresh start was made under his new stage name ‘GAZ’ upon which he has relaunched his solo artist ambitions.


GAZ - Lullaby For The World

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