At the end of September, we reviewed an album by French producer and singer Awir Leon titled Man Zoo that caught my ear instantly. It was infectious, soulful and smooth, blending electronic elements with funk and R&B. With the album still fresh in our hearts and ears, we asked Awir to drop in for a new Magnetic Mix and answer a few questions about his music.
Listen to the new mix now that covers ground from techno to house and grime. The tracklist is at the bottom of the post.
What has been the biggest change in you as a person and musically from album one to two?
Musically, the biggest change is that I stepped away from computers and machines for a while. I wanted to go back to something more organic, and explore a more traditional form of songwriting, so I wrote the entire album only with a piano and my voice for a year before even recording anything, which was a very new and challenging thing for me! It felt very exposing, and I guess that mirrors what changed in me as a person. I think between the two albums I’ve been trying to take off some layers, find a way to be okay with all of me.
Another big difference between the two album is that Giants was a solo work. For Man Zoo, once the base material was recorded, I wanted to share the space and it’s definitely not only me in there. Maybe that counts as a change in me as a person as well!
Why did you name your album Man Zoo?
A few years ago I was playing kid scrabble with my nephew, he was just learning to read a bit and he kept putting down “man” and “zoo," which he decided were worth a million points each. For some reason it kept echoing and never left me, until it felt like the right image for the album. I don’t need titles to be explainable, or be some kind of clear comment, I just want them to trigger the right sensation in me, trigger a mental place where this music sits. I remember at some point I wrote down “I think I’ve been all the animals I am,” maybe that’s my answer? I hope I haven’t been all of them yet though. But anyway I’m happy if people see something different when they read it, it’ll still be worth a million points.
Why did you leave France (where in France?) for Amsterdam and what did you take from both musical heritages?
I was born in Northern France, not far from Lille. I lived in Paris for 5 years where I met a lot of great people but which also felt like a different culture, somehow I guess in the north we’re almost Flemish, culturally speaking and in the way you relate to people. So when I met my girlfriend who lives in Amsterdam, I got to know the city and it felt like home straight away, I just like it, it’s relaxed.
As for the music, I’m not sure honestly, I never really felt connected to where I was. For example growing up, my parents played a lot of soul, bossa nova, North-American folk, traditional music from lots of places, mostly West Africa, so I would say this is my northern French heritage haha, yea I think I’m confused. Paris is a great place for the hip-hop culture though, and I’ve heard a lot of great electronic music in Amsterdam, but I know it works the other way around too.
Why did you pick these songs for this mix?
This is the kind of music I play for my friends when they ask for a mix -- it’s also a big part of what I listen to. Somehow I think these realms of music are the biggest influences on mine for the last few years, even though the end results are very different.
1. Tismé - One
2. Thom Yorke - Twist
3. Roy Vision - 4411
4. Floyd Shakim - Intens
5. Aden - Tanz 3 Hass
6. Floyd Shakim - Greasy
7. Clark - Unfurla
8. Awir Leon - Fiddle (Sebastien Forrester Remix)
9. Mount Kimbie - Made To Stray
10. Bicep - Glue
11. Jam City - Worst Illusions
12. Jam City - 500 years
13. Sebastien Forrester - Unrest
14. Clark - Honey Badger
15. Novelist - Man Better Jump
16. AJ Tracey - Ladbroke Grove
17. Awir Leon - Wood (Roy Vision Remix)
18. Stormzy - Wiley Flow
19. Joe - Level Crossing
20. Mala - Changes (James Blake Harmonimix)
21. Awir Leon - Fiddle