New Zealand’s latest export to the UK drum & bass scene is Aidan Morris, otherwise known as Azifm.
Choosing to plant himself in Bristol – the genesis of sped-up breaks and synthetic basslines – he’s firmly focussed on getting heavily involved and pushing his sound.
Though he’s a relative newcomer, there’s a distinct style we’ve come to know from Azifm. Utilising artful sampling and warm production, he takes inspiration from the old-school underground territories of jungle and hip-hop. He affirms he’s still working on his approach – but the foundations are substantial for the 23 year old.
Jack Workforce spotted this talent early on, inking Azifm’s first EP release to his Must Make label, Making Way – which came out in 2021. Now, following the Bristol move, comes his sophomore release for the label, Dark Rooms and Frustrations. The new EP builds on his previous work with Must Make, and solidifies that distinct style. Starting with ‘Say Enough’, a soulful single that’s got a similar feel to his breakout tune from 2021 ‘Take it Back’. The new single incorporates the vocals of a fellow Kiwi making her drum & bass debut, Tusekah, whose vocals sit superbly on Azifm’s think breaks and piano loops.
With six tracks in total, and a couple more collabs from his new house-mate (Cesco) and friend from back down-under (Hound) – he ties it together with a theme plenty of creatives can relate to. From the highs of late-night raves in hazy dark rooms, to the frustrations of finishing work and getting it in front of the right people. This EP takes direct inspiration from his experiences in New Zealand, and the joys and trials of a rapid come-up.
He’s now entrenched in the world of drum & bass, with a lot to contribute. Now that Aidan’s settled-in, we sat down with him to discuss the new EP, the inter-continental move, and the drum & bass scene in general.
Last time we spoke to you, you were still in New Zealand in Lockdown. How’s things these days?
Pretty good! Being in the UK is a big change of culture from New Zealand – it’s bloody cold, too.
But in terms of Covid, it’s good to be back on the other side. It looks like it isn’t going to be a future problem for events – aside from the financial recovery we’re still seeing.
Have you been to the UK before?
Yeah I’ve been a few times before. Last time I was here I was 17. I came over with a mate and we went to Rampage in Belgium – because the drinking age there is 16, ha. But I’ve come over a few times because my family is Irish. So I always stop over in London when I see the fam.
What drew you to Bristol?
I was just chatting with Cesco. He wanted to get a place in Bristol, and I wanted to move to the UK – so we thought, this is working out. At the time, I was thinking I actually want to live in London. But I really like Bristol, it reminds me of Christchurch, only with way more nightclubs.
How’s it similar to Christchurch?
It’s hard to describe – I think the size though. And the Bristol culture feels similar to the NZ culture in a sense. Not so much in the words or slang they use, but that feeling of homeliness, just reminds me of Christchurch.
You’re pretty into skating too aren’t you? Was that a big draw for Bristol?
I didn’t really consider that until I’d made up my mind. But then I saw they’ve got some good spots – so I spent some time researching them and I’ve been slowly making my way around. I’ve been skating a lot of Liam Revert actually – he’s been taking me to different parks and spots, and showing me around.
I feel like there’s a lot of synergy between skating and drum & bass.
I didn’t feel that at all in New Zealand – but now that I’m here I totally get it. It’s very closely intertwined here. I’ll often be skating down at Dean Lane and there’ll be D&B beats blasting off some skater’s speaker. You wouldn’t get that in New Zealand. But over here, there’s so many skaters I’ve met who are D&B producers as well. You’ve also got guys like Hugh Hardie and Dogger who are amazing skaters, who else make amazing drum & bass. It’s a massive culture.
I love it. It’s underground! What else have you been up to in your first few months here?
Lots of partying when I first got here. But I’ve mostly been going around and meeting up with people who I’d met when they came over the NZ, and people who I’ve been chatting to online, who I finally got the chance to meet. There’s a lot of networking and trying to meet lots of people, to get a grasp on the scene and get involved. But that’s all still very much a work in progress.
Do you feel like you’ve found your footing?
I’d say so. Now I’ve got a job, a flat, I know my way around without checking the maps. I feel like I’ve got it.
Yeah when people move country there’s always a massive juggle – job hunting, finding friends, balancing finances and health. With your career taking off at the same time – that must make it even more hectic?
Yeah definitely. It’s been hard to keep on top of life, while also trying to make beats consistently, stay on top of the social media game, all that stuff. It’s definitely a juggling act, but I think I’ve sussed it.
And you’re living with Cesco & En:vy? Is there much collaboration going on?
A little bit! We’ve all just been so busy with our own projects that we haven’t been able to work together too much. But there’s a lot of sharing ears going on.
It must be quite motivating living with those two.
For sure. If you hear one person working on beats, you’ll shortly after hear another person start up – it’s a like a chain reaction. Definitely a good motivator, when you hear a bit of sub pumping through that house you think, “alright, let’s make some beats”.
Is there a bit of competitiveness?
Haha. I don’t think so – maybe a bit of friendly competition.
So in terms of the drum & bass scenes – how does NZ compare to the UK?
The biggest thing I’ve noticed is that the people in the clubs are here to rave. They’re there to party and actually listen to the music. I can’t believe the amount of times I’ve been to a gig, maybe been in the green room for the last hour, and then came out as it’s closing, and the dancefloor is still full.
There seems to be a deeper love for the music here. Whereas in New Zealand, there’s a lot of people at the rave, but they’re often just there to get smashed, and don’t really have much of an idea of the artists or music.
Over here, you’ll spark up a talk with someone in the smoking area and they’ll tell you they’re a huge D&B fan, and talk about all these super underground tunes. You only rarely get that in NZ – and you pretty much know everyone that’s like that.
Yeah in New Zealand there might be one or two people in the dance who are deeply interested in D&B – whereas in the UK it’s everyone in the room, they have so much to say. Can you tell me a bit about the NZ scene these days?
It’s hard to say, now I’ve left. But I think it’s in a good place? There was a point last year where it felt like it was getting a bit saturated, and there was a lot of average, money-grabbing drum & bass coming over. There was no real purpose other than for promoters to make money.
In a way it’s always been like that. You’ll have those people who will throw those shows and make the money. But at the end of the day, it brings new people in – some will dive deeper and some will stay on the surface. I guess it’s not a bad thing.
When I first got into D&B in New Zealand, you’d get an international once a month – and you wouldn’t even care who it was, you’d be there. But now there’s so many on that it’s only the big and more mainstream nights that get busy – which led to the local love being lost. Having internationals from Wednesday to Saturday leaves no room for the local scene to move forward. But from what I see and hear recently, it feels like maybe it is coming back around. It’s one of those things – swings and roundabouts.
That feels a bit chicken and egg. The scene needs big names coming through to grow – but then they suck all the demand so there’s no local scene and local DJs coming up.
For sure. It’s got to find that balance.
Do you know of any up and coming producers from New Zealand? You’re probably the most recent example that’s come up on this scale since The Upbeats or State of Mind…
This is always a tough question – I never want to miss anyone out! But definitely Hound, who I made the tune ‘All Crew’ with. He’s my boy. He’s making sick, underground, minimal tunes. That gives me a bit of faith, and faith that other people will hear him and get inspired to write that sort of sound. Keep the momentum going.
My bro Yancey is a very talented man who’s making some no bullshit music, and also Willy Mav is so sick too, proper groove to his tunes.
I get sent a few bits too. There’s a guy called Mace who’s just started making beats, from Hamilton. They’re really sick beats. But he’s sort of in that zone that everyone finds themselves in where you’ve just got to hone it down, clean it up. It’s the hardest part, when you’ve got to just stick to it and keep going. He’ll be doing really well once he gets through that.
I was about to ask about Hound, and the new EP generally. Did you work on most of this back in NZ? Or was it a product of your move to the UK?
It was almost all finished before getting over here. But with the Cesco collab I was waiting until I got here to get some bits tidied up with him. But most of it was done in New Zealand.
Is the EP title giving a bit of insight into the challenge it was to write? Tell me about that.
Yeah for sure. With Dark Rooms and Frustrations, ‘Dark Rooms’ sort of came from it being more dancefloor, more ‘late night’ than my other stuff, which I haven’t tried much before. And the ‘Frustrations’ just comes from trying to execute that vibe. I’ve never worked like that, trying to make a specific sound.
At the end of it I sort of thought that was stupid. I shouldn’t try to force things if they don’t feel right. So definitely a lot of frustration with that.
Also a lot of frustration with the New Zealand scene – I love the place – but I was frustrated with where that scene was heading. So that’s why I moved here, I wanted to be somewhere where the music I like and make is more appreciated, and there’s just more of it, it’s better to be around.
And you feel like that’s come true?
Oh yeah. I got to see Breakage for the first time and that blew my little mind! Going to shows like that, meeting new people looking around the green room, thinking far out – this is crazy…
Yeah it’s always a bit of a buzz when you look to your side in the rave and then there’s some don just having a dance…
Yeah it’s mad. I remember seeing DJ Die just chilling on the dancefloor.
Back to the EP – ’Say Enough’ is a great track and I’ve been hearing it out a lot. How did you discover Tusekah?
Someone played one of my songs on RDU (FM) once and I think they tagged me, and she messaged me from that, asking how I got my tunes on that station. I told her who to ask, and then I just had a scroll of her clips she’d posted of her singing. I thought she sounded sick, so I asked if she wanted to come make some beats.
Has she done D&B before?
Nah that was her first actually. Which is cool. I’d heard her voice on this other song ‘Childhood Love’ and I thought, “yeah that’s a sick R&B voice!”.
Yeah I’m hoping to hear more of her on drum & bass.
You’ve got a bit of a particular sound now – do you agree with that?
I don’t know if I agree with having a sound yet. I feel like I’m all over the place, but maybe I’m not..?
I came across breakbeats because, when I first came through, I didn’t know what I was doing. It’s hard to make drums, when you’re patterning-in your own; every kick, snare, hat, ghost hit – I remember trying it for so long, and then I remember discovering the think break and amen break, and starting to understand it. I thought “this is what I’ve been trying to do with other drums”. And now I’ve just kind of stuck to it.
I like the sound of breaks versus synthetic drums too. Don’t get me wrong, synthetic drums can be sick – but just hearing the human element in it is what I like. I want it to sound human, not snapped to the grid with a crazy clicky snare.
That leads me to ask about the tune ‘Global’, a lowkey favourite of mine off the EP. This one strays a little from that breakbeat and jungle influence. Is there more of that to come?
There is a little bit. I’m working on another EP with Jack (Workforce) and there’s 2 more tracks a little like that.
Global was the hardest for me to finish. Which is probably no surprise – the drums just never sat right with me. When I finished I sort of thought – “I guess so”, but it would’ve sounded better with a break!
There’s a few more to come, but they’ll happen naturally.
Cesco could help with that – he’s got those snappy drums down.
Yeah definitely. We’ll often exchange ideas on Fruity Loops and stuff. It’s nice and easy because we’re on the same DAW.
How’s the relationship with Jack (Workforce)?
It’s going really well, I don’t think I’ll look to go anywhere else, unless I write a certain tune where I think it has to go somewhere else. But at the moment, I’m just going to stick with Must Make.
Everything gets received well, he’s a very easy A&R to work with. He can be picky at times, which is good, because it makes me more critical when it comes to the finishing stage.
I managed to meet up with him in Brighton for a Must Make night – on a Tuesday at the Volks. It was a livestream, secret lineup thing with me, GLXY, Aum, MC ID and Jack. That was a sick night.
Brighton is a vibe.
Yeah I’m going back next month actually to link up again. We’re going to spend a few days in the studio and work on the next release, and… maybe a few bits with him? Might have to convince him on that one…
Surely you guys would collaborate! You’re the only person on Must Make with him at the minute.
Yeah that’s true, who knows! Maybe something soon…
We’d all be keen to hear that collab I think. Did he push you creatively on this EP?
To be fair he took a bit of a back seat. He let me have freedom and really do what I wanted, which was really cool. There was a bit of back and forth with All Crew though – he didn’t want to put it out. It’s changed quite a bit now, if you go to the second drop on the second 64th, there’s a warped mid-bass, it’s a bit warmer and more jungley – and that was throughout the whole tune. He wasn’t sure about it, and so we worked together to get it out of there.
But that was pretty much it – he helped in bits, but I had a lot of freedom.
How did the rest of the EP come together?
It was all sort of the process of flicking tunes together until something sticks. A lot of different versions and updates. I also wanted to make a point of telling a story or feeling, using samples or quotes that I resonate with. There’s a few in there from my biggest inspirations, have a listen out and see if you can spot them…
‘If Only’ was written at my parent’s house – it was one of those tunes that just poured out. I’d wanted to make a grunty jungle tune like that for ages and it came together so quickly. I put an MF Doom sample in there too – which talks about trying to sell music as a product, rather than selling music as music, doing it for the wrong reasons.
Are you a bit of a hip-hop head as well?
It’s definitely my biggest influence, but you can’t really hear it. Which is weird, I would’ve thought it would shine through, but the only way it does is when I physically try to sample it.
I mean, using breaks… that’s very hip-hop.
Yeah, I suppose you’re right. Haven’t used the Funky Drummer yet though…
So many D&B heads come from hip hop.
Definitely. I cannot get enough of MF Doom at the moment – I only discovered him around two or three years ago, I was so late to the cause. I remember being told to listen to Madvillainy so many times and I was just like “yeah, whatever”. Then I finally did it, and it’s now one of those albums where I can listen from start to finish – and even on the weird little skits in between, I still know which is the end of a track and the start of a new one.
I’m now trying to collect some similar samples to what he was using, like old cartoons and stuff.
Sick – I like the sound of those ingredients.
Ok, last question, what’s lined up for 2023?
I’ve got another four-tracker in the works. I’ve also done an official remix which should be out this year.
In terms of shows, I’ve got a few round Bristol and another down in Brighton coming up.
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