Yusuf Azak is a talented Glasgow based singer songwriter, whose debut album was released on Edinburgh’s Song By Toad label last year, following some self released EPs. He got in touch with me about the follow-up EP, Prizefighter, four songs which showcase his enviable songcraft and a gorgeous vocal.
Yusuf shared a classic influence as his song of choice, and here’s why…
The Velvet Underground…The Velvet Underground & Nico
Now listen here folks, when I heard ‘Heroin’ by The Velvet Underground, I was at the tender age of 12, and I lost it. Completely f**kin lost it. Very naive about it’s lyrical content but I was still delighted at finding this band, and it was definitely a world apart from anything I had heard on The Chart Show. At the time I just considered the album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, generally as sixties music, but it took a few years to appreciate it’s experimental approach. I usually try to sneak it on at any social occasion, or at work, and it still props up on playlists in the house. I only avoid it when I’m hungover.
The songwriting itself can be very traditional but the drones and the ramshackle performance send it in another direction. I was really drawn in by the vocals and later on I began to appreciate the unpolished production, especially when I started doing my own recordings on tape machines. There’s obvious noise right from the start, and lots of warm distortion all over the record; instruments are out of time, and out of tune and nobody seemed to care. It has a real nihilistic element and it never seems unnatural; and I still find it very infectious.
I fell in love with The Velvet Underground when I was young too, because a boy I liked thought they were the shit. My favourite mix CD used to feature ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ and ‘Sunday Morning’, and a great live version of ‘I’m waiting for the Man’.
Here’s ‘Heroin’ with footage from Andy Warhol’s Symphony of Sound, you can also watch an incredible acoustic performance of it here.
I think you can hear their influence in Yusuf’s latest track ‘Immunity or Rescue’ and style as a musician generally, they shared a pared down emotive simplicity.
And you can download his Prizefighter EP for free via bandcamp! ‘Swim’ is an absolute stunner.