Andy Dragazis

[Blue States]

Most of the times I remember myself discovering music through the films I used to see, which is the way things usually go. In the case of Blue States however, back in 2002, the course was reversed. After a mysterious virus destroyed the UK, a group of survivors tries to deal with the aftermath and bring life back to its normal flow: the film "28 days Later" apart from a magnificent script, also had a wonderful soundtrack. Music from the likes of John Murphy, Brian Eno and Granddaddy co-exist with the emblematic "Season Song" from Blue State's album, "Man Mountain". "Season Song" defined the film musically as well as us listeners, who were literally glued to the track and the musical style of Andy Dragazis, the man behind the project. Two years later followed "The Soundings", one of the Brit's truly wonderful records, with the track "Across the Wire" taking the lead from "Season Song" and becoming a favourite in Greek radios at the time.

And for good reason, as these two Blue State's albums spread effortlessly from cinematic pop to orchestral music, with a sound that ranges from euphoric to melancholy vibes. The sound of Ennio Morricone and St. Etienne surely comes to the mind of every listener, although Andy's special aesthetic quality predominates in the end. The story of this important artist continued with "First Steps Into..." of 2007 and the fairly recent "Restless Spheres" of 2016, being noticeably more hip hop and downtempo oriented and without divergence from the musical grounds that were put almost 16 years ago. Today, as he claims in his interview, in his new album as Andy Dragazis, "Afterimages", the way he perceives things musically has not changed but it seems he would like to leave the Blue States aside for a while. The album is out in December 6th and marks his effort to shed light into his ambient - orchestral side as a music composer. Based on electronic sounds and with the addition of a string quartet, one following the other at the forefront, the feelings that his new work creates, are truly captivating.

The Basement had the opportunity to have a listen to "Afterimages" earlier on and the words "experiments in creating feelings" could not have described it better. The experiment is bound to work, since the listener feels like he is inside an infinitely dark space, his only hope being a beam of photons running up against him. The first single prefacing the album, "For The Learner", is a "sadly optimistic" song, like the entire album. Andy is indeed a maestro led by his own experiment. It is also a kind of liberation, being able to be a part of the experiment and not an outside viewer. And this is precisely when glorious songs, such as "Wavelet", are born. In its 3 and a half minutes, after striping us naked from all sorts of feeling with its strings continuously rising in volume, it will create elaborate waves of light that along with heartbeats, will beam in every direction. "Afterimages" is an album in which minimalism meets meditation in a room with strings and the absence of noise. A great album, filled with delicate beauty, light and feelings, created in a very spontaneous way. 

Behold our chat with Andy...

For The Learner, off "Afterimages" LP (out 6/12/19) 


The Basement: Hello Andy! Thank you for this opportunity to talk with you. It's been 3 years since your last album “Restless Spheres” as Blue States. So, where have you been?
Living in London, working on other musical projects and being a Dad. Basically in a studio, making music - pretty much where I have been for the past twenty five years.

The Basement: Let's get things from the beginning. Tell us about your childhood and how you got into music.
Music never started off as something I felt I was going to pursue in life, it sort of crept up on me. As a kid I learnt guitar and piano but I didn’t enjoy some of the lessons so I asked my guitar teacher if we could stop playing classical guitar and play Beatles & Stones songs from my Dad’s song books. He agreed and my interest in playing other music increased.

I played guitar in bands at school and college and began to write music. It was only when I purchased an Akai sampler that my musical horizons widened slightly and I began to mix my guitar playing with drums and strings, whatever I could sample from records. This took me on a path of discovery and I began to learn about sequencers and synthesizers and started to build up a small studio.

The Basement: Why you picked up “Blue States” as a name? Is there a symbolism or something?
Blue States actually started as a band with two or three housemates at University and the name was chosen as we were basically watching two films on a loop, ‘Betty Blue’ and ‘Altered States’. I’m not even sure if I came up with it but it stuck and after University I continued to record on my own as Blue States.

The Basement: On December 6th you're entering a new territory of your music career. Your first solo album “Afterimages”, an orchestral one with a lot of strings and electronics. Tell us more about the idea of making it.
I wanted to make a different album to Blue States, an ambient orchestral album of sorts that was very slow moving and visual. I wanted to use a backdrop of electronic sounds and drones but have a core of a string quartet in the foreground and have these two elements constantly overlap and dovetail. I wasn’t sure what it was going to sound like but I knew I didn’t want it to be a Blue States album, so I decided to release it under my name. I’m also releasing it on my own label ‘Lightwell Recordings’, which is the first for me too.

The Basement: You gave us the opportunity to have a pre-listen of your new LP and I can surely say that I got goosebumps from the start till the end, it's really moving and a piece of art. What is your purpose through it, what you wanted to create?
Afterimages is inspired by the idea of phosphenes, the name given to our perception of light and shapes when we close our eyes. I remember as a child imagining photographing these shapes and lights - Afterimages is a sort of soundtrack to these. The idea of an outline of a picture slowly disappearing of changing once the light has disappeared.

The Basement: Is there a real quartet playing into your songs? Who are the musicians you cooperated with? Did you make all the production? Tell us more about the process.
Yes, there is a string quartet throughout the album. I spent a long time working on the backdrop to the record, the drones and electronic elements but I decided to ground the album with live strings, to give it a fragile and emotive quality. I have worked with the quartet before on a few projects and we recorded the strings for all the album in two days at my studio in London. I recorded and produced the album myself - which is pretty much how I have worked on every album.

The Basement: As long as I remember your sound, you've always been engendering feelings, most of the times blue ones. Is that an OST creating an effect of artists like you?
Because I started out making instrumental music and have returned to it with Afterimages I’m always conscious of my music being able to create imagery and to be fairly widescreen in its scope. Lyrics go a long way to paint the mood and emotion of a track but you almost have to work harder with instrumental music to affect the listener. Someone once described my music as melancholically optimistic, which I think is a pretty good way of looking at it.

The Basement: What are your influences as a little kid or a teenager?
My influences were a little all over the place as a kid. As I mentioned I was influenced by my Dad’s love The Beatles and Stones but also The Shadows. In my teenage years I started listening to bands like The Cure but at the same time listening being obsessed with "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" by The Carpenters. One of my earliest musical memories though is listening to the Rick Wakeman’s "Journey to The Centre of The Earth" LP. I must have been seven or eight but I spent hours listening to it and looking at the gatefold LP artwork, half enjoying and half being a bit scared.

The Basement: In Blue States we've also been listening to a lot of strings but guitars and percussion were added. Comparing your two projects, is there a change on the main idea or not? What do you think?
Blue States started out life as a bedroom sampling project and morphed into a band. "Nothing Changes" has a lot of samples where "Man Mountain" was mostly live instruments. When I decided to record an album under my name and not Blue States it freed me up to be able to do something slightly different with the sound and be able to experiment more. It doesn’t mean I’ve given up on Blue States and a more full sound, "Afterimages" just turned out to sound like this.

The Basement: Does your name has any Greek roots? “Dragazis” seems to be a greek surname.
Yes, it is a Greek surname, my father is Greek, but I was born in England. Greece has been a huge part of my life and an influence on my music over the years. I have family in Greece and I have DJ’d in Athens but I’ve never played live, which I’d love to do sometime. I often visit at Easter and in the summer, mostly to Evia.

The Basement: Have you ever thought of providing your music to the National Geographic? I think it will fit them pretty well.
No, I haven’t but I will check it out!

The Basement: What are your thoughts about the refugee issue and the Brexit?
Brexit is an issue that has far reaching consequences for the whole of the UK and the EU but I’m especially aware that it will have an adverse effect on the music industry, especially the small bands and artists with increased restrictions and cost of traveling. I wanted to remain two years ago and still do today, however I’m acutely aware that people have been left abandoned by this Government and that anger fueled the Leave vote. Increasing borders and restricting free movement of people in the EU will only create a greater refugee crisis and more people risking their lives to travel to the EU and the UK. Brexit was a decision that we should not have been asked to make, especially as we were told misinformation and lies.


The Basement: You should know that Greek radios love Blue States so much. What are your plans for the project? I read about new music in 2020, is that true?
Well, 2020 marks an anniversary for Blue States, so we’ll have to wait and see. I am working on some new music, I think there’s going to be another Blue States album sometime in the not too distant future If there is a new album I’d love to bring Blue States to play live in Greece in 2020.

The Basement: Make a wish.
Can I have two? I wish we could go back three years and abolish referendums and I wish the washing up was done.

Thank you so very much, it was a pleasure, Andy. Good luck with your new wonderful LP!

* Thanks to Kiki Silkoglou for the help.


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