Damian Lazarus and the Dive Through Darkness ‘Into The Sun’
Be the first to hear Damian Lazarus brand new track!
Be the first to hear Damian Lazarus brand new track!
Text: Graham Berry
“Hey! How you doin’, mate?” He asked.
It was the end of a long day. As he pulled up a chair and scratched the scruff on his face, few probably would have realized the man sitting down at the table easily ranked among the upper echelons of truly great music producers in the world. Beloved by many, Damian Lazarus is as enigmatic as he is impossible to put in a box. When he organizes events of his own, like Day Zero which takes place in the jungles of Tulum or Get Lost in the concrete grit of New York City, his curatorial leadership stands on par with the most distinguished perfectionists in the party business too.
“Are you ready?” He was deep in the central Italian countryside, high on the Tuscany mountains in a proud farmhouse surrounded by sprawling vineyards, lush orchards, and a crisp utopian garden. Once a church in the 13th century, it’s here that the mythic dance music pioneer holed up at the onset of the international travel ban during the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. With his girlfriend, two children, goats, donkeys, chickens, ducks, cats and dogs, and one quirky old owl in a tree, Lazarus was uncomfortable in his patch of once hallowed paradise, despite spending a lot of time and energy converting and modernizing it. For a man accustomed to performing 150 shows a year at some of the most exotic and lavish travel destinations on the planet, suddenly staying at home (at least initially) was a source of restlessness. He started to unpack the tenacity and fervor he used to push through the whirlwind of emotions.
“I've always been a bit of a workaholic to be honest, so it [the pandemic] hasn't been like a shock to the system as such.” Lazarus told V. “I've just gone in head-first non-stop running.”
Caught in the throes of his own metamorphosis, he cocooned himself in the studio in February and reveled in the shadows and aches that would eventually unfurl into Flourish, his first full-length solo record in more than a decade. His prior solo album, Smoke The Monsters Out, came out back in 2009.
The new album is slated for release September 18th on his own powerhouse label Crosstown Rebels, where Lazarus broke colossal icons like Seth Troxler and Jamie Jones when they were in the infancy of their careers. The record will also be released on Diplo’s Higher Ground label in North, South, and Central America. For those who just can’t wait to hear it, V secured an exclusive early listen of the newest track ‘Into the Sun’.
The song features a majestic cadence of strumming harps, more than a few clean breaks, and a drum with the gravity of the Summer tides. Track vocals were delivered by East London-based virtuoso Jem Cooke, who collaborates with the likes of Hot Since 82, Jamie Jones, Kate Simko, and Camelphat - just to name a few. She was also recognized as a Secret Genius songwriter by Spotify.
“The story behind this collaboration began a few years ago, when I was being led in some amazing meditation by a beautiful shaman lady in London.” Cooke began. “Out of the depths of my zen state, a voice told me very specifically I needed to write with Damian Lazarus. I didn’t act on it in real life as I wasn’t sure how to start, then at the beginning of 2020 Damian reached out to ask me to collaborate with him. It all felt very cosmically aligned.”
When the phone rang Cooke was in the hospital.
Damian remembered it vividly. “She said ‘Look, I’m literally about to give birth to my first child, but the fact that you’ve called me and the fact that I had this crazy experience tells me we need to do this. When do you need it?’”
They piled into a studio almost immediately.
“The minute I heard the music I was covered in goosebumps and the song just tumbled out of me.” Cooke smiled. “Needless to say, it’s a very special record for me and I’m feeling happy and excited to get this one out there.”
Cooke’s vocals were recorded and added to the track in less than three days.
Fitting, the star qualities of Cooke’s studio presence fresh with the glow of creation were key to the collaboration that became a source of spiritual therapy and soul renewal for them both.
In fact, for Lazarus, Cooke’s premonition of their fated alliance inspired him to use the time off the road for a little overdue self-care. It was timely too because the weight of world affairs was bleaker than ever.
“The world in my opinion is in a really critical moment,” Damian reflected on his moments slaying his own demons in the studio. “I think climate change is huge, police brutality, systemic racism, lack of decent global leadership anywhere in the world. I was just seeing dark clouds ahead and I was feeling really down and a bit miserable. I went to this medical center and had this full-body in-and-out checkup, and fortunately, everything seems to be okay, but while I was there I was talking with people who were suffering from major illnesses and I got to thinking about my place in the world and where are we going next and what’s gonna happen and is the place I want to raise my children up into? It was a dark wonder.”
Lazarus’ demons tormented him. Eventually, he learned to exorcise them in the studio and the end result combined the heavy grip of his emotions with his longing for the watercolor sunsets and secret beaches of yesteryear.
“As I was moving through it I was starting to feel better,” Lazarus said of the upcoming album, Flourish. “I started putting these songs together thinking they were meant to be really dark pieces of music and I started to see they’re actually quite optimistic. And they actually felt a lot more positive than I set out for them to be.”
When he included the medicine of music production with his other self-care regimen, like taking long walks in the Tuscany countryside and eating healthy at home, Lazarus’ heart lightened as he found redemption in the studio. Having made peace with the improbability of playing 150 shows this year, Lazarus poured the cyclone of conflicting passions he was experiencing into the album. In doing so, he managed to free himself from his own sadness. To fans, Flourish will be the diary that catalogs that journey. For those that listen closely, “Into the Sun” will similarly mark Lazarus’ spirited passage back into the proverbial light. Like the famed story of his biblical namesake, it’s the record of his rebirth. It’s also the reason he was able to return to his family brand new.
Now he stays busy with frequent live-streamed performances while adhering to social distancing protocols. He also is finding little comforts in working with his hands in the garden and around the farmhouse. Today, he treasures home-cooked meals, sunsets with his family, and all the animals in his mountaintop parcel of paradise - even the quirky old owl in the tree.
We winded down our chat, with time for one more question.
“The first thing I want to do after lockdown?” He leaned back in his chair and softly laughed. He scratched the scruff on his face again, this time with a glimmer of nostalgia in his eye.
“Probably, extend it.”