Last year's Ancient Tones, released on Further, is a case in point. I had heard Aybee's music before. Yet I had never heard it in the same way as it had been presented here. Slower and with fewer beats than usual, it used many of the sound signatures that has typified his Ron Trent-esque deep house under the same moniker. Ancient Tones was something different altogether. Aybee agrees. "It was a pivotal release for me. There's different phases, though. First you're by yourself. Then you..."
society...and remake myself."
Well, actually, let's begin there. Because for a long while, Bazile was alone. A victim or survivor—depending on how you look at it—of the internet bubble in the early '00s on the West Coast of America. Living in Oakland, right outside of San Francisco, Bazile ran a nightlife website. "Like everyone, I was trying to get my company off the ground. The business model was changing every two weeks. It was stressful. It burned me out. The one thing I learned from it, though, is that I was an artist. It wasn't the money. I started as a graphic designer, and got into the web thing from there. It was the creation aspect that I really got off on. So when the bubble burst, and I looked at what I wanted to do with my life, I decided to pursue that artistic side."
And so began the rekindling of what had already been a fascination with music. Before he went the web route, Bazile had dabbled with the world of hip-hop. Along with his friends, he was "making stupid beats on Casio keyboards, loop stuff up on tapes, splice them." It was nothing serious at the time. But it left the important impression that music was well within reach. When Bazile began his nightlife website after college and was hanging out with DJs and producers from various scenes, it reinforced the idea. Drum & bass was hot. Om Records was big as well. Jonah Sharp from Spacetime Continuum was an important influence. So were Blaktroniks, a group that Bazile calls "pioneering" in the Bay Area. In a city that was still dominated by hip-hop, they were pushing broken beat, future jazz and all sorts of genres that seemed alien to American ears.
"People take things for granted when they live in London and other cosmopolitan places. In America we're very rigid in how we hear things because of how we receive things. If every kid in the hood thinks they need to make hip-hop, then it creates something very myopic." That was the last thing, of course, that Bazile wanted to create when he stepped into the studio after the website shut down. It takes a long time, however, to create something worth hearing when you have inspirations that are charting unknown territory.
"I didn't have a phone for eight months. People would come to the side of the house and knock on the window, because I was working on music. It was an interesting time; I was able to withdraw from society within society and rediscover and remake myself." Yet while the amount of time and effort that went into his earliest releases were undeniable, Bazile still felt unsure of himself. He would often give early tracks to DJ and producer friends under a variety of aliases, hoping to garner honest reactions through a bit of misdirection.
"It's trial-and-error. You know what you're trying to get, and you say, 'Well, that's not it.' You make a track, and then you play a Kerri Chandler and you know you're not close. You make stuff, and you listen to the guys that you respect and you can hear the closer you get." A big early supporter was one of the guys that Bazile was listening closest to: Ron Trent. Bowled over by his work with Anthony Nicholson as Urban Sound Gallery—"this stuff was deep with three d's and six e's"—you can hear the influence in Bazile's heavily atmospheric tunes. But it was Trent that got in touch. "A friend of mine sent him some tracks, and one day there was someone named Ron Trent trying to get on my e-mail list. I e-mailed him right back, I was like...'Yo, is this the Ron Trent?!'"
That Trent was signing up to a mailing list doesn't seem strange nowadays perhaps. In the early '00s, though, it was. As a former web guy, Bazile was among the first to use it to get his tunes in the hands of his friends and followers quickly and easily. Early work was simply given away. Today he maintains a bustling official website, SoundCloud page, Ustream channel and more. It's the independent hustle, something that growing up with a grandfather who ran a jazz label and an Uncle who ran a small disco imprint instilled in him at an early age.
For the foreseeable future the focus will simply be on Aybee. That, and myriad collaborations. Blak Punk Soundsystem, his group with Ron Trent, will return later this year on Future Vision with a 12-inch. An intriguing slew of names from the deep house (and otherwise) world also figure in to his 2011 plans as well, although no dates have been given for their release.
You can also expect another project with Further Recordings and a follow-up to 2009's East Oakland Space Program full-length. He also plans to DJ more, specifically with Jus-Ed. He met the Underground Quality head a few years ago, calling him yet another pivotal figure. "St. Edward. I can't sing his praises enough." Things, as always, are moving quickly for Bazile. He always has time for introspection, though. His career has been marked by it. It's something you hear in the music, of course. It's also something that he makes plain in conversation. Once the floodgates opened after my stumbling question, Bazile talked passionately about how he found himself in music over the past decade. I'm usually allergic to spiritual talk. But this perpetual student has a way of putting abstract concepts so matter-of-factly that you can't help but wonder if he isn't onto something.