South African producers Xander Ferreira and Nick Matthews are the masterminds behind an avant-garde dance music they’ve coined Limpop. Back when they recorded and performed together as Gazelle, the duo dropped two stellar releases and set out on an ambitious “Kalahari Safari” tour of Europe. The band has since broken apart, with Ferreira (under the solo moniker Gazelle) now based in NYC while Matthews focuses on his DJ Invizable project in Cape Town. Nonetheless, the longtime production/performance partners came through last week with surprise material and news that this month they’re unveiling a brand new full-length, Gazelle & DJ Invizable’s four year undertaking The Rise & Fall Of An Empire. A departure from their previous electro-leaning sounds, “Visions” was the first taste to come from the eleven-track concept album, which will be accompanied by an entire “scene audio visual story” (featured in the gallery above). In an Okayafrica exclusive, Gazelle (Xander Ferreira) sheds light on The Rise & Fall Of An Empire. Read on for our full Q&A and watch the first five videos from the project below.
Okayafrica: For those who might not know, who is DJ Invizable?
Gazelle: DJ Invizable aka Nick Matthews was my production and performance partner and the other half of the journey of Gazelle & Invizable. From the house scene in the early 2000’s he made a name for himself in the dance clubs of Cape Town, South Africa.
OKA: When and where did you start working on the album together?
Gazelle: After our first album Chic Afrique and remix album The Revolution Will Be Remixed that came about from collaborating with artists touring around Europe we wanted to create a ‘grand live show.’ After a show in Paris I was approached by one of the directors of the National Theater of Germany in Mannheim that came to meet after reading a project I published named The Status of Greatness on the strategy of social political behavior. He asked if we could create a stage show for Schiller Tage Theater Festival that revolves around the philosophical theories of Friedrich Schiller. This set us on a journey to create a project that took place over 4 years traveling around South Africa compiling an ‘African Orchestra’ to create a stage show and the music for The Rise & The Fall of an Empire.
OKA: What were your original plans for releasing R&FOAE?
Gazelle: We planned to put it out with a label of some kind, somewhere but in the end after years of creating and the obstacles of finishing it we broke apart the band before we could ever set out to perform it. After it being mastered and on ice since 2012 we decided to just share this creation, story and commentary open to all to experience without ever selling it.
Why did you decide to start uploading the album? How did your experience with the music industry play into your decision to make the album free to download on soundcloud?
Gazelle: Having the fortunate success to perform in over 15 countries and multiple chart topping songs and never really making much money from sales or licensing we decided the message in the project was too dear and important to us to have to try and make a few bucks from.
OKA: What is the message behind the album?
It is an exploration into the infinite ongoing cycle of life through its various phases, wether it be a society, an individual, empire or organism. Through life and death, fulfillment and rebirth. The innate structure that life itself revisits in every cycle metaphorically visualized and experienced through song and visual. Where it begins it ends and repeats.
OKA: “Visions” sounds like a slight departure from your Gazelle songs. Are there new influences on this project?
Gazelle: It is rather a slight evolution from the first album we made together, Chic Afrique, where we really delved into a much larger production with multiple live instrumentation and mixing this organic traditional African sound with classical instruments such as electric guitar and more contemporary electronic synths and beats. So you can say for the first time we had some cash or connections for a big fancy studio where we could record and mix. The Red Bull Studio in Cape Town gave us a head start on the journey to do various of the primary recordings there.
OKA: You mention these are visual, as well as musical, performances. What will the visual aspect of the project consist of? Can you expand on the hand-drawings in the “Visions” video? Will the rest of the album’s visual output be similar?
Gazelle: Whilst on tour in Vienna we crossed paths with two amazing creators, Constantin Demner and Sarah Littasy from Studio Elastik with whom we set off on a 3 year whirlwind relationship around the globe. They committed to creating a visual interpretation of the album that would become the most incredible art piece that was created out of illustration and built into a 3d object with paper. Various friends like Gregor Lehrl from Affine Records helped to film and edit this artwork into an experience with which we release the songs. This artwork is 11 individual album covers or sets that together create a panorama to tell the story. During the course of the next weeks we release 2 songs per week which in the end creates this 11 scene performance.
OKA: What else has Gazelle been up to these days? Any projects we should look out for?
Gazelle: Ive been based in New York the past couple of years writing and producing the first album under my own name as Xander Ferreira. Its been a real growing experience with the greatest team and band that consists of Steve Williams on drums that played for the likes of De La Soul, Sade and Digable Planets and Paul Frazier on Bass, that played with names such as Michael Jackson, David Byrne and Digable Planets. We just started rehearsing to be prepared to perform the new material around the US in the upcoming months. Whilst this hiatus from performing I also teamed up with British troubadour Findlay Brown to create a DJ collective and party named The Happy Show which focusses on African music from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. During a Happy Show in Mexico City we spent some time in studio recording and producing a new psychedelic project called The Masquerades from which we are releasing some songs in the weeks to come. Look out for the full album, which will be available for free download on soundcloud, later this month.
Look out for ‘The Rise & Fall Of An Empire’ in full later this month. For now, watch the first five tracks below.
Track 1 – “Visions”
Track 2 – “The Path” ft. Season Marimba Stars from Gugulethu
Track 3 – “New Beginnings”
Track 4 – “Rise of the Emperor”
Track 5 – “In Need Of A Leader”