Following Rashid Ajami’s ecstatic debut with the A-side on our latest Tales of Romance project, we’re thrilled to have him back in full as we kick off the summer months. Through work with the likes of Maya Jane Coles and Atjazz, the Londoner has built a sterling reputation with releases on Get Physical, Einmusika, Anjunadeep, and Tale & Tone. For his inaugural EP with the TOR imprint – Never Knew – he continues to purvey his exquisite brand of deep house.
Kicking off the project is the EP’s namesake – Never Knew. A classically linear drumline sets the foundation, allowing the vocals and piano work to capture the spotlight. A powerful performance on the mic, offering words of longing, showcases Ajami’s ability to steal the soul.
Chasing Ghosts elevates the energy with a sturdy house backbone. The timeless character oozes as playful synths and a revolving bassline enlist the need for a two-step. Rashid lets his production prowess do the talking here, allowing the instrumental arrangement to stir us into a deep groove.
The closer, Still Think About You, rests effortlessly at the centerpoint of its predecessors. Synthetic tones welcome a darker edge, with vivid swoops and fluttering melodies riding the punchy kicks. The ripped out vocal chops remain the distance, allowing personal interpretation, while lush builds create dance floor moments a-plenty.
To celebrate the release, we caught up with Rashid Ajami to touch base on his surging start to 2021, the journey thus far, and how his Never Knew project came together.
WWD – Rashid, so happy to have you joining the label family mate! We love how the EP came together. It feels like a full representation of your sound at the moment. How would you describe that sound?
Rashid Ajami – Absolutely, I’m super excited for this EP as it’s representing a spectrum of the sounds that I love to produce at the moment. It’s sometimes hard to describe my own music, but I aim to make compositions that are heartfelt, emotional and sexy all at the same time. I’m looking to create journeys that have a mood and a story to them. I really want each track to have a deeper meaning and leave a strong imprint on the listener. Some people use the word “nostalgic” to describe the vibe of my music. I like this description! 🙂
WWD – You have a knack for harnessing incredible vocal performances. Whats your process for writing and producing vocal tracks?
Rashid Ajami – Typically, as an instrumental is starting to develop in the studio, I often feel a certain emotion in the music and there is an urge to add a vocal. I will start to sing a few lines and improvise over the track until I find a hook and verse that feels right. It usually happens pretty quickly in a moment of flow. As soon as it feels right, I send the reference to one of my vocalists. Over the years, I’ve honed in on a few vocalists who can take my ideas and really deliver them in the way that I envision. I find that with vocals, it has to unfold naturally and without overthinking the process. I’m lucky to have a few artists that understand what I’m going for without having to overexplain.
WWD – What are the essential tools you utilize in the studio? Are there specific machines or effects that let the Ajami sound cut through?
Rashid Ajami – I’m all about a “less is more” approach these days. A stand-out plug-in for me is Omnisphere by Spectrasonics as it has a vast library of sounds. This is definitely my go to plug-in. I put my energy in the composition, story and feeling of the tracks as I feel this is where the sound is truly defined.
WWD – You’ve had an incredible couple of months, with an EP coming last month on Tale & Tone. Have you found a new source of inspiration – a reinvention or sorts perhaps?
Rashid Ajami – My decision to come back to music full time has sparked new energy and excitement. I’m really grateful to be doing something I love and it’s only fueling me to push my creative boundaries.
WWD – What role has London, and the UK scene overall, played in your journey thus far?
Rashid Ajami – London is a city that inspires me in general. I feel it has a soul and I’ve definitely made my best music here. The scene overall is amazing and there are always great music events, from well-known names to upcoming artists. The scene here has a strong energy! Beyond this, the art scene overall in London is eclectic and vibrant. There is creativity happening across the city all the time.
WWD – You’ve worked with some of the most important names in dance music, such as Maya Jane Coles and Atjazz. How did you first connect with such titans of the scene?
Rashid Ajami – In this industry, it’s about patience and consistency. As I slowly gained momentum with my career, I had the opportunity to connect with some established artists, and I’ve always been open to collaboration. Often, it doesn’t work out, but when it does, you can create something truly electric. I was lucky that Maya Jane Coles and Atjazz enjoyed the original music and were up for remixing!
WWD – How have you been passing the time over the last year, given the crazy days we’re living in? Any silver linings you’ve taken out of the pandemic?
Rashid Ajami – I love moments of quiet and less social activity. I spend a lot of time meditating and I enjoy my own company. I really found the last year useful to create and feel inspired. For me, there was a lot of positive energy even while things may have been a bit chaotic in the world. I looked for stillness behind the chaos and this was really helpful.
WWD – How do you foresee the dance industry changing in the long term due to Covid?
Rashid Ajami – It’s hard to say, but I definitely think people are looking for more outlets to express their music. NFTs are a great example of new mediums that allow artists to create and present their work. Personally, the more avenues and mechanisms for distributing music whether performances, artwork or actual songs, the better! That being said, who knows what the future will hold!
WWD – Whats on the books for this summer? Any exciting shows or projects we should know about?
Rashid Ajami – I’m definitely planning a few live shows, and an exciting NFT drop as well as some immersive art and a new livestream concept. I’ve also recently launched my new radio show Reveal. Exciting times for sure and I’m feeling ready for a new era.
WWD – Rashid, thanks again for joining us. Thrilled to see Never Knew out there, and can’t wait to hear it on a dancefloor sometime soon 🙂
Rashid Ajami – Never Knew [TOR017]
Stream & Buy – https://xyzlabel.lnk.to/NeverKnew