Since emerging on the scene in 2012, Charlie Naffah, better known as Lazare Hoche, has rapidly risen to the vanguard of modern deep house. From the outside, Lazare’s story bears resemblance to the familiar tale of the underdog who got lucky. But speaking with the French artist, it immediately becomes clear why his rise has been exponential.
Projecting passion and ambition, drive is Lazare’s most apparent trait. “In the beginning I just went for it”, he says.“I saw a flyer in a record store saying: ‘Press 300 white label for 900€’, I was like ok. So I had two choices send my music to someone and wait for this guy to find interest in it enough to release it, or do it myself and having the total control of the process.”
Naturally, the determined 23 year old chose the latter. “I mean why wait? Who the hell is gonna open my mail anyway, I’m nobody and I know nobody. Let’s do this!” he explains. “So within a second I went from a guy with 2 rough demos to a label owner and producer. That has records out. It was ‘LH Edits’ and the other one was ‘I Don’t Sync So’.”
All of this happened in just 6 months. By embracing a ‘nothing to lose’ mindset and remaining uncompromisingly true to himself, Lazare had proven to a scene too often dismissed as ‘impossible to break into’ that if you truly want something, you can make it happen.
Now, in 2019, Lazare Hoche Records has grown into an 18 release catalogue of timeless house essentials. At the core of the label is a considered curation of artists who share the same sophisticated yet unpretentious aesthetic, notably Mandar, the trio Lazare formed alongside close friends Malin Génie and Samuel André Madsen. The Mandar boys also helm Oscillat Music, a label perhaps best known for last year’s anthem ‘String Theory’. When asked about the release, Lazare tells us that “String Theory is a love story from A to Z…It’s a Mandar effort at its best.” We could not agree more.
String Theory is emblematic of what Lazare does best: he creates music that has universal appeal without sacrificing integrity. This comes from his ability to pack an ostensibly simple groove with an emotionally loaded sound. His thoughtfully dialled productions contain a palpable meaningfulness that is often hard to come by in modern deep house. In a genre saturated with formulaic DJ tools, Lazare’s sound is refreshingly authentic. This is a natural upshot of always looking firmly forwards with his output.
“I never wanted my work to be ‘ok’; I want to come up with something novel, distinctive… I think my style did evolve over time, but the approach is still the same. Quality over quantity” Lazare says when describing his philosophy. “And being passionate and proud about the point of view I’m presenting. I have to be connected to it 100% or else it doesn’t work, so I can’t lie when I’m doing music; it’s me, it’s where my head’s at.”
Lazare’s ethos, although present across his entire discography, is epitomised by his latest outing. Releasing on the 18thof February, the Time Guard EP is the two-track materialisation of what Lazare describes as a “long puzzle”that began with music he was writing in 2015. The composition of both cuts is incredibly effective and calculated, each element serving a purpose and evoking a feeling. When describing the conceptual process behind the EP, Lazare tells us: “I wanted to do a record that was not only decent, I wanted to make something advanced, no matter how long would be the process. No matter where the trend will go over the years.” In this respect, he has succeeded. Like the rest of Lazare’s releases, Time Guard can expect to become a fixture in record bags for seasons to come.
Timelessness is a characteristic tantamount to Lazare’s sound. It may be reductive to dismiss this as typically French, but the ability to transcend trends remains an undeniable part of the Parisian aesthetic. “Paris is known for its Golden Age, somewhere between the 18th and 19th century, this particular period became ‘timeless’. This is the vision now I’m somehow tending to observe with my production, staying relevant but always grounded in my own ‘Golden Age’, re-inventing it, or else I can be bored very fast”, Lazare explains. One thing is clear: the Golden Age of Lazare Hoche is in full swing.
Lazare’s drive in the studio naturally extends to his hunger as a performer as well. Of course being both a DJ and a producer is very common, but succeeding at both to the extent of Lazare Hoche is very rare. Whether it be playing solo or alongside Malin Génie and S.A.M. in a deservingly hyped Mandar live set, Lazare’s infectious energy and dynamic style are in high demand by clubs and festivals across the globe.
For an artist with such a strong affection for embracing new challenges, it was only a matter of time before Lazare set his sights on Ibiza. The White Isle played a formative role in many artists’ development. For Lazare however, the relationship with the Island is not so one-directional. Having only played Ibiza for the last two years, Lazare is part of an exciting new era of change for the Island, injecting it with a fresh vibe. Lazare recounts “In 2017 the Sankeys Ibiza, with Unusual Suspect offered Mandar a summer residency, and from there we jumped to the Hï Ibiza adventure.”
“Being able to play Hï Ibiza Room 1 on Saturday night is the same as headlining an international festival: you have more than 5k people watching you, but you are in a club room, in the middle of the night” he says, excitement palpable.“That’s really what I love the most, piloting this room with the light shows, the production, the crowd; it’s a perfect combination of all the clubbing experience elements you can dream of. I sort of found home there.”
Finding home and fostering a connection with the places he plays is something Lazare values. With a busy touring schedule, it can be easy to fall victim to the business trip trap, where touring becomes a vague international blur of airports and hotel rooms. Yet despite his full passport, Lazare is always mindful of his surroundings and allows the places he visits to impact him beyond the clubbing experience.
When asked about his favourite places to play, Lazare tells us “I have a huge crush for Italy and Japan”. Speaking of Italy, he admires“how their city centers are well preserved from the globalization, even in some more intimate town like Bergamo or Modena, you can clearly see that shops are being preserved for generations and generations. And it’s very pleasant to see, that the transmission and the culture are not being standardised by the global chain brand; it’s not a political statement I’m making here, it’s very personal.”
Similarly of Japan he says:“Over there it’s more the humans that are inspiring me rather than the aesthetic. It’s not tangible, I’m still blown away by their gestures, the sort of precision they have, that comes from the Shintoisme, the respect of the object particularly. Basically the way Japanese are walking, carrying, living, crafting, it’s an endless source of inspiration and peace for me. The more I go there, the better my life is.”
The more he speaks about his experiences touring during our virtual conversation, it becomes clear that Lazare truly values the opportunities afforded by his career path. “Navigating the world as a performing artist is a blessing and I’m thankful every day for it.”
Lazare’s ability to sustain such productivity without losing any spark is admirable. He is an artist who is focused on his goals and aware of the balance needed to achieve them. “I’m finding peace in discipline, in routine, in patterns” he explains, describing the need to cultivate positive habits. Like many artists who take themselves seriously, he refrains from drinking and any substances and always makes time for physical activity at the boxing club.
For an artist always chasing the next adventure, it’s only natural we ask: what’s next? Unsurprisingly, Lazare has tall plans. Aside from the release of his Time Guard EP, and other productions in the pipeline, the coming months will see Lazare launch his residency and event brand ‘Access’. When describing the story behind Access, Lazare shares with us “Access was originally the name of my debut compilation that was released in 2015, it was the #1 selling compilation of the year. So when I wanted to label my party, the Access brand seemed to be natural choice, as it was already associated to the music I love and to the point of view I’m tending to defend.”
The first edition of Access will launch on May 7 before the bank holiday in Paris. “I’m about to realise a big fantasy with this residency. It’s one of the most exciting achievement of the year for me”. Lazare hopes to export the night abroad as well and has invested careful curation into the visual side of the project, as he wants to“express a whole universe around the party and the community following it”.
Aesthetic is something that carries a special importance to Lazare. With a strong interest in design, Lazare has increasingly curated a slick artistic image that complements his sound. For his latest creative venture, Lazare has collaborated with high-end menswear brand Capsul to design an exclusive line exploring “house music to vintage design : 1960’s to 1990’s”.
Hearing Lazare describe the significance of this collaboration is interesting. “When you think about hip-hop, you have a style popping up, when you think of rock and roll, you also have a whole style outfit movement in your mind. I always believed in the relationship between music and clothing, I mean how obvious is that? Are we willing to give the privilege to some big firm to standardize our electronic music movement style outfit or is it actually the moment to step up and to expose your own point of view as an actor of this movement?”.
Whatever metric you base it on, there is no denying that Lazare Hoche is flying high. At the age of 29, he has already had an impact on the scene that most could only hope to achieve in a lifetime. With an unwavering dedication to his passion Lazare Hoche is unstoppable.