Vallier meets: Michael Haze

Vallier meets: Michael Haze

Introduced to gospel music, violin, piano, and saxophone at a very early age, Michael Haze now seamlessly juggles different universes. His music, inspired by a childhood spent between Paris and different African countries, offers a captivating sound that mixes R&B with indie rock. 

Now living in Montreal, Michael took the time to talk with Vallier about his outlook on society, how Quebec’s metropolis helped him discover fashion, and his latest album, Venus.

  • Vallier meets: Michael Haze
  • Vallier meets: Michael Haze

A closer look at society

What are your social concerns, and how do you address them?

Social media scares me a bit. We become passive citizens on social media. My younger sister is 16 years old, and at that age, it’s quite toxic to spend so much time online. It worries me.

I talk about it often with my friends. I analyze it and try to see how it affects me. Social media influences how we interact with others, which is especially true for young people. Since 2012, the suicide rate in the United States has doubled. Social media is not the only cause, but it’s something that definitely disturbs young people. It’s worrying, and I think it needs to be discussed more. For me, it’s important to talk about it with those close to me, and I do so through my music. 

On a personal level, I try to keep a routine, a certain structure: I don’t have Tik Tok, Twitter, or Snapchat. I’m only on Instagram. I really enjoy the platform, but I don’t want to spend 4 hours of my day on it.

  • Vallier meets: Michael Haze

You travelled a lot with your mother when you were younger. Today, you travel often between Montreal and Los Angeles. What do you love most about these two big cities and how do they inspire you?

I love Montreal, it’s my favourite city. The vibe is different here. Los Angeles, for me, is more of an essential passage for my career. It’s a place where everyone can reach new heights. All the people you meet in Los Angeles will tell you that they’re the next star of LA, no matter what they do. So I wanted to also put myself in this position, of believing in myself and in my music. At first, I didn’t know if everything would work out, that’s why I decided to go to Los Angeles. It was a necessary step in my journey.

Now, I’m in Montreal, and life is good. It’s not always easy. For two or three months, I wasn’t working, I wanted to take a step back to see if I could make a living from my music, meet new people and develop my network of contacts to get everything running smoothly. 

  • Vallier meets: Michael Haze

You just released your new album Venus. What does this album represent for you? What message did you want to communicate with it?

I made this album with a friend, whose name is also Michael. We didn’t really have any specific messages to pass along with this album. Before, all I wanted was to transmit a political message, or something deeper than the music I was making. With Venus, named after the goddess of love and fertility in Roman mythology, I took a step back and decided to capture the moments, the special emotions, the feelings. 

Every day, we tried to capture different emotions, and I believe we succeeded. I want to create soundscapes, and bring people to new places through an adventure. And this is what we accomplished with Venus. We really wanted to share new sounds with our listeners.

This album is my way of proving myself as an artist, but also as a producer. Venus is a taste of what’s to come. It’s the link between the album Mickey (the last name my mother gave me) and the project that I’m currently working on.

With Mickey, I definitely emphasized the lyrics, whereas with Venus, I’m establishing myself as a producer. This is the preamble to the upcoming album

  • Vallier meets: Michael Haze

A closer look at fashion

When it comes to clothing, who is your all-time fashion idol? 

Before arriving in Montreal, fashion didn’t interest me at all. There are so many styles here, from emo-punk to Westmount-preppy. The people around me use fashion as a form of expression, like a vehicle to communicate a message.

In terms of fashion, Montreal sparked something new in me. Now, I’m fascinated by high fashion: Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Raf Simons - these are brands I’m loving at the moment. My taste in fashion is also really influenced by rap music. All the rappers are loving Raf Simons right now.

As an artist, my look is important. It’s something that I’m studying now, and I’m trying to pass along messages through the way that I dress. I find inspiration all around me.

How would you describe your style?

I would say preppy-baggy.

My father always wanted me to be dressed up, in a very formal way. I also attended a private school where I wore a school uniform. 

Up until university, I didn’t have my own personal style. Now, I’m exploring it more and more. I even want to start wearing crop tops.

So I’d say my style is preppy-baggy, but I’m still trying to define it.

What is your must-have piece from the Vallier collection?

The Dutton bag. I bring it with me every day to the studio. It’s kind of oversized, but it works. Everyone loves it! I also really like the Mercier crewneck and the Toolo parka.

  • Vallier meets: Michael Haze
  • Vallier meets: Michael Haze

A closer look at the person

Who is your greatest influence?

On the professional side of things, I would say Frank Ocean. I love his vibe. His music is simply perfect. On a more personal side, I would definitely say my mom, especially looking back at the way she raised me.

I’m looking for a mentor at the moment. So I don’t really know how to respond right now, but my answer will no doubt be different in the future. I’m my own biggest influence at the moment, I’d say. I’m my own critic too.

The person I am today has been influenced by my environment, the way I grew up, and the travels I did when I was younger.

I was born in Washington, then passed through Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Kenya, and Paris. Travelling when you’re young fundamentally changes the way you see the world. I still travel often today, and even with my dog, it never stresses me out. It’s become almost second nature to me.

  • Vallier meets: Michael Haze

There is something mysterious about the world of music, every artist has their own way of creating. How do you find the inspiration for melodies or lyrics? How do you get the inspiration to create your songs? 

That’s a good question, but I don’t really have a definite answer. Two or three years ago, everything I did was based on my own experiences. With time, I told myself I had to do better, so I worked really hard to evolve myself with many creative exercises.

Whenever I’m lacking inspiration, I watch movies, and that helps me. Doing freestyle also helps me to get better at writing. It’s just like playing a sport: you have to practice in order to improve.  

How did you get started in the music business at Bonsound? 

I knew Vallier and Simon (project manager at Vallier) from Instagram. We exchanged contacts, and I also read the editorial piece on Milk & Bone.

I discovered the music of Milk & Bone on a Netflix series that I really enjoyed. I wanted to know where they were from, then found out they were in Montreal and working with Bonsound. Later on, I sent a demo to Bonsound, and Vince Carter contacted me to meet and sign with them. The process was very quick: from discovering Milk & Bone, to sending my demo to Bonsound, then finally meeting with them. I signed to Make It Rain, which is a part of Bonsound. And here I am today!