Syntax – The Musical
Early on in your rap career you were one third of Queensland mainstays Trace Elements – featuring hip-hop producer M-Phazes and also emcee Tactic One. Tell us a bit about how that crew came together?
Myself and Tactic One were friends in high school, and we met M-Phazes through a mutual friend called Lee who worked at a local record store. He had heard about myself and Tactic through the grapevine and wanted to know if we were interested in meeting his friend M-Phazes. Being new to the whole music thing we were totally interested, and Lee played us a cassette tape of Phaze’s called ‘The Original’. I remember listening to it thinking, “Holy Shit, this sounds like came straight off a premo mixtape or something”. Naturally we met him the next night in the carpark of Burleigh Heads McDonald’s. We ended up becoming really good friends, and over the years have lived together, toured the country back to front, and each have a lot of good memories about it all. We’re all still good friends.
The Musical is the title of your brand new debut LP and is the result of many hard yards spent touring and learning the craft. Did you spend that time getting everything just right for you debut?
Absolutely. I had another 10 or so tracks either written or laid down in draft form, and those didn’t make the cut. I wanted this to be perfect, after all, you only get one debut. I also remember reading a quote from Jay-Z regarding Reasonable Doubt; he said that your sophomore release will normally take you 6 months to make, but your debut takes 26 years. That really struck me as something really noteworthy; at that point you’re not shaped by or jaded by ‘the biz’, you’re just you, with 26 years of life experience behind you.
The Musical is 16 tracks deep and features some great beats provided by the likes of M-Phazes and SDub but it’s Mules whose beats account for around half of the tracks on The Musical. What was it about Mules that got you salivating at the mouth?
Actually the bulk of the album was relatively new in comparison to the original track listing for the Musical back in 2009. Over Christmas last year Mules banged out and remixed an exceptional amount of tracks for me, and the album really didn’t take shape until then. Again, he was somebody else I met through Lee, and I knew straight away he was different. I also love the fact that Mules just seems to ‘know’ an artist back to front; even though he did most of the production work for the LP, it doesn’t have a Choose Mics sound to it. All the beats were originals, not off beat tapes, and they were samples that he had put aside especially for the kind of album I was making. All in all there were another 5 or 6 Mules tracks that didn’t make the cut; they’re being used for other promotional releases, but it just goes to show the hard work he puts in.
Kam Moye (the artist formerly known as Supastition) features on the track ‘Onwards’. Obviously a great feature, tell us a little about the relationship you have with Kam?
Of course the boys and I met Supa through M-Phazes; Kam was putting together a release after leaving Freshchest records and we just began talking to him from there; he even blessed us with a verse for Tactic One’s LP and for the Trace Elements mixtape in 06. In 2007 he did a short tour with DJ Forge and Trace Elements supporting; naturally we clicked straight away and built on work from there. Initially I wanted to get Kam on some punchline bragadocious type tracks, but after I heard the beat from SDub I knew that Supa would have been perfect to bless it; at the time Kam told me it reminded him of some retrospective Dr Dre. Little known fact: initially I also approached Mareko about jumping on that track too, but due to his album work he pulled out of it.
You write quite frequently, not just music, and we’ve gotten a great laugh out of many of your blog posts. Is this a way of honing your craft or just something you enjoy doing when your not spitting fire?
Well my family are all politically minded and quite talented with the written word. To be honest, even though it doesn’t seem like something that is genetic, I don’t doubt for a second that there is some kind of genetic process that controls creativity; it runs in the family. My father is a prankster, and my mother likes to think she’s the greatest comedian on earth. To be honest though, my writing style really only evolved after I began to absorb huge amounts of British comedy and immerse myself in books like The Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy (genius series by the way, exceptionally well written). To be honest I was a writer before I was a musician, and if I had to choose one path I would take forever it would definitely be the written word. I mean, have you seen Salman Rushdie’s ex girlfriends? Boom son, boom!
You recently joined the SoulMate label, the home of 360 and Pez. Whats it been like finding that right label for you, artistically and personally?
I think from day one I always wanted to sign with Soulmate, purely because the label had been interested in what I did for a long time. I really loved that aspect; I’ve heard horror stories about the relationships that other artist’s have when signed to larger more established labels. I didn’t want to be one among many, I wanted to be able to pick up the phone and talk to the label director directly, have a beer with them, and discuss issues face to face. Actually I signed the contract over a meal at Nando’s, there’s probably Peri-Peri sauce on the original somewhere. To be honest, Soulmate was the first label that was interested after the LP was complete, I didn’t even bother looking around after the deal was on the table. Previously in 2008/2009 I had been approached by two labels, and I was sick of people seeing ‘potential’ but never acting upon it. Soulmate are a powerful force in the industry, small enough to avoid confusing administration, but packed with artists that command sales and respect.
Celebrated Sydney artist and hip-hop connoisseur Mark Drew did the artwork for the album and he has done an exceptional job. Are you a fan of Marks and how did you see his art relating to your album….we did pick up on the cool A side, B side theme that played out through the album?
I hadn’t been exposed to Mark Drew before I signed with the label. Chris at Soulmate had heard about Mark Drew through a series of art shows he had put on called C-90, which was a total throwback to early 90’s cassette tapes. We knew we wanted a 90’s feel to the art purely because of the production that was on the album; it sounded clean, yet gritty. Mark’s artwork just fit the bill perfectly, especially, as you mentioned, the ‘Side A’ and ‘Side B’ aspect. At first the cover wasn’t what I was expecting, but the more I looked at it I realised it was on some 90’s mean muggin type shit. It was perfect.
The film clip has just dropped for the banging track Fact Not Fiction. The beat by Mules is a killer and the clip was filmed in a library. We hear you hooked up with Heata and Discourse of Crate Cartel for the filming of the clip?
I remember watching that Crate Cartel video (Memories – Geko & Fluent Form) and flipping out; the track was amazing and the video complimented it perfectly. Heata & Discourse (Full Clip) are a perfect pairing, Heata has an exceptional amount of experience filming in the industry, and Discourse has the audio and video editing thing on lock. The shoot was no more than a day and the fact they were hip hop dudes themselves made the experience extremely worthwhile. In regards to the track, I was actually surprised how it came out; initially I recorded it over a different beat. It was originally recorded over a retrospective Hi Tek beat and Mules came and remixed it. I wasn’t expecting the track to be as upbeat as it was, especially considering the lyrics, but after listening to it more and more I realised that Mules knew exactly what he was doing.
What do you hope to achieve from this release, do you have any plans on looking abroad in the future?
To look at The Musical as anything more than a building block is pie in the sky type stuff. It’s like a calculated game of chess, you spend time moving the pieces into position, and then bam, checkmate. I’ve already started working on the follow up, it’s a collaborative project with a producer from Brisbane called Cam Bluff (The Optimen, The Tongue, Spit Syndicate), and I’m excessively excited about it. His production reminds me of a mixture of so many amazing musical influences; I can hear Dr Dre in there, Buckwild, lots of Dilla, it’s just the music I’ve been dying to make for years.
Album launch, any details on that or upcoming tours?
I’m currently touring with my good friends Choose Mics on their “Beggars can’t be touring”…err…tour. I love being on the road with them, and have been doing so since 06. If I had my way I would make sure we did every show together. If you’re in Melbourne or Adelaide on September 17 and 18, the whole gang will be back together under the same roof (Myself, Choose Mics and M-Phazes), and I can’t wait. You can peep the show updates from the Soulmate Records blog at http://www.soulmaterecords.com
Make sure you grab your FREE download of Fact Not Fiction taken from Syntax – The Muscial, right here.
Syntax-Fact Not Fiction