Half-way through The Funkoars' set at The Basement in Sydney, the band suddenly announce that they are going to bring a "very special guest" on stage.
Their fans, who were already acting like a bunch of unhinged lunatics, start roaring like they've been freed from the asylum. Who could it be? Perhaps their label mate from Golden Era Records, Aboriginal hip-hop heavyweight Briggs? Maybe their label bosses, Australia's most popular hip-hop act, the Hilltop Hoods?
Instead, out steps morning TV and game show host Larry Emdur, sporting a 1000 kilowatt grin that threatens to swallow his ears. The crowd, who know The Funkoars' song "Larry Emdur" off by heart, go apeshit wild, chanting: "LA-RRY!!! LA-RRY!!! LA-RRY!!! LA-RRY!!!"
The fans are spilling onto the stage, but the venue's security detail are too busy laughing to do anything. Prolific producer and rapper Trials puts his arm around Emdur and the pair begin doling out a plate of dry Weet-Bix to fans. The fans try to cram as many as they can into their mouths before dry retching the lot up on the stage carpet, wheaty flakes spewing everywhere.
It's a little different from when Trials used to help his mum hand out Weet-Bix to the homeless as a teenager.
Pause. Rewind. So his mum was a social worker?
"Yeah, yeah," reminisces Trials, talking back home in Adelaide, just days after the Sydney gig. "She was for the majority of her life and my stepdad as well, which was great. I used to go there and pack shelves with them and give out all the Weet-Bixes and all that sort of stuff. To do those things, you know how real it can get."
Trials and the Funkoars hand out Weet-Bix with Larry Emdur in Sydney. Photo: www.snappatronik.squarespace.com
Trials, born Daniel Rankine, knows how real it can get. His biological father, a Ngarrindjeri man, was sent away when young Dan was only as high as his dad's knees - not an uncommon story in Indigenous families.
"My dad ended up doing a little bit of prison time for a while, as is customary in most families," says Trials. "That kind of kept up being a main thing, a constant theme in his life, unfortunately. So we don't have really much to do with each other at all."
But he has nothing but love for his stepdad.
"You can either strike out or you can get really lucky with a stepdad and I fucking scored," he says. "He's Black too, so it was really easy that I had someone that I could pick up and talk to me about the things that mattered."
The rapper's ancestors are from Raukkan, the Indigenous community at the end of the Murray River near Adelaide.
"It's beautiful," says Trials. "All along the Coorong there, that's pretty much our area, which is just gorgeous, if you ever come down here, it's just a beautiful sight, to be amongst the greenery."
It's a sight that instils avarice. In theory, the Act that established South Australia guaranteed the land rights of Aboriginal people. In practice, the colonists interpreted it as meaning they could take any land they reckoned Aboriginal people did not permanently occupy. In 1839, the "protector of Aborigines", William Wyatt, conveniently recorded that no sites were permanently occupied.
The Ngarrindjeri never stood a fighting chance. Most were wiped out by a smallpox epidemic that swept down the Murray after vials of the disease were deliberately brought by the First Fleet. The Ngarrindjeri recorded the epidemic in traditional songs, some of which were sung to try to ward off the disease. The songs find their modern-day equivalent in Indigenous hip-hop, which records and resists the ongoing genocide.
On Trials' left wrist, just up from the hand that sometimes holds his microphone, is a circular tattoo featuring the gold sun, Black skin and red earth of the Aboriginal flag. On the other wrist is a circular tattoo featuring another flag - a red dragon on a green field.
"My mum's Welsh," he explains. "I bounced to the UK when I was about three years old. I was deep in the heart of south Wales, which is right in the middle of the green, green hills.
"My parents split up around three and I went to the UK until I was about 11-ish. My mum saw fit to kind of take me back to the 'motherland', as it is. So that was an experience in itself, being the only kind of half-black kid in a school full of EXTREMELY white kids. It was constantly fighting, fisticuffs every single day, because you stood out the most from the pack and you were constantly reminded by everyone that this definitely wasn't your place to be at that time."
However, his mother made sure he kept a sense of place.
Trials' homeland, the mouth of the Murray River in South Australia. Photo: www.thedirtsa.com.au
"I got a pretty lefty upbringing," he says. "She was always really, really, really set on keeping me in touch with my roots and where I was from and the other side, as opposed to the white side, which I was really living in. She was phenomenal at that, so she kept the contact up.
"I had cassettes, you know, the old Dreaming cassettes. It was big, fold-out double books, with like, eight cassettes in them. Oh man, they would give me nightmares at night, but you'd listen to all the stories overnight all the time."
The stories are legendary. Raukkan's most famous musician, acclaimed pianist David Unaipon, became the first Indigenous author to be published in Australia with a book on Aboriginal myths and legends in the 1920s. Unaipon, known as "Australia's Leonardo Da Vinci" for his brilliant mind and inventions, is immortalised on Australia's $50 note. Ngarindjerri comedian Kevin Kropinyeri acts out on stage the kind of reactions that gets.
"This whitefella the other day asked me where I was from," says Kropinyeri in his live show. "So I flopped that $50 note on the bar and said, 'See that Blackfella there, and that church? It's an Aboriginal community where my mum was born, called Raukkan, my mum used to clean his house, the whole lot.' He said, 'Wow! That is so amazing!' I said, 'It is, isn't it?' He said, 'No - I've never seen an Aboriginal with a $50 note before.'"
Trials, who has inherited big doses of Kropinyeri's humour and Unapion's creativity, says he was shocked by the prejudice when he returned home from Wales.
"I went back around 12-ish, I reckon," he says. "It was kind of weird again, because I was still like, 'I'll be better off when I get back home. It'll be much easier. There'll be none of this kinda bullshit when I get back home!' And then there was the same kind of shit, the constant racism."
Unaipon never had enough money to take out full patents on all his inventions, including his famed sheep shearing machine, for which he never received any financial return. In 2008, his family took out an unsuccessful $30 million lawsuit against the Reserve Bank of Australia for using his image on the $50 note without their permission. Aboriginal people are still owed billions of dollars in unpaid wages.
In a world where even people who support workers' rights think music should be free, Trials - despite all his success - has also struggled to make his work pay. Yet Munkimuk told listeners to his Indigenous hip-hop radio show in 2013: "Trials is probably the richest man in Indigenous hip-hop - he's a damn millionaire!"
Trials and the Funkoars hand out Weet-Bix with Larry Emdur in Sydney. Photo: www.snappatronik.squarespace.com
Told about the quote, Trials nearly falls off his chair laughing. When he laughs, it's like a cross between a movie villain and a claxon going off, as if his creator has deliberately signposted him with, "CHECK OUT THIS GUY! FUNNY GUY! RIGHT HERE!"
"That's amazing," says Trials when he's finally regained his composure. "I wish I could confirm! Oh my God, I wish I could confirm. Oh my God."
It must be said that Munkimuk is hardly ever serious, though.
"Exactly," says Trials. "Up until, I guess, the last two years, I was working full-time. Only in JB Hi-Fi or you know, shitty, remedial jobs like that, which were not really brain-intensive jobs. But you could go home and you could really pour a lot of shit out. And you would pour a lot of shit out at JB's because you'd be listening to a lot of shit as well. And you'd be like, 'Ah, that's trash', or you know, you'd find inspiration in all areas of it, man."
Trials soaks up music like a sponge. Samples have been his lifeblood ever since he bought a pair of turntables and a microphone with the payout from a car accident at the age of 16. His signature sound - huge drums, big guitars, relentless funk and stabbing horns - is in such demand that it has soundtracked Hollywood films, prime-time TV shows, documentaries, sports broadcasts and even ads.
"Yeah, well, mostly adverts for like fighting documentaries, surfing documentaries, all high-energy kind of high-octane stuff," he says. "Hyper everything - hyper this, hyper that, you know, that kind of shit!"
"All of my music in general is just pretty up-tempo, pretty energy-heavy stuff, you know? It's been a case of syncing pre-existing work because it's catchy or whatever it may be. I've never written a jingle! Never!"
The Funkoars - Trials, Sesta and Hons - are dismissive of their own work. One of their skits features them receiving an award for "yet another generic drinking track". Yet Trials has also released some of the most radical albums in Australian hip-hop. His friend, Vents, admits he is so lazy that he would have never got out both his highly politicised albums were it not for the fact that Trials produced them.
"Yeah, I can absolutely 100% confirm that," laughs Trials. "He's the laziest, most talented dude I know. That's why I've plugged through two albums with him, because he's phenomenal."
Their shared political outlook also helped.
"At 20, 21, me and Vents were just hardcore Commies - you know, we thought we were, anyway! So that's why on every single song he's talking about May 1st and Haymarket Squares and whatnot and we were like, 'Yeah! We're fighting the good cause here!'
"As we were growing up, we went through the exact same stages together, you know? Because we were reading things together and he'd be like, 'Fuck man, have you heard about Lenin, brah?' And I'm like, 'OH FUCK! Lenin, man!' You know what I mean? And then we'd go on a whole Marxist trip for like six months or some shit like that.
"I don't even know where we're at any more. I think he calls himself a Libertarian these days. But I think we stopped trying to identify with terms a while ago when you'd become comfortable with your own brain and you're comfortable with the fact that your outlook on life is an outlook original to itself and that's a cool thing."
From left, Trials, radical rapper Vents and DJ Adfu. Photo: www.adelaidenow.com.au
Vents' radical, underground albums were recorded in the same unglamorous vocal booth as Trials' most commercially successful hip-hop albums, which he made with Perth rapper Drapht.
"This share house I was staying in, oh, fuck, man, it was terrible," laughs Trials.
"The vocal booth was at the end of the laundry and there was a cat litter box right next to the booth. So if I didn't change the litter for the day, it just fucking stank, man! And that was often. So Drapht and Vents both did both their albums in that fucking kitty litter box."
Trials and Drapht were caught off-guard when "Jimmy Recard", one of the tracks off their first album together, took off.
"That was a total accident," says Trials. "That was the last song he showed me on the album that we were going to work on and we were like, 'Ah, let's chuck it on, whatever.' We chucked it on and then it just fucking happened, something happened, it resonated hard as fuck.
"This whole thing was going on around us that we had no idea about till we started doing shows live and seeing the reaction that people had and when playing the song in clubs, because I was deejaying the whole time, you know? It was like when you drop a Jay-Z song and get the fucking huge arms and when I dropped my song and got that, I was like, 'What the fuck is going on here?' That was crazy, you know? That really fucked us up and that's why we took the next record, Life Of Riley, really fucking seriously.
"We just did the Big Day Out tour, we just did two big laps around the country and the songs we liked playing the most and the crowd liked the most were the big, uptempo fucking heavy ones and I love making those songs! We were like, 'Fuck it! We'll do a whole album of that shit!'"
The album, recorded next to cat shit, went straight to number one. It also gave Trials the confidence to start speaking out.
"When you're growing up, when you're 18, 19, I was still a fucking IDIOT," he laughs. "So it was just like, I don't want to champion causes when I'm a FUCKING IDIOT. As much as I want to champion it and as bullshit as I see everything, right now, I am a fucking JERK.
"So it took me a long time to realise like, 'OK, cool, I've done some pretty cool things, I've got some pretty sweet - according to the industry - accolades, that's cool, that means I've got at least two feet on this small, pretentious soapbox, so I can stand on it and fucking say some things now and people have to listen to them.'"
On the Funkoars' last record, Dawn Of The Head, Trials raps: "Want a Black PM before my day's in."
Asked about it, he says: "That one was just a sweet jab at how far away we still are, you know what I mean? People always make comparisons with the States, like, we're maybe 10 years behind or something like that and it's like, 'Fark!' I feel like we're 50 or something at the moment, you know?"
Even just across the Tasman Sea, Indigenous political rights seem light years ahead, with guaranteed seats for Maori.
"You go to New Zealand and you've got your designated seats in Parliament," says Trials. "That's beautiful. That's the way it should be. At least it's a start, a step towards progress - and it's so hard to fight for small, incremental things like that, when they should just be, for lack of a better word, god-given.
"I started writing a lot of things just because I knew I could speak on them now confidently. So that in an interview situation when someone does ask about it, it's like, 'OK, I can talk about it.'"
Asked about another Dawn Of The Head lyric, "Stupid like bringing a racist to gigs", Trials laughs. Is this something he experiences often?
"Constantly," he says. "This is Australia, man! They're everywhere! I'm on the lighter scale of Black, so a lot of people have no idea what my heritage is.
"We don't drink until we get off, because it's got to be a decent-ish show, so it's usually pretty full-on talking to someone who's that drunk as it is at the end of the night. But then when they hit you with those kind of bombs, you're like, 'Oh, jeepers creepers guys, I appreciate what you're trying to say, but get a stubby holder and go fuck yourself!'"
There is a flip side, though.
"My favourite trip in the world has been, I have people at gigs, like, just fellas coming up to me, just saying, like, 'Man, I didn't realise you were Black and then I found out and then I was like, "FUCK, yeah!!!"' It was like, 'Yeah, bruz! You see!!! We can do this, bruz!' 'We can fucking do this!' And that's my favourite when it happens, homies coming through at gigs like that, that's my favourite, ever!"
That desire to fill Black kids with pride is epitomised by A.B. Originals, the new duo made up of Trials and big-hitter Briggs.
"The A.B. Originals joint, it's like fucking hardcore, it's unadulterated," says Trials. "You know what the fuck we stand for, because we know what we stand for and we also know that we can deliver it in a world-class fucking fashion.
"It's like a West Coast-sounding hardcore album with some of our favourite West Coast rappers on there, purely because that's the music that resonated with us hard as fuck when we were young.
"You do a lot of workshops with a lot of kids now and that's still the same kind of shit - Tupac, Snoop Dogg - all that shit resonates with the kids all the time. So we made that album sound like that with our shit over the top of it so that it gets right in their ears, so they can blast it while they're driving down the street with their cousins and shit, you know what I mean? And then the next record that they make is totally fucking Black, it's all theirs then."
As the first song to drop off the album, "Black Balls", puts it:
They claim I ain't deep enough
Damn, they want to turn their speakers up
They forgot about two things
My Black balls
A.B. Originals' ballsy live debut in Sydney would have certainly filled Black kids with pride. The duo played in front of thousands.
Trials and Briggs on stage as A.B. Originals in Sydney. Photo: www.bjwok.com
"Yeah, we played Beat The Drum, which was wicked, the Triple J thing," says Trials. "We got to come out to a big song there - and one of the A.B. Originals joints, we did half of that, and then we did 'The Hunt', which was the joint Briggs did with 'G', that was a whole thing in itself."
"G", as Trials calls him, is Indigenous international superstar Gurrumul, with whom Trials wrote Briggs' hair-raising album track, "The Hunt".
"I'm honoured to be a part of that," says Trials. "They could have chosen a million producers in the world to do that, so I was really lucky to get that one. It's weird how that one came about."
It came about after James Mangohig from bass-heavy Darwin duo Sietta introduced Briggs and Trials to Gurrumul and his right-hand man, Michael Hohnen.
"Michael gave me Gurrumul's whole catalogue," says Trials. "So I took this one, 'Baru', chopped it up, sent it all back all weird and Gurrumul didn't even recognise it as what it was any more - it was a whole different song.
"We got Gurrumul to play over the top of that then, so the whole song is a completely different song, built on the bed of an old song, which totally fucked him up!
"We're listening to Gurrumul's stems and his harmonies, and that's blowing our minds, and then when he was equally freaked out at what we had done, we knew we had something really, really cool. When he was touching down in every state, buying a new boombox, specifically to plan this track, that was unreal. Then to do it live in Triple J was something else."
The live performance of the track on Triple J radio was the first time all the musicians on the track had got together in one room.
"It literally was," says Trials. "We had some unbelievable minds in the room. It was like I just Blacked out! We came out and I thought, 'What the fuck did we just do?' That was the most artistically, spiritually rewarding song I have ever been a part of. It was easily the highlight of my - quote, unquote - 'career'."
Even better than playing live with Larry Emdur?
"Well, that's a different realm," laughs Trials. "Briggs and G is like this realm and us and Larry is the matrix has been snapped in half. Some PR firm fucked up along the way somewhere! That's what that shit shows!"
Read the full interview transcript below, in which Trials talks about other Indigenous rappers, his many other collaborations and his beginnings as a musician, starting with that bone-breaking car crash.
FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT
How ya going?
Really good mate. How are you?
OK! You've got a pretty hectic life, I think.
At the moment, yeah. It kind of comes and goes, you know, what I mean? It's definitely coming at the moment! [Laughs.]
I bet, yeah. It was a great show the other night.
Well, thanks, man! That was really fun, man, the whole Larry [Emdur] thing was kind of pretty far out!
Yeah, pretty surreal! Did he sneak his way into the building without being recognised by anyone?
Yeah, well, we decked him out in a non-suspicious Funkoars hat! [Laughs.] He got in pretty quickly, so it was good! [Laughs.]
So, what I wanted to do was go back to your childhood and talk about where you grew up and your parents, who they were, what they did and so on.
Yep, hang on, let me get a bit more of a more comfortable spot.
Are you in your basement, or garage?
Outside, which is pretty much the same thing, you know! Gimme one second I'll give you a call back - I'll try and get an easier spot, bit of a juggle right now. [Trials calls back from bedroom.]
G'day mate, let's see if this works... [Turns camera on.] Heyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!! [Laughs.]
So, Djarmbi [rapper Djarmbi Supreme] has been complaining that none of the rappers that he likes - or are his mates - are in this book ['Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country' www.realtalkthebook.com]. So he was hassling me to get Briggs and Billy Bunks and you and so on.
Yeah, well Briggs and Billy are pretty stellar guys, so that's good company! [Laughs.]
Yeah, I think you guys all share that pretty off-the-wall humour that Djarmbi has! [Laughs.]
Yeah! You know what, I actually met Djarmbi for the first time the other day in the airport.
Oh yeah! I saw that - I saw the picture, yeah.
Yeah, we'd never actually bumped into each other before, except for there, so that was wicked. He sent me a message saying, 'Man, did I just see you at the airport?' I sent him one back that was like, 'Yeah, our whole squad's a little bit compromised at the moment, so approach with caution.' And he just sent me one back of literally a big fella with glasses and then I looked to my right and there he was. [Laughs.]
Yeah! Is he as scary in real life as he is online?
He's as cuddly as he is online! [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] I was supposed to meet him in Sydney as well, but he got fired from that TV series that you've done the soundtrack for [Cleverman].
He got fired?!! [Laughs.]
Yeah, he tweeted that... [Collapses laughing.] He tweeted that, oh... what did he say? Something like, 'I've just been fired from Ryan Griffen's big, flash movie. Picky cunts!' [Laughs.] And then Ryan tweeted at him, saying, 'What? You couldn't grow a beard?' Or something. And he said, 'Yeah. FUCK SYDNEY.' [Trials laughs long and hard.] So I don't know what happened, he's been a bit cryptic about it.
[Laughs.] Yeah, that's not exactly cryptic, but cryptic in itself, I suppose. Oh, that's fucking funny. [Laughs.]
Yeah! So he went home early.
Yeah, he was full of hopes and dreams on the way there. [Cracks up laughing.] 'I'm flying up there now. It's going to be great!' I was like, 'Yeah! Fuck, yeah!' [Laughs.]
Yeah, something went wrong, I dunno what. You'll have to get the story out of him.
Oh, I'll get the story out of Briggs first, I'm sure.
So we wanted to talk about your childhood.
Yeah, well, where will I begin? How early?
Yeah, all right, let's think. [Laughs.] I can speak from probably birth onwards I reckon. [Laughs.] My folks are from South Australia, Murray Bridge area to be specific. My family is from Raukkan area. So the tribe that we belong to is Ngarrindjeri tribe. All along the Coorong there, that's pretty much our area, which is just gorgeous, if you ever come down here, it's just a beautiful sight, to be amongst the greenery and whatnot. It's beautiful. But my family grew up mostly in Murray Bridge and I - let me think - I bounced to the UK when I was about, maybe, three years old, I reckon. My family broke up. My parents split up around three and I went to the UK until I was about, maybe, 11-ish. So that was an experience in itself, being the only kind of half - you know - half-black kid in a school full of EXTREMELY white kids. [Laughs.]
So, what, you were at a boarding school or something?
No, not at all, just a traditional Welsh school with the big red blazer and the full-on ties and, you know, I was deep in the heart of south Wales, which is right in the middle of the green, green hills.
So who took you there, then?
My mum. My mum's Welsh, my dad's Aboriginal. So he's the one from Raukkan and basically they split up. My dad ended up doing a little bit of prison time for a while, you know, as is customary in most families.
And my mum saw fit to kind of take me back to the 'motherland' as it is and I got a pretty lefty upbringing, you know, kind of liberal raising, single mum and whatnot, which was great, you know. And she was really, really - always, really, really, really set on keeping me in touch with my roots and where I was from and the other side, as opposed to the white side, which I was really living in, you know, in the midst of. So she was phenomenal at that, so she kept the contact up, she kept the - I had cassettes, you know, the old Dreaming cassettes, which were - oh man, they would give me nightmares at night, but you'd listen to all the stories overnight all the time, you know, it was big, fold-out double books, with like, eight cassettes in them. She'd make sure I'd have all the bomb shit so I'd keep up to date with what was going on, you know? Which was amazing, so even without being there, I still had my roots and my upbringing and knew what was what. So, you know, when I went back around 12-ish, I reckon, it was kind of weird again because I was still like, 'I'll be better off when I get back home.' [Laughs.] 'It'll be much easier. There'll be none of this kinda bullshit when I get back home!' [Laughs.] And then there was the same kind of shit you face over here, which was what I was getting when I was a kid, you know, the constant racism and the constant, man, I was fighting every day, you know, and it was - when I was in Wales, anyway, it was constantly fighting, you know, fisticuffs every single day, because you stood out the most from the pack, you know what it was and you were constantly reminded by everyone that this definitely wasn't your place to be at that time, you know? So the yearning to come home was crazy, and then when I finally did come home, to kind of not fit in here as well was kind of a mind-fuck in itself you know? It was weird and you know when you're 12 or 13 it's a really hard thing to approach to think that's where you're going to fit in when you get back and then you don't fit in at all and then it kind of takes you until your 20s to start to figure it all out. To figure out that, you know, you absolutely do fit in, you know what I mean? It's a weird thing, but that was kind of my formative years, bouncing back and forth, Wales to Australia. I came back and forth a few times, so when I came back when I was 12, I stayed for two years - or two or three years - went back to the UK for a year, then came back again. So I bounced back and forth a bit, so my metric system is all fucked up! [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] Yeah! Were you bouncing back and forth with your mum going back and forth?
Yeah, always, always. My dad was here and he stayed here, so my mum was, it was single mum the whole way up and then she met my stepdad when I was about - I guess maybe 15-ish, 15, 16-ish I reckon, maybe. And then they've been together since and had my little sister since and a whole other tribe of kids since, which is amazing. And he's been phenomenal. He was super-influential on my upbringing and I can't thank him enough, he's been phenomenal. So, you know, you can either strike out there or you can get really lucky with a stepdad and I fucking scored, so it was really, really easy and he's Black too, so it was really easy that I had someone that I could pick up and talk to me about the things that mattered, you know what I mean?
He's Indigenous as well?
So she met him in Australia as well?
Yeah - yeah, yeah, yeah, funnily enough, in not SO similar circles, but you know, similar enough to be, you know, known by each other so, yeah, yeah. It was a nice coincidence and it worked out really, really well. They work in really similar circumstances because they both work with a lot of disadvantaged and homeless youths, specifically, which is kind of prominent in all of our crew. They met along there along the way and they started helping out a lot of other people and then they kind of, helped themselves! [Cracks up laughing.]
[Laughs.] So your mum, is she a social worker?
Yeah, yeah, she was for the majority of her life and my stepdad as well, which was great. I used to go there and pack shelves with them and, you know, give out all the Weetbixes and all that sort of stuff, which is really cool shit. It's just like...
It gives you perspective.
Yeah, it always does and we've never been like, more than middle class, ever. So it's always been pretty real, you know how real it is. But to do those things, you know how real it can get.
Yep. And how about your biological dad? You said he was in prison?
Yeah he was and that kind of kept up being a main thing, a constant theme in his life, unfortunately. So we don't have really much to do with each other at all. So you know, it's kind of - it is what it is, you know.
Yeah. So when did you start playing music?
Well, I started I guess PLAYING music when I was like 15, 16. That was probably it, I guess. That's when I started. When I started playing probably professionally, I guess 19, 20, you know. Before that I was just messing around in my bedroom - in my mum's spare bedroom with the mattress against the wall. [Laughs.]
So you picked up the guitar?
Well, the guitar came way later. I had turntables first. Two of - me and two of my bothers were in a small, little car accident when I was 16. We were leaving a little T-junction and we got smashed up by this person going way too fast. It wasn't too bad, but it was enough to smack my head through the windscreen and break it and broke a couple of arms and all this kind of stuff.
My two brothers were great, they were fine. But it was enough to give me a little compensation payout. With the little, small amount of money that I got, I bought two turntables and a mixer and a microphone and I was the first person in my area to have one of those things, you know. [Laughs.] So I was pretty popular, pretty quick with that kind of shit! [Laughs.] About 16 I reckon I started messing with those things, yeah.
Yeah. It was an 'act of God'.
That's what - you know, I've said it too my wife before and she's said like, 'You know what, you wouldn't be...' - I find myself in bizarre places in the middle of the world and she's like, 'You wouldn't be there, if it wasn't for that.' I'm like, 'Oh, you're totally right.' I wouldn't take any of it back, even the worst parts of it - all of it, I wouldn't take any of it back, including that! [Laughs.]
So, you're a totally prolific musician and producer. It's like you've got riffs falling off your fingers [Trials laughs] when I've watched you in, I think it was the making of Vents' last album?
Where you're just pouring out riffs on the acoustic guitar. Do you ever fear that you're going to dry up? That your creativity's just going to...
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. From the first song I wrote. [Laughs.] Every song I think is my last one, all the time. I'm surprised every time we pull another one out of our bums, every single time.
[Laughs.] Yeah, but it's such a rate! It's such an incredible rate of output that you have. It would be a fear that it will suddenly, like, puff! Evaporate.
Yeah, especially when you quit work. [Laughs.] It's like, 'Oh, you know what? Let's give it a crack.'
Were you working full-time till recently?
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Up until, I guess, the last two years, I was working full-time. Only in JB Hi-Fi or you know, shitty, remedial jobs like that, which were not really, you know, brain-intensive jobs. [Laughs.] But you could go home and you could really pour a lot of shit out. And you would pour a lot of shit out at JB's because you'd be listening to a lot of shit as well. And you'd be like, 'Ah, that's trash', or you know, you'd find inspiration in all areas of it man, so I worked in JB Hi-Fi for I guess four or five years and worked in a bunch of random record stores for ages. You know, as a lot of rapper and kind-of muso dudes do, just bum around, trying to work, but not work.
Yeah, yeah. I think there's some misconceptions, then, about your career. [Laughs.] But we'll get onto those later. So I think you told G-Force, when you're looking for stuff to sample, 'I guess the only thing I do is make sure the sleeve reads between 1960-1979'. Is that still the case?
Yeah, it definitely is still the case, like, the thing - if I'm making 'passion project' stuff, yeah, 100% still the case. If I'm trying to make something a little more contemporary or whatever, which is funny, I sample something from the '80s. [Cracks up laughing.]
That's as modern as it gets!
That's as modern as I'll go! Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It's funny, because '90s stuff is pretty accessible now, because it's actually 15 years old, 20 years old. [Laughs.] That's pretty much the same as when people in the '90s were making beats out of the '70s shit. [Laughs.] But I can't do that, just yet. There's something about the sound of that era and everything and the way it's pressed and the way it's produced, you know, if you're a fan of that kind of stuff it's something unmistakeable that you can't replace out of that era. Even when you get replays done. It's a common thing to get a really good sample, which might be incredibly hot or something like that or you can't clear or you can't get permission for or whatever. People will get replays done and they'll get an entire band to replay this whole part and you can never, ever, ever replicate that little feeling, you know what I mean? Ever. You can't replicate the little tunings, the small, subtle nuances to the vinyl crackle, to the way it's played on the belt, like, there's something about that era that always resonates with me really well.
So there must be a lot of samples where you're like, 'Arggghhhh! If only I could use this one.'
Oh, it's a daily struggle. [Laughs.]
So I believe you compose stuff for advertisements, is that right?
Yeah, yeah I've done a couple of advertisements, which is pretty fun. You know a lot of the 'oars music is pretty - well, all of my music in general is just pretty up-tempo, pretty energy-heavy stuff, you know? So advert shit is essentially the lead guitar part of the beat, you know what I mean? [Laughs.] It's the catchiest part of the song. The easiest part is I haven't really been able to - or haven't really had to - compose too many adverts. It's been a case of syncing pre-existing work because it's catchy or whatever it may be - it suits a certain thing because of a chorus word that resonates or whatever it is. We work with a lot of cool publishing companies because we've had a lot of cool songs that have worked for them, so they, in turn, you know, use a lot of our pre-existing material to keep that relationship kind of going.
OK. You haven't written anything specifically for adverts, then?
I've never written a jingle! Never! [Cracks up laughing.]
So they've been using 'oars stuff in adverts.
Yeah, well, like, mostly adverts for like, erm, MMA [mixed martial arts] things, you know, like fighting documentaries, surfing documentaries, all high-energy kind of high-octane, hyper everything, hyper this, hyper that, you know, that kind of shit! [Laughs.]
That's great, because that's credible. [Laughs.]
Yeah, we did the NBL [National Basketball League in Australia] theme song for like two years, which was just like an existing song of ours and then off the back of that, the NBA [National Basketball Association in the US] picked it up, because they liked the energy and the way the clips were cut to it or whatever, which was wicked, so, you know.
Yeah. So, this Indij Hip-Hop book came about because I started listening to Munkimuk's show a few years ago.
I love Munki so much.
Yeah, so do I. So I tune into that every week and I noticed that most of these artists were not getting any coverage at all.
So I just started interviewing them, because they had so much to say, for the non-corporate media, who I do voluntary work for. So then I ended up with, like, 30 of these interviews, so I just thought...
I've read 'em, yeah! [Laughs.]
Oh, you've read 'em?!!
Of course! There's so many of my mates in there! [Laughs.]
OK! Good, good. Or maybe bad, if you've got any objections. [Laughs.]
Nah, they're great.
But that's the reason that this book came about, because it was more to get an international audience interested and because there were so many, I just thought, well, I might as well just put a free book out. But the thing that Munki said, on his show broadcast live from the 2013 Deadlys - I dunno if you heard this show - but he said, 'Trials is the richest man in Aboriginal hip-hop - he's a damn millionaire.' [Trials nearly falls off his chair laughing]. Is it true?
[Laughs.] That's amazing! I wish I could confirm! Oh my God, I wish I could confirm. [Laughs.] Oh my God. I missed that quote. I saw Munki last year as well. He didn't fill me in on that.
Because he said you'd been doing music for adverts and everything. I can give you the link to the show so you can have a listen.
You must! You must!! You must!!! [Laughs.]
I don't know if he's EVER serious, but.
Exactly, yeah. No, it definitely doesn't pay as well as Munki thinks. [Laughs.]
No music pays as well as anyone thinks, any more.
That's why the Rolling Stones are still on tour, you know. [Laughs.]
That's why the Funkoars are constantly on tour, isn't it?
We've just announced another one, you know! [Laughs.]
I saw that, I saw that! [Laughs.] And I was reading how you've released the single to do a tour from the single leading up to it and then rolling it out that way.
It's a different climate these days. It's a weird climate these days. People used to do a single, you know, for like six weeks or so, then the album would come out straight away. But now people do a single, then they wait to see how well that resonates, then if it doesn't resonate as well as they'd planned, they'll do another one, then they'll do another one, then they'll do another one, then they'll do another one and they'll keep putting it off and all this kind of stuff. We've never been prepared enough to do that kind of game plan. [Laughs.] We're always like, 'Oh, shit, it's almost done, I swear it's almost there, I promise, almost, almost, almost!' We fly by the seat of our pants all the time. [Laughs.] So you know, when we put music out it's like it's because it's ready, 'Bang! Here's a song.' And basically, we'll keep writing and recording until the rest of it's ready. We don't have a big plan like the rest of these guys. [Laughs.]
But this time, you've got it all in the bag and it's not [a race to be] hitting deadline?
Yeah. We're closer, anyway. We're definitely closer. We still haven't finished, but we're closer.
I see. So, Munki also calls you "the barefoot assassin" [because you don't wear shoes on stage]. [Trials cracks up laughing.] Everyone's copying your style though, now!
So they should! It's hot and uncomfortable up there, you know.
Is that why you're barefoot?
That, and I like to push my luck as well, just because! [Laughs.]
Just to live on the edge of broken glass! One step away from disaster!
It's constantly one step away, because our fans always have one glass in their hand and it's usually empty as well. I don't know if you saw in Sydney as well, I took a few steps back when Eclipse [DJ Total Eclipse of the Xecutioners] was doing his set and someone came through with a little brush and pan and they cleaned the glass off, which was fantastic! [Laughs.]
I couldn't see anything, because all the crowd were right on top of you. I was right at the back.
Yeah, it got pretty hectic at one point near the end, when we got everyone on stage. One of our mates is a fire marshal and he started screaming, 'This is really unsafe!' [Laughs.]
Right! [Laughs.] Well, all the security were actually enjoying the show - they weren't concentrating on doing their job. I kept looking round at them and they were just pissing their sides laughing and really enjoying it.
That's a very common theme with security at our shows! [Laughs.]
Yeah, I'm sure! [Laughs.] So, on Greatest Hits you make a joke about a song being 'yet another generic drinking track'. Do you think that's why Funkoars are so popular? Do you think that's the secret?
the secret is - or the reason why we've been able to make so many songs which are generic drinking songs is - because we're really self-aware. You know what I mean? Like, you can have bands who try to make a bunch of drinking songs or a bunch of certain style songs or whatever and they're completely oblivious to the fact that that's what they are.
Whereas we know exactly what we are, from the start, which is the funniest thing, like, you'll have support acts who'll come around the country with us who are just shit-scared because they think the fans are insane, which the fans usually are. But they're also shit-scared of spending time with us. Then when they're in the room with us or in the van with us for hours on end, they realise that we're not as insane as our rep [reputation] may perceive us to be. [Laughs.] We may have certainly reached a certain echelon of insane in our younger years, but we've learned how to balance things in our older years. [Laughs.] We're well-travelled, learned men of the world insane. [Laughs.] Not your regular, run-of-the-mill insane.
Or maybe it's just that they're so damn petrified that anything seems good after that.
We're paying them as well, that's what it usually is, we're giving them money and they're scared of us. Those old traditional mafia rules.
So tell us about the in-jokes in the lyrics - Briggs said that would ruin it, if people knew.
Yeah, well, we released this thing. We did this album, The Quickening, in like erm, 2011, and we released this thing called the Quickipedia, to precede it, which was basically a glossary of, you know, terms that we wanted people to familiarise themselves with. Because ever since the start of us recording, Suffa has always heard our albums from the very start - from the [Hilltop] Hoods - and he's always laughed at the in-jokes because he's usually in on the jokes, but he's always remarked on how 'in' the jokes are. They're very inward jokes. We've never, ever, ever compromised with how inward the jokes are! [Laughs.] Ever. And now the best part is that he's seen how a lot of these jokes have made their way into sort of mainstream fan vernacular now.
Which is the best and his heart has warmed to the idea that our bullshit is funny enough to actually permeate the fourth wall! [Laughs.] The in-jokes have always been a big thing with us, because every single song is pretty much the weekend, because we spend every single weekend with each other. The longest we don't see each other for is, like, two months when we're not on tour or something. So every single song is just the weekend or just the month or the tour before that. That's why they're all about partying, someone's always drinking, someone's always doing some dumb shit, you know what I mean? That's literally what we do. That's all it is and that's probably another thing that resonates with people as well, is that our songs have never been really fairytaily, they've never been narratives - and even when they're narratives, it's the re-telling of some dumb shit we did. [Laughs.] You know what I mean?
Yeah. [Laughs.] But you joke about the Funkoars' throw-away lyrics, yet you've also produced some of the most radical albums in Australian hip-hop.
Thanks, man, I appreciate that, that's nice. [Laughs.]
With Vents, especially, I love those albums. But Vents has said he's so lazy he'd never have got anything out, if it wasn’t for you.
Yeah, I can absolutely 100% confirm that. [Laughs.] He's the laziest dude I know. He's also the laziest - if laziness is the yin, the talent is the yang, you know? He's the laziest, most talented dude I know. That's why I've plugged through two albums with him, because he's phenomenal. That dude's incredible. He's one of the most gifted lyricists, one of the most gifted guys on the microphone delivery-wise, content-wise, I've ever, ever worked with, or known, or heard. You know what I mean? Like, me producing his records has never been like - well, it's been hand-in-hand - one, because I love Joe [Joseph Lardner, aka Vents] so much and two, because I don't want anyone else to do them, because I want them to be perfect, because I know exactly how I want them to be, because I fucking love how he sounds, you know what I mean? Like, I know his songs and I know our taste in rap, in particular, is exactly the same, like, we both came up on the same - Ice T shit and the same Public Enemy, same Bomb Squad records, so that's why my production with his rhymes gels so well all the time, because we know exactly what complements each other, you know what I mean? They've been the funniest records to make, but they've also been the biggest pain in the fucking arses to make! [Laughs.]
It sounds like it, yeah, from his admissions.
Exactly, that's the thing, he's as self-deprecating as I am, like, but he's probably a bit more, almost like a little less realistic about it, like - he's hopeless sometimes. [Laughs.] I've got his third album just sitting on my computer and he's so close to finishing it.
Yeah, just got to hold his hand a little bit tighter and we'll get there! [Laughs.]
Yeah, please do. He's a great live performer, as well.
He is, and we both came up on the same school, you know, we both came up watching Hilltop Hoods, Def Wish Cast, Cross Bred Mongrels, all those kind of guys. We all saw those guys and we saw a lot of their energy and also a lot of American guys who do vocals over the top of the vocal stacks and they're kind of lacklustre and it's more about the image. Whereas we saw dudes like Bomb Squad, you know, and Public Enemy and dudes like Def Wish Cast back home going fucking IN! We loved that shit and that energy resonated with us so hard that we were giving it back and that's the same kind of thing that stayed with us when we left the show. So when we started performing it was, like, it was a no fucking brainer to go that route, you know, as opposed to the cool, calm, collected. Like, I'd rather compromise the integrity of the performance of the song, like the actual lyrical performance, and just fucking feed the energy and give it back, you know, that's always been my modus operandi around that - it's always worked out well for 'oars, like, you know, our shows are not incredibly tight. Like, they're rehearsed out the arse, like, but we like to rip a fucking lot, you know what I mean? We like to feed off the energy and as you noticed on Saturday, we're very chatty with the crowd! [Laughs.] Extremely chatty, because it's like, 'Fuck, we're up here and we're feeding off a bunch of humans.' So sometimes at the end of the shows, like, I don't know if you saw or not, but we only started doing it this tour, like, we've get this thing where Sesta spits, or he uses his hand, like...
[Interviewer does puppet hand action] Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!!
That's the one! We've only just started doing that this tour, but that's fucking hilarious to us, the fact that we can do it and then hundreds of people are doing that back to us, we go home and laugh about it at the end of the night. There'll be a split bed in the room and me and Sesta will just be sitting there going, 'Do you remember when we made people do that?' And he'll be like, 'Yeah, I remember that! That was hilarious!'
[Laughs.] It was. I just posted pics of all the crowd with their hands like that on your Facebook page.
[Laughs.] Amazing! 'The Jurassic Park raptor hands' is what we call them.
[Laughs.] So, you've said you share some of Vents's political outlook. Do you want to tell us about your similarities there?
Ah, well, I guess when were growing up we went through the exact same stages as everyone does, you know, I got saying before, you get dumped straight into the lower to mid socio-economic kind of areas, you kind of identify straight usually with the lefty kind of politics and then as you grow up, you get into - like 17, 18, 19 - you start getting pretty anarchist and then you start getting a little red, you know, and 20, 21, me and Vents were just hardcore Commies - you know, we thought we were, anyway. [Laughs.] So that's why on every single song he's talking about May 1st and Haymarket Squares and whatnot and we were like, 'Yeah! We're fighting the good cause here!' And this is the thing you end up learning later down the track, is that there's things to take from every single facet of politics, there's not a one-size-fits-all for anyone or anything. If you take certain facets that resonate with you or can help you out and whatnot, you learn that down the track, but as we were growing up, we went through the exact same stages together, you know? Because we were reading things together and he'd be like, 'Fuck man, have you heard about Lenin, brah?' And I'm like, 'OH FUCK! Lenin, man!' You know what I mean? And then we'd go on a whole Marxist trip for like six months or some shit like that, you know what I mean? And then so on, and so on, and so on, to where we're at now, which is, oh, I don't even know where we're at any more. I think Joe calls himself a Libertarian these days. [Laughs.] But I think we stopped trying to identify with terms a while ago when you'd become comfortable with your own brain and you're comfortable with the fact that your outlook on life is an outlook original to itself and that's a cool thing. [Laughs.]
Yeah, absolutely. Oh, I'll be interested to hear his new album. Is it a little bit different in its outlook?
Yeah, he's still got a lot of political stuff in there, but it's definitely way more personal, for sure. I think that's why it's taken so long for him to put it out. The record is the most personal one he's written so far, but it's delivered with the same intensity, you know? It's a beautiful album and he's so close to finishing it. It's his best one yet, undoubtedly.
And sonically, it's with the big horns and that sort of...
Same shit all the time! Massive horns, big guitars, lots of fuzz pedals.
Cool. So, do you ever feel the pressure is on to be political yourself? You touch occasionally on bits of politics, like in 'Team Idiot', where you say, 'Want a black PM before my day's in'.
[Laughs.] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah! It was something when I was growing up, because I grew up with Hilltop Hoods and Cross Bred Mongrels, who were political from day dot, you know. They always had stuff to say and they always really encouraged me to say things because I had an original perspective on things. But it was almost TOO important to me, you know what I mean? The songs we were making were dick jokes and you know, 'Go fuck yourself' songs. So it was not a theme that I could just drop in casually in the middle of a Funkoars song, you know what I mean? So for years and years and years it was something that I thought I wanted to do and I knew that I could do, but I just didn't know how to do it. Do you know what I mean? So I had my friends who were doing just outright, just proper fucking proper pro-Black anthems and they were fucking great and I was just like, 'Man, I love it, it's perfect, but it's not for me yet, I can't do it.' So yeah, I slowly started seeping it into a lot of 'oars songs. I started seeping a lot of - quote, unquote - 'grown up' content into 'oars songs as we grew up, you know what I mean? But a lot of records, I started writing a lot of things just because I knew I could speak on them now confidently, do you know what I mean? So that in an interview situation when someone does ask about it, it's like, 'OK, I can talk about it.' Because when you're growing up, when you're 18, 19, I was still a fucking IDIOT, you know what I mean? So it was just like, I don't want to champion causes when I'm a FUCKING IDIOT. You know what I mean? As much as I want to champion it and as bullshit as I see everything, right now, I am a fucking JERK. So it took me a long time to realise like, 'OK, cool, I've done some pretty cool things, I've got some pretty sweet - according to the industry - accolades, that's cool, that means I've got at least two feet on this small, pretentious soapbox, so I can stand on it and fucking say some things now and people have to listen to them.'
So that's why I will say it now and that's why me and Briggs, when we do our records together, like the A.B. Originals joint, it's like fucking hardcore, it's unadulterated, you know, what the fuck we stand for, because we know what we stand for and we also know that we can deliver it in a world-class fucking fashion. Before it was just throwaway bullshit, you know, rhymes into the bedroom, corner of a mattress, like, now we're in multimillion-dollar studios - which we don't own, Munki - but we get to go in them and we get to execute these songs at a world class level so that, specifically, the A.B. Originals record, it's like, we wanted to do that, so that the same way that we were growing up and shit like that down Raukkan, when we were listening to Eazy E and all that kind of shit, we want those little kids to listen to our shit now and then make that the next, you know, shit. So we made that record as specific gangsta rap, it's like a West Coast-sounding hardcore album with some of our favourite West Coast rappers on there, purely because that's the music that resonated with us hard as fuck when we were young, you know? And you do a lot of workshops with a lot of kids now and that's still the same kind of shit - Tupac, Snoop Dogg, all that shit resonates with the kids all the time, the same way as it did with us, the same way, that's why we're doing it now. So we made that album sound like that with our shit over the top of it so that it gets right in their ears, so they can blast it while they're driving down the street with their cousins and shit, you know what I mean? And then the next record that they make is totally fucking Black, it's all theirs then, you know what I'm saying?
Yeah, I do.
It's cool! [Laughs.] That's the idea anyway! [Laughs.]
So the A.B. Originals stuff is out?
Well, almost, yeah. We put one song out on the Golden Era mixtape, yeah.
Yeah, that's the first song, like.
And you performed at the big Sydney show.
Yeah, we played Beat The Drum, which was wicked, the Triple J thing. We got to come out to a big song there and one of the A. B. Originals joints, we did half of that and then we did 'The Hunt', which was the joint Briggs did with G [Gurrumul], that was a whole thing in itself. [Laughs.]
Yeah, that's an amazing track, 'The Hunt'.
Yeah, I'm honoured to be a part of that. They could have chosen a million producers in the world to do that, so I was really lucky to get that one.
I'll ask you about that later. So tell us about the lyric, 'Want a black PM before my day's in', from 'Team Idiot'.
Well, that, it's like that one was just a sweet jab at how far away we still are, you know what I mean? People always make comparisons with the States, like, we're maybe 10 years behind or something like that and it's like, 'Fark!' I feel like we're 50 or something at the moment, you know? So 'Team Idiot' was a bunch of lyrics, which were aimed at the most absurd shit you could think of at the time and I was like, 'I've got one.' [Laughs.] I was feeling particularly cynical about that and, you know, it's still pretty fucked. You go to New Zealand and you've got your designated seats in Parliament [for Maori]- that's beautiful, that's the way it should be - at least it's a start, a step towards progress and it's so hard to fight for, you know, small, incremental things like that when they should just be, you know, for lack of a better word, god-given.
Yeah. On The Funkoars' 'Redlines' you say, 'Stupid like bringing a racist to gigs'. [Trials laughs.] Is this something that you've experienced?
Constantly, all the time, plenty of times. It's an easy one, yeah, because as well, you know, like, my mum's Welsh, so I'm on the lighter scale of Black. So a lot of people have no idea what my heritage is. So that was another reason why I'd write a lot of things in songs, so that the people who were sitting down listening to them with their mates in the shed knew what the fuck was up! [Laughs.] Because you'd have a lot of people coming in and even if it was passing, throwaway comments, you know, about something, something, something or other, and I was just involved in it, it was like, 'Fuck, wow, you've been a fan of my shit for nine years and you have no idea?!' OK, cool. So I'd start filtering these things into the songs, so that people would fucking know! [Laughs.] You know, more so than ever. But of course there's been plenty of times when, you know, this is Australia, man! They're everywhere! [Laughs.] And everyone's got a fucking dickhead mate, you know 'your mate, your mate, your mate', everyone's got a 'your mate'. And more often than not, there's a 'your mate' in one of our crowds and someone says something and it's like, 'Wow! That was stupid!' [Laughs.]
Oh, really? Yeah - and the drink will not help! [Laughs.]
It never does and, you know, because we don't drink until we get off, because it's got to be a decent-ish show, so it's usually pretty full-on talking to someone who's that drunk as it is at the end of the night. But then when they hit you with those kind of bombs, you're like, 'Oh, jeepers creepers guys, I appreciate what you're trying to say, but get a stubby holder and go fuck yourself!' [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] Yeah! Yeah! Oh God.... Wow. So you told All Aussie Hip-Hop: 'I’m unbelievably proud that we have crews like Last Kinection and people like Briggs and Jimblah setting the example and breaking the stereotype of not only what it means to be an Aboriginal hip-hop artist, but to be an Aboriginal.' Do you want to talk about that, breaking the stereotype?
Well, I think just being just being perceived as successful is a start - is it - that's the main number one thing. The fact that they're the guys on TV, they're the guys that have people taking photos of them. They're the guys who have audiences coming to see them. They're successful. People automatically associate a lot of the time being Aboriginal with having a glass ceiling to what you're doing. And these guys like Briggs are not only breaking what it means to be a Black rapper, but an Aussie rapper, but a rapper, but an artist, like these guys are breaking world-class glass ceilings. That's phenomenal shit, you know what I mean? That's the kind of shit that makes me so proud to see people like that going through. People that mean it, they come from the right place and that's what I mean by the stereotype being broken. It's not someone who's gone out and tried to achieve on their - it's not someone who's gone out and tried to cash in on the success of being Black or for lack of a better word, not so much sell out his culture, but to use it as the forefront, you know what I mean, these dudes kind of use it the wrong way because they haven't been taught the right way and you've got guys like Briggs, like Jim [Jimblah], like Birdy [Birdz], you know, like Djarmbi [Djarmbi Supreme], guys who know what's up, who are leading the cause and doing it the right way, which shows everyone else, 'Holy shit', like, 'You can just be you and be super successful, because these guys don't compromise.' You see Briggs going in with his socks and his loafers and it's not about image, it's about not compromising - and being yourself, and being successful, is all fun, and I love that shit.
Yeah, absolutely. So tell us about your collaboration with the Last Kinection, 'Talk About It'.
That came about mostly because of Jaytee, the producer from the joint, because we worked together a million times on Briggs's record, because he deejays for Briggs as well. But Jay introduced me to Nay [Last Kinection frontwoman Naomi Wenitong] ages ago at a Hilltop Hoods show and it was just like, 'Man, we got along like a house on fire, how are we not going to do a song together?' And it was simple, it was nice and easy because Jay knows, as well, I've never had the chance to really talk about a lot of the things that are relevant in the community. Like, especially Black deaths in custody, I talk about that a lot on songs, because it's easy, because people hate cops, you know what I mean? That's an easy thing to talk about on rap songs. But to talk about it on a song when the audience is predominantly Black, it's a beautiful thing to talk about it and say, you know, 'We know what's up, we all know this is a big problem, let's get it on.' So that's what my verse was mostly about, you know. I think that whole song was just dope and I've always wanted to work with Nay, especially, and Jay just made the beat and it was fucking phenomenal. I want to do a ton more shit with them. I've done a bunch of remixes with them before and stuff. I love those guys so much.
Yeah. It's an amazing sound Jaytee has.
Yeah. Jay is the man. Like, yeah, me and Jay are working with each other for a lot of things this year. We've done a bunch of records together. Electronic deejay stuff and a bunch of rap shit for Briggs's new album, bunch of shit, so yeah, me and Jay work together a lot. Jay's got more Deadlys [Deadly Awards] than me! [Laughs.]
It's a competition, is it?
Yeah it is!
Well, the competition's over, since the Deadlys have been axed!
I know, so I'll never catch up, so Jay has got more Deadlys than me and it's a sore point of contention! [Laughs.]
So tell us about 'The Hunt'. When I hear that live, when Briggs plays it live and you can hear the sounds separated as they're coming out of the speakers, it's just an amazing production and it just gives you goosebumps - and it gets people dancing at the same time, you know.
So tell us about working on that with Gurrumul and so on, because it's such an amazing piece of music.
Yeah, it's weird how that one came about, because basically, like, James from Sietta works really closely with Gurrumul and Michael [Michael Hohnen] from Skinnyfish - and he's the common link in this whole team. Basically, he introduced us all. Michael gave me Gurrumul's whole catalogue and basically said, you know, pick a song, we'll give you the stems for it and you can remix it, flip it up, do whatever you want and that can be the song for the Briggs record. So I said, 'OK, cool.' So I took all these songs and I took this one, 'Baru', which is just a phenomenal song. It had been previously flipped by a dance act as well, because it's such a great song. But I interpreted it, you know, on some hip-hop shit, so I chopped it up, sent it all back all weird and Gurrumul didn't even recognise it as what it was any more, you know, it was a whole different song. So we got Gurrumul to play over the top of that, then, so the whole song is a completely different song, built on the bed of an old song, which totally fucked him up! [Laughs.] That was cool, you know, because we're listening to Gurrumul's stems and his harmonies, and that's blowing our minds, you know, just listening to how amazing those stems were and then when he was equally freaked out at what we had done, that's when we knew we had something really, really cool. When he was touching down in every state, buying a new boombox, specifically to plan this track, that's when we knew something was cool! So that was unreal. We took that, we took Gurrumul and then Briggs went down to [DJ] Debris' studio, laid the guitar over the top of that, the strings got recorded up in Darwin with James from Sietta as well. So it was three or four different states made the song, and then it came all back to me in Adelaide. I put it all together and then again bouncing back and forth between Briggah [Briggasaurus aka Briggs] and James and Gurrumul to get the end result, yeah. So it was a lot of work, but it was never WORK, you know, it was like an experience the whole time and then to do it live, you know, in Triple J, was something else. No one ever thought we were going to do that, you know? That was never a chance.
That was the first time you all got in a room together, was it?
It literally was! Yeah, that we'd ever been there, because Michael was on the double bass as well and James was there on guitar, so it was crazy and we had Dewayne [Dewayne Everettsmith] on back-ups as well, so we had some unbelievable minds in the room. It was like I just Blacked out! [Laughs.] You know? We came out and I thought, 'What the fuck did we just do?' [Laughs.] It took me until a fortnight later to watch the footage back when James posted it and it was just like, 'Holy shit!' Like, I totally forgot! [Laughs.] It was phenomenal, yeah, it was something else. It was something else. It was easily the highlight of my - quote, unquote - 'career'. That was the most artistically, spiritually - like, everything - rewarding song I have ever been a part of.
Fantastic, yeah. Better than Larry? [Getting Larry Emdur on stage in Sydney.]
Well that was, that's like a whole other, that's a different realm. Briggs and G is like this realm and us and Larry is the matrix has been snapped in half. Some PR firm fucked up along the way somewhere! [Laughs.] That's what that shit shows!
[Laughs.] On 'Where I Am', you rap, 'Like dudes with no idea, that don't want refugee blokes here.'
Did you want to touch on that?
Another simple one, it's like, Aussie rap is still Aussie rap, you know. It comes with that connotation of Aussie rap. I've always been a fan of our rap just being rap and being you. That's why I think our stuff has been like - even the old shit, which is still pretty fucking cringeworthy - is still reasonably OK sonically, production-wise for what it is back then, because we always try to hold ourselves to a world-class standard, you know what I mean? As opposed to an Aussie rap standard, which I always feel is a term that discounts everything.
You know what I mean?
Yeah, I do know what you mean, yeah. But then I see that argument being hurled at Indij hip-hop artists - that's the dismissive comment that you always see online is that it sounds like shit, but they're not even... well, firstly, I think it sounds world class. Secondly, they're not listening to the words.
Oh! Of course!
In my opinion. So I tend not to think of - maybe because I'm not a music producer - I tend not to think of Aussie hip-hop as being particularly bad sonically, more that it's more like pop music.
Oh yeah, the majority of the mainstream stuff, absolutely is for sure, for sure. That was like another thing that really curbed my, I guess, political output when I was younger as well, was that I was totally fixated on proving myself as just an unquestionably good rapper. That was it. I didn't want any discounts to it, like there was so many grants and opportunities that came my way when I was young - and not to dispel them because they're fucking amazing and they help out a lot of people, like, I'm on a grants board in Adelaide and I fucking live for this shit, I love giving it to the people that need it - and I never really needed it, which was great, but I never took those opportunities because I never wanted to be seen as that discounted Indigenous emcee, ever. I always just wanted to be a fucking phenomenal emcee, like, that's it. That kept me off the radar from a lot of, you know, Indigenous like collectives for fucking ages and I totally know that. Things like the Deadly Awards and shit, are like classic! [Laughs.] Not to speak ill of them, because they're fucking brilliant. But things like that, like, I'd been making music for the entire time that that was ever on, but I never, ever put my identity up front, ever. I always wanted to be fucking world-class, whatever I did, first and foremost. You know, and that's why, like, once I had some reasonable success - what people consider success - in the form of gold or platinum records or whatever the fuck, that's what really made me feel like, 'OK, cool, I can champion these lines in my lyrics now because, I'm a few steps onto that little soapbox that people perceive, you know? So I can say these things.' I didn't want to be coming out with those kinds of things early on, with people discounting it and saying, 'Oh, he's on that shit', or on that trip or, 'He's one of those, he's a conscious rapper' or any of that kind of shit, you know? I just wanted to be rapper, artist, producer, performer, whatever and then afterwards when people find out, you know - that's my favourite trip. My favourite trip in the world has been, I have people at gigs, like, just fellas coming up to me, just saying, like, 'Man, I didn't realise you were Black and then I found out and then I was like, "FUCK, yeah!!!"' [Laughs.] It was like, 'Yeah, bruz! You see!!! We can do this, bruz!' [Laughs.] 'We can fucking do this!' And that's my favourite when it happens, homies coming through at gigs like that, that's my favourite, ever!
Yeah! And you made your way up as a battle rapper, right?
Yeah, yeah, being loud and obnoxious!
Yeah. [Laughs.] Not easy.
Not easy and, yeah, definitely back then, not rewarding either. [Laughs.]
Yeah. Is it now, though?
Well, it's definitely a big thing these days, yeah.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
If you go in the right places, yeah. In the States and London and Canada it's fucking massive and it'll be just a matter of time before we catch up on that one - probably the 50 years that I was talking about before.
[Laughs.] Yeah. So tell us about the soundtracks that you've done, because I don't know much about that, apart from the latest thing with Ryan Griffen and doing his documentary stuff as well.
Yeah, we've done a couple of things, which have been really, really fun. But I did a song for PJ Hogan who did Muriel's Wedding, he did another movie with Toni Collette which is called Mental, like, two years ago, and I had a friend at Sony who knew that I kind of wrote heavier guitar, big drummy kind of music. They came to me for a song for Toni Collette's character's theme song, which I didn't realise was a theme song at the time, so it was cut into three different songs, like the theme song and the title song and the end song, which was pretty cool! [Laughs.] That was awesome. Crazy. Then I wrote a song with a friend of mine, Ash Grunwald, just a blues and roots kind of artist from Byron Bay, Brisbane area.
With Ash Grunwald, did you say?
Yeah, yep. We wrote a song for that and that got picked up for a movie. What was it called again? Fuck... Limitless, which was kind of a reasonably big Hollywood movie, which did well for us as well and, again, they kind of heard the guitar stuff again and they just came straight through and synced it up, which was cool. So there's been a couple of cool little, big projects like that and Housos and Fat Pizza those guys have always been supremely nice to us. We wrote the theme song for the Housos TV show and pretty much every single song you hear throughout it is like a sting from our catalogue. They're fucking awesome guys, they sink the whole four albums because they like our sound and it resonates pretty well with the visuals. [Laughs.]
Yeah! Yeah! So tell us about - actually, tell us about Ash Grunwald and what you learnt from him because I gather that was quite a turning point for you, touring with him and learning from him.
Yeah, it really was, like, he's definitely the dude that I blame for playing guitar, for sure. The first time, like - we had a mutual friend, who was the [Hilltop] Hoods' sound guy, who is still the Hoods' sound guy actually. We were on tour in Newcastle and he'd mentioned that I was playing an Ash Grunwald song at soundcheck and he mentioned that Ash really liked our stuff, which was classic, I just thought, 'There's no fucking way, he's having me on.' So he sent me Ash's email, so I sent him an email and said, 'How ya going?' And he was in Canada at the time and he sent me a riff, immediately, back, and said, 'Man, I'm in Canada, I've just set my amp up, I'm recording a riff and I'm sending it to you.' He recorded this riff and sent it to me. So I chopped it up the same as I did with Gurrumul's song, chopped it up so it was completely unrecognisable again, which fucked Ash's head up completely, because he'd never been down that path before. Sent it back, he was like, 'Cool, that's great. I get back to Australia next week. How about I come stay at your house for a fortnight?' [Laughs.] I said, 'Oh, cool.' So we had never met before until he rocked up at the front of my house in a big camper van that his two mates drove across the border to WA to go meet him there when he'd finished the fortnight here. It was wicked, man - every morning we woke up with him singing next door in the spare room! [Laughs.]
Yeah, so we just stayed together for a fortnight and wrote the whole EP together that we wrote and recorded it all together. There's one song on there which is like a real kind of bluegrass, real fast, almost insane - it's insane because I know we were insane at the time - because we literally wrote it at 4am, like, 'Ah, we'll just squeeze one more song out.' And we were eating tuna out of a tin, using the lid as the fork. [Laughs.] 'One more song!' And we squeezed it out and that was the last song we put on the album. The touring we did was crazy, we did a whole tour, which was a co-headline tour, which was Ash Grunwald and full band and us as well, so us three and a DJ as well, which was - that was crazy, because between Ash and I, we felt like our music felt the same way. It definitely was not the same music, but it felt the same way. So when Ash and I would write songs, the song wouldn't be done unless we were looking at each other with stink faces like, 'Yeaaahhhhhh!' Like fucking, 'Yeaahhhhh!!!' You know? So all of our songs that we liked about each other's shit had that face to it.
So we were like, 'If that face is like a common thing, you know, maybe we can get our fans to enjoy that together?' That was it, you know, we did a massive tour together and sometimes we'd open up and then he'd do a set and then sometimes he'd open up and we'd do a set, but we'd always finish on a combined set with about 15 of us on stage, with his soulful band and our band, and we'd mash up about four of our songs together and it was a crazy, crazy - yep, it was something else, definitely. It was something really ambitious and really gutsy and I guess the end product is the fact that we don't give a fuck! [Laughs.] If no one came it didn't really matter, we just wanted to do it! [Laughs.]
Do you prefer going to little regional towns where the whole place is packed out?
Oh, all day, every day! Yeah. I think anything without one of those little barriers, you know those silver crowd barriers? Anything without those. Those crowd barriers can just fuck right off forever, they're just a total disconnect. Things like The Basement [in Sydney], that crowd was perfect because there was lots of room for people, but the people that were there were right in our faces, they were right there - that's my favourite kind of crowd.
Yeah, absolutely. So tell us about the Golden Era family [the Funkoars' record label].
Well, we're a really, really lucky bunch, like, we all are literally mates first. As PR-correct as that is for a lot of people to say, we actually are. We actually are all really good mates. That's why I can rag on Vents and say he is a lazy shit, because he's one of my best mates in the world and I'll see him tomorrow and tell him what I did! [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] That helps his image, though. [Laughs.]
Yeah, yeah, yeah! I should be saying how good he is at his 9 to 5 - which, he doesn't have - but maybe I'll start lying. [Laughs.] The Golden Era thing is basically like, when we were growing up, we were listening to rap songs before we knew that Aussie rap songs existed, you know, obviously, and then the first Aussie rap song I ever heard was a Hilltop Hoods song and then I heard Def Wish Cast, then I heard Cross Bred Mongrels, then I heard like Mass MC, a lot of Sydney shit was really heavily influential on me, actually. But knowing that there was these Adelaide dudes making that shit freaked me out, because I was writing rhymes at that stage and I didn't think anyone else did, just, like, me and my mates. But not only were there people doing it, there were people recording it and putting it out on vinyl, which fucked me up. So, you know, I accidentally met those dudes though a friend that they accidentally met as well, on some bizarre internet chatroom when I was like 16 years old. It was full-on. And this guy basically was like, 'Come and meet me at these shops, I'll pick you up and take you to a gig.'
And thankfully my mum trusted me enough, otherwise I would never have gone. Like, she was like, 'Yeah, sure, you seem like a good judge of character.' So she let me go. And then this guy, Kirk, who ended up becoming our manager for, like, six years - the first crucial years of what we were doing - introduced me to these guys called After Hours, which were a crew from Adelaide, still are. They were a big part of a bigger crew called Certified Wise, which included Cross Bred Mongrels, Hilltop Hoods, Terra Firma - big, big, big crew. And then basically we were crew for years and years and years, but the Hoods especially were really, really close with us, you know, Suffa and I have been close for a long time. Debris taught me how to make beats pretty much, you know. All of my new studios are their old studios.
You know what I mean? So like, all the shit they've finished with.
That's why I always have good shit! Yeah, the Golden Era thing is basically, the Hoods knew that none of our friends at that point had deals. None of us had deals, but we were always recording, everyone was making music and we were the first ones on there - us, and Vents, Briggs obviously, ADFU was a part of Vents, you know, a part of all of us, because he's like a team player for the whole squad and then K21 a couple of years ago was the last dude that came on board. But it's essentially the Hoods giving us a lifeline, which is great, because they don't need to do that, but they do! [Laughs.]
Well, they're doing pretty well with it, so it's working out well!
They put their trust in us, which is fucking amazing. You know, we constantly refer to Golden Era as like the big bowl, except for when we play our part and we start to put holes in the sieve! [Laughs.] The Hoods keep us all in work, with endless generosity! [Laughs.]
So can you talk us through the tracks on the forthcoming album, In Case Of Emergency?
Yeah. A lot of the songs on this record are topical, for a change, which has been fun. We've been really, really fun - not so outlandishly topical, but songs that we've managed to nail down common interests. The thing with 'oars is that there's three of us that rhyme, so it's always been hard to do topical things that the other two or the other one might not be into. Unless that's the topic itself, which is hilarious, when someone says how dope it is and the other says how shit it is, which we've done a lot. But this one's come across as topical, like, we've all had really shithouse neighbours in the last couple of years, so we wrote a big theme song to just a terrible neighbour - it's a song with Ash Grunwald on, which is hilarious. Yeah, it's like a good old-fashioned blues song, but it's just a contemporary twist of 'I hate my fucking flat, you know, landlord and neighbour.' [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] A lot of people will relate to that.
Yeah, well, that's what we were thinking as well, we were like, 'You know what? Every time we've played it, people are like, yeah, I know that dude.' And that's it. And we've toured with those fucking dudes and they were annoying. There's a lot of that and because we've been touring again, every single song is always reflective, like I was saying, of the weekend or the year before that. And it's like, this album we've been touring again, so we've got a lot of stories and a lot of fodder and a lot of dumb shit to talk about. So there's been a lot of just fucking funny stories that we've learnt to put together on records again, which are always our favourite songs.
Have you got any song titles?
Oh yeah, I've got a couple, but they can all be misconstrued pretty easily! [Laughs.]
OK. Best not to, then!
Yeah I was about to say it, then thought, 'Oh no, that sounds way too creepy if you don't know the context, I'll leave it out!' [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] OK! So you got Ken Taylor to do the artwork for the album again, right?
Yeah, Ken's just a gem. That came from one of our previous managers, his brother sharing a space with Ken and his brother incidentally playing a pre-master of our old album, The Quickening, which was the first one that Ken did, and Ken mentioning that he fucking loved our tunes and was a fan. Serendipitous as hell. And we got in touch with him and he was like, 'Man, I really love it, can you send us some songs?' We sent him some songs and he sent us some pictures back and we were like, 'Fuck! Yeah, we should probably do this!' So we did a record together and yeah, so this one - when we did that one, we loved it, but we always wanted to do something really adventurous, because his style is phenomenal, you know? We've always been about surrounding ourselves with people who are super-professional and good, because they make us look fucking heaps better! [Laughs.]
Ken's a great example of that, so we were like, 'This time you've got to really spaz out Ken.' So he's gone fucking wild on this one. Yeah, it's really, really - it's crazy. We've only seen little cell mock-ups and little drafts and shit here and there, but wow, yep. We've tried to get him involved every step of the way including the live show, so we're designing how the live show looks now, with Ken in mind. So he's literally imagining physical things for us to have on stage. We want a whole common theme for the whole thing, so as unplanned and spontaneous as our band is, the artwork and the live show is probably what we put the most effort into, because we know that when you first see it, it really, you know, that's a big fucking thing. Like, a lot of songs you can listen to and digest and keep moving through, it's almost like bubblegum, you know? But artwork is the one thing that stays with you and the visual of the show. You know, that's why me and Sesta will always rock out wearing no shoes or just looking gumbie as fuck because that's what we are and we want that to stay with people, you know? We don't want to present a false image. I don't want to wear some new shoes that I bought that day because I won't be wearing them next week. That's a once-off. You might as well see it how it usually is. [Laughs.]
So tell us about some of your other collabs [collaborations]. Can I go through some of them and you stop me and comment if you want to. Infallible - 'A Burning Ambition' and 'Situation Critical'.
That's an old one, yeah. That came in, fuck, that was one of the first, earliest ones I did across the internet. Because one of my good mates, Hunter from WA, recommended him. He was travelling across the Nullarbor [Nullarbor Plain] to come to Adelaide and he stopped in to Melbourne and met him along the way and said, 'Hey man, those kids, ship them a beat.' So I shipped them two beats and one was the title track of his for the song, for the album, and the other one was a song with Infallible, Hunter and 360. So that was that one! [Laughs.] When he came to my house, by the way, that was the end of the trip in Adelaide, in 2002, he came though. Even earlier, maybe, 2000, 2001 almost, he stayed at my house for a fortnight and we made a bunch of songs which ended up on our first album together as well. And we got really fucking drunk, obviously! [Laughs.]
So, Hilltop Hoods - 'Clown Prince' remix and 'Circuit Breaker'.
Yep, they were great songs, they were really cool. That's because I used to just force-feed Suffa's email with beats every single fucking day and say, 'What do you think about this one?' 'How about this one?' 'Do you like this one?' 'How about this one?' 'Is this one OK?' Dragged it and tapped everything right by him, so that's why there's a big period of Hoods albums where I've got a fuckload of beats on there, because he had the first pick out of everything, so eventually I started doing a lot of other shit with a lot of other people who were all getting the beats as well, but for a big period, Suffa just got fucking smashed with my beats. And he would take whichever the best ones were out of them. [Laughs.] There's about six or seven of their tunes I did in that era.
Well, lucky me! Jesus Christ.
Well, it works both ways.
Well, yeah, I still think it's - you know, he could have answered a lot of emails that day. [Laughs.]
Yep. So, Cross Bred Mongrels - 'Restore Your Faith'.
Yep, that's Flak, MC Flak, and DJ Debris from Hilltop Hoods. So those guys - especially Flak - unbelievably influential on me when I was a young emcee, growing up, like, that's what got me into the battle thing, seeing a guy like Flak, one of the most ferocious yet, like, super politically lyrical kind of dudes I've ever, ever, ever come across. And seeing him live was the first time I ever actually got on stage. Like, those guys that I was talking about earlier, Kirk, was a good mate of Flak and Flak introduced me, literally, to the stage when I was like 16 years old. So I got into the club, he pulled me up on stage, I kicked a freestyle with him and Debris, Simplex from Terra Firma on stage and he outed me hard and told the whole club including the bouncer that I was 'too young to be in here' and like, 'How cool was that?' I was like, 'Oh fuck, man, relax!' [Laughs.] But that was my first ever intro on a microphone on stage or anything. So, working with Cross Bred was always a big dream for me, so anything they ever wanted every step of the way - so they'd hit me up for a remix, you know, it's a next day job.
Yeah. So, Last Credit - 'Breakfast Of Champs'.
Man, that's a bunch of Sydney dudes that I got super drunk with and they were like, 'Let's do a song about getting drunk!' 'Yeah, all right!' And that was it! [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] Great! So, Reason - 'Life's A Lesson'.
Yeah, Reason's another guy, same as Flak, a true pioneer of Aussie rap, like, a guy that even if you get to have a conversation with, you know, you're going to leave more enlightened, let alone doing songs with, like, so I grew up listening to Reason. As far as Obese records goes, he's Obese Records release number one. That's Reason, he's solid, literally the foundation for that whole thing, you know. So, getting to work with Re was just a fucking no-brainer. It's like, 'Wow, if you can see some value in what I'm doing? Fuck yeah! You can have as much as you want - anything you want - Reason!' And the same goes to this day, it was a pleasure to work with Re, I fucking love Reason. Yeah dudes like that - I've never been the type of dude to work with dudes on a status thing - it's always been like I NEED to work with that guy. It doesn't hurt that Reason is a fucking OG ['original gangsta'] like proper, certified creator of this shit. He's so dope and influential on me when I was growing up. I had to do those records, you know?
Yeah. Boltz - The Wishlist.
Boltz is a cool dude I met on my many travels to Melbourne when I was younger, catching the train over and getting stupid drunk and partying at the Laundry [club] and whatnot. He was just like, 'Hey, got any beats?' And I was like, 'Sure, here's two beats.' That was it. I don't record stuff with Boltz any more, but we still drink as hard! [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] Drapht - Brothers Grimm and Life of Riley.
Those were pretty monumental records for me I guess. They were pretty big man, like, kind of career, life-changing records, I guess, in many different ways. But I suppose Grimm was crazy, because Drapht and I knew each other for a long time. Like, both friends with each other. Dazastah [of Downsyde] used to make us beats and Dazastah was my favourite producer in the entire country and has been from the first time I ever heard his beats - they're fucking phenomenal. So, Dazastah made Drapht's first two albums and I loved them - I played them to death. So there's a song on Hilltop Hoods' album The Hard Road called 'The Blue Blooded', which had maybe 15 of us on there - lots of verses from different states. The Hoods flew every single person down to do the song in the same room in the one day, so there were 15 of us all in this huge room, you know - and we were there for a couple of days, so we all went out and got a little drunk and whatever, whatever. Drapht and I specifically went out and got pretty drunk together. We were just like, 'Man, we should just do a fucking rap record.' 'I love your beats.' 'I love your rhymes.' Whatever the fuck. So we literally just cooked up Brothers Grimm together that weekend, talking about the idea of me and him being Brothers Grimm and kicking all these, not fairytales, but just narratives and all this kind of shit to people and I just fed him beats for a couple of months. And then he came down to my house. We recorded for - this share house I was staying in, oh, fuck, man, it was terrible! Like, the vocal booth was in the laundry, at the end of the laundry and there was a cat litter box right next to the booth. So if I didn't change the litter for the day, it just fucking stank, man! And that was often. So Drapht and Vents both did both their albums in that fucking kitty litter box, man.
So we did the whole album together down here, Brothers Grimm, and that was crazy, like, 'Jimmy Recard', like fucking yeah like that was a total accident, you know. That was the last song he showed me on the album that we were going to work on and we were like, 'Ah, let's chuck it on, whatever.' We chucked it on and then it just fucking happened, something happened, it resonated hard as fuck. Yeah, it was weird, man, because we'd already seen those kind of bridges being built with, you know, [Hilltop Hoods'] 'Nosebleed Section' songs and like you know even The Herd doing it, like Downsyde had a bunch as well, but 'Nosebleed' was probably the first one that really crossed over to a mainstream audience. Even the J wasn't really fucking with rap at that stage, you know. So when that happened it was like, 'Cool.' We saw that whole thing happen, obviously being tight with Suffa and those guys, we saw that happen, not being able to walk the street with those guys without them getting stopped every five metres and shit, you know. So you saw that song kind of fucking influence their surroundings. Whereas with us it was really fucking weird because we were inside the eye of the fucking storm, you know? So this whole thing was going on around us that we had no idea about till we started doing shows live and seeing the reaction that people had and when playing the song in clubs, because I was deejaying the whole time, you know? I was dropping the song, it was like when you drop a Jay-Z song and get the fucking huge arms and when I dropped my song and got that, I was like, 'What the fuck is going on here?' That was crazy, you know? That really fucked us up and that's why we took the next record, Life Of Riley, really fucking seriously. Because Brothers Grimm was like, you listen to a lot of the songs on Brothers Grimm are hardcore rap songs. 'Jimmy Recard' and stuff like that go towards the area of pop, now, because rap is considered mainstream so it's a bit more poppier. But a lot of those songs on Brothers Grimm are hard as nails, you know, because we didn't aim for anything. And then when we had this platform, we were like, 'All right, cool. We know what we can do. We know what we're capable of.' So we wrote songs like 'Rapunzel' and 'Bali Party' and the happier, more uptempo, way more fucking live party tunes because we just did the Big Day Out tour, we just did two big laps around the country and the songs we liked playing the most and the crowd liked the most were the big, uptempo fucking heavy ones and I love making those songs! We were like, 'Fuck it! We'll do a whole album of that shit!' We did a whole album for Life Of Riley of uptempo, crazy, maniac shit. So when we toured that it was just uptempo, crazy, maniac shit, you know. Forget art and all that kind of shit, it was a crazy experience and Drapht came down three months ago and we banged out another five songs for this last album he's about to put out now, this album he's about to put out, which is really close. We're about to go on tour with him, as I said before so, we're tight. Super fucking tight. I love that guy to death. And it's an accident that we got to have this little bit of success and share it together. He owns a little cafe now - not little, he owns a fucking great cafe in Perth now - and we all get to go there and eat, you know, like, little things that have materialised into the real physical world - we own houses and weird shit like that, now, off of fucking music, it really fucked us up and made us - that was, that was the real turning point for us, that whole period - those two albums in particular.
So, Mase N Mattic - Sound The Horns.
Yeah, they're two guys from Adelaide, real good kids - love 'em - and again another example of just dudes I like. I just love 'em, I think they're good guys, so it's like, 'You can have whatever the fuck you want, fellas!' [Laughs.] Because I gave them a couple of beats and they had the same kind of intensity live as we like to have, so we took them for a whole lap round the country as well. They were good kids.
K21 - Single Minded Civilian.
I love K so much, he's a dude that grew up two streets away from my old house, the house that had the cat litter tray in it. And someone in the area - you know how Adelaide's pretty small, man - someone told me this kid was making beats across the road and he was using the same program that I was using, which not many people used as well, which was a headfuck - only me and Debris were using it at that point.
What program was that?
Logic Audio, which everyone uses now. Back then, Logic 3, 4 and 5, you had to have a dongle key and all sorts of real actual fucking activation shit.
You actually had to BUY it!
You actually had to buy it! So it was like to hear this kid had it round the corner was like, 'Oh shit, he must be serious.' So I went around and I listened to his beats and shit and I was like, 'Mate, you should start hanging out at my house.' And he'd come to my house and we'd play Streetfighter before he'd go to school. He'd go to school, I'd crash out, make beats, whatever the fuck, wake up, he'd be on the couch playing Streetfighter. We'd play some more, make some beats and then just rinse and repeat and now he's 25 now and last weekend when I was in Sydney he was here house-sitting my dog in my house. I love that dude. I've worked on every single one of his albums ever since and he's been on every one of ours ever since as well.
And Purpose - Where It Starts.
Another Adelaide champion, really, really good dude. Another guy that made his name in the battle circuit as well, similar to me. I saw a lot of similarities with Purp when he was growing up, as me, the way he approached everything and, you know, he was the first dude in the dollar crates, smashing all the samples out and then going straight to the open mic nights and just totally every single element of the whole rap thing and I used to love that. So Purp was a dude that I had no hesitation of working with, ever. So I did a lot of tunes with Purpose.
And Briggs's The Blacklist, when you worked on that.
Well, I was on Briggs's Homemade Bombs as well.
Yeah, that really kicked the door in.
[Laughs.] Yeah, it did! It totally did you know, and it was like...
It wasn't an easing-in gently.
That's the best way to do it! If you know Briggs now, that's how you'd think he would enter the game - exactly the same way he did! You know what I mean?
A completely unapologetic, fuck-you record, which I love. Yeah, I did, like, two joints on that and again, I've been on every single Briggs record since, you know, like, meeting dudes like that, who you resonate with, like, not only on a - quote unquote - 'professional' or 'artistic' level, but on a human level, which is my favourite way to just deal with anything. If I can spend that much time with a human in an enclosed space, and come up with something pretty dope...
Yeah, that's a great place to be. What's your future musical plans, then? You've got the tour and then the album. What about looking at the bigger picture?
Well, I guess, yeah, lots of touring obviously, you know. Lots of touring obviously, all the time. But the end game is to be The Beatles and just to make music and not tour, you know? [Cracks up laughing.] Because we're frail as fuck!
[Laughs.] But you love it, though.
We love it! And that's the problem, like, every time I go to my doctor to check out my bad neck, he's like, 'Man, you've got to stop doing that.' I wish I could, but once I'm up there, it's not a choice and I feed up there off everyone. [Laughs.] But lots of production. Like, the last couple of years I've - the last two or three years in particular - I've expanded my production to a big, different, scope. So not just Drapht stuff, I do a lot of other stuff now as well. Just production as a whole, just music productions. Not to be confined to any genre, just to make music - which has a similar feel all the time, which is what I want - I still want all my productions to have a certain feel, you know, like you hear a Rick Rubin track or something like that - you know that he did it, you know. I'd really like to have that kind of feel, but I've been working on everything, from like just funk, soul, blues, to the most upper echelon poppy songs in the world, like - but also the most hardcore rap songs in the world, I'm doing the whole gamut at the moment.
What have you been working on? What names have you been working with?
Wow, well, there's a lot! [Laughs.]
I've only just touched on a tiny little corner there, then.
Yeah, there's a lot, there's a lot and there's a lot of things that are coming out this year. Like, one of the biggest records that I got to play with, which was really, really fun was Pete Murray's album, which is cool, you know, Pete Murray is traditionally kind of, you know, more of an adult contemporary kind of rock kind of guy. And we got in a studio for a fortnight together and it was crazy, you know, just coming up with sounds to explore, which was amazing. So he's still working on his album now, but to spend two weeks together working on records was fucking insane, you know. A guy that you know is the world-class, well-established musician who knows how to write a song. To be in a room like that with someone is kinda cool - I sort of know how to write a song! [Laughs.] And then when you pull a bunch of songs out, you're like, 'Fuck! That was lucky! We both know how to write a song somewhere.' [Laughs.] I think self-doubt is really fucking important the whole way along.
When you're in a room with a dude like that and he's the most easy, accommodating, suggestive artist to work with, it's like, 'Fuck! This is great, this can be like this. You can be this upper echelon, multi-tiered, successful artist and still be a cool, down-to-earth motherfucker and just be open to ideas. See, working with the [Hilltop] Hoods, I get a nice view of it, because they're my friends, you know, my best mates, so I automatically assume that working with them is easy. And they're multi-platinum artists and that's a secondary thing, you know. But then you work with a multi-platinum artist under the guise of 'Oh fuck, they're going to be insane artists.' And then you get in the room with them and they're just as cool and it's like, 'Ah, you're just as cool as my mates! Amazing! This is fucking great! You can be cool as hell as well!' So like, working with dudes like that has just really set the standard for me, knowing that I can work in these kind of environments that people like us, started in production, rap production, can mix it with the best of just music production, which is fucking sick.
Who else have you been working with?
Oh, there's so many. I can't say so many of them! [Laughs.] I've just been given a lot of sick fucking opportunities this year, which have been really fun and yeah - hopefully they'll come out all right.
Hopefully you're not going to paralyse yourself by putting your back out by gigging for the rest of your life.
Well, I've got that sweet cortisone injection lined up every quarter, so I'll be all right.
Yeah, what happened with your back?
I've stressed it out pretty bad. Pretty bad.
From what? From jumping around?
From gigs, from - I've got pretty progressive arthritis on top of it as well. Really, really bad - and a couple of years ago, it hit really peak badness and I missed out on maybe two shows and K21 filled in for me, which was hilarious. But since then I've learned to deal with it a bit better with diet, heaps of fucking exercise, shit like that. But yeah, I tried the medical route and they gave me a lot of actual pills and I was on medications like that and it fucked me up for, like, a whole year, I was totally not myself and I hated it. It was good for the pain, but it was bad for my brain, you know. So I made a trade off to just live with the bad back and just actually be in control of what was going on upstairs, which was a decent trade.
Yeah, sure, god. So is there anything that I should have asked you?
I don't think so man! [Laughs.]
Well, if you think of anything let me know by email.
Likewise, because I did just wake up half an hour before we started chatting as well, so I'm trying to get my sleep back on. I'll probably be in Sydney before you know it as well, actually, so if you ever want to catch up pretty soon as well, yeah. I'll be up there working with Griffo [Ryan Griffen] on the thing that Djarmbi got fired from. [Laughs.]
Yeah! So are you going to be on the post-production, laying down the music for it?
Yeah, hopefully I'm going to be contributing to a lot of sounds, yeah. Hopefully, anyway, fingers crossed, you know. It's nothing official yet, but Griffo and I have worked on, like you said, a bunch of shit before. We really enjoy working with each other. And this project is way up my alley.
It sounds really out there, yeah, it sounds pretty groundbreaking.
Yeah, exactly. And the visuals - I've been dying to go through on set when I was there, but again, in Sydney, like I was saying [by email], we'd finished the Newcastle gig and drove straight from Newcastle to the in-store [record signing and gig] at 567 [567 King in Newtown], played records there, drove straight from there, straight to the venue and then did the show at the venue, THEN we went to check into our hotel AFTER that!
Nah, that's all right, I knew it would be hectic. Yeah, when you're next in Sydney give us a shout.
Yeah, it'll be in the next couple of weeks, because I'm usually up there in the Sony building in Surry Hills working on this pop hit that I was telling you about earlier, so I'm there quite a bit, man. So I'll give you a holler. And Briggs is actually there at the moment too, now. He's relocated there temporarily for this thing, too.
For the filming?
Yeah, yeah, so he's actually in town quite a lot, now. But he came through the ink door [record signing] thing briefly and then he buggered off, he didn't come through to the show - I think he had an early night. [Laughs.]
He had to get up at 4am for filming?
Strongman training, yeah. [Laughs.]
I hear that he's got the most outlandish character outfit. I think Ryan Griffen said he'll be the character that everyone wants to be.
[Laughs.] Yeah - and if Griffo's got anything to do with it, you know he's going to make Briggs something special, man. [Laughs.]
Wow, all right, I'll be in touch. Or I'll hear from you. And I'll send you the link to that Munk show where he calls you a millionaire.
I can't wait to hear that and I can't wait to razz him on that because I feel terrible for not even buying him a drink, now!
All right! I'll send it now! Cheers, man, thank you.
Thanks a lot, Mat.
All right, cheers man, bye! [Later, by email:] Just one thing I forgot to ask - a bit of a naff question but I have not seen it asked - why did you choose the name Trials?
Boring answer, but it looked pretty cool on the wall when we were kids - ha ha - was my first graff tag that stuck with me.