Thursday, 2 February 2017

Before You Heard: Urthboy 'Crushing Hard'

Before You Heard takes you exclusively up close and personal with an artist, to learn more about what the song was like before you heard it.

We caught up with Urthboy to get an insight into 'Crushing Hard', his first release since 
The Past Beats Inside Me Like A Second Heartbeat.

Here you can hear him talking about the connection between 'Crushing Hard' and 'Wade In The Water' (from his lastest album) and his thoughts on how people are reacting to the song differently to how he first imagined.


Grab your copy of 'Crushing Hard' and tickets for the Crushing Hard tour via his website.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

January 26: #ChangeTheDate

The date of January 26 continues to hold unifying and divisive perspectives amongst Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians who recognise it under different names - Australia Day commemorates this date back in 1788 as the day on which Captain Arthur Phillip formally took possession of Sydney Cove, establishing European Australia; Invasion Day recognises the original invasion of the land by English colonisers and the continued oppression of Indigenous people; Survival Day acknowledges the survival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their culture despite the inequalities which still exist.

We spoke with some of our artists who shared their thoughts on why the date of Australia Day needs to be changed.


"Celebrating Australia Day on the 26th of January is divisive, disrespectful and in direct contrast with what people regard as its intention. If the intention is to celebrate the Australia of today as a great multicultural and inclusive country, then by its very nature it cannot be celebrated on 26th of January because it excludes Indigenous people who have (for longer than Australia Day has been an official holiday) observed the date as a Day of Mourning, Invasion Day and Survival Day. So, quite obviously, the date needs to change."


"The current way the nation celebrates Australia Day has never sat right with me. As a nation we drink and eat to excess and many exhibit an aggressive display of patriotism that often leads to bigotry and violence. 

I've never understood how people can behave in this way and I've never seen January 26 as something to celebrate. I believe it is of utmost importance that we as a nation continually reflect and recognise our past and honour our Indigenous people. One way to do this (and I mean only one, this is just the beginning) is to change the date. We have a responsibility to do so."


"I was born in Australia and I grew up here. It's a place I've always loved and called home. However, I also acknowledge that I am a guest on this land that has a black history. If the traditional owners and custodians of this land mourn on January 26th, what kind of person does that make me if I celebrate? So I say change the date."

In case you missed it, in collaboration with NITV, Urthboy, L-FRESH The LION, Ozi Batla, Thundamentals, Nooky, Birdz, Tasman Keith, Hau, Coda Conduct and Kaylah Truth teamed up to produce the song ' Change the Date'. Check out the 360 degree VR experience video below. The powerful lyrics can be found on NITV's website here.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Before You Heard: Horrorshow 'Push feat. Taj Ralph'

Before You Heard takes you exclusively up close and personal with an artist, to learn more about what the song was like before you heard it. 

We caught up with the Horrorshow boys to get an insight into the development of the lyrics and beats for their latest single 'Push feat. Taj Ralph'. 

Here you can hear Solo talking about the lyricism and meaning behind the song, and Diddy talking through the beat writing and arrangement, as well as working closely with Sticky Fingers pianoman and old friend Freddy Crabs.


Grab your copy of 'Push feat. Taj Ralph' here via their website.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Weekly Zug Zug: Lossless 'Rain Lung'

When strikingly different voices from similar worlds collide to mesh soundscapes of celestial chaos, our only hope is that this duo is here to stay. 

Melbourne's rapper and producer HTMLflowers and singer-songwriter and producer Oscar Key Sung, team up to collaborate on the project Lossless. The single 'Rain Lung' from their self-titled album is our Zug Zug this week.

With minimal howling production to compliment and subdue the angst and grit that admirably stands tall at the fore, 'Rain Lung' is propelled to new heights by HTMLflowers' verses which command and Oscar Key Sung's ethereal vocals which transcend.

Lossless is out now. Grab your copy via their website.

Join our Zug Zug Spotify playlist.

From the Vault: Revisiting The Herd - An Elefant Never Forgets

YEAR: 2003
WHERE WAS IT MADE: Twin Tower Studios, Von Sponeck Studios, Crash Palace, $nap's Playroom, Studio 547 (Epping), Goose Studios (Leichhardt)
MASTERED BY: Willie Bowden

Urthboy: An Elefant Never Forgets was one of the most important albums for Elefant Traks, whose success bankrolled the label and all our releases for years. AENF came two years after the minor success of our self-titled debut (it felt major to us!), and was a much bolder, more politically outspoken record that surprised a lot of people who'd only heard our song 'Scallops'. It was a weird time with a nastier, crueler side of the Australian psyche coming to the fore - the first flare-ups of anti-asylum seeker sentiment were now being reliably exploited by both major political parties. The strange and amazing group of individuals in the band collectively shared a vision to counter all this bullshit.

We started selling out legit venues and generally transitioned from an improvised outfit wearing different coloured overalls to something resembling a band! We attracted the attention of a young booking agent named Tom Taafe who signed us up to Trading Post Agency under the helm of Owen Orford. We sold a lot of albums that never dented any charts, but our successes gave us confidence in our message and our music. Can't forget that hip-hop was still very underground in Australia, and though it was changing quickly, it was still very much considered by the broader industry to be a passing fad.

Which tracks from An Elefant Never Forgets stands out to you and why?

Traksewt ...
One standout musically for me was 'Ray of Sun', produced by my old friend Damien Johns (Snapsuit) and MC'ed by Shannon Kennedy (Ozi Batla). Damien first got me into electronic music out of my band habits in the mid 90s, and we started writing tracks at the same time. I loved what he did on the drums giving it a lethargic yet rolling feel. Shannon is at his poetic best here, describing a duel personality argument between an optimist and a pessimist.  I also loved 'Burn Down the Parliament'. I was inspired from going to these great dancehall gigs in Sydney at the time by Firehouse Sound System. I wanted to try writing something with the classic dancehall beat, and to mix it up I wanted to try flamenco guitar. The song title was a little dig about what respect we had for our leaders.

Urthboy ...
The recording of some songs took me way out of my comfort zone. I recall the painstaking vocal takes in Kenny's Redfern bedroom for 'Burn Down the Parliament' - we broke it down line to line and butted heads learning how to understand what each of us wanted in the song. In retrospect it was a significant learning curve and I got a lot out of it. The other one was 'When You Thought Nothing Was Happening' - we had a lot of fun cutting up my vocals and piecing them back together. I still think that song is interesting, and there was nothing else like it in the hip-hop scene at the time.

Ozi Batla ...
'Urban Lady Saloon' reminds me how free we were back then, just mucking around and trying new things. Heaps naive as well I suppose, we would make a song in some bizarre time signature or that changed styles three times in a minute or was just completely left field and then put it on an album! That's probably a reflection of the Sydney electronic scene at the time, it was very experimental and exciting, everyone was pushing each other - not in a competitive way, more in that you would hear the weird shit someone else was doing on a Sunday night at Frigid and go home and try to make something even more out there. 

Toe-Fu ...
I had the knee jerk response of '77%' and then went and had another look at the track listing and ….it’s still '77%'. The track is Ozi Batla gold and captures the angst, frustration, anger and disappointment surrounding the Tampa affair and racism in Australia. As we’ve said many times on stage and in interviews, we wish the song was relegated to the history books after it was released, but sadly it remains relevant. I love this song because it’s like being hit over the head with a hammer – you can’t listen to it without being aware of the message.

Rok Poshtya ...
An Elefant Never Forgets was the last of the non-band albums. It wasn't until after this that the band lineup settled (Jane Tyrrell joined for The Sun Never Sets) and we had far less of the random element of divergently different songwriters and styles on there. So in many ways we were still finding our feet as an outfit. I think that leads to some real gems and some more funny moments. I find it amusing that some people who may have come late to the band would potentially be totally confused that it's not a hip-hop album, rather an album of electronic music with some hip -hop elements. It was an interesting time for the band - the successes of songs like '77%' and 'Burn Down the Parliament' meant that we suddenly, within a year or two, formed ourselves into a proper touring band, which lead to the lineup solidifying and made us into what we were in the albums to follow.

What was your mindset as a hip hop artist back when the album was released? What else were you up to in 2003?

Traksewt ...
Thinking back on who we were on that album reminds me of the thousand lives we have lived. That being our second album, we wanted to show the full range of The Herd. We had lots of musical ideas that we needed to experiment with and develop, that we felt were not fully engaged on in the first album. We also know that while the first album was thematically diverse, the song 'Scallops' was the sticking point on what The Herd was. So we wanted to show some variety to people who had only heard that one song.  I did a few solo gigs in Canada with some contacts from the label Ninja Tune. It was a big change for myself, from running the label day to day for 5 years, to handing over to Tim and getting random email updates on the other side of the world. I would be chatting with the rest of the band over the internet as the album was getting prepared.

Urthboy ...
We had a quiet confidence of knowing that our previous album surpassed all of our expectations, so that was carried into this album. There was a strong desire to be more overtly political and it felt pretty satisfying when we'd finished it - I was excited to talk to radio and media and let them know what we stood for. The album was more cohesive than the first one, and though it was still a bit of a dog's breakfast, it had this beautiful spirit about it - curious, ambitious, loose, angry - I can understand how it cut through.

Ozi Batla ...
I was predominantly known as a drum n bass MC and was trying to establish my hip-hop credentials, entering and winning a bunch of freestyle battles. Living down the coast, working just as much as I needed to, writing beats on the audio software Fruity Loops and Reason, writing rhymes like '77%', touring and playing heaps of club gigs still. Living the dream! I'd just met Chasm and was writing for his debut EP which would lead to us forming Astronomy Class with Robbo.

Toe-Fu ...
In 2003 I was living in Darwin and facilitating music workshops on Indigenous communities throughout Arnhem Land. The ‘Darwin years’ for me were extremely formative in relation to music, politics and the first people of this country. It was important to expand and dissolve that ‘south eastern perspective’ which was the only perspective I had before that. I’d spent a couple of weeks out bush and then a couple of weeks in town and maybe a gig down south. It was a very fortunate existence. I met and played with some amazing musicians from all cultures during those years. Me and some mates put on a Darwin Hip Hop Festival which saw Hau and Danielsan from Koolism playing under tiny umbrellas as a massive storm rolled through – it was a real DIY vibe up there (not so much OH&S!)

Rok Poshtya ...

Apart from playing bass on a couple of tracks, I was also responsible for the artwork on the album. At the time I was messing with a technique where I would randomly select points on vector artwork and 'pull' them to make shapes. It was in a program called Freehand which was a little less rigid than Illustrator which I use now. That's how I got the combination of shapes on the cover. There's a little visual joke in there as well—the fierce looking elephant on the front cover turns out to be a piece of kids play equipment, as revealed on the inside cover. Another fun fact is that each of The Herd albums have had a distinct colour palette on the front and inside covers (except Summerland where the disc and lyric book are a different colour). In this case we used warm colours for the cover and cooler blues for the inside. 

Grab your copy of An Elefant Never Forgets...

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