Five Minutes With Solo (Horrorshow)
Ahead of the duo's National tour in support of latest single, If You Know What I Mean.
Having been three years since the release of their critically acclaimed third studio album King Amongst Many, in August 2013, Sydney hip hop duo Horrorshow are currently hard at work on their upcoming fourth studio album. In anticipation of the album, the pairing recently released single If You Know What I Mean and its accompanying video, before announcing their plans to tour the country in October with fellow Elefant Traks label member B Wise as their support (tickets and dates, including a second Melbourne show following the sell-out success of the duo's initial Melbourne appearance, available here).
In celebration of the recently released single and upcoming tour, we grabbed Solo, one extraordinarily friendly and talented half of the hip hop duo, for an in-depth chat about having fun, getting back to basics and the art of humble bragging.
If You Know What I Mean struck me as a departure from a lot of Horrorshow’s previous releases, what can you tell me about the creative process for the single?
Well, I guess process wise it's come about fairly similarly to begin with, in the sense that Adit made a beat and I was feeling it, and wrote to it over a period of time. I guess I wrote most of it probably a year or so ago and… Maybe a difference from some of our previous stuff is that I tried to not overthink too much, like I tried to just have some fun with it and flex my skills on the raps. And just kind of have some fun with it. You know, I don't know if you're familiar with our last record King Amongst Many, but there's some pretty heavy concepts and themes and stuff on that record, and I'm really proud of it and all that but it was certainly hard work at times tackling all that stuff. You know, I'm glad that we did it and I think it's really important to tackle those sorts of things, but also I'm just trying to get back to… I guess just having fun and making music, and just enjoying the process. Maybe that's why kind of mood wise it's a bit different, and then also maybe what you're hearing is the maturation of Adit’s production skills. You know between the last Horrorshow record and this one we did the record with One Day, Mainline, and I think that was a big learning experience for both of us, working alongside so many people and doing things collaboratively. I know for him it opened him up to other production styles and things like that, and then I guess there's just been a bit of time passed between the last record. It came out August in 2013, so it's been three years since the last Horrorshow record and we’ve been listening to lots of new music and… I suppose all of those things are going in the pot. I sort of feel like… I know exactly what you mean, I think there is a new flavour to the stuff we’re working on and I think that comes across in the single, but I also think it's kind of still in the tradition and the vein of the stuff that we’ve done before.
The video particularly hooked me on the song, what was it like working with Harry Hunter for that clip?
It was great, man, we love working with Entropico, that's the company that Harry works with. And they're friends of ours and we work quite closely with them on a number of projects including One Day Sundays which we’re doing in Sydney and Perth now. We’ve kind of partnered up with them and we work with them on all the video content and the production of those events and stuff. By this point, they're friends and it was refreshing to be shooting a video clip with people that you're friendly with and that you have a connection with and can have a laugh with. It was a very collaborative process for the clip where, you know, we kind of developed all of the concepts together and threw around a lot of ideas from our end and their end. And we were out scouting locations together, and really from the ground up developing the video together, whereas I think in the past we’ve been a little bit at the mercy of the production companies that we work with. And, you know, there is a little bit of collaboration but at the end of the day you've got to really put yourself in their hands and… In fact, I only realised this after we made the video, but If You Know What I Mean is the first Horrorshow film clip that we’ve shot in Sydney. All our other film clips have been made interstate like in Melbourne, and we even did one in Adelaide, so in those situations you're flying to another city, you don't necessarily know the people you're working with particularly well, and you're really at the mercy of those circumstances. Whereas with this one, working with Harry who’s a close friend and also just such a legend, and the rest of the team at Entropico, we were really able to have more fun with it. You know just enjoy the process of being creative with people that you're friend with and kind of have that little bit more control over the outcome of the video. And I think… You know I've had a couple of my friends say to me “you look so much happier in this video than any other video of yours that I've seen, I can see you smiling and enjoying it”, and I think that's an accurate reflection of the process of what it was like to work with Entropico. Hopefully looking forward to making some more videos with them.
I’m curious to know what influences, musical or otherwise, made their way into your recording process for If You Know What I Mean and the future album?
I mean, I think this is still manifesting and becoming clearer as we get further into making the record, but I think from where I stand I think there's been an influence of One Day Sundays and doing those events. We've been throwing these parties around the country for the last three years and through that… All the boys including Adit DJed at those events and I think through that experience we’ve got a better handle of the kind of beats that are going to move or work on a dance floor, and that are going to knock in those kind of contexts. I think there's been an interesting marriage of that flavour and that awareness with the more kind of thoughtful or introspective lyrics that I like to write. So I think that's definitely been an influence, there's sort of a new flavour that's in the mix. And then on top of that, with this one I also really just wanted to indulge myself as far as that hip hop tradition of braggadocio, you know? It's a real thing in rap music to big yourself up and talk about your achievements and your skills on the mic and all of that. I've always found my own way to do that, because it's not really my style to be super arrogant and up in people’s face about how great I am. But at the same time I love that tradition, so I guess this song was me kind of giving myself permission to take it there a little bit and have some fun just flexing some bars, and also, you know, reflecting a bit on the fact that if I'm being truthful with myself then yeah, I'm confident about my abilities. And I think I'm at a place now where I'm a bit more confident in myself and in my skills in doing this, I feel like I’ve gotten to a place where we’ve got a good track record of things that we’ve done and we’ve achieved some shit. I still think that I put my own spin on it and was a bit cheeky, and still taking the piss, and that's why the chorus is kind of like… I never really say in the song I'm the best, I'm using the devices of what other people might have said, and that's why the chorus is like I'm talking about my friend turning to me and saying “man, you're dope”. Or I'm talking about the punters saying they love the way I spit it on the beat, so I’m still using these devices of other people saying that I'm great rather than myself doing it. But there's that implication there, that ties in with the title of If You Know What I Mean, like when people say something they wanna say without saying it directly. I guess that was a big influence on this song, was wanting to give myself permission to take it there and have a brag, and have some fun with that. But then also wanting to still do it in a style that's true to myself and still try to find a way to do it in a reasonably humble way. And I hope all of that comes across to the listener, and I think judging on the reception to the song that's all working nicely.
With the considerable success of King Amongst Many, do you feel any pressure to follow that up with your fourth studio album?
That's an interesting question. To be honest, it's an interesting one, because I actually feel less pressure this time around. I feel like last time around I put a lot of pressure on myself and it wasn't pressure to write a number one single, or smash the ARIA chart or anything like that, but it was pressure to tackle big themes and concepts, and to talk about Australia’s history and the problems with the way we treat our Indigenous people. To be tackling some really heavy, big, big issues that are hard to tackle through a song, and I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and setting real high standards for myself about what I wanted to achieve with that album. And it's actually been really refreshing with this one… And also trying to have a concept that tied in across the whole record, that was really important to me last time, and it's challenging to do that shit. It's really rewarding, but it also makes the writing really difficult and… I feel like with this record I've eased that pressure off myself, if anything. I've kind of reminded myself that I'm making music and it's supposed to be fun and it's supposed to come from an easy place. You know I've never really worried so much about the success of our records as far as sales or chart positions or big singles or anything like that, like that shit’s never really bothered me too much. Pressure that I've felt in the past has been pressure that I've placed on myself, so this time around I've learnt to just ease up on that pressure a bit, and that's freed me up to be having more fun with it and trying new things. It's feeling really good in that way, it feels way freer than it did finishing off King Amongst Many last time.
With a national tour coming up in October for Horrorshow, and B Wise as a support, what can fans hope to expect from the new live shows?
We’re definitely going to be playing some stuff, like some of the tracks we’ve been working on, we’ll definitely be working those into the set. I don't know if we’re going to really change up too much in terms of the setup for the show, I think it's still going to be Adit on the decks and myself on the mic. But I think that's also going to be kind of refreshing to be getting back to that after doing a number of tours with One Day where there's like… Seven of us rapping and shit. And also the last Horrorshow tour that we did was an Acoustic Tour, that was a completely live setup where we played with all live instruments and really stripped back our songs and reimagined them, and that was the last Horrorshow tour that we did. The last time we did a Horrorshow with that DJ/MC format was back in 2014, so if anything it's exciting to be going back to that original format that we’ve built our show on, of that DJ/MC combo. What we definitely will be doing, though, is changing up the set list and working some new songs in, and working out how to sneak in some songs that we haven't played before. And also some old favourites but kind of flipping them a little bit, and we always have fun putting together the set. We’re aware that it's been a little while so we’re going to try and elevate the set list that we’re bringing. To be honest with you, we haven't started looking at it yet because we’ve been so busy working on the album, but we’re both super excited to get into it and start to out that set list together, and I think people will be really into it.
What’s next for Horrorshow towards the end of 2016, and 2017 beyond that?
At the moment we’re just working hard on our new album, and it's sounding really dope, and we… For the first time ever, rather than… Always in the past for our records we’ve made like 14 songs and then we’ve cut one of them. Even with our first record, that was the first 13 songs that we ever made, and… With this record we’re in a different place where we’re actually working on over 20 songs and we’re going to finish them all as best we can and see which ones are feeling good and which ones fit together nicely in the record. So when you're working on that many songs, we’ve got a lot on our plate as far as finishing that much shit, so that will keep us busy for most of the rest of this year. We’ll probably put out another track from the album later on in the year, and then it's looking like the album will drop early next year. Even though lots of it is finished already, or close to being finished, we just want to make sure that we give ourselves the space to get all of our ducks in a row and… Even with this video clip that you guys have just seen, there's a lot of work and press that goes into making stuff like that happen. And we want to really make sure that we deliver the best shit that we can this time, and that goes for the music, the videos, the artwork, everything. We’re really just wanting to elevate our game and step shit up, so we’re trying to give ourselves the time and space that we need to do that. Really the main priority is just going to be making as many dope songs as we can, and making them as dope as we can, and that's the main goal at the moment. It's exciting times, everything’s feeling really good and we’re genuinely looking forward to next year or so, and moving into that next album cycle.