When you listen to music from Tornts it is like the dictionary definition of evolving as an artist, no bullshit rhyming to what is on trend, no changing who you are to meet listener’s requirements, just the growth and life shit one man has dealt with over nearly a decade. There is such appeal found in music with honesty that you cannot overlook the quality the Melbourne native is churning out, and if you did it would be to your own detriment. Read on to learn a little more about the man behind the beats as rhymes.
Street Visions has put you into the Australian Independent Music Charts for the first time. Do you simply attribute this to a growing fan base or are there other factors at play (Bandcamp sales or social media, for example)?
I’d put it down to a bigger fan base and I think my music is getting more known around the country now. Plus more online sales on iTunes, Bandcamp and places like that. Also I reckon it’s because this album is my best release yet so people are wanting to cop it more.
How did the process making this album differ from the last?
Well I set up a proper little studio at my place for recording vocals so I did the majority of the recording there apart from a couple which I recorded at Ciecmate’s studio. I then dropped all the files over to my mixing engineer who did all the mixing for the album, which were then sent off to a mastering house to be finally completed. I really wanted to make an album that banged from start to finish and sounded very modern and up to international standards production wise, rap wise and mix wise.
Where do you record your vocals? Did you apply any new knowledge to recording this time?
I recorded 10 out of 12 tracks at my own studio which I’ve set up for recording vocals. I basically replicated the same set up as where I recorded my last album, so I grabbed the same mic, pre amp and pro tools set up. I also approached the album with the mindset of easing back on the yelling side of my vocals a little bit and really murking up on some slow flow beast style shit.
You moved away from MPC-based production a while ago. Tell us about the Maschine and the rest of your current set-up.
Yeah well as I soon as I used Maschine the first time I was like yeah I gotta get this shit. As I played a lot of my older beats combining MPC and Fruity Loops, playing a few keys on the synth and chopping samples, Maschine did both and a lot more. I don’t really sample that much anymore as I really like composing joints up and playing synth and keys, getting a real big modern production sound while still keeping it dirty and hard. That being said I can make beats on any setup you could give me, most producers would tell you that. I use a hardware keyboard hooked up to midi on the Maschine to play all my instruments and tap out my drums on the Maschine hardware itself, or chop samples, then dump all my beats into Pro Tools to be exported.
What does moving away from these loopier beats add? It seems to create a more expansive aesthetic, which can only be a good thing.
Yeah I just find it’s more enjoyable and gives you more freedom to make some original shit that didn’t exist before you know, you can get a big sound to your beats too after mixing. I always had a type of sound I was chasing when I was digging for samples too, so being able to play what’s in your head is dope. Shit I used to spend hours trying to find the right sample that really stood out as strange and original. I’ll still sample here and there though just to switch shit up.
Are you looking to add more hardware in the future?
To be honest I don’t really need much more hardware I reckon, I don’t want my setup to have too much shit I don’t need. Wouldn’t mind getting another mic or two, and another couple pre amps though if I could cop some on the cheap from a hoodlum ha.
Which verse are you most proud of and why?
Hard to say, but right now I guess I’m most proud of the 2nd verse off This Place. It’s a deep verse that talks about what’s on my mind, what I see in my surroundings and my history, so it covers a lot of truths in 16 bars.
What do you like about this kind of story telling / real life raps? Why is it more challenging than writing more battle-oriented verses?
Well I’ve always mixed the content up in my verses so I’ll give the listener some life type lines, then some visual type lines about shit I see around Melbourne and also some content about what I’m thinking so it’s not really too much different to my other stuff in that regard. I think I’ve just really honed my writing style so it really is mainly about my life and what I see as opposed to dissing other rappers and bragging up. I’m cool with either styles but yeah I think it’s a bit more challenging to really make each line count so they stand out and the listener can hear exactly where you’re coming from. I’ve always liked Styles P and he’s a good example of mixing street and life type shit with clever metaphors and brag type rap shit as well.
What do you generally spend the most time on – beats or raps?
Raps for sure. I’m a rapper first and a producer second. That might change in a few years but yeah man I only started making beats all those years ago cos I wasn’t happy with the local production back then and thought I could do better. I do love making beats though, sometimes halfway through making a joint I’ll start to think of lyrics for it straight away, that’s when you know you got a banger.
How did you get in get in touch with Apprentice? Has he been on your radar for a while?
I was searching around for a local dancehall/reggae singer to sing the hook I wrote for This Place. I made a couple calls to some people I know, eventually I got Apprentice’s number off a friend, called him up and told him to check out my stuff and if he was interested to get back to me. He was down and we met up at the bottle-shop in North Fitz and hit the studio up. I gave him the option to either run with the hook I wrote or he could he write his own and try it out but yeah he chose the one I wrote and got it straight away. Man he killed the hook and we got on well, he’s definitely a talent to watch out for. We did a video for it too out a couple weeks ago, go check it out on youtube.
Who are the best producers in Australia right now?
For my personal taste it’d be Kharnivor, M Phazes, Nebs, Tornts heh. I’m sure there’s probably some sick up and comers I aint heard yet either. Trials, Dazastah, Ciecmate, WIK, Bigfoot and Lazy Grey are skilled producers too.
What kind of relationship do you have with your early work? Is it easy for you to listen to tracks from albums made almost ten years ago?
Yeah I’m proud of even my earliest work cos I put so much time and life into my tracks even back then. It’s interesting cos all my tracks show at what mindset I was in at that time, they reflect where my head was at. Shit makes me laugh when I think all those years ago recording Adding Insult to Injury on an SM58 though, haha ghetto as fuck.
How often do you listen to Australian MCs you’re not affiliated with?
Yeah I listen in to check the skill levels and where rap is at locally and make sure I’m pushing boundaries on the shit still. There’s a few crews that I get down with and would buy their shit but not a whole lot, I do have respect for a lot of local spitters though don’t get it twisted, I just find some of the subject matter and production and that doesn’t really grab me.
From where you stand, how has hip-hop in Australia changing? As it’s becoming more popular, is the overall standard raising?
I think there’s more competition so everyone has to stand out with their own style more, I just find a lot of local stuff that makes it to mainstream radio has a weird sing songy kind of edge to it and in my opinion, not a very modern production sound that I find UK and US artists have. That’s about the only thing that’s holding local rap back I reckon, I prefer bigger more synth based production that you would hear in UK or US rap. And also this bullshit I’m hearing lately about Australian rappers sounding ‘Ocker’ fuck it’s how someone from around here sounds when they talk, why would switch it up with a slight American twang when they rap. I never hear British rap artists sounding American, or being called ‘Cockney’ when they rap how they talk. Strange times man. I aim to make rap that would hold it’s own and be respected internationally for my style, content, delivery and production.
Street Visions is now available through all good record stores and the usual online outlets.
[alert type=blue ]This article was written for ozhiphop.com by contributor Matthew Unicomb. [/alert]