Few names are more synonymous with the development of Australian Hip Hop than 1200 Techniques. Blending full live instruments with great vocals and raps, one of Australia’s best known crews is back on track to show it’s their time once again. After winning an ARIA in 2002 and producing two solid albums, Peril, N’fa and Kemstar are back with their new single Time Has Come. While the crew have been busy with rehearsals for their first performance together in ten years, Sarah Connor caught up with DJ Peril to talk to him about where they are at and what is in store for this classic Hip Hop group as they plan for the release of the Time Has Come EP.
You’ve won an ARIA and had huge success with Choose One and Consistency Theory, where are you and the crew at now?
Basically getting back into playing live mode. That was always our forte. We’ve already had fifteen or sixteen rehearsals. Basically it took six years to get this band back together again. It’s not been one of those come backs where we just came back in the last four or five months its been five or six years of up and down like being on a bit of a roller coaster, almost getting there and then everyone disbanding at the last moment. You know we’ve had about five or six of those moments where we’ve almost got back together again and then finally we made it happen. I had some music ready to go and we made some new tracks in the last 6 months. So the EP is done and I suppose we’re working hard towards 2015. When we put this together b really came on board particularly in the last three or four months of the project and got really involved. He’s been busy and so has my brother and N’fa’s been doing solo stuff but we were able to catch everyone at the right time to make sure this project worked! We are considering a tour early next year for the EP.
Describe the Aussie music scene as you currently see it through your own eyes?
Not only has hip hop changed, but in the last ten years it has totally changed. I suppose you’ve got to take on board what’s going on to some degree. I am always on the underground as I am a very big record collector. The search for the funk, soul, rare groove or rare vinyl is always on or old school hip hop that I never even had back in the day. Im always on the look out for vinyl that is never ending. As far as new music, you can’t be too caught up in what’s going on now. You have to have a keen eye on whats going on now. When we left off about 2005, 2004, we sort of created our own sound to some degree. So people knew our sound. So we stick to our guns and just keep doing that with a bit of a twist of a now and re-vamping it to some degree. If people were a 1200 techniques lover back then I don’t think we will lose anyone with our new stuff. It will retain some of its integrity of what we started with which was making good music and try and tell a story and have some depth to what we’re saying. Paint a picture sometimes, even of real life and how it is and we’re still talk about the same thing. Time Has Come, the single is a three or four minute look back on where we came from, what we did and where we are going.
You say you jumped back on where you left off. Was it easy to do?
No. Hahaha. Basically when you haven’t been in the lime light and you haven’t been on radio and you haven’t been putting out film clips and you haven’t been gigging for ten years you’ve got to start doing push ups and sits up and you’ve got to go to gym, musical gym and get in that mode. Our live show was so manic and energetic that you really have to go back and re-learn all our songs again. We’re sort of semi live too you know. We’ve got the live drums. You know, we were doing our thing back then we were sort of the livest, the more livest hip hop or urban band back then. There was us and Resin Dogs. No one else was really doing any live drums or instrumentation. We’ve got our original drummer Richie C back which has been great. We’re so lucky we’ve got him back after 5 years. We’ve got our same agent. Everything is the same. We’ve gone back and re-traced our steps but its been revamped and refreshed. So hopefully our gig at Howlers on the 17th, its our first gig in ten years we’re going to have some loyal followers that remember us and we look forward to seeing our new followers in the future. We’ve got a new EP to show people we’re still on it and we’ve still got what it takes to some degree and it’s up to you, it’s up to the punters to have a listen and see what you think.
You’ve been in the industry a long time, particularly during the early years. How have things changed? Whats changed for the better?
The number one thing that changed everything, and I can’t say that it changed things for the better or the worst, it’s called Money. That’s it. Money. You’ve got to understand we were coming up in the early 2000s and we were cutting our teeth on doing supports for bands that even weren’t hip hop which we rebelled against at the time but our agent told us it was the right thing to do. We were touring with Regurgitator and Linkin Park and they were doing big around the world and I think it put us at the end of our safety zone. When we started there were less bands in the urban category. Even when we won the Aria award there was no hip hop category so they had to put us into the best independent single of the year 2002 and that same year which I thought was even cooler then best independent single was we won the best film clip overall. That was a bit of a shock to us with Karma. Then a couple years later they started to put a hip hop category. We put a spotlight on Australian urban, or Austalian hip hop and maybe there is some legs to this and maybe we can sign some up and the majors started getting on it a bit more.
Do you think playing with non Hip Hop acts was the right decisions to make?
Yes. I was a bit of a one way street hip hop guy so when someone’s telling me to go and do supports for non hip hop acts. I think it was the best thing we ever did. We got a whole new generation of people that normally wouldn’t come and see us and we were taking from other peoples fan base so that really worked well for us. So that led to us being one of the first hip hop bands playing at the big festivals like the Big Day Out. It got us out of our safety zone and opened doors. Our main strength was our live show so we cut our teeth and made our presence known with our live shows, more so than our albums.
Is the new EP an independent project and what incentives have you got for fans to get involved?
It’s so independent I can’t even tell you. And this goes back to how things have changed. They’ve got pledge campaigns now. So we are doing a pledge campaign and we’ve got a lot of our vintage t-shirts caps and vinyls and I’ve even got some prints and canvases from my last graffiti exhibition I did about a year ago. We’re giving bits and pieces and an opportunity to fans to get some more personal pieces. We’re trying to connect like that and get the fans involved. Usually you just get online and buy a t-shit but now through pledge campaigns, you can put up more personal items.
You’re planning on bringing out the release on CD, vinyl and cassette. Is that true?
The cassette bit I asked for. I’ve still got my double cassette from Pioneer when Pioneer was in the city back in the 80s and my ghetto blasters to match. But its definitely coming out on vinyl and CD. Going back to whats changed, well they used to beg me not to make vinyl back in the day and now our independent label well they were the ones who said we should do vinyl straight off the bat. Vinyl has gone up in sales in the last year by 20%, so thats awesome.
With the way music is changing and so much going online and digital, is it harder to put stuff out?
I just think people have so much thrown at them and so much new music and so many things online they can be a bit more picky and choosey and you have to get people at first glance because now they have so much more choice, for example where they can go and see a concert. So you have to be a bit more creative. Facebook wasn’t around. So all these ways to get out and reach people weren’t even around when we were around in early 2000s. So things have changed and we’ve change with the times.
What advice do you have for emerging artists about developing a sound and signifying themselves as unique?
Stick to your guns. Do not look at this Top 40 all the time. If you start looking around too much you’re gonna get a sore neck. There’s too much information. Take on board whats in the market place and maybe check out why its working or what the fan base is but commercial music of any type at the moment is such a template and you can fall into the trap of sounding like the next band, or the other band before you and a lot of music becomes related or sort of in bred. It’s interlinking too much. It’s a much harder road to travel when you’re doing your own thing and you haven’t got your groupies patting you on the back telling you oh man your stuffs so good. Sometimes you’ve just got to stay strong and the people who stay strong and this is not just hip hop this is life and when they do hit some sort of pinnacle in their career it’s that much sweeter because they did it their way, their own sound and they’re calling their own shots. But if you start doing commercial and this is the problem, if you’re a huge band and you’ve got a multi million dollar thrown at you and you’ve made a number one single, you better hope the second single hits the same number or better because they drop you like a sack of potatoes.
Do you have a favourite moment in Australian Hip Hop history?
I have moments because they’re a bit more special because I saw things before there was any internet or before any money. So the special moments to me are like getting my first pair of superstars when you couldn’t get em. Or my first Puma suedes or going to see Beat Street in 1984 when I won the competition to see the movie and all my break dance crew went to the opening of the movie a week before and every break dance crew in Melbourne was there. It was like 1984 in one roof! And then seeing the first hip hop group come to Melbourne that I remember was Double O and Velour that was 88, 87. They were on Virgin Records and they weren’t the best group but they were the first New York group to grace the shores . Then you’ve got the first time I saw Run DMC, Public Enemy, De La Soul, all the classics, they’re all special to me because we weren’t sure how long this thing was gonna last for. We didn’t get too much back then so when it became available to buy a ticket you made sure you went and saw it because there was only one or two shows a year and now there can be seven or eight hip hop shows in one weekend.
With this new EP we’re a little older, a little wiser, but I’d like to think we are a bit more musical. But the roots are entrenched and our history is drenched in hip hop flavours. The synergy is still there. My hard drive was so full of music that I had to put it out.
Tell us about the 25th Anniversary gig with Rubber Records that’s coming up in Melbourne on the 17th December? How much does it mean to have Rubber Records back you?
They’re having a big celebration of them being around twenty five years and all the alternative groups they’ve helped nurture along the way. We are the first punt they took on a hip hop style. Having rubber records back us? It means everything when the person backing you has faith in your ability. You have to show and prove you have the goods but that came about from the live shows. We will always be thankful to them for getting behind us when no one did. We are more independent then we ever were, I even helped direct the first film clip we put out. It’s very hands on. More than ever I don’t want anyone telling me what I should be looking like because I know its my arse and its our arse on the line and I want to make sure we come across the right way. It’s very individualised to our style. Even the EP, I mixed it at home. I produced every track. I sat with it the whole way through. Usually I give it to someone else to mix but this time I mixed it myself at home.
The Time Has Come film clip has been out about three weeks. There is some awesome archival footage. How did it feel going through it and how did you hook up the Adnate mural you guys feature on?
Basically we knew we were gonna go and get some archival footage for the film clip that was the idea of the whole film clip and then the connection with Adnate doing the artwork for the EP and that came about because of, I’m in the aerosol art scene for many years and we got talking and I found out he was a 1200 techniques fan and we were stoked that he came on board and did that crazy mural. I’m still loving it and someone came up to us today and told us how much they are loving it. So we just stuck to our guns and kept it close to the family. Basically the VHS film clips that we found I couldn’t find the big stash. I knew I had a box at home but I didn’t know where because it had been ten years. Then my brother was cleaning out his house, Kemstar, and he said I found the box! So I went over and we went through all the VHS and we spend hours and hours getting the right footage and there’s the film clip. Its like a retrospective of people who know what we did and for people who didn’t know what we did they can see it all there all packaged in a three to four minute song and it finishes with the last line: “I remember when there was music and good friends.” It seems like people are digging it so I’m just waiting for the next single to come which is gonna be a total flip on that again.
Whats next for you guys?
We’re all looking forward to see our old and new peeps at Howlers, a couple of tickets are still available. We haven’t played a live show together in ten years so its a big big deal for us. Please go on Facebook and check us out, or on our page and if you want to check out some good pledge goodies get on there!
Purchase Time Has Come single https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/time-has-come-ep/id934335481
Stream the Time Has Come single https://soundcloud.com/rubberrecords/1200-techniques-time-has-come/s-06Y7R
Contribute to the Pledge Campaign http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/timehascome
1200 Techniques perform live 17th December 2014 at the Howler, Melbourne VIC, (18+) 7-11 Dawson Street, Brunswick. Tickets on sale through www.moshtix.com