Sydney hip hop producer Chasm has just released his third album This Is How We Never Die through Obese Records. With the track ‘Soldier and a Thinker’ (featuring Hau, Koolism and Blak Twang on high rotation on Triple J already, Chasm’s success with Astronomy Class looks set to be repeated. With two albums behind him, Beyond the Beat Tape and Move and a string of producing credits, Chasm’s album has already been named album of the week on FBI. Today This Is How We Never Die is being officially launched at the Goodgod Small Club in Sydney. Chasm took some time out to chat to Wordplay about music, his inspiration and his all-time favourite album.
W: You’ve just released your third album This Is How We Never Die on April 27th. How are you feeling right now?
C: It’s just a relief to get it out, it always feels really good when it drops. It’s a lot of preparation and hard work.
W: The 14 track record features some big names – AG, Guilty Simpson, Vast Aire and Fashawn from the States, Dave Dallas from New Zealand, Blak Twang from the U.K…did you set out to make a collaboration album or did it just play out that way?
C: That was pretty much the idea behind the album – to have one Australian rapper paired up with an international rapper. The whole album didn’t end up like that, but that was the premise behind the album just to have rappers that I really dig, basically. I sat down with my manager and put together a wish list of MC’s that I really wanted to work with. We figured out what was realistic and then it was more picking a beat that would be right for a certain rapper and if they were feeling it then going okay, who would do well with this style?
W: Pegz said its a good indication of the level of Aussie hip hop is at right now when legends like AG and Vast Aire are taking notice of Aussie talent and jumping on track. What’s your opinion of the Aussie hip hop scene right now?
C: Man, there are some top quality rappers here for sure. Actually, there are so many great rappers the level of craftsmanship besides, the rapping is at such a high level. They can definitely match rappers from the US or the UK without a problem.
W: Working with so many international hip hop heavyweights, did you notice any differences in the approach or style between American, English, Australian and New Zealand artists? Or is it all quite similar?
C: Even between the Australian rappers, they are different. I think the Australian style is a lot more varied – everyone is doing their own thing. For awhile there, generally the founding Australian rap from what I could hear was a lot ‘shouter’ but I don’t think that’s so now. I think a few people are on that hit. It’s down to the individual not what country you are from.
W: Was this latest record, This is How We Never Die different in the message you wanted to convey or themes you wanted to address than your previous albums’?
C: This album was taken from a Currensy line that I heard on one of his free mixed tapes recently: “real music lasts forever, this is how we never die”. It just kinda stuck with me; I’ve always liked the idea when making music that you put the album out there and in twenty years time someone can pick it up and enjoy it. It was about that – music is a legacy.
W: I read in a statement where you said you wanted to show ‘how you were feeling’ and ‘what you were going through’ when creating this release. What were you referring to?
C: A couple of different things that were going on in my life. To me that’s what being creative is all about – having an outlet to express how you are feeling. Music is the way I do that; I usually just go with certain moods I’m in when putting an album together, but for me this one it was a bit more down-tempo and moodier. I was really wanting to sample my soul records.
W: The lead single, ‘The Truth’, features The Tongue, Hau and Dazastah, and mashes piano loops, brass and sythn. I read that the verses were written and recorded in one day. Tell us about that day, it sounds hectic!
C: Yeah it was dope. Dazastah was over for a tour he was doing here and booked out a studio in Sydney for the day, just getting different rappers in. He invited me down so I took my MPC and one sampler and just ran a beat off the sampler in the studio and the guys were vibing on it – so we chopped it up. They wrote their verses that afternoon and recorded later that night. It was just done in the one sitting – I love doing that because the energy, the initial vibe of the track if you can convey that onto the recording straight away that is perfect.
W: Describe your view on ‘real’ music.
C: Music with heart, music that moves you whether is makes me happy or sad. As long as if it feels like there’s soul to it. For me that’s real music.
W: Have your inspirations – be they, places people or other – evolved over the years? What used to motivate you to produce hip hop and what does today?
C: Music is the main thing. Old music or new music, I just hear things that inspire me and I want to make something that good or on a similar tip. Mainly it’s just music and things that happen in my life.
W: Hip hop as subculture has been booming in Australia. Has your music found new fans since hip hop gets played more frequently on radio stations and taking out sports in charts such as Triple J’s Hottest 100?
C: I have always been lucky to have the support of Triple J which pushes your music out to regional areas. So definitely that kind of push has put hip hop in the ears of fans in country areas of Australia, created a fan base for artists like myself.
W: Hip hop has a big ‘underground’ element. Sometimes it feels like if someone becomes popular, be it for their beat or lyrics or lyrical prowess, that once they are ‘mainstream’ or ‘commercial’ they get ragged out for it. What’s your view on being accessible?
C: There’s different types of music you can do and different styles of hip hop – there are so many strands of hip hop it just depends what you like. If you like catchy radio-friendly stuff then that’s cool and if you like making other kinds of music, that’s cool too. It’s up to the individual what they want to listen to.
W: I heard and interview on the Triple J hip hop show where Drapht was saying on his before The Life of Riley, he wasn’t happy with the clarity of his lyrics. What is your view on lyrics – do they take precedence over a hook or a beat? Does every word need to be intelligible as well as intelligent?
C: For me the music is the main thing and also the flow of a rapper. To be honest, if the vibe is there with the beat and the flow is a killer, a lot of the time I can just be happy with that. But I know for a lot of rappers it’s all about the lyrical content and different rhyme patterns. Lyrically, it’s awesome if the lyrics are killer as well – that just makes the whole thing stronger but for me it’s not the most important thing.
W: Who should we keep an ear out for in the Australian hip hop scene right now?
C: Maundz (24-year-old Melbourne emcee) is someone to look out for, I’m really feeling his stuff. He’s got heaps of character, he’s a great rapper, he’s one to look out for.
W: Lastly, if your house was burning down and you could grab one CD running out the door, what would it be?
C: Oh god, that’s fucked, that’s too hard! One CD I’d probably say is Miles Davis – Bitches Brew. That would be a nice one to have.
Chasm will be touring nationally later in the year, including a show in early July at Mojo’s. Tickets and dates have not been released yet but will be available at Moshtix. This Is How We Never Die is available online and in selected music stores.
Interview by Jemma Goodchild.