Interview: Hau Latukefu, Koolism.
Koolism boasts the very best of Australian Hip-Hop. Founded in 1992 and ‘wording it’ all the way from Canberra, these guys have found a name for themselves in Australia’s ever growing music industry and Hip-Hop culture. A continuing force to be reckoned with, Koolism has embedded itself deep within the heart of Aussie Hip-Hop, and whilst remaining true to themselves and their sound, they continue to influence artists as renown as Hilltop Hoods.
Upon the release of Koolism’s biggest and best album yet, I chat to Hau – “one killer MC”…
You are considered by many to be ‘pioneers’ in the Australian Hip-Hop industry with your continually growing sound and limitless ability to stay ‘fresh’. You’re new album ‘The Umu’ incorporates a lot of funky blues and roots bass lines and beats – what inspired you to take this album somewhere different to previous releases?
Well between the two of us we listen to a lot of different music. I mean, Dan plays bass, percussion; things like that – so we have a lot of different ways to create music and we try and fit as much in as we can. I guess that we’re just always creating what ‘comes’ to us. Hip-Hop was both mine and Dan’s first love, so everything we come up with will always be what is true to us.
I don’t think that we were consciously thinking about what we wanted this album to sound like, it’s more or less what we are listening to at the time mixed in with a whole lot of other core things, like; our background, how we were raised, what we’re going through; things like that.
I mean, we listen to a lot of mainstream music as well and keep on track with it all, but we don’t just hear what is popular at the time and then decide to create something that sounds like that. I think there’s no self-respect in music when that happens. I also think that Dan and I have way too much fun doing what we know and what we like to really care too much about what other people are creating.
Is influencing the Australian Hip-Hop industry something that you focus on at all when creating music?
Not really. I mean, it’s great if we have an influence on Australian Hip-Hop, I think that’s definitely something that we’re aware of, but it’s not something that we focus on when we’re working. The whole process is something that we do for us.
There were four years between the release of ‘New Old Ground’ in 2006 and your newest album ‘The Umu’ which was released in September this year. What was happening in those four years?
A lot of fighting… Nah! Just joking… A lot of things happened in those four years both as individuals and as Koolism. I mean, I was brought up in Queanbeyan near Canberra, and that’s where Dan and I met and started Koolism. Then I decided to move to Sydney and Dan moved to Melbourne.
The distance made things hard for us because we rely so much on the ‘atmosphere’ we’re in when we create music – and that kind of disappeared for a while, there was no ‘atmosphere’. You know, we went from seeing each other every day to not seeing each other quite so often, so this funky vibe we had going between us died for a little while.
We managed to overcome things in the end. I made a lot of trips to Melbourne and we did a lot of things over the internet. So we eventually made it work, but I think that the distance prolonged things.
Koolism has remained relatively separated from mainstream radio despite having collaborated and worked with some fairly acclaimed international artists such as; Massive Attack, Grand Master Flash and 1200 Techniques. Knowing that some artists prefer to stay out of the limelight, is this separation intentional?
Well, in the beginning, I don’t really think that we hoped or planned for anything to happen. I mean, we do what we do for our own reasons. When we started Koolism we weren’t focused on getting ‘famous’, it was more about us creating something new and fun. I’m all about gaining respect from your peers first, and respect from people outside of your peers comes second. Our music is a great outlet too, and we just enjoy that too much for it to have rules or barriers around it.
What’s important to both Dan and I is that we remain true to ourselves and our own style you know, and if people dig that then I guess that’s great! But at the same time I think that if we were to go anywhere ‘big’ with out music we would like to have achieved that on our own terms, and we would like to be recognized as starting something new instead of building on someone else’s style and creation.
Recognising that Australian Hip-Hop is a completely different style of music to that of American Hip-Hop, where do you stand in regards to the pressing influence that American Hip-Hop has on Aussie Hip-Hop these days?
Yea, Australian Hip-Hop is a completely different style of music. I mean, I’m not so worried about the American style of Hip-Hop having too much influence because Aussie Hip-Hop has managed to build its own foundation. It has that solid base that a lot of artists have built on and created something new from.
I mean, I listen to a lot of Hip-Hop that comes out of America and I really appreciate it and there are definitely similarities between them, but Aussie Hip-Hop is just something new and very different ey. I mean, there are kids being brought up on Aussie Hip-Hop these days, and that’s going to remain with them their whole lives.
A ‘little birdy’ told me that you originally planned to release a four-part series of EP’s in the early 2000’s, but the last two EP’s were never released because they had been stolen from the backseat of your car after someone had smashed the window in! How did this affect Koolism, and have you considered releasing those EP’s at a later date?
Haha!! Yea. That was heartbreaking. I mean, we have a lot of music that we created a long time ago just lying around now and we would absolutely love to release it! And because we work so much upon what we like and appreciate, all that music still sounds completely fresh!
I mean Dan still reckons that some of the stuff he plays in shows these days doesn’t sound quite as good as some of the older stuff we put together.
It was such a bummer ey, like you know, no-one would think much of a smashed in car window, but it was the stuff inside that they took that was so valuable. It just tore us apart ey. It’s probably found its way out into the world somehow. We put so much effort into all that music too, and it was a real shame to lose it all in that way – it was something that we couldn’t help and we were both so bummed about the whole deal.
As you’ve worked with a lot of different artists over the years, who would you say has been the most fun to work with, and why?
Man. We did a track with ‘Rodney P’ on ‘The Umu’, and that was definitely a highlight for me. It was an honour. He was so cool, laid back and easy going. There was no stuffing around, he was really into our ideas, we had a few drinks together; overall it was just an awesome experience working with him. He really brought this organic sound to the track too, so that was great.
Looking into the future, where would you like Koolism to be in five years time? What do you hope to have achieved?
I guess that we would just like to be recognized for our music and for the part we play in the industry. I mean, we’re not really making any plans for the future, but that’s something that we have always hoped would happen.
I think that right now we’re just living in the moment and enjoying the fact that we’ve finally released ‘The Umu’. We’re not really focusing on what we want to achieve in the future just yet – just taking it as it comes really.
If you could turn back time to any point in history, whose gig would you choose to attend, and why?
Geez I don’t know. Probably Bob Marley – that would be the ultimate. I’m really into listening to music by people who have left us, I think that it’s important to remember their legacy, and I guess that I just look up to Bob. I think he’s great.
Make sure you check these guys out at Melt Bar in Kings Cross on the 9th of November for an incredible set from their most recent album; ‘The Umu’. Koolism’s new album was released in September this year, and for all of you who dig the Aussie Hip-Hop scene, these guys are for you!
Originally written for www.theaureview.com