When you ask Australian rapper Phrase what he thinks of the lack of local musicians on our airwaves, you’ll hear what most people think yet are too shy to actually say.
‘I think it’s f**king disgusting. It infuriates me that we can’t seem to back our own products. There’s so much awesome music coming out of Australia and it often takes for a local artist to blow up overseas before they’re noticed here, or respected as a musician. I don’t know what it with mainstream radio. The vibe I get from them is ‘The Australian stuff doesn’t test well, we can’t afford too much of it’. I don’t know if that’s the truth or if audiences just enjoy listening to really awful, overseas-made generic electronic dance music [laughs]’
The rapper, born Harvey Webster, says that Triple Js willingness to play his music on high rotation was pivotal to his success today.
‘It turned my career around. I don’t think I would have released my new record if that hadn’t happened. I owe a lot to Triple J and the fact that Australian audiences have embraced the music that I make, make no mistake about that. I hope that that support continues and I’m doing it justice.’
‘In Australia, it’s so hard; there aren’t a lot of options. There’s Triple J or there’s mainstream radio, and mainstream seems to barely touch any Australian music. It’s disappointing and I think that’s why so many artists like myself value Triple J so much.’
Phrase’s latest offering, Babylon, marks a shift for the rapper. Gone are the samples, loops and break beats heard on albums Clockwork and Talk With Force. Instead, a live band and a stripped, organic production-style take their place. Babylon also features guests not typically seen on rap albums, such as Sydney indie group Guineafowl, Alex Burnett of Sparkadia and Australian rock legend Jimmy Barnes.
‘It’s a natural progression. The last single [Spaceship] I released off my last album Clockwork was recorded in the same manner, with a live band. I think that was the catalyst for what I’ve done this time. I felt excited by it. I’ve also been playing my guitar a lot more and I’ve been building up my studio over the last few years and I’ve collected so many instruments that it’s just sort of happened. The more I started demo-ing songs, the more I realized I didn’t need to be sampling anything, and I could just write the song and have it exactly the way I wanted.'
‘I’ve always been conscious of not trying to emulate the kind of hip-hop I grew up on, from the US. I like pushing boundaries and challenging myself but I definitely feel that with this record I’ve found my feet and I’ve got my own sound’
Aside from his sound, Phrase has also embraced singing, heard on tracks Apart, Never Enough and Phoenix.
'I’m still a bit ‘Whoa, I sung?’ I mean I’ve never sung in my life, I’ve always rapped. It was just something that happened instinctively. I was writing choruses with the vision of having a guest vocalist come on the tracks and perform them. Eventually I did the demos myself and my co-producer [Tony Buchen] said ‘I don’t know why you’d want to get somebody else, that’s a good sound!’ It’s not perfect, but that’s what we liked about it’
Phrase plans to tour Babylon nationally with a live band, in hopes of emulating the albums organic instrumentation, though admits touring with a band will ‘kill him financially’. In the meantime, he also hope to take wife, R&B singer Jade McCrae, on a belated honeymoon.
‘I really need to go on, what are they called again? A honeymoon! [laughs]. I promised my wife since we got married last year, so we’re both planning on going away for a little while.’
Album Babylon is in stores now. The Babylon Tour begins October 4 in Ballarat before coming to Adelaide on October 7 at Rocket Bar. Tickets available through www.oztix.com.au