Jetsetter and hip hop poet Joelistics is back in town and ready to ear-punch everyone tonight at our No. 34 warehouse party with new and glorious beats.
We chat to the Elefant Traks signed, TZU frontman about all the good stuff: travelling, poetry, politics and change.
GDS: Hi Joel! We’re excited you’re coming to the launch on Friday.
I’m excited to be playing at the launch. I haven’t played gigs with Joelistics for a while.
GDS: What have you been doing?
I put out a record with TZU at the end of last year [Millions of Moments] and since then I’ve just been touring that record and writing new Joelistics material.
GDS: What made you decide to start this round of touring again (as Joelistics)?
It’s just time. I’ve got a bunch of new songs for another record kicking around, and I wanted to try some new stuff – like try new production techniques, work with a band, stretch my creative wings – on this record.
GDS: Have you been in Australia much over the last two years? Because I know you’ve been travelling a ton…
I’ve been splitting my time between Berlin, Melbourne, and a little bit in other parts of Europe. My sister just moved to Belgium and she’s just had twins, so I’m an uncle for the first time.
[Laughs] Yeah, it’s awesome. I didn’t have to do anything so it was very easy for me. Not so easy for her…
Yeah, so there’s this sort of link to Europe. I’ve been going over there quite a bit, and working with another band called The B-Town Rockers, which is partially based in Berlin, partially based in Australia.
GDS: How do you know Geoff and Going Down Swinging?
I did a spoken word gig that Geoff used to run called WordPlay and then we became really good friends, and he has done some guest spots on a Joelistics tour [and] a TZU tour. We’ve spent a number of evenings drinking and rambling together and just generally keeping up to date with what each other’s doing. He asked me to do this gig and I was all too happy to say yes.
GDS: With music and your poetry, how do they work together and which came first?
Music always came first. I’ve played music since I was twelve-years-old (I’ve played drums in a punk band, played guitar in reggae bands) and the poetry is I guess an offshoot of writing rap and being obsessed with words. Now it’s also developed also into writing for writing’s sake, like writing short stories, but the poetry is very much linked to my love for hip hop and rap music.
GDS: What strikes me about your lyrics is how political they are – is this unusual for hip hop? (I’m asking this as a complete novice, by the way.)
Hip hop as a movement worldwide was always political music, and in Australia it used to be a lot more. Maybe recently it’s become a lot more a kind of party style, and now, with the threat of the ultra-conservative Australian government that we’ll probably be cursed with in September, I think you’ll find hip hop’s going to get a lot more political again.
GDS: Is there a link between hip hop and poetry slam?
I don’t think so. I think there’s definitely links and bridges between the two scenes and between people who work in both camps – people like Omar Musa and Geoff Lemon to a degree really understand both forms – but I think they’re quite different. Most of the rappers and MCs I know wouldn’t call themselves poets, and probably a lot of stand up poets wouldn’t go to a hip hop open mic night, or run with a crew. But there are also so many common threads and connections in the form and the creativity, so, yeah they are close, but a lot of the time they’re also really far away from each other.
GDS: What initially attracted you to hip hop?
Probably the politics second and the music first. I always loved synthesizers and drums and nerdy audio gear, and also I like the idea of taking a James Brown sample and then mixing that with Dutch drinking songs and then recording the sound of birds in Eltham and putting that all together and making it all work as a cohesive piece. But musically I like how collagey it is, and, probably from a lyrical perspective, I always just like flow and vivid word pictures.
GDS: Is travel still such an important part of your music?
Yeah, that’s a big part of me. What I’ve spent a lot of my time doing is travelling and moving around the world and exploring new stuff, and that inevitably comes out in the music.
GDS: That’s what I like about your music. Do you have to come back to Australia to record or do you have studios overseas?
I’ve started to build quite a few connections overseas through studios in Berlin and in Paris and even in China, but mostly I have to come back to Australia to finish my work because I’ve just got a lot more connections and networks here. But, it’s funny, I used to come back to Australia because it was cheaper to mix, master and finish a record here, but now it’s becoming way more expensive than everywhere in the world.
GDS: Where’s the best place to record now?
Depends who you know, but I guess Berlin’s a pretty creative town, and it has a lot of studios and people working and they are probably one of the cheapest places to make music in Europe. You can also record in Thailand or in Bali and get some really cheap rates. But the thing is I know lots of people to collaborate with in Australia, so it’s good to come back. And the Joelistics music comes out on Elefant Traks, and that label’s based out in Sydney, so it’s good for me to come back and work with those guys.
GDS: What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I’m working on the next Joelistics record.
GDS: Do you know when that will come out, or can you tell me a bit about it?
[Laughs] Oh, that’s a cursed question…
GDS: I know, I’m sorry!
I have no idea. I really hope it comes out around August this year, but everything I ever plan to do with timelines and dates inevitably gets hijacked or doesn’t turn out the way I hoped so we’ll see.
I’m excited to try some new stuff in a time of change.
GDS: For you, or for the world? Or both?
For me as much as the world. I think the world’s always in a state of flux and I’m just trying to keep up with it.
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Get No. 34 here
Find out about the big warehouse launch party here