Good Buddha - Funky Buddha
Tuesday, 10 June 2008
Speaking to Alex aka MC Xela from the band, I got a chance to hear it as it is from a muso who’s been there, done that and ready to do it a whole lot better than before. Suffering a hangover from celebrations of the night before, he’s in fine form, reflecting on lessons learnt from the past and optimistic about the future with this, the band’s strongest release to date.
We begin by rediscovering hip hop in ol’ Sydney town, or, more accurately digging for it like Indiana Jones and that Crystal Skull. Where did it go-
“They used to have all of these good hip hop clubs, like hip hop at Goodbar on Wednesday and I am sure there is a lot of commercial stuff that goes on too but there’s stuff in the works for good hip hop,” he says optimistically, name checking events at The Bald Faced Stag and UTS Loft. “It’s hard to support an event weekly when you can see your locals anytime,” he reckons. “(At the moment) new wave stuff is really taking over but hopefully some quality hip hop will come through, I guess it comes in waves.”
Which brings us to Hit The Sky Running, which, as hip hop as it is, is not a typical hip hop album. Once described as ‘like the music the Beastie Boys used to make but without the annoying voices,’ expect healthy doses of reggae, sing- along choruses, dirty Rhodes keys and heavy drums and percussion. The album certainly sees MC Xela commanding the mic like never before.
“A lot of that (the effectiveness of vocal harmony) was me practising in the studio, trying to get my vocals better. I am really into The Beach Boys and The Beatles and vocal harmonies are massive for me,” he says. “It was nice to have this space in the music and not just be an MC – I feel like I’ve gotten to a point where I’m more confident with my voice and song writing to project more vocals.”
Trying to avoid being controversial, Alex makes a great point about singing versus rapping. “I think with hip-hop, Aussie hip hop is going to be parochial, English hip hop too. Everyone is on the grind. There are so many MCs in England. In America, forget about it! It’s like taking snow to the Eskimos and everyone is trying to get their shit out there. My point is, singing is universal and everyone likes a good melody and it’s something I have begun to explore more.” Without stating the obvious, Alex is drawing parallels between his status as both a seasoned vet making reflections on his personal taste in music. Clearly this is not going to be a record about how tough Good Buddha is.
Their Myspace once said they were ‘deliberating the worth of’ record labels but Xela is super enthused about the partnership with Fresh Jams. Having completed the album last year these boys were not about to rush anything with their third LP.
“I feel it was right to wait for the right people to pick it up because there were some bites but Will (Styles) knows music, those guys are DJs and know what works and they loved it,” he says matter-of-factly before joking “they didn’t sign it ‘cos it was cool and trendy! We are not cool and trendy! But seriously, on the business side and as friends we’re getting on great. We are their (Fresh Jams) first album, so it’s an honour.”
The band enjoyed some proper studio exposure whilst making this record and you can certainly tell with the album’s full, rich sound. The horns blare, the drums punch and the vocals open the window and let that good feeling radiate right on in.
“Hip hop was always done in a bedroom, (what makes) this Good Buddha album so great is recording it in a good studio,” he says. “I don’t think I could go back to recording in a bedroom. It makes me focused, when you’re at home you faff about and don’t get things done.”
Indeed, time is money and the band went that extra mile to make it happen with heavyweight Chris Townend at BJB Studios and though he won’t call it a soul album, Alex will describe the genre as Good Buddha.
“It’s not necessarily soul music and we’re not in the dedicated genre of your Sharon Jones’s, but that style of music is always going to be in fashion. But rock can have great soulful vibe to it… soul music is people putting themselves out there more. The soul revival thing (like the Dap Kings), those songs have gotten it down to the most minute detail but we still have the modern song writing, so it’s a modern blend and it comes from the whole band.” Whilst Hit The Sky ticks a few boxes, Alex is quick to point out the recording and writing process was a natural one.
“It’s not like we’ve said ‘that’s the reggae tune, that’s the rock tune… it has an overall sound that is definitely Good Buddha. It’s the record we spent a while to get to. It’s about being more comfortable in our own sound and much more at home in our own skin.”
WHO: Good Buddha
WHAT: Hit The Sky Running out now through Fresh Jams /Inertia