Illzilla - Ill Communication
Monday, 30 June 2008
Melbourne's emergent hip hop outfit Illzilla have experienced tribulations that would even defeat seasoned acts. 'There have been times where I've wondered if we're gonna get through stuff,' MC Mantra reveals. But now they're anticipating a sanguine future with their debut, Wasteland.
Australia has generated a fresh wave of hip hop acts who, by integrating 'real' instrumentation with samples, also belong to that cherished tradition of 'live' bands.
The US has one big hip hop band, The Roots. We have several.
Illzilla's sound is a hybrid of anything from funk to reggae to rock.
Mantra is joined by Mista Savona (keys), Tom Martin (guitar), Bob Knob (bass), and Julian Goyma (drums), the latter formerly of roots collective Blue King Brown.
Illzilla had their inception in 2004 and, to the casual hip hop fan, Wasteland, now onto its third single, Break Loose, seems an age in arriving.
Illzilla presented an EP on Obese three years ago.
Various members have had to juggle Illzilla with other music projects (Mista Savona issued the acclaimed Melbourne Meets Kingston), day jobs and even their families. Nevertheless, Illzilla's greatest setback was to lose charismatic vocalist Paul Havea.
Havea initially quit in 2007 to devote more time to family life. Mantra admits that Illzilla were 'worried' about forfeiting 'such a feature of the Illzilla sound.' But when Havea passed away, Illzilla questioned whether they should continue at all.
'Paul left the band last year in May. We were halfway through recording the album at that stage, so we had to revamp our writing process and rewrite a lot of the songs we already had and come up with a bunch of new material to put on the album. Then he tragically passed away in December. It felt like we lost him twice.'
Illzilla rallied. They were determined that Wasteland be a tribute to Havea, whose voice graces three songs. 'What made me really happy - and a positive that came from [Paul's passing] - was the fact that it gave the band this new focus and this new purpose.'
Illzilla were encouraged, too, by triple j's ongoing support. They were named Victorian winner of the national broadcaster's Unearthed competition last year.
Wasteland is an album of 'different moods', rather than a grand statement. However, thematically, Wasteland is unapologetically 'political' - down to its metaphorical title. 'There were a lot of things that I wanted to say, and that the band wanted to say, about the state of the world, the state of ourselves, and the state of the human condition,' Mantra asserts.
The MC isn't perturbed by speculation about hip hop's viability in the US. He ignores 'the glitch and the glamour on the TV screens,' instead identifying with hip hop's global grassroots.
And he believes that the best any credible artist can do is to stop naysaying and just deliver innovative music. 'What I hope to bring to [hip hop] is quality music that I enjoy listening to. We just wanna make good music that people are feeling and that's coming from a place of originality in ourselves.'
WHAT: Wasteland through Shock
WHEN: Out now