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The Herd interview - Chasing the Sun

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Sydney based collective The Herd must be one of the busiest bands on the Australian hip hop circuit. Since forming in 2001, the 10 man line up has released three albums and are also responsible for the independent Elefant Traks record label.

The Herd quickly found its way into public consciousness with the release of single 77% in 2003. With its damning assessment of small minded Australian attitudes, the band also showed they were happy sitting in the spotlight of controversy. From broadsheet newspapers to talkback and alternative radio, 77% was a hot topic.

"Sure [the publicity] drew attention to the song, but the more beneficial thing was that it drew attention to the issue and raising awareness for the situation of asylum seekers. It just contributed to a debate that was taking place in the public sphere," vocalist Bezerkatron says.

Despite a strong sense of political awareness and progressive attitudes in The Herd's style, the band also reveals a playful and fun loving demeanor that makes listening to their recently released record 'The Sun Never Sets' all the more engaging.

"We wouldn't want to think of ourselves as preachy or anything like that. We don't want to be telling people what they should think or do… there's a fun side in that we don't take a lot of stuff too seriously. Particularly with the live shows we just try to make it as fun and energetic as possible, so that people walk away with something to think about but also having had a good time," Berzerkatron says.

According to Berzerkatron, 'The Sun Never Sets' represents the band's progression after a heavy 18 month touring schedule and substantial commitments to running the label. He also believes 'The Sun...' is the bands most democratically made album, with songwriting duties evenly shared among all members.

"I think the middle ground we have is a mutual respect we all have for each other. All the tracks on the new album have really been collaboratively written. Pretty much everyone had a hand in every track on there. It's the nature of such a project that you really need to be open to other inputs. There's no leader or anything like that, it's a really flat structure."

While The Herd have never hidden their criticisms of Australian culture, 'The Sun...' offers a sincere sensitivity to the range of Australian experiences as it delves into the rural geography the country. "Everyone brings their own particular experiences to the crew. All the stuff we write about is either based on our experience or of people we know. So we just try to make genuine representations of those experiences. Having a big crew is great because people bring a range of experiences to the songwriting process."

This scope of experience and affection for many aspects of broader Australian society is also mirrored in Berzerkatron's lyrical style. "I wouldn't say my style is modeled on anyone, but it's certainly influenced by other rappers to folk musicians and even storytellers - bush poets and stuff like that. I guess everywhere you go you take a bit away a bit of narration and different ways people tell stories. You pick up something here and there. I'm really fascinated with old oral history traditions. I was in Ireland recently and listening to old people tell their stories and hanging out with some gypsy crew in Central Europe and just listening to the way those old stories were passed on. Then there are more contemporary rapper and singers in Australia - we've got an amazing selection here."

After fours years of touring and recording albums, Berzakatron says The Herd has matured with their latest album. "Musically it's ('The Sun...') a lot richer than previous albums. There are a lot more live players on there. We've got strings, trumpet, clarinet, piano accordion, guest<