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Koolism interview: Kool-Aid

Author: Benjamin Preiss
Monday, March 6, 2006
The Canberra hip hop duo of Koolism have often considered crossing over, but have always remained true to their roots.

In many ways, Koolism is a marriage of opposites. The Canberra based pair MC Hau and producer Danielsan have been making hip hop since 1992, each contributing their sometimes polarised starting points to the music. According to Danielsan, meeting Hau was a turning point in his musical development. Danielsan describes himself as a "complete introvert" before the pair met and totally absorbed in making music.

"Hau really influenced me a lot because when I met him I had really been a complete loner and was on some far out trip of my own where everything was concerned - especially music," Danielsan recalls. "I think that influenced him because I suppose there was not really anyone else around who was like that."

One of the greatest influences Hau had on Danielsan was cultural. Through meeting Hau Danielsan was exposed to Polynesian and Pacific Island cultures. Danielsan explains that it was this contact with Hau's family that is largely responsible for giving Koolism's music its soul.

"It totally changed me and put a lot of the ingredients of the soul and the real heart into my side of the music where before that I think I was just technically and scientifically onto something. I lacked the real music... I think meeting Hau gave me that and probably the same for him, where I've given him ideas of how to approach things and look at things that are a little bit different that I've picked up. I think we've given each other the missing half."

The musical relationship between Hau and Danielsan may be one of the most enduring in contemporary Australian music, but like any relationship it has been tested. Danielsan says collaborations with other artists lack the chemistry he believes the pair has evolved through years of working together. Danielsan likens pair's relationship to a couple married for 50 years.

The past two years have been milestone years for Koolism. There has been widespread recognition and an ARIA award for their 2004 album Part 3 - Random Thoughts. There was also a tour to follow up the release of the album that almost ended in disaster. Just as Danielsan was preparing to take a week's break in between shows in the Blue Mountains, some important parts of his gear were stolen. He had only five days to reconstruct the set up for the live shows before completing the rest of the tour.

"I spent the remainder of the tour killing myself and trying to put on the best show possible. That turned out to be very stressful, but… it was more the cascading effect - the snowball effect that follows from something like that that sets you back. Just a little thing, because of the timing of it in the middle of doing a tour which is an important piece of keeping the momentum going and doing more music, tripping over one hurdle you can lose that entire race. It can take two years to get back to where you were. For years and years we'd been going steadily and pulling everything off and doing everything that has to be done to get to that point. Once you trip over like that, it really has taken nearly two years to do another album and another tour," he says.

The pair has toyed with the idea of "trying to cross over… but only just enough to realise that was a mistake". The new album New Old Ground was released this month and features Koolism's trademark sound that incorporates soulful roots and nostalgia for the past while simultaneously blending a progressive, electronic feel.

"The new album is like getting things off our chest we wanted to do. We wanted to get some of the original feel and emotion and enjoyment back that working too hard for a while can take out of you. I think the most important thing in the music for any band or artist is to capture their ideas and emotion and environment - the time and place in whatever work they do so people can really pick up on that when t