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Horrorshow - Masters Of The Macabre

Author: Matt Unicomb
Monday, September 8, 2008

MC/producer duo Horrorshow grabbed some deserved attention when it was announced they would be signing to hip hop powerhouse Elefant Traks. 3D’s Matt Unicomb chats with MC Solo aka Nick Bryant-Smith about putting out a record and signing away.

The exceptional hype surrounding local duo Horrorshow has taken Sydney’s music community by storm. A whirlwind signing to Elefant Traks and an extensive tour with the somewhat seminal The Herd has given rise to a legion of newfound fans and publicity proclaiming the pair as deserved saviours of the Sydney hip hop collective. MC Nick Bryant-Smith’s dedication to socially applicable raps and producer Adit Gauchan’s autonomous production mentality are attributes becoming increasingly scarce in the Australian musical climate, and are looking to take Horrorshow well into the future.

Horrorshow’s do-it-yourself approach to music has spawned from an aspiration to make noise with their recorded material, and to not fall through the cracks of Sydney’s live hip hop scene. Their debut full-length The Grey Space was completed before Bryant-Smith and Gauchan were approached by, or even approached, a label. “It was important for us to create our first record ourselves, and to do it off our own back,” Bryant-Smith begins. “It was important for us to actually finish off the record and approach labels and say ‘look, we’ve done this. What do you think of it-’”

In the opposite fashion to most hip hop acts, Horrorshow’s grounding comes not in the form of their live show, but in their recorded material. Before Bryant-Smith first stepped to the stage in 2006, roughly two-thirds of The Grey Space was completed. “The first Horrorshow gig would’ve been last year sometime, about halfway through,” Bryant-Smith reflects. “At the moment we would’ve played less than 30 shows. We’re still relatively new to the whole live performance thing.”

Anyone familiar with Horrorshow’s music would notice the absence of the token party tracks. Gauchen’s chilled approach to production compliments Bryant-Smith’s introspective rhymes, with each track resulting in an ardent gaze into the duo’s psyche. This method has not translated into the live arena without burden. “The music that we make is not the most hyped-up, live-orientated hip hop that’s out there,” Bryant-Smith admits. “It’s not the kind of production that really bangs. The stuff that I write isn’t always a g-up. Some of it is quite heavy and full of thought, which isn’t always the best thing for a live show.”

Like most electronic acts, the move from the bedroom to the stage does not occur without leaving a definite imprint in writing style, as many acts hence choose to take the live aspect into account when writing tracks. “Now that we’ve had a bit of experience in playing our songs live and seeing what goes down well, I’ve realised that it’s really important,” he notes. “Your show is obviously really important to your music and it’s where people actually experience what you do. It’s important that for our next record we keep that in mind.”

Horrorshow’s signing to Elefant Traks earlier this year caused ripples throughout the Australian East Coast’s music massive, as they were the first act to sign to the label since 2006. The Sydney-based Elefant family have been at the forefront of Australian music scene for almost 10 years, with tens of thousands of album sales and dozens of national tours and festival appearances behind them. Widely regarded as one of the two premier hip hop labels in the country, finding a way into the Elefant Traks family is no easy feat. Initially approaching the label – Urthboy in particular – for advice had the ball rolling. “It wasn’t a case of us going there and them being like ‘yeah, we’ll sign you,’” Bryant-Smith explains. “They gave us a bit of advice and pointed us in the direction of a music lawyer. The whole thing happened really quickly. We approached them in early May, the record came out mid-August. It was the only free spot in their schedule for the year. To make that happen we had to go through the process very quickly.”

The underling do-it-yourself attitude definitely helped in cracking the label. The pair sees having an already-completed product in their hands – alongside an obvious eye to the future - as an essential factor in their success in picking up a record deal. “They told us they liked the record, and that was enough for us,” he says of the signing process. “They like that we’re so young. The way that we approached them was to play them the record, give them the record, and to also say ‘we’ve got these plans for this project already and we’re working on this track.’ They saw that we were already thinking about what we’ll do next, and were thinking about the future.”

“That was really important in us getting picked up by a label. We were able to show the that we weren’t just thinking about now and what they could do for us now, but what we needed to be doing to move on.”

The duo’s education has been an essential ingredient in their musical growth. Attending the academically and musically renowned Fort Street High School with Spit Syndicate’s Nick Lupi, both Bryant-Smith and Gauchan have had extensive musical experience as members of a variety of performing groups. “We both played in bands in school,” he says. “I played in all kinds of things. I was in a concert band, a stage band, a brass ensemble and a percussion ensemble - all types of shit.”

Hip hop has since taken over. Starting an Arts/Languages degree two years ago, Bryant-Smith hurriedly left the classroom to pursue the microphone. A wise choice, some would say. “It was mainly just me sitting in class and daydreaming about busting raps in front of millions of people,” he says of his Sydney University experience. “One thing about uni I didn’t like was that it was such a big place and you just kind of float along. No-one is familiar with your story at all.”

Working as a pair certainly has its perks, according to Bryant-Smith, as both get a hand in at every stage of production, resulting in a very collaborative final product. “I tend to throw my two cents in about the production more than he does about my rhymes,” he says of his working relationship with Gauchan. “We do definitely get involved in what each other is doing. It’s very collaborative. We speak through each other.”

WHO: Horrorshow
WHAT: The Grey Space through Inertia / Elefant Traks
WHEN: Out Now