By Poppy Tohill
With their distinctive smooth beats and easy listening New Zealand style, within five minutes of sitting down with vocalist Tony Tee and beat maker Haz Beats of hip-hop crew Team Dynamite you soon come to realise their personalities aren't much different.
A week before they're due to head off on a nationwide tour with Ladi6, we caught up for a chat, covering everything from, 'The early days of Team Dynamite,' their second album 'Shepherd's Delight,' and tour antics, to their favourite food and animals.
You guys have been together for a few years now, what's the story behind how 'Team Dynamite' formed?
Tony: So me and Lance went to school together, we've got a mutual mate who took us over to Haz's, so we went out one day and Haz was just jamming and doing his thing and yeah that was basically it. We just started rapping for the bro. It was sort of, not awkward, but it was the first time we had been with an actual beat maker, so this was something me and Lance were always looking for. We did freestyles in the park, but we wanted to go to the next level and to get there we needed someone who could make good beats and when we got there and heard what Haz was doing, we thought "Oh shit he makes bad beats."
Haz: Yeah, then they just started coming over every day for sessions and having a listen.
Tony: Then one thing led to another and six-seven years later we're here talking to you. (laughs)
Growing up was music always a big part of your life?
Tony: Yeah, it was always getting played. For both me and Lance. I had a cousin move into my house when I was about sixteen and he was older and really into rap, and one day he convinced me to write my own rap. I didn't even know where to begin so I just wrote a bunch of shit down on paper and that's how it all started (laughs).
Haz: Yeah, my uncle was always playing a ton of different artists, which is how I got into music really.
Who were some of your main musical influences when growing up?
Tony: For me what comes to mind from when I was about fifteen is Bone Thugs. My first memory is of me sitting in church and one of my good mates knew all the words, I couldn't believe it because to me it was just so fucking fast, but he actually knew the words, so yeah Bone Thugs is actually the first group I remember really listening to, but I think it was when I started getting older and actually started writing raps when New Zealander's actually started making music and breaking through, I used to look up to the Deceptikonz, Scribe and all of those guys, because they were actually doing what I really wanted to do, so I thought they were pretty cool. Outkast and Dr Dre were big ones for me too.
Haz: My main one was pretty much just Nas because his production was always real tight. Then when I started getting into beat making I grew to like Nujabes who is a Japanese producer.
How did you guys come up with the name 'Team Dynamite?'
Tony: I don't even know. Just another stoned writing session in town. I was with Lucky (Lance) and we had just finished a shift as couriers and I think we'd just gotten our first CD of beats from Haz, and we were sitting in the van and I was like "bro, what about Team Dynamite?' We just want to blow shit up (laughs) Like actually, you know, being with that in mind we were all like all right, all right, and the name just stuck.
'Shepherd's Delight' which you released earlier this year came out three years after your debut release'The Demo Tape' what did you guys get up to during that time between the two releases?
Haz: I was busy with Homebrew which pretty much put the boys at a bit of a standstill, because I was always traveling around. But at the same time I was doing that we did make a few EPs that we never released.
Tony: So yeah there were projects made, and we were supposed to release them but then we kind of scrapped them and just started again. Because Homebrew dropped the Homebrew album, @Peace dropped the @Peace album and we had this project that we wanted to drop, but it wasn't quite up to standard and we didn't want to clash with everyone else. But as well, the product that we had was cool, but the product that Homebrew & @Peace produced was at quite a high level and we wanted to be on par rather than just putting something out for the sake of putting it out. We just thought it'd be better to hold it and I think it was for the best. Like we even got as far as putting all the artwork together, but once that was done we just stopped. We hadn't actually realised that it had been that long (laughs).
Haz: I think it was because we wanted to make new music and move on, but we were still holding onto that, until Lance said "Oh we've got all of this new stuff, lets get rid of this old stuff."
Was there anything that you learnt from your first album 'The Demo Tape' that you could use to help make the process of creating the second album easier?
Haz: Just organisation wise really. Because back then we didn't have somewhere to go and record and we were still budget as (laughs) but now we go out to my mates in Onehunga to record.
Tony: Yeah I guess we did learn a little from The Demo Tape to Shepherd's Delight. But we learnt heaps from actually making Shepherd's Delight. Just the whole process and releasing an album on the Friday of whatever date. Like there's a certain day that is real good to release stuff, but we just went ahead and released it. So just that kind of stuff really. I guess we were lucky this time around to have Rhythm method backing us, because we still don't really know how to get shit moving. We're just MC's and producer/beat makers, that's what we do. So trying to be all business minded is good to learn but we're not really up to scratch on that, so it's good when people come along and tell us what to do and it ends up being a lot less stressful for us too, because they also know what they're doing.
Along with the guys from Homebrew & @Peace, you're a part of the Young, Gifted & Broke artist collective, can you tell me a bit about that?
Haz: It's just a bunch of young, gifted and broke idiots (laughs) who have no jobs that've come together. Actually some of us have got jobs, but the thing YGB stands for, for me, is kind of the top youngsters in Street Fighter (laughs) just hang out and swap moves and all that and just trade secrets. It's kind of like a big massive camp for people like us, who just happen to get each other and what we're trying to do. I don't even know how people got recruited in (laughs).
Tony: At first it was just Dynamite & Homebrew, we were Dyna-Brew, and then some of the guys from @Peace came along and we recruited them. So we became Dyna-Brew-Peace. But then heaps of other people just came along and it's a dope idea because having that collective with beatmakers and other musicians, we're all able to utilise each other and help each other out. So the big bonus is everyone's keen to inspire each other, work with each and help each other achieve whatever we're trying to achieve.
How does the songwriting process work for you guys within the group- in terms of what comes first, is it normally the beats or the lyrics?
Haz: Lately I'll be coming up with the beat first and they'll just be writing.
Tony: We've always got to be there though, because now Haz is Melbourne based, but he's been here for six months now, purely because we've got gigs. He's not trying to stay here, he wants to piss off but we're like 'we've got another gig!' So then he has to stay and now that he is here we're just making the most of the time that he is here. So all of these other artists are trying to come to Haz's to get some beats, and with him it's first in first served, so if you're there at his place and he makes an awesome beat and you're writing to it, it's yours, so that's why Lance and I always try to be there everyday and get all the baddest beats.
You guys have worked with Che Fu and some of the Homebrew and @Peace crew a number of times, whose one artist/producer you would love to work with someday if you got the chance?
Tony: Personally for me Che Fu was my idol growing up. So after knowing that he liked our music that was a buzz in itself, and then after Lucky hit him up to do some music with us and he was down for it and we began recording with him the next day. Now we've just finished shooting a music video with him, so it was pretty insane cause he was like the one person I really wanted to make music with, so that was real cool. But I think we're pretty much keen to make music with whoever really, but at the moment I can't really pick one person that I'd love to work with. But in terms of doing features with other artists, Tyra Hammond is someone we'd really love to work with some day. But yeah, we're quite keen and open to anything and anyone if they want to work with us and they make good music.
Haz: In our first release, 'The Demo Tape,' we had no features it was just purely Team Dynamite and then with Shepherd's Delight we had just some of the boys. I guess it depends on the sound. Like if it sounds like that person we might get that person.
This year you've toured quite a bit already, and next month you're heading off to tour with Ladi6. What are you most looking forward to about touring with her?
Tony: Oh she's actually another person I wouldn't mind doing a song with either! This will be a good opportunity to see how the next level does it, because Ladi is quite high up there and live they're dope, so for us to watch a whole month of how they perform and engage and how they do it on that professional tip, that's something that I'm looking forward to seeing. Like just how they get down to business, so we can see how far away we are from them.
Haz: Just watching them play. I've seen them live so many times and they're just super dope.
When I interviewed her a month or so ago, she said she'd never actually met you guys, have you met yet?
Tony: Nah, we haven't actually done the whole "Hey, nice to meet you" thing. I hope I don't freak out, like I did with Che Fu! (laughs)
Haz: I've met her. She's been to my house a few times and I've worked with and been to a few festivals with Parks before.
Without giving too much away what can fans except from your performance?
Tony: For some fat guys it's pretty energetic (laughs). But yeah, just lots of energy, good vibes and all that feel good stuff really. You'll get a lot of head nods hopefully and all the finger and toe tapping stuff. So just expect a party pretty much (laughs). Because you know most people just want to have a good time, so that's what we try to give them. This is what we do as musicians, it's our job to entertain everyone.
Talking about touring, you're also going to be performing your first new years show at Rhythm & Alps this year, which is exciting!
Tony: Yeah It's awesome because that was our goal for the year, to get on their line up, because man we've been hoping for all the other years that we'd get asked, and wondering how to apply for it and then this year was the year. We got it!
Who are some of the other acts you're looking forward to seeing at the festival?
Haz: Just Blaze!
Tony: Yeah, Just Blaze for sure, and Haz Beats (laughs) cause he's double dipping and doing his own set, the cheeky guy.
Do you prefer performing live or recording in the studio?
Haz: More live, definitely. I'm always in the studio, so playing live is like a release. I'll stay home all week working on beats, so it's nice to go out and share them with everyone and get up there, you know.
Tony: We do like being in the studio, but definitely for Team Dynamite we prefer the live stuff. Also because we've just recently added a three piece band to our set. It is the most funnest thing that I've ever done on stage. Just the vibe and everything, it really adds to our set. Sadly they won't be coming on the tour with Ladi with us though. We tried to get them, but obviously some of them can afford it and others can't. But they'll be joining us for our shows after the tour hopefully, because we just want people to watch our set with the band, because man they're just awesome.
When you're not on tour or in the studio, what types of things are we most likely to find you doing?
Haz: Watching movies, drinking some beers, talking shit, eating or smoking buds, but not in that order (laughs).
Tony: At Haz's (laughs). We always seem to be together. If it's not me and Lucky, it's me and Haz, or Haz & Lucky. Like we always seem to be doing shit together. So that's what Team Dynamite does. It's tough sometimes (laughs). Then we've all got partners too, so in our other spare time we're being awesome partners and trying not to get in trouble.
What else does 2014 hold in store for Team Dynamite?
Tony: Trying to bang out 2 EP's, maybe three. One little dance influenced number, like house music style to tap into the George Fm listeners (laughs). So the plan is to hopefully get at least two new EP's out. So music is still being made, it's just what we're going to do with it that's the question really. So the first one will be house music and then the next EP will be just straight back to hip hop and then the last one if we manage to make a third will be just another cool EP produced by Haz.
Where can you see Team Dynamite in three years time?
Tony: Hopefully in the States somewhere or Japan maybe, like touring over there and doing what Fat Freddy's are doing over there at the moment. But yeah, I hope we're definitely performing in other countries. That'd be the ultimate- Making music somewhere other than New Zealand. Europe is another one. Che Fu wants to take us to Australia, so hopefully that'll happen. But yeah, I'm just really keen to get our sound out there to the world and show them what these boys from Auckland can do.
To end the interview we played a little round quick fire, just for the laughs -
Beer or Whiskey?
Sneakers or Jandals?
Favourite style of music to listen to other than hip hop/rap?
Haz: A snapping turtle. It's a turtle that has this little snapping mouth and it will snap your finger off.
Tony: Is that an animal, are you sure that's actually such a thing?
After much debate we turned to google, to find out that snapping turtles do in fact exist.
Tony: After all the questions so far I'm finding this the toughest. Man, I don't know. I'm feeling kind of grey right now, so lets just go with that (laughs) No wait, actually maroon, that's my favourite!
Haz: Red, nah actually I think my favourite colour might be green.
Favourite country in the world you've visited, or would like to visit?
Tony & Haz: (perfectly timed, shouted together), NUIE! Because we're both Nuiean's! (laugh)
Haz: I've been there before
Tony: But I haven't
Rugby or Football?
As Haz quickly responded with: "None of them," Tony replied saying "Haz hates Rugby, but he loves Rugby League." After changing the question to Rugby League and Football, Rugby League definitely won out.
Favourite TV Show:
Tony: Home & Away and The Game of Thrones is pretty dope too
Haz: Right now I've been watching a few. So I'll say 'Ray Donovan,' and 'Power'
Tony: I like Asian food. I love BBQ Pork (laughs). I can't really think of what Asian food but I just love and eat it all.
Haz: Bread (laughs) My girlfriend cooks heaps of delicious food, so I don't even know what to say. I just like and eat all foods man. I'm not fussy, food is food (laughs).
Ladi6 NZ Tour with special guests Team Dynamite
Friday 1 August - Papakura - Stampede Bar
Saturday 2 August - Mt Maunganui - Brewers
Thursday 7 August - New Plymouth - Mayfair
Friday 8 August - Wellington - Meow
Saturday 9 August - Riwaka - Riwaka Hotel
Wednesday 13 August - Wanaka - Mint Bar
Thursday 14 August - Queenstown - Base
Friday 15 August - Dunedin - Re Fuel
Saturday 16 August - Christchurch - The Bedford @ CPSA
Friday 22 August - Auckland - Powerstation
Saturday 23 August - Whangarei - The Ballroom
Friday 29 August - Gisborne - Shipwreck
Saturday 30 August - Napier - Sideline Bar
Tickets at www.eventticketing.co.nz, the venues and usual outlets