By Poppy Tohill
In the middle of breaking rap history for the biggest tour in Australia (45 dates), off the back of releasing critically acclaimed sophomore album 'Strange New Past,' and kicking arse at Halo, Fall Out and other such video games, Melbourne hip-hop star Seth Sentry found some time to sit down for a chat during a power outage in Bunbury to talk to us about touring, the world of hip hop and teleporting, ahead of his first ever upcoming New Zealand shows next month.
Hey Seth! How's your day been going?
Yeah, good! We just got into town at the next venue we're playing. We just did our 41st show the night before last so tonight is number 42, but the power is off in the whole town so it's going to be interesting as we can't soundcheck or anything
Oh, that's not a great start! Here's hoping it comes back on soon... So how's the tour going so far?
Yeah it should be sweet! It's going great. Apparently it's the biggest tour in Australian rap history and I can see why no one wanted to try break that record, because it's pretty fucking full on (laughs). But we're getting through it; we keep getting our second, third and fourth winds!
Aside from the music for a minute, I hear you're a bit of a video game wizard, what's hot on that scene right now?
Yep, I'm exactly like Fred Savage in that movie! (laughs)
(For those like me who didn't get that reference Seth explains...)
Fred Savage was in a movie called 'The Wizard' and it's terrible, I urge you not to watch that film!
But yeah, I bring my Xbox on the road with me everywhere. The game I probably spend most of my time playing is called 'Fall Out,' which is my favourite, but it's pretty hard to beat me at Halo. Even on this tour I battled our lighting guy, who it turns out was a bit of a Halo champ back in the day, and I was pretty rusty but I still managed to beat him.
I've wasted many nights on Xbox! That's why my first album took four years to write because it was really two years of writing and two years of Halo! (laughs).
Moving on to talk music again - going back to the very beginning of where it all started, how and when did you initially get into hip hop music.. did you come from a musical family at all?
Yeah, my dad played violin amongst other instruments such as saxophone and guitar. He was always in bands growing up, so I kind of grew up around music and playing piano from an early age. You kind of always had to play an instrument in my household.
Then I got onto rap when I was about 14/15 years old and to me it was just free-styling with mates really so I kind of went on from there. It never really felt like a job until quite recently, because it's always just been a hobby, which I've been lucky enough to get away with spending all my time on.
What's the hip-hop scene like in Australia?
At the moment I think it's in a really good place. It's quite diverse in terms of the sounds that are coming out now, where as for a while everything definitely had quite a similar sound. More people are doing their own thing and there's lots of sub genres within it, so I definitely think it's very very healthy at the moment.
Since releasing your debut album 'This Was Tomorrow' in 2012 you've become quite a big household name in Australia. What has been the biggest change in your life since breaking onto the music scene?
The biggest change for me is not having to work my hospitality job anymore. Really, for me, that is always what I was waiting to do. I didn't really want anything specifically, but I knew what I didn't want, which was to work in hospitality. So to make that transition into having music as my full time job, was all I ever wanted.
What would you say is your proudest achievement in terms of your career thus far?
Probably that (laughs). Just getting to a point where I don't have to wait tables. I mean every time I've released an album it feels really good to get something that's in your head out into this tangible product you can then hold in your hands.
Lets talk about your new album 'Strange New Past!' in terms of songwriting and recording processes go, how did the creative process of this record differ from that of 'This Was Tomorrow?'
It was kind of different because with 'This Was Tomorrow' we had a few different producers, so there was a lot of going back and forth between different studio and liaising with everyone, just trying to get everything to sound cohesive and consistent, whereas this time I just worked with
Styles, so it was much more of a team effort. Everything was recorded in one place with all the same production which made it way easier to get that consistency between songs and make an album that sounds like an album and not just a bunch of songs.
Musically, in terms of sound, would you say it is also very different?
Yeah, I think you just develop your sound naturally anyway. I mean this record is a lot more contemporary and current sounding as my influences have obviously changed since my last album as well. That is something I can hear when I listen to it too and that's a good thing, because you don't want to be making the same album time after time. 'Strange New Things' has a more serious tone, I guess. I mean it's still pretty light hearted, but overall I feel like there was a lot of stuff I needed to write, rather than having a lot of joke songs on there.
Do you have a particular favourite song on the record, or one you're most proud of?
Yeah, there's a song called Violin on there about my Dad which was something that I've wanted to write about for a long long time and it felt like I should write about too. It was a very very difficult song to write and record actually, but it felt quite cathartic to getting it out and done.
Just going back to talking about your songwriting process for a minute, how does the overall process of penning a song including the lyrics and beats work for you?
I normally start with the beats and then they tend to inspire a certain mood or vibe that I then use to dictate what I'm going to write about. Although with this album there were quite a few songs where I started off with having the idea of what I wanted to write about and then based the rest around that, so I kind of broke my own rules with this record, but in general the process normally begins with the beats.
Where do you generally draw inspiration from for your lyrics?
It absolutely always comes from my own personal experiences. Even songs that are kind of story based, it all comes from me generally. With this new record especially, it is way more biographical than my last. I put a lot more of myself into it and that was kind of uncomfortable at times.
To put yourself into that headspace to write a sadder song you kind of have to relive it a little bit, so yeah, the writing side of things definitely took a toll on me, but I felt a lot light after getting everything off my chest.
Talking about inspiration. Were there any particular artists or people that inspired you musically when working on this album?
Not really. All of my friends are my biggest critics. My theory with rapping is always the same - do I think its dope and do my friends think its dope. So that's what I've always aimed towards. I didn't really struggle with the whole sophomore, follow up album syndrome because I didn't really have it in my head. All I wanted to do was write an album that was true to myself, true to my friends and that we thought was dope.
You spend such a long time touring and on the road each year, how do you deal with so much travelling.. do you have any touring secrets, which help keep you sane while on the road?
I bring my Xbox! (laughs) and as stupid as it sounds, it's massive for me because it gives me something to do after a show. You can't really party every night when you're doing a tour like this, so I read a lot of books and have a few little hobbies that I can go back home and do that help me feel normal.. You know it's a big tour when you start calling the hotel home (laughs).
But yeah, I just try to eat well, which we have been on this tour. The vibes have been pretty good and no one's broken yet, which is good. I've done smaller tours where people break far sooner, but we're show 41 now and everyone is in high spirits!
Once you've wrapped up all those dates in Australia, you're heading to New Zealand which is very exciting! What are you most looking forward to about performing here?
Yeah! We're just including NZ as a part of the Australian tour really. Even our t-shirts here, which we've been selling the whole tour, have got the NZ dates on them. You guys are so close to us and I'm surprised we haven't been out there before. I've got a lot of kiwi friends who are out there at the moment, so it's going to be great. They're the last shows of the tour as well, so all the pressure's off from there and we'll have a couple of days to look around which is cool.
Without giving too much away what can fans expect from your live show?
The set up is me and PJ Tizzle. We've been playing together for about three years now and we're basically just going to do a mix of the older songs through to the newer stuff, an even spread. He just kills it on the decks, it's pretty crazy, but yeah, be just have fun!
Following your New Zealand shows, what's next.. a holiday!?
(laughs). After this we're off to Germany to play some shows and then onto London! Festival season is coming up so there'll be a few more shows, then I just want to get back into the studio and start writing more music, for album number three!
Fall Out 4, the sequel to my favourite game of all time comes out there year though so we'll see how we go (laughs). There always has to be time for that. But there's no video game set up in the studio because there has to be a line and that's where it's drawn! (laughs).
Last but not least, just for a bit of fun - If you had one superpower what would it be?
Probably teleport. Then I could play all these shows and do the whole tour, but still sleep in my bed every night. I could probably play three shows a night if I didn't need to worry about hours on a plane!
Friday September 11th: San Fran Bath House, Wellington
Saturday September 12th: Whammy Bar, Auckland
Tickets via EventTicketing