Esoterik talks combating alcoholism, going solo and the positive direction of his EP ‘My Astral Plane’
Esoterik, the legendary rapper from Australian hip-hop powerhouse Bliss N Eso, has been through a lot in recent years. From kicking his alcohol addiction to marrying the love of his life and having a baby boy, all of this served as inspiration for his debut solo project ‘My Astral Plane’.
In just 9 tracks, ‘My Astral Plane’ explores a wide variety of themes and issues lyrically as well as exploring the limits musically, with every track its own unique sound. Overall, the EP takes on a vibe of positivity as delivered through the eyes of Esoterik as he takes you on a journey through his astral plane.
From issues of alcohol addiction to songs dedicated to his son and much more, ‘My Astral Plane’ is unashamedly honest. Beyond this Esoterik still flexes his lyrical dexterity and gives you music to groove along to, all combining together to make a very impressive debut solo project. We caught up with him to discuss the new EP and much more, Victor McMillan writes.
You have undergone many changes in your life in recent years, how much did this shape both the content and the positive direction of the EP?
Oh it shaped the whole thing mate. First you’ve got to realise you’ve got a problem and then to not be in denial about it and then to want to act on it is a whole other thing. When I finally did act on it (and I didn’t go to rehab or anything to get off alcohol or anything like that) I literally had to kick it cold turkey while doing a tour across Canada. So it was a bit of a ride through hell mate, in and out of hospital at one stage, having to pull the tour bus over to stay at a hotel, you know, whenever I felt like I had to be left in a bathtub to curse the world out, that’s how it was.
By the end of it I was totally clean and then I flew my girlfriend from Sydney over to Los Angeles where we met up in Las Vegas and we all had a wonderful wedding there, then a party in the desert riding motorcycles, it was real driving off into the sunset type stuff. Since then we’ve had a beautiful baby boy that changed my life and yeah that’s been the starting point to my new journey.
What was it like to be able to create and executive own solo project?
Man, it’s really as simple as this, when you’re in kindergarten you get given a bib, like a paint bib, you get given the easel and you get given the paper and the paintbrushes and painting pictures is very much like writing lyrics for me. When I write them I’m imagining them, I’m visualising them so writing a song is very similar to painting a picture to me. I’ve always been holding Bliss’s hand, he does one stroke, I do the other and then we’ll finish the painting, the song is over, put it to the side, new painting. I literally just want to run around and do my own paintings (laughs) it’s as simple as that you know, it’s the young artist in me who wants to make some stuff which with me getting off the alcohol I seem to have all this extra time on my hands instead of going to the pub and getting pissed.
I’d think to myself that I used to believe that an album of work would take months and months of getting together, and that’s how the process has been with Bliss N Eso. But with all this spare time on my hands I was like I can write two songs a day, what’s stopping me? So yeah man it was just the best time to be creative and use all the inspiration in my life and now the rest is history.
You talk about songs being like a painting so with the varied production on the EP, was it like being able to paint on a different canvas with each track?
Yeah with this one I didn’t go into it with a blueprint at all, I didn’t say ‘I want this type of trap beat or I want this da da da’ you know, if you listen to the EP every song is different. ‘Just For You’ (the first track) sounds like a super fly Motown track and then Bless Up is kind of like the more boom bap hard hip-hop, then you’ve got Stay Fly which is just kinda like ice cold 80s breakdance track, so every song is different. The producers I worked with, Nic Martin and Cam Bluff, I told them ‘Don’t play me anything you think I might like, play me stuff that you love that you think I won’t like, let’s do something out the box here’ so It was definitely a big part of the picture, the beats not being stuck to any formulas people are using these days like trap stuff for example.
If I get sent a whole lot of beats from a whole lot of different producers that is all trap stuff I wouldn’t be able to tell you which producer did what, it all just sounds the same so I just jumped into a whole bunch of different sounds and genres.
I guess that’s the good thing about Hip-Hop in that it facilitates the use of so many different genres…
Yeah for sure, when we first started and everything was real sample based and we were just pilots you know, we’d have the tempo, you know, the hip-hop tempo with the cranking fat beats and you could put anything to it. I mean back in the days Busta Rhymes was doing songs like ‘Gimme Some More’ with like violins
Yeah and using a classical sample
And it was like fuuuck (laughs), that the cool thing about hip-hop, we are pilots of all the genres and if we are vibing to a certain tempo or beat we can flip it.
A lot of the tracks on the EP are very personal, why do you think those types of tracks are important for the listeners and fans?
Because you just don’t see it that much anymore, I can’t see these dudes flashing their jewels, flashing their chains that could be houses very easily, there’s just no substance. I know when I’m listening to someone else’s lyrics, when I feel another artist’s lyrics, it feels like I seem to like the more human conditioned things, not a faced of a character they want to believe in. I just know that when I listen to an artist that’s real I can feel is coming from a real place I automatically connect so I just wanted to be able to do the same I guess to be able to connect with the fans.
It’s also very therapeutic thing for me to do to write about my own experiences, my home, overcoming of demons, you know, because it all helps me in the long run. For instance, the song off our latest Bliss N Eso album, ‘Devil On My Shoulder’ was pretty much all about the alcohol and then I started getting messages from people saying ‘because of that song, you know, I’m six months clean and da da da’, that’s the amazing thing that can happen when you connect between people on that level’.
Do you think there is sometimes a disconnect that happens with subject matter as artists get older?
Sure, sure, you know, there are still party tracks on the EP that you will be able to party to and I’m not a preacher, you know, I’m not here to say this is the way to go, you may be 20 years old and you’ve got some party in you so you can still go out and some fun and get loose. All I can say is that in my experience, and I’ve been in the public eye drinking for years, you know, and other people that drink as well might listen to the music and go ‘yeah sweet here’s another guy that drinks like me’. When I stopped drinking I kind of expected some people to be like ‘oh yeah that’s not for me then’ but it’s almost like they’re holding this flag with a beer on it and then I took that flag down and told the people who are following me that it isn’t the way to go, and they could go to other music that’s more party based and talks about alcohol but instead they kind of looked at me like ‘where do we go now’ so it’s really cool to be able to have the fans still embrace me.
Recently Hip-Hop was officially recognised as the biggest genre in music today, how much has changed since when you first started out as Bliss N Eso?
Oh man the change has been huge, I mean, it’s just fucking gigantic, everybody and their dog is rapping or has got a studio and putting out a mixtape or something like that which is unbelievable and to be able to see its growth, especially here in Australia. We got involved in hip-hop when all the festivals were rock based, there was no hip-hop. Until certain groups started selling some cool numbers and the industry goes ‘ohhh maybe we should get onto this’, so it’s when the industry sees that there is money involved they start paying attention, how funny. I think it’s been really good to see it grow, I mean, you still have the huge percentage of mainstream filth recycled garbage (laughs from me) which seems to be a little but more than the good stuff, you’ve got to really dig these days, you have to really dig to find the good stuff. I guess that how it is with everything, if you’re a rock lover you’re not listening to the top 40 songs, you’re listening to Led Zeppelin. It’s interesting times, I feel like sometimes it goes a little backwards and it’s not the music industry anymore, it’s like the entertainment industry.
You could have two pictures of rappers. One rapper is fucking dope, he’s lyrical, he’s got a message but he’s wearing black shoes, jeans and a white t-shirt. The other guy raps terrible but he’s got crazy Dragon Ball Z hair and all kinds of colourful shit on. As a principle, you’d look to that second one because it’s so out there and it’s an extravaganza, you know, I’m even going through my own feed on Instagram and I see these crazy fuckers and I’m like I just wanna have a look. I don’t know whether kids will want to dress or look the part more than they really have any talent or skill to back it up so yeah its crazy times but I still dig for the good music, and I do find it so there’s still good music out there.
Having prolonged success in music, let alone Australian hip-hop is difficult, what do you think the keys have been for Bliss N Eso?
When we first started, you know, we weren’t on radio, we weren’t getting plays like that so when we printed 800 physical CDs of our mixtape and we went from every mall from Campbelltown to North Sydney and we’d go into every store, Just Jeans, anything, ‘we’ve got some new hip-hop out you can play in your store’ and they’d say ‘oh sorry we don’t play hip-hop because it’s got swearing’ but then we’d say ‘here’s the clean version duuude’ (laughs). We were just hustling dude, we went and connected personally with the fans and made our fan base grassroots, it wasn’t through a post, it wasn’t through a feed, we were in these people’s towns and we were getting shows in smaller towns that are thirsty for it. I think that kind of hard work and start up is kind of lost a little bit and that’s why people may not be extra connected to their fans if you are only connected to them through social media. We came up being us, it was about us getting out there and really proving ourselves, we became a live band before we became a studio band.
You and Bliss recently posted a video of you back at work in the studio, how is that project sounding so far?
Awesome, things coming together faster than ever, there’s always something magical when me and the boys get together.
My Astral Plane will be available on all platforms of the 11th of May 2018, you can pre-order it here.