D’opus And Roshambo: Giving as good as they get

For two Canberra lads who started out locally, D’Opus and Roshambo have had infinite success with their music. Evolving out of a scene that supported them dutifully, they’ve made commendable efforts to give back to their community that has partially orchestrated their success.

From their debut LP The Question to their second release due out in March 2008, they continue to produce energetic and individualized beats which both excite and inspire audiences. Many are looking forward to seeing what the future holds, three years on from the beginning of their collaboration, and ITM chats to the pair about how their style has developed and matured, and how they felt when they heard the product of their hard work and dedication.

You’ve been cranking out beats together for three years now. How did you meet and decide to collaborate?

Roshambo: D’Opus and I knew of each other through the Canberra hip-hop scene from a number of years, me as a radio show presenter and supporter of the scene and him as a well renowned DJ. I also knew that he’d been dabbling in beats and was looking for someone to collaborate with that would inspire me and help me develop my skills and also look towards making some quality music. I approached him at a Braintax/Mystro show in Canberra and the rest is history basically. We’ve got a song about it on the new album, basically what started as a ‘test’ of sorts, just vibing in the studio that turned into a fully fledged partnership, and we’ve never looked back.

Do either of you stem from a particularly musical background?

Roshambo: Not so much for me. I mean, like all school children growing up in Canberra I had the opportunity to play a variety of musical instruments, but none that ever really sparked a passion in me. I mean, I am absolutely obsessed with music, I couldn’t live without it, but until I started to work on the lyrical side of things I’d for the most part just been a fan. I am the sort of person that likes to have a go at things I love and it was hip-hop that spoke to me the most vividly.

D’Opus: I have been into music from a young age, started playing guitar at about 10 years and played until I was about 16, then got into DJing and electronic music. I was continually making beats on the computer from college around 96 until early 2000s I focused more on DMC/Scratch style DJing and making hip-hop. My style is only just finding its sound now.

What have been your biggest influences? Have some of these influences been locally bred acts?

Roshambo: It would be amiss of me not to mention Hau and Dan from Koolism here, and my good friend Axe-Aklins. Basically when I was even more of an annoying whipper snapper than I am now they were guiding me, pushing me to develop my own personal style and approach and encouraging me to strive to be good at what I do and love. It’s obvious from our first EP that Koolism had an influence on our style and where we come from, but also other Australian artists like Mnemonic Ascent, Urthboy, Muph + Plutonic have all influenced me. I’m proud to say that we’ve really developed our own sound now for the forthcoming album and it is really indicative of both who D and I are and where we are heading. I’m influenced by the everyday as well, everyday people that you read stories about in the news or hear about from word of mouth. Situations influence me too, but in terms of hip-hop celebrities oversees people like J.Dilla, Common, Percee-P, Lord Finesse, the D.O.C, G-Rap, Pharoahe Monch, Ghostface, Kweli, Jay-Z. Just good music and original people I guess.

D’Opus: I also had a lot of influence from people like the Avalanches and DJ Shadow types. Yam Who, Platinum pied pipers, Sa-Ra, Nicolay and similar nu-soul type artists have played a big part in where the sound is going’

Canberra has arguably produced some of the finest hip hop in the country, both on a commercial and underground level. Are you proud to have evolved from such a talented scene?

Roshambo: For sure, I mean obviously I’ve already mentioned how important Koolism are to me- they’ve paved the way for hip-hop out of Canberra and shown that you can still succeed in our isolated little city. This place is a gift and a curse at times, it’s completely unpredictable. I don’t think you really get home town love until you get success outside of where you come from. It will be interesting to see what happens for us. I would also be wrong of me not to acknowledge Newsense, Mexi and the rest of The Hospice Crew, they gave me support from the beginning and were very encouraging. And there’s a host of really talented acts on the up and up who are working on some fantastic stuff. I already mentioned my man Axe-Aklins, he’s got his album due early January, the 19th I think. It’s all produced by Danielsan (Koolism) with two beats from D’Opus as well. It’s called Limb By Limb and it’s ridiculous. Carts2Deadly is another name to watch, he’s been doing shows with D and I for the past few years and we expect big things from him. Also Alikeminds, a really well respected and talented line up from Canberra. There’s mad talent here, just bubbling away.

Your new album is due out in March 2008. In your opinion, how will it deviate from The Question? Do you think it will demonstrate that you have taken your music to the next level?

Roshambo: Our new album has taken our EP to town. It’s a massive jump for us in terms of style, song-writing, quality, sound and scope. We’ve put ourselves to the test with it and really tested our limitations. We wanted to create something that oozed who we are, but also showed how we view the world around us and how we look towards the future with both optimism and pessimism. It sounds nothing like our EP, we played it safe with that one, still getting to know each other, but we are lot more confident of our abilities now and I think it shows from the album. I can’t wait for people to hear it.

D’Opus: There is a definite feel to the album, although the tracks are quite varied there is a strong sense of definition. It’s us showing what we feel and what sounds help to convey that story. There is a lot more synth electronic feel to this album and this can be a gamble with hip-hop as its often viewed as a grassroots sound. But we really wanted to push the envelope and by doing this we have created something that has surprised ourselves. But is still very “Us’

You’ve played a number of gigs over the years, and similarly supported some well known acts, both Australian and International. Do you feel that each performance you do further enhances the confidence and exuberance you already possess on stage?

Roshambo: Performing live shows is essential to our music. It’s a chance to test out new songs, get new fans and have fun! It’s such a dynamic and fluctuating environment performing on stage – you never know what is going to happen, and it’s fun, furious and challenging. We get better with every show, test each other and work on being more original and more entertaining whilst staying true to ourselves. Performing is almost more important than your recorded music – it’s a tool to showcase your sound so people actually want to check out your records.

D’Opus: We constantly try to change our live set and keep it fresh and interesting, this can sometimes come off a little rough but we would rather try to break the mould than play the same set continually.

It has been argued that your style is one that refuses to bite others and remains truly individualistic. Do you believe that the lyrics you write effectively convey and express your opinions? How so?

Roshambo: There is no point saying things that you wouldn’t say in real life with your music. I have to be myself to convey the things and messages that I want to convey, otherwise it becomes a facade, fake and won’t hit people in the way that I want it to. D and I speak from experience or through things that we have been influenced by. There is no other way to make music. We don’t want to be manufactured by the music scene, we want to pave our own path sensibly and by taking our time. I have different approaches to lyrics depending on the beat D makes and the style we are going for. Sometimes it is best to tell a simple story for the listener to follow, and other times it’s better to make the listener work for the deeper meaning through metaphors, clever similes and hidden messages. It’s about striking that fine balance and I believe we’ve done that on the new album, the lyrical content is extremely varied and compliments D’s innovative production.

You’ve had some great reviews, as well as airplay on Triple J and Raw FM. Is it exciting to have your music out there for others’ listening pleasure, and does good feedback make a difference to the music you make?

Roshambo: It’s incredible and overwhelming and exciting and humbling, all of the above and more. We’ve already learnt just from our involvement with the music scene in Canberra that the music industry is fickle. And we’ve still got a lot of hard lessons to learn I am sure. We just have to stay level headed and stick to our guns as the cliche goes. But it is amazing to have people come up to you say how much they’ve enjoyed a show, or a particular tune has meant something to them, or that they love your music. At the end of the day that is what it is about. Not money, not fame, not accolades, just making good music for people to feel and get something out of. That said though, sometimes bad feedback or criticism can drive you just as hard. You can’t please everyone, so it’s important to take criticism on board too, especially from people you admire and respect.

You both seem very community minded, having done charity gigs like Rhyme Intervention and Trinity Block Party, as well as music workshops for Quamby and the ACT Writer’s Guild. Do you gain an extra sense of satisfaction from doing this as opposed to normal gigs?

Roshambo: It’s all part of being involved in the community and giving back and in a way, it still kind of is a normal gig. We are performing in a different way and sharing in a different way, but it’s all part of getting your music out there to people and having fun! We feel blessed and humbled that we get asked to do charity gigs and community work. It’s important because we get to perhaps spark that interest in someone else that was once sparked in us.

D’Opus: We feel part of the community here and believe that you get what you give, there have been some benefit shows that we have turned down but where ever we can help we do. There is a lot of people with a lot less than us in the world and as we have said we are really just trying to get our music out to ears. If you can make someone’s day from doing something that you love that’s a huge bonus.

D’Opus, I noticed in your bio that you teach DJ and Audio Mixing at CIT and local community centres. Similarly, Roshambo, you’ve been the co-host of The Antidote on 2XX for several years, as well as doing your regular column in BMA The Realness. Is it rewarding for you both to share your passion with others in this way?

D’Opus: I have been teaching in one way or another for many years but I myself have recently been back to school, Its great to be able to help out other students and give some advice but I think I just like being in the environment of music, studio’s and creativity. If I could go full time doing music I would do that in a second, when the time comes I’ll be making a lot of noise musically but we are not there just yet.

Roshambo: We just like to have our fingers in many pies! We are just passionate, and it’s all part of sharing good music with people and drawing people’s attention to music that they otherwise might not get a chance to hear. We get to support music we love.

Success is defined differently by different people. How do you define it?

Roshambo: Success to me is a feeling of achievement and satisfaction. It cannot be gauged in terms of size or scope. Even the littlest things in life can mean success and can inspire that feeling of achievement. I don’t believe in making success happen, you cannot force it. If you do things for the right reasons, without ulterior motives then you will be rewarded.

Where do you want to be in 12 months time?

Roshambo: Just happy, healthy, still making music with D’Opus, playing shows, having fun and hopefully getting more out of the everyday!

D’Opus: That’s a hard one, I can hardly plan 2 months away, I could be in the same spot or Melbourne, Japan. Uk or anywhere. I know the next year will be a big one for both of us, and I will still be making music where ever it leads.

Finally lads, what wisdom from your success would you impart on the young and up and coming MCs of today?

Roshambo: Be yourself, have fun, take your time and surround yourselves with people that you can trust, love and meant he world to you! Don’t be afraid to ask for help, don’t be afraid to fail and work hard.

D’Opus: Look at why you want to do this, if the reasons are right surround yourself with music and create something. Don’t let the biz’ get involved in your creativity and personal life. Leave that to a manager/agent etc. There is a lot of amazing performers and artists out there who work hard and live off nothing just to do music full time, if you don’t think your doing it for the love of it, be prepared to work your ass off.

You can catch D’opus and Roshambo at Sunsets on the 22nd December at the Canberra Amphitheatre, and at Lock In on NYE at The Transit Bar. Tickets available now through ITM!