Features

Freestyle of their own

Over the years the Freestylers have proved to be perennial favorites over the Australian summer, with no less than three New Years Eve’s already spent on our sunny shores. Since their last visit they’ve had a rather busy year with numerous weighty events taking place, including the collapse of Freskanova (the label the boys were signed to) and the release of highly anticipated new material under the Raw As F*ck title on Krafty Kut’s label Against the Grain. ITM’s i_have_ADD spoke with Aston Harvey, one half of the duo, about their plans for the upcoming tour.

Aston first teamed up with Freestylers partner in crime, Matt Harvey, in 1997. Both worked in the same studio complex and became friends through their common love of hip-hop and electro. The pair had become bored with the repetitive and unimaginative house tracks being released at the time and so took to the studio, effectively combining elements of dancehall, reggae, dub, drum & bass, hip-hop, breaks and electro. I asked Matt how he first got into DJing, “I got my first set of turntables when I was 16. I was absolutely mad about hip-hop, all I wanted to do was scratch, so that’s why I got my decks originally. As you get older obviously the music changes, and that’s where we got the Freestylers from, all our different musical influences.” Their debut album, We Rock Hard, was released in 1998 and it scored the duo commercial and critical acclaim. It has subsequently gone down in history as one of the seminal albums of the big beat era, and with tracks like Ruffneck and B-Boy Stance it’s little wonder. The pair followed up We Rock Hard with Pressure Point, released last year, and again received kudos for their impressive production work. I was interested to hear Matt and Aston’s approach to making new material, “It kind of changes, sometimes it might start with a sample or a vocal, but a lot of the time it will start with the drums or bass first because that can lead you in the direction we want to go as essentially our music is very rhythmically and bass oriented.”

The Freestylers have managed to forge a solid reputation at the forefront of a genre that didn’t really exist in its current form too long ago. Interestingly, Matt notes that even though the breakbeat phenomenon is a relatively new one, he has been experimenting and working with the sound for quite some time, “When I first started making music, which was about ‘89, it wasn’t too far in style from what we make now. I’d just come out of a big hip-hop phase, so a lot of the stuff I made was sped up hip-hop beats with rave noises added to it! Obviously it has moved on a bit from then, but it still has the same raw elements.” As accomplished DJs and producers I was interested to hear from Matt how he had seen their experience in both fields affect their success, “The good thing about DJing and making music is that you can test your stuff straight away in front of a crowd in the form of a dub plate, but to tell you the truth I don’t think it makes a whole lot of difference if you’re a DJ and a producer. If you are a lover of music then you’ll know what people like. Not all good DJs make great producers, and vice versa!” Recently Matt and Aston have been working on material under the moniker Raw As F*ck. I asked Matt why the pair had made the decision to work under a different name, “We left our record label in March, and so we thought we’d start a new name and come fresh with a new label, just start off on a clean slate. It seems to be working, our first release has done really well and the second is coming out the next couple of weeks. They’ve all been charted at number 1 by the DJs, so we’re working towards an album. The good thing is we’re working with completely new people and it’s injecting a whole new life into our productions. It could be looked at as the third Freestylers album, but it isn’t really.”

One of the more refreshing characteristics of the Freestylers is their approach to live performances. Never taking themselves too seriously, the boys have copped some flack in the past for hi-jinx with water pistols and wayward MCing. I asked Matt for his opinion on those individuals who view their behavior as unprofessional, “Haha, I don’t know about water pistols, maybe Matt was off his head? I’m definitely the more serious one out of the two of us! I can understand that people may interpret that as unprofessional, but we make sure the music is good and the vibe is there. If we were that unprofessional then we wouldn’t have been back so many times!” And considering the boys are gearing up for their fourth New Years Eve (and seventh trip down under in total), I’d say there are quite a few people who agree.

Freestylers tour dates:

Thu 26/12, Sydney, Fuzzy Summer Break
Sat 28/12, Canberra, ANU
Tue 31/12, Perth, Elektrick NYE
Wed 01/01, Melbourne, Summadayze
Sat 05/01, Gold Coast, Summafieldayze