Kate Kingsmill August 02, 2012
Hip Hop artist Illy (Al Murray) at the collingwood recording studio where his album was produced. Photo: Teagan Glenane
Illy has just finished work on the batch of freshly minted tunes that will make up his third album, Bring It Back, and it's making him nervous.
The album, due for release later this year, has already spawned a couple of singles, Heard It All and Where Ya Been featuring Pez, but the gap between mastering the finished tracks and releasing the album, he says is ''That weird period of feeling anxious. All that sweating over what people are going to think doesn't come until the record's done. Worrying about outside expectations or outside opinion doesn't really factor at all while I'm writing the songs. But then as soon as the record's back from the master it's like 'What the f--- are people going to think about this?' ''
In the four short years since Illy (Al Murray) dropped his first album, Long Story Short, he has gone from strength to strength, and he reckons this album is his best yet. ''I think this one is a bit more coherent as an album, there's a definite feel to it. I really have a soft spot for The Chase, in particular, but I do feel like this one, as an album, is probably a little tighter. I'm still getting people's vibe on it but I'm happy with it.''
His second album, The Chase was the one that kicked Illy's profile into high gear. It produced the big hit singles Cigarettes and It Can Wait featuring Owl Eyes and was nominated for the ARIA for best urban release. It built on the promise shown by Long Story Short. After the success of that album, there is more expectation resting on Illy's shoulders this time around, ''But I don't think that's anything to shy away from,'' he says.
The biggest difference between this record and the last one is the roster of guest MCs. ''On The Chase, there was no guests, versus this time I went a little guest crazy,'' Illy says. ''I got a lot of the Obese [Records] roster on and then a few other dudes I've wanted to get a track down with for ages so that was fun, to have a lot of people involved.''
Among others, fellow Melbourne MC Pez features on the track Heard It All, Thundamentals MCs Tuka and Jeswon feature on All the Above and Jeremedy and Mantra on The Real. The collaboration process was enjoyable, he says, ''Because there's a bit of back and forth, which … was dope.''
It wouldn't be an Illy record without a travelling track, so Coming Home is it. The album also features a Where Is My Mind Part 2, the first part of which appeared as a Triple J Like A Version in 2009. The track references Illy's hip-hop influences in various song and album titles, which took a while to write, because ''It's one thing to get all the song titles and then get it to at least half make sense as a sentence.''
This time around, he was more confident in the production process. ''I'm more comfortable in knowing my way around the album making process, definitely. I'm more comfortable with knowing what I wanted to make, knowing my strengths and my weaknesses.'' The bulk of the album was produced by Trials from the Funkoars, and old mate and long-time collaborator M-Phazes produced three of the tracks. ''Taku did a couple, One Above, who did I Love It by the Hoods did the single [Heard it All] and this dude Billy Hoyle from Melbourne did one of the beats as well,'' Illy says.
Bonus track Six Shooter just made it onto the record and features Bitter Belief from Perth, Prime and Purpose from Adelaide and J. Stark and Raven from Melbourne. ''It's probably the heaviest beat that I've had on any of the albums,'' Illy says. It's a hectic track that will no doubt go down well live, except that, ''The problem is getting everyone on that track in the one room. There's three states on this track so I'm not sure if we'd all be in the same place to be able to do it. I could just do the 2Pac hologram. I'd love that, it'd make it easier for me, I could just tour from my bedroom!''
There's no doubt his profile has blown up since The Chase but ''It's not like people are stopping me in the street and giving me their babies to take photos with, '' he says. ''There's more people at shows now than there was but it's still the same sort of vibe, so I don't really get affected by that. The profile thing doesn't really mean anything at the end of the day.''
In fact, since releasing The Chase, it's completing his law degree that has had more of an impact on his day-to-day life than anything else.
''It's been crazy, I have a lot of free time now that I didn't have before. But I'm sure the further along I go from having finished it I'm going to become more bewildered as to how I managed to do it. Some of the stress and the scheduling that I put myself through, like touring and sitting exams concurrently, is just like 'What the hell?' I don't think I could get into that mode now. But f---, it got it done!''
The Bring it Back tour kicks off in Queensland early this month and will hit Canberra on August 24. Illy will be joined on stage by M-Phazes and drummer Cam Gilmour. With three albums under his belt, as well as the Friday flips he's been releasing weekly, Illy has so much more material to choose from when building set-lists for shows on the upcoming tour. ''It's adding up now. I'm going to be able to do Bob Dylan three-hour long sets, I can't wait.''
WITH: Chasm Soundsystem
WHEN: Friday, August 24, 9pm
WHERE: Zierholz UC
■ Kate Kingsmill is a former Canberran, a music lover, writer and radio broadcaster