Mantra Talks Shop

Mantra (Rob Tremlett) is one of the most recognizable voices in Australian Hip-Hop and has travelled a fair journey to where he is today. Having collaborated with an array of the best producers (Jake Savona, Countbounce  and M-Phases) in the country in various projects including Illzilla and Equills, Mantra released “Power Of The Spoken” in 2010 in his own right through Hip Hop powerhouse label Obese. He was voted best freestyler by OzHipHop.com in 2008 and has established himself as a conscious and active voice in the local music scene. Mantra took out some time to talk to Blank Tape amidst a national tour supporting Drapht to talk about his continuing rise in the Oz scene.

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1. You are Melbourne born and bred? How does the city you grew up in influence your music and lyrical content?

Yep I’m a Melbourne boy through and through! I think living in Melbourne has definitely influenced my music. Being in a city with such a thriving musical culture means you can meet and work with a lot of different artists and really shape your sound, and you feel confident taking it in whatever direction you like.


2. Do you think that Melbourne is developing an original musical identity, and in your genre?

I think every city has its own characteristics and traits when it comes to music. Obviously I notice it more in Hip-Hop because it’s the genre I’m involved in. While there are always similarities within a certain style, I definitely think you can hear a difference between say, a rap track from Adelaide and a rap track from Melbourne. I guess it just has to do with the sounds that are prevalent around you and what you get exposed to when you’re developing as an artist.


3. What frustrates you about the Melbourne music scene? What excites you about it?

The only thing that frustrates me about Melbourne is the fact that, being so spoilt with an abundance of good music, we can get very picky and critical. Which is fine to an extent, but I often find myself at gigs where a band is doing a smashing job, yet they’re getting a totally luke-warm response from the crowd. And its not because the crowd isn’t enjoying it, they’re just not as likely to show it as they might in other cities. What excites me about Melbourne’s scene is its variety. No matter what genre you’re into, chances are you can find people that are doing it really well.


4. What did you learn from your time in Illzilla & Equills?

I learnt the benefits and importance of collaboration. When you’re in a group you can come together and jam out ideas and really develop songs as a team, which means you come up with ideas and sounds you wouldn’t come up with on your own. This was really good for me to learn because even when I’m working on solo stuff, I’m still collaborating with producers and guest artists, so it means I can get the best possible end result.


5. Tell us about the processes involved creatively and studio wise in making the last record.

The last record was all over the place. I wrote the lyrics in different cities and even different countries, worked with a bunch of different beat makers and recorded in a bunch of different studios. This was mainly due to necessity, but I think it had its pros and cons. It gave the album a lot of diverse themes and sounds which is cool, but it definitely presented its own challenges.


6. You are already laying down for the upcoming release? What can we expect? Where are the beats coming from this time?

This album is a lot more cohesive I think. I was a lot more careful in choosing beats and producers I wanted to work with. I really wanted to create a record that had a lot of consistency and felt like a complete piece of art, and flowed from start to finish. I’ve still got some work to do but I think its getting there.


7. Three must have local albums?

This is always tough. My number one would probably be Quarantine by Fortknight Productions (Syphon and DJ Wasabi). Its a pretty rare find these days, but definitely some wicked head-music. Mata & Must’s album Paradox of Minds would also be up there Hip-Hop wise. And although its not out yet, when The Bombay Royale release their upcoming album or EP (not sure which) it’s gonna be fire.


8. Three fave Melbourne venues?

The Forum, The Hi-Fi, Billboard.


10. Advice to tackling the local market as a musician?

Hone your skills and sound. Obviously you’ve gotta be prepared to do a lot of work on the business side of things and that is all very important. But I think a lot of muso’s try to smash the scene and make this huge impact before they’re ready musically. Once you’ve got your sound tight, and you know you can destroy a live gig, then and only then is it time to get the public onboard.

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The creatively restless MC looks towards completing a new record once he gets home from the Drapht tour and plans a national stint out on his own upon release.

Debut release “Power Of The Spoken” by Mantra is available now through Obese and iTunes.