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Hunter & Mortar - Fear and Loathing

Hunter & Mortar - Fear and Loathing—a few words with Hunter SBX about his new album with Mortar—this was originally an article for ozhiphop.com : article in forum & on http://officialozhiphop.tumblr.com. by AliaK 31/05/2011. Thanks very much to Hunter for taking the time to answer my rambling questions

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Hunter and Mortar released their new album "Fear and Loathing" in May 2011—the guys seem a perfect match to release an album together. Written over a few years, there's a range of styles, and fans of either of the two will not be disappointed. My personal favourites are the more introspective songs, such as Mortar's "Expecting to Fly" and Hunter's "Love and Fear" but there are also plenty of hardcore rap songs for the fans to play at parties and bars around Australia. Hunter answered a few questions and replied to comments about the new release. You can find the album in all good stores supporting Australian Hip Hop, and I'd encourage you to buy all of Hunter's and Mortar's albums, including this one—the latest chapter in the Hunter SBX story.

>> AliaK
Hunter SBX

>> I love the samples in the album tracks—both the ones from Fear & Loathing film and the songs based on the titles—they're quite varied in styles—some I wouldn't expect to hear in a hip hop track, which made me like them more (The Sound of Music, Tom Jones). did Mortar do all the music. and how did you go about putting it altogether—in person or remotely? I noticed your Hunter & DJ Vame album mentioned you hadn't met in person, but this sounds like a different approach. I read in the liner notes, that Mortar suggested the theme, and you went from there. did you decide on a sample/topic then start writing for that, or write, then find the sample to fit later.

Hunter: Most of the songs were written to the beat, like "It's not unusual" and "Favourite things", yeh so most of the samples used, sort of dictated the way the lyrics went for sure. Mortar made all the beats, and we wrote some of it together, or at least put skeletons of songs together, together, then I'd go away and polish my lyrics at home. We think Mortar came up with the idea—we aren't really sure, as we were both drunks when we started making the album.

>> hardcore rap—"nothin’ nice"—battle raps, drinking raps, cunt raps. on your albums there's a mix of these and the more introspective songs. do you have a preference in writing them or are do they just represent the different sides of you/your personality? and what does hardcore rap mean to you? any influences you'd like to mention (eg is it from the 80s "hardcore hip hop" style)

Hunter: I grew up listening to NWA, Ice T, Public Enemy and Geto Boys, so my influence is definitely with that hardcore edge. we swear a lot in our day to day lives, and we reflect our day to day lives in our music. Mortar and I aren't the kind of fellas who take girls out on double dates. Back in the day when we started the album, we were the kind of fellaz who went to the pub and got as drunk as we possibly could. We took our shit to the extreme, we didn't like things—we loathed things. But in saying that, we are smart and intelligent men. we are both well-read, and we may not be educated much past high school, but we aren't dummies either. We are also not afraid to express ourselves—we got nothing to hide. if people don't like our music, they don't like it—we used to that. we make music for the people who do like our music. we aren't trying to garnish or seduce new fans—this stuff is for people who dig it, ya dig?

>> in your albums, you shout out to your friends, Syllabolix crew—saying thanks. I love how you're showing your feelings/love for them in your songs—"hell & back" & "love and fear". I think you're very blessed to have such a great support network, both for music and life. what has having such a crew meant to you/your life.

Hunter: SBX means everything to me, they are the reason I do what I love, and the reason I love what I do. We have all worked together to get ourselves the recognition as one of the dopest Crew's in Aus! We may not be the hardest working, but we are surely one of the most skilled, most varied, and most productive crews going around... what other other Aussie Crews have got nearly 30 releases under the belt? and they all different! we got political shit, party shit, hardcore shit, we got the fuckin' works I tell ya!

>> there seems to be a few collaborations on (all of) your albums—is there anyone you'd like to work with but haven't yet? who have been your favourites to work with (or perhaps all the guests are)?

Hunter: I love writing with other people, I have enjoyed all the collabs so far. Matty B and I have talked about doing an album one day, but I fear that will be almost impossible due to work loads and schedules. I love working with Daz, and a Done DL 2 is in the pipeline, plus a giant SBX album. As for interstaters—I'm only interested if they show interest in me—I wouldn't chase anyone. It was good to get the Hoods on something, coz we have been mates with them for years and years, and it was always talked about—that we'd do something some day—so it is good to have finally done it.

>> I love the theme for the album & title—it has so many levels. links your name with Hunter S Thompson, the fear & loathing of both of your circumstances relating to your illnesses, the drug fueled partying days & nights. the past meets the future. Hunter S Thompson and his gonzo journalism style—putting himself into the action of his stories—similar to how some of your raps are stories with you in the story, rather than talking about other things from an outside perspective, and sometimes the reader/listener (in your case) is never 100% sure which is part of the story or an exaggeration, and which is reality. even his friendship with beat writers like Ginsberg & Burroughs—and their cut-up styles of writing have parallels with cut-up sampling in hip hop music, and I can definitely hear this style in your album. are these the sorts of ideas you were thinking of when you heard/liked the idea for the concept of the album. have you read much of Hunter S. Thompson's work?

Hunter: I have read 'Fear and Loathing', 'Hells Angels' and one of his collections of essays. Yeh I definitely like his style, and his writing. Am spewing I can't take drugs like him anymore, coz he really hammered it for a long time, but unfortunately for me, my drug days are pretty much over. I think Mortar understood the link and used it more than I did, though it was obvious with the name, Hunter I would get the recognition for it...

>> do you think quitting drinking had an impact on your raps and/or ideas on life or changed them at all?

Hunter: Quitting drinking has changed everything for me.

>> and cancer (not sure if you want to talk about this?) personally, I'm inspired by how you're always so positive eg on twitter—there's a few moments of being down, which is completely understandable—especially after the meds change or after the hospital visits, but overall I think you have a great outlook and sound like a really strong & determined person. I think you're attitude is very inspiring for others and I love how you've set your priorities—your son and your music/raps/hip hop and you are focusing on these. is there anything you'd like to share about this part of your journey of life?

Hunter: Cancer has taken everything from me, but it has also opened my eyes to a lot of things, and allowed me to move on with my life, and focus on what is really important. If it wasn't for cancer, I would still be a drunk, and not half as motivated as I am now.

>> the album starts off with more songs about women & interactions with them—"it's not unusual" "learning to fly"—a big part of your life. and these seem to be the things talked about when guys get together, as well as songs about drinking—"when I'm drunk". are these the sorts of things you meant in the liner notes when you said you weren't sure if you'd still be able to relate with Mortar when he stopped drinking due to his illness.

Hunter: Drinking was such a big part of my life, that I thought I would not be able to relate to Mortar without drinking together... I wondered why he would want to hang out with me if he couldn't drink. Mortar used to come over to my flat with a bottle, and I'd get a carton, and we'd drink the lot. When Mortar couldn't do that anymore, I figured that we wouldn't hang out anymore, because the drinking was what we had in common. I knew we could still rap together, but it was hard at first, then I sort of realized I could be the drunk guy, and he could drive the car... and that worked for a while.

>> I like the "no regrets" / "this is how we are" attitude of your raps in "take me away" & "love and fear". there's a confidence there—in knowing yourself and not needing to change for others—that not everyone has.

Hunter: Yeh I got nothing to hide, I got nothing left, cancer has stripped me bare. I am completely free now, except from the meds—slave to the prescription pad, but free to do what I like when I like. and not just coz I can't work, just because I know that my time is limited. all of us have a limited time, but I face it daily that at anytime—my liver might just pack it in, and I'm gone. So I am ready to make what I can. everything is a bonus now, all the good stuff is double as good, and the bad stuff, well that can go get stuffed—I 'aint got time for it!

>> "destined for destruction" mentioned in "when I'm drunk"—then talking about the demons that seem to take over when you drink. Mortar talks a bit about the changes and lost ideas after drinking. similarly, in "one toke"—stuck in a rut, wanting a change. you mention, "only see misery / the darkness is a living entity / that comes to visit me / and leaves me mad". is the song based on the Brewer & Shipley song of same title? as sung in Fear & Loathing film (it sounds like B&S version is where the sample's from)—a song about excess, smoking. their lyrics, "like everything I've been through, it opened up my eyes"

Hunter: I don't know that song at all! hahah I have never listened to the soundtrack. Tried watching the movie but I was on acid and started freaking out. That was the day we recorded my verse for "One Shot". so I don't know the song, but yeh I'm sure it all makes sense. we definitely linked things here and there, sometimes unintentional... for example, in the song "You do the math" I meant to say "one of these nights I'll have to pick the bat up" in reference to The Eagles sample. Instead, I'd rapped "one of these days". oh well, I couldn't be fucked changing it in the end—a lot of my verses are one takers. I don't get into doing re-records.

>> "more pills"—"more pills, more problems / more problems, more pills". from illegal drugs to medication / prescription pills. different reasons for having drugs. seems to never end, if it's not pills by choice, it's pills by necessity for treatment. the song seems to be focusing on problems and pills, rather than the good feelings of taking them, so it's like it's a song against taking drugs -> they cause problems; are for when you have problems?

Hunter: Mortar's big complaint with his doctors was that he thought they were treating the symptoms, and not the underlying problems. you know, like "take the darn pills, and we'll see ya next week for another script"

>> "hell & back"—a few stories of going to hell and coming back from it, just like the title says. the topic feels dark but there's hope/positivity there too

Hunter: at the time of writing that, I thought I was either gonna be cured or die. didn't realize there was a place where you could do both, and neither.

>> "expecting to fly"—love this one too. it's very catchy & starts sweet—a story of young love—happy. "magic moments—memories we've been sharing". it's like the song is in two parts—the change in the middle. silence—a breath in the song when there's nothing, when young love is lost. words are lost too for a moment. did she die—is this about a suicide or overdose (the "chasing the dragon" reference)? how sad. ending with the Buffalo Springfield song (with member Neil Young, who performed it later in his career also) "I wondered whether / I could wave goodbye / Knowin' that you'd gone" it really is a great song—the structure and the way it's done—the whole feel of the song too. so personal. (though I hope I'm wrong about the girl)

Hunter: it took me a couple of listens to figure out what was going on with this song. it is fucking brilliant—Mortar is a great storyteller—one of Australia's finest, and I hope he one day gets the recognition for that

>> there seems to be lots of 1960s and 1970s songs / samples—are these influences of you both or just in the album due to the Fear & Loathing film soundtrack, or a bit of both?

Hunter: both I guess, I grew up listening to 1980's radio, so a lot of stuff I heard as a kid was 60's and 70's.

>> "love and fear" — love this song. I think I can hear you singing along to the sample (love this!) by The Youngbloods? :

if you hear the song I sing
you will understand (me) (listen!)
you hold the key to love and fear
all in your trembling hand
just one key unlocks them both
it's there at your command
love is but the song to sing
fear's the way we die

>> this is a great song—both your lyrics and the sample—the ideas behind it. reflecting on your life, and perhaps mistakes you think you've made, time running out (for everyone). but it's like the Youngbloods say—"fear's the way we die"—even when we're still living. the knowledge (gnosis) you've gained from reading & reflection. no regrets—lessons learned. face your fears.

>> your lyrics:

love, life and lust
and trust
and be the one that I must <--- the story of your life! and words
...
love, fear and loathing
wrap around me in the night
like my hand me down clothing
everything I see
and everything I do
reminds me that if there's a God out there
I see you
I be you
every time I hit the truth
of Creation
I see it everywhere
the proof
staring me straight in the face
not a hair out of place
every single cell
a certain grace
and every time I hit the microphone
I lace
over the beat
a treat
from a nutcase named Hunter

>> is this the God=self song you mentioned on twitter a while back?

Hunter: nah, that is something else.

>> do you have a favourite song on the album? and/or one you enjoyed making the most

Hunter: When I'm Drunk or Rock Tonight are my faves, but I like the whole album!

>> anything else you'd like to mention? about your music/albums/anything else

Hunter: Fear and Loathing

Hunter and Mortar's "Fear and Loathing" album is out now order your copy here

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also read my reflections on Hunter's first three albums if you'd like to get a feel for more of his work. the best option is to buy his music! he tells you his story in his songs :)

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