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Big Day Out: Tzu

Written by James Parker on December 14, 2008

Interviewing someone who refers to himself as Count Bounce always had the potential to be a slightly surreal experience. But speaking to Phillip Norman from laid back Melbourne hip hoppers TZU, was, I must admit, even more bizarre than I had expected. He is just making his morning coffee when I call, an activity, he says, which has a lot in common with the act of creating music.

“You start with things, and there is this massive process of trying to refine and boil down to the point where it’s distilled in a way. You know, you’re just getting the juicy stuff and cutting the crap out; sorting the coffee from the grain, so to speak. So you’re left with some flavoursome java at the end of it.”

Java, of course, is every good time-traveller’s brew of choice. Something to do with the nutty aromas and long finish, I gather. And TZU would know. Apparently they’re just back from a trip to the 80s with Michael J Fox and his trusty delorean by way of preparation for their latest album Computer Love. Count Bounce explains:

“Well, I was pretty keen on checking out Stax Records in the States in the mid-60s. So we were there for a while, just hanging out in the wall paper. And then we headed off to the 80s for a little bit of kind of underground electro. We were just hanging out in some clubs there with Michael J Fox. And all sorts of people with heaps of weird haircuts and shoulder pads and stuff. We were just chillin.”

Riiight. It occurs to me that a change of tact might be in order at this point. So I ask the Count to explain his noble lineage. “It was when we were doing our first album and I made this beat and it was just bouncy. I just liked the way the words fitted together and so, yeah, that was like 2002 or 2003. So it’s been a while.” And since then, has he pretty much always stuck with the character? Apparently so! Though, he does allow himself a brief outing in civies every now and then. “Just when I need to slip by when I’m doing some kind of assassination, you know; or when I’m doing some deft retrieval of some precious jewel through the streets of medieval Jerusalem. I just need to be stealthy. I can’t be going around waving my cape and saying I’m Count Bounce otherwise I’ll get assassinated.”

Though definitely not by the band’s label Liberation Music, with whom they apparently have an excellent relationship. “We can pretty much do…well; we can do exactly what we want. They’re there to try and market it. But we can tap the table with the royal staff and say (adopting an appropriately regal-sounding English accent) “No, no, no. The beat will sound like this…Off with that female sung chorus…One must break it down selecta.”

Just in case it wasn’t clear already, one thing is absolutely for certain: the boys from TZU know how to have fun. When we move on to talk about their upcoming appearance at the Falls Festival at the end of the year, the first thing that comes up is the band’s knack for nicking famous people’s riders.

“We’ve had some great moments backstage at the end of festivals, when everyone’s dressing rooms are getting cleared. I remember we stole some organic peanut butter from Sonic Youth. Mos Def left like heaps of this platter of falafels and hummus and eggplant and stuff. There were some great booties. Jack Daniels from the Vines I think. We just went on a raid. We were the last ones standing in this backstage area. The capes were flying. My sceptre was…like…furious as it shone; a beacon of fire and lust and destruction.”

Deciding that it’s probably best to leave that worrying image unelaborated, we move swiftly along to the forthcoming festival season. TZU cut their teeth at the Falls Festival, where they were booked up on a three year contract. “So as we came up out of the woodwork, beginning to get popular, we were doing these falls shows. The first one I think we played was in a side tent and the last we played was at 1.30 in the morning on the main stage. So I’ve got a soft spot for the Falls. It’s a really cool festival. And we’re doing it again this year for the first time in three years.”

Sadly, Michael J Fox won’t be making an appearance. Worse still, nor will the delorean.

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