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Cover Story: The Herd

Written by Michael Carr on November 10, 2008

The Herd are more than just a band. As a musical collective they have taken Australian hip-hop’s sound in interesting and eclectic directions. As figures in contemporary Australian culture they have spoken out against issues. As entrepreneurs their label Elefant Traks has continually supported exciting and innovative local artists as well as helping establish a system to allow these artists to get their music out to the eager fans across the country.

With Elefant Traks now ten years old, as well as The Herd having released toured nationally with their latest album Summerland you’d be excused for thinking that this rag tag gaggle would be taking a bit of a breather, but as it is there’s no rest for the wicked awesome.

“I mean it’d be nice,” Tim Levinson aka Urthboy informs me, as we sit on the balcony of Music Feeds HQ. “But during these times where there is so much activity, and so much going on, it’s hard to sit back and enjoy it. I guess more importantly its our work, so we have a sense of enjoyment in the fact that it is our work, so while we can’t sit back and reflect and enjoy it all the time, there is the reality that we’re enjoying the things we’re doing.”
Tim speaks in a voice heavy with either fatigue or some sort of sedative. It’s completely understandable why he’d be tired or doped up considering that aside from his own duties with recording and touring with The Herd, he’s been being kept busier than cunt in a whorehouse with Elefant Traks having released CDs from multiple artists as well as running a few national tours.

“We’ve been pretty busy, always trying to keep busy with the label. We’ve kind of gone from the Herd through to Horrorshow, then Hermitude. Did a big jump over to Japan in September and October to keep working on those possibilities for the label.”

“Then we get back and Hermitude go on a national tour and the Herd keeps touring, and the recording process keeps going, so there is no sort of time to rest. Which is probably a good thing.”

If you get the impression that there’s a bit of an issue with workaholsim in the ET camp rest assured that they do get a chance to relax, even if it takes a trip to Japan to make them calm down and stop working.
“Yeah for sure, we were busy but we had time to be tourists. I was a little bit fascinated about Japanese culture before I went, and it was eye opening how different the Japanese music scene is. But in some ways we have so much in common. Music doesn’t distinguish between geographical perspectives.”

“It was fun getting that. We’re often reminded how localized our music is especially the hip hop, but then you get over there and do these gigs, and we don’t have our foot in the door yet, but all you can do is perform and show them what you got. You really sort of take away the awkwardness that accents can bring up and it just becomes about a performing act.”

“Going to Japan showed me how multicultural Australia is. We are physically a multicultural group so that does tend to come up. But we don’t feel obliged or compelled to use or preach that, other than how it naturally manifests itself.”

“At times it may manifest itself polemically or in an outspoken manner, but that’s just because we are passionate about what’s happening in our society and that has meant we’ve been quite political.”
“I think we hark back to that Australian larrikin character where you have no bullshit going on. It’s something about our national character, I think as Australians that when we feel we see bullshit going on we have to speak out.”

Considering the amount of bullshit going around the music industry it’s no wonder then that The Herd have been making so much noise over the past few years. However in the beginning it was much more a case of just making music as opposed to fighting the machine.

“The original way it kicked off was that back in 1998 some of the guys and Unkle Ho were putting together a compilation for one of their friends who was heading overseas and I guess just mates who were working on music and all that sort of stuff,” Richard Tamplenizza aka SuLo tells me as he joins us on the couches.

“I had met Traksewt at this party and he told me the idea he had for starting Elefant Traks and after that first compilation it sort of expanded, and then it got a bit of a buzz going as everyone was loving our DIY approach”.
“Around 2000 we decided rather then doing another compilation we would actually collaborate, because there was so much electronic music at the time, it was sort of like saturated, so we thought it would be better to collaborate on a project together instead of trying to do it all alone.”

“All those people who had been involved in those original compilations got together, that’s how the Herd started, then it kind of evolved from there. A loose collection of artists teaming up to make a band and a label.”

“But really we wanted to bring a DIY approach to music,” Tim explains. “Actually we didn’t want to we had to. There was no other way for us to do it other that just doing ourselves. It sounds romantic but really it was just practical.”

For more information visit http://www.elefanttraks.com as there is so much shit going on with these guys you’d need a proctologist to sum it all up.

Photo By Jim Skouras

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