TrackSuits Interview :: Luka Lesson
February 11th 2014
Luka Lesson is the Australian Poetry Slam champion of 2011. He’s toured internationally for two years at 11 writers festivals, written and self-published a poetry anthology, “The Future Ancients”, and has collaborated with Greek hiphop outfit Active Member and a long list of local acts.
Soon to release his second full-length album of poetic hiphop, entitled EXIT, the prolific Mr. Lesson chatted with Dave Carter from TrackSuits about his upcoming show on Saturday, February 15 at 107 Projects Redfern.
DD: “Exit” is your second full-length record after your debut “Please Resist Me”, which took in love, social change, ancestral pathways and internal ruminations. Tell us about your new album EXIT – what themes are you exploring this time?
LL: This time around, it’s a total different process and vibe. Somehow I’ve come full circle because there are still political feels and love and relationships, but I’ve done it in a very different way.
“Exit” is about escaping or leaving your everyday or your comfort zone and in the process the producers I was working with would send me a beat and I would immediately write and record, finish it, I didn’t have long processes, I wanted it to be really challenging and immediate and honest.
Most of this album was recorded overseas so the whole thing is a perspective of what it’s like to leave the shackles of your society, to leave your own country, your own process as an artist and crack open that gate to the next level. It’s been a crazy year and a half of making this album and I’m really proud of it.
Who did you work with and how did those collaborations come about?
I worked with three producers – two Australian producers are ISHU, a local artist who’s put out his own records and is one of the greatest in Australia and just an all-round really nice dude.
I met him through Omar Musa and the Moneycat collection kicking it in Melbourne and he sent through one of the dopest beats on the record. James Mangler-Heap from Sietta and TZU and he hit me up with a few beats and one of them was super-spectacular, really proud of that one too.
And the rest of the album which is nine other tracks were produced by an American dude, Jordan Thomas-Mitchell, who lives in Beijing of all places, and I met him in 2012 in March when I did the writer’s festival there. And I’ve been back to Beijing for other festivals and gigs and it’s a place that I never thought I would go to record an album in or be creative, but somehow I’ve ended up going to China. The last time was in November in 2013 and we spent three weeks in a studio there and capped it off. He’s a really dope, talented dude that no-one’s ever heard of.
The performance of your album in your acapella is happening Saturday the 15th of February at 107 Projects from 7.45pm. For people who haven’t seen you do your thing before, what can they expect?
This album in particular I approached it so it could stand on its own as a spoken word set, so I approached it more as a poet than a rapper. Anyone who’s seen me perform knows that I don’t leave anything behind on stage, I throw down everything I can and go hard. Spoken word is such a powerful vulnerable art, it’s about connection with an audience, it’s not about being big or putting on layers and trying to act a certain way to put on a show.
It’s definitely about stripping back layers to be really intimate. I just wanted to give everyone an opportunity to listen to the lyrics of the album, I mean the production is great and everyone’s done well but I’m really interested in rap coming back to being a more poetic form back to its roots.
I’m into that story of grios in West Africa and people really changing the world through stories. I’m into the oral history of rap, and we tend to lose sight of that in Australia and I think rap in Australia has lost sight in many ways of how poetic the genre can be and what we really have in our hands when we get up to perform. The show is basically going to be a listening party of the album before it’s released, but it’s a listening party for the lyrics, not for the beats.
P. Smurf is going to be sharing the stage with you on Saturday the 15th of February, why did you chose his tune Con Artist to bring in?
Basically I dig lyricism, and I’m a stickler for structure, and I really love it when a rapper gets an idea in their head and takes it to the limit – P Smurf just raps as many verses as possible with words starting with “Con-” …
There’s a poetry workshop following the performance – how’d you get into helping people with words, and what could people expect to leave with?
I’ve been running workshops since I started slamming in Brisbane, from high schools to universities and one-on-one. It’s just a great experience to help people generate text, and perform it in front of people, which a lot of people are freaked out about, because people are afraid of speaking in front of others.
So it’s little tricks to stop the self-criticism from happening while you’re writing, and helping people find what they have to say. Because everyone has a great message, it’s just that it’s easy to start hating on yourself when you start writing.
WHAT :: EXODUS: Luka Lesson’s new album ‘Exit’ in acapella
WHERE :: 107 Projects – 107 Redfern Street, Sydney
WHEN :: Saturday, February 15
HOW MUCH :: $15 (online), $20 on door!