UNKLE HO – Culturally Travelled

THE HERD’S UNKLE HO IS ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING ARTISANS IN AUSTRALIAN MUSIC, WEAVING INTO THE DOMESTIC HIP-HOP FABRIC  – ONE THAT IS BECOMING EVEN RICHER WITH THE KIND OF MUSICAL VISIONARY EXHIBITED ON LAST YEAR’S SUBTERRANEA EP RELEASE FROM UNKLE HO.

UNKLE HO interviewed @ 09:30 AEST – Friday 4th March, 2010
For Street Press Australia & Rip2Shredz Press

Words by RIP NICHOLSON

Upon first glance at the album’s sleeve, however, one does not conjure up thoughts of more beats stacked up by producer and pivotal member of indie label Elefant Traks and it’s lead outfit, The Herd. For one the cover shows distant European Roman watchtowers, upside down – like some alternate Medieval world of renaissance. And to all intents and purposes, so is this body of work.

Ill-conceived prejudgements like this become appetite for a cultural trip, albeit a taste of 19thCentury Gypsy Europe. Kaho Cheung, the man behind Unkle Ho, after having spent two years living in the Czech Republic with The Herd’s own Bezerkatron seems to have passionately embraced this and adding his Eastern European patch to the quilt, Subterraneamakes Unkle Ho a period artist using this tool to continually quest for the perfect beat.

“I’ve often envisaged the process of writing with samples akin to time travelling, going through and taking snippets of recordings worlds and periods apart then putting it together as if the original musicians somehow could play in the room together.”

Taking residence next door, Cheung yet again threads another cultural weave into the Australian indie scene. As he explains in third person, “Unkle Ho moved to the Indonesian capital early last year. His wife got a job with an international news agency so he was a good husband and moved to be with her. Since then, Unkle’s been learning Indonesian, working on music, travelling around the region and tapping in with the local scene.”

As one eighth of The Herd conglomerate, Unkle Ho often shelves his own projects to produce the backbone music for the Sydney-based crew who have been dropping consistently since “scallops with the lot” in 2001. Currently Cheung is on home soil and bunkered in the studio with the band, on another fine Herd release expected soon.

“It is still early stages with the Herd.” Their next album is still under wraps. “I’m also working on Unkle Ho stuff, so perhaps something early in the new year.” From first exposure in 1998’s Cursive Writing, it wasn’t until 2005 did Cheung release Roads To Roma and Circus Maximusin ‘07 and now his latest EP is a fusion of elements from both LPs. “My first record was very sampled based, whereas my second, Circus Maximus had a lot more live instrumentation.”

Subterranea shared views of something very grand and outside any boxes courtesy of Luke Dubs providing synths, piano and keys, Rok Poshtya on bass and Toefu on guitar. Cheung adopts strong instrumentation to recreate the intricate melodies from folk to flamenco roots of an East European origin. This seemingly strange passion Unkle Ho holds for the Romani culture exuded through his beats, while it would seem a world away from his own heritage, becomes quite apparent when pressing play on Subterranea. And the obscure sound arrangement found in previous outputs, are stitched together into the form of a very Gypsy-spirited release for a Taiwanese-born Australian producer.

“I first got interested in Romani culture through the music, for some reason I connected with it instantly,” he explains, developing on this inspiration. “For Subterranea, I tried to push both those approaches further – digging deeper for samples and using instrumentation I haven’t used before such as synths.”

For such a worldly artist, Unkle Ho often conjures thoughts of “what if” the man himself wasn’t so well-versed in cultures abroad, would the music still be as influenced.

“I’ve actually pondered this before, but in a much broader sense. I would hope that my less travelled alternative universe Unkle Ho would still be doing music from different cultures. But it is hard to say, the force of Eastern Europe is strong in this one…”

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