KEYBOARDIST AND BACKUP VOCALIST SCOTT GREGORY BREAKS DOWN WHAT THE FABRIC IS OF BOTANICS THAT SEPARATES THIS BAND FROM OTHERS HIP HOP ACTS. BY RIP NICHOLSON.
SCOTT GREGORY interviewed @ 09.45 AEST – Thursday 16 Sept, 2010
For Street Press Australia & Rip2Shredz Press
Words by RIP NICHOLSON
The new album The Fabric from hip hop’s most musically untamed outfit Botanics shows off the cutting and stitching together of the live organic with the digital, blues root music with local Sydney rap, to complete a well-fitted bespoke three-piece live band. “The fabric is all the musical influences that bring us to what we do live. It’s the sewing together of different materials to create a new and different fabric to what’s out at the moment,” Gregory says.
Songwriter and guitarist Chris Baker, MC and percussionist Sean Hannaford and Gregory were all raised with the right tools. Baker studied classical guitar and took to writing hip hop, much like Hannaford who played bass in garage rock band before finding his niche along the same thread of hip hop. Gregory too learned to play guitar, but also piano up to 7th grade and studied the trombone at the Conservatorium of Music, performing in orchestras at the Opera House. Gregory held a firm love of jazz, blues and hip-hop and jamming in the same circles as Baker and Hannaford, and they came together to embrace what hip hop had to offer for their unique reach of musicality.
“We’ve all come from similar backgrounds and although we like our hip hop, we’ve also always been into rock and jazz. But when we started we were a bit more rootsy and organic and it’s come along way to what it is now,” admits Gregory, who feels privileged that the band can find the right sounds instrumentally rather than re-producing from records.
“We’re not restricted by anything. If we want to change the key on the sample or the speed, we can create it. It used to be just the instrumentals, then the vocals, then samples. When we’re in the studio we can record horns and when we go live we can have a horn section or sample the horns. Where a DJ can take a lot of samples and mix them together, we can actually produce the sample ourselves, so it still keeps it very organic because what we’re playing, we’ve developed. It feels a lot more of our own rather than fusing together bits of other people’s work.”
Trying to suit these boys for a particular genre just won’t fit. The off-the-cuff blues and jazz scats that bring body to their hip hop precludes The Botanics from being stitched into a pocket of one genre or another. “We kinda fit into all those categories,” says Gregory. “People into hip hop can get into the live musical aspect and same for those people who might not like hip hop, can appreciate our hip hop. So hopefully it opens a few eyes to what they wouldn’t normally listen to.”
The first LP Release The Peace was made with famed musician/producer Nathan Cavaleri and released in 2005, a very rootsy-blues affair with the session musicians adding soul loops and programmed beats. And so started this Aussie rap avant garde of The Botanics that has recently been packaged tightly into the The Fabric – music tailor-made for the big tent at sundown. It’s this appeal that makes this recording band an easy hit for hip hop gigs, explains Gregory.
“It’s our versatility. If the crowd wants to rock, we can rock or if they are into the live freestyling we can do that. We leave it wide open for the crowd’s response. I think we’ve get a lot more dynamics in the band than a hip hop acts can with a DJ. It’s all about the energy of a live band – nothing can substitute for a drummer with his shirt off, sweating at the back of the stage. It just comes across so much better live.”