STILL ON THEIR ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM NATIONAL TOUR, THUNDAMENTALS HAVE BEEN SURPRISED BY THEIR EXPANDING POPULARITY. BRENDAN TUCKERMAN EXPLAINS TO RIP NICHOLSON HOW THE OBESE TRIO CHOOSE TO USE THEIR EXPANDING PROFILE.
MC TUKA interviewed @ 13:30 AEST – Tuesday, 12th May, 2015
For Rip2Shredz Press & Street Press Australia [Read here]
Words by RIP NICHOLSON
[Full Q & A below]
The tour has grown to a massive 25 dates since it started. Although, considering the Thundamentals’ last album, So We Can Remember, debuted #3 on the Australian album charts and numero uno on the ARIA urban charts, such demand for shows should have come as no surprise to the rap crew from NSW’s Blue Mountains. Yet, “We’ve been blown away, we didn’t expect it,” Brendan Tuckerman aka MC Tuka admits. “When we first released the shows we had 11 venues, then three weeks later we got hit by so many other places that wanted us to play. The Corner sold out three times, the Capital sold out twice, The Zoo sold out twice and the Manning Bar in Sydney sold out twice. It was, like, 1,400 people in Wollongong – it was crazy for us. We’re not used to that. Last time we went to Wollongong there were like 90 people. It was just a beast this tour.”
Despite it often translating into revenue in their back pockets, expanding the fanbase is not how the Thundamentals measure their success. Earlier this year, they were appointed Welcome To Australia ambassadors and designed a ‘Got Love’ band T-shirt with 100% of proceeds going towards supporting asylum seekers. “As long as people understand this is not why we do it,” Tuckerman stresses their focus on using their platform for a higher cause. “We have a particular belief system that we roll with and we try not to preach it. But it’s nice that we’re reaching these new markets to understand the depths of the issue. It’s gotta be more than being crazy pumped for playing shows. We have this social responsibility but more like a social observation that will be recycled back into our music.”
As Tuckerman prepares for his fourth solo album to be released through EMI mid-year, the irony of Thundas’ involvement in the entertainment industry’s capitalistic machine is not lost on Tuckerman as he explains the balancing act they’re obliged to partake in. “George Clooney was putting his hand up to help the world at the same time he was making these blockbuster films and obviously leaning on a lot of third-party, capitalistic corporations. And, being in the entertainment industry you can’t but be a victim of circumstance to make money. Like, the clothes we wear are made in China for a start. There’s a duality going on here and we see it as just a balance. If we’re going to benefit from this energy that’s fucking the world over, then we’re just trying to find a happy medium on the other end. We’re stoked that people want to come out and support us. It’s a lot of fun, especially those big stages where you do get access to a crazy amount of people who have probably never heard us, because you’re sharing with other artists’ fan bases.”
[Full Q & A below]
RIP – Hey Tuka, how’s things man?
TUKA – I’m just getting used to being at home. I’ve been on tour for a while now.
You’ve just finished playing up north QLD, right?
Yeah we actually did a two and a half week leg that started in Adelaide, then WA, then up to North QLD.
How has all the shows been so far?
Yeah, we’ve been blown away we didn’t expect it. When we first released the shows we had 11 venues then like three weeks later we got hit by so many other places that wanted us to play there.
Come on man, you can’t have been too surprised. After the album you guys put out?
I dunno, I suppose people like our broader team have a better idea or more confidence.Truth is, we’ve been doing it for so long that we don’t like to have expectations.
I know you stay humble, but the way you guys have been received this last year, even yourself with your solo work has caught fire. You must be reaching new audiences every time, which shows why you’re having to add shows to your tour. Do you sense that your audience is growing each time you tour?
Well, it had been a year since our last headline tour which sold out a month before it was on. But, we had a lot going on. Like, we’d just finished off the new record on the day the tour had started. We were also doing Groovin The Moo as well so there was a lot of other powers at work to help that tour along. Then when we did Hilltop Hoods obviously, we’re probably bringing the crowd but we’re supporting Hilltop Hoods here, it’s hard to ascertain what’s what. But, when we did go on our own tour we kinda did go in with no expectations and did a humble, little 11 show humble thing, then The Corner sold out three times, then the Capital sold out twice and The zoo sold out twice, the Manning Bar in sydney sold out twice. It was like 1,400 people in Wollongong, it was crazy for us. We’re not used to that. Last time we went to Wollongong there were like 90 people.
See, in every corner of the country you guys are building, man.
We’re still very humbled by it, but it’s kinda a nice feeling I suppose. It’s been a minute.
Behind closed doors, bit of a fist pump.
As long as people understand this is not why we do it.
Hey look, if your mission is to reach new people every time, then shit yeah you guys should be celebrating. Like, you guys must be doing something right.
Yeah well there is something right, but there is interesting things about that, you know? We kinda have a particular belief system that we roll with and we try our most not to preach it, but we’ve, I won’t name the place, but we were at a place spruiking about this t-shirt we got made up with ‘Take your fist and make a peace sign with it’ then we wore it on to the show. 100 percent of the proceeds go to the asylum seeker causes in Sydney and we’re just trying to help out with that cause because we’re passionate about it. And, because there’s these new audiences, and although they’re in the front row sometimes and they know all the words, it’s like such a different scene than an intimate, culty type following that we’ve become accustomed to, these guys don’t agree with that and don’t understand that we support refugees. It’s nice that we’re reaching these new markets to understand the depths of the issue as well. It’s gotta be more than going out there and being crazy pumped for playing shows, like, there is this, kinda social responsibility, but it’s more like a social observation that will be recycled back into our music.
Hey, a lot of rappers don’t take that platform and use it. It’s fantastic that you guys get on board with something and use your public profile as entertainers to express your support for them.
Yeah, well I think entertainment has changed, and it’s changing. The voice of people are becoming more important. Back in the day, George Clooney was putting his hand up to help the world at the same time he was making these blockbuster films and obviously leaning on a lot of third-party, capitalistic corporations. And, being in the entertainment industry you can’t but be a victim of circumstance to make money. It’s like, the clothes we wear are made in China for a start. There’s a duality going on here and we kinda see it as just a balance. If you’re going to benefit from this energy that’s kinda fucking the world over, like, we’re just trying to find a happy medium on the other end. And that’s entertaining for people as well because I think a lot of people can relate to that. It’s not guilt per se but like, people aren’t ignorant to what’s going on. We have an amazing life in Australia.
Well that’s the point of difference for hip-hop away from any pop genre is there’s a message behind it. Hip-hop has always been a conduit for social commentary.
The genre is based on it, I know what you’re saying, yeah.
OK, we can talk about this all night, bro. Bringing it back to the tour, etc. You’ve got Canberra and four big festivals to hit. Is that purposefully done so you guys can put an exclamation mark on your tour?
Well yeah we love performing on especially those big stages where you do get access to a crazy amount of people who have probably never heard us, because you’re sharing with other artists’ fanbases.
Helova cross-promotion for any act, doing a festival I would imagine.
Yeah! It’s a lot of fun and some obviously are better than others but, we didn’t actually foresee that this tour would run into the festivals. When we put out the 11 shows we didn’t expect that we’d still be touring by the time the festival dates came around, so we just kinda promoted those festivals in the tour because it kinda made sense. It was just a beast this tour. We’ve never done like five shows in a row and one day off then another four in a row, that kinda thing. We didn’t foresee that this tour would stretch out in such a short amount of time.
Well, after the last albums, 5 singles dropped… You musta known off the back of that success that you were gonna be in for a big year of touring it around?
Well after the Hoods that was like three months of touring, we literally hit up a lot of places and it’s mind blowing-we’re stoked that people want to come out and support us. Even now we’ve started the new records so we’re just trying to keep it alive, like, this is what we’ve wanted for like that last, god, we’ve been at it for like a minute now you know what I mean? This will be our fourth record.
For you, being able to break away and pursue solo work and mess around with other producers like Countbounce, must feel great knowing you can take advantage of such open opportunities?
Well in the past, I’ve actually just finished my third solo album, and the last two projects have been totally funded out of my own pocket. And, I’ve done them in the off-season to Thundas. They’re usually a very rushed affair, like I cram it and pretty much go like, working literally twice as hard doing a solo record. But I feel like it keeps my tool sharp, per se. And, there’s a funny dynamic between my solo stuff and Thundas and fans kinda wobble between them a bit. You know, when we’re in the off-season a lot of them come over and see what Tuka’s doing that year. Then we’ll go back to Thundas. Yeah on this last one I did have some third party help with EMI. I’ve been fiercely independent for so long that it’s so refreshing to work with, you know when I started out I never saw myself being with a major and I probably thought that the majors would be real arseholes but, to be fair, they’ve given me a really amazing platform to work from and it’s a pleasure to work with them. So, as much as theirs a lot of bad, bad majors out there, I haven’t been stung by one yet. But yea, it feels good to work with different songwriters and producers, definitely. Again, you bring all that knowledge back into Thundas.
‘Nirvana’ was dope… I know this is a Thunda interview, but how is the new solo LP coming along? – Still scheduled for mid year release?
Yep! Definitely. I’m shooting for it hard, It’s been crazy, like, I’ve literally been finishing it on the road. I’ll play a show with Thundas then I’ll wake up at 9 o’clock, get a mix from overseas or wherever, and work out of Cairns and it’s so alienating to me because I’m usually, from the start of the process to pretty much mastering, if I can sit in mastering, I’ll be there. Like, I do every clip. I have to have input on it. Everything to do with Thundas and myself. So, because Thundas is so busy though, I had to make sacrifices and do it all on the road, so I’ve been gunning for this mid-year time to get it out but everything’s been so crazy with Thundas.
Do they ever get the shits with you working on solo stuff. ‘Oi what are you doing, man?’
Ah, well Jones Jr is Morgan’s project and Jesse has a pretty full life, full of stuff. Generally the guys are kinda working on stuff independently and there’s things happening in the thunda camp, creatively. but until I put the Thunda hat back on, we won’t gear up properly. But, truth be told I was five minutes late for this interview because I was writing something for myself. Tricky times, man.