FOR SETH SENTRY, WHO WAXES NOSTALGIC ON WAITRESSES AND WAITS IMPATIENTLY FOR THE FUTURE, HIS NEW ALBUM IS RETROSPECTIVE WHILE LOOKING AHEAD. IN THE PRESENT, HE TELLS RIP NICHOLSON, HE’S JUST TRYING TO OUT RAP THE REST.
SETH SENTRY interviewed @ 13:00 AEST Wednesday, 20th May, 2015
For Rip2Shredz Press & Street Press Australia
Words by RIP NICHOLSON
I’ve never had any lofty goals with rap,” admits Seth Marton, who travels as Seth Sentry. “I never wanted to be famous. I never necessarily wanted money. So all really I wanted to do was just rap better than everyone else. That’s all I wanted, was that competitive drive to keep going. But, I am very aware that I’m in a good position and very lucky to be able to do shit that I was gonna do any way. So to be able to do this as a fulltime job is pretty cool.”
Prior to this interview, Marton was in a meeting where, so far, the 48th show was being tacked onto his Strange New Past national tour. All this for a Frankston, Melbourne MC with only one studio album? “Yeah, I don’t know what it is.” Despite his modest response, Australia’s love affair with him has been strong. His first EP, out in 2008, sold us on his story, 2012’s This Was Tomorrow let loose on his fantasy future and new album, Strange New Past, finds the rapper reminiscing in his own rear view.
“That’s why I called it Strange New Past. I was doing a lot of looking back in retrospect and how that developed the person that I am. If you can process it and be at peace with your past then you can look back at yourself in a different and more positive way. You can look back and say ‘Ah, shit I wish I didn’t do that’ and live a life of regret or you can be, ‘Well if I didn’t do that shit then I wouldn’t be where I’m at now.’”
Right now, Marton’s only interest is in being in the competition of rap. On Nobody Like Me the MC goes to battle, pushing limits as a rapper. “I’m not in it for any other reason than to be a good rapper, to push myself and to own my craft. I’ve stepped it up a lot in terms of my rapping ability and I’ve worked hard to create new flows and be more dynamic in my delivery.
“This time, maybe it’s because I’m older or something, I started to do a lot of self-evaluation and going with my first instinct, I heard the beat and just went with it. It felt really good, it felt cathartic.”
Calls for Seth Sentry to stay the same are completely lost on Marton. “There’s no way I could write the same album again, doing it just for the sake of putting something out. That’s just not how I work. It’s a real competitive game you’ve got to push yourself. I feel like I was a lot more hungry on this album.”
A Conversation with SETH SENTRY
RIP – Hey man, how’s the day treating you?
SETH SENTRY – Good. Good. I’m just in Sydney. Having a coffee, sitting out in the sun. It’s not bad.
I spoke to you last January for the Run tour. I caught the Brisbane show.
Was that for the Run tour?
Yeah, at the Hi-Fi.
Yeah, I think that was the one, man. We were still trying to figure out the nuts and bolts of it. But I’m glad you enjoyed it man. We go pretty hard. It’s my exercise.
You put so much energy forth in your performance. That was some Ninja Scroll shit, as you put it, balancing out on the bannisters to shake hands. That was some shit to see.
Haha. Cheers, man.
I just read your last input. 48 shows now? Is that what you’re staring down the barrel towards on your next tour?
It is now. It was 47 but we just added a festival to it so now it’s 48.
Yeah, I know, man. And that’s not even factoring in the summer festivals. Oh man, pretty heavy.
Well you must have known after the responses for ‘Run’ and ‘Hell Boy’ tracks that you were gonna have a big year on the tour circuit?
Kind of. I never had any lofty goals with rap. Like I never wanted to be especially, famous. I never necessarily wanted money. So all really I wanted to do was just rap better than everyone else. That’s all I wanted, was that competitive drive to keep going. So, it’s definitely weird when you’re doing that and you realise you have to keep going because it works, and then it becomes work and I have to work harder at this now. It’s interesting. But, I am very aware that I’m in a good position and very lucky to be able to do shit that I was gonna do any way. So to be able to do this as a full-time job is pretty cool.
Heard the complete new album bro. Hard to believe it’s only your 2nd album. Why does it seem like you should be on your third or fourth?
Why, what do you mean?
Well you’ve been in the spotlight now for a while. You keep so busy in it that it seems like you are more the veteran than someone who is about to release his follow-up LP. And it’s crazy that you’re about to do 48 shows off of one album!
Yeah, I don’t know what it is. It definitely takes me ages to write. Fucking ages, when it comes to recording an album. Mixtape shit, I’ll write in an hour or something but for an album i tinker away slowly at it. The first album took me four years and that was just really the real song-writing and recording stages and some of those songs have been floating around for ten years before that. So, to be able to cut down this album to two years, really 18 months, that was fast for me. If I wasn’t working with Styalz who was keeping the pace, I could have easily worked another three years on this.
Well you’ve put a lot of yourself into this, and that must have taken time. Would you say that you were less the comic on this album and more revealing as Seth Marton, perhaps?
Yeah, I reckon. You know, I just didn’t over-think it this time. Last time I tried really hard to come up with interesting topics that hadn’t really been covered in rap music before. And, I was really looking at the world, more looking into the future and not so much around me at the time and try to work out interesting ways I can analyse it. This time, I don’t know maybe it’s because I’m older or something, I started to do a lot of self-evaluation and going with my first instinct I heard the beat and I didn’t resist it I kinda went with it, you know?
And it felt really good, it felt cathartic.
When I heard the album it really came off like this rapper was on the couch for an hour and we the listeners are the counsellors taking this in and not giving any feedback. It’s interesting that you likened it to the same thing.
Yeah, I do really try hard to find a balance there because, you don’t want a whole album’s worth of that so I tried to vary it. Yeah, it’s just came out, man. I think I just got to the age, that’s why I called it Strange New Past because I was doing a lot of looking back in retrospect and how that developed the person that I am.
There’s a trend there in your titles This Was Tomorrow and Strange New Past, both are a play on words of respecting the past that made you the person you are today.
And I think if you analyse it and can process it and be at peace with your past then you can look back yourself in a different and more positive way. You know, you can look back and say ‘Ah, shit I wish I didn’t do that’ and live a life of regret or you can well if I didn’t do that shit then I wouldn’t be where I’m at now.
Beautiful. That’s my sentiment exactly, man.
I did a lot, man. I did a lot. But, um, working through this shit really helps.
Some albums play in succession, like paragraphs to an essay. However, the tracklist for Strange New Past is scattered like a normal stream of consciousness.
Everything starts from the beat, generally. I just hear the beat and go off that. That dictates where I am going to take the song, lyrically. But I still chose each song to be cohesive and connected with each other by way of just little references, you know? I tried to put as many references between songs that can connect to each other. Like, the second verse on ‘How Are You’ references every song that’s about to come on the album. You probably don’t notice the first time through but when you play ‘How Are You’ back a few times hopefully you can hear the references made about the album as a whole. There’s a song called ‘1969’ where I talk about an alternate past where instead of flying to the moon, we blew up the moon. Like, that was our goal in the first place, to blow that shit up. So then, in other songs, I referenced the fact that there is no moon. So I still tried to link it up a little bit, even if publicly it’s a bit all over the place.
‘Pripyet’ – that’s a lonely out-town in Ukraine. You used it as a pretty defining metaphor across those tracks. Firstly, what does it mean to you?
Secondly, what was the thought behind building two tracks?
Basically, I am very interested in ghost towns and abandoned places, derelict buildings. I don’t know why. I just am. I am just very drawn to it and I think they’re cool, really. Pripyet, especially, with the whole Chernobyl thing, a whole big town or small city, however you want to look at it, just completely abandoned with wild foxes and deer running through it. That’s actually really cool, you know. The forest is creeping back, taking over. That shit is just very cool. But it also makes you feel something and when I get all stressed out that space feels like something that I am really drawn to. So I kinda used that as a metaphor for trying to get some head space, you know. A little place you can escape to in your mind.
Well it’s definitely a strange new past, you know?
Have you seen the drone footage going through that affected zone?
Yeah man, it’s awesome. I wanted to go there and do a tour but they had stopped tours for a while.
Can you go through there now safely?
Yeah, you’re allowed to. It’s still classed as having a very low radiation. But worth the risk, I thought.
As for doing it in two parts, I think, just because the first verse was originally one song, but the first verse went into the second verse then into the third verse. The first verse was so different than the second or third because of that big beat switch up, i thought maybe people want to just get straight to that second verse which in this case, they can. I always hated, remember like, old Wu-Tang albums, they’d have these skits that they’d put on the start of a song and so you’d have to listen through that to get to the song? You just want to fast-forward it, it’s annoying. Put it on the end of the track or make it a separate track.
Very annoying having a skit play when you’re playing it loud.
Oh, man. The worst. it kills the vibe. So like, I just didn’t want that. I didn’t want people to have to sit through this long, slow verse to get to the beats when they switch up, you know? But, part one and two are meant to be played as one song.
What’s also strange about that song. I sampled my own song, ‘Strange Lot’ from the Waiter Minute EP and then copied the flow as well. That first verse actually picks up from where ‘Strange Lot’ left off. So it’s the same train station I was at, if you listen to the lyrics.
It’s awesome when there’s more message to the album than as it seems on first rotation.
Yeah, I hope people do pick up on that. I definitely try to spend a lot of time trying to hide a lot of stuff, and try to make it as dense as possible and as rewarding as possible.
So, being that it’s your second album, it’s a bit of a generic question for an artist approaching their follow-up, what parts of the process did you retain from your experience on the first album and what parts did you change on your follow-up?
I guess in terms of the writing process I started demoing everything as I went, which was huge for me and made a massive difference. I didn’t do that last time, I don’t know why. So basically what I used to do is I’d ages fucking writing and then go into the studio having no fucking idea how it was gonna sound. How it sounds in your end is not how it sounds when you’re recording, you know?
Sure, I can imagine.
So this time I was demoing everything as I went and I knew where I was at and I could see if I was writing a little bit I would go and demo it straight away on Garageband or something then listening back and going ‘ok, that works’, and then writing a little more and then demoing it. I really got a lot of out that. And I kind of slap myself when I realise that. ‘Why the fuck haven’t I been doing this the whole time?’
So that’s kind of like stepping out to see it from an outside perspective and jumping back in?
Totally! Exactly. It’s like when you see a painter, they paint then they step back from their easel a little bit and analyse it. I was never doing that.
Shit, that must be like doing it blind first time around.
I remember so many part to the last album here I was just trying to understand ‘Fuck! it didn’t work the I wanted it to.’ And there weren’t as many of those moments this time.
Do you hope that people are more impressed by this album than the last or that they appreciate it for being another slice of Seth Sentry’s music that they know and like?
Nah, I’m always trying to push it, man. I hope people can hear that. Myself, I feel like I’ve stepped it up a lot in terms of my rapping ability, you know I’ve really worked hard. I’ve worked hard to create news flows and be a lot more dynamic in my delivery.
‘Nobody Like Me’ was fucking brilliant for that, dude!
Ah, sick, thanks man.
Brilliant rap that really complemented the stripped back beats, you went trappy on it. Nice.
Yeah, you gotta man. On the other side of the coin you get people saying it’s too different because there’s no way I could write the same album again, doing it just for the sake of putting something out. That’s just not how I work and like I said at the start of this, it’s a real competitive game you’ve got to push yourself.
Certainly do, Yes.
So I feel like I was a lot more hungry on this album.
A lot of fans should understand that it’s a growth process. You should respect an artist growing through new sounds and appreciate them for that rather than trying to put out the same stuff because we, the fans, like those few songs.
I hope so, man. Because when I started writing this album I remember I got a message from a dude and he was like, ‘Hey, just letting you know, you might have inclinations to change your sound but please don’t. Just do exactly the same as the last album’. i thought, why would I do that? I don’t get it. I’m not in it for any other reason than to be a good rapper and to push myself and to own my craft. You can’t learn anything from doing just the same thing. And, technically as well, obviously the instrumental side of things i think has been a huge step up. Styalz has just smashed these beats. We’ve really followed through from what our original vision was, which was just trying to get a real classic sounding rap album that can still hold a contemporary beat, you know? To give you that feeling of back in the day when I remember, like late 1990s early 2000s where everything that came out rappers were pushing the envelope and gave really sample-based beats. We wanted that nostalgic kinda feel. But, not to sound archaic at the same time.
Well you got the balance right on this album. I reckon it will kick arse and you will reach more fans and next time we chat you will heading out for a 70+ tour. Suck shit!
Haha, that sounds fucking awful!
All the best bro, I will catch you when your tour hits town. Cheers.