Scene interview: Joelistics, 2011

An interview for Scene Magazine with Melbourne emcee Joelistics. Click on the scanned image for a closer look, or read the article excerpt underneath.

You wouldn’t blame Joel Ma for feeling a little irritated when the other members of his hip hop collective, TZU, all decided to procreate.

For some emcees, fresh from gaining traction in the music business with an impressive album – 2008’s ‘Computer Love’ – one’s colleagues deciding wholesale to drop mics and make babies would have been enough to raise the white flag.

“We decided to take a break. We definitely haven’t broken up – we just decided to have a year off so everyone could get their shit together,” says the Melbourne-based rapper more commonly known as Joelistics, widely regarded as one of Australia’s most charismatic emcees.

Now, transported back home after an epic journey that took in Mongolia, France and a host of other far-flung locations, Ma is ready to rock with the returns of his recent solitude, the Joelistics solo debut ‘Voyager’.

On the face of it, this is finely-honed filler, something to take Ma’s mind off his imminent 30s until the rest of TZU have weaned their kids. But there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface. First, there’s the fact that the TZU hiatus was completely amicable. More important, however, is Ma’s decision to explore the freedom that the group’s decision suddenly foisted upon him.

“I wrote ‘Voyager’ on the road so I didn’t have access to a studio or all the gear I’m used to writing with when I work with TZU,” Ma explains. “Being kind of limited was really good. It was really a renaissance. I started writing more interesting beats than I’d written in a long time – I felt really inspired and I think it was also being in places like Paris or Mongolia and writing for a couple of hours and then going outside and being so stimulated by what was around me.”

Ma followed what he neatly refers to as the ‘genetic trail’: his father is Mongolian-Chinese, while his mother is half Irish, half French. He picked his way through northern Asia, before finally settling into an apartment in Paris’s fashionable Montmartre district.

“Paris is a fucking expensive place to live,” he laughs, “but I had a little bit of writing work that I could do. There were a few of my friends – some who played music, a lot who didn’t – who lived over there. It was winter and Paris is beautiful in winter. It looks incredible in winter.”

For the full article, visit Scene Magazine.

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