TheVine story: “Bliss n Eso: ‘I’m proof that you can get to the other side'”, January 2014

An extended Q&A with Bliss n Eso MC, Max MacKinnon (pictured, left). BnE are known for their openness with both fans and the media, but I was floored when, about two-thirds of the way through this interview, MacKinnon (AKA Eso) opened up about his recent issues with alcohol abuse. Excerpt below. For the full article, visit TheVine.

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Change. That was the theme for Bliss n Eso 2013.

Which might be deceptive to an outsider. For ten years now the recipe for success for the Sydney hip-hop collective of MCs Bliss and Eso and DJ Izm has seemed simple: write belters, release albums, collect gold (or platinum) records, sell out tours. Rinse. Repeat. Easy.

But that ignores a peculiar post-millennial approach to their craft. Bliss n Eso are a product of the digital age, using social media to engage at an intimate level with their legions of Australian fans. They take the communion between artist and fan to its endgame – they’re a musical mood board for their audience.

Maybe that’s why recently released fifth album Circus in the Sky felt so different. Bliss n Eso had spent so long getting to know their fans, now it was time to open up. This was a confession for BnE believers – the intimate insider chat at the end of the party, when everyone else has packed their gear and gone home.

And the personal keeps on coming. In late November, Bliss n Eso released an unashamedly earnest music video for the Ceekay Jones-featuring ‘My Life’, replete wth images of freestyle motocross rider Cam Sinclair’s horrifying 2009 accident and subsequent recovery, and Eso’s own marriage to fiancé Megan Gander in Las Vegas last October.

Chatting on the phone to Eso, born Max MacKinnon, is an experience. Energised by married life and a recent decision to quit alcohol he’s honest and open to a fault, talking in batty quotables while taking pot shots at his analogies – some hit the mark, others miss, all are entertaining.

Later this month, Bliss n Eso return to Big Day Out – the 2011 Sydney show the scene of Eso’s proposal to Gander – so now seemed a good time to debrief: on 2013, Circus in the Sky, touring Afghanistan, tying the knot in Vegas, and the importance of kicking the booze.


Where are you talking to me from?

Oh God, I’m at the bloody Ivy in the city in Sydney. I don’t know if you know it but my missus works here. Not my usual hangout with all these classy fuckers, but I’m here.

You wrapped a US and Canadian tour at the end of October, which included a trip to Afghanistan. How did that all go?

It was amazing, man. We actually started the tour in Afghanistan, playing for the troops over there. That was a mind-blowing thing to even think about, really. When we got the offer I was like, “Oh man, I feel really comfy and safe in my lounge playing Call of Duty. That’s as close as I want to get to the real explosions. You want me to go over there?!”

But once you saw all the soldiers on Facebook and so on messaging us saying that it would mean the world to them – I just looked at that and thought about what it would mean to be those guys. If I was there with my boys and one of our favourite groups were asked to come over, mate, that would mean the world to me if that afternoon there was nothing else to think about – fuck war for a second and just have some fun. So that was amazing. All the feedback from the soldiers was so humbling. They actually thought it was going to be a cover group (laughs). I just think they couldn’t get anyone who looks like me, to be honest.

Jonathan [Notley – Bliss] talked a little before you went about how you’re pretty open about your values: you’re very much about peace and unity and so on. Was there any conflict there within the group as to whether you should be going?

Sure. Absolutely, man. You can’t control what people think of certain things you do and obviously with the huge message we preach at the end of every show – it’s all about peace, love and unity – going into a war zone felt a bit like, “What’s going on here?” But I guess it just proves that it doesn’t matter who you are, everyone should be given a chance. And I don’t know what’s really going on over there anyway. I catch up with the news but [that’s about it]. So it was an experience that 50 years now you can say you played for the soldiers. To say now that you played for soldiers in Vietnam, for example, would be crazy. So in half a century when we look back and think about how we were over there, and just before the troops were pulled out, it will really hit home, I think.

We went over there with love in our hearts and just wanting to preach the word. And a lot of the soldiers were common people who loved our music – not trigger happy guys who want to kill people. They’re genuine. It’s a very heavy and complex situation, but I’m glad we went over there and the feedback from everyone was just amazing. So that was the start of the tour.

And North America?

We flew directly to Canada. We’ve dabbled in the country before and there’s always been a really strong fan base there. But this time going over really proved to us that Canada has some BnE soldiers.

What kicked that off? What do you think has clicked with the Canadians?

I don’t know. It seems to be a really deep-seated thing; there are a lot of similarities between Australians and Canadians. But it’s like that all over the world, to tell you the truth. Our music has spread into some weird places. We played in Los Angeles recently and some guy came up to us saying, “You know how I found out about your music? I was lost in a blizzard in Switzerland and I found a farm that had its lights on, and it was a bunch of hippies smoking dope and listening to Bliss n Eso.” I was like, “Holy Jesus we’ve gone into some nooks and crannies around the world!” So it’s an amazing feeling. It’s very humbling to think that it’s not only Australians who get our shit and relate to it – people around the world can.

Part of that tour was teeing up and shooting the ‘My Life’ video.

Yeah, we finished up the tour in Canada and went to LA and Las Vegas, back and forth for about a week. We did the film clip for ‘My Life’, for which I’ve gotta big up Cam Sinclair and Aaron ‘Wheelz’ [Fotheringham] for allowing us to use their footage in the clip. We did that, and while I was in Las Vegas I got married. We went out to a Little White [Wedding] Chapel where Michael Jordan and Frank Sinatra got married, had a little ceremony there, and went to the hills afterwards to shoot machine guns and ride quads (laughs).

For the full article, visit TheVine.

One Response to “TheVine story: “Bliss n Eso: ‘I’m proof that you can get to the other side'”, January 2014”

  1. […] Max MacKinnon’s revelation that he has recently beaten a drinking problem (see previous story here), I surveyed twelve artists from around Australia — including Drapht, The Basics’ Kris […]

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