Bliss n Eso, the elder statesmen of Aussie hip hop, are about to drop their latest offering Circus in the Sky. In anticipation of what is undoubtedly going to be another hit, Time Out caught up with Max MacKinnon, the Eso element in this rap equation, to talk about the past, the present and hip hop's exciting future.
Circus in the Sky opens with an extended sample of the stirring Jewish Barber's speech from Charlie Chaplin's classic film The Great Dictator. With so many inspirational speeches out there to choose from, why did you pick this one in particular?
It was strange how it came about, we didn't plan it too much – our music tends to be organically made. By chance, all three of us in the group had heard the speech at different times in our lives. We'd never discussed it with each other and coincidently a mate of ours had it on his laptop and I was like, "Oh have you seen this?" And all the boys, at once, said they had – so it seemed to work. The message of the speech is strong but it represents what we represent, you know at the end of every show we have the crowd yell out "peace, love and unity" and it just spreads a good message. Before we even put the sample on the album, I'd just play it in the morning before starting my daily chores and it put me right on track. We were happy to be able to use it.
The lyrics on Circus seem to be especially reflective. Were you guys thinking a lot about your pasts and careers while writing the album?
With the last couple of albums, when it came to writing and recording, we used a lot of free-style techniques. We'd be up in the middle of the bush somewhere with the studio open and we'd have the beats on loop for hours and the microphones on record – whatever came out would be what we'd use. And that was a lot of fun for us but we realised that there was a lot of main stories, personal stories, for the both of us, that really needed to be addressed. So, this time we really worked hard at giving the listeners a bit more of 'us.' The people know who we are but we felt they needed to know a little bit more about us. There is a lot of reflecting going on on the album – we couldn't have written those songs in the previous albums. We really had to master the craft before attacking those stories.
When you guys go going, all those years ago, you could hardly find any hip hop in Australian record stores – now we have a thriving hip-hop culture, a change you guys were definitely a part of. How does it feel to see your work having an impact like that?
Silently, there's just a 'proud father' kind of feeling. We're proud that we stuck to our guns this long, when radio wasn't even playing Aussie hip hop and festival line-ups were made of huge rock acts with a few, tiny hip-hop names down the bottom of the list. Now there are so many artists out there; Drapht, Pez, 360 and Seth Sentry, that are out there at the top of the festival boards. It's crazy to see the perseverance of the hip-hop scene and the quality of the music coming out of it at the moment. We're on par with the rest of the world now. Without being cocky, it's been like watching this little baby grow, whose nappies we were changing just yesterday, and go out there on his own.