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Interview: IllBaz + Melodownz Talk 'High Beams' With Dbldbl

Interview: IllBaz + Melodownz Talk 'High Beams' With Dbldbl

Wednesday 1st August, 2018 1:16PM

IllBaz, Melodownz and Raiza Biza have recently combined forces to form High Beams. Their self titled mini-album (released on last Friday) features a stack of renowned New Zealand names on top of their own. Liam Dargaville (Dbldbl and COOL TAN fka HEAVY) met up with Melo and Baz to talk about the serious and the not-so-serious, all relevant to their latest stirrings around Auckland.

IllBaz, Melodownz and Raiza Biza are taking to the road for a three date tour that starts this week, with the help of Red Bull Music NZ who have supported the entire High Beams project from start to finish. For more info and tickets you can head along here, check out their conversation below...


You’ve already done a few interviews about High Beams so I’ll try my best not to be repetitive with my questions. To cover my bases I thought we could start with both of you saying which track on the album was the most meaningful to you individually and why?

Melo:​ Probably ‘Live Stream’ for me personally just because my verse was one of the most important I’d written in a long time. But overall ‘Runaway’ meant the most purely because of Raiza’s verse. I think it really hit home for both of us. Raiza’s verse is just crazy and if Baz was a rapper, that would be his verse. It was almost five years ago when we were all doing a show together at Iron Bar that we got to talking about where Baz is from (Palestine) and what his people are going through. An we were just like fuck we need to do a song like this. We’re usually all just dogging each other but every now and again we get serious. I had already recorded my verse with Baz and when Raiza came up he wanted to do something similar.

Baz: ​Yeah, Raiza wanted to include some stuff about Gaza but didn’t want write it as if I was saying it. So we just chopped it up together, I gave him a few cues and he just came in and bodied it. This project turned out so well cos it was so collaborative and we made it together as one in the studio. Each beat and verse was all of ours which just made it so much better than that drop box beat folder that you share around.

Melo:​ When you make music with someone in the same space you share a moment but when you’re sharing (sending) a beat around like that everyone experiences a different moment. It can still work but this is why that moment was special and worked for us.


Were all the features involved already familiar faces / friends or did some heavy recruiting take place? Like, was there a vision you had for them?

Baz:​ For certain songs there was, like with TEEKS we knew ‘Live Stream’ would fit so well.

Melo: ​But in saying that we were never like, we gotta hit up this label or anything. We already had relationships with all of them and it just came about pretty organically. Dirty had already been around a lot cos we’ve made mad songs together.

Baz:​ High H00ps was already in the Red Bull studios as we were making the album.

Melo: ​And I originally had sung the chorus for ‘Red Wine’ but there was just something missing. The vibe was there but we all thought we needed someone else to sing on this.

Baz:​ Then someone in the studio listening in said that High Hoops would fit perfectly and we were just like oh shit that’s exactly what we need.

Melo:​ That dial up white boy falsetto.

Baz:​ That’s exactly how they pitched it. So he came through and just bodied.


It’s funny to hear you talk about how naturally it all came together cos it does sound like a very fluid piece of work, which is why I thought the features may have been meticulously thought out.

Melo:​ The features are strategic to a degree, but we didn’t have to hunt for them. Which is cool cos I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else. I’ve said it in heaps of interviews but I sung ‘fade away’ to get into the choir and it’s like full circle shit. This guy (Baz) DJs for him (Che Fu) for a bit too. Even though we knew them we were still fanning out in the studio.

Baz:​ When you hear those trademark ad libs come through the mic you’re like, oh shit it’s really him!

I’m getting pretty carried away with the variety of my questions now but I’m just gonna go in with this one. Che Fu quite possibly has the most wholesome public image around. Everyone loves Che Fu. I’m sure he was every brown kids idol growing up in New Zealand, including myself. But.. did he break character at all during your collaboration? Does an angry Che Fu exist? Not that anyone’s gonna believe it anyway. I think I just needed confirmation that Che Fu is an actual angel and that he just emits 100% positivity irl.

Baz: ​That’s 100% correct, that’s 100% Che, that’s what he is, he’s jah bless.

Melo: ​He’s Rastafari. It’s his whole philosophy.

Baz:​ He’s all about that positivity. Like he sings on the chorus of ‘Sky High’, “Powerful energy, let it emanate.” I feel that embodies him.


I definitely wasn’t fishing for dirt. I’m a believer. I was just relinquishing any residual doubt.

Melo:​ I mean if you were to ask me about TEEKS, well that’s another story [laughs - because obviously TEEKS is also an angel]. There’s no dark side of any person on that record… apart from Dirty. [a mix of real and sarcastic laughter]

Baz:​ I wouldn’t want anything else from Dirty.

Liam:​ That was your one flex track / feature.

Baz:​ We did a radio interview the other day when they asked us what ‘Outchea’ was about and I was trying to sugar coat it cos it was a really nice radio station and this guy (Melo) burst in mid sentence like “fuck that, if you come to our hood we’re gonna fuck you up, that’s what the fucking song’s about” and I couldn’t go back after that. It’s facts.

Melo:​ Everyone just loves to flex about where they’re from in hip hop. That’s how it started. Mean while Baz is sugar coating it for the radio like “It’s just about representing where we come from.” [laughter]

Baz:​ I was happy you interrupted.

People love to comb through albums they love searching for moments they may have missed. Can you give us any juicy tidbits for them to listen out for? Some instrumental easter eggs in a sense. I know you (Baz) handle the production but everything was translated into live instruments for the recording so who can we listen out for? Maybe Melo on the guitar in some songs? [laughter]

Melo:​ Nah nah nothing like that.

Baz:​ Nah but there were heaps of dope musicians that featured on the final recording, like JY (Yoko Zuna) on Sax and Guy Harrison (Hollie Smith) on guitar in 'Red Wine.'

Melo:​ And at the end of ‘Live Stream’ you can hear a laugh. That’s Guy’s laugh.

Baz:​ That’s your Easter egg right there. Guy going ‘hah’. There’s another Easter egg in the chorus of ‘Runaway’ that you need a listen out for.

Melo:​ It’s this guy (Baz), it’s quite aggressive. And at 1:23 if you rewind ‘Major’ you can hear "666" [said in a demonic voice]

Actually?

Melo:​ Nah. [laughter]

So there was no Melodownz instrumental feature. But do you produce music as well?

Melo: ​I’ve got an alias Soundcloud account where I make an post beats but I don’t tell anyone about them. I re-tweeted my own beats on my Melodownz account. [nervous laughter]

Baz:​ If you really wanna know just DM me. I’ll even give you Melodownz first song ever uploaded to Youtube, that he can’t take down cos he forgot his password.

Melo:​ That’s worse. It’s got all my original shit. I linked it to Baz and now it has one subscriber. [laughter some nervous, some not]

Melodownz exposed.

Baz:​ That’s the real Easter egg.

The album had a lot of live instrumentation. Will there be a live band joining you on the road?

Baz:​ Nah we were thinking about it but in the end wanted to emphasize that it’s just us three.

Melo:​ It’s more just about our friendship. I don’t mean to be cheesy but we’ve been on this journey making this cool shit together so why not keep it the three of us.

Baz: ​The tour kinda marks the end of this project too so it seems right if it’s just us.

Melo:​ Does the bro (Raiza) get back the day before we leave?

Baz: ​Raiza gets back from Shangdu / Xanadu the day before we leave for Queenstown. Which is nothing new for him. The last time he got back from Europe, we had a show together that night at Powerstation. The man did not go to sleep, he just pulled up and went to work.

Melo:​ That’s light work.

I’ve read a few interviews with Raiza and his work ethic seems pretty unmatched.

Baz:​ No one works like Biza works.

Melo:​ We were up at Radio New Zealand the other day and the bros got all these Chinese travel documents spread out over the table. He’s got his kids there. He’s tryna learn the lyrics to this song we’re about to perform cos it’d been a while since we last played it. And he’s filling out these forms whilst listening to the track.

Baz:​ Whilst making his kids hot chocolate.

Melo, you’re playing The Others Way this year following the High Beams tour. You think you’ll have a band or any guest performances there?

Melo: ​It’d be cool to get a band but I gotta pay rent.

Baz: ​Facts.

Melo: ​If the bag's big enough I’d probably book an orchestra. But for now I guess I’ll just book Baz.

Baz:​ Is that right? I gotta pay rent too.

Speaking of future collaborations, are there any on the horizon? An IllBaz / MEER joint record perhaps?

Baz:​ Oh shhitttt. I gotta do that for the Arab community. I’m very keen. I’ve never actually met Reem but we’ve connected online. A few people have actually suggested that. She’ll definitely be one of the first I hit up once the tours over and I get a chance to unpack before I start writing again. She’s ill. We definitely need to do a Gaza remix.

Liam: ​And for you? [to Melo]

Melo: ​Actually… Coops from the UK who’s with High Focus Records is featuring on my next EP and we’re working on a mixtape together. I got something else in the works with Troy Kingi too.

Baz: ​Troy Kingi is insane.

Melo:​ His shit is timeless. It remind me of the Fat Freddy’s / NZ golden era.


[Our food arrives - chicken shawarma, lamb shawarma, vixed vege platter, fafa beans and babaganoosh from the heavenly 'Petra Shawarma’. It was delicious.]

This is perfect timing for my final and most serious question. Where are the best eats in your respective neighbourhoods?

Baz: ​Shefco (Baklawa Cafe) is the best joint in Auckland alongside the Manukau KFC.

Melo: ​Spicy House (on Dominion Road) and pretty much all the island eats in Otahuhu.


Liam Dargaville aka Dbldbl is one half of Auckland rap duo COOL TAN. Buried under questionable and stretched out references lay a string of songs about crippling anxieties, depression and suicide. Dbldbl ties together a lazy yet proficient delivery and a self deprecating but loveable nature with body rolls worse than their references.

You can find Dbldbl’s latest offerings on Bandcamp. Their new EP ‘Soft Drink’ is dropping on Monday 6th August. Alternatively you can catch them live on Friday 10th August at The Wine Cellar w/ Randa, Imugi 이무기 & Stay Foolish (playing as their band) or Friday 31st August at The Others Way Festival, again playing with K’rd charmers Stay Foolish as their band.

Links
facebook.com/MeloDownz/
facebook.com/illbaz/
facebook.com/raizabizamusic/
facebook.com/dbldbltrbl/
facebook.com/cooltancute/

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Thu 2nd Aug
The World Bar, Queenstown
Fri 3rd Aug
Meow, Wellington
Sat 4th Aug
Anthology Lounge, Auckland
Fri 10th Aug
The Wine Cellar, Auckland
Buy
Fri 31st Aug
Various K Road Venues , Auckland