Infomatics For The People

Having battled their way through eight weeks of the Raw Sessions, hip hop collective and noble underdogs THE INFOMATICS were awarded the title of Sony Ericsson Artist Of The Year. We caught up with Bugs, Mr. Dero, Konchus Lingo and BOC (try saying that three times fast!) to hear how appearing on the country’s first ever rockumentary series is going to change them and indeed the face of Irish hip hop.

The realest of the real is what always appeals to me.” Steo, AKA MC Konchus Lingo, offers honesty, straight up. Though it may be as clichéd as songs about hoes, Keeping It Real has worked for these four pioneers of Irish hip hop.

I meet The Infomatics in the Morrison Hotel, an unlikely choice given that these boys rap about a life far removed from the working lunches and business drinks that are happening around us. When the lads order a round of cokes, Steo has to bug bassist Graham for a loan to pick up the bill.

The Infomatics are four super, super intelligent lads with real ingenuity, ambition and a bloody great pool of talent. They all sing, they all produce and their addictive beats and cleverer-than-clever rhymes are adorned with guitar, drum, keyboard and even a sneaky bit of jazz flute.

With another group of north city slickers on this fortnight’s cover, the boys suggest that this might be the Hot Press Northside issue. I laugh, but as it happens, The Infomatics and U2 are not a million miles apart.

“My brother’s band came up on the same sort of circuit as U2,” Steo tells me. “They used to gig together, toured the UK together.” Some Hot Press archive digging later reveals that Steo’s brother, Damien Gunn, was lead vocalist and saxman with ‘70s outfit DC Nien, once involved in a kind of primitive Blur/Oasis-style feud with superstars U2.

“That was part of my growing up, seeing that happen.” Steo tells me. “It was an influence, definitely.”

Though not a dealer in indie rock like his big brother, Steo had pop music leanings from a scarily young age.

“I have tapes of me rapping when I was nine! I used to freestyle all the time on me own, walking down to the shops I’d be like ‘Da Da Da’ in my head. I just had the bug, you know, and I kept on itching!”

A few years and a few rounds of band member musical chairs later, The Infomatics hit the stage in the Red Box (now the Pod) for their first ever live show. So lads, how’d it go? There are hisses and groans from all around the table until Graham butts in: “I was in the audience and I thought it was smoking! I don’t care what these say, it was animal!”

I’m sure I’m not the first person to mention that winning the Raw Sessions has made The Infomatics the loudest voice in Irish hip hop.

“Yeah, it’s kind of a weird one,” Steo reflects. “It’s not that we don’t wanna be tagged with the Irish hip hop thing but there’s a prejudice to that straight off. People will bypass you without hearing you and if there’s a snobbery or preconception of what it is, you don’t want that. I’m proud to be an Irish hip hop artist but I don’t want to be known solely as that.”

Fellow lyricist Ado adds: “Our music is more of a live band feel. Hip hop is more that four four looping. Do your hook and that’s it. Our music, we’ve got things going in all directions, up and down.”

It’s true they have other beats to their box (on debut album, 2008’s Kill Or Create they embraced reggae, jazz and electronica freely and frequently) and avoid rap’s unholy trinity of guns, girls and gold. From Chris Brown’s girlfriend-bashing to Lil’ Jon’s everpresent bejeweled ‘pimp’ chalice, the lads have to admit that the American hip hop mainstreamers aren’t exactly putting out a relatable message.

“They’re rapping about what they know,” Ado says. “We write about what we know, which is Dublin.”

Steo takes over: “When you’re watching the news and it’s burning the brains out of you, that’s obviously going to influence what you’re saying.”

And the tunes on Kill Or Create drip with social conscience. “‘You’ll Get By’, was written about literally getting the DART home from work one night and a kid, he was 13 or 14, he was off his face on gear, trying to sell me a gold bracelet. I thought those days were behind us, you know?

“As a nation we’re known for saints and scholars and we’ve produced amazing poets and writers over the years so we’re just channeling our writing in a different sort of way. It’s a different dicipline but it’s come from the same principle and I’m not saying I’m the next James Joyce or anything like that but we’re writing about our environment and hip hop is the medium that we fell in love with.”

The Sony Ericsson Raw Sessions allowed the foursome to knock up two new tracks, the first, ‘The Long Finger’, a kind of spirited ode to procrastination.

“One of the verses was about getting to that age where you have to make a decision if it’s gonna be getting a lend off Graham to get a Coke when you’re getting interviewed or are you gonna try and get out there and get a real job?”

Clearly there’s nothing clouding their honesty. ‘The Long Finger’ boasts lyrics as real as they come: “Get a real job/I want my dream job/If it’s a get rich quick scheme/I wanna be involved.”

Having made it through round one, the lads recorded their second track in the world famous Grouse Lodge Studios in Westmeath. The breezy N.E.R.D-esque ‘Let Me Fly’ was a distinct departure from their usual, more rap-led, tunes.

“The minute we finished it, we drove back from Grouse Lodge and the car was banging! We played it over and over again! But then two days later we were kind of going, ‘Shit, I don’t know if we’ve done the right thing here.’”

Whether it was the new musical direction or the free bar in the studio, at this stage in the competition, their confidence skyrocketed.

“To be honest with you I didn’t want to be counting my chickens, but I was,” Graham confesses. “Deep down, I knew we’d won it.”

Since the win, Raw Sessions creator Dez Ryan has been generous with the praise: “What drew me to The Infomatics is the way they use organic instruments and loops, and their lyrics being 100% honest to their experience of Dublin life.”

Ryan himself has a lot to be proud of. Dirty Epics frontwoman and semi-finalist Sarah Jane Wai O’Flynn reflects on the series: “Any opportunity for there to be unsigned Irish music on the television is unbelievably good. To actually get a new programme aired on television in the current economic climate is pretty awesome. We got two songs out of it that we’re really, really happy with and we’ve incorporated them into our set now.”

Also in the final three was Kilkenny multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Hickey AKA R.S.A.G.

“It was a really, really good thing,” Hickey gushes. “It was good for Irish bands and good for the whole Irish music scene in general because it’s getting it out to an audience who wouldn’t really be in touch with what’s actually going on in music now. The second track I did I’m actually just re-doing it, making it a bit faster and I’m probably going to put that on my album.

“The guys, The Infomatics are trying to do something new and it’s a very hard thing to achieve. But they do it the right way, they’ve actually got a really nice kind of hop. I was delighted for them.”

The winners are open about how the Raw Sessions was, for them, a life changing experience. “It’s a reason for us to keep going” Barry says, simply.

“Big time,” Ado adds. “It was like we’re doing something right here, you know. We’re actually talking about running a free gig as a thank you to everyone for supporting us so just keep in touch with the MySpace!”

Apart from the week’s recording time they’ve bagged themselves in Grouse Lodge, what’s next for The Infomatics?

“To make a living out of what we do,” Graham states, “and to still love it. There’s always that danger that when it becomes your job, it becomes your job. But once we still love what we do, game on!”

Kill Or Create is out now on Q-niss Records. Keep an eye on myspace.com/theinfomatics for details on an Irish tour in September.

 

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