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.
Celina Murphy, 21 Jul 2009
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.”