Perth hip hop maestro Mathas will perform at the State Of The Art Festival on Saturday, May 31, at the Perth Cultural Centre. BOB GORDON checks in.
Earlier this week Mathas, aka Thomas Mathieson, posted a thank you shout-out on his Facebook page to a young bloke he spotted singing along word-for-word to his song, Nourishment, at last weekend’s Groovin The Moo festival in Bunbury.
It’s a good feeling, seeing somebody embrace one’s creation so fully, but even more so given the context.
“I suppose it’s not a new concept,” he considers. “I have had people rap the lyrics back at me before, but they were always friends or people who frequent gigs.
“It’s a little bit different when it’s a young guy that can only get to see you at an all-ages festival and they know every word. You’ve never seen this person before and they’ve spent time absorbing every word. It’s pretty amazing. It reminds me of myself… and I know how much you have to like a song to do that.”
Mathas has long been a creative force with his own work in hip hop and simultaneously as part of the artist-and-musicians collective, The Community, which will celebrate its 10th Birthday with a two-room show at The Bakery on Saturday, June 21.
“What a satisfying and, well, lucky 10 years it has been,” he reflects. “I feel pretty proud that so many of us over the last few years have started building a bit of recognition. I don’t think that’s a fluke, we’ve all worked for it and the music speaks for itself.
“But to have been lucky enough to grow up in this city, with that incredible group of artistic minds to bounce off, is something few people are fortunate to have. I mean wait ‘til you see the new stage show Naik’s been working on, at this birthday celebration… seriously, who are these fucking aliens I call friends?”
Mathas has a calm and collected presence onstage, yet one that is very commanding. Like all astute performers, he’s learned and refined his approach given experience over the years.
“I suppose that just comes from 10 years of performing on stage,” he says. “The comfort is real because I probably feel more comfortable up there than in most social situations. Over the years, being one guy spitting pretty coded lyric at people, I started working out small mechanisms that keep people’s attention… for one, I worked out that I couldn’t be too serious all the time, there had to be humour to even out the barrage of social nitpicking otherwise people get bored of your ‘preaching’.
“There are a bunch of others, but really… it’s just me wanting to be as genuine as I can to the audience and trying every possible method to emote that to them. When they connect, it’s pretty much the most important thing in the universe.”
Nourishment, his 2013 WAM Song Of The Year Award-winning collaboration with Abbe May opened up a new audience to Mathas and with it more experiences to draw from and opportunities to work even harder.
“It made the other side of Australia start paying a bit more attention than ever before” he says. “Also, people have popped up all over the place that found that song in particular resonated with them. I’ve had people hold my shoulders, look into my face and tell me that song changed how they think.
“That’s some incredibly heavy, eyes-welling up shit, man. I can’t explain how that feels. Hopefully, I can work out a way to use that energy for some serious good one day.”
Mathas hopes to have his new album ready for the mixing phase in the coming weeks, “which feels good because I was supposed to release it last year,” he laughs. It’s just part of a year ahead that echoes the work ethic of the past decade.
“I’ll be putting out the third part of a series of three live verse videos,” he says. “I’ll be releasing a new single and filmclip in the coming months and if the world doesn’t feel like being a shithead we should have an album, Armwrestling Atlas out by September. There will also be a few compilation releases and a new website from The Community if all goes to plan.”