Interview: Kerser Talks 10 Albums In 10 Years, Taxes & ‘The Sickest’ Tour
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Superlatives to describe the Campbelltown-bred, self-made rap star are starting to run thin but the numbers don’t lie: 10 years, nine albums, 180 million combined YouTube streams and who knows how many stolen CDs from JB Hi-Fi in, Kerser’s reign at the top of Australian hip-hop continues.

Approaching the victory lap on his ‘10 albums in 10 years’ run, Kers recently shared a first taste of the highly anticipated record. Flaunting a catchy hook that’s become as much a trademark of his career as the punchlines and quotables, ‘Winner’ comes neatly packaged at an upbeat tempo that defies some of its deeper content. As ever, his irrepressible flow is impossible to pin down and subtle flexes are disregarded for flagrant braggadocio. It’s classic Kerser, and the film clip sees him in a newly adopted cinematic setting, with a haunting hospital scene that only furthers his claim to the throne. The sickest.

Ahead of his recently announced ‘The Sickest’ national tour, we were lucky enough to get a call from the king of C-Town to catch up on all things Kers. Read on at your leisure.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_n4BD0mSuGk

It’s been about a year since our last one. How have you been? What have you been up to?

That’s crazy. Bro I’ve been slowly chipping away at the album: Album number 10. I’ve just been trying to make the most out of everything that’s going on.

How far along is the project? Is there anything you can tell us about it?

So I’ve got about seven beats that I’m sure of and I’ve written to all of them, so now I’m just perfecting everything. I’ve got to make sure for album 10 that every song is a favourite. To me, ‘Winner’ is one of my favourite songs I’ve ever written, and now everything has got to match that or be better. I’m not rushing it but I’m really excited about what we’ve got so far.

It’s different this time, usually I’ll come off tour and have a couple of months to turn an album around and it’s literally been an album every single year for the last nine years. This year I can actually take my time and spend more time on each track and I think that’s really going to show in the music.

Are they all songs you’ve written in the last year? 10 deep for me there’d be that temptation to dip into the vault.

All new work but [laughs] … I don’t want to give too much away. There could be a remix to a very popular song from The Nebulizer. It’s pretty exciting and I think fans are going to trip but besides that one it’s all brand new. Yeah. That’s something we’re working on and I can’t give away which song it is but it’s one of the most popular songs from The Nebulizer.

Interesting. We love a tease. Something we obviously can talk about though is your new single ‘Winner’. Congrats on the release, it’s classic Kerser…

That’s what I was going for. I don’t know if it’s possible to sum up Kerser with one song but I think it’s a mix of everything from the beat to the flows, and the cockiness of it. It’s got a bit of everything.

Definitely. There’s an overarching theme of overcoming challenges and juggling new ones, which I think has been a hallmark of your career but it also comes peppered with punchlines and little flexes.

Yeah I kind of like to splice them all together. If you really listen it does have some deeper references in there but I switch it up with a smartass punchline. I can kind of go anywhere with my subject matter like that.

One of the bars that struck me was you saying you ‘should get an overall cut of what the scene’s worth’. What do you think would be a fair price?

[Laughs]. Fuck. I could never take away from what artists are doing now. They’re putting the work in and killing it. I could never put a figure on it, I’m just saying I’m probably worth a cut of what’s come from the blueprint I created. Good question. I like that line too.

I wrote a bad joke that I’m not sure will make it into the article yet and I thought I’d road test it on you if that’s alright?

Yeah hit me.

So it goes most rappers are thinking about their syntax but 10 years in and Kerser’s rapping about a ‘sick tax’.

Bars! Yes, bro. That’s a bar! Fucking oath. Use that. That’s the title of the article. You’ve got that written down?

[laughs] It’s on the record now. I also like the next bar that comes off the back of that. You finish the verse with: “Last album I was washing out some writer’s block.” Can you break that down for me, because I think from a lot of listeners’ perspectives Roll The Dice certainly didn’t feel like that?

Yeah for sure. I guess I’ve been there for every step and I know the process. I’d turned around lifestyles so quickly having toured and I didn’t really have the time I wanted to perfect it. For the first time in my career when it came to subject matter, for whatever reason it just wasn’t coming to me. I could write but I was struggling to find subject matters. I don’t know if you’d call that writer’s block but it’s the closest thing I’ve ever experienced. I was straight up struggling to come up with things.

I took a break. I ended up taking a few months off to get away from it and it was the longest I’ve ever gone in my career without dropping music. I still dropped Wavey Mixes on YouTube in August but yeah I had to take a break before I could get back into it. I’m back now better than I’ve ever been. I think it’s exactly what I needed.

For sure. And shoutout to Jimmy the Gent who produced those Wavey Mixes. For anyone reading this, look him up. He’s a real one.

Straight up. Shout out to The Gent. Those wavey mixes are hectic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9niZRaZwN9I

Going back to the music video for ‘Winner’, it compliments the track so well and I think it kind of highlights those other themes I mentioned before about struggle and overcoming challenges which you illustrate in a really trippy and also uncomfortable way. Was that a conscious way of kind of reframing how people might interpret the song? What was the thinking behind that?

Yeah that’s it. I reached out to Moonboy to do the clip and I had this idea for the chorus. It was pretty simple but because the beat has that light, happy feel to it, I pictured the hook alongside the car with pingers falling from the sky. I just pictured it and saw an opportunity to tie everything together while tripping people out a bit. So yeah I suggested that and then Moonboy came back with the hospital scene, the jail cell and the bunker, and just made it all work so well. It’s an upbeat track but it has darker notes too.

It’s always so interesting with videos. I could have gone a million ways with it, but I’m glad we went this way. I love the way the hospital scene is introduced at the very start of the second verse and I love the alien abduction in front of a green screen at the end. We could have done anything for this song but I’m cheering with how it turned out. It’s probably the most effort we’ve ever put into one and I really think it’s worth it.

I know what you mean. It’s been cool to see the standard of music videos improving pretty much out of sight over the last few years and it seems natural in your evolution to go more down that cinematic route.

Yeah fucking oath. The evolution, brother. Eshays. When you really want something to be impactful, it’s worth it. That’s the standard now.

Shoutout as well to Open Till L8 handling the production on ‘Winner’. His impact over the last few years has been huge working with artists like yourself, Hooligan Hefs, Youngn Lipz, and the list goes on.

I’m interested to hear about your process and how you two work together. Neither of you have ever been shy from taking risks with your sounds, and I think you’ve both been pretty fearless with pushing the boundaries of what rap can sound like in Australia. Not that a session would ever descend into chaos or anything like that but I can imagine a situation where both of you being so open to experimentation and bouncing off of each other that a song or idea would evolve into something completely different from where it started.

Bro, that happens all the time. Just before I recorded ‘Next Step’. He and another artist were in a duo making hip-hop and dance beats. Malek and Guzman who used to do my videos kept on telling me about him. By the time I got to hitting Open Till L8 up it was for ‘Deadset 8’ and he just killed it. It’s just been up from there.

Our process is so cool because I’ll be in the studio and show him a reference or ask him for something at a specific tempo, or a vibe that’s like this or that, and he’ll just go. Once he’s got the skeleton for the track he’ll send it through. It’s mad. I’ll go up there for the sessions now and sit in with him and record my vocals there. Sometimes he’ll play around with it after I’ve sent him my part and what I end up hearing back is crazy. Some of the shit he adds is just sick. That [fearlessness] is why I think it’s so natural for us to be able to smash out tracks together.

This time it’s cool that we’ve got more time to spend on each track, and like I was saying before I think that will really show through the music.

Are there any other voices in the room or is it just you two?

Just us. I think that’s one of the things that works so well with us. I mean he’s so versatile as well. I really like working with him. Most people would have to get heaps of different producers on the album to do what we do, but I always prefer to work with one. Even his beats, the electronic type sound he’s pushing, reminds me a bit of some of the beats on ‘The Nebulizer’. He kills them, like those Hooligan Hefs style beats. Don’t you think?

Yeah I can hear it. That’s a really full circle moment.

Yeah, one hundred percent.

After a long wait, fans can finally see you performing live on your upcoming ‘Sickest Tour’. And as PSA I’ll note that tickets for ‘Roll The Dice’ are all good for that. After the last year, just how much are you looking forward to that run of shows?

I can’t wait. I’m really pumped. I’ve put a mad set together and I’m just itching to hit the stage. I just got booked for a couple more festival shows this year so I’m pumped. Before corona hit we had those fires near my place and I had to miss my last festival. I couldn’t get there. So yeah not this Friday but next, I’ve got May 7th circled on my calendar. I’m playing in Darwin, there’s no restrictions, and it’s going to be hectic.

What does the set list look like? Is it going to be heavy on ‘Roll The Dice’, is it a best of type vibe, or can we expect a straight up ‘Dead Set’ medley?

Yeah I’m excited to roll out some of the main bangers from Roll The Dice because I obviously didn’t get to tour it, but we’re going back through the catalogue. I’ve got to go back over the old classics and some of the fan favourite promos. It’s funny because you think you know them all like the back of your hand but I’ve been rehearsing and trying to re-learn some of the old, old ones. I reckon my fans know some of them better than me and that’s really special. I can’t wait to get out there.

I have no doubt that’s true. It’s my last one: What does the future look like after album number 10? Obviously there’s fans who’ve been along for a big part of this journey, if not the whole thing, and now you’re really approaching the peak of that mountain. What happens then?

I’m just focused at the moment. I’m doing everything I can to make sure number 10 is a classic album – my best bit of work – and then I want to tour off the back of that. The last eight months I’ve been working on something… I can’t announce it yet, but it’s something outside of music that I’m really excited about, that I think my fans will follow me to, and that they’ll enjoy. I’m a hustler, bro. I got a little something planned, you know?

Tour dates below, tickets here:

Words by Declan Whelan May 1, 2021
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