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Chewing the Fat

by Rob Cockcroft / 31.07.2013

Disco Izrael has been a busy dude of late. He’s been lending his super hyper-referential style that usually revolves around science fiction, African wildlife and girls to the latest PH Fat album, all the while kicking out mad tracks through his low-key experimental project Oh! Dark Arrow as well as working alongside Dank on the next Sedge Warbler release. We got a chance to speak to the man behind the inimitable cryptic flows.

Big ups on the latest PH Fat release, it’s your best one by far. How long was it in the works?

Some of the tracks like “City of thieves” and “Business” have been in the works for over a year and others 6 to 8 months but Mike and Narch pulled together and produced a large majority of the album between June and July this year. We recorded a lot of the raps in that period as well.

How does it feel to have it done and dusted and what’s the next step in getting it out there?

We are all very proud of the album and I feel it’s a very complete product. So other than album launches we will be promoting the album locally and internationally with shows in the coming months. Also gonna be working on new videos and so forth. A main priority now is to save enough money to orchestrate our own tour overseas. At this point we have Australia and the USA in our sights.

What do you prefer; big festival gigs or club performances?

I enjoy both for very different reasons. Clubs are great to connect with your fan base and festival gigs are loads of fun and you get to meet and play to many people you otherwise wouldn’t have. Both are vital in our game and work off each other quite well. When we do bigger clubs and festival shows we try make sure to bring some added value and give our best performances as well.


Your guys’ sound has been labelled ‘bass rap’ or ‘glitch rap’ quite a lot, but this album seems to have less of a glitchy feel to it. Would you say you went for something a little different with this one?

An important thing to note is that the album was made using mainly vintage synthesizers and outboard processing gear. This contributes to a more organic and warm sound as opposed to our previous stuff. I’ve really enjoyed learning more about synthesis and outboard gear and its inspired me to start a little collection of my own. Making beats that way is incomparable and I doubt we would go back to soft synths and the like any time soon.

Your style is mad cryptic. Tell us what you fill your head with. I guess this is a ‘what are your influences’ question, but not limited to other rap you listen to.

I listen to all sorts of music, like a lot of music and not just rap at all. Music from all fields. I enjoy synth pop, rap, glitch hop, punk, jazz, electronic stuff and so on at the moment.. as far as rappers go I have my favourites (like Slick Rick, Aesop Rock, Joey Badass, Big L, MF Doom, Method Man, Ghostface Killah) but listen to a lot of other stuff as well.

Are you more inspired by rappers locally or from overseas?

There are so many great local rappers who are fairly unknown unfortunately, but garnering a lot of traction at the moment so that’s exciting. South African music in general at the moment is in a fantastic place and there is great shit coming out every day. My playlists are almost always half filled with local stuff. I think the balance is important.


You’re always rooking entjies and blunts in your videos. Is the rap life so chilled that you’re able to operate goofed all the time?

Haha. I’m definitely not goofed all the time. I love making beats and playing video games high but when it comes to performances we like to keep it sober save for a couple of pre show beers or Jager shots.

Do you feel added pressure now that you’re becoming more well-known or is the fact that you have more fans giving you more confidence?

There are many pressures involved from the fan and business sides, but I think it’s important to remember why you got those fans in the first place. Many artists change the way they do things in an attempt to satisfy fan/commercial demand. I don’t find that approach useful at all and usually stick to my guns. It’s a constant learning curve. The most important thing for me is for the artist to focus on the music. One thing I can say is that I’m definitely writing and producing much more now, every single day in fact, as it becomes more financially viable to be a full time musician.

You’ve been keeping yourself busy. I recently heard your low-key project, oh dark arrow. What’s the vibe with the project?

I’ve always wanted a place where I can flex my style just the way I want to and ODA is just that. I enjoy producing experimental rap and hip hop as well as many other genres in a sort of crossover. So apart from being a completely new project for fans it is also a platform for me and friends to expand our music knowledge and skills. The stuff is very experimental at times and I like to get as many of my peers in the industry involved as possible. As I get more time to work on it I think there will be a debut Oh! Dark Arrow album ready sometime next year. I’m hoping July in particular. And also some more videos and other content.

earthwolf from dark arrow on Vimeo.

Who are you working with on that?

Danny Video, Wolfie, Vulkan Cydeburner, Tribal Rebel, Fuzzy Slipperz, Scout Gumbie, Comfy Hammocks, Divine Dollars, Nonku Phiri, Desert Head, Cold Summers and Okmalumkoolkat. They are all friends and incredibly talented South African artists. I am very lucky to be able to work with them plus a few other collab artists projected for the future including a Glitch/Rap EP with a Danish producer called I Kicked A Cloud Once, also a very talented producer. I’m very excited about that project.

The new Sedge Wu is in the works as well, right?

Yup. we just released our new video and are in the process of putting a new album together projected to be released closer to the end of the year or at the start of 2014 the album will feature one or two collabs including the super skilled rapper Vulkan Cydeburner from Joburg. We also have a New Zealand tour in the pipelines.

Would you say there are different themes that run separately through the various projects you do?

Most definitely. But these individual themes also change within the projects themselves. Sedge Warbler and PHFAT are a product of their members as much as the music as well, so as we evolve as artists so does the music. As far as ODA is concerned I have some clear themes that shine through but all in all it’s also very evolving. I really enjoy the process of discovery and am very fascinated by music and all of its inner workings.

I approach each beat individually and try not to just rap over it. I often let the beat tell me a story first, before I start conceptualizing and writing my addition. I like to think of my voice as an instrument as well so care and consideration needs to be taken when writing to any particular arrangement.

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