One of the best things about hip hop is how it can connect people across the planet. So far, I have had the pleasure of mastering two albums for Australia's (Melbourne to be exact) Low Budget and each one of these albums has some seriously dope material. Dope beats that have their own flavor? - Check. An entertaining MC with a dope flow and catchy lines? - Check. The producer who makes the beats is also a skilled turntablist that laces each track with flavorful cuts? - Check! In my book, that's a recipe for a tight group. I recently got the chance to chop it up with the group's Producer & DJ, Polarity (a.k.a. Debonair P) so peep game:
Introduction time; when did you guys form Low Budget and how did you guys link up?
Low Budget consists of myself (Polarity / Debonair P) and Gentleman Gene. I handle the production, DJ’ing and mixing duties in the group and Gene looks after all the vocals. We met in high school about 15 years ago and have been good friends since then. We’d both been dabbling in music in high school but didn’t get serious about it until about 2003 when we formed the group and started recording a demo.
Describe the production process of your tracks; do you stick to making the beats and Gene to rhyming exclusively, or is there a collaboration going on between the both of you when producing and writing to your tracks?
Yeah, we pretty much stick to our strengths - usually I’ll be making beats on my own and Gene will be writing on his own, and then we go through the tracks and figure out which verses work best with which beats. There is some collaboration, but it’s usually smaller things such as me suggesting a different way of saying a line or Gene suggesting a vocal sample to cut up on a chorus, as opposed to, say, me coming up with a concept for a track.
What’s the gear involved in the Low Budget sound?
It’s all real simple - I use the Yamaha SU900 sampler for making the beats and I mix in ProTools (using an M Box). Sometimes I’ll also have Reason synchronized to ProTools, and will do some additional stuff in there such as basslines and occasionally drum patterns. We recorded the new album in a studio (as opposed to the first album which was recorded in a lounge room) and there was some EQ and compression gear there that the vocals went through prior to being recorded (although the brand/model names slip my mind…) To be honest, records continue to be the most important ‘equipment’ for me as far as production goes.
It sounds like upgrading gear constantly is not your thing, making music is more important...
I’m pretty lazy when it comes to upgrading gear - I’ve been using the same sampler since 2000 and the same version of ProTools since 2004! I guess I’m comfortable with the setup I have and haven’t ever really felt a need to change. Plus, whenever I have money that I could spend on gear, I always inevitably end up spending it on more records…
Do you find yourself sometimes just listening to records when you're supposed to be digging for samples?
All the time! Whenever I used to buy non-hip hop records it was strictly with the intention of sampling them, and I'd just buy and listen to them with the aim of picking out samples. But the more old stuff I was listening to, the more interested I got in it, basically to the extent that I wasn't really even thinking about whether the records had samples on them or not. So it's pretty rare nowadays that I'll be listening to records thinking about what I can sample, I just listen to them for pleasure and if something grabs me I'll jump out of my seat and sample it!
What do you think of music blogs, and samples that can be found online? Would an Mp3 version of a record found online be something that you might get and go "wow, forget records!"?
I don't really check them out - it's cool having everything at your fingertips if need be, but a lot of the fun for me in producing is the challenge of tracking down records. Some of the blogs etc are definitely great for learning about some real obscure stuff that you would have never heard of otherwise, but even then I try and pick up the wax if I hear something I like. But there's still nothing like when you pick up some record you never heard of with a terrible cover and then you get it home and it's crazy!
Talk about the scene in Australia, what are your live shows like?
The scene here is still relatively young, in terms of being widely accepted by venues, retailers, the media etc. It’s only been in the past ten years that these places have become more supportive of hip hop. With that said, most local acts here operate on an independent basis, as opposed to there being a lot of people signed to major labels. We try to put on a show that is as entertaining and energetic as possible - our main aim is that people who see our show have a good time. I think our new album ended up being so upbeat and party-oriented due to us trying to constantly come up with new material to play at shows.
I hear you guys have opened up for a lot of heads from here that go down to Australia to do shows, what positive things have you heard from cats that come from out here about the scene down there?
It’s a long flight, but I think most cats who come down here have a good time. Most people here, for the most part, are fairly relaxed and easy-going which I think creates a good environment for people doing shows.
How is the overall scene when it comes to building? Is it like out here where pretty much everyone’s out for themselves?
I don’t know - it’s still such a relatively small scene and market that there’s no room for egos, but at the same time that can make it difficult for everybody to get their music heard. I think we’ve had a lot of lucky breaks in terms of getting shows and exposure, but at the same time, like anywhere, you also have to do a lot of legwork to get anywhere.
If I go down to Melbourne, what are the spots to hit to get my dose of good Australian hip hop? How’s the radio support down there?
Melbourne is probably the best city in Australia for record digging, some good spots I hit on the regular are Wax Museum, This Is It and Liqorice Pie. A lot of the better shows happen at the Esplanade Hotel and Revolver. The radio support for non-commercial hip hop is definitely driven by community stations, many of which have hip hop shows - some of the best ones here in Melbourne are RRR, PBS and SYN FM.
What’s on the horizon for Low Budget?
Our new album ‘Laserdisc’ will be out on the 14th of February on CD, vinyl and digital so that’s our immediate focus. After that we’re thinking about putting out another 7” or maybe a 10” with some new tracks and remixes. Apart from that, my other group Polarity & Lex should have our debut album out this year - that record’s taken about four years to finish so I’m looking forward to finally having it out. Finally, I’ve just started work on an instrumental album that I think I’ll put out on vinyl only later this later.
Where can heads learn more about Low Budget?
Everything is up at www.myspace.com/lowbudgetmusic or we can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org - our first album ‘Magnasound’ can be purchased from iTunes and the new one ‘Laserdisc’ should be available from the 15th of February.
Thanks for allowing me to work on your projects; it’s been specially dope for me to work with cats from outside of the U.S. and I’m definitely digging the vibe. Please shout out to your fam and represent:
Thanks to anyone who takes the time to check out our music, and thank you L-Rox for the interview!
Here's the video to Low Budget's "Tailor Made" video: