Melbourne MC Rob Tremlett, AKA Mantra, is back with a new autobiographical single and a new record deal with Ten To Two Records, of Seth Sentry fame.
As you’d expect from most Aussie hip hop dudes, Tremlett is loose on the phone, as we discuss the subject of his new single, ‘Loudmouth’, which starts with the words “My teachers always told me I’d never amount to nothing and they may have been right; so I jump on the mic.”
“I was definitely the class clown – I still am actually. I just don’t have a class anymore,’ he laughs. “I annoyed the hell out of my teachers. I wasn’t a badkid, I was just loud and annoying and had a really loud voice and would talk all the time, so even the teachers that didn’t hate me hated me eventually. I’m just thankful that I’m able to do a job where being a loudmouth and a smart ass is part of the job description.”
Produced by One Above, ‘Loudmouth’ is the first taste of Tremlett’s upcoming third LP. His output’s grown in leaps and bounds since making a guest appearance on Chasm’s 2008 Beyond the Beat Tape and the hip hop soul vibe of his debut album, 2010’s Power Of The Spoken.
His second LP, Speaking Volumes, was dedicated to Hani Ghaleb Jaber and featured the powerful eulogy For You. Jaber, who was tragically murdered in 2003, had been Tremlett’s original inspiration to take up MCing.
“When I met Hani I was making beats and trying to get my mates to rap on them. None of them were into it, but when Hani heard about it he said ‘why don’t you just do it yourself? It’s easy.’
“He was rhyming already, so we started rapping together, and just having someone else there doing it with me gave me heaps more confidence than I would’ve had otherwise. The more I did it, the more I realised I was good at it and it was something I could really pursue.”
Although the first single from the impending LP is playful and comedic (he wears a school boy’s outfit in the film clip), Tremlett says he’s keeping on with the introspective, personal themes and subject matter.
“There are some lighter moments on this record, ‘Loudmouth’ being a good example,” he explains. “But if anything, I think this new record is more personal than the last one.
“I deal with a lot of things I’ve never spoken on before, things that maybe I was scared of or didn’t want to share with the world. But it felt great getting some of those things off my chest.
“It allowed me to try out a bunch of new things in terms of writing too. I really challenged myself to head in directions I’d never gone in before, just to see where they took me. I think that process led to some of my favourite parts of the album.”
Tremlett is setting off on a tour to promote the single, where he’s planning to set the stage on fire – although not literally, as once happened. Paper planes zooming towards the stage are a quirky, recurring theme at his live shows, inspired by his song about a paper plane that goes to war, Flightpath.
“Once we did it at a gig in Canberra and there were heaps of paper planes coming at us,” Tremlett says. “After the song finished I could smell something burning and I saw something on fire on the side of the stage! Someone had made a paper plane, set it alight, then thrown it on stage. Shit was real.”
BY JO CAMPBELL
Mantra plas The Standard on Saturday June 14.