7 Questions with Mathas


The son of a painter, Mathas (or Tom Mathieson as his grandma calls him) is the kind of artist that is constantly observing, lifting the world's trapdoors and pointing out the cogs and inner working of our culture. Tracks like Nourishment (featuring fellow West Australian Abbe May) saw him use native food as the framework for a poetic discussion about the complexities of indigenous Australia. Elsewhere he’s tackled - without preaching - youth alienation and drugs in Doctorshopping, the dirty tricks of the food industry in White Sugar, and more personal, internal struggles in Stone Cold Sober.

Mathas released his sophomore album Armwrestling Atlas in 2015 – the follow up to his highly-regarded debut 10lb Hairless Sasquatch. A personal project that’s taken five years to manifest, Armwrestling Atlas sees Mathas handle the majority of production as well as hand-painting the albums artwork.

One of my favourite things about Mathas is his own poetic descriptions of his tracks. Check out Stone Cold Sober and then get to know this star-on-the-rise Perth rapper below with 7 Questions….

"One day in 2003 i sat by myself on the top deck of a boat on the Hawkesbury River in NSW, after the passing of someone very close to me. I was chain-smoking Marlboro Reds. There was a brief moment of vivid hallucination where for a few minutes it felt like i could see the world's blueprint, as if in wireframe. It was the most calming sensation I have ever experienced. Like a wash of understanding. A moment of intense pain progressed into an affirmation of just how remarkably small i was in context to the universe and how happy i felt that it had even let me grow to be a part of it." - Mathas on Stone Cold Sober

Find out more about Mathas and his views on hip hop through our interview below.

Your new track ‘Free Shit’ is about corporations luring you in with token gifts in exchange for lifelong loyalty.  You are instead rewarding good behaviour by giving the track free only to those who send you a picture of themselves donating something.  What organisations do you donate time/money/stuff to most regularly?

"I’ve been donating monthly to Amnesty International and The Greens for some time now. I also used to donate to a few Animal welfare charities. I’m currently pretty limited with time and money while I’m about to put an album out, but as soon as it’s viable in the next two years I’m hoping to put time into working in the northern territory with indigenous youth. Small crowdfunding projects are also money well spent."

The storytelling in your songs is quite cinematic and the content bounces from deeply socially conscious to downright silly. After seeing you perform or listening to your album, what thoughts or message would you like people to come away with?

"I tend to sound more serious on a recording than I do on stage, which isn’t intended, it just happens by yourself in a studio environment. The emphasis and delivery are pretty important in understanding which angle my music is coming from… I like to think of my music as engaging a conversation rather than preaching about a certain subject. I hope people resonate with a few ideas and reciprocate that positive energy. Ultimately when it comes to my live show.. I just want as many people in the room as possible, to leave feeling like my mate."

What artists have had the biggest influence on you musically both Australian and worldwide?

"90s UK trip hop (Tricky, Portishead) has a big part to play in my musical upbringing. The first album by Roots Manuva likely started me rapping. There’s also an album by Cannibal Ox called The Cold Vein which I think was pretty influential production wise. In Australia, my friend Diger Rokwell has been a guiding light."

Can you tell us a bit about the record label you helped to found The Community? How did it come about? And what is the arts and music community like in Perth?

"The Community kicked off in 2003. Was really just a bunch of friends looking for gigs who couldn’t get any, so we started running our own shows. Almost 12 years later it’s grown into a 20+ strong collective of musicians all working and collaborating under the one umbrella. It’s more a family than a label.
The cool thing about being so isolated is that it tends to bring the whole music community together instead of harbouring competitiveness. Perth breeds amazing acts with a bit of a dark slant due to the fact that there isn't a huge industry to drive the creativity down a commercial stream. People just hang and create.. everybody looks after each other. It’s a pretty incredible place to be musically."

What two albums are you listening to the most right now?

"Flako – Natureboy: A phenomenally beautiful little instrumental beat album. Likely album of the year for me so far. Highly suggest listening to it on good speakers while you’re trying to study or up late working.
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly: I’m sure there’s a lot of people answering questions such as this with the same answer at the moment but I really do think this album is an anomaly. A guy gets himself to what is probably the highest position in the game, akin to a modern day Tupac or Biggie and he decides to make THIS album. A self-analytical, modern day blacksploitation album. It’s refreshing to hear someone with so much influence in this day and age trying to mobilise his own people. My kinda shit."

Though you say yourself that your music doesn't always fit within “the rigid genre boundaries of hip-hop,” it’s obvious that you have great love and respect for the culture. What does Hip Hop culture mean to you?

"Actually it’s people writing about me who say that haha. It says that in my bio but I didn’t articulate those words myself. Hip-hop is likely the most widespread cultural phenomenon in the world currently. It’s infiltrated every aspect of modern day society and advertising. So it’s extremely multi-faceted. I’m just happy to be a tiny little part of it, I’m always learning from it."

Who are your top 5 Hip Hop artists?

"Oh man this is harrrd.. It always changes. But it’s probably.. Andre 3000, Daveed Diggs from Clipping, Jean Grae, Pharoahe Monch & El-P."

You can catch Mathas performing in Sydney at the new Big Village night Home Bass TONIGHT (21/5) at the Newtown Hotel and then Saturday (23/5) at the Basement in Circular Quay. The remaining tour dates are listed below.

‘Free Shit’ Tour Dates
Thursday May 21st – Home Bass, Newtown Hotel Sydney NSW
Friday 22nd May – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle – supporting The Funkoars
Saturday 23rd May – Basement, Sydney – supporting The Funkoars
Friday 29th May – Prince of Wales, Bunbury – supporting The Funkoars
Saturday 30th May – Amplifier bar, Perth – supporting The Funkoars
Sunday May 31st – Rooftop Sessions, The Aviary Perth WA – supporting Coin Banks
Friday 12th June – The Gov, Adelaide (All Ages) – supporting The Funkoars