More Than A Trillion

Monday, October 13th, 2008 | Interviews
More Than A Trillion

VG: Today we chat with Jody Lloyd, the New Zealand musician behind the project Trillion: To start I thought I’d get you to tell us a about yourself, what you’re currently doing and your history in the music business, etc…

JL: Well, I started rapping kind of seriously in 1990, when I was 18. I recorded a few tracks in a studio. A year or so later I won a rap competition (performance, not a battle) and 6 months later (1993) teamed up with co-creator/rapper and friend Eli Foley to form the duo Dark Tower. Our first gigs used instrumental versions of American rap stuff as backing. Then I purchased a sampler, so I could build my own unique music. I had no musical experience, but come from a musical family, my dad was/is a folk musician. About the same time I got the sampler, Mark Duff moved into my flat. He was a keyboard wizard and also knew a lot about recording on computers, which at the time was a fairly new way of working. After we acquired a grant, Mark guided the recording of our first EP ‘Real Zealmen’. And Andrew from Salmonella Dub helped us release it. The EP would become the first rap release from the South Island of NZ. and the hit from it, Zealman, would acquire a cult following, and also be picked up by the NZ high school English curriculum and studied as a modern example of NZ language in music.

I made a second CD which had collaborations between me and a selection of Christchurch singers and musicians. It got picked up by Universal Music and I became the first NZ artist to sign a licensing agreement with them. I would later be ditched by them, but at the time I thought this was my big break. She’ll Be Right Records began as the label which licensed the music to Universal, and when the relationship expired I continued the label as an independent in 2002. Firstly releasing my own Trillion albums, then expanding it to include other acts. Currently (Oct 2008) we are up to the 25th release (18 of which were produced by myself) with roughly 15 active acts involved. last year we had a 10 year She’ll Be Right Records anniversary tour which involved nearly everyone ever released by the label. It was a really good time.

What were some of your main musical influences growing up?

As a young child I was really in love with my parents Beatles records. I used to listen to them over and over. I wanted to be in The Beatles. then at about aged ten, my interest turned to The Beach Boys. After that I began listening to things like Terence Trent D’Arby and INXS… From there I discovered break dance music. At 14 I went to the U.K with my dad and bought a tape: Beat Street Soundtrack, and a 7″ record: Wipeout by Fat Boys. That track changed my life. The Beastie Boys were all over the news when I was in London. I didn’t get their LP till I got back to NZ. So, Fat Boys taught me I could sample the music I liked and put it with the beats I liked. Beastie Boys taught me it was okay for white guys to do rap. And Upper Hutt Posse told me that I could do it in NZ. When I was about 17 I got really into post-war blues. But one of my strongest influences I didn’t realise for a long long time; my dad. I grew up around his music, he played acoustic guitar, harmonica and various whistles. This “folky”, “acousticy”, natural feel comes through in most of my production.

I first heard of you in the nineties when you were part of kiwi hip-hop group “Dark Tower”, who had a uniquely “kiwi” style in a time when most people were copying American rappers. Do you see yourself as someone who defines the NZ identity through your music?

We never set out to represent the ‘NZ identity’ or be cultural ambassadors. Our angle was purely to try and be us in our music, the best we could do. Incidentally… and sadly, most NZ rappers are still copying American rappers. It’s a disease.

I’ve seen some of the work you have done to draw attention to “serious” issues, like genetic-engineering and Aspartame for example. When you approach your music do you firstly think about what message you want to communicate, or how it will sound to an audience?

Music is possibly one of the strongest ways of communication, everyone likes music, and listens to it. So it becomes a good vehicle for sending out a message. When undertaking a ‘message’ song. I don’t think of who my audience will be, I just make the song as good and as accurate as I can. Although I have become aware of Internet searches, so now when I write a song that I want people to know about or learn something from, I make sure the key words that people will search for are in the title.

You obviously wear many hats in your role as engineer, producer, songwriter and lyricist. Do you see yourself more as an MC/vocalist, an arranger/composer or some kind of harmonious mixture of both sides of the coin?

Music for me is a therapy as much as it is something i want to make a living from. I don’t really see myself as an emcee even tho I rap. I don’t rap to be the best or to puff up my chest. I rap ’cause I like the exploration of language and rhythm and rhyme. And also it’s a way of telling people my thoughts and ideas without actually talking to them. Call me a rapping producer.

Can a jack of all trades, still be a master of some?

Ha ha, a jack of all trades can master them all. I spend a lot of time in every aspect in the creation of an album, right down to the cover artwork. I think it’s healthy to keep changing hats. each process brings something different to the next. As long as I have a built in quality control mechanism, i believe i can be a master of them all. That doesn’t mean I want to battle you on the mic by the way. Battle MC isn’t in my list of trades!

Which is your favourite part of the music making process?

It’s a good feeling nailing a tight rap verse in the studio in one take. I really like constructing music, or finding a primo sample or a weird record that no one will ever know about. It’s also pretty great to hear what other musician can add to a track. sometimes all it takes is an acoustic guitar strum, or a little lick for a track to come alive. I’ve had the privilege to work with some of the best musicians in NZ. Also it’s a real buzz hearing a song which I’ve constructed in a studio, being played out by my band, and then performing it…  listening to a really nice finished track over and over and over and over can be nice and hypnotising.

The latest Trillion album Silent Invisible came out earlier this year, how would you describe the album?

I would describe it as; a masterpiece, a concept, a journey. Masterpiece, not in an arrogant way. I spent a lot of time on it, and invited the best musicians I knew to play on it. It took me 3 years and everything is in it’s right place. The lyrics are probably the best work of my life ever. Concept, it combines a spoken word element which runs through it, and almost all tracks lead into each other. Journey, it tells a story, basically of a guy finding himself but in the setting of the New World Order. It tackles the issue of loneliness and it’s counter balance; aloneness. Thematically it covers political and social issues, relationships and personal discovery.

You recently relocated across the Tasman Sea, how are you finding living in Melbourne?

Melbourne is great, the best move of my life. I should have come here a long time ago. But if I had, I probably wouldn’t have fallen into such a deep hole that inspired the creation my masterpiece SILENTinvisible. Melbourne is full of artists, musicians and venues. Not such a great position to make a living from music, as there is so much stuff going on. But most of the people I meet, especially in hip hop, are really supportive and interested, whereas in NZ I feel like a tall poppy that they want to cut down. Hip hop scene here is really interesting and diverse too. Imagine a ragtime/gypsy band with a rapper.

What are the main projects and ideas are you focusing on for the future?

I’m just organising gigs in Melbourne for Jim Christy, a 63 year old poet from Canada who I produced an album for. it’s called God’s Little Angle. go find it, it’s really good. I’m also performing a bit around Melbourne with Eneti Waretini, and also playing lagerphone, political puppet show and raps in Pataphysics. Also I also met my super best friend about 6 months ago in Melbourne. Super best friend is like a girlfriend but way better cos you do lots of other stuff together, like making things, music, art and films. I’ve almost finished an album inspired by her. It explores areas which I haven’t been to before, in production and lyrical content. My last album is a bit sad, there’s so much war and hate in the world, I thought it’d be nice to make a whole about LOVE to try and balance out the world a bit. It’s called Loops Of Love. Should be out this summer, hopefully through an Australian label. I’ve also recently bought a video camera, so will soon be making all sorts of filmy things; for gig projections, for music videos and doco’s and live performance recordings for music and theatre stuff.

Find out more about Jody’s Past, Present and Future at:

Includes the FREE Downable “Garage Sale EP”
for your listening pleasure!


the GARAGE SALE (EP): is a bit of a mish-mash of tracks that are a bit humourous and topically too unrelated to fit into the SILENTinvisible or Loops of Love LP’s. Popping Bubbles is taken from the Rusty Springs EP by The Incredible Braking Wheel (2007), and Cold Touch of Dawn is a live version of a track on SILENTinvisible recorded live in Sept 2008 in Christchurch. The EP also contains a small montage of music from Loops of Love. ENJOY IT – It’s free! (any donations welcome)

“When you walk in the forest – let it go
when you climb up a hill – let it go
there’s a war in the world
you’re a flower turn and curled
heart and mind work best unfurled
let it go.”

(Let It Go- Trillion)

Queries By …Yossarian

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