Alasdair David George Murray – known as Illy to his ever-growing list of fans – has, over a matter of a few years, broken down his public persona from one of the stars of Australia’s semi-underground hip hop scene, to something which much more follows his creative nous.
Starting with Cinematic – his third Best Urban Album in as many records – Murray made a conscious decision to follow his own blueprint – bigger, more epic, with as much solid walls of noise as moments of deliberate quiet, and featuring some of the most talented singer-songwriters available to back up his own skills.
It’s a definite turn from the usual hip hop mandate – a low, bassy one-two beat, possibly with some electronic effects – and his most recent album Two Degrees turns it up a couple of notches, with singles Papercuts and Catch 22 continuing on the massively popular, pop-infused style he hit on with Cinematic’s massive lead single, Tightrope.
Murray’s manifesto has been divisive – enough for the topic, and the general discussion of the evolution of Australian hip hop, to have been attached to most words about the man in the last year – but hasn’t stopped him from wanting to do what he wants to do.
“It’s never really been a matter of me going against anything,” he said.
“Like, there were a lot of people saying, ‘this isn’t hip hop, this is pop, you don’t know what you’re doing’. Both when Cinematic cam out and when Two Degrees came out.
“But you can’t let that enter your head, especially when you’re trying to work it all out – it’s just going to dilute the process.
“There was never a moment where I was like, ‘right, I’m doing this because I want to change hip hop’. It was just the direction I found myself going in, working in the studio, talking to my friends, just really naturally working it out.
“Whatever words are said after that, it’s kind of after the fact. The plan is already there.”
The upcoming tour sees Murray hit a huge list of regional venues, including the full South West Tour – Mandurah, Bunbury, Margaret River, Dunsborough, Albany and Esperance, as well as stops in Geraldton and Broome. Dampier’s even on the list.
There’s a very simple reason as to why he’s embarking on this huge tour a matter of months after 2016, arguably the biggest year in his career so far.
“Honestly, I’m just trying to relax as much as possible,” Murray said.
“The album tour was pretty huge, and this next one is going to be a big slog. We’ll be going into the studio soon to prepare, so honestly man, I’m just trying to take myself out of it as much as possible right now.
“But at the same time, I’m constantly just thinking about the next show.
“Its the same with making the music in the first place: once whatever I’m working on is done, I’m immediately thinking about the next thing, the next step.
“I think that’s why Two Degrees turned out the way it did, because I had the time and space to just push it. With shows, as soon as I get back home, I’m just thinking, ‘When’s the next show?’
“And all these spots – Mandurah, Espereance, Bunbury – I love playing them. I’ve had some pretty… late-lasting nights in those places.”
Expect more of the same when Illy hits Players Bar on August 3. Tickets available now through illyal.com.