Tornts - The Dark Work
In 2003 a dark entity emerged from Melbourne’s underworld, infamously announcing he had “something to get off his chest, like Belinda Emmett”. Five years later Australian hip hop’s harbinger of doom is still conjuring rancorous beats and barking out demands...if only to save on therapy fees, as Luke No-Alias finds out.
Tornts doesn’t wish to endear himself to anyone. His subject matter, unrelenting aggressiveness, unorthodox delivery techniques and refusal to sample tracks from yesteryear position him as arguably the country’s most divisive rapper. Frequently fans struggle to describe the attraction they feel to his music yet stranger still, these fans are often removed from the teenage to 30-something male supporters he typically draws. A brief glimpse at his MySpace page reveals encouragement received from some of the nation’s young women, one of whom would look almost totally innocent if she wasn’t professing her appreciation for 2006’s Filthy Whores.
“I like writing about the sketchy stuff that’s going on that a lot of people are oblivious to. A lot of verses are written observing what I see. I’m not the colour of ya-shoes-ya-mama type of toy battle rapper” Tornts asserts. His combative lines are often mistaken for battle rap but what propels his work leagues ahead of the local dross is the visual depth his tracks scour.
On Another Day, Another Night he announces “a full moon is the torch that scorches the city at midnight” before sighting “glowing white seagulls up in the neon sky”, finding a heroin addict dying in a hostel, a lady of the night “on the game / smudging, leaking and reeking of pain”, street kids thieving and a criminal plotting in a high rise. The concluding line “who said pigs can’t fly look at that chopper with the spotty scoping fence hopping robbery” is also indicative of his ability to cleverly shape his observations into compelling lyrics. Melbourne’s ‘cold son’ has further separated himself thanks to a demented wizardry on his MPC that’s constantly being honed.
“I write verses much more than I make beats but sometimes I’ll have a binge on production for a few days to stockpile some. I like finding twisted samples and I’ve got a couple more pieces in the studio so I’ve added a lot more depth to my beats than I used to be able to do.” His artillery of thundering beats and lyrics that at times read like Aleister Crowley under demonic possession leads Tornts to believe he is “10 years ahead” of the pack. Irrespective of whether one agrees, his tactile verses almost have a physical, peeling, decayed complexion. Listening to the imagery is akin to reading a comic; a level that simply cannot be achieved rapping about clothing labels and parties. Or worse, rapping about rapping.
Likewise, his production symbolises a staunch fuck you to the countless numbers of people reluctant to shed the sounds of the 1990s or the fashion of the 1980s.
“Leave that funk loop jazz shit in the ‘90s man that style’s old and backward.”
Yet a lame perp or two have never been named. When questioned why his targets remain anonymous, a sharp retort comes. “Basically if what I’m talking about fits who you are then wear it. I didn’t grow up in some candy coated environment where everyone was polite, if ya cop shit deal with it. I wouldn’t bother making whole albums about that shit and naming names of rappers.”
Certainly the searingly cold and dull conditions of Tasmania didn’t provide a glossy surrounds in which to pen upbeat tracks. “I lived there for about six or seven years, my dad moved us around a lot before that when I was young kid. It was pretty bleak and depressing when I was there but it gave me a lot of time to get obsessed with rap music,” an obsession he eventually took to Melbourne approximately ten years ago with only a $500 loan. A move that was mirrored by his best friend and label-mate Billy Bunks. Curiously, when Bunks’s Spit & Gristle dropped earlier this year Tornts was omitted as a guest.
“He played me a lot of Nick One’s beats and I didn’t feel any of them, I thought they were soft. That shit just wasn’t my style apart from The Loop beat. He’d already laid some verses on that, so yeah it wasn’t that he didn’t want me to get on it it’s just there wasn’t any beat I liked. He’s one of my best mates but I guess we’ve got different taste in beats sometimes [laughs].”
The pair operate under the collective name ‘Booze Bastards’ and after appearing together on Decimation Recordings (Tornts’s 2006 release) and Broken Tooth Entertainment’s Dental Records Volume. 1 compilation, the duo make a groggy reappearance on his latest album, Hells Burn. Similarly, the likes of 750 Rebels, Gargoyle, Brad Strut, Bigfoot and Fletchrock stomp in to make appearances.
It’s this type of camaraderie that is a big part of the wider Broken Tooth Entertainment ethos. There’s no tolerance given towards canny maneouvers for industry standing and the PR tactics demonstrated by some of the country’s other crews and labels. You’re either with them or against them and if you’re not, then that sits quite well with the tight-knit unit.
These relationships in the scene have been forged over time, dating back to when he was trying to establish himself locally. “I used to go to open mics and shit like that. Also me and a lot of crew would go to PBS FM and spit over the radio. This is before MySpace pages so the only way people could check your style out would be at open mics or on the radio. I remember after that Eminem movie came out every untalented flea thought they could freestyle or battle or whatever.”
Tornts’s music is serious, but then he takes his craft seriously. Now three solo releases deep, the shrouded future will probably hold more. After all, white kids claiming to be the reincarnation of Eazy-E, and societal ills, are as likely to go away as footballer spousal abuse scandals.
“I just want to keep making tracks, it’s one of the only things I’ve always enjoyed doing,” he confesses, “As long as I’ve got that spark and keep spitting venom you’ll keep seeing albums from me. This isn’t just some little sideline hobby for me, I’m serious about this. I don’t need a psychiatry bill either because writing keeps me sane.”
WHAT: Hells Burn through Shogun Distribution / Broken Tooth Entertainment
WHEN: Out now