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Joel Ma, new dawn, new ideas

ONE SHOT: Joel Ma is determined to enjoy life.JOEL Ma of Melbourne-based hip-hop artist Joelistics is coming to Newcastle’s Small Ballroom next month to celebrate the release of his newest single, In The Morning.
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The track will be his first in 2 years, after taking time out of Joelistics to work on his second hip-hop project, TZU and ‘‘other life stuff’’.

During a long stint recording music, living in Berlin and travelling around Europe, Ma had his laptop stolen in Barcelona and lost everything he’d been working on.

‘‘I came back to Australia with nothing after four months of writing and I hadn’t backed anything up,’’ he says.

‘‘I brought stuff back in my head, but I lost momentum after losing the computer.’’

But he said it might have been poetic justice, as the original recordings were ‘‘pretty depressing, heartbroken and break-uppy’’ after a recent split with his long-term girlfriend.

‘‘It might be a good thing the new stuff isn’t as close to the bone,’’ he says.

Though there is no doubt Joelistics falls hard on to the hip-hop spectrum, Ma says he’s been influenced by ‘‘’80s-era English post-punk and ’90s grunge’’ as well as plenty of bands he listened to during high school.

‘‘I’ve been listening to Fugazi, Dead Kennedies, Mechanical Bumcheeks, Gang Of Four – all that stuff. That, mixed with my hip-hop tastes which have always been weirder and in the extreme, there’s lots of electronica and synth in my music.’’

Despite having just travelled, Ma says the new album was born from living in Australia again.

‘‘This record I had a chance to work in studios again and get the Melbourne hip-hop community involved with lots of different instruments,’’ he says.

‘‘It’s very much about how frustrated and dissatisfied I was upon returning to Australia with the governmental swing to the right, the cost of living and the entitlement syndrome that seems to be so much a part of the Australian psyche.

‘‘I’m trying to recognise the country I grew up with and it’s hard not to get depressed watching Tony Abbott destroying all that is good and right in Australia; turning it into a wonderland for the rich and white.

‘‘It doesn’t feel good,’’ he says.

But, Ma says the dystopian political atmosphere is at least a catalyst for production of good and strong protest music.

‘‘The state of politics doesn’t speak for the quality of people in Australia,’’ he says, anxious not to be misinterpreted.

But his music doesn’t just concern itself with politics.

While he said he doesn’t think about a set message while writing music, Ma says In The Morning has a clear point:

‘‘You only get to do this thing once, so enjoy it.

‘‘Weirdly, that song is more about death,’’ he says.

‘‘A friend of mine contracted cancer and it’s more like, enjoy what you have when you have it.

‘‘I never want to be prescriptive,’’ says Ma.

‘‘I want to explore new ideas and discover shit and try not to retrace the tracks on the ground that I’ve already got covered.’’

He admitted this may be to his own commercial detriment, but said ‘‘at the end of the day, everyone’s got to sign off on something’’.

Ma plans to release his full album with the label, Elephant Tracks, at the end of June.

He said he’d be back on tour about July and August around Australia with spot shows overseas.

Joelistics will perform at The Small Ballroom on May 22.

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