The Masterton Sound

ARTS, Features, Interviews, Music
“You can’t take the MA out of the boy,” reckons Masterton rapper K.One.

The impressive K.One owned the stage at Homegrown earlier this month with energetic covers of rap standards like Che Fu’s ‘Chains’. Ahead of a North Shore repeat this Saturday at Sounds On, the good-humoured Kaleb Vitale discusses forestry, kangaroos, Tupac, and Jemaine Clement’s stomping ground.

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ALEXANDER BISLEY: Eminem sidekick Obie Trice once described DJ Sir-Vere as “king of the mixtape.” What makes him, Che Fu, and PNC exciting to perform with?

K.ONE: I think for me, it’s the fact I came up listening to these guys. Now I’m on stage performing alongside them, it can be pretty surreal at times. The fact we are all mates also makes it cool. It’s all laid back, we’re just having fun doing what we love to do.

AB: Did you rap on the job at all while working forestry? Both forestry and performing music are high energy jobs, yeah?

KO: I’ll admit I used to rap to myself whilst working out the bush. I worked in a stay-out crew so we would be out in the bush for a couple of weeks with no TV, Internet etc. to keep us entertained, so I’d write to beats on my iPod to pass time. Yeah, they’re both high energy but it’s a different kind. Forestry is physically one of the hardest jobs out there. Anyone who has actually done it will know. I’d probably die if I tried to go back to it now, music has been too easy on me.

AB: Tell me a good story about ‘So Long’ featuring Scribe, probably my favourite K.One joint?

KO: Shooting the video for ‘So Long’ was one of the highlights of my career. We shot it on a salt lake eight hours drive inland from Adelaide, real Australian outback. The last two hours of the drive was gravel road and on our way there we hit a kangaroo. We were kind of in shock ‘cos we didn’t actually know what to do. Do we check if it’s alright? Do we keep driving? Some locals had told us horror stories of kangaroos attacking people, I don’t know if they were just trying to scare us, but we weren’t hanging around to find out.

AB: How do you describe your style?

KO: My style is pretty versatile. Obviously my main love is hip hop but I love such a wide variety of music I’ve tried not to limit myself to one genre and incorporate all my influences in my music. I like to tell stories. I grew up listening to a lot of Tupac so I suppose it grew from there.

AB: What’s you favourite rap tune? Is it something you’ll cover North-side?

KO: Growing up all I listened to was West Coast rap so it’d have to be Pac’s ‘Hit em Up’. I don’t know about covering it though, it’s pretty intense. I know PNC is a fan of that song too so you never know…

AB: ‘Hit Em Up’ is one of the most intense tunes ever spat. That bit about romancing… Mrs BIG was provocative, no?

KO: That first line in the intro of ‘Hit Em Up’ is classic. Whether it was true or not only they know but damn, imagine how BIG would’ve felt hearing that for the first time. That’d have to play some serious games with your head, right?

AB: Have you seen the fascinating documentary ‘Tupac Resurrection’?

KO: One of my favourite docos. Love how they chopped up his interviews to make it sound like he was still alive and narrating the whole thing. It buzzes me out how much he used to talk about his own death, like he predicted what would happen.

AB: Tell me about a favourite you will be covering North-side? Tupac will be in your head a bit?

I will cover a Pac joint in the set with ‘All About You’. Another one of my faves that we cover is PNC’s ‘Who Better Than This’. It’s funny ‘cos when I was told I had to learn it, I already knew it word for word, but I didn’t wanna sound like too much of a fan, so I played it cool like ‘Okay, yeah I’ll get onto that’. I’m a big fan of his though. Rookie Card was my shit.

AB: Who’s a formative hip-hop inspiration, who still inspires you when you get on that stage?

KO: Being good live is the difference between a good artist and a great artist. I try to study all the great live performers, from Jay-Z, Kanye, Nas, Talib, to Michael Jackson, Rolling Stones, Queen. Just their stage presence, the way they hold the crowd and the energy they bring. I’m light years off their level but I’m always trying to hone that side of my craft and they say if you want to be the best, you have to learn from the best.

AB: Do you represent Masterton?

KO: Very much so, I have that shit tattooed on my forearm. Born, raised and resided for 23 years. You can take the boy out of MA but you can’t take the MA out of the boy. I have so much support back home it’s crazy, so I feel I owe it to them and my family to do well. Masterton is good like that, they get fully behind anyone who’s left town to chase their dream.

AB: What do you miss about living in Masterton? What’s the best/worst thing about it?

KO: My kids. I have two daughters [Dream and Summer-Jade] back home. I get back as often as I can, pretty lucky that they understand Dad’s gotta do his thing. They’re big fans also which is cool. The best thing about Masterton is that it’s home, and always will be. The worst thing is there’s no Wendy’s.

AB: Who’s another Masterton musician you like, and is there a similarity with your sound/style?

KO: Ladyhawke is actually from Masterton, too. I don’t think there’s any similarity in our sound or style but she has done incredibly well so that’s something I aspire too also. Still waiting for that K.One feat Ladyhawke collab though.

AB: What’s your response to people who have no love for Aotearoa hip-hop?

KO: Middle finger.

AB: “It is a funny culture though, that whole culture of being on the road touring. After you’ve finished a gig, there’s often lovely ladies around,” Mu told me recently. Comment?

KO: Females and music, the two go hand in hand don’t they? It’s no secret that culture is there. Obviously not on the scale of international artists but it’s there. Whether you’re about that life or not is up to the individual artist, I guess.

AB: Do you work 100 percent on music, or do a part-time sideline?

KO: I’m lucky that I can do this fulltime. It’s a blessing to always have a full schedule in terms of gigs. One day it will slow but for now I’m just making the most of every opportunity given. Things have been so flat out the past months it’s been hard to get into the studio and actually focus on some new music, so I’m currently working on that and my new single drops second week of April.

AB: Your proudest musical accomplishment?

KO: Definitely when I dropped my debut album [Far From Home, October 2011]. I’d dreamed about that day for so long. I remember having a moment when I held a hard copy for the first time and actually saw my CD on the shelf in stores. One of the best feelings.

AB: How much time are you spending in Masterton/Australia at the moment?

KO: Like I said, I have two daughters back in Masterton, so I go back every school holidays and spend that time with them. Over summer I went home for two months which was awesome having all that time with them. I’m lucky to have been doin’ a lot of tours and shows in Australia, that’s eventually where I want to be and to have a [full] crack at their market.

© Catherine Bisley 2013. All Rights Reserved. K.One photographed at Homegrown 2013, performing as part of DJ Sir-Vere’s Karaoke Machine.

Filed under: ARTS, Features, Interviews, Music


Alexander Bisley is an editor-at-large who has contributed in-depth interviews and more to The Lumière Reader since 2004. He’s written extensively on culture (and sport) for all of New Zealand’s leading outlets, and also makes his living freelancing for international publications including The Guardian, Slate, and The AV Club. He’s published by The Independent, BBC, Vice, The Sydney Morning Herald, Playboy, and Slate France, and has been paid once by The New Yorker.