#7: A Conversation With Koolta
Koolta (Kultar Ahluwalia) is an MC, Producer and professional nice guy with a whole swarm of EPs, Mixtapes and one stellar debut Album under his belt. Hailing from the ever prodigious Hip Hop breeding ground of Adelaide, South Australia, Koolta is a former Hilltop Hoods Initiative recipent, a Triple J Parklife Comp Winner and has performed all over the country supporting the likes of Horrorshow, Brother Ali, Hilltop Hoods and Urthboy.
The first time I remember properly hanging out with Kultar was in Melbourne circa 2008. We were both performing at the same show at the Laundry, me promoting Cheaper Than Therapy and Koolts hype-manning for K21. I can’t recall exactly how it went down, but we were all invited back to some dodgy house that had the smell of murder in the air. Nobody could tell us exactly who owned the place, what was going on, or why we weren’t aloud in a certain room. Something wasn’t right. Maybe it was just paranoia but it seemed an impossibility that we could even make it through the night with our lives (or at the very least all our organs) intact.
Maybe we bonded over not dying that night or maybe I’m just saying that for the convenience of a segue but either way we’ve since collaborated a number of times. I appear on Koolta’s ‘All I Need’s A Heartbeat’ mixtape and he produced the banging instrumental for my song Messenger and currently he’s making all the music for my upcoming EP.
What follows is an unedited gmail chat where we discuss the creative process, balancing a music career with a full time job and our shared experiences as former Hoods Initiative Winners..
Subsketch: What’s been going on sir?
You’re working on an album at the moment yeah?
Koolta: That is correct. It’s my second album. It’s called “Revolutions Per Minute”. It’s near completion!
Subsketch: That’s exciting! Looking forward to hearing it, I gave ‘Extraordinary Average Joe’ a work out.
Is this one along the same vein?
Along the same vein? Is that even a thing?
Koolta: Thanks man, I appreciate that. You know I’m a big fan of your music too. There are some similarities, but this one is pretty different. The first album was almost like a personal diary of what I was experiencing around that time. This time around I am trying to touch on those same emotions but make things a bit more relate-able for the listener. The production, the lyrics, the guests on this one are all quite different to the first album. Personally, I think it’s just a big step up overall from my previous work. I think it’s going to surprise some people.
It’s about constant progression. You don’t want to become stagnant as an artist.
Subsketch: True. That’s good to hear. The first album definitely gave the impression that you were working through some stuff, but you’ve always had a bit of an introspective, story-telling vibe going as far back as the Deportation.. Songs like Wash Them Hands.. Thicker than Blood.
Are you still producing all your own beats?
Koolta: Yeah and that introspective vibe has not been lost on many of the songs on this one, I just also wanted to touch on some issues that are bigger than me. I think as you mature as a person your world view expands and that is reflected in the music.
And yep, still behind the boards on this one. When it comes to creating my music these days, being the MC and producer aren’t separate roles, they are intertwined. I find myself making beats around the vocals and vice versa. It’s just an in sync process.
Subsketch: Was it a conscious decision to move away from introspective writing? How did it feel to put yourself out there so much? I know for me, when I released Cheaper Than Therapy I felt so exposed I just wanted to bury myself under the ground for a while
Koolta: Yeah I totally know what your are saying there - my debut album was almost like my “Cheaper Than Therapy” (great album by the way homie). After my debut album came out I wasn’t ready to make an album again straight away so I decided to make a mixtape with PT and get friends in on the mix (like Subsketch!). Doing a more collaborative project makes it more difficult to do the really personal stuff. I guess I took the experience of creating the mixtape “All I Need’s A Heartbeat” into this upcoming album. I goes back to what I was saying - constant progression.
Subsketch: oh thanks. So I know from experience that producing all the beats, writing, mixing and then handling the business side of things can be a weeee bit draining. How do you go about balancing all those hats? How do you keep yourself from getting too fried and maintain some objectivity? It’s easy to get burnt out if you don’t give it some space to breathe. Probably why I don’t really make beats any more.. How do you do it? What’s your secret? Tell me!
Koolta: Look to be honest it is really hard to maintain that objectivity. I think a key to it is to sit on things for a while and come back to them and see how everything is sounding. I always want to get music out there to people straight away, but I have had to learn the hard way that it pays off to take time with records and let things evolve organically. I also call upon other people’s opinions I respect to listen to the music for honest feedback, because at a certain stage of the process I can get lost in the music and start over thinking things!
And as far as juggling all these roles, I’ve honestly had to start saying no to some things so I can focus on finishing this album. I love playing shows, but I’ve had to step back from the live scene a lot this year to get the time I need in the studio. I also have a life out of music, my wife, family, friends, work, study, oh and my cat haha. No time to procrastinate.
Subsketch: Yeah it’s a tricky balance huh? Especially the work thing. I still struggle with that coz you need time as an artist to keep working on stuff and stay sharp artistically. I try to write as much as possible, even if I throw it away (which I usually do), I just need to keep flexing that muscle so it’s there when I really need it.
Koolta: It’s a double edged sword. On the one hand, I think you can do so much more as an artist focusing on your art 100% of the time. And like you said you are constantly flexing that muscle like a sports person, practicing everyday. But on the other hand, I really feel you need those real life experiences to influence and inspire good art.
Koolta: So how is that EP going? I heard someone pretty handsome is producing it.
Handsomeness is a pre-requisite for all the producers I work with.
Some Koolta guy is producing it, he’s got potential to do some things maybe if he doesn’t become a crazy cat person
Koolta: Haha. For real though, I’m excited to see where that project goes.
Subsketch: It’s starting to come together now I think. I really didn’t know what it would be for a while, or if I even had another record in me..
Koolta: I can’t see you losing that creative bug any time soon man. It’s second nature. Any guests on the EP that we can expect?
Subsketch: I’m kind of in the reverse place to where you are at.. Maybe. I was hoping to make more of a fun record, but all the songs came out a lot darker and more introspective than I planned. Involuntarily.
Koolta: That’s probably the producer’s fault.
Subsketch: I really pushed away those kind of songs for a while.. After ‘Therapy’, I didn’t want to write diary entries any more.. but now when they do come, I have no choice
probably better like that.
It’s always the way though.. You have an initial idea that gets you through the door.. Then the creative process takes over and at the end you have something you didn’t plan on.. It took me a while to realise that that isn’t a bad thing
Koolta: I think just let things evolve organically man. I mean what you said “when they do come, I have no choice” sums it up really.
How you doing for time?
Koolta: Will probably need to bounce in ten
Is that going in the interview haha?
Subsketch: haha.. probably
I have an idea I should talk to you about.
Koolta: All ears
Subsketch: We are both former Hilltop Hoods Initiative winners.
Subsketch: I got it in 2006. What year did you win?
Koolta: Me 2011
Next year it will have been going for ten years, that’s pretty crazy huh?
Koolta: Far out
Subsketch: pretty huge thing.. the amount of artists that have got that leg up
Koolta: Pretty damn generous of the hoods across that whole time. Amazing to think they have just stayed at the top of their game for such a long time too.
Subsketch: I know right
Do you remember where you were, when you found out you’d got it?
Koolta: Yep. I was in my studio at home alone. Making a beat, feeling a bit down (assuming that I hadn’t won as the winner would be announced publicly that day). I was about to go to my shift at Hungry Jacks where I was working at the time haha. And then I got the call from Suffa and acted really calm and grateful on the phone. Soon as that convo ended I was fist pumping the air and running around the house. Amazing. How did you react?
Pretty much exactly the same except I actually found out about a week before the announcement. Like you, I was at home alone. Got a call from a woman that worked at Arts SA. I was shocked and calm. Then hung up and ran around the house until I fell into a heap on the floor, pressing my face into the floor boards laughing manically
Koolta: Hahahaha. Incredible. I think these must be similar reactions to winning the lottery.
Subsketch: Then I called my girlfriend at the time, acting all nonchalant
Koolta: That’s awesome man.
Subsketch: So the first thing.. I think we should have commemorative HHI Winner rings.
That part is just coz I’m selfish and want a cool ring.
Koolta: I think that’s a necessity.
Subsketch: The second thing.. We should do something to celebrate ten years of the Initiative, and to say thank you
get all the winners involved
like a big show.. or something
Koolta: Yeah that would be dope.
That’s a really cool idea man.
Subsketch: Yeah, have a think about it. We’ll throw some ideas back and forth and see if we can get something happening?
Koolta: I think we could do if for charity as well. If we could time it for next year when the next winner is announced.
If it’s for charity it could be our way of giving back when the Hoods gave us so much
Subsketch: was thinking the exact same thing, pay it forward..
Well in conclusion..
Do you have any shows, or things coming up you want to plug before we bounce?
Koolta: For now, check out my single “All Together” - free download at koolta.bandcamp.com
Will have some new music dropping very very soon.
And I will be the feature artist doing some spoken word at the Salisbury heats (SA) of the National Slam Poetry Championships on August 29th.
Subsketch: Awesome man. Thanks for doing this. It was fun! When your album and my EP is finished we should do it again
Sydney friends can see me holding down my Forresters residency on the 7th of August w/ Sleepwalkers and Deadbeat & Hazy.
Hobart friends will find me at The Grand Poobah on the 9th w/ The Cards, Alvy Singer, DJ Rola.
Adelaide friends can catch Koolta at the Salisbury heats of the National Slam Poetry Championships - August 29th.
Well there you have it folks. Keep up to date with all things Koolta related over at his official website http://www.koolta.com.au, or find him on all the relevant social medias. For your homework this week I leave you with a song from the ‘All I Need’s a Heartbeat’ Mixtape which just happens to feature ME. Purely coincidental I promise.