Interview: Horatio Luna

Interview: Horatio Luna

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Horatio Luna is no stranger to the Melbourne scene - an important member of the ever-successful 30/70 collective, innovative jazz musician and collaborating juggernaut, the bass player is set up to have a huge 2019. To celebrate the end of the year and his final release for 2018 – ‘Step In’ with fellow 30/70 member Josh Kelly – a modern, soulful bebop record to be released on the ‘Stamp The Wax’ compilation, we sat down with him for a quick Christmas interview and talked Theo Parrish, working with Moodymann-approved musician Jitwam, and the rise of drum & bass in Australia.

You have taken a lot of inspiration from the Detroit funk and dance scene. What is it about that music that inspires you so much?

It’s the minimalism of that music – the sounds, the harmony, the beats – the way they all work together and get people moving. It’s that idea of merging all the things I love about jazz music and then making people dance as well, I love it and that’s where I am at the moment.
My love also comes from the development of jazz music, because it was originally an art form that was played in clubs and was all about sets and improvising but there is also a really important compositional element in there. That’s also the thing about the 30/70 collective, we don’t see any difference between hip hop and jazz, nor any difference between house and hip hop. House is just hip hop that happens after midnight.

Is it musicians like Theo Parrish and Moodymann that you really look up to?

My guy is definitely Moodymann, I take a lot of inspiration from him. I also love Theo’s music and I had the great pleasure of performing before him in Brisbane and then had a hang with him. He’s an amazing guy.
I love the way he takes sounds from those old dusky jazz records and reinvents it. There’s a tonal quality in Theo’s music that is just unbeatable, it’s very dirty and more about getting the room moving rather than worrying about all those little imperfections. And the result of that is something that’s really raw and real fun. But of course, you spend a lot of time thinking about those things.
What really grabs me about Theo’s music is that it is so heavy and so dark, when you play a Theo Parrish track there’s nothing you can do except dance in this real sweaty environment. But the harmony is also always really sophisticated, even though it may not be coming from a sophisticated place.

The 30/70 Collective has had a massive 2018, having released Elevate late last year and touring off the back of that. How did the collective initially come about?

It’s a funny story, the collective originally started when three of us were all hanging out studying jazz and one of us had this idea, which I thought was really stupid, and that was to play the music of J Dilla in a jazz trio. I thought it was never going to work, but it did and a couple of months later we got a piano player on board and then 30/70 was born.
We were just really keen to push the envelope as far as we could in terms of what it meant to be a jazz musician and also as a studio artist. We were all really interested in jazz, hip hop and house, and then it all really came together when Allysha stepped in, and the band became a band.
From there it just kept building until the point where we had 11 people. It was very resource heavy even though it was really great, there is nothing like having all of us on stage but as a consequence the commitment level becomes huge. Its not just one band, we all have our own bands and we all help each other out, we produce for each other and write songs for each other.

Did you anticipate the sheer success of what you guys were doing?

We were pretty settled with this idea of making art and whatever comes after that is fine, its not really relevant as long as we are just making genuine art and giving back to our communities as much as we can, such as through the Asylum Seeker fundraiser and events like that.
I think we knew we were sitting on some really hot shit, but I think every bit of success we’ve had is a tribute to how hard we all worked and the care and consideration we put into it. But the success isn’t the ultimate part of it, although its so nice to play bigger gigs and get a reward from it.

How did it feel getting Elevate released on the Peckham based record label, Rhythm Selection?

To be honest I didn’t understand the impact that the music was having; we are all impoverished jazz musicians, but I didn’t realise it until we went to the UK and we were selling out shows and people were coming to our gigs and really appreciating the music and I think now that’s been really humbling.

How did the collaboration with Jitwam come about?

Jitwam and I had been sharing ideas and beats for a while now just online. But it was a funny relationship where I never met him before, I met him through his music. I loved his music and so we were just talking, he was in town and my good friend who runs Wax Museum linked us up.
I got to make music with Jitwam all last week and it was just a dream, he made it onto that Moodymann compilation as well which was just insane that he had that connection.
It was so easy to work with him, we just got in the studio and were bouncing off each other constantly. We got along like a house on fire. It was easy to collaborate with him. He’ll be back in January so hopefully both of us will be able to get back in the studio and get some music out.

What do you think of the current state of the Melbourne music scene and where can you see it headed?

I think the next generation of musicians are absolutely phenomenal. At this stage the living standards are good enough so people can work on their art all the time and work on it religiously. The music thing is really great at the moment because everyone gets to play with everyone. I get to play with the guys from Hiatus Kaiyote, and the Mandarin Dreams crew and 30/70 – it’s one big family and the reward is this really supportive community. Being able to play a gig and someone really appreciating what you’ve done is just great. Everyone is looking at Melbourne at the moment after Hiatus Kaiyote just blew up, and I think everyone is working really hard on music. There are a lot of really good young disco bands, RnB music and hip hop artists on the rise after Sampa the Great. It’s a really healthy scene to have.

So what’s the story behind ‘Step In’?

I’m really excited about this release because I love working with Josh Kelly. I reckon he’s the best saxophonist in the country right now. He also somehow manages to balance family and shop running whilst making music. The collaboration we did came from some recordings I did up in Sydney actually – we talk about the Melbourne music scene but the Melbourne-Sydney community is really starting to open up as well. When I go up there I’m able to spend a lot of time up there with some great musicians such as Rosario from the band The Goods on drums, Dufresne on the piano and Jonti, who’s had releases on Stone’s Throw Records.
We had the chords and went into the studio and it turned out sounding really, really nice. Then Josh and I worked on it together and it just all came together. It’s a good mix of Sydney, good mix of Melbourne and a good mix of bebop stuff and more modern harmony, It really is a nod to the UK scene.

The track is quite upbeat and has a real experimental jazz flair to it compared to your other solo releases, is this a shift in style going forward?

My music will never stick to being just house or just jazz or just jazzy house or whatever. I have been really interested in those jungle fields because it’s something we don’t have in Australia, there was a bit of a scene in the Brisbane back in the 90s, but the drum and bass scene is seriously lacking. I do love that music though, so definitely expect more sorts of jungle and borderline drum and bass stuff in future releases.
That said, it is all the same thing. It’s all jazz inspired music whether its house, beats or jungle. It’s all about jazz harmony and a party. We are tricking people into liking jazz, which is the thing about 30/70 – it’s hip hop, but we are all jazz musicians. 

2018 has been a huge year for you – touring in 30/70, releasing the Cultural Warriors EP as well as contributions to countless records. Has it been really surreal?

Absolutely. To get the opportunity to play with iconic jazz musicians when you’re young is just insane. Once that happens, you feel like you’re on their level and if it’s received well it’s out of this world. They’re the real surreal moments. Selling out the London Jazz Café and having the chance to hang out with guys like Maxwell and Bradley Zero were really surreal. It’s been a wild ride.
We are also just getting stronger as a band, we have a really good team and I feel the same about my solo project. It’s kind of strange, but the most I get out of it is this sort of thing – having the opportunity to hang out and talk about music with anyone. It’s such a pleasure.

What are your plans for 2019?

Next year I got a couple more Horatio Luna records in the works. A record with Jitwam would be amazing. I also would love to make a record with Kurt Paradise.
I’m doing a lot of remixing, we are finishing up the next 30/70 record followed by another European tour. I got a release for Giles Peterson coming out and also working with Phil Stroud on some music.
I can’t wait for Golden Plains as well, it’ll be a live show, with a really great team that I have at the moment. We are playing some real funky deep house stuff, so come expecting that and some straight up Detroit house played in a band with some loose jazz vibes in there, just to trick people into liking jazz.

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