Finding Immortality

6 June 2012 | 7:00 am | Aleksia Barron

“AG did his verse first, and I still don’t know who’s singing on the hook!” Chasm, Chris Hamer-Smith to his mum, admits to Aleksia Barron of I Am Legend, a track off his latest album.

Sydney-based producer Chris Hamer-Smith, better known in certain circles as Chasm, is feeling relieved. His third album, This Is How We Never Die, has finally dropped and it's been generating some great buzz. One can hardly log onto Twitter without a high-profile MC throwing his support behind the fresh LP. “After you spend so much time putting the record together, when it finally drops it's just a bonus when people are chatting about it and enjoying it,” says Hamer-Smith. “It's a good feeling.”

It's no surprise that This Is How We Never Die has inspired a legion of admirers, though. Hamer-Smith's work has been winning him fans for years. After making music in the early noughties with ambient band Ukiyo-e, Hamer-Smith burst onto the hip hop scene in 2004, releasing a self-titled EP that caught the attention of everyone who mattered. He signed to Obese Records and released his first album, Beyond The Beat Tape, in 2008, which featured a plethora of Australian MCs on vocals, and followed it up in 2009 with Move, an album where he collaborated with soulful vocalist Vida-Sunshyne.

This Is How We Never Die sees Hamer-Smith return to a blueprint laid out on Beyond The Beat Tape, with a wide variety of artists contributing the album's vocals. That said, he's not one to tread over old ground. Known for his wide-ranging musical tastes, Hamer-Smith had no interest in making the same album twice. “I really wanted to convey a certain mood with it – a certain overall feel. I guess I just wanted to make something really soulful, something with emotion behind it. I think I did get it across, to a degree.”

Hamer-Smith also set himself the goal of switching up the expectations of his fans by deciding to look further afield for the album's vocal contributors. “Before we put the album together, me and my manager sat down and had the idea of trying to pair an international rapper and an Australian rapper on every tune. It was basically just a wishlist of people I'd like to work with, and then just going through and seeing who was realistic and who wasn't.”

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

Not everyone on Hamer-Smith's list was available to come to the party, but he did snare a few prizes, such as USA underground legend AG, of Showbiz and AG. He appears on the track, I Am Legend, along with much-admired Australian MC Delta. It's one of Hamer-Smith's favourite tracks, not least because it still holds a little mystery for him. “When I first linked that up, AG did his verse first, and I still don't know who's singing on the hook!” laughs Hamer-Smith. Indeed, he has no idea whose pipes have contributed to the sung vocals. “I tried to find out, but [AG]'s never gotten back to me. So someone's singing on that hook, but I don't know who it is. One of his mates, I suppose.”

For his part, while Hamer-Smith is happy to let his vocalists run amok with his beats, he's not interested in influencing the lyrics they write. “I don't feel that comfortable doing that – I generally just let them go with whatever they're feeling,” he explains. It's a strategy that often pays off for him, especially when the artists find impromptu inspiration in his production.

The album's lead single, The Truth – featuring The Tongue, Koolism's Hau and SBX stalwart Dazastah – is a good example. “That track came together really easily,” recalls Hamer-Smith. “Dazastah was in Sydney last year and he had a day at the studio, and was just inviting different people down to record. I brought my sampler down there and Hau and The Tongue were there as well. I just played that beat off the sampler and they all just vibed on it that afternoon – they wrote their verses there and recorded it that night.”

Whatever comes next – radio play, touring or his other projects, which include house music production and Elefant Traks' Astronomy Class – Hamer-Smith will sleep easy knowing he's made a good album. He's a little shy, but happy to admit it: “I'm proud of this one.”