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Optamus primed
Optamus primed

Born in the corridors of Craigie Senior High School, local outfit Downsyde took the Australian hip-hop scene by storm.

Some 14 years and four albums later, founding member Scott Griffiths, aka Optamus, is finally dropping his heavily anticipated debut, Forever and a Day. Griffiths is quick to admit that it is musically unlike most content from the crew that helped bring him to prominence.

"There are probably elements of my solo work that could be related to Downsyde," he begins, planes flying over the backyard of his Cloverdale abode.

"There is some playful, braggadocious stuff that listeners may feel is similar to classic Downsyde although I also tackle issues ranging from drug addiction to suicide. It has a really bluesy feel, which goes with the theme of struggling and overcoming obstacles. There is a huge social element to it, and as a huge fan of the piano, that sound is incorporated quite a bit as well."

Over the years, the philanthropic Griffiths - who also runs workshops for both African immigrants and indigenous youth - has not only been honing his skills on the mike but production-wise as well, providing his fair share of beats for Downsyde.

"It took a while for me to gain the confidence to produce and rhyme throughout a whole release," he says. "It's due time though, hence the name of the album."

Featuring an extensive number of guests, from fellow Downsyde folk Dazastah and Shabazz to Koolism's Hau and Funkoars' Trials, Forever and a Day came to fruition by what could be considered a happy accident.

"A few years ago I ran out of Downsyde money," Griffiths chuckles. "I ended up landscaping with a friend of mine and I hurt my back.

"After that, I basically couldn't walk for two weeks. I was out of commission.

"I had a broom and an office chair and I was pretty much scooting up and down the hallway like that. I then started looking at the computer and pieces of paper and realised how much potential material I had. Admittedly some of the songs are written on a cocktail of Panadeine Forte and red wine but whatever works. I'm sure there have been songs written on stronger stuff than that, though."

As confusing as it is, Optamus is also the name of his group, a trio with keyboardist Chris "Imposter" Foster and multi-instrumentalist Moondog, who also sings some of the hooks. "Without the other two, the album wouldn't be what it is. They jumped on the concept," he says.

Departing into the solo realm often signals an exodus from previous endeavours. Fortunately this is not the case for this modest MC-meets-producer.

"As Downsyde, we've got about eight or nine tracks in demo form for the new album, which we're hoping to finish - at least written-wise - by the end of the year," Griffiths says. "So to quell any rumours before they begin, we're as solid as ever."

Optamus launches Forever and a Day at the Rosemount Hotel on June 12, supported by Smiley and other guests. Tickets from Heatseeker and the usual outlets.