Briggs: “There’s always challenges but once you learn and fail and fall down, you realise that failure is not the end and you get back up”

Original Photo: Tristan Edouard. Handmade collage by B.

Proud Yorta-Yorta man and creator Briggs does many, many things, he’s a comedy writer, best-selling children’s book author, actor and rapper. Latest project EP Always Was sees Briggs back in his wheelhouse and home, making music. He’s stepped out of the safety net of simply writing rhyme though, and taken a leap forward bringing us six joints, each unique, each representing different aspects of his personality, each speaking to the possibilities of where he’s on his way to with upcoming full-length Briggs For PM. Gimmie caught up with Briggs for a dose of inspiration and an insight into his process and passion.

You’re a writer in many capacities – lyrics, scripts, a book – when did your love of words and writing first develop?

BRIGGS: The first thing was the love of entertainment, that’s where it all started for me because I was such a consumer of TV, comedy and music. I didn’t really put it all together until much later and realised that people have to actually write these jokes [laughs].

What is it that you love about the process of creating?

B: It’s a hard thing to wrap up succinctly. I’ve always just liked making things, ever since I was a kid, making stuff was always where I was happiest. Even later on in life, over the lockdown period, I was just making food with my mates. I just like creating and making stuff in general. Like with this EP, I made it and now I’m off making something else.

It’s a pretty cool feeling getting lost in the moment when you’re creating.

B: Yeah, it is.

When did you find the calling for hip-hop?

B: Hip-hop was always the music I had the most affinity for, it was something I was drawn to since I was a kid. It was just the coolest thing there was! [laughs]. It was the simple for me. As a young man I was drawn to the absurdity and audaciousness. Everything I was drawn to was audacious and the absurd. I loved professional wrestling, heavy metal and rap music and action movies; they were the things I enjoyed most. Everything was always over the top! I think Gangster Rap really gave me that fix.

You used to have a punk band in high school before you started rapping, right?

B: Yeah, I had a punk band in the sense that I was a kid that tried to play guitar [laughs]. I think that’s every kid from the country’s right of passage at some point, playing guitar. It really was, I just wanted to be involved in music somehow, whether it was going to be radio, behind the decks, or creating—I just wanted to be involved. There wasn’t a lot of opportunities to make rap music in Shepparton where I grew up for a long time, until I was like, nah, I can do this! I’ll do this! [laughs].

You created your own opportunity!

B: Yeah! You had to.

I’ve heard that setting goals and goal accomplishment is a really big thing for you; when did you first realise the power of setting goals and following through in your life?

B: It was probably around the time of my first EP, the Homemade Bombs EP. I realised that I was essentially starting my own business, I was like, OK, I’m going to get 1,000 CDs made and I’m going to sell 1,000; I’m going to do a video clip; I’m going to do all of these things. They were all really simple things. I started ticking off each one. I wanted to tour nationally, I wanted to sell 1,000 of my CDs, and I wanted to do a video clip. Eventually I did all of those things over the course of a year of having that EP put by myself. There were boxes of CDs and I was with my mates, when we were just able to have fun and could weather the storm and sleep on the floors and do all the hard things, I’m too soft now! [laughs].

I know the feeling of staring out and doing things for yourself, I came from both the punk and hip-hop communities. It’s all very do-it-yourself.

B: They’re very similar, super similar. The difference between punk rock, hardcore and hip-hop is just the jackets! [laughs]. Everyone had buzz cuts but just different jackets on. It’s still the same, at the core of all of the good stuff, the communities of punk rock, hip hop, hardcore, metal, they’re all parallel. I was lucky because I enjoyed all of the music, I was a big fan of all of it. They’re more in tune than they’re not, I don’t think a lot of people realise that.

Geometric patterns designed by Reko Rennie.

Same! I wanted to ask you about your philosophy of: good work is hard work; what do you mean by that?

B: It’s a mantra that I kind of spit to myself when things are tough or things are harder than normal. When you go to take the high road on some things, the high road is always the hardest road to take. Good work is hard work reminds me that you’re doing the right thing, that it’s tough now but it pays off. It works in a lot of different facets in my life, be it in the gym doing work and exercising, trying to be healthy—going the extra mile for yourself so it doesn’t suck so hard tomorrow! [laughs].

Previously you’ve mentioned self-esteem and how that’s a big issue you like to address; why is that important to you?

B: I think maybe because I don’t really remember feeling super confident as a kid. I was very performative – I was the class clown – but I was never very confident. There’s a difference there that people need to identify. You might have teachers identify how to better interact with their students; really anyone that interacts with a young person. Performative acts, being loud and boisterous, doesn’t always equal confidence, they might need a hand here or there or something. Self-esteem and tying it back to the Indigenous community because that’s where I grew up, it was extra hard to be yourself in what it felt like, a world that didn’t understand you or want you in it. Ya’know what I mean?

Yes, I really do. As an Indigenous kid, a Bla(c)k kid, growing up I didn’t think there was much different about me until I went to school and other kids, white kids, pointed out I was different. I’d get called all kinds of names.

B: It’s like, everything’s good until it’s not, right?! [laughs]. You don’t realise you’re different until people start telling you you’re different. It’s quantum physics, you change the outcome by measuring it [laughs].

What’s helped you with your confidence?

B: it’s a weird analogy but, I just got a puppy the other day. She’s great, she’s fantastic and she plays really well with me and anyone that comes around, but she was a little bit fearful in the beginning with other people and other dogs. I got her a treat ball, you keep her food in and she pushes it around and gets food out of it. When I first got it she was terrified of it, she stood there and barked at it and didn’t want to go near it. I rolled it near her, she didn’t know there were treats inside, until she did and then she went to work! She now breaks this thing open, even when it’s not meant to be broken open. When she figured out she was a problem solver, it changed her personality. She was suddenly interacting with other dogs much more openly. I feel like that was part of the thing for me, once I figured out that I could get over it and own a stage or speak my mind somewhere on stage and have a microphone and talk about my point of view, it was much easy to interact with people on a daily basis. Do you get what I mean?

Yes, I do. What’s your puppy’s name?

B: Carmella!

That’s a lovely name. I do get what you mean though, I started making my own zines, independent publications when I was 15, and once you start doing that and using your voice and you know that you can, you just keep going! I did a zine workshop once and a young boy said he didn’t know what to write and I told him he could write anything he wanted to. He replied “What I have to say doesn’t matter” and I told him it did matter; he said no one had ever told him that before and then he started writing.

B: Yeah! Once you get over that first hump, that first moment and you break the ice on it… there’s always challenges but once you learn and fail and fall down, you realise that failure is not the end and you get back up.

Your new EP is called Always Was and the image on the cover is a photo of the tattoo on your hand that says “Always Was” and I know the slogan “Always was, always will be Aboriginal land”; what does the EP title mean to you?

B: I didn’t want to call it Always Was, Always Will Be because it was only an EP [laughs]. I wanted people to understand that this wasn’t the whole story. “Always was, always will be” the slogan itself to me, was one of the very first things that I remember as a kid with protests and being present as Aboriginal People. Bringing it back to my music felt right. I didn’t want to do the whole thing because I wasn’t done yet! I thought it was a good title because it says there’s more to come because it’s only half the slogan. “Always was, always will be” is about longevity. It’s not just a thing to ring off—it is about longevity, it is about strength.

Absolutely! I feel like also with you putting out new music is that you’re back to the fundamentals of Briggs, the core of what you do.

B: Yeah, ‘cause I do a lot of different things. It’s good to be back in the house that I built, making tunes with my friends and doing the stuff that I love.

What’s your favourite lyric you’ve written on the EP?

B: [Pauses and thinks] There’s a few: nervous people make me nervous [laughs]. I like stuff like that.

Do you have a process for writing?

B: I just write to the beat that I get, especially lately, I’m trying to write more songs than just write raps. It’s mostly just write off the beat.

I’ve heard you mention that each song on the EP represents a different aspect of your personality…

B: Yeah! I should have done seven and you could have had them all! [laughs].

What’s the aspect we don’t have?

B: I don’t know, maybe gluttony isn’t on there [laughs]. You got wrath, that’s “Go To War”.

What about the song “Good Morning”?

B: That one might be pride [laughs].

I really love the lyrics of that one: When the sunshine says good morning / Good morning, I say what’s up.

B: That song is about not going to sleep. It’s like “good morning” because I haven’t been to bed. Everything I do is very tongue-in-cheek, more often than not.

I got something totally different from that song. I was thinking it’s more a positive, I’m waking up what can I do today.

B: Well that’s the beauty of music, people can interpret it any way they need it. Whatever that song means to you or whatever you take away from it it’s great! I read this thing about art: once it’s out there, it’s yours!

Yeah, it takes on a life of its own and it keeps evolving beyond the people who created it.

B: Yeah, for sure!

Recently, you were talking about the combination of singing and rapping on your joints and you said something of how it’s light and dark, yin and yang, it’s the balance and that you feel the universe is built on balance; how do you keep the balance in your life?

B: As much possible! That’s all I got [laughs]. That’s all I know.

Do you take time out to reset or do anything like meditation?

B: The closest thing I get to meditation is going to the gym. Anytime I put my phone down and I’m not working, that’s the closet thing I’ve got to meditation. I used to go to the theatre a lot and see movies. I’m terrible with that.

Last question,  you’ve supported Ice Cube on his Australian tour, I know hearing his song “Today Was A Good Day” as a youth was a big deal for you; did you learn anything from spending time with him?

B: I’ve learnt things from spending time with all of my heroes. You watch how they work and it’s all about focusing on caring about the art and longevity, whether it’s with Ice Cube or Ice-T, RZA or Matt  Groening.

Please check out BRIGGS. Briggs on Facebook. Briggs on Instagram. Always Was EP out via Island Records/Bad Apples Music.

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