In stepping back from the mic, trials is set to make his loudest impact yet.
After more than a decade in the scene – spent as both an MC and producer, and in the case of A.B. Original’s lauded Reclaim Australia, both – trials is focusing his energy on producing and writing records with a diverse range of domestic and international artists on his debut solo project. The first preview of what’s to come is lead single ‘i’m a fucking wreck’, a collaboration with rising American artist and star in his own right Daniyel.
Buoyed by trials’ trademark production of big beats and warm guitar, the rapper intones, “I’m a fucking wreck, I’m a fucking mess”. Like an intimate inner monologue, the track nods to emo-rap as Daniyel lets loose a string of self-deprecating confessional thoughts. It’s a credit to trials’ production that ‘i’m a fucking wreck’ remains crisp and catchy despite the deeply reflective nature of the lyrics.
The partnership between trials and Daniyel began when trials was called up to work on beats for the Portland rapper’s own debut record. The two developed a creative understanding and began collaborating more closely, despite distance. From his home studio in Adelaide, trials wrote the track via calls and emails with Daniyel in 2020.
“From the records we were already working on together, I knew his range was boundless,” trials says. “The pockets he picks, the way he conveys emotions through subtle and overt styles: pain, promise, desire, you can feel what he’s saying through every one of his lyrics. It resonated with me because the passion was similar to how Adam (Briggs) and I work.”
Despite the familiarity to his A.B Original collaborator, Daniyel represented something significant for trials: “He has such a rare tone I’ve never worked with before. It spoke to me immediately.”
It’s a sentiment Daniyel shares “I’m really excited to be a part of this amazing song with trials! I hope there’s a kid out there who can relate to what I was feeling when I wrote it.”
In seeking out and curating the artists he’ll work with in this new phase of his artistic career, trials is driven by the desire to keep growing and learning, never content to do the same thing twice.
“I keep constantly evolving my sound and palette. I see a song like a picture; if I’m just painting in black and white, it gets boring. Collaborators bring shade, someone brings contrast and colour, before you know it, we’re working together on a detailed masterpiece I would never have achieved alone.”
“The collaborative process is what draws me in. If they trust me, we can do anything. Producing records is 90% about establishing a relationship of trust and inspiring each other, and 10% about song writing. It’s about finding that energy in a feedback loop that feels like we’ve accidently discovered something brand new and beautiful together.”
It’s this attitude that’s established trials as a go-to producer at home and overseas, one not bound by expectation or genre. His vast and eclectic discography is testament to that. He’s worked with his peers in hip hop Seth Sentry, Illy and Drapht; rock and punk acts like DZ Deathrays and Dune Rats & Ecca Vandal; and stalwarts of Australian music including Paul Kelly, Dr G Yunupingu and Archie Roach.
But it was his involvement with fellow Adelaide firebrands Hilltop Hoods that provided his most formative and crucial growth. “Barry and Matt, (aka DJ Debris and MC Suffa) taught me everything I couldn’t learn from scouring liner notes. They were essential. Barry taught me the engineering side and Matt helped shape my ear to the sampling side of production.” Once he earned his stripes, trials returned the favour contributing beats, vocals or both to just about every Hilltop Hoods record.
A Ngarrindjeri man from Coorong in South Australia, trials has spent his career demonstrating – either explicitly through his lyrics, or simply leading by example – the power and potential that comes with getting Indigenous artists in the room and giving them control. “Not only can we run this ship with whole hearted autonomy, we’ve been doing it.”
To date, trials has picked up 4 ARIA awards, a further 3 nominations and has been accredited 2 double platinum albums and 10 gold albums for his extensive work as a producer and composer. It was specifically A.B. Original’s debut that made people sit up and listen, winning the duo some of the industries most coveted awards including the APRA Song Writer of the Year award, the J Award, the Australian Music Prize, the NIMA Awards Song of the Year, two AIR Awards plus a host of other notable awards and nominations. “I’m constantly representing my people by being one of the best by any measurement in any room you put me in,” trials declares.
His upcoming solo project will only reinforce that reputation. A showcase of his talent as a producer and multi-instrumentalist, it celebrates the spirit of collaboration between artists across disciplines and will introduce new listeners and old heads alike to his wide range of sonic tastes, influences and inspirations. And it firmly solidifies his determination to get the best track possible, no matter the circumstances.
“I love writing any style, anywhere, with anyone as long as it slaps. My essentials are me, someone else and my MPC.”