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Interview: Matt Colwell (360) starring in ‘Is This The Real World’

360 Film Screenshot

To the music world he’s 360. A platinum-selling rapper and recording artist, known for countless hit singles, gracing the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, and supporting Eminem. Today, however, he is Matt Colwell, who has taken a temporary break from the rap game to star in ‘Is This The Real World’, a film from Australian writer/director Martin McKenna.

The film follows young Mark Blazey (Sean Keenan, known for his role in Puberty Blues), who is unwilling to face the real world and instead lives in one of his own making, jaded by a complete disregard for the consequences of his impulsivity. Colwell plays his older brother Jimmy, who’s on the path to jail and is equally, if not more, troubled than his brother. ‘Is This The Real World’ gives us an access all areas pass into the troughs and peaks of the Blazey family and paints a stark portrait of Australian youth.

Colwell sat down with us on the opening night of the film to chat about his acting debut and what’s on the horizon for his musical alter-ego, 360.

First and foremost, we’re here to talk about the new film. Can you tell us about that and your role as Jimmy?

I was approached by the casting director, Alison. She emailed my manager and they were talking about getting me involved in this movie that they’d written. I think we were quite hesitant at first ’cause we didn’t really think it was gonna be something serious. And then when they showed us who the cast was, we had a meeting and was like, “this is definitely something I’m into”. I love movies. I’ve kind of got an obsession to be honest with you. I really admire the art of it so I’ve really wanted to get involved in it and try and do it myself. This opportunity was really perfect for me.

Has doing music videos as 360 been something that you’ve always taken really seriously because of your love for film and inspired you to pursue acting on more of a serious note?

Yeah, I think so. The main thing that the music videos have done was helped me feel more comfortable in front of a camera. Before I was doing music and stuff like that, as soon as someone was filming me I was so uncomfortable and so self-conscious, so the music videos really helped me get comfortable to just be myself. So in the film I’m pretty much just being myself just a little bit more over-the-top.

I was going to say that your acting seemed very natural in the film!

I appreciate that! That’s just me being myself and just playing it up. But I think if I have to do something where I’m doing something that’s out of my nature, I reckon I’d struggle. Like being really aggressive or something like that, I don’t think I’d be able to do. I’d love to be able to get to a point where I could become a totally different person. That’s the ultimate goal!

I wanted to talk about how you got into character. Were there any experiences you drew on, whether it be your own or others, that helped you become Jimmy?

When we spoke about the role they were like, we want you to play a kind of junkie, like the guy is a bit crazy and sh*t, and is gonna go to jail. At the time, I was living that life. I was on drugs all the time. Even when we were shooting, I was on it. It was pretty easy to get into that character…

What was the experience like working with actors like Sean Keenan and Susie Porter, and director/writer Martin McKenna?

It was amazing! Martin is so relaxed and so chill about everything which was perfect for my first experience. It’s quite intimidating coming on to a film set and everyones standing around and you’ve gotta nail your part so for them to be so relaxed was really good. I really connected with Susie on another level. We spoke a lot off screen and kind of connected and we relate in a lot of ways. But one thing I spoke to Martin about was that I’d probably come across more naturally if he just put me in there and let me improvise. And Susie was really cool with it but Julia (Blake) was quite traditional, so she was a bit thrown off by it…

Well you pulled it off really well!

Thank you! I was so nervous. The first time I saw it I was losing it. I was at the cinema and everyone was there, like my family and stuff, and I was so nervous!

But they all liked it? You got a pat on the back?

Yeah, everyone loved it!

Did you get to do any of the actual stunts? (In specific, a scene where Colwell’s character crazily races the car around with his brother’s frenemies in the backseat)

They let a stuntman do that. They’re really strict with doing stuff that can harm you on the set. Like any cigarette smoking. Even when I’m smoking a cigarette in the jail, they didn’t allow it to be a real cigarette and I was a smoker at that time. So they had given me these herbal cigarettes that aren’t very bad for you, they just taste like sh*t. And I’m like “I’m a smoker, so I’ll just happily smoke!”.

I also wanted to talk about 360. I saw a couple of weeks ago you put up a status on Facebook saying how glad you were that you have fallen in love with rap again, and that your fans can expect a record unlike anything you’ve ever written.

Yeah! When I came up as a young MC in my young days, I came up on very underground hip hop, very lyrical driven, raw kind of hip hop. When I made the album ‘Falling and Flying’ I wanted to make rap but with a pop element, and it definitely was pop but I still thought it was good and wasn’t making it too cheesy.  But the whole hip hop scene sort of went “Nup, he’s just a pop singer, he can’t rap”. I was more about the songwriting, while still focusing on writing raps.  Back then there wasn’t that many rappers that were impressing me like they used to when I first started getting into hip hop. Like when Eminem first came out or Big L, that was what I really, really thrived on as a young’n. And ever since then I didn’t really connect with any rappers.

There was no rappers that had me going “F*ck he’s so sick” and inspire me to rap. I was more inspired by songwriters, even The Beatles, trying to make sh*t like that. And now that there are rappers that I’m listening to that are inspiring me. There’s heaps of hip hop now that I’m listening to that has inspired me to get back on my rap and show people what I can do!

So in the next one, even thought you shown a bit of a penchant for pop, we can expect more of your underground hip hop roots?

I think it’ll still have an element of pop there, because I like pop music. But my whole plan is totally different. ‘Falling and Flying’ and ‘Utopia’ had very radio-heavy songs, a lot of songs on there that could be big singles. So this one is definitely not that way inclined at all. There’s a lot of very raw, personal stuff. A lot of story telling. I’ve got some really confronting stuff, I really go in.

That’s great because I think that’s where fans connect, especially with the lyrics.

Yeah, that’s what I think too. Some of these songs are so full on, I know people will appreciate it who’ve been through it but I think it’s gonna be hard to sit through it because it’s so full on. It’s intense. I talk about some hard sh*t. But I’m excited by it though!

Is it all personal story telling for you, or are there certain themes you prefer to write about or are inspired by?

I think all the best stuff I’ve written in the past is when I’ve written about personal sh*t that’s happened to me, all the bad stuff that I’ve gone through. But I’ve pretty much touched on everything so I can’t keep saying the same stuff over and over. So what I’ve done with this album is try to put myself in other people’s shoes. There’s one song where I’m talking from the perspective of a guy who’s married and he’s trying to get his wife pregnant and they can’t, and when they finally do get pregnant it’s about what happens after and in the birth. So its a totally story telling track, but it’s intense and really heavy. But it’s rapped like it’s me and my experience. I think that makes hit home harder. I’ve got a lot of stuff like that.

I feel like I wanna try and change the way people are promoting music. Because I feel like the traditional way to promote an album, for a label, is to take a song to radio and get triple j on board. But this album is not about radio at all. I’ve got a big, big plan of how I’m going to approach it…

I can totally respect that. I know of plenty of local bands and artists who don’t go the triple j way and don’t always get the attention they deserve.

Triple j is powerful. If you can get put on by triple j, you can explode. They got me going, y’know what I mean? But people shouldn’t make them their focus, they are not the be all and end all. If triple j say no it sucks, but social media is where it’s at. People wanna see visual things now. If you’ve got a new song you wanna release and put it on Soundcloud, people will listen to it. But if you’ve got a video to go with it…

They’ll remember it!

Yeah! So that’s the way I’m gonna approach this next one. Very video driven and a lot of concepts with not much radio.

Do you have any Australian artists that you are listening to a lot right now? Anything that our viewership will wanna get in to?

Seth Sentry! He’s a good friend of mine and I listen to him a lot because he’s a f*cking weirdo. I don’t know how his mind thinks, but he’s very quick-witted and creative. He’s inspired me a lot with they way he comes up with song ideas like Dear Science, and I really respect him on that level.

‘Is This The Real World’ premiered at New Farm Cinemas in Brisbane on June 9 and will be showing until June 18.

Get Tickets HERE