He’s one of the most talked about names in the Aussie charts and it’s not without reason. Illy is making waves with his latest album Two Degrees and with his recently established label OneTwo already signing some of the brightest young rappers in the country – Allday and Citizen Kay among them – the only way seems to be up for the Melbourne local. LunchBox sat down to chat with Alasdair David George Murray (or Al Murray for short) about the importance of regional tours, why he’s not political and being on the outside of Aussie rap.

While he may be an established name in Australian hip hop, it seems that Murray is not too fussed that he hasn’t been embraced into the fold of voices that make up its cohort. “I’m not disavowing or removing myself, but I don’t see myself as tightly involved in the Australian hip hop scene as I have been in the past and I think that that feeling goes both ways,” he suggests.

This may have something to do with the fact that Murray is not taking the overtly political route in his music; with so much of Australian hip hop centred around socio-political commentary, Murray’s style often knocks on the door of Top 40 pop.  I was interested to get Murray’s take on why his music has bypassed politics: “I definitely had the political slant in my songs over the years; I’m still quite outspoken politically at times, but I think there is so much going on at the moment in politics and I try and stay on top of it. But what I’ve found is as I’ve grown up and my politics and my views have gotten more complex than they may have been ten years ago, it’s harder to write a political track that has any power without then contradicting yourself, and then you get into this mess of “Well, I’m not really making a point here” and there are other people making these tracks at the moment and making them brilliantly and I’m not in a position to comment as well as them. And I’m also not trying to make political tracks at the moment.”

With this fifth LP under his belt, Murray is set for a massive slog of touring – having already performed in the major cities, it’s time to travel to Australia’s regional towns. “I love playing shows, I’m not doing it to support the scene or anything… There are people that don’t live in cities that love my music and love coming to my shows.  This tour is happening because I am really excited about this album and there has been a lot of excitement from other people and I want to share that with my fans, and a lot of them don’t live in the city,” he explains. “I made my bones touring regionally in Australia; I don’t want to turn my back on that now because things have gone up a couple of levels. As long as I am making music and playing these shows I’m going to be doing these regional shows… Artists should be paying it back to the people that support them.”

So what can we expect from an Illy show? With a huge transition with the marriage of hip hop and electro-pop, it seems that while Murray isn’t directing engaging in Aussie hip hop, the beats are still there without shying away from what he knows best. “With Two Degrees I wanted to push my songwriting into unfamiliar territory… The album kind of floated between hip hop, pop and electronic. Me and M-Phases, who produced the album, were pretty well-versed in how to make hip hop and hip hop tracks… Even though we were going outside out comfort zone I never felt like we were trying to force anything too hard, and when you’re not forcing it and you’re both capable, you’re going to come up with something cool. And we did have to take long turns and circle around stuff to make it work but I think we managed to toe that line pretty well because we weren’t going into it as rookies.”

With top singles off the album – Papercuts and Catch 22featuring Vera Blue and Anne Marie respectively – it’s pretty clear that Murray has hit the nail on the head with collaborations. Teaming up with a bunch of other artists, including Jenna McDougall, Sir The Baptist and Mike Waters, the album is fleshed out with some of the world’s best talent. So what goes into getting these names on board, and why the diversity? “I’m not a pain in the arse, but I have a very clear idea in mind for a lot of my stuff and if it isn’t that then I’m going to live with that, so I want to get it right. Because I wrote everything myself, one of the greatest things is getting the vocals back from these artists, or being in the studio while they’re recording them and seeing my lyrics and my melodies go from being a really shitty demo that I’ve done to exploding into a basically finished article. And seeing what I had in my head come to life because I have a pretty clear idea of the vocals and who should be singing them. You pitch it to these artists and then pretty much all of the first choice artists came back saying yes… Thankfully no one that I’ve worked with has ever been a dick, people are excited and they’re talented.”

Illy is making Aussie hip hop flexible and pushing that sound into the pop sphere with a strength which is difficult to match. With his biggest shows and most exciting album revealed, not subscribing to the expectations that have fallen upon him, Illy has proved that you can be both.

3 August, Players Bar, Mandurah
4 August, Prince Of Wales, Bunbury
5 August, Dunsborough Hotel, Dunsborough
8 August, Wintersun, Geraldton
10 August, Pot Shot, Exmouth
11 August, Dampier Mermaid Hotel, Karratha
12 August, Pier Hotel, Port Hedland
13 August, Roebuck Bay Hotel, Broome
17 August, Judds, Kalgoorlie
18 August, Pier Hotel, Esperance
19 August, White Star, Albany
25 August, Kay St, Traralgon
26 August, The Pier, Frankston
1 September, Odeon, Hobart
2 September, Club 54, Launceston
7 September, Sol Bar, Sunshine Coast
8 September, Mills Precinct, Toowoomba
9 September, NightQuarter, Gold Coast
10 September, The Northern, Byron
14 September, The Jack, Cairns
15 September, Dalrymple, Townsville
16 September, Magnums, Airlie Beach
17 September, Harvey Rd Tavern, Gladstone
21 September, Wool Exchange, Geelong
22 September, Whalers, Warrnambool
23 September, Shadows, Mt Gambier
29 September, The Cambridge, Newcastle
1 October, Yours & Owls, Wollongong
6 October, Setts, Mildura
7 October, Karova’s Car Park, Ballarat
3 November, Port Panthers, Port Macquarie
4 November, Hoey Moey, Coffs Harbour
24 November, SSA Club, Albury