Just a few months ago, Australian hip-hop band Bliss N Eso were on top of the world.
Their success had been growing exponentially. Their last album Circus In The Sky reached No.1 in the ARIA charts, was certified platinum and their follow-up tour broke records as the biggest local hip-hop tour ever.
But during filming of the video for a new single, Friend Like You, in a Brisbane CBD bar in January, 28-year-old actor Johann Ofner was shot in the chest by a gun loaded with blanks and died.
“When I first got the phone call, it was like a red curtain just stained everything in my eyes looking out … reality shifted,” Jonathan Notley, AKA MC Bliss, told AAP.
The tragic event stopped the band in their tracks. The release of their new album Off The Grid, scheduled to go out last March, was put on hold as they tried to figure out how to come to terms with the death of the father-of-one.
“It was hard to think of anything else,” Max MacKinnon, AKA MC Eso, said.
“Every five seconds of every minute it’s there, it’s in front of you and for us, not really knowing Johann to then seeing it on the news and then seeing this man, this wonderful man, this energetic and enthusiastic father, it’s hard.”
To try and negate their feelings of helplessness, the band put on a charity concert in Ofner’s Gold Coast hometown and donated the proceeds to a trust for his daughter.
“We did the tribute concert and little things like getting his daughter up on the turntables and scratching, and seeing the smile on her face and seeing that love, and having everyone come up on stage and rock out as a tribute to his life at the show. That was definitely a touching moment for me. I’m at least happy that we were able to do that,” Notley said.
Their new album has taken on new meaning since the death. The theme behind the record is “beauty can grow from darkness”, represented on the album’s artwork by a single white rose growing from a skull.
“The front cover kind of happened almost organically and it just summed everything up in this beautiful way. It represents the music and also this period in our lives quite well,” Notley said.
The song which the video was being created for also seems strangely apt considering the sad circumstances.
“We wrote Friend LIke You obviously before that happened but when you listen to the lyrics now there’s ways of dealing with that situation in that song,” MacKinnon said.
“You need to find that friend or that something to be able to pull you through those hard times.”