Matt O’Neill, Brisbane hip hop MC, interdisciplinary artist and the man behind the Under the Radar Festival’s ENVOYÉ://:FRAGMENTÉ, bares all for SUZANNAH BENTLEY.
One man: his music, words, and ideas, and absolutely no clothing to hide behind. Matt O’Neill’s one-man show explores sound, the body, and Australian society. Over three nights during Brisbane’s Under the Radar Festival, O’Neill will combine his passion for hip hop with stand-up comedy, poetry, and social commentary, and he’s going to do it naked and in surround sound.
O’Neill says his show’s title, Envoyé://:Fragmenté, was inspired by an album and song title by Swiss post-industrial band The Young Gods. The band translated the meaning of their name as “the idea of realising that you’re imperfect but that you’re going to do it anyway.”
Envoyé://:Fragmenté will encourage the audience to examine their views on nudity and body image, as well as an intriguing assortment of societal phenomena including erectile dysfunction, bogan youth culture, and vigilante justice.
As if exposing himself physically weren’t enough, O’Neill will reveal his observations and opinions about the world, his own struggles with body image, while giving everything he’s got musically. One gets the impression that he feels like the nudity is the least of his worries.
“The idea is to do a show where somebody is completely and utterly exposed, and that terrifies the ever-living fuck out of me. In everything I do I like to have absolute control over what I’m presenting to people and I don’t want people to see the worst parts but it’s a stupid way to live and you’ll never get anything done. Nothing good, anyway.”
O’Neill’s one-man show is as purely solo as they come—no directors, writers, musicians, or co-stars at all. This creative solitude is yet another way in which O’Neill strips himself bare, and he finds it simultaneously terrifying and liberating.
“Every other musical thing that I’ve done was always cushioned behind something or with someone else, but this is all me and I have worked my arse off and it’s all I’ve got. It’s fucking nerve-wracking and really cool.”
O’Neill designed Envoyé://:Fragmenté to encourage the audience to question their own feelings about their bodies and abilities. He wants to set an example and encourage others to live by The Young Gods’ principle of going for it — imperfections be damned.
“I have all these inadequacies and insecurities where I don’t think I’m capable of doing things and then I want to prove to myself that I am. I want the audience to see that they’re capable of exceptional things too. That even if they think that they aren’t good enough or don’t have what it takes to be what they want to be, that they should do it anyway.”
Originally a writer, O’Neill doesn’t see himself as a natural musician. The fact that he finds making music uncomfortable and challenging is the very thing that causes it to bring him the satisfaction that writing doesn’t. His self-taught, hobbyist approach to music-making serves its purpose in furthering Envoyé://:Fragmenté’s “do it anyway” message: “The entire idea was to create something that was artistically significant with no virtuosic show of skill.” If O’Neill with his human insecurities and self-declared less-than-perfect technique can do it, you can too, right?
“The general experience I want the audience to have is to go in and the most interesting thing they see is a naked guy and that has an impact. But then as the work progresses, because it’s in surround sound and it’s got hip-hop and spoken word, they’re immediately focussed on the sound. Then eventually they realise that either the naked body isn’t an issue, or it’s still an issue to them and they start to ask themselves why.”
When asked whether he worries that the nudity could be seen as gratuitous, or distract from the show’s artistic elements, O’Neill nods. “Because the nudity is there, everything else has to be better.”
Envoyé://:Fragmenté’s mission is to be a lesson in boldly and unapologetically giving it all you’ve got and O’Neill certainly plans to do just that. “When I pitched this show I didn’t know how to rap, I’d written about five songs in my entire life, I’d never mixed in surround sound, I’d never done stand-up comedy or spoken word. I’d certainly never sung a song in French or in falsetto. I’m doing all of that. Naked.”
SUZANNAH BENTLEY is a Brisbane-based writer, editor and all-round word nerd. She has a Master’s degree in Writing, Editing & Publishing and a penchant for horror films and sparkly things.