JONATHAN STIER aka ESKATOLOGY: You Will Overcome
Brought up by his Indigenous nana and non-Indigenous pop, Jonathan Stier has always had an understanding of his ties to country and a sense of pride in his identity. Jonathan Stier is a rapper that found his solace through music and 90s rap, it is through music that he overcame a lot of demons and became Eskatology.
Relating to both sides of the bloodline Eskatology finds his voice through music, aiming to inspire people to overcome their demons whether they be substance abuse or ignorance.
THE PIN. Can you tell us a bit about your background, where did you grow up?
JONATHAN STIER aka ESKATOLOGY. Well I’m South Australian born and bred. My Nana was a Ngarrindjeri women from Point McLeay (Raukkan), around the River Murray, and dad was Australian born Yugoslavian, but I grew up in a small town called Crystal Brook as a child; before moving to Port Augusta in the State Spencer Gulf area.
I grew up living with my Nana, Pop and mum, and we often had extended family stay over. Dad wasn’t in the picture for most of my life, so I didn’t social with him until about two years ago. I have two other brothers and a sister I never met till three years ago. The eldest of them I haven’t met properly yet, he is not real interested, which was a trip. You know you always wonder if they thought of me and vice versa. M mum had two other kids so I have another two brothers who are younger than me.
Growing up I’ve always been inspired by music, I would watch the movie CB4 and imitate the songs when I was like nine [laughs], until I got my hands on a NWA tape from my cousin. My cousin who would play it and I would hear the messages they would speak on and be like, man this is strong! I admit I liked the swearing too, but most of all the defiance. Being able to stand and say how they were feeling, and be a voice for the black community in America, and I was like wow this is great.
By the age of 12 I had written my first rap while listening to I’ll Be Missing You by Puff Daddy. It was a rap to my Nana who passed that same year. It wasn’t great, and didn’t make sense but it was a starting point. Didn’t do too much more till about 16/17 with a mate who had a mic input into his tape deck. Then I’d also do freestyles with friends in the backyard with a busted tape deck. We used to hold the tape in with a hammer so it didn’t fall out [laughs].
I released my first Demo at 19 called Lost Angel under my alias J-Locc, looking back it makes me shudder thinking of it, but again good starting point. Then, after another 2 years I wrote another demo, gained the alias Eskatology and the rest is history.
Was race and culture something discussed in your family?
JS. Yeah, my Nana and Pop both spoke highly of my culture. Pop being non-Indigenous didn’t seem any different to me when I was young, he knew all the family connections, as he would go with Nan to see family. After her passing, I would ask him questions and he would know all the connections name for name, so it was very important and was discussed.
Growing up in Crystal Brook there was only one other Aboriginal family, so I felt a little different with my non-Indigenous classmates who would sometimes refer to me as African or a gorilla, which I didn’t think much of at the time, but nowadays it’s offensive.
After my Nan passed,we kind of lost a lot of connections with family, so I feel Iike lost a bit of that connection. My mum wasn’t all that up to date on connections either. Her dad, my grandfather who I never met, was from Germany and came over to escape the war, was more of an influence - I think. But moving to Port Augusta which has a larger Aboriginal population meant that over time I gained more and more connections. SA (South Australia) isn’t all that big, you’d be out with friends and meet new people who you find are related through someone else, or are a distant relative. I then began to learn more about my Ngarrindjeri roots and began to research and understand more.
Did your family ever provide you with advice or words of encouragement on growing up Indigenous?
JS. Nana was big on that. She once said she was at a event and the song “God Save the Queen” came on and she refused to stand for it, I thought that was very encouraging to stand for what you believe, and your culture. Her and Pop always used to teach me words in native tongue and go through photos of family and show me who’s who. Nan mentioned that a man who is known in SA as “Uncle Jimmy James” use to stay with her and Pop, making boomerangs, and telling stories, same with “Uncle Major “Moogie” Sumner”, who she knew well and would speak on cultural things. My uncle who lives in Darwin use to make didgeridoos and bring them down to us a lot as well so culture was there and was encouraged for sure.
Would you say music is an important part of your identity?
JS. I think music makes up a big part of my identity. It is my voice, it's me telling my story and my story is my identity. It’s been with me since I could remember, and it’s funny because no one else in my family is musical at all. So I dunno where I got it from, maybe it was meant to be?- Who knows?
But I know that it speaks for me. It is what makes me.
Who do you look to for musical inspiration?
JS. Everyday people inspire me!
Stories of courage and triumph is what I look for - cause, a lot of my younger days was full of alcohol, and drugs which was masking my anxiety. I suffered with for many years, so seeing stories of struggles overcome, show me I can do anything. Also seeing artists who have gone down a similar path as me inspire me to achieve greatness. Any artist that drives the message of overcoming wins my inspiration. But NWA first inspired me, then 2Pac for his lyrical storylines. I look for more underground less mainstream now like the American hip-hop artists Brother Ali, Joe Budden, Nas and locally I’d say Jimblah, Horrorshow, AB Original. Too many to name though! The list can go on.
You describe yourself as a bridge between cultures, how does this translate to your music?
JS. I think being biracial, I can relate to both sides of the bloodline. I can speak to all people through my music, and being that bridge that connects both [indigenous and non-Indigenous] together. I speak a lot about unity and coming together ‘cause I believe if we all respect each other and try to understand the others perspective we would see so much more unity. That is how I think it translates in my music.
Do you think role models from within community are important?
JS. Most definitely, the younger generation watch our every move, and I think we need a good role models. Especially in the Indigenous community, they need people that can be inspired to be like. To see a fulla is doing good and think I need to be like him, or just like what I had found in that NWA tape, that inspiration to say how you feel and what you like and see.
What advice would you like to give other young people who feel limited by disadvantage and social injustice?
JS. I’d like to say be a voice. If you think there is something that can be done then don’t feel like your voice is nothing, feel you can stand and say how you feel. I’ve felt limitless at times and at other times I have wanted to say something and just hid away. I still can do that at times, but I know that if I don’t make a stand it will eat me inside, so I speak on it.
Their was a huge injustice in my family, my aunty’s son took his own life in care, and was not supported to the best ability of the workplace he was in and I think their could have been more to prevent this. So I speak out because it needs to be heard- so definitely say how you feel.
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice about being in the skin you're in, what would it be?
JONATHAN STIER aka ESKATOLOGY. Never give in. You might be feeling guilt, pain, sorrow now, but you’ll get through it. You’ll probably still have these feelings but you will overcome.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Photo: provided by Jonathan Stier