Meet Selasie and ZPLUTO, two of the most fascinating and distinctive voices in Australian music.
In a thoughtful dialogue exclusively for Happy Mag, two of Western Sydney’s brightest stars — Selasie and ZPLUTO — sing praise for their hometown, its hustle culture and its “I don’t care” attitude to making music.
Both hailing from Western Sydney, Selasie was raised on a steady diet of reggae and old-school R&B, courtesy of his mother’s eclectic record collection. A chance meeting with a rapper at church was all the spark he needed to ignite his musical journey.
Enter ZPLUTO, the Kiwi-Aussie virtuoso melding hip-hop, pop, and alternative into a sound that defies labels.
From migration stories to introspective musings on vulnerability, Selasie and ZPLUTO explore the essence of their hometown’s cultural tapestry in a candid dialogue.
Their words unveil not just music, but a shared narrative of aspiration, tenacity, and the vibrant energy of Western Sydney.
SELASIE: How old were you when you moved from New Zealand to Sydney and what was the change like?
ZPLUTO – I was around seven and a half, 7th September 2008. At first it was hard to adjust and understand the different cultures. But I feel I’m really blessed to be here, and I feel like a lot of people should be grateful.
SELASIE: We are blessed. There’s a lot of opportunities now.
ZPLUTO: When I first came here, we lived in Westmead, Grandville, Mount Druitt, there was a lot of bouncing around.
Honestly, the good thing about Australia is that it’s very multicultural. During school, we were always doing things with the communities. Community is everything out west. And that’s why maybe I have so much love from where I come from, it’s warm and welcoming. What about you man?
SELASIE: I was born in Windsor. I grew up in Western Sydney, out Hills area, and Blacktown. Then the Inner West, Croydon Park. I went to Bemore Boys. That’s where I formed my full identity, all my closest friends are from Belmore.
SELASIE: Describe Western Sydney in three words?
ZPLUTO: Love, hustle and commitment.
I feel like a lot of people out West have dreams and aspirations. It’s really hard to make noise when you’re from a place that doesn’t have a voice, and to be in the position where I am, I’m grateful every single day.
The people, that’s love.
Growing up, I always had to learn how to hustle, especially from out West.
And commitment. Committing to your dreams and aspirations.
SELASIE: I feel like the love aspect is tied into commitment as well, because in these areas you grow up in, you learn love through random people that are not even your immediate family.
I went back recently to shoot a video. We were at the store across from School where we used to go every single day and he remembered me. He’s like, you guys finished in 2016. And we were like, how does this guy remember us?
This is a community. The people you see every day, the kebab place, or at the train station or the butcher’s – this is the real community.
And you feel that brotherhood, you know what I mean? Like, everyone’s out there, watching out for each other. I feel like there’s a mutual understanding that we’re all just trying to make it in a sense, and just get by, and we’re trying to do it peacefully and we’re just trying to get somewhere.
We all understand that. So we’re just trying to help each other out. It’s like you get that neighbourhood vibe.
ZPLUTO: What are your three?
SELASIE: My three words would be culture, faith and respect.
I feel like culture, faith and respect because it’s so much a part of the culture. It’s like, how do all these people from different walks of life get along? You know what I mean?
And it’s peaceful. All the different religions, there are so many in one spot, so I feel like it has to work with respect, otherwise it wouldn’t work.
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SELASIE: How do you think growing up in Western Sydney has influenced your music?
ZPLUTO: It’s given me that drive to see through a better life for my friends and family. The struggles are real, especially nowadays bro, from keeping it real. Like it’s hard to survive out here in the world, every single day is a constant hustle. And you got to get going, you can’t be stationary, the world just moves on. So I guess it’s given me that fire for friends, family, people that I’ve met who have inspired me. I put that in my music. But I also like to speak about love. I feel like that’s what we need more. So yeah, I guess you could say love.
SELASIE: And you can hear that, especially with your vocal, the way you project verbally. You can hear the pain, you can hear the frustration. It’s coming from a real place.
ZPLUTO: I Feel that everyone goes through their hardships, you know, pain and whatnot. We just all project differently. For me, music has been my escape, to cut out all the noise and just make my own noise.
SELASIE: Respect bro. It’s real.
ZPLUTO: How about you, how has growing up in Western Sydney shaped your musical path?
SELASIE: Growing up in Western Sydney has definitely had a heavy impact. I still listen to music from overseas and I feel like that informed me growing up. At the same time, growing up here has influenced how I take those influences and put it into my music.
With Western Sydney artists, you’ll see that there’s a certain rawness, there’s a certain ‘I don’t care’ attitude that comes with being an artist here, as people are not doing things in a shy way.
It’s very in your face, like, ‘Yeah, I’m from Western Sydney, this is what I’m doing.’ There’s a bravado about Western Sydney, which I think I carry compared to other artists I see.
Going back to what you were saying about the struggle and the hustle aspect, growing up in Western Sydney, it’s not that it’s super disadvantaged, but you do feel like you’re behind in a sense if you’re comparing yourself to other cities, other suburbs that may have things that we don’t have in a way. It kind of puts you in more of a hustle zone, if you choose to make music here.
I feel like you’re coming from a place of I want this to work like I’m doing this and I’m going all the way. It’s not a hobby, you know what I mean? It’s not like, ‘Oh, this is what I do on Sundays.’ It’s like, ‘No, I’m dedicating my life to this.’ And yeah, I feel like Western Sydney kind of does that to me in some ways.
ZPLUTO: Mentally it gives you that energy. I feel like we all feed off everyone’s energy.
SELASIE: Love So Dark. Your latest single. Tell us about your process and how you came to make that track.
ZPLUTO: It was interesting. I got hit up by my A&R and he shot me this open verse from So Lonely. To be honest, it wasn’t really my style or whatnot, but for me, I love something that can challenge me as an artist. That’s the only way to go. So Lonely was talking about love and whatnot, and then I came in, I had a verse already in mind, and then I just did it with my sound engineer, Ben Britton in like 15 minutes.
SELASIE: Wow, That’s quick.
ZPLUTO: It was crazy. It was nice. And one of the things I talk about within that track is literally what we’ve been talking about this whole time, hardship, struggle, you show what you know. So for me, it’s got the meaning of the dark side of people, things people don’t want to talk about. And sometimes people have snake tendencies, that’s a real one you got to watch out for.
SELASIE: I feel you’re saying people come with a facade and it’s like you don’t know who is real or not.
ZPLUTO: What about your latest single?
SELASIE: It’s a heartbreak song. It’s about being vulnerable in a relationship. Like when you’re talking about fake people, real people, and getting to a point where you’re telling very personal things to someone you love and trust, and then they end up using that against you.
So it’s like being vulnerable and then kind of regretting being that vulnerable and just playing with that. Like, how vulnerable should I be?
ZPLUTO: Well, I love that for you. That’s very true bro. I feel like I can relate to that.
SELASIE:It’s human nature. Everyone’s got an ulterior motive. It just depends on whether that’s going to help you or not.
ZPLUTO: Honestly, it’s whether or not they benefit from it or not. It sounds similar to your debut single ‘Unnatural’.
SELASIE: It’s the same thing in a way, but it’s kind of more when you’re new to love in a sense, and you’ve still got that innocence about you, and then you reach a point where you become jaded. So that’s my way of saying jaded is unnatural.
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ZPLUTO: I feel like a lot of people ask me this question. How do you feel when you put music out? Does it make you feel vulnerable? How does that make you feel?
SELASIE: It makes me feel like other people understand and relate to what I’ve gone through. As many times as I’ve gone through things I can really struggle to get these thoughts and emotions into words in a normal conversation. But with music, I get to say exactly how I feel and really get that emotion out.
You know, we feel these different experiences with heartbreak are very unique to us. Like nobody went through the type of heartbreak or the type of cheating that happened to me or whatever it is. Or like whatever happened in a relationship, no one understands.
But when you put a track on and people listen to it and say, this is exactly what it feels like, it’s exactly what I went through, it’s just a good feeling to know that you kind of help. People can relate and you can help them go through that process, you know.
ZPLUTO: That is the beauty of music.
SELASIE: How do you feel when you put out music and you finally give it to the world and fans start reacting?
ZPLUTO: I’m very grateful that people recognize the message that I’m trying to put out. I feel like if I’m being real, it’s like an episode, like a series I’ve already experienced, and now people get to feel that.
I’m always on to the next thing. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. But when I reach an achievement in life, I don’t see it properly, because I’m working toward the next thing, every single time.That happens too often, I kind of dislike it.
SELASIE: I feel like it’s a good thing because it keeps pushing you forward. It doesn’t keep you stagnant. It’s probably what got you where you’re at and you know it’s going to keep pushing you to keep doing greater things.
ZPLUTO: But sometimes I just question it, it’s a struggle to find balance. To embrace the moment.
SELASIE: Yes, 100%. I used to be like that. When my first single came out, people were like, let’s celebrate. I was like, nah, but the song came out. Like, what am I going to do?
As I’ve gotten older, I realise those little things are a big deal because it’s your journey and it’s special to you. So you got to celebrate those things. The accomplishments. Otherwise how are you going to enjoy this whole thing you got into?
You’re very much a Hip-Hop artist, but when you listen to the tracks and you dive deeper, there’s a heavy rock influence. Tell us about your influences and how you bring them together.
ZPLUTO: My greatest influences, I would say, are my sound engineer and my dredtician, she does my dreadlocks, right? My sound engineer comes from a metal band called Singe. My dredtician always gives me new music to listen to. I’m always trying to find new genres to listen to. Things I’ve never heard before. I’m drawn to different genres, because as humans, we project our emotions differently. And that’s, that’s the beauty of music, is that it’s spread out through many genres.
SELASIE: I remember seeing you live, when you perform it feels like a rock concert, the energy is not straight Hip-Hop. It’s like seeing a fucking rock star going crazy.
ZPLUTO: I know you’re working on the EP. How’s the recording and production process going?
SELASIE:The EP is about to drop in September. I can’t wait for this to come out. I feel like this is my first body of work that I’ve actually put a lot of time into rerecording it, and getting it as clean as I want it to be.
In the beginning I didn’t really set out to make an EP, but because I had so many demos, and I had different goals. I was in the studio with my main producer GXNXVS, who is from Melbourne – he’s since moved to Sydney – and at the time I was going to Melbourne all the time to record. I just loved his sound.
So the demos would be random nights of me just going in and he would just play keys. And I would belt out however I’m feeling, and that would be the hook.
I had 20 to 30 demos, I was just like, all right, cool, these three. I’m going to clean them up and I’m going to get it right. I was more methodical with this EP, trying to make the highest quality of music.
ZPLUTO: So what’s the vibe?
SELASIE: It’s called ‘For The Sky’, so it’s about aiming for the sky, going for your dreams, and not caring about what anybody has to say and just going full speed. I wanted to make – not a motivational EP – but I wanted to make something where you feel all right, you feel some juice to keep going.
ZPLUTO: Keep you driven.
SELASIE: And I wanted an EP that acknowledges more of the darker emotions. So there’s a lot of songs that talk about heartbreak. Obviously, like ‘Survivor’’s in there. There’s other tracks that talk about grinding and in terms of the soundscape, it’s very much dark like an eighties kind of sound similar to ‘Unnatural’.
ZPLUTO: Is there one track that you made that just stands out from all the rest.
SELASIE: That would definitely have to be ‘For The Sky’. It summarises the whole meaning of the EP. We had a violinist there.
ZPLUTO: I’ve always been a big fan of violins.
SELASIE: How do you record? Is it similar for you?
ZPLUTO: Recently I just met these two producers Harry and Will, out by six, and they’ve actually inspired me to start making my own beats. I used to make beats on the way to high school.
They’ve inspired me to get back into it. And I feel like recently it’s just been better too, because, you know what you want when you search up a beat, you know what you’re looking for. But not all. Meet the criteria of what you feel.
Now, when you make a beat from scratch, you can make it from scratch and know exactly what sounds you want to use.
That’s how you develop your own sound. And you can’t get compared to anyone else because you made it from scratch yourself.
SELASIE: What are you working on at the moment?
ZPLUTO: I’m working on my EP. I’m just trying to show people that I have my own sound because I do get compared to various other artists. You know, it’s not that I dislike it, it’s just that I want to have my own lane. Actually I have my bass sound now, so this is the bass of my whole fucking sound or whatever. And I’m naming it ‘Z’. Then I’m going to LA.
SELASIE: Cool. So you’re going to go to LA., and then release it after you come back?
ZPLUTO: I will be dropping a single off the EP. But there are a few things I want to start again from scratch.
SELASIE: I respect the perfectionist.
ZPLUTO: You have to be.
SELASIE:What makes you happy?
ZPLUTO: Family is number one, friends, and faith in God. I come from a religious background, so that’s the thing that keeps me up. Another thing that keeps me happy is to see others grow, I just love seeing other people grow and succeed in life. What makes you happy?
SELASIE: I would say, my friends, my family, the love around me, the opportunity of being able to do music, because it’s an impossible thing we’re trying to do. But at the same time, I’m grateful I get the chance to even just do this shit and be supportive, you know what I mean?
So with that being said, I feel like that’s kind of what makes me happy.