One of Perth’s finest, Drapht is currently completing his fourth full-length album The Life Of Riley due for release in the first quarter of 2011. The first single Rapunzel has been receiving many a rotation from Triple J amongst others. It’s a tale of lost love coupled with a psych rock, strings-driven Trials banger of a beat. Something about this combination gives me the distinct impression there are big things in-store for Drapht over the coming months.
What is it about Trials’ beats that appeals to you?
A couple years ago I was over in Adelaide doing a guest spot for the Hoods’ record, we went out one night to Sesta’s house and Vents was there. Trials was playing a bunch of Vents’ new stuff and I fucking really loved all of it so I had a word with Trials later that night. He’s always made monster beats. I love the samples he digs for, I love how big his drums are, I love his sample progression. It was everything that I was looking for in terms of a producer. He’s super easy to work with as well. Me and him in the studio-it’s just one mind. If something isn’t working, we can both see it and fix it straight away. He would definitely be the easiest producer I’ve ever worked with.
Is it just him handling production on the new album or are there others in the mix?
Trials has tackled about 85% of the record. Other than that, I’ve got M-Phazes, Matik and Sesta on some beats as well.
How would you say The Life Of Riley will distinguish itself from Brothers Grimm?
Umm it’s a little bit heavier in terms of the beats as well as the tempo, it gets a little faster. That wasn’t really a conscious decision though, I didn’t approach the record wanting a really up-tempo result. It’s more just that these are the beats that happen to be appealing to me right now and marry nicely with certain subject matters.
Speaking of subject, the new single Rapunzel seems like a classic case of catharsis, is it 100% personal experience?
Yeah it’s just based on an ex-girlfriend of mine that was a big part of my life and I suppose that’s why I wrote about her because I wouldn’t just write a song about some chick that means fuck all to me you know? She was a massive part of my life so it’s more of a move-on sort of attitude that I take in my music when approaching any sort of personal subjects. I prefer to just get it off my chest and move on. It’s potentially the stuff that people can relate to the most, it’s been said people can relate to honesty more than anything else in the world.
Was it an intentional decision to have a personal set of verses over what could definitely be interpreted as a positive instrumental?
Nah not really. I had the idea for a long time and me and Trials were just going back and forth with regards to the beats we were choosing. We had about five before that, some were darker, some were lighter but it was more of a funnier sort of theme. I didn’t want it to be too dark and emotional it was more a take the piss kind of an idea. When we stumbled across the sample that was actually used for the beat, it was about 120bpm, real psych-rock sort of sound. That’s something that neither of us have really tackled before, not many people in hip hop have really messed around with that kind of thing but it just suited the subject so well. Once I had the beat, the song just wrote itself. I smashed it out in four days.
So given the inclination of Trials to delve into these kind of areas, will the new album feature a good deal more strings and guitars than perhaps expected?
Yeah I think so. These days Trials is getting into the true musical side of things a lot more, not just using samples to make beats. You can hear it on the new one, there are bits where it’s just Trials playing instruments-no samples. I keep hearing clowns ranting about there being too much guitar and whatnot in hip hop. It’s like ‘fuck, it’s an instrument, it’s going to be utilised at some point. Who gives a shit? It’s still music.’ You never hear people complaining about too many horns in beats that are made because that is such a trademark sound for hip hop. You get treated like a sore thumb if you try to give the people something different. It’s pretty fucking retarded.
Do you think in the minds of many, experimentation is pretty quickly written off as trying to appeal to particular markets or pander towards radio airplay?
Well you’re always going to get criticism if you get played on the radio, bottom line. So if you’re stuff has previously been played on the radio and you go on to try something a bit different, something that doesn’t sound so much like your last record but still gets played on the radio anyway, you’re still aiming for a certain market. This doesn’t seem to make sense to me. I could try using whatever I wanted to use with regards to an instrument and I’m still going to be branded as writing songs purely for radio play, not on a personal basis. That’s definitely not the view that I have when I write my music.
I keep hearing clowns ranting about there being too much guitar and whatnot in hip hop. It’s like ‘fuck, it’s an instrument, it’s going to be utilised at some point. Who gives a shit? It’s still music.’ You never hear people complaining about too many horns in beats that are made because that is such a trademark sound for hip hop.
Can you give me an insight into the mental flow of ideas that preceded you coming up with the concept of Where’s Elvis?
Obviously ideas pop into my head constantly, particularly when I’m at work. I used to work as a courier so when I’d be driving around I’d have a bunch of ideas that I would put into my phone. One day I stumbled across one that had been in my phone for a while, it was just a line ‘do you want me to respect my elders when my elders are expecting Elvis to walk through the door with his pelvis swingin’, singin’ and dancin’. I must have been looking for new ideas for the M-Phazes beat at the time, I really didn’t want to do a token hip hop song because I knew that everyone on that record would be doing something along those lines. I wanted something that would be totally different to everything else on the record so I thought Elvis conspiracies would be pretty fun.
Do you think there has always been a reasonable exploration of identity or psuedo-identity related ideas in your lyrics?
Yeah I would say so but not necessarily on purpose. It’s just something that has gradually…I don’t know, it’s hard to explain but it’s something that I spend all my waking hours thinking about; how to tie each record together. It’s just something that has rolled along with each record by coincidence moreso than anything. Pale Rider was just something that evolved out of my mates giving me shit for having see-through skin, Who Am I? was pretty much just a throw-together and Brothers Grimm was based on me and Trials as a collective. There are maybe three or four tracks on the new record that could be interpreted in terms of identity, but again it’s not really a conscious direction.
Have you ever given much thought to potential group collaborations?
Yeah I would love to do that because I’ve released four albums by myself now. So much energy is put into these records. To see other guys release albums at the same pace with less MC’s it’s like ‘fuck, you guys could be releasing shit every year if you wanted to’. I would love to be able to just put a little less energy into something and be able to smash it out a bit quicker. I would definitely love to but it just comes down to having my own way with my own sound and I think most of the MC’s I’d like to work with would probably have the same idea. I’d love to do some shit with people like Urthboy and Mantra in the future, working with the ‘Oars is the same kind of deal.
How long have you been penning raps for and what was it about the craft that originally captured your interest?
I got into it when I was probably about 17. I was making beats from 16 onwards, just hanging around with Dazastah and the Downsyde boys. I used to sneak into a place called Hyde Park Hotel in Perth and they would be playing there alongside Hunter so that was my crew from when I was a teenager. I never used to rap but I did graff, SBX head from back in the day. After that I started making beats and dabbling with raps but my beats weren’t really up to standard and Dazza was making crazy beats back then even when he was 18. I ended up getting some beats off him and just writing real secretive sort of stuff, not showing anyone. Then I sort of worked up the courage to head my way round to Hunter’s house one time. We were drinking and I ended up showing him a couple of verses that he thought were dope. He put me on the Done DL record. I had only been writing for three or four months and I was already on a release.
So was Done DL the one that really sparked the hunger in you?
Yeah but I think it was more around the time of Culture Of Kings, before that nobody from Perth was touring interstate. Around that time, all of SBX was asked to come over to Melbourne for the weekend to perform at this massive Culture Of Kings gig. I really wanted to be a part of that so I guess that’s a big part of where the hunger originated. I really wanted to start touring, hang out with my mates interstate and meet these crews that I looked up to you know? People like Trem, Hoods, Reason, Flak and a bunch of the older crews that I had been listening to since I was younger.
Did you link up with the Syllabolix collective through high school connections?
Yeah my sister went to high school with Hunter. We all went to the same one but they were more around the same age group and then I went to school with DJ Armee. I came to meet Scotty and Daz through Armee but they were already working on some stuff with my Dad before that because he is a muso. It’s sort of weird how it all ties together. It’s loosely based around my family as well, it’s crazy.