After the success of his ARIA award-winning album The Life of Riley, Perth MC Drapht has made a long awaited return to the Aussie Hip-Hop scene with the seriously catchy single Dancin’ John Doe. We caught up with the Jimmy Recard rapper to chat inspiration behind the new track and upcoming album 7 Mirrors ahead of his Australia-wide tour kicking off next month.
Heads up: This article contains spoilers for the most recent Game of Thrones episodes!
Music Feeds: Firstly congrats on Dancin’ John Doe, it’s a killer comeback track. Can we expect more of these catchy big band sounds on your upcoming album?
Drapht: I don’t know, well, I do know – but I’m in the process now to be totally honest. I’ve been working on this album for the last year and it’s changed so much. I showed Illy the record about six months ago and it had a different version of John Doe on it, so when it came out he was like; “This is a totally different fucking song!”
I guess that’s how I write music. I sit on it and see if it has a moment where I get tired of it or sick of it and if I do in that short period of time, then I’ll change it. I’m pretty good at moulding concepts and lyrics to other production, and working with other producers.
Listen: Drapht – Dancin’ John Doe
MF: How often will you decide to make pretty drastic changes to a track?
Drapht: Throughout the whole record really. John Doe went through three different pieces of music, but then I also added a lot of live instrumentation. I had a totally different hook for the song, but it just wasn’t pulling through as well as I wanted it to, so for three days I re-wrote and recorded the hook up to eight times, then finally, I stumbled across John Doe.
It’s a freestyle process with me in the booth. I have these core lines and I just keep repeating them in a different manner until I stumble across something that’s solidified and has longevity. It is kind of soul destroying, but once you stumble across it you’re like, “Fuck, thank you, finally!”
I think it’s because I put so much pressure on myself. All my friends know it, even my mum says; “I’m sick of hearing you at the end of your record cycle. You forget that you put yourself through this every single time!” It’s pretty much ground hog day for me when it comes to the end of the record.
MF: So do you have trouble letting go of your songs once they’re ready to be released?
Drapht: Yeah, massively because I do everything at home in my studio including recording all my own vocals and instrumentation. I write everything in the studio as well as arrange everything myself. I’ve got quite a big part in the production and I mix it to a certain degree and then by the end of it all I’m kind of deaf to it. I’m like fuck, is this even good?
Can I allow people to hear this? Can I get people’s judgement on my hard work? Because there is so much energy that goes into just that one particular song, as well as the album in its entirety, then you just open yourself up to love and criticism – it’s a double-edged sword.
Watch: Drapht – Rapunzel
MF: You’ve referred to Dancin’ John Doe as more of a concept than a character song like Rapunzel or Jimmy Recard. It’s definitely got a YOLO vibe about it. Is that the kind of attitude you were going for? Encouraging people to cut loose?
Drapht: Basically yeah, the concept is about being non-conformist and celebrating individuality. It’s also about the strength of not allowing the expectations of others to shape the world that you create. It revolves around that line, “you can’t tell a man without a name how to dance”. Because I feel like, especially with Western culture, we’re constantly painted into a corner with what’s socially acceptable and it really doesn’t allow people to be the person they want to be, or do the job that they want to do, or follow their dreams.
Everything is based on society’s view of success, and not an individual’s view on success, and what makes them happy. So it’s about just following your passion. Finding out what your passion is first, and then following it.
MF: Also, great work on the Jon Snow reference, can we expect any more sneaky Game Of Thrones shout outs on the album?
Drapht: Yeah you can actually. I’ve got a Mother of Dragons reference in there. Game of Thrones is so erratic. I mean luckily I released John Doe as my first song – seeing as we all know what happens to Jon Snow.
One minute your favourite character is alive and then the next they are fucking gone! So luckily it happened around the same time. I would have had to change the line if it was an album song.
MF: You went through a bit of a career change in the last few years running your own café in Perth. What triggered the need to start writing music again?
Drapht: After The Life of Riley, I didn’t see myself releasing another record. I wasn’t happy with the process and being away from my family so much. I had this realisation that I needed a 9-5 to seek the enjoyment that my music used to give me. As soon as my music turned into my livelihood, I lost all enjoyment from it. I think it could have been the pressure of success, but also not having something to bounce off, energy wise.
So I opened the restaurant with the expectation that was going to be my next ten-year cycle. It was something that I was super passionate about, I loved the food, I loved the culture, I loved trying to breathe a sense of community back into our society. But within six months, I just started writing and writing – I wrote so much. I’d write songs in the kitchen at the restaurant and I felt like I finally got my love back for the music.
Watch: Drapht – Sing It
MF: Did having some time away from the industry make you tackle the whole writing and recording process a little differently this time around?
Drapht: In terms of the writing process, because I was so involved with the restaurant and I had so much work to do, I was pushed to write at the restaurant itself. I’d be there on a busy Saturday night, and I’d take my headphones out and I’d literally be calling dockets and listening to a piece of music on my phone and writing on my phone at the same time. There are two songs that are on the record that I actually wrote while I was working at the Kitchen bar.
MF: Can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the title of the album 7 Mirrors?
Drapht: There’s this concept within the world of the 7 Essene Mirrors. The idea is that each individual that you meet within your life is a reflection of yourself and of what you want to learn. So I guess the concept is basically about learning from relationships, and each relationship that I tackled on the record was a reflection of me trying to better myself, and progress as a human.
It’s a hard one for people to grasp because I guess it’s got more to do with spirituality, and nothing to do with religion. People don’t always know the difference between spirituality and religion. I’m definitely by no means an advocate for religion of any sort. The concept is more about self-defiance and self-knowledge, and being able to find out who you are.
MF: Obviously you’ll be debuting tracks from 7 Mirrors on your upcoming tour, are there any in particular that you are really looking forward to playing live?
Drapht: John Doe definitely! We started rehearsing probably about a week ago and it’s one of those songs similar to Rapunzel or Jimmy that is just super fun to play. From the get-go I can tell I’m going to have a lot of fun playing this song.
Watch: Hilltop Hoods – Cosby Sweater (Live @ Triple J Beat The Drum ft. Drapht)
MF: You jumped on stage with the boys from Hilltop, and just about every other Aussie rapper for Triple J’s Beat The Drum festival earlier this year – no doubt that experience got you excited about hitting the road and performing live shows again?
Drapht: Massively! It was pretty nerve wracking because we hadn’t rehearsed. It was like, just write your verse and then get up in front of 40 thousand people and I thought – holy fuck, please do not fuck this up.
Illy made me feel heaps better about my entrance because he came out a line too early and Suffa was standing there on the side of the stage shouting; “No no, you’re not supposed to come out now!” But everything was smooth after that. It was very stressful, but it was so much fun!
I’m just so appreciative of those dudes. For the journey that they’ve had, and the paths that they’ve created for us to be able to do what we love to do – it’s just incredible. For them to be able to showcase that in front of 40 thousand people was amazing.
Grab all the dates and deets of Drapht’s upcoming Australian tour below!
Watch: Drapht – Jimmy Recard
Dancin’ John Doe Tour Dates
Thursday, 6th August
The Triffid, Brisbane
Friday, 7th August
Metro Theatre, Sydney
Saturday, 8th August
Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Friday, 14th August
Saturday, 15th August
The Gov, Adelaide