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Perth based hip hop artist Drapht is back with an infectious new single ‘Summer They Say’ and a national tour. AM editor Greg Phillips caught up with Drapht for a chat

It would be impossible to write the colourful history of Australian hip hop without including Perth-based rapper Drapht. Along with pioneering names like The Hilltop Hoods, Koolism, Downsyde, 1200 Techniques, Urthboy, and Bliss n Eso, Drapht began to make his mark from the early 2000’s, consistently releasing quality, platinum-selling records and winning two ARIA awards along the way. However, after the release of his 2011 platinum seller The Life Of Riley, Drapht (also known as Paul Reid) wasn’t feeling it and took a five year break, deciding to start a restaurant instead. The time away from the music industry gave him the inspiration he needed to tackle the tunes again, resulting in the 2016 release of his acclaimed Seven Mirrors album. Late last year he was back at it again, offering us the fabulous two part Arabella St recording but things weren’t clicking the way they used to and Drapht unfortunately discovered evidence of the notorious Australian tall poppy syndrome … which brings us to the release this week of his brand new single ‘Summer They Say’.
“I spent about a year in the states a year ago,” he explains. “I wasn’t really inspired writing back home, nothing was jumping out of me. I needed a bit of a sea change so I went to the states and somewhat immediately realised how bad the tall poppy syndrome was back home. The industry is rife with competitiveness and you just get the feeling that nobody wants the best for you. When I got to the states it is a little bit more refreshing because you start to realise how stuff evolves over there and you do get a sense of this endless opportunity there. Obviously everyone still wants a piece of the pie but everyone is willing to help. So basically it is about the faux laid-back attitude that is coupled with the Australian summer from an outsider’s perspective, so that’s where that Summer They Say line stemmed from.”

Summer They Say is a collaboration with up and coming Melbourne producer Hamley, as well as a bunch of local mates, who also happen to be some of Perth’s most talented musicians. They include Timothy Nelson, who generally performs with his band The Infidels but on this occasion as his alter ego Indoor Fins, plus the multi-talented keyboardist, singer and songwriter Morgan Bain. Rounding out his stage team is old friend Dazastah on drums. Drapht has made the move away from sample-based records to more of a live instrumentation situation since the legal issues which arose from his 2008 album Brothers Grimm.
“Since Brothers Grimm I had a bit of trouble with samples,“ he tells me. “Not many people know but I ended up getting sued for the sample usage in the track Falling, which is the second single from Brothers Grimm. It was bit of a nightmare. It was a band … an English or Scottish band and they just didn’t want to hear anything about it. They had a cease and desist order against the song and made me pull it off the record. I had to pay them some money and couldn’t play the song live anymore. From that point onwards I started utilising more friends that were in the industry and getting them involved in the songwriting too and it is so much nicer rather than just digging for samples. Getting your friends involved makes it that much more worth it.”

So what is generally the starting point for a Drapht song and in particular this new track?
“Usually a voice recording on my phone, “ he says. “It will stem from a hook or melody or a line that I would hear in passing. Then I would look for a piece of production that I could marry up to the hook/melody. From that point on I would just flip the whole idea. I will record a demo and try to find out what the song needs in terms of a lead line. Originally Hamley had this Arabian style lead synth that was in the song but at the eleventh hour we stripped it all back and a friend of mine, Todd played guitar and that’s what you are hearing at the moment.”

A change in direction mid-life of a song is nothing new for Drapht, it happens often. Just as a singer, songwriter might start out working on rock song and find that its better suited as a ballad, Drapht will flip a track totally if it’s not working in it’s current state.
“Yeah, it happens all the time, especially with singles because I just feel overwhelming pressure when it comes to releasing a song on it’s own. An album song, not so much but a single, for me it needs to have that feeling. Like this song had three different lives before where it sits at the moment and it was the same with Rapunzel. Not so much with Jimmy Recard but a bunch of my other successful singles had previous lives before how they are heard now. Whenever I am writing a single I always feel like I have to keep pushing it until it almost breaks me, then a new idea will come out of that brokeness … which is really stressful but it always turns out for the best.”

Does he labour over lyrics for a long time or do they generally come pretty quickly? I asked him what’s the longest time he has taken to finish a set of lyrics.
“I constantly go back and rewrite stuff,” he says without hesitation. “I could write a whole song in a two hour sitting but the song would barely sit like that for the whole process. Basically I will go back to the drawing board maybe three or four times and sometimes it can take me up to two months to finish a song. There are a few songs on Seven Mirrors that took me even longer than that because the feeling wasn’t right and constantly going back to the drawing board and rewriting, even if it is just four bars or a line here and there that used to throw me off anytime I heard it. A track like Summer They Say I was more pushed because I wanted to take myself out of my comfort zone with that song in particular. I was really inspired by a bunch of young crew coming up in the hip hop scene. There is some amazing new hip hop coming up, especially out of Perth. A young guy named Complete .. his flow and the honesty that he portrays is something that inspires me and has inspired me a lot in regard to the new stuff I am working on. This time I wanted to concentrate on my verses and still show that I had it, you know and still as good as these young guns coming up.”

As well as the announcement of the new single Summer They Say, Drapht will be heading out on an extensive national tour in November with his buddies, Morgan Bain on keys and vocals, Timothy Nelson on guitar and keys and Daz on drums, performing all of his popular tunes from his back catalogue as well as a few newies. In addition, he has an album full of tunes ready for a first quarter album release in 2020 and some more singles to lay upon us before the new year. At this stage of his career Drapht has been reflecting a lot and has become much more appreciative of his past achievements.
“Playing at the ARIAs in 2012 with Rapunzel and Big Day Out when Kanye headlined,” he mentions as some of his more memorable gigs. “Both Groovin’ The Moos, probably my favourite festival, my own headline tour off the back of Rapunzel and just doing big rooms. If I got back to that point again I would appreciate it a lot more because it is so easy to get swept away by the natural course of what you feel is evolution but at the same time, if you can’t appreciate this stuff then it goes away real quick. Moving forward that’s my goal, anything else that I get from now on from creating my music, I just want to appreciate as much as possible.”

And what’s Drapht most proud of?
“I guess that I am still touring after 20 years and people are still listening to my stuff and I am able to tour nationally and Triple J are still playing my music. There’s a lot to be grateful about and proud of for sure. I am definitely proud of my two biggest singles. Looking back on a song like Jimmy and not really appreciating it during it’s course but looking back now, how much people really love that tune.”

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