On the phone, Drapht seems to be in a bit of a daze. He’s only just arrived in Hobart to kick-start his national tour after shooting a music video in Sydney that day. “I want to say it’s been a whirlwind week but that would be an understatement – a whirlwind few years is more like it,” he laughs.
It hasn’t always been strictly music and madness for the Western Australian artist (real name Paul Ridge), who finally ‘broke’ in 2008 with the success of his third album, Brothers Grimm.
His hit-single Jimmy Recard catapulted Drapht into Australian hip-hop royalty, alongside the likes of Hilltop Hoods and Bliss N Eso. Now Drapht is ready to launch his fourth album, The Life Of Riley, which was released last week, with a nation-wide tour to follow.
Drapht explains that the success of Brothers Grimm allowed him to commit full-time to music, which has, in turn, helped him create his most personal material yet. “After [the success of] the last album and the attention I got from Jimmy Recard, I was able to focus on music full-time. It’s a pretty rare thing in this industry and something I was never expecting. So I wanted to dedicate myself to the music,” he explains.
“I had a full-time job and had a girlfriend… which is another full-time job,” he laughs, “when I was recording the last two albums. With this one, I was able to spend eight or ten hours a day working solely on the music.”
Which helps explain the name of the album, The Life Of Riley – an old Irish expression used to describe a life of luxury or ‘living the good life’.
“This album is a loosely-based conceptual record,” Drapht offers, “which revolves around living a life that doesn’t abide to society’s pressures. You shouldn’t have to marry your high school girlfriend or have a family before you’re 30 – because at the end of the day, it’s your choice.”
The album reflects heavily on Drapht’s personal life, partly documenting his own rise from a young kid sneaking into gigs, to experiences he has had touring and making music – with all the ups and downs in between.
“I found that people were fond of music that had a personal touch. They seemed to respond to music that was close to the heart. So I tried to put a lot more of myself in each track.”
This approach was the inspiration behind commercial-favouriteRapunzel, which is loosely based on an ex-girlfriend.
With a ‘60s-inspired guitar loop and love-tangled subject matter,Rapunzel became an instant summer classic. It has already gone platinum on the ARIA charts and hit number 12 on last year’s Triple J Hottest 100.
“Actually, my friends kind of ruined that for me. We were at a BBQ listening to the radio and they were all certain that it was going to beat Jimmy Recard’s number 10 spot. So when it played at 12 I was rapt, but they were all like ‘We thought it would be higher,” he laughs.
In what was described as the “most draining experience of [his] life,” Drapht also explains just how emotionally and physically demanding it was to produce the album he wanted. “At times it was hard to get any energy. I was struggling with some health issues and doctors had me on a strict diet of meat and greens – no sugars or processed foods allowed!” he reflects.
“And in addition to that, at the time of recording Perth was going through its hottest summer on record. So I was battling a lot of fatigue and it was hard to finish off at times. But that’s eventually what pushed me to get it done.”
The album is the first to be released under his own record label, The Ayems. His previous three albums were all distributed under Obese, but Drapht felt that it was time for a change.
“Well after the last album, my contract expired. I guess I just felt that all the avenues had been exhausted with Obese, and I had the bankroll to develop it myself, so why not?” he shrugs. “It should just be me anyway.”
Drapht also employed the help of producer and close-friend Trials, of South Australian hip-hop outfit The Funkoars.
“I met Trials in South Australia when I was recording with Hilltop Hoods, and he let me listen to a few things he was working on. I loved his stuff and so asked him if he wanted to help me out. We’ve just created this really good formula.”
While Trials himself features in several tracks, The Life Of Riley also includes a who’s who of Australian hip-hop, with appearances from Briggs, Mantra, Urthboy and the entire Funkoars crew.
“These are guys that I knew I wanted on the album. Mantra’s just got killer flows, Urthboy writes some awesome hooks and The Funkoars are just good guys – real party animals,” he grins.
“Actually, that was what formulated the track Take The Party With Us. It was when I was touring with The Funkoars during last year’s Groovin’ The Moo, and we were pulled up by these cops who suspected we were carrying drugs.”
It’s probably worth explaining that police spent a couple of hours searching the vehicle and each of the members personally, but let them go when nothing was found.
But Drapht isn’t expecting any similar mishaps this year, where he is listed as one of the headline acts at this year’s Groovin’ The Moo. He will take the stage alongside Art Vs Science, The Jezabels, The Drums and his personal favourites Bliss N Eso, Horrorshow and House Of Pain.
“I’m looking forward to getting around again. The festival shows have a completely different vibe. It just brings people from every genre, people who probably haven’t heard you before – and you get the chance to win them over.”
To end with, it’s asked of Drapht what his plans are after the tour: a new album? Side-projects? Collaborations? Or maybe producing under the new label?
“’No’ to everything!” he replies, chuckling.” The record only came out last week and I haven’t even had time to scratch my arse,” he laughs.
“I’m seriously just looking forward to taking some time off. I don’t even want to think about music and then just come back with a fresh perspective – I’m taking it one step at a time.”
DRAPHT will be touring nationally, performing at Billboard The Venue on Friday April 22 (tickets from billboardthevenue.com.au, ticketek.com.au or 132 849) and appearing at this year’s Groovin’ The Moo festival. His new album The Life Of Riley is available now.