Prove your humanity

Melbourne MC PEZ emerges from the depths of his musical hiatus to DNM with GROK magazine following the release of his second studio album ‘Don’t Look Down.’ The Aussie rapper gets real; talking touring, dad life, and the emotional struggles of backing up the success of his first album.

What have you been up to over the past year?

Been pretty crazy; had a daughter, renovated a house, finally put an album out, [and] toured with the Thundamentals. Very different experience after being on hiatus for years and wandering around in a fog. It’s gone from 0 to 100—it’s been good.

What was it like touring with Thundamentals?

That was amazing—they were really good dudes. To actually have some time where you get to know everyone and hang out was really cool.  They were very welcoming and the shows went really well so that was exciting.

How was the process of releasing ‘Don’t Look Down’ different to ‘A Mind of My Own’?

The first one was weird in the sense that you’re almost making it in a bedroom. I just had these dreams of being a rapper, I didn’t even know what to expect. It took off and was pretty crazy, and it just had a life of its own a little bit.

This time I was swallowed by a lot of self-doubt, and stalling, and procrastination. For a long time I probably thought maybe it wasn’t going to happen and then right towards the end when I knew I was going to have a daughter, I finally had this shift that made me want to do it.

I started to let go, and actually go forward in life and enjoy the process. It certainly had more weight attached to it than the first time around where there was no pressure or expectation, and you’re just making it more for the love.

You took a break from music for a while there, how do you think that helped you develop as an artist?

For me it felt like a hindrance at first because I loved writing raps and music. It was my sanctuary; it was like my escape from life. It was a weird experience to lose that feeling, where my mind started to get in the way of the process and ruin it. Towards the tail end of it I think I started to learn a bit more about myself and my process and how not to fight that.

Why do you think you lost that love for writing that you had at the start?

At the start it was probably expectation and pressure; whether it was from the label or managers or fans or even just myself to be honest. It was nice to come out the other side. 

I suppose a lot of artists struggle with that as well?

Yeah I think so. You talk to people and realize it’s not as uncommon as you think. Everyone’s battling it in their own way.

What was it like to film the new video for ‘Can’t Wait’? How did you get Hailey on board?

That was cool! It was fun to do a little video together, that’s the first song we play when we play live—it’s got a great energy to it.

The National Album tour kicks off in April, are you excited to be touring again?

Yeah! More so than ever. In the past it used to be real daunting, like I’d almost dread it. I’d get nervous before I went on stage and it would just freak me out. I’d be in my head a lot of the time.

I probably just didn’t understand the real beauty of performing live—when you actually let go, and totally give yourself over and surrender to the experience. It became really really enjoyable.

[The shows] are pretty up close and personal, and the energy you get when everyone is crammed into a room like that is real cool.

I’m pretty excited about it for sure.

Where are you most looking forward to playing?

I’m excited to play my hometown show: the Melbourne show. It’s important; you have family and friends there, and that is really exciting.

Brissy! There’s always been a lot of love up there so I’m excited to go there. I’m excited to go everywhere. I haven’t been back to Perth in along time so it will be good to be there.

I love all the labels down in Sydney so everyone will be down for that.

To be honest, to be able to play these four shows is like a win-win, and hopefully in the future I’ll be able to go some other places as well.

The new record features some pretty big names; 360, Paul Dempsey…. What was it like to work with them?

It was pretty awesome. Working with Sixty (360) is always good because we’ve been mates for years so our chemistry is pretty natural. Working with him reminded me of what it should feel like when you’re writing a song—it’s supposed to be enjoyable, and not this real heavy process—it was really good.

And then with Paul Dempsey I already had a chorus melody in mind and I felt like I wanted someone with a bit of pain in their voice. Mark from my label was like, “if you want that how about Paul Dempsey?” and we kind of laughed to ourselves, “as if he’s going to be interested.” But he was there the next night in the studio singing in one or two takes like a pro. For him it was like ‘Bang!’ This is it, “oh you want to do these harmonies? Yeah, no problem, I can do that” and it was like ‘holy shit, this is, like, the real deal’, so it was very cool.

What changes have you seen in the direction of Aussie hip-hop since you’ve returned?

Probably just the direction and sound of music. I think what was cool for a while there was that little golden era—that window where it felt like Australian hip-hop just had its own sound going on which I thought was really cool. Hip-hop is like an international phenomenon, particularly with younger kids and what they’re listening to, as well as what comes out of America slowly affects the sound here.

It’s going to be interesting to see the direction that it does take over the next few years, whether it still has its own identity or if it becomes more of an Australian version of what’s happening in America.

The Hilltop Hoods are still on top—they’re huge; playing Rod Laver arena and they still have that real classic sound. Even the Thundamentals new album has that more modern tone like what’s going on overseas, so it’s interesting to see what different guys are going to do.

‘Don’t Look Down’s’ already received 1 million streams on Spotify—the tour kicks off in April, so what’s next after that?

I would like to do a bigger more regional tour. I’ve been talking to 360 about maybe doing a little tour together. We’ve got a few songs for his mix tape and album. I’m definitely starting to write now for another thing—I just want to keep really busy and see how the year unfolds.

I’m hoping that these shows go really well and off the back of that we can build on it. Times a bit more precious these days, but its cool. I think being a dad makes you soak it up and actually enjoy it a bit. It’s been one of the real beautiful things about having a daughter; it just shifts your whole perspective which is really cool.

PEZ will be playing at Jack Rabbit Slims on Saturday April 8