Melbourne rapper, Perry Chapman aka Pez was at the forefront of a new generation of Australian hip hop acts when he blew up nationally with The Festival Song in 2008, until a health scare put him out of action for two years and robbed him of his momentum. He speaks with JOSHUA HAYES about picking up the pieces ahead of his appearance at Big Day Out on Sunday, February 2 at Claremont Showgrounds.
When Chapman’s thoughtful and feel good debut, A Mind Of My Own (2008) put him in the national spotlight, he says it was initially like a dream come true; however, he struggled with his sudden fame.
“You might dream about it and think it’s going to happen and it seems so perfect in your head. When it actually does happen, really quickly, it’s pretty bizarre,” he reveals.
The naturally shy young rapper recalls his uncertainty around going from recording music in his bedroom to fronting festivals with thousands of punters chanting his name, and being surrounded by people with questionable motives. The pressures built up until he was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease – an autoimmune disease affecting his thyroids, which led to a two year hiatus from writing and recording music.
“As I was that little bit shy, I didn’t really deal with the attention very well… It was literally throughout that period that my thyroids started going crazy and I knew something was a bit wrong.”
Unable to capitalise on A Mind Of My Own with a follow up, Chapman watched as other rappers who emerged at the same time – such as his ForthWrite partner 360 – went on to reach new levels of success. And then, having overcome his illness, Chapman faced another challenge – anxiety over starting to write and record again.
“I hadn’t made any music and wasn’t really sure how to start,” he says. “You kind of pop up and everyone’s like ‘Oh your new album must be almost ready, Pez is back and it’s going to be on, blah blah blah’ and I’m like ‘Oh shit, I haven’t even written a song’ and ‘How do you do this again? I can’t even remember what the hell I was doing’.”
It took time, but Chapman says he was able to remember how and why he loved making music. He’ll explore these challenges on his new album, Don’t Look Down, which he hopes to release early this year. Big Day Out attendees will get a sneak preview of some of his new material. “I’m looking forward to really testing a whole bunch of new stuff on an unsuspecting audience and see how it goes down,” he says, noting that he will be exploring new sounds on the album.
“I was always pretty much known as that guy who makes chill, happy, relaxed, laidback music… so the fact that some of the newer stuff is sonically so much more impressive and bigger and a bit more epic and has a lot more energy, I think some of those songs will translate really well live.”
Chapman is not planning to disappear after Don’t Look Down with a ForthWrite album also on the cards; he feels ready to handle the spotlight. “In hindsight, stepping back now, I’ve had time to grow and make sense of it,” he says. “I think I feel much better equipped to go out there and deal with it and do it all over again properly.”