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Draino – emcee and member of the Puah Hedz Crew. In 2001 he released The OZ cella, a multimedia CD ROM documenting artists active in the Australian hip
hop scene. An accompanying website was regularly updated by Draino until 2005. By June 2003, The OZ cella had chronicled 509 individual Australian hip hop artists, 105
239 groups, 24 crews, and 141 recordings, representing every state and territory apart fromthe Northern Territory . Draino is the inspiration for the Australian Hip Hop Directory.
Please introduce yourself.
Draino of the Puah Hedz. I reside in Melbourne, Australia. I rap and make beats. I’m also known as the creator of The Oz Cella.
Now, it’s been a while, but you’ve got a solo album out, what can you tell us about it?
It’s a 13 track LP that runs for 50 minutes exactly that also contains a multi-media section listing all of my mix CDs I’ve made since 1998; about 32 of them. [for a review of the album, click here]
The album is very reflective of my mind state from 1998 to 2002. I touch on many topics, from my personal fears, my place in society – or rather out of it, my feelings on old people and their lives when they lose their soul mate, been taken for granted by friends, the wonderful world of sleep, etc. It is an extremely reflective release which contains heaps of content that people will hopefully relate to.
What had you do such a personal album?
I wanted to put me out there. Not an alter ego. I wanted to create music that people would feel enough to say they knew me. Enough to want to come up and talk about shit like old friends. The topics used have been brewing in the background for years and I always dreamt of putting them down on songs. I feel such relief now it is done. Now I can move on to the next mission.
Have you been afraid about how much you let people know of yourself?
Not at all. The people who actually pay attention and like my stuff are the cool people anyway. They are the people I could be friends with. They understand where I’m coming from. 99% of people are too caught up in their own worlds anyway, to give two fucks about Draino. I’m proud I have what I’ve done and would never take back my honesty for a second.
So what has the reaction been from it. Did people try to spark up a conversation?
A few people here and there were touched by different songs. One guy was inspired by “Future Investments” and has decided to change his life and make those sacrifices to achieve those bigger goals in life. Every song so far has touched someone. I’m content with the result.
You also mentioned the mixtape part on the CD. What is it?
Draino’s Mix CD’s. Yeah, in 1998 I started making mix CD’s for my car. Each mix CD has a cover design with the tracks listed on the back. See, hip hop artists seem to have shout outs, but never reveal their favorite tracks by each artist. I am a true rap fan, so I wanted to show the people what music I’ve truly enjoyed.
You left your job to do the album. In retrospect, how do you see that decision?
Financially it was a mistake, but for personal satisfaction it was the right thing to do. It was something I had to do. It was eating away at me inside. I had to get it out. Everyday at work I’d have the urge to record, but I couldn’t. I’d get home and I’d be physically exhausted. Then the weekend would come and I’d want to kick it with some friends and do the chores around the house. I couldn’t find the time and energy, so I broke the vicious cycle and quit my job. It felt good.
How did you make it work out financially and creatively?
Well, I planned for 6 months off; it turned out to be 12 months before I got another 9-5 job. I somehow stretched the budget for 12 months. Just! I took the album at my own pace and the creativity just flowed. I’m now just about to break even, and that is without any shows and limited press. I try not to think about the money I could have earned and focus on what I have created. It’s just money right!
What’s the modus operandi for the Puah Hedz?
Osinaka, who knows. This guy makes dope beats, but his personal affairs need to be sorted.
DJ FX is still kicking it and helped film the “Info Leakage” film clip. He still DJ’s for Muphin and I whenever there is a show on.
Muphin, he’s my bro and I love him, but only he could tell you if he is still a Puah Hed. [for Muphin’s answer, see his interview here]
Tell us about the Cella.
It’s at: Is it the who’s who of Australian Hip Hop. 140 releases with track listings, times, line-ups. 500 artists and their discographies. It’s where you go to get schooled on Australian Rap Music.
How much of work do you still put in it?
Since I moved out of my folks house, not much. When people send me their releases I add them. But I don’t take photos anymore. It’s too much of a stress. 500 hours of work for not a cent. You know how it feels tadah right?
Uhm, I guess yes (smiles). But what has changed since it’s online?
Revamped colour design, layout, got rid of flyers for shows, lyrics section, more photos, releases… more info…!!!
Is it a service people have to pay for?
I would make it if I could. The market for Australian Hip Hop needs to keep growing. Instead of moving 1000-2000 units, we need to move 5000-10000 units. Then companies would see it as a good investment. Do you really think banners work? I’ve never once bought any product via the net because of a banner. Have you? I think it is a big farce that helps the internet survive.
It depends what the banners are. I think banners to get you to another site don’t work. Banners I think can work when you treat ’em like an advertisement in a print magazine however. Now, you are the right person to ask you this, considering the Cella. Can you give us a quick break down on the history of Australian hip hop?
Shit. From a rap stand point, all I can say is, its growth over the last 10 years has been crazy. Especially the last 3 years with Obese Records really stamping their name as Australian premier Hip Hop Label. The classic Stealth Mag created by Mark Pollard is A-Grade hip hop mag that people need to acknowledge. There are more radio shows playing Australian Hip Hop than ever. There is now a generation of Australian Hip Hop teenagers that only listen to Oz hip hop. Over the next few years things will blow up and you will see the groups who have paid dues finally getting paid.
What would your comment be on the progression of it?
Tighter flows, more creative drum programming, mixture of samples rather than straight sample loops. Huge variety of voices, flows and topics. It still sounds fresh and unique to me. The accent is a love or hate thing. It is definitely for people who want something refreshingly different.
What’s the general approach of Australian’s to homegrown hip hop?
Well, you will find a lot of non-rap people getting into it. Cause it’s like local. It’s cool to hear someone from the suburb next to you doing their thing. Talking about things you can relate to. The accent is the hardest thing to get past, but once you get over it and discover its beauty, then you fall in love with it.
How far does homegrown rap go, as far as recognition, sales, charts, etc?
Well, the numbers are approximately: Independent releases on CD/Vinyl move 500-2000 over a year. If you’re signed to Virgin or some big label, it’s 20000-30000 over a year. All independent artists don’t make any of the charts. They just pack the clubs with loyal fans.
I suggest you check the Oz Cella’s top workers to see who are the people in the scene who are putting in work and deserve recognition.
How do you see the future of it?
More videos, more groups getting signed, bigger distribution of releases across the country. More radio shows playing Oz hip hop. Getting some high profile acts out there to Europe to tour. More releases and more publicity. It will just keep getting bigger and better.
One thing that often strikes me, that the oddity factor does not seem to work. What I mean by that is, that there seem very few people that are interested in hearing hip hop from an ‘odd’ place, like Australia, Poland, Singapore or Switzerland for that matter, just for the fact that they are from there. It’s like people eating McDonalds, instead of Thai. People don’t dare to try something new.
I don’t know if you understand what I’m saying, but does that puzzle you too, why someone can’t see the ‘adventure’ in listening to something from a far off place? What then would benefit the artists from those areas again.
It doesn’t surprise me at all. First you have the language barrier. I know they speak Polish in Poland, but do they rap in English? With a Polish accent? Damn… what does a polish accent sound like? Most people won’t do the research to find out this info, hence they just deal what they are comfortable with. Then if you hear some music, how do you get it? International stuff is usually obtainable by the web and sometimes locally in specialist shops. I love hearing new stuff from around the globe if it’s sincerely them. I think most people hear commercial stuff from each country and assume it is all like that.
It is not, even within the Oz Hip Hop community there is a vast array of styles. People just need to dig a little deeper.
Tell us a little bit about what city you’re from?
Melbourne, pronounced mel-burn. I grew up in a large suburb out in the sticks called Eltham. That’s 50 minutes from the city on the train. I then moved to Balwyn in 1997, what is 25 minutes away in the car. Both suburbs have lovely fresh air, plenty of space and lack of thugs. Some famous streets :
Chapel St in Prahran
Brunswick St in Fitzroy
Bourke St in the City
Lygon St. in Carlton
Fitzroy St. in St.Kilda
Victoria is the state that invented Football. Aussie Rules… not soccer!
Wouldn’t that be rugby?
No mate. Rugby is for the New South Welsh men and the Queenslanders. Aussie rules is the game with 18 players on each side chasing an oblong looking ball that you kick and handball and score points by kicking it though the sticks found at either end. It’s a very entertaining game to watch. Don’t you get it on Foxtel?
We don’t have Fox on regular cable. We like to keep that Murdoch guy out of our country (smile).
Now as I understand it Melbourne’s scene is bigger than Sydney’s. Do you see a reason why?
More people make music in Melbourne and have more fun doing it. Melbourne is more into supporting the whole local scene rather than specific groups. I actually believe Adelaide has a stronger scene than Sydney. Debris from the Hilltop Hoods is the man in Adelaide. This guy gets mad respect from me for his contributions to making shit happen in Adelaide.
Not many know much about the Australian scene, what’s there to know?
We have big shows on average once a month for the past 5 years. The usual venues for show in Melbourne are Revolver Upstairs, Hi-Fi Bar, Prince of Wales, Corner Hotel, The Laundry. We have had artists such as Mystik Journeymen, The Grouch, Eligh, Murs, Latyrx, Aceyalone, Abstract Rude, Eminem, Swollen Members, Pep Love, Mr. Lif, Company Flow, Sole, Dose One, Foreign Legion, Sage Francis, Del La Soul, Tha Alkaholiks, Souls of Mischief play in the country.
Obese Records is the place to visit in the state of Victoria. Next Level Records is the place to visit in the state of New South Wales. Ruffcut Records is the place to visit in the state of Tasmania. Rocking Horse Records is the place to visit in the state of Queensland. Da Klinic is the place to visit in the state of South Australia.
Is that enough info?
A lot of people would love to travel or even live in Australia. In what way are they right, because it is a beautiful, nice, excellent, etc. place?
Yep. It is the lucky country for sure. In general people are more laid back and fun. There’s lots of trees, fresh air, space to wander and a low crime rate. Even dope hip hop gets all the way over here. What more could you ask for!
In what way they are wrong?
Yes, we have Kangaroos, Koalas, Crocodiles and all that, but they don’t run the country. We have the internet and mobile phones. Not everyone is a cobber and wears hats like Mick Dundee.
What’s your favorite place in Australia and Melbourne?
Eltham in Victoria between 1990 and 1996. Those were the years when the memories were sweet. Trees, lots of friends and cool positive stuff to do. And now living with my girl in Camberwell just building an unbreakable friendship. Here Here!
So what’s coming up from you and yours?
Staying low at the moment. Taking time out to veg out and think about my next weird and wonderful project.
With that said, let’s wrap it up with some shouts and concluding words.
I’d like to thank everyone who checked out my album and got something out of it. I’d like to thank the hip hop acts that have played in Melbourne over the last 6 years. Thanks for the sweet memories. All the heads in the Australian hip hop scene making music and building the scene. Respect to tadah, your site is huge man and I fully respect the time and effort put in to it. I’d like to conclude by saying “Fulfill your dreams now before your passion fades away and you become a cranky son of a gun”.
Thanks for your time tadah.
Draino, with a cheeky grin.