The electric music producer and collaborator, Draper, is super driven, and strikes a balance between confident and humble as he reflects over his success so far in the industry.
Describing 2016 as a "make or break" year for him, he definitely seems to have made it, with an even more promising year ahead for 2017. He’s just released his EP, ’Luminous’, and has a summer of live shows lined up stateside.
Best known for his remixes for mainstream artists, including Rita Ora, Ellie Goulding, All Saints and Twin Atlantic, Draper discovered a love of producing electronic music at 16, when he got his first software from his parents. Just two years later he began to fully develop a name for himself, winning several remix competitions for well-known artists, and gaining the attention of high-profile fellow musicians. In 2010, he released his first original music ’The Introduction EP’, and released his first commercial EP in 2012.
Tell me about your new EP.
Yeah, it just came out. And it’s super... Draper.
What does that mean exactly?
I’m not sure. Someone gave me this as a description, but I like to think of it as... fun escapism. So I try not to let outside influences really affect my music. Not in a negative way, but I just want to be able to write. And that writing in the moment right there is all I’m thinking of. So this EP is just… it’s not like where genres are at, it’s not where politics are at. It’s just stuff that I’m writing at the moment and that really motivates me. I have to really be energised by the music for me to take it to the final product.
What song are you most excited about?
I am most excited about the track ‘Who Are You’ because I sang on it, and I’ve never sang on a song before. I’m not really a singer and so it was a real confidence thing there for me to get over. So I’m excited to see how that one kind of plays out and see the feedback from that. But in all it’s just how the EP does as a whole, that’s the important part, you know. Track by track people have their own favourites, and that’s great, but it’s kind of how the EP does online, how it does live as well. Just to see people’s reaction to when I play it.
Talking about online, Spotify has been a bit of a game-changer for you.
Absolutely. Spotify is an interesting one because they create such a great platform to find any music in the world and especially to find new music. That’s something that not a lot of places do. There’s nothing that really tailors to the listener saying, ‘Hey, you like this -- listen to this!’. So in that respect it’s just so powerful. It’s still... if you think about the existence of humanity [laughs], it’s still very early days that streaming exists, you know. So it’s like five, ten years. That’s nothing. So there’s always going to be -- where something new comes along -- there’s always going to be teething issues, you know. Like figuring out where that service sits within the music industry, and right now it seems like it’s settling in a bit more. In five, ten years time from now it will be the default thing, you know, everyone will stream. So I just think that once that happens and everyone’s paying for a subscription then everyone will adapt and musicians will adapt... and the industry just adapts to new services, I think. And if you’re against it and you’re fighting against it, you’re fighting against change. And this is good change. It’s not a bad change.
I guess because you’ve been doing this since you were sixteen you’ve come into this at a good time. I can imagine that for musicians starting out -- although Spotify is getting their music out there -- it’s not bringing the revenue in. But you’re possibly quite lucky because now you’re doing those gigs and concerts.
Absolutely, but it would also be quite tough for the musicians ten years before me. I think those guys are going to have the trickiest time to adapt because their old music is going onto a streaming service. Just for example, The Beatles at one point had less than 1,000 streams on Spotify. And it’s that kind of thing where, obviously they’re the Beatles, but if it were someone that may not be that active now, that’s going to feel like no one is buying it anymore.
I guess you could make the argument that they’ve had their revenue from CD sales already.
Absolutely. I was in two minds about the whole streaming thing, but then everyone seemed to transition over anyway. So it kind balances itself out. But I think it’s a good thing. Per stream it may be quite a low revenue, but you get more people hearing it. So what do you want, more people to hear it and get paid less, or you get more money and less people share it?
Said like a true artist! So one of the features of your music is the great vocals. Who have you got for this album?
So we’ve got an amazing four. Well five, actually…
Six, including me! But the main single singers are... BB Diamond. Phenomenal singer. Absolutely on her way up. You know, we’re kind of at the same level right now, and we’re both getting the same support and that sort of thing. So to be able to write with her was such a great thing because we are in the same place musically. And so to put that together it just gelled really well. Exactly the same principal with KYKO who’s just a great writer, and that session worked really easily. Sam Sure, he’s another one who’s on the way up. Basically I’m working with people who are also in the same position as me, working their way up and trying to make a name for themselves. And to be able to share the platform and say, ‘Well look, I’m trying to make a name for myself, jump onboard’, and vice versa, it’s a great thing. And obviously I’m singing on there as well.
When you were starting out you were helped by the frontman of Bring Me The Horizon, Oliver Sykes. Is that a common thing in the industry, that people help each other to the extent that he helped you? Or is that a rarity?
A rarity. I think I got very very lucky. Ollie found my music and liked it so he kind of helped prop me up and gave me a fan base that I would have struggled to find in that short space of a time. And that’s a great thing to do. And he didn’t have to do it. But he wanted to, and he was in a position that he could, because he was obviously established and all that. I would hope that I would do the same thing, but I don’t think it happens frequently. And it doesn’t have to happen frequently. It’s almost like, why me? Why me, and not the millions of other people who would die for that opportunity? To get an artist, an established artist, to promote their music. So it is very much a rarity, but also not a necessity. I think if anything it makes it more rewarding if you can get somewhere without any help. But at the same time there’s no shame in asking for help.
I saw your message on the Indaba Music forum...
When I read it I though it was great because you were just like, ‘Hey guys, I’m not active on this platform anymore but it’s great’. I think that’s a really good message to be sending out to people trying to do the same thing you’re doing, and also for the platform. If it’s making a difference it’s nice to have that acknowledgement fed back into it.
Absolutely. I mean, again, that was before Ollie. And that platform is an amazing community of people and again, I don’t think I would have released something that Ollie then would have heard because I was doing it for fun, and I had no idea what I was doing. So these people on this service, they give you feedback on your music, they give you tips on production. And it’s all just like-minded producers. And without that, again, I don’t think I would have released anything professionally. So I have a lot to thank for Indaba.
I saw you did an AMA recently on Reddit. Are you a Redditer?
I’m not, so this was a new experience for me.
How did it go?
It was good. I was astounded by how many questions there were. Because I was like, ‘Right, I’m doing this! I’m not answering some, I’m answering every single one’. It took me, honestly, around three solid hours of typing to answer every single question.
And they’re probably still coming in [laughs].
Yeah, and I do go back on there, and if there are any good ones I’ll respond. But what’s great is that the community will answer each other’s questions, like any other forum. But they’re answering for me. Which is great because you can just scroll through and find the answer. But yeah, it was amazing. Just the feedback and chatting to people. And it’s so amazing and humbling to know that there are people who care enough to ask you a question. It’s something you just don’t think… you know, I’d love to ask Chris Martin a question, it’s just a really cool thing to do.
Well, maybe Chris Martin will read this!
[Laughs] Yeah, exactly.
Who’s the best person you’ve worked with?
[Pause] Hmm, that’s tricky. I think every singer I’ve written I really enjoy writing with… But one of the coolest people I’ve worked with, in terms of the principle of the session... I wrote with an artist called A*M*E and she basically was going to be the first session I ever had when I started when I was like 18 or 19, like doing it professionally. But I said I wasn’t ready, I just didn’t want to do it. And so that session didn’t happen. But then three years later we write together and... I feel like I’ve come so much further than where I was, and I was ready, and I was confident to do a session. So that A*M*E session felt like a great moment. It’s a very different answer to your question [laughs]. I don’t think I could pick a favourite, you know. Singers all have their own perks, they all have their own fun elements you know, so it’s always great writing with people, no matter what they’re like.
What does it feel like to be offered a session and say ‘no’? To admit to yourself that you don’t feel like you’re at that point yet?
It’s good. It’s a good thing. It feels like I’m being realistic about my skills. Because I don’t want to jump in… I mean it’s great to jump into the deep end sometimes, but other times you just don’t. If it’s not worth it then it’s not worth it. And if you don’t think you’re ready then you’re not going to benefit from it. You’re just going to be sitting there thinking, ‘Oh I knew I shouldn’t have done this’. Or afterwards thinking you shouldn’t have done it, or…. It’s just a whole head fuck.
If you weren’t doing music right now what would you being doing?
I hope I would have gone into music in some capacity, whether I was working for a label, or a production group or, I don’t know, something like that. Not to say that I won’t be doing something else at some point, you know. But yeah, I would hope I’d be doing something in music.
You were Tweeting about video games the other day, what’s your favourite?
Of all time..? It’s probably GTA5. That’s quite recent, but it was such a great game. And I spent a lot of hours online. But yeah, I do enjoy my games. I think I tweeted out my gamer name for people to add me, and I chatted to a couple of people on there which is quite fun.
So this morning I got an email from myself, which I wrote a year ago but the website sends it a year later on the same date. So, basically I woke up to all this weird advice I sent myself a year ago.
If you could send yourself an email that you’ll get in a year’s time, what would you tell yourself?
Oh right! That’s cool! Erm, I would say… ‘Don’t hold back’. Just, as a freelance producer, the best thing you can do is work hard and take any opportunity that comes your way. Because you can’t be picky when you’re trying to make it, you know. And it is a struggle to make it, because there are so many people trying to make it. So the best you can do, the best I can do, is just put my all into it. So that’s what I would hope. I’d hope that in a year’s time I would still be putting my all into it.
That’s funny, because it’s such a contract with what you were saying about not accepting things if you don’t think you’re ready, like the session with A*M*E. So is it that now you’re at the point where you feel ready to tackle anything?
Yes! Also, be realistic with what you can accept, opportunity-wise.
What’s next for the year?
So after February I’ll be building up towards South by Southwest (SXSW) in Texas. I’ll be out there for that festival, which is my first in a town like that so that’s going to be really fun. Before that I’m in New York doing some shows there. Then SXSW, then over to L.A. And it’s just going to be a really exciting trip, because I’ve never been to the west coast, I’ve never been to Austin, Texas. So it’s going to be really really great fun. And then festival season. Just basically headfirst into absolutely any opportunity I can get.
Drapers EP ’Luminious’ is out now via iTunes and for his latest info head to www.drapermusic.co.uk
Words by Louise Jo McLoughlin
Photography Anna Urik
Grooming Lynda Darragh
Shot at Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen