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Defron on why releasing a mixtape can be better than an album

Plagued by an excess of ill health and surgeries, Melbourne-based hip hop artist Defron, otherwise known as Kieron Byatt, has had more than his fair share of obstacles to overcome. 

Battling onward through surgeries for a rare hearing condition, Byatt dabbles in creative writing, teaching English, debating and poetry, as well as running the hip hop and electronic department at Victorian non-profit youth music organisation, The Push. Aside from that, his music occupies him and in November he released his first mixtape, Maybe You’ll Be Famous When You’re Dead.

Speaking with Beat, Defron is recovering from yet another surgery. “It wasn’t as debilitating as my last surgery, my pain is pretty much gone but I’m still recovering energy-wise.” To listen to Defron’s music, inspired by artists like Chance the Rapper, Ty Dolla $ign and Freddie Gibbs, how he manages to maintain his commitments to his craft is impeccably admirable. To create something so cohesive and professionally produced, it’s easy to be blown away by Defron. 

At the start of 2017, Defron’s mental health came to a head – a big thing for him was to sort out his health physically and mentally; encouragement from his partner to shake up his nutrition allowed Defron a rejuvenated clarity. “Fortunately I have a lifestyle now where I have a natural balancing act in jobs,” he says, “I had a reinvigorated sense of purpose in terms of what I wanted to do artistically, creatively. It was a marathon, not a sprint, the way I approached the [mixtape] project.

“It was all therapeutic writing in the way I would work through my demons – I think I wrote 25 to 30 songs.”

Thinking his change to nutrition and health was a cure-all for his mental health, when he went into the studio Defron found it to be a coping mechanism. Going in to record, all his anxiety and depression was resurfacing, and Defron found it fitting that the project he wrote to fight his mental health was, in fact, aiding his mental health. “It’s a bit poetic in a way,” he says.

“One thing with my history with illness is I’ve always had an incredible drive. I try to make every day count as much as possible – not only do I work but I make time for play as well. I’m always reading comics, watching films – I often get told, people don’t know where I get the energy from.”

All or nothing is the only way Defron knows how to do things, illnesses be damned. It’s go, go, go, for him, with a relentless effort and determination. “To the max,” Byatt says. “Zero to 100 as quickly as possible.

“A way I like to maintain my productivity is going from one thing to another, that’s my way of resting. When I need a break from music, I’ll go to writing – it’s the same way I work on a day-to-day basis, take a break by doing something completely different.”

The motivations and branding can alter on a mixtape compared to an album and Defron has found reason to hold off on his debut album. “The reason for the mixtape, in my career, I feel I’m still building my audience – I want to reward my audience when it gets to a certain size, with giving them my debut album.

“Going into making Maybe You’ll Be Famous When You’re Dead, I didn’t know how to make an album but the idea of making a mixtape was not as much pressure on myself. Approaching it as a mixtape gave me the freedom to mentally get a full-length project done.”

For Defron, Maybe You’ll Be Famous When You’re Dead is not just an exercise in branding, it’s the short story before the novel. 

Defron’s new mixtape Maybe You’ll Be Famous When You’re Dead is out now. He’ll be launching the release at Horse Bazaar on Saturday January 12. Tickets via Eventbrite.