DPR IAN’s relationship with his art goes far beyond just making music. The singer-songwriter, videographer and creative director takes an intimate, hands-on approach to his craft with every release, painstakingly building an immersive visual and emotional experience his songs find a home in.
A self-proclaimed perfectionist, DPR IAN (real name Christian Yu) fixates on every detail of his work – which is why it’s not too surprising when he admits to NME he’s still adding the finishing touches to his debut studio album one week away from its release.
Titled ‘Moodswings In To Order’, or as the Sydney-born artist affectionately dubs it, ‘MIITO’, his first studio album is part of a much larger picture, one actualized in its accompanying two-part short film. This project is also deeply personal: It tells the tale of Mito, a character first introduced in his 2021 debut EP that personifies his experience living with bipolar disorder – a struggle DPR IAN has been vocal about for years.
“I have these manic highs and downs, but I like to just equate all of those manic episodes that I go into, dedicate it to this person,” he shares. He’s an otherwise regular guy, “but when I’m in these episodes, I change completely. I turned a switch and became this whole new person with crazy ideas. I became very chaotic.”
“You know, if I’m going to come out as an artist, I don’t want to just come out as me. It’s kind of boring,” he adds with a dry laugh. “Not only that, but a lot of my songs, I make during my manic episodes. So, it’s not me, it’s Mito that makes these songs, and I just gave him a name.”
If last year’s ‘Moodswings In This Order’ was an introduction to Mito, the singer says, the new 12-track record is about the character’s backstory. The tale of ‘MIITO’ opens with the intro track ‘Seraph’, in which Mito gives a distorted monologue:And as you lay your grace on me / The skies begin to bleach red / And the stars begin to fall.”
“The story is a lot broader. You see the origins of how Mito actually used to be an archangel, and then he turns into, I guess, the demon that he is,” DPR IAN explains. “But it was out of pure love, and betrayal from that love.”
“I always lose myself in the moment”
In his captivating new film, the musician fights, sings, and dances through Mito’s journey, detailing every moment after his biblical fall from grace, pushing an already intense sonic experience to its limits. “Be afraid. Be very afraid,” DPR IAN says, a playful grin spreading across his face as he warns NME of what’s in store. “From the making of the music, producing it, and then obviously, directing it and being on camera, painting the whole character out – it’s definitely very exciting. I always lose myself in the moment.
“[The album] is such a body of work for me. It’s not just like, one song is the outstanding one, the title track. And therefore, we came up with the idea that it should be treated as such: We needed to have this [made] into a short film, you know, almost like a musical.” DPR IAN stepped into the role of storyteller, he says, and became a multi-hyphenate along the way. “I dance, I act, and I perform because I want to tell my story better. That’s why. Not because I want to be an actor, not because I want to be a good dancer. I want to be good at it, so it further enhances the story I tell.”
DPR IAN’s all-encompassing approach to storytelling is a culmination of myriad experiences accumulated throughout his life. Since his high school days, he has been in a hardcore metal band, been a b-boy dancer, K-pop idol and now, a soloist. At 31, he has done it all. “Well, almost all,” he jokes. “I still have to do a bit of ballet, but you know. It has been quite a journey.”
After his former group C-CLOWN disbanded in 2015, he teamed up with DPR LIVE to start their independent Dream Perfect Regime collective. Unable to appear in front of the camera until his contract with his previous agency had expired, he used the time to nurture his love for videography. “They wouldn’t let me go on media or anything for the remaining years of my contract. I had a seven-year contract, of which, during my promotions, I only filled up about four.”
“It’s funny because at that time, I resented that so much. I wanted to do music, I wanted to be my own artist. But it was humbling, because I made that time worthwhile, learning videography,” DPR IAN reflects. “Had I not done that I probably wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now.”
“I dance, I act, and I perform because I want to tell my story better”
What are DPR IAN’s plans for Mito once his debut album is out? “At one point, I know I have to kill this character,” he says reluctantly. The singer recounts a recent conversation with a friend where they came to the conclusion that he was in a relationship of sorts with Mito.
“I don’t want to break up with that character,” DPR IAN confesses, describing Mito as his “feeling tank” before adding: “Because I honestly chase chaos. I love chaos – to myself – I don’t like to ensure it on anybody else. But I’ve always been one to feed from chaos, which is what makes my art so dark, but beautiful.”
DPR IAN’s next release will, he reveals, complete the Mito trilogy. “Mito has been this character that I’ve always held on to and sealed a lot of my personal experiences into. I want to make amends with this character, I think, and that will be the finale,” he ponders. “But the thing about me is that if I’m not genuinely ready, I have a hard time letting things go. I’m such a hoarder. That’s like, my toxic trait.”
Looking to the nearer future, the singer voices his excitement for the DPR collective’s massive Regime World Tour later this year, which has sold out most of its 33 shows at the time of NME’s conversation with him. “We didn’t know what to expect, but I guess, especially after COVID and everything – I think people need this, you know? People need to feel alive again,” he says. “I think that’s why we’re so sensitive about giving them the best show. After all those years of being stuck at home and a lot of mishaps, we want to reward them again with this experience.”
DPR IAN will be jumping straight into tour preparations after he drops the album – a hectic schedule, he acknowledges, but it’s worth it, especially when considering most of his fans have yet to see him perform as a soloist. He’s also looking forward to his fans finally taking in the full Mito experience – which will conclude with the next release and its own short film.
“When you see it, it’s a lot to take in. But that’s what I want to do. I want to shock people.”
DPR IAN’s debut studio album ‘Moodswings In To Order’ and its accompanying short film are out now