Christian Yu, better known by his stage name DPR Ian, was in Abu Dhabi this weekend for his first-ever performance in the region. As part of the Hyperound K-Fest, the South Korea-based Australian singer treated his fans (aka Dreamers) to a thrilling act of some of his beloved hits, “So Beautiful”, “Dope Lover”, as well as “Bad Cold” from his second EP Dear Insanity…
The 33-year-old is best known for his deep involvement in his cinematic music videos and music drawing from his personal experience with bipolar and dissociative identity disorders. However, it’s also his refreshing honesty about his mental health which has helped break the stigma around the disorders in South Korea, and an aim to connect with fans through his work, that has made him one of the realest artists in the industry. Dedicated Dreamers are familiar with his alternate personas—MITO and Mr Insanity—but even casual listeners know him for his genuine interactions with fans. Alongside videos of his dynamic stage performances, a quick search on DPR Ian would also show you clips of him taking the time out to greet fans, exchange words of appreciation, and essentially make their day.
Ahead of his Abu Dhabi performance, Vogue Arabia caught up with DPR Ian to learn more about this special connection.
Your stage outfits and music videos incorporate elaborate style as a key element to storytelling. What does fashion mean to you as an artist?
I think it means character. And what I mean by that is fashion, I think plays a huge part, especially to me, personally, in building character.
I’ll give you a good example. If I say Superman, what do you see visually? You see the bodysuit, latex, the blue, the red cape. And what if I say Clark Kent? Same person, but you see the alter version where he’s in a suit tie and you have the reading glasses. Again, maybe the Joker, you know exactly what you see. Robin? Exactly what you see. Catwoman? Exactly. So again, all of these pieces in terms of fashion, I think it creates and builds the image of the character and hence, I think it’s absolutely vital for storytelling. So for me, I think, yeah, it’s character.
Although your music touches upon themes that are not light-hearted, your fans are known to find great comfort in it. How does that make you feel?
I think I feel very, I guess welcomed, because for me, just like you said, the topics aren’t really light-hearted and there’s no real intent in doing so other than—I just really wanna be genuine. You know, that’s the only thing I can really say. The only thing I can really do.
I think forever and foremost, some of the topics, not everyone will relate to and you can’t expect everyone to relate to something. So for me, even if it touches on relation, I think, I feel like I’m doing my job properly because that’s what I’ve always wanted to do. There are times when I did second-guess myself because I am putting a lot of things, projecting a lot of things out there. I never wanna glorify certain, I guess you could say, mental conditions, in a light where people would forcefully want to think it’s cool. So I think there’s a very fine line in being how open you are. But again, I’m doing this at a huge cost, in the hopes of having people or having it touch people in a way where they can absolutely relate to it and it does come from something very personal and I think nowadays more than ever, people just want to feel real, right?
I think we’ve been projecting so much [about] what perfect should be. You see it all the time [on] social media and everything, that I think more often, they start comparing, and I think that’s when they start getting heavily over-dutied in their minds. So for me, I’ve kind of wanted to always give the idea that, just because I’m on a stage and just because I’m performing in front of you guys, doesn’t make me any more different than you.
We have the same problems, we share the same thoughts and we go about it the same way and I like to preface a lot of these things by saying, I don’t have a lot of the answers to your problems. My goodness. I don’t even have a lot of answers to my own problems, but I’m figuring it out. I’m just opening it as a show. And again, I always say this but welcome to the show, and you’re always free to come and stay, and you’re always free to leave. But for what it’s worth, I’m always here.
You’ve performed in some of the biggest cities and festivals around the world. What are your travel essentials?
My team, first and foremost, I think that’s a must for me. Without them, none of this would be possible.
I [also] like to carry—I have these gloves, you see, and these gloves, before I go on stage rehearsals especially, they help me get into character. And for me, I need that essentially to turn into MITO or Mr Insanity. So for me, that’s a very vital aspect.
I also have to take throat lollies, because you don’t know when your throat’s gonna go out. And I think we have state-of-the-art throat lollies. I can’t tell you what, you know, because that’ll be giving away my biggest secret. So that’s always been working.
Last, but not least, I always like to carry a part of a gift that one of our Dreamers, our fans, gave to me. I always think that’s good luck. It’s usually from the country that I was in before. So if I was in Singapore before, I would bring a piece of maybe, some type of gift they would give, whether it be a doll, a letter, whatever it is, I take that with me on my next trip as something like a good luck charm for me. It makes me feel like I’m always with them you know—is that a little cheesy? But no, you know what I mean. So yes, those are pretty much my essentials.