Rapper 360 talks about bipolar diagnosis
EVEN months ago Melbourne rapper 360 had a "full breakdown".
360, born Matt Colwell, was deep in the writing process for what's become his fourth album Vintage Modern.
It's a record that comes on the back of Colwell battling addictions to both illegal and legal drugs, including a codeine habit that saw him chemist hopping for the over-the-counter medication.
He was taking 90 Nurofen Plus tablets at one stage - not to get high, just to stop feeling withdrawal symptoms. He had to cancel tour dates after being put in hospital on suicide watch and eventually documented the experience on I'm Sorry, which has had over two million views.
"It blew my mind," 360 says. "You'd refresh and it's jumped 200,000 views in 20 minutes."
Clean and sober, earlier this year another incident terrified him.
"It was a really bad episode, I was suicidal," 360 admits.
The rapper went in for a full psychiatric evaluation, first diagnosed as unipolar, then bipolar with extreme ADD and chronic insomnia and put on medication.
"It actually gave me some closure to my behaviour," he says.
"Initially I was in denial, there's a stigma being diagnosed as bipolar, but when I read the symptoms it was spot on. I'm not some freak. I could understand why I was acting the way I was."
As he states on Vintage Modern, he's now tackling his mental health with a mixture of medication and therapy, to help him deal with "past trauma".
His honesty is also helping others, with an "astonishing" flood of emails saying I'm Sorry prompted others to go to rehab or open up to their family.
Frustrated by the negativity on his personal Facebook page he created a private group called the Close Circle where fans have started helping each other through their own problems, as well as getting early access to new songs and intimate performances.
"The feedback is bittersweet, "360 says. "It's amazing but it's heartbreaking so many people are going through it. Codeine is a strong drug, it's in the same class as heroin and you can get it over the counter. That's insane. People don't recognise how easy it is to get high just off Nurofen Plus. And once it sinks its teeth in it's nearly impossible to get off."
Another new song, blatantly called Drugs, tackles drugs as though they were an actual person in a relationship with the rapper ("no one loves me like the drugs used to").
"It sounds crazy now but it was like the drugs understood me," he says. "Any drug addict has a reason they use drugs. There's some deep-seated thing that makes them want to escape. I know what mine is. I'd love to tell people, it'd help so many people who've been through the same thing but I'm not there yet. I'm happy to be open about my mental health and addiction, just not where it stems from. If I'm not in a strong mental state it'll get to me."
Vintage Modern was originally a Drake-influenced modern rap record with trap beats. 360 flipped the script and remade the album in a week, including showcasing his singing voice on several tracks.
"Bob Dylan's technically not a great singer, but he's great in his range. I love singing. I've actually got an album nearly finished where it's just singing, there's no rapping in it at all, I'm really excited about that. It shows a whole different side to me.
"I'd almost trade the ability to rap for the ability to sing like someone like Daniel Merriweather. I love his voice so much. When I was in the National Boys Choir as a little kid I could hit any note and had vocal control, I quit after six months, I wish I'd stuck at it."
Another new song, Letters, sees 360, now 31, belatedly outgrow the rap cliche of calling women 'bitches' and 'hoes'.
"The song is about writing a letter to yourself, guys need to think about if they'd want someone calling their own daughters names like that. I've definitely changed the way I view the world. A lot of that has come from getting clean and not living in that debaucherous lifestyle of partying and just doing dumb s---. You get your mind together and you look at the world differently."
Now equipped to tour sober, 360 is hoping he's going to literally be able to view the world in a different manner.
"I was lucky enough to travel to America for shows and all I did was sit in the hotel room and do drugs. I want to see the world. I want to soak everything in, even if it's a negative, instead of just being numb. I want to experience life and not just escape from it."
Vintage Modern (EMI) out now. 360, Evelyn, February 24. Metro Sydney March 2. The Triffid Brisbane March 3, The Gov Adelaide March 9, Astor Perth March 10, the Forum Melbourne March 16. Tix 360music.com.au