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Talking the rise from messy freestyles to headline tours with Ivan Ooze

Ivan ooze beyond the valley

Rap fire-starter Ivan ooze has been on the up and up lately. From supporting the likes of Ice Cube and Cypress Hill, to just finishing off his huge Fire tour and releasing a tonne of new music over the past year, his name is a pretty hard one to miss at the moment. We chatted to Ivan about travelling the country in a van, his sweet freestyle talents and where his love of hip hop stems from.

Ivan Ooze beyond the valley

HAPPY: How’s your morning been?

IVAN: Yeah it’s been pretty good. It’s actually been pretty painful, I’ve been trying to get my dreads out and I’ve been ripping my hair out. I’ve seriously got a bunch of hair sitting on my lap.

HAPPY: You just got sick of them?

IVAN: Yeah, I was just looking at them and was like, if I need to get a job at some point no one’s going to employ me with this hair. I’ve just been full combing them out, I’ve got through four and my head is really sore so I’ve sort of given up for a little while.

HAPPY: Just shave it, that would probably be the easiest option.

IVAN: Yeah I could shave my head. I don’t know. I have no idea. I’m freaking out.

HAPPY: They looked alright the other night! What did you get up to after your show at Australian Music Week?

IVAN: We just did stupid as stuff after the show. We actually roamed the streets for like two hours. We got back to a friend’s house and we were like “let’s go party“, and then me and a mate just went out and walked the streets for two hours drinking, and then we were really lost.

HAPPY: In Cronulla?

IVAN: Yeah. We got so lost. So we were like “Fuck it we’ll just have to catch an Uber,” and we were just really drunk afterwards. We played piano in the fucking lobby. It was awesome. Like the staff hates it, but it was still awesome.

HAPPY: Good way to end the night! You have just finished the Fire tour, are you always pretty crazy when you go on tour?

IVAN: Yeah I guess, but it’s probably a lot more crazy because we have a DJ as well and a band so it’s pretty much like everyone is just getting real drunk, and then there’s just a lot of drunk, high people just walking around causing trouble. But it was really fun. The whole tour was actually sick and all the people were awesome. All the fans I met were awesome so that was really good.

HAPPY: So it sounds like everyone responded really well to it?

IVAN: Yeah definitely. Everyone was really, really supportive of it. It’s really weird because that was my first headline tour, so to sell out some shows is pretty cool. It was a bit surreal, it was so awesome.

HAPPY: You’ve toured with some pretty big names before, so how was it different doing your own headline tour?

IVAN: Pretty much just because it was mine, so I felt a lot more chill I guess and I liked having more control. Like I had to go and do sound checks and all that important stuff. And you know that the crowd’s there for you, they’re not there for the main act, so you can kind of relax a little bit more. It’s pretty stressful though. I mean instead of having no one inside the room you know, you have all your friends there, everyone you know and everyone’s yelling at you, trying to yell to drink this beer and what not. But once you’re out there it’s just like every other gig and you just have to be on.

HAPPY: Speaking of being on, you’re killing it with the Freestyle Fridays, and they’re getting a lot of social media love. What do you do to get them going?

IVAN: The first time I did a Friday freestyle was before I released my EP and I did two of them and they were just kind of whatever, but then I did the third one and it went viral so that really helped; and then I put my Facebook page up and everyone just started going there so it sort of just started there. People seem to like them I think. But it’s more because I think it’s just a freestyle and I think that people know that I’m freestyling so they enjoy it more. And people have given up on saying that I’m reading off a page. Like, I’m not fucking reading off a page. But it’s actually really fun doing Friday freestyles and just seeing the response. Everyone’s just really supportive, it’s really cool. I watch what comments come up on the page, and if someone is a dick then I’ll call them out, that’s pretty fun.

HAPPY: Have you actually called people out for being dicks on Facebook before?

IVAN: Yeah definitely. If a dude comments saying that I’m shit or something like that I’m just like I don’t give a fuck, why are you here? If you think I’m shit then get off my page. If they have the balls to comment on it then I’m going to have the balls to respond to them. I’m not going to back down from them.

HAPPY: Yeah for sure. Have you ever done a Friday freestyle and screwed it or been tongue tied?

IVAN: Um nah, like sometimes I’ll go to do a freestyle on any day really and I’ll just start rapping in front of the camera and know that I don’t have freestyle today. But with freestyle, it’s like a thing you might have one day and not have the next day, so it can be kind of hard like that. There’s been a few times where I’ve gone to put one up, and I’m like shit I can’t do a good one today and I’ll get mad and go off and try to think of something. But pretty much if I’m feeling it and can do a decent freestyle I’ll record it. And I might record a couple and see which one’s the best one and chuck one up. It’s normally the days where I don’t think about it as much. It’s normally when I’m just sitting at home and just randomly decide to do a freestyle so I’ll just chuck my phone up and hit record and find a beat. They’re normally the best ones.

HAPPY: It sounds like it comes pretty naturally to you, have you always been into hip hop music?

IVAN: Yeah pretty much. The first album that I ever got given was a hip hop album, it was Busta Rhymes’ Genesis. My cousin gave me it and he told my mum that it had no swearing on it. It had so much fucking swearing on it. So I think that’s where I learnt all my hip hop from at a really young age. And the first album I ever bought was Limp Bizkit, that still had elements of rap in it, but it’s sort of rap and rock I guess. So I think that rapping has always been there. I never really listened to anything else, it was always just that rap/rock like Korn and Rage Against The Machine, and that just transferred to all the rappers that were on MTV, but I would say that hip hop has always been in my life.

HAPPY: So how long have you been rapping and producing your own music for?

IVAN: I was writing crappy songs when I was like 16 and 17 and I started pursuing it more when I was 18 or 19. I did shows, but more hardcore rap shows in Laundry Bar and all around Melbourne. I never went inter-state or anything. I never did an inter-state show until I did the Ice Cube tour, and the first show was at the Enmore Theatre, so that was pretty intense.

HAPPY: The Enmore is a pretty is big jump from playing small, local gigs. That would have been pretty massive.

IVAN: Yeah it was crazy, and I knew it was sold out, and I knew it was a proper theatre. It wasn’t like a bar gig, you’re on a stage and everything. So I just sort of tried to work the stage, I didn’t really know what I was doing to be honest through the whole Ice Cube Tour or the Cypress Hill one but I tried my best. I think I got more comfortable when I started doing the Cypress shows. A lot of the Cypress guys would talk to you, whereas the Ice Cube guys were kind of confined because he had his whole family with him. The Cypress crowd seemed to be a lot more supportive too, like most of them were stoners just like me.

HAPPY: So it was a perfect match then.

IVAN: Yeah exactly. They were all super supportive.

HAPPY: You’ve been pretty busy with all the touring and releasing new music lately. You’re playing a pretty big festivals later in the year, are you going to have any down time next year?

IVAN: I think I’m going to keep trying to do this stuff, I like being on tour now. I didn’t think I did after I toured with Seth Sentry, I thought it was fucked. We had like 50 shows basically all in a row and we had no rest. But now I think I really prefer that because when I got home, I realised I really enjoyed the tour but I was so glad to be home, but then I was home for like four days, and I was just like “I want to go do all that again, I just want to keep rapping.” I probably just want to try and keep busy and get more shows. We’ve got some more shows that we just found out about a couple days ago and there’s a heap more music coming out so it should be good.

HAPPY: Does it ever get hard when you’re touring for so long to be away from home or does that not affect you?

IVAN: I think it did. On the Seth Sentry tour it did. On the other tours you weren’t away for that much, but no one really in Australia has done a 50 date tour before. I’m like a really homey person, I like being comfortable and being in a comfortable area that I know. But I think that sort changed a little bit because when I went away and did that we were travelling in a car, so we would have to sleep in the van, we got a wicked van for it, and you kind of just have to sleep anywhere.

And there’s always people around you, so you get out of that anxious, paranoid stage and you just start to enjoy all of it, so it was pretty cool. I reckon about a quarter of the way through it I started enjoying it. I was like fuck it, I can’t get out of it, like I’m not going to go home and be like “Mum I miss you,” and run to mum and be a pussy. But I pretty much just had to suck it up and it was sick fun, everyone had a really good time.

HAPPY: Yeah I kind of get where you’re coming from, on a way smaller scale. I’ve done a week travelling in a van, and had so much fun, but the main thing I had a problem with was finding anywhere to shower for free.

IVAN: Yeah that sucks. That is actually the worst. I can’t remember where it was, it was somewhere along the way in Brisbane and we stopped at this really nice beach, and we had to sleep in the car that night. So we bought a chicken for dinner, and we left the chicken in the car, and we woke up the next morning and we all smelt like chicken, so we all really needed a shower. So we went over to the shower, and it was a freezing cold day and it was just the showers near the beach, so they were obviously cold.

So I had to have this freezing cold shower while it was freezing cold outside and it sucked so bad. That’s the point where I was just like fuck this, I do not want to be here anymore. And then after that I made sure I didn’t stay in the van anymore, and I just started paying for hotels.

HAPPY: Yeah that’s smart. I don’t think I could go for too long living in a van.

IVAN: Yeah in the end I just couldn’t be fucked, it was crazy.

HAPPY: So have you seen in the media lately? Kerser has been getting a lot of media attention after he said he wasn’t getting enough radio love?

IVAN: Yeah I’ve seen that a fair bit actually.

HAPPY: What do you make of the situation?

IVAN: I guess it sort of depends really. I can’t really knock it, triple J always supports me, so it might just be about the content of what you say. I mean I enjoy some of Kerser’s stuff and I listen to some of his songs, but I know that he’s a lot more upfront. Actually I don’t know if I’d call it upfront.

HAPPY: Maybe a bit more confronting and in your face than what we’re used to hearing?

IVAN: Yeah I guess so, more like that. And I think that some people in Australia aren’t ready for that stuff. That sort of rap, like more gangster sort of rap gets played a lot more over in America, but I think that people over here just aren’t really ready for that, and I don’t know if triple J is the right radio station to play such heavy rap, even though they’re pretty good at supporting Aussie hip hop. But I like his stuff.

HAPPY: Well we’ve got to start wrapping things up so I’ve got one more question. We always write about what makes us happy, so what makes you happy?

IVAN: Weed makes me happy. Codeine makes me happy (laughs). Nah, I think just drinking and hanging out with my mates and having a good time, being complete idiots. That’s the most fun that I have, and we pretty much achieve that every weekend.

You can catch Ivan Ooze bring his wild live show to the stage at Beyond the Valley.

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December 7, 2015