It’s hard to be honest in music these days – especially when so much emphasis is placed on image and keeping the ‘core audience’ happy. No stranger to Australian shores, Sivion had pushed the envelope with his latest release Dark Side of the Cocoon. We had a chat with him about the inspiration behind the new album and his recent visit to Australia for Uprock 2015.
“If it’s not a drought, it’s a flood!” Sivion laughed as I asked him how he was feeling at the end of 2017. It had been a whirlwind couple of months with both a solo album and a new release from Deepspace5 both being released one after the other. It didn’t seem like a deliberate manoeuvre on anyone’s part, but just the way that God had planned it. Long on hiatus, DeepSpace5 cropped up on everyone’s radar late in 2017 releasing 5:55, as a fundraiser for the relief effort in Puerto Rico.
“We had all been focussing on individual releases, but the fans were keen for something and we had an opportunity to get into something more meaty…”. It seemed to come together quite effortlessly in the end, with Freddie Bruno producing beats inspired by Jay-Z’s 4:44 album. Despite Dert, Beat Rabbi and Listener no longer being involved in hip-hop musically, 5:55 came along through the efforts of voicemail, text messages and email. Asked if this was DS5’s last hurrah, Sivion didn’t believe so:
“If we could put it together right, we could do something pretty amazing and after coming together for this project, we have started to think about what we could one last time to make it a really special release.”
Special releases are something of a specialty for Sivion. The multi-instrumentalist MC is renowned for cutting, witty albums and shorter releases. His latest release Dark Side of the Cocoon took a much darker turn than what he is known for. It was one of those ‘kind of by accident, kind of on purpose’ type of moments. The beats came from Sebastian Hochstein of Scribbling Idiots fame – they were dark, but they resonated with Sivion and where he was at in the moment:
“I was headed for a divorce situation [with my wife] and each beat was dark…”, “but they also had a light moment in them. Dark, then redemption, dark then redemption.” That redeeming factor came towards the end of the journey and helped set the lighter shades in the album “My wife and I got remarried and I start putting my thoughts out on this journey but this collection of songs just made sense to put together and just release it.”
The honesty on the album is confronting, with tracks such as All In and Really His being open-soul moments of Sivion sharing the status and journey of his relationship with his wife and with God. All In wasn’t difficult to write, but it was difficult to share:
It is a very personal song. In my past releases, I’ve been truthful and honest about life, but not as transparent to the depths that I went through on this record. You don’t know what people will respond to. If one person gets something out of this song – it’s worth putting out.
The response to All In caught Sivion off-guard, as people kept coming to him explaining how it resonated with them. What was most surprising though was the people closest to him saying how it resonated with them as well, with several members of the DS5 crew saying how hard the track hit them as well. I asked if it was a risky move to put such a personal track out given the vast majority of his fanbase identify as Christians:
“It’s kind of like life in general – the things you take the biggest risk with have the biggest reward… ‘All In’ is the deepest, most personal story I have ever written and being vulnerable to my fears, angers, and stuff where I lost my cool. Folk have been able to relate.”
Sivion visited Australia for the Uprock conference in 2015. The serious tone of the conversation shifts as he begins to reminisce over the visit. When asked about his favourite Australian acts, he immediately names comedy duo Manziere as a highlight and notes that there’s something different at the core Australian hip-hop: “There’s a big commitment to the culture of hip-hop in Australia…”, when asked how he believes it manifests itself, he goes back to the activities of organisations such as the Street Uni and Krosswerdz Church:
“There is so much meat and potatoes in teaching those who want to know the community… But you guys really pour in to the community and that spoke to me…”
He laughed that since his visit down under, he’s able to identify Australians before hearing any accents. “Whenever I see a b-boy or a [graffiti] writer doing something different – chances are they’re Australian”.