It’s been just over a year since one of the nicest guys in Aussie hip hop kicked off his last tour, and for Illy that’s too long between drinks. Not that he's been idle: in that time, the Melbourne-based artist has recorded an album, founded a record label, partied in an abandoned theme park and trended internationally on Twitter (the mark of success!) before releasing his latest single, 'On and On'. Time Out caught up with Illy to find out about the year that’s been and what's to come.
Illy, you're releasing your upcoming album on your own label, ONETWO – why did you found the label? Artistic freedom?
Yeah, pretty much. I was out of contract and it's something that I take quite an interest in, the label side of music. It was something that I thought I was able to do myself so I went with that I guess.
What can we expect from the new album?
It's definitely different from [2012's] Bring it Back – it's actually quite different from all my previous albums. There's a lot more work that has gone into this one; it definitely sounds bigger and that's as much to do with my writing improving as it is with the production being levels ahead of what it has been in the past. Just because we've had a lot more time to dedicate to it all. I'm really keen to see how it'll be received because I think it's easily the best album I've ever made.
How do you work with producer and contributor M-Phazes? Do you work together on tracks, or let him do his own stuff and you pick and choose what you like?
It's a bit of both, man. We work pretty closely together and I find with Phazes, he needs space to flesh out ideas and then I come in tell him what I'm after, leave him be and come back and he's got something. I'll go away and write and come back with a hook or something and we build it up step by step. Without him having a hand in my lyrics and me having too much of a hand in the production it is fairly collaborative.
You had a really interesting launch for 'On and On', releasing it only after you got a certain number of retweets on Twitter for the song. Where did the idea come from?
We wanted to do something kinda cool and a new thing so we got people to hashtag 'On and On' and then my handle – which is @Illyal. It just went crazy man: we were expecting to get about 1,000 tweets and we got about 2,500 in about four hours. It trended first in Melbourne, then it trended in different states, and then it was trending nationwide. For about five minutes it was actually trending worldwide, which was unbelievable. It obviously got right up there and then we dropped the track.
The music video for 'On and On' was filmed outside of Perth, inside an abandoned theme park with go-carts and a ferris wheel – how did you find that awesome spot?
It was actually one of the dudes who filmed the video's grandpa's house. He lived on this huge property and built all that stuff for one of his granddaughters about 15 or 20 years ago for her fourth or fifth birthday. It was so surreal – when they light it all up at night it was like something out of a video game. It was crazy.
What can we expect from your upcoming shows?
A handful of new tracks off the album – we'll probably do a couple of new Friday Flips [a free music project between Illy and M-Phazes] before they've been released. And I've got a new drummer on this tour – my old drummer decided to hang up his drum sticks to pursue other things – so It's gonna be a new dynamic. I'm really keen to get back out there. It's been a year to this week since the last tour kicked off. It's been a while between drinks so I'm just looking forward getting out there and every weekend having shows on.