Doing research for this next artist probably had me doing more head shaking and eyebrow raising than just about anything I’ve done for The Aquarian to date. As a rock aficionado, I have very little enthusiasm for your typical house and techno based music, however, Clifton, New Jersey turned Manhattan-ite Sir Ivan really piqued my interest with his bizarre combination of image contortion, sixties idealism and ultra savvy song production. With a voice landing somewhere between Billy Idol and Stan Ridgeway, Sir Ivan takes the listeners on a journey thru classics such as, “Happy Together,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Hare Krishna” and John Lennon’s “Imagine” on this, his latest CD titled I Am Peaceman, a recorded style that he has dubbed “Technippy,” a combination of techno and Woodstock cultural hippy dippy.
The back-story to this artist is as interesting as his present day persona of Peaceman, a well-to-do caped figure that speeds around the city in a long black limousine, beaming into the dance club scene like some Tim Burton inspired crusader of the night. His father was a well-known force in New Jersey business and philanthropy, his mother has not only written two books on her massive collection of erotica, but plans to open The World Museum Of Erotic Art in Miami, his brother designs space aged Ducatti motorcycles and his sister runs some of the family businesses back behind the spotlight.
Sir Ivan’s musical influences go back to his formative years in Clifton, NJ, a clash of two musical opposites. Singing in the Hebrew choir at the local synagogue and being introduced to the Four Tops, The Temptations and The Supremes by an older cousin in neighboring Passaic set him into musical motion.
His fascinating story starts with his father, Siggi Ivan, a mega tough World War II survivor of two Nazi concentration camps in Austria, and a guy who literally helped capture Joseph Goebbels brother and bring him to justice before heading to the United States with nothing but a few dollars and a dream. He built his fortunes into megalithic proportions the old-fashioned way, hard work and sweat in the oil and banking industries and creating world famous deals before he passed away in January of 2003, handing the reigns of the kingdom to his children.
Ivan took that same tough vision when he set out on his musical journey, leaving the comfort of a family run empire behind and opting for the stage and studio. His persistence has resulted in several major releases on both Tommy Boy Records and Jelly Bean Records (Jelly Bean Benitez’ label), and have included major releases such as his remake of Lennon’s Imagine, a song that hit number 31 on Billboards club charts as well as the follow-up, “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair)” reaching number eight on the Billboard dance singles charts.
I Am Peaceman was produced by FORD, who has earned 19 Multi-platinum, Platinum and Gold RIAA sales awards for mixing and producing many of the world’s biggest artists including Michael Jackson, Ludacris, Missy Elliot, Britney Spears, P Diddy, Lil’ Kim, Jennifer Lopez, Brandy, Mandy Moore, Jewel, Craig David, Paul Okenfold, Sugar Ray, Ryan Cabrera and Mick Jagger. With a helmsman like that at the wheel, it’s not surprising that a rock and roller like me would grow to like the disk after a few listens.
Smartly produced, the songs are not campy or boring in the least. Sir Ivan has simply focused on a working formula centered on the sixties styles that we all know are the best. Sort of like what Charlie Clouser and Adam Freeland do with some of today’s remixes.
The real test however was playing I Am Peaceman at my sisters pool party where nieces, nephews and neighbors ran around helter skelter as it played over and over. Between splashing and screaming kids, neighborhood moms would shake on over to me in their swimsuits and say, “I love this guy, you should sign him.” As I smiled and shook my head at the fact that they had absolutely no idea what I do, I assured them that I would. Afterwards, I thought to myself, “I Am Peaceman is a hit here in suburbia.” That’s important because if its accessible to my sisters girlfriends and kids, its gonna be accessible to just about anyone.
And I can see it continuing to do well in the inner city sanctum of the nightclub, as well as the school dance or the local Dave & Buster’s restaurant. It retains a borderless feel due to the choice of material and the ever-important production, which sticks close to real life and utilizes organic sound as much possible, taking away that sterile techno vibe that turns the timid away.
Songs like “Kumbaya” that featured a couple of Obama sound bytes and made me chuckle, but Sir Ivan’s versions of “Eve of Destruction,” complete with screaming crowds (genuine Woodstock samples maybe?) raw vamping guitars and keyboards was solid and badass. Vocals are gritty and original and even though it’s a cover, I was digging his dark rock and roll delivery. Same with “Live For Today,” which retained its hippy cultural vibe while Ivan scattered a Billy Idol-esque sound down over the top. “Happy Together” and the remake of Zager and Evans “In the Year 2525” were both tuned in and sonically sweet, avoiding typical techno pitfalls of dance and rap. It’s funny to note that Sir Ivan is apparently not a fan of rap at all, going as far to allegedly say that if The Bloods and the Crips played stuff like his, there might be less violence from within their ranks.
Sir Ivan is becoming well- known throughout the New Jersey/New York scene and commands the appearance of music celebs, actors and more when he’s around, showing up with entourages of 50 people and turning an ordinary night in to a major event. But his premeditated goals go further than a simple smoke and mirror image of a techno monster in New York City. Lets face it, there’s probably a hundred artists that get ushered into private night spots because they do something cool, but Sir Ivan wants to leave you with much more than a brief party fling. He wants you to read the book beyond the cover, and what’s inside may open a whole new chapter in your musical education.
To me, it’s not about the fame, flash and the money. That stuff is all overrated and boring. It’s about the sheer balls of an artist who thumbed his nose at a sweet and cozy day job empire and laughs at a society that doesn’t understand why someone would trade that for the lowly entertainment business. It’s about the risk taking and self-assured style of a guy that smacks his music at you like a hockey puck. It’s all about an interesting presentation of music wrapped up in forward thinking chess moves. Like him or hate him, Sir Ivan is here to stay, and with I Am Peaceman, he is going to make a lasting impression on the masses. For more info, go to sirivanmusic.com.