The Hilltop Hoods in Interview

We talked to MC Pressure!

© Hilltop Hoods. Quelle: Facebook

Once again on tour in Europe – are you satisfied so far with the success of the recent album and tour overseas?

Yes – I think the best way to say that is to bring the music live in front of an audience. At a time when people don’t buy whole albums anymore and don’t stream albums completely, that’s actually the only way. For singles there is still data and curves that can tell you that. But the best thing is to see if people know your songs in the show. The German audience is an absolute supporter of our music. Germany and Great Britain have definitely heard the album. The reception by the fans was fantastic.

You are one of the relatively few Australian bands at the moment whose music had success in overseas areas like Europe. Would you say that the international perception of Australian music suffers from its image of the remote down under at the other end of the world?

Yeah, I think it does, because we kind of are (laughs). But I’m not sure if Australian music really suffers because in times of the internet it’s much easier to spread music on the international market. There is a language barrier in Germany and other parts of Europe, though. And what young people hear in Germany is not necessarily the same in Australia or North America. However, there are always a handful of Australian artists a year who do well. Australians also seem to like hard rock and metal, which is very well received here in Europe. Yet, the distance hurts us a bit, and it definitely hurts me because it’s such a long way to travel here (laughs).

Is overseas an important market for your music, or is national success in Australia most important to you?

We love to come here and it’s a privilege to bring music out to Europe, and Germany, to places where people don’t speak English as their first language. It’s great that we attract an audience here at all. It was and is our ambition to bring music overseas.

Compared to American and Afro-American and also British hip hop, your music seems to be way more lighthearted and relaxed. Is this because Australians simply are happier people?

I don’t know if it’s because we are happier people; the reason is rather that hip hop is a very personal kind of music. It’s more spoken than sung – it’s so much more words and verses, that makes it very personal. And for us – me, Suffa and Debris – it’s a kind of expression of personality. We’re just pretty lighthearted. Others grew up in the ghetto, in very hard circumstances, but Australia is a wonderful place. Where we come from has shaped our characters.

Unlike most rappers, you very rarely mention political or social issues in your lyrics. In hip hop history, rap has often been an outlet to direct social injustice and discrimination. Would some political criticism in it destroy the unique party character of your music?

The party character of our music was never something we consciously aspired to as our image. Nationally, our party songs were simply our greatest hits, and that shaped us. As far as the political issue is concerned – political discussions you start can go on for hours and I’m not explicitly that much of a political person. It’s just not so much our vibe to be so political.

So the fans just don’t want to hear political content?

It’s not the fans. It’s just that we don’t want to make this kind of music. I like political rap – I mean I grew up with Public Enemy. That was probably the first hip hop music I ever heard, that was in the early 80s and 90s. But just because I like it, that doesn’t mean I want to do it.

Often, rappers in the whole world have been accused of sexism, racism or, for example in Germany, of anitsemitism. Some people say, hip hop cannot live without breaking taboos. What do you say?

Yes, I mean, hip hop began as the voice of the underdog in New York’s political climate. I hate to hear intolerance of any kind and in any form, neither in politics nor in music. There is simply no place for that in hip hop. Full stop.

So every rapper accused of something like this has made a mistake?

To be honest, I hardly hear any hip hop that contains such a thing. Is there a lot of it here?

Especially in German rap there are many of such accusations. Some, for example the rapper Fler, are strongly directed against the police…

Oh that – I like to listen to “fuck”, and I like to listen to music that gives the establishment the middle finger, for sure. I don’t want to hear sexism or homophobia in any music. But – fuck the police! (laughs)

In the 90s when you founded the band and also today, most hip hop groups still orient themselves by American hip hop. Would you say, to produce local music and reflect the country`s culture and taste is more important than ever, considering mainstream music and globalization? Can you be a role mode in that?

I don’t know if I’m a role model. When we were young, we grew up mostly with American hip hop, a little British as well. And it is often the case that when you start making music at a young age, you imitate your influences. But we were lucky enough to have some Australian hip hop role models before us who said: It’s great that you like this music, but that’s not you, you didn’t grow up there, you don’t speak with an American accent`.  And so we’ve built our own identity in Australia and that’s why we rap in our own accent, we talk about things that affect us.

So are you proud to be Australian?

Not necessarily being Australian, but proud to be me. We’re not running around with an Australian flag, and it’s not just about Australian culture, it’s about being ourselves.

For a few years you have been working with a lot of classical music elements, for example through a cooperation with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. For hi phop, this is rather unusual – is it one of your unique characteristics?

Yeah, I guess so. That’s something we fell in love with and we made a remix album, I think in 2006, with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. We had a live project with them, and we also brought them into the studio. We learned so much from that experience. The world of classical music is so different from the world of contemporary music, or let’s say hip hop music which we grew up in and taught ourselves. We liked it so much, so we made two more remix albums recently. We went on tour and played five shows with five different orchestras all over the country. We wouldn’t do that for every album, but it’s a pretty unique part of us.

This summer you were part of the Rapture Tour 2019 of “Rap God” Eminem. Was this one peak of your career?

Yes, absolutely. He played to 85,000 people in Melbourne and that was the biggest show in the Southern Hemisphere ever. We were so happy to be there. And also the rest of the tour was huge. His shows are bigger than even the biggest festivals in Australia – the biggest have only 15, maybe 16,000 people. This was really crazy. And we met him personally, he is totally chilled. That was really cool because I heard his music when we grew up. And probably our music was subconsciously influenced by his rap.

Do you prefer small shows with fewer visitors to large ones?

That has advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes the small shows are just more fun. You do nonsense on stage and talk shit. You are much closer to the people in the front row, sometimes you even have conversations with them. That makes it more interactive. It’s more personal and relaxed. No pressure, no guidelines. But the big concerts with 15, 16000 people are just an incredible experience. It’s a huge event, with such crowds. I like both, for different reasons. But I’m not saying ´away with the small shows, we only do the big ones`. The small ones are fun.

It’s rather down-to-earth not to say that you only do the big acts for 40,000 people or more…

That would be quite a luxury (laughs). Today we play in front of a thousand people in Cologne, and that’s great. Playing in front of a thousand people in Germany belongs to the big shows, because it’s always relative, depending on the country.

In March 2019, you made ARIA charts history by setting up the record to have most #1 albums as an Australian band. So since your foundation, you had an ever-growing success in both Australia and overseas. Where do you see yourself in a few years? Even further on the world`s top of hip hop?

I’m not really thinking about that. When we set our goals, we say: We want to publish this amount of music in this time frame, and travel to these and those places. We don’t think like, we have to sell so and so many records, win so and so many awards. It’s very nice to get these awards and to get respect from other artists and fans, but what happens, happens. I don’t really care if we win these awards or not, as long as we can go out and play our music to as many people as in the last years. That makes me happier than a prize ever could.

By Katharina Moser

© Katharina Moser

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