the AU interview: DJ Debris of Hilltop Hoods (Adelaide)

Since their breakthrough success with The Calling in 2003, Adelaide hip-hop outfit, the Hilltop Hoods, went from strength to strength not only as live performers, but producers as well. With much of 2010 seeing the group focus on their record label, Golden Era Records, the Hoods have been out of the live spotlight.

It's all kicking off again in 2012, with the guys returning to the Big Day Out tour and releasing their sixth record Drinking From The Sun in early March. A very tired DJ Debris calls in to let me know what's been happening.

How’s everything with you?

Not going too bad, thanks.

Thanks for taking time out today, are you guys back in Adelaide at the moment?

Yes, we’re in the studio at the moment; just spent a sleepless night in the studio!

The Hoods seem to have been pretty busy over the last few months with the release of the latest single and some overseas shows. How hectic has it been?

Yeah it’s been quite ridiculous at the moment. I mean, we kind of set a release date for the album and then we decided to do the Eminem gig and then it just threw a spanner in the works. The time we lost rehearsing and preparing for all that…we’re paying for it now. We’re on top of it; it’s just that sleep is the sacrifice!

What was it like supporting Eminem on his recent tour? I’ve heard mixed opinions of his live show went down.

It was amazing, playing venues that size! We hadn’t played Etihad before or the Sydney Football Stadium and they were our first shows back from a pretty long hiatus off the road. So it was a pretty intimidating way to come back! We smashed it, I think, on our end, and we had a great time. It was a good way to come back.

The new track “I Love It” is being hammered on radio since it was released; I don’t know if there’s any truth in it, but being in Adelaide, it seems like it’s being played here more! I was going through the hills the other night and I’m pretty sure it was played about four times – I thought it was very ironic.

[Laughs] That’s good, I never get time to listen to the radio, so it’s good to hear!

What was it like to work with Sia on this one?

It was great! She was in L.A and there was a lot of correspondence back and forth and she said yes to the idea early on. We’ve all known her for years and years, and Suffa spoke on the phone with her a lot about it. She got in the studio and the first thing she shot through, we were like ‘Yep, smashed it’. It’s come out perfectly, I think.

With this song out there, people are of course getting keen for the release of the next Hilltop Hoods record.

Yep we’ve set the release date – it’s going to be early March. So yeah, March the 9th or the 8th is the date we’re going for. With Christmas and New Years in the middle, it’s always a great thing when you’re trying to get stuff done!

Can you tell me a bit about what we can expect from you guys this time round? State of the Art was a record that definitely cemented the group as one of the country’s premier groups, especially for Australian hip-hop. Would you say that Drinking From The Sun has taken any drastic turns down different paths?

Yeah there’s some different stuff on there, but it’s still reflective of us and a natural progression of us. We always sound slightly more mature with each record and I think this new record is the best one we’ve done, but every artist says that about the current record! We’re really, really happy with it. We’ve still got a little bit of work to do on it, but there are definitely a couple of tracks on there that are different to anything we’ve ever done.

We’ve used a lot of live instrumentation; we’ve used a quartet and a horns section, I had them in the studio a couple of weeks ago. But yeah, a lot of different approaches, in terms of the instrumentation and stuff; we’ve used more producers as well.

Do you think that the role you’ve all played in the establishment and development of Golden Era Records has influenced how you’ve produced this album?

Yeah definitely. Running the label was always an eye-opener, and we work intimately with the artists on our roster. So you kind of take a bit of how they work in the studio and on the road on board and a bit of their M.O rubs off on us. I’m sure we rub off on them… You know we’ve always been close, but the label just brings us closer together.

You guys are featured on the Big Day Out line up for 2012 – congratulations. The group are festival favourites now, I remember this year during Bliss n Eso’s set in Adelaide, there was a space of time during their set where everyone was chanting out ‘Hilltops’ instead!

[Laughs] Oh really! I feel bad about that, because if it happened to us I think we’d be devastated! It does seems to happen, usually when we’re nowhere nearby!

You guys must be looking forward to getting back on the road for it?
Oh definitely. When we’ve been cooped up in the studio for awhile we hang out to get on the road and then we’ve been on the road for awhile we hang to get back in the studio. We’re very keen to get out and about and flex our stuff live.

The Hoods have done the festival a few times now – what is it about the BDO that makes it so good to perform at?

I think just being away from the stage for awhile, now especially since we’ve done the Eminem gigs; it gave us a taste of what’s to come. We’ve changed up our live show a bit, we’ve got a live drummer now that’s touring with us, his name’s Plutonic Lab, from Muph & Pluto fame. He’s added a really nice dynamic to the group and it’s good, as a DJ as well, having another person on the back line; it gives me more groove to scratch along to. The boys love the extra groove he adds to the live show.

The Perth show that has been added instead of the BDO set went down extremely well over that way. What are your thoughts on the way the festival suddenly underwent all these changes, resulting in both Adelaide and Perth losing out on a lot?

Yeah, obviously, we were pretty devastated; our main fear was losing Adelaide, just being our hometown. But the whole industry in Australia seems to be in a bit of a rut, I think there’s too many festivals capitalising each other at the moment and it’s obviously taken it’s taken its effect on the Big Day Out.

Do you think audiences will be getting a good serve of what’s to come on the new record during this run of shows, considering it’d only be a few months ahead of its actual release?

Yeah, we’ll integrate…I think a third of our set will new tracks, possibly more. It’s always tough though, when you’re doing tracks that you haven’t released yet, because people can be enjoying it, but because they’re not familiar with it, they won’t jump around as much. I think we did four new tracks at the Eminem gig and they went down well and now that the new single’s out, I think they’ll get a better reaction now.

We just dropped three film clips for it about an hour ago, if you’re somewhere near YouTube, check them out. One was directed by Nash Edgerton of Blue Tongue Films, who is Joel Edgerton’s brother; the other was filmed by an animation company called Animal Logic, and another one directed by an independent film-maker called Carl Allison in Melbourne. So three very different clips for the one song, which is different for us. There’s a shameless plug for you!

I guess 2012 will consist of some album promo tours? Can you give us a bit of an insight into whether the Hoods will be out on the road again?

Yeah definitely. We’ve got a bunch of festivals and stuff lined up; we’re going to go overseas in early to mid next year after the Big Day Out for a couple of festivals and then we’ll probably do the national circuit, hopefully mid next year. We’re still in the planning stages of that at the moment, just trying to focus on the album at the moment.

How’ve you found the overseas market has been treating you – you’ve just come back from doing some shows, haven’t you?

Yeah we came back from Canada about three weeks, four weeks ago. It was amazing, Canada is always great. Actually, everywhere we go overseas seems to be very receptive for us.

Well thanks for chatting again, I’ll definitely go check the new clips out!

Yeah for sure, I was up til 7 AM uploading them! We’ve got an artist from Melbourne that we’ve flown over to record today and he got here at I think, 10 AM, so I’ve managed to sneak in two hours in between!

Good luck with it all and I’ll catch you sometime next year.

Definitely. Have a great Christmas and New Years!


Catch the Hilltop Hoods on the 2012 Big Day Out tour: Perth's show at The Capitol Theatre (Feb 10) has sold out.

Drinking From The Sun is due for release on March 8 through Golden Era Records.