HILLTOP HOODS Their favourite moments

Over the last 20 odd years, Hilltops Hoods have gone from strength to strength and are about to head off on a massive tour of the world – starting in Australia and finishing up in America. KAREN LOWE spoke to MC Suffa (aka Matthew Lambert) about the polarising effect of Aussie Hip Hop, poolside crime scenes and some of their favourite moments of their long-standing career.

You guys are heading out on tour soon – including Europe, America and Canada. Where are you looking forward to playing the most?

We are really looking forward to playing in our home town, Adelaide where we will have friends and family there. Also Switzerland. It’s a beautiful place. We also have a lot of friends in New York so looking forward to that too.

You guys would have seen so much while being on tour. What are some of the stranger things that you have seen? And have there been any special moments that stand out in your mind?

We were in Canada and stayed at a Holiday Inn. It was a 2 or 3 star place at the most but they had a pool. I decided I really wanted to go for a swim but when I got down there, it had police tape all around it and blood on the ground – very disconcerting.

I guess, earlier in our career when we first played Falls and Splendour were really special for us. When we did our first show in an arena at home (a headline show), that was really special. Also playing with an orchestra for the Re-Strung tours – that was something else; having all those people on stage with us.

Aussie hip hop has a unique way of either unifying people or causing all out war as people either tend to absolutely love it or hate it. What drew you to hip hop in the beginning and why do you think that it has such a polarising effect on people?

I think the most polarising thing about it is the accent. People either like a UK accent in their music or an American accent. I find, to a degree, that a lot of Australian musicians don’t like their accents and how it sounds so when they perform, they sort of mimic the accent that they are used to listening to which can be either an American voice or an English voice and we’re just not (laughs). I’m just not uncomfortable with how I sound. I don’t think I’ve got the greatest voice in the world but I don’t think my accent’s to blame.

I hope with people like Courtney Barnett using their own voice in their music that it becomes more and more the standard rather than people being embarrassed. Look – that might be wrong but I think that’s one of the big deterrents for some people. On the flip side of the coin, that’s why a lot of people like it.

It’s the biggest thing that I hear – the Aussie accent shouldn’t be in hip hop, but why don’t we have a right to?

(laughs) If we are going to go down that path and they say it’s an American art form well ok, you better not listen to any Australian jazz or Australian blues or Australian rock for that matter, or house music which came from Detroit, or pretty much all music that came from America. Unless you just want to listen to classical music and even then; you’re kinda taking that from Europe, dawg!

And how does Aussie hip hop translate overseas?

Depends on where you are. I find it different everywhere. New Zealand has come around to us. Earlier on, I think there was a bit of the Trans-Tasman thing but we’ve toured there a lot. We had the view of the relationship with the people over there that we are cousins and not a combatant kind of thing.

It’s interesting in Europe – the accent can be difficult because English is most people’s second language so it becomes more about the musicality and the performance over there than it does here. Americans and Canadians love Australians so when we go over there, we are embraced – not just for that but it doesn’t hurt. It’s interesting. Every region – it’s not the one same thing.

Too many people these days seem to prefer to watch a gig through their mobile phones. What are your thoughts about phones at gigs?

It’s not a huge thing for me. I know it is for a lot of people whose show is very much about… I don’t know how to put it into words but our shows are more about energy so we don’t find a lot of people just sitting there filming. When we play a song like Nosebleed (Section) or Cosby Sweater a lot of phones do pop up but they are usually down by the time the drum kicks in. I don’t know, it’s just never been that much of a problem that we think about it.

I suppose it’s hard enough just trying to hold onto your phone in a Hilltops moshpit…

(laughs) I suppose I’m probably guilty of it at gigs as well so I’ve got to be careful that I don’t turn myself into a hypocrite (laughs).

As a music fan and interviewer, there are times where I’ve found myself in the most surreal moments that I couldn’t have imagined. What are some moments over your career that you have just looked at each other and just thought… What actually just happened? Was that real?

Moments like closing out the Beat The Drum’s Triple J Anniversary. Coming off stage after that. My Dad came up and there were lots of family there. Moments like that are just like “oh wow. We got to be part of the celebration” and actually headlining that celebration was a big moment for us.

When the last album went No 1, we were just like wow! After doing it for this long, you don’t expect that any more and you feel very lucky.

Sometimes when you step out in the crowd in a regional area in Austria it’s like, “what am I doing here?” There’s a lot of those moments that keep you in check.

On your latest album, The Great Expanse, you guys collaborated with a lot of people. Who’s one person that you would love to collaborate with if you could?

We get asked that question a lot and it’s a tough one to answer because you don’t want to put yourself out there for rejection (laughs).

As far as who we are going to be working with; we are going to work with an orchestra again for another Re-Strung project.

Nowadays, I’ve already had three major people off my bucket list so I’m just happy to work with people that are just good at what they do and are happy to be there. That’s what we found with this project with Ecca (Vandal), Timberwolf, Ruel, Illy – these are people that are fun to work with and people that we like and they want to be there.

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