The Hilltop Hoods have been a staple of the Australian hip hop scene, from independent artists of a bubbling, underground subculture to Australian radio favourite mainstays. Ahead of their August show in nipaluna/Hobart at the Mystate Arena, Togatus Co-Editor Chelsea Menzie got the chance to chat with Hilltop Hoods member MC Pressure. We talked the national ‘Show Business’ tour, new music, friendship and the Hoods’ continued contribution to Australian hip hop.
Togatus: Hey Pressure, how’s it going?
MC Pressure: Hey, I’m good! I’m just chilling in my studio at home.
Let’s get into it!
Let’s do it!
How does it feel to be touring again after nearly three years off, what can fans expect from your upcoming shows?
Touring again after three years off is like having a part of myself back, it was like missing an arm! To be honest I needed the break but once I got to even six months I was ready, so after two and a half years I was just bursting to get back out. It’s been nice to do shows all around Australia, we did Groovin the Moo to sort of kick things off and it really felt like everything was back to normal afterwards which was so nice as well.
Yeah, now that we are coming back we’re going to make our way down to Hobart as well as the other arena shows we’re playing for the rest of the Show Biz tour, new music is what everyone can expect, which is really refreshing for us.
Have your live shows had to change post pandemic and after a hiatus, what’s that transition been like?
They have changed a little. Mostly just due to new music and new ideas. We didn’t want to come back with the exact same kind of show especially with touring off the back of the last album, The Great Expanse, which came out in 2019. It will be a slightly different live show on stage with a few more bits and pieces of some old songs and totally new songs as well.
Your latest single ‘Show Business’ dropped a little earlier this year, what was the process behind the song coming together, any specific events that inspired it?
The song is basically about the ‘pros and cons’ or ups and downs of being an entertainer or musician for a living. Particularly in the last two or three years it’s been higher and lower than normal. It’s like being in a love/hate relationship and that’s what the song is about. At the end of the day its obviously more love than hate but it’s definitely not as easy or as glamorous as it always looks.
As far as the process went we recorded with Eamon, a soul singer from LA, who was cool enough to jump on the track. We sort of just met basically online by being fans of his music essentially. So the process for us was a bit different because normally (and we tried to as well) we would fly him into the country so we can meet face to face and get in the studio together to get that sort of live collaboration energy happening. Unfortunately we weren’t able to do it so it was the first time ever we’ve recorded by live webcams and zoom as well between two studios. It was really new for us. People did do it pre-pandemic as well as a way to collab but for us it was definitely new.
I wanted to ask you about friendship and larrikinism in the band. It seems from the outside that they seem to be such a big part of the Hoods’ history as a group. What role does this friendship and humour play in your approach to making music?
Friendship has been the foundation of the Hilltop Hoods, me and Suffa have known each other since high school. All three of us of course are still good friends. We see each other away from music, in social and everyday life kind of stuff as well. So I think one of the keys to not just surviving but to have done so well over the years has definitely been that foundation of friendship which the group was originally built on and still exists on.
The larrikinism.. I don’t know! I guess hip hop is a much more personal genre of music than sometimes pop or rock where by default there are less lyrics. I think because of that our personality probably just comes out in the music a bit more when you’re rapping. It’s a natural progression, not something we put on or do deliberately. It’s just us coming through in the music.
That makes sense. I wanted to ask you as well a little bit about how you guys foster local talent in the scene. Whys it important to give back?
The collaborations that we do are partly just because we think it’s nice to work with other musos and artists out there who are doing their thing… to give them a bit of shine where we can. But I would say it’s also just because we are genuine fans of other people’s music as well. It’s not a charity! We’re fans of the music when we collaborate with them and it’s about keeping our ear to the street as much as possible, staying in touch with what’s coming up. It’s also just fun to work with newer artists who have that excitement and that shine, its refreshing.
There seems to be a lot of talk around hip hop, especially around you guys, about Australian hip hop moving from the underground and more into the mainstream culture in the last ten years or so. What changes have you seen around the landscape of Australian hip hop in your years of involvement?
That’s about four questions in one, but I’ll do my best! Hip hop in Australia has changed so much since we started making music 25 years ago. It was all underground back then, there was not a lot of much mainstream shine… there was a little bit I remember sort of Sound Unlimited Posse when I was in my childhood years being on the radio and seeing their film clips on Rage. But not all of the Hip Hop in Australia was really getting that kind of commercial play. Today it’s an art broken more into subgenres. Some of it is getting that commercial shine but some of it still is very underground in a similar place to where it started. There’s a lot of different branches of rap and hip hop in this country that are very different to how it started twenty years ago. They’re not even really always interconnected anymore. It’s just grown across the board. Some of it is getting that commercial recognition but I would say most of it is not.
You guys are famously Adelaide boys, how much did that influence not only your founding but your early work? Does it continue to play a role today?
I think every artists environment influences them. It was one of those things back when we were coming up that a lot of bands would move to Melbourne or Sydney to try to make it. We were never really one to ditch, we just enjoyed making the music and never really worried about that sort of thing. It happened for us organically thankfully. I don’t think in a lot of ways its affected us greatly, it may have affected our sound but really hip hop is a global kind of music. We never really saw any kind of need to leave. Fast forward to 2022 and people are making music over zoom and we have all of the tools that the internet provides us with to collaborate digitally so now I would say it really doesn’t change much for us.
I remember reading this story about how back in the day you guys performed in Lewisham and Suffa kind of ended up losing his voice or something along those lines… do you have any other memories of performing in Tassie?
I’ve got tons of good memories performing in Tassie. We played Falls Festival a bunch of times.
I saw you guys there!
Wicked, it’s so nice down there! But the Lewisham show was our first headline tour when we came to Tasmania. We stayed up all night. I think Suffa probably got on the gas a little bit too hard. Had a show the day after down in Lewisham and it wasn’t even croaky… there was just nothing coming out. I had to learn all of his lyrics. I did not know his lyrics well enough so I just had to go for it and perform them even though I didn’t really know every word well enough to do them. I definitely learnt the lyrics that day. Poor Lewisham did not get us at our best! That’s definitely a lesson that we learnt. We don’t party that hard before shows anymore.
We’re so pumped to be coming down to Hobart. We’ve heard so much online and through other means of people asking when we’re coming back to Hobart and we realised we hadn’t been there as a headline act in seven and a half years. We were meant to come down just as the pandemic hit, but that all got cancelled so we added you guys to the national run. It’s half sold out already.
That’s crazy, it seems like so many people are keen. Thanks for your time, I wish you the best with it!
Thankyou it was good to have a chat, we’re really excited to come to Hobart.
The Hilltop Hoods will be performing their new act, The Show Business Tour, in Hobart on the 20/08 at the MyState Bank Arena Glenorchy with support from JAYTEEHAZARD. The Band have also announced a collaboration with G-Shock Australia releasing a personalised Hilltop Hoods watch, the GBA800HTH-1A. Remaining tickets to their upcoming shows can be purchased via the TEG[Live] website.