There was a lot going on in the Hilltop Hoods‘ camp when I snagged some of MC Pressure‘s time during album release week for their new orchestral record, Drinking From the Sun, Walking Under Stars Restrung. Heading back east to Sydney later that day for a round of promo, Pressure remained noticeably chilled out about the fact that the hip hop Dons were mere days off from dropping their ninth album release (the trio’s second remix album).
“It’s pretty good, actually,” the newlywed says. “I’m trying to figure out this new iPad I have, putting movies and music on…”
“You spend so much time with your head in the sand,” he admits of this recent studio process. “[You’re] disconnected from everything [while] in the studio and then it’s release week. We always go through this unnecessary storm of insanity in the last fortnight of finishing the record and handing it in, which was about a month ago now. The storm clears and you’re like, ‘Thank fuck we finished that album’!”
“It’s enjoyable until the last two weeks, just finishing the mixes and by then, we’re literally doing 15-20 mixing sessions for the last week, every day. The last session itself went for about 35 hours.”
Admitting that this way of working leads to periods of craziness, the rapper notes the dynamic between the Hoods as it is now remains stronger than ever. They haven’t killed each other yet after these 35 hour sessions (yet), so that’s always a plus…
“We still like each other, remarkably!” he laughs. “At the end, the dust settles and you get to sit back and leave it alone for a couple of weeks, then I actually go to listen to the master, the finished record, and then I start obsessing over it. It starts to get real the week it’s coming out, so you start to actually get excited. There’s that anticipation of whether people are going to dig the new record or not.”
“The dynamic between the three of us, I guess, hasn’t changed a lot,” Pressure says. “Other than I think we’re older and wiser, more respectful. We’ve learnt to negotiate better. Suf and I in particular, we’re both pretty outspoken people; it’s very hard to make a record with someone who is equally as passionate and creative as you are. It’s a bit of a tug-o-war sometimes. We’ve learnt how to deal with it over the years and we get along better now than we did ten years ago. Away from the music, we’ve always been best friends; there’s always love, but you know, during the creative process… it’s actually more seamless now. We know each other better and we know how far we can push.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time the Hoods have gone out and reworked their original music in a way that hip-hop fans wouldn’t necessarily expect. 2007’s orchestral remix release of The Hard Road saw the trio fuse two genres and bring a new shine to the original 2006 material in a way that hadn’t been done before.
The move paid off, with the group taking away the ARIA for Best Urban Release that year, giving the Hoods a back-to-back category win with The Hard Road. Now, with this album, material from the ARIA award winning albums Drinking From the Sun and Walking Under Stars are featured and will no doubt follow suit in being up there with one of the Hoods’ highly favoured and well-regarded releases.
“We are super lucky to have a very open-minded and very cool bunch of followers who will follow us no matter what we do.” Pressure says of their fan base. “This is incredibly extreme as it gets for us and so far, it’s been received really positively. Ten years ago when we did The Hard Road: Restrung there was a lot of people like, “What the fuck. What have you done? You’ve made a massive life mistake!” Then they heard the record and then they were like, “Oh it’s okay, it’s not… classical music.” It’s not a classical version of hip-hop, it’s an orchestra playing hip-hop.”
While for the Hoods, the idea of embarking on a project as extensive and of the calibre of this restrung record may not seem to be breaking any massive boundaries to some, Pressure admits that this album pushed the Hoods further than perhaps ever before.
“We enjoy pushing ourselves,” he admits. “We got about half to three quarters of the way through mixing all the post-production stuff of this record and we actually went, “Holy shit, what have we done?”. We’d just bitten off way more than we could chew. It seemed like such a great idea when we decided to do it, a long time ago, and then the practical side of actually doing it was different and it was a far more enormous project than we ever imagined. But, we finished it.”
“If we didn’t push ourselves so hard, we might be bored with making music by now, and we certainly aren’t; we’re loving it. I think that is the key to remaining enthusiastic about it: we have always pushed ourselves. It’s not even the pressure that we feel coming from outside sources, it’s just internally – what are we going to do to top what we’ve already done? Let’s not do the same bullshit because we’ll get bored and that’ll be stagnant.”
The Hoods have always maintained an interesting position in terms of their live presence and reputation in Australia and abroad. Here, their popularity and esteem is obvious and almost unmatched within the genre. Overseas, the Hoods’ fan base is just as passionate but their foray into international touring over the past decade has definitely provided the trio with perspective; you can’t rest on laurels and you’ve always got to be on the hustle and put 100% into all facets of the music – it’s journey from the studio to the live stage needs that consistency in its delivery, regardless of your profile at home.
“You’ve gotta put your heart and soul into everything that you do.” Pressure agrees, reflecting on past tours and looking ahead to the group’s massive national run coming up. “It’s a real eye-opener playing overseas, in particular, we go play shows where the rooms are 200 or 300 people; you give the same energy to the 300 people as you do to 30,000 on a main stage. It’s gotta be consistent across the board.”
The Hoods’ Drinking From the Sun, Walking Under Stars album is out now.
Catch them on tour around the country at the following shows:
April 2nd | Allphones Arena, SYDNEY
with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra | ALL AGES
April 8th | Entertainment Centre, BRISBANE
with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra | ALL AGES
April 16th | Entertainment Centre, ADELAIDE
with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra | ALL AGES
April 23rd | Rod Laver Arena, MELBOURNE
with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra | ALL AGES
April 30th | Perth Arena, PERTH
with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra | ALL AGES