We chat with Hilltop Hoods about The Great Expanse

For my people in the front, in the nosebleed section.

Ten words said back in 2003, and yet, it’s made such an impact on the Australian hip hop industry that it feels like ‘The Nosebleed Section’ only came out yesterday. Since then, Hilltop Hoods have had nine ARIAs, six songs in the top 10 of the triple j Hottest 100 and five number one ARIA albums. Daniel Smith – better known as MC Pressure – is now a father of three, living in his Cosby sweater, and still selling out arenas. With their new album ‘The Great Expanse’ set for release on 22 February, Blank GC’s Eden Tokatly spoke with Pressure ahead of the release, to discuss the past, present and future of Hilltop Hoods.

The themes explored in previous albums are always quite personal, what can you tell us about ‘The Great Expanse’?

It’s such an eclectic album, we don’t think it has one common theme. It’s all over the place, which is why we named it ‘The Great Expanse’. It’s a journey from light to darkness. It is quite personal again, but of course, still a lot of party jams. We weren’t sure how they would sit next to each other, and we took a bit of time to curate the list. We came close to finishing 30 songs but we started close to one hundred over the last two years and had several hundred beats.

You’ve been making music for two decades and yet every song tells such a different story. How do you feel it’s important to reflect your growth in your music?

Over 20 years I’ve changed so much as a person just organically the music changes with me. I don’t want to make the same music I was making 20 years ago. This voice, this movement, in my life gave me a voice back then. But in saying that we made angry and grimy music back then and that’s not who I am anymore. I’m 20 years older and a father, “if a man is the same at 20 as he is at 50 then he’s wasted 30 years of his life.”

‘The Calling’ was recorded on Suffa’s mum’s computer. Assuming the process is a little different today, could you run us through your approach to making The Great Expanse?

‘The Calling’ was largely produced on Suffa’s mum’s computer, we recorded the vocals in Debris’ mum’s bathroom. We set a mic up in there and the tiles gave it a nice natural reverb, which of course being professional music makers now, we would never dream of recording in anything but a dead soundproof studio room. It’s so funny to think that we actually managed to come up with on what we made back then with such a minimal set up and no budget.

You’ve had some great features of the years, Sia to Montaigne. On the new album we see Ecca Vanda, Illy and Adrian Eagle. What’s your process in terms of selecting who to collaborate with?

We’ve collaborated more on this record than we have on any others. I genuinely loved working with other people, it’s so good to see their process and how they go about it. You learn new things even after 20 years of making records. In terms of deciding who we collaborate with it’s usually quite a natural process. Adrian Eagle is a friend of a friend, so he was on our radar. He was actually down at the studio and he jumped on the hook for something else but then he heard the Clark Griswold demo and was like, ‘Man this is my joint, I’m really feeling it. Can I get on this instead?” and we wanted him to be into what he was doing. So we scrapped the other song and ended up doing ‘Clark Griswold’. There’s no one set way. Meet. Vibe. And at some point you collaborate.

What has been your best moment from performing live (or your time with Hilltop)?

‘The Calling’ launch after ‘The Nosebleed Section’ blew up at Platinum nightclub in Adelaide. We went from having two or three hundred people at our shows to getting two thousand and having a line-up of a thousand others around the block and we were like ‘god fucking damn, we’ve actually made it.’

Pre-orders for Hilltop Hoods new album ‘The Great Expanse’ are available here. The first two singles ‘Leave Me Lonely’ and ‘Clark Griswold’ are out now.


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