Name: Project Hilts
Occupation: Songwriters, producers, rappers, singers
Current release: Project Hilt have just released their new single "Still Here". Their debut EP, also called Still Here, is out September 15th.
Recommendations: This video of Richard Bona and Bobby Mcferrin is music at it’s finest, it showcases insanely high level and beautiful music whilst also captures that childlike state I talked about: two friends having fun.
Something I always seem to return to: Sons Of Kemet - My Queen is Albertina Sisulu.
If you enjoyed this interview with Project Hilts, their official website for more information. You can also stay up to date on their releases and events by following them on Instagram, Facebook, twitter and bandcamp.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Within the band we have eight different answers but I’ll give mine (Hilts).
I started writing and producing music when I was 10 years old. I remember hearing that Kanye West produced his own music and I didn’t know what that meant. When I found out it meant he made all the elements to the track and brought them together with his vocals to make a full song I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was such a powerful skill.
So, I downloaded the trial version of Fruity Loops on my Mum’s laptop, which wouldn’t let you save any projects. I made a grime instrumental called "Ace of Spades" and just kept the project open so that it wasn’t deleted, me, my brother and my boys Nick and Perry would spit bars over it. I must’ve kept it open for weeks. I still remember that instrumental - big tune!
I think DIY producers like Kanye had a huge influence on me, people such as Timbaland, Skepta, JME and Pharrel showed me that you didn’t need to be a classically trained musician to make good music, and that was really inspiring as a kid who wasn’t trained.
Something has always drawn me to music though, even earlier than that, and I’m not sure that I can explain what it is. I guess listening to/playing music is just one of the most honest experiences I can think of, it’s like eating some good food: there’s no pretence, it's just you enjoying the flavours of life.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
I think Project Hilts embodies that process of development and finding a voice. At the start of my journey I was making Grime music and in doing so I began to find a voice as an MC, but I think there was always an itch I wanted to scratch.
Going to Leeds and finding the other guys allowed me to merge my sound with live musicians and create something new and original, so I think collaboration is key to finding out what you like and don’t like and finding ‘your voice’.
But we’re always growing and changing as people and artists so the journey continues.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
Something I talk to other musicians a lot about is how our sense of identity can stop us from being creative, often feeling a lack of self-worth or imposter syndrome or other common identity issues really stops you from just making stuff.
I’ve definitely been a victim of this and what I’ve learned is that, for me, a sense of identity is irrelevant when creating. Creativity is literally just making stuff, so forget everything else and just make stuff. If it feels good, it is good, so make it.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
As an eight piece, originally nine, the size of our project has always been an obstacle. Nine different people with creative opinions can be a loud room, but we learned to listen to each other and find common ground.
I think we also formed a better creative process where individuals have more of a say on certain songs that are closer to them, and less on others that are less close.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
We’ve come a long way from the instruments, software tools and recording equipment that I started with and a lot of that is due to the creative goals and technical ability changing.
As I mentioned earlier, at age 10 I started producing grime instrumentals on a trial version of Fruity Loops on my Mum’s laptop. I then went on to crack my own version and continued to make Grime and Rap instrumentals, experimenting with production - learning by doing. This sort of DIY culture is at the core of my approach, I think the best musician’s in history did what they could with what they had and still made beautiful music. The idea that you need the best equipment, best training or most expensive instrument to make the best music is false and I’m proud to be from a generation that challenges that.
That being said, there are different tools for different tasks. When I was making grime all we needed was a laptop, cracked software, a fairly cheap microphone and maybe an audio interface to plug it in - my first set up. However, for a sound like Project Hilts you need eight musicians all with their different instruments and expertise, a big studio to record us all and the know-how to do so.
I recorded and produced our EP Still Here in top end studios in Leeds and it’s a long way from the cracked Fruity Loops software, so the tools can change as the sound develops.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Sampling changed the way I view music. I think so much of music is taking ideas and inspiration from previous things we’ve heard and mixing it with new ideas to make a whole new piece of art.
Sampling takes that one step further and, like I mentioned earlier, was born from a DIY approach that I love. I’m constantly listening out for samples in other music, sometimes whole songs, or sometimes just a snare hit - it can be anything.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Collaboration is what it’s all about, I rarely make music on my own. Project Hilts is one big collaboration and we always collaborate in person. Don’t get me wrong, people have got some amazing results using the file sharing technique or FaceTime call sessions, but I love to get in a space with someone, talk about anything and everything, and make some music.
Often the music that comes out relates to the things we talk about and the vibe we are in on the day. Normally this happens with me and one or two of the members in the project. We also jam a lot in rehearsals, something I think is important to do - chasing that childlike state of play.