Manchmal da reichen fünf Fragen einfach nicht aus, um einen Künstler anständig vorzustellen. Es gibt ja auch noch so viel mehr zu erzählen, besonders wenn das Debüt ansteht.
Also saßen Sion Hill und ich bei einem Whisky zusammen und haben geredet. Sehr viel sogar und im Nachhinein hoffe ich, dass dieses Interview einen Sinn ergibt, denn wir sind von einem Thema zu anderen gesprungen und haben uns hier und da verquatscht. Wie man das eben bei einem guten Gespräch auch macht!
HDIYL: You’ve been on a little acoustic tour through Europe the last weeks. How has it been so far?
It’s been great! It’s been three weeks, travelling in a small van and it broke down in Munich. Super sad, because we had a lot of space, you could lie down in the back and sleep. The windscreen wiper broke at 3 am in the night. We pulled in at the side of the road and waited three hours. Just rain, terrible weather. Then ADAC came and collected us. They gave us a shitty car, it was like a soccer mom car. So we are driving in this soccer mom car for the next days. The van was named and it had so much personality. We were vlogging everything – hilarious things happened. We slept in there twice. We went to the beach near Amsterdam, called Bloemendaal. There were a lot of people surfing there and we were filming a song there. We were filming live sessions in every city we’ve been on tour, vlogging everything in between like gigs and interviews. At this place, we stranded there and it was a gay pride that weekend. No hotels were available. It was crowded – I loved it. But we had nowhere to stay. So we ended up in Bloemendaal staying in the van by the beach.
HDIYL: So you had no breakfast in Amsterdam?
Yeah, we did. We drove to the city and had breakfast. So this place Bloemendaal is very cool. Had a swim there in the morning. It’s been eventful. Now we are in this little shitty car and the tour has been decent other than that.
HDIYL: In February, you toured with Pete Doherty. Did you get any advice from him?
No, I didn’t get advice. I’m not sure, whether he’s someone who gives advice. Maybe, if you ask.
HDIYL: Did learn something from how he does things on stage for example?
I learned so much! I met him, when he was in Hamburg in the studio. We both share the same record label and shared an apartment below the studio. We lived there for a week. We were going out to pubs, were playing music together. I started get to know him and asked him, if he needs a support for his tour. A couple of weeks later, his manager called me and asked me, if I want to come. I played these stages and in front of that many people – never did it before. The crowd was there for him, not for me. So I had to win them for me. It’s a battle. I think, I learned that you have to stay fit, when you’re doing this, because it’s really easy to get into that. Normally I have a decent routine in my life. Most people need this, otherwise you get messed up, especially living in Berlin. When you’re travelling every day, going by car up to ten hours, that’s really hard to stay healthy or fit. I learned that from him. I was watching his shows and how he reacts and works with the crowd. How he gets things going, when it is going down. He has a similar set list every night. They kept changing, every single night, because when the crowd is a little bit down, they just play “Fuck Forever” and everyone goes crazy. I always did that with cover songs, because the reason for that, is people know the lyrics and sing along, get excited again. I’ve never played in front of a German crowd, that’s what the Pete tour taught me. He was able to adapt to the crowd every time. I don’t know, if it was him or his experience. I definitely learned from that a lot. More from watching him, than from advic . It was a cool experience, I highly recommend it! Going on tour with Pete Doherty.
HDIYL: So we will see the result on your October tour?
HDIYL: Great, looking forward to that! You mostly wear suits on stage, how important is fashion to you? Normally, I would ask this question more to girls than to boys, but I used to work in a club as a stage manager and boys think a lot about what to wear on stage, too.
Of course, they do. There a two things, stage and daily life. In Ireland, there’s always this separation between day and night, maybe everywhere. My ex-girlfriend was so into fashion and had the craziest and beautiful clothes all the time. She was always ahead of the trends and I was just wearing hoodies and jackets every day. I just like it keeping it very simple – shirt, pair of jeans and a jacket.
I really love soul music and all this 60s and 70s vibe, treating the stage like a lady, respect it and dress up for it. Right? I don’t know, that’s what I’m trying to do. It also stands out. There are so many guys, doing this Singer / Songwriter stuff and I don’t register with that. I don’t think I am a Singer / Songwriter. Even though I am, but I never wanted to be. I’ve always been in bands and when I started to do this solo, I wanted to translate this band thing to this and not being another Ben Howard. There are so many people like that! I like wearing suits.
HDIYL: Do you want your band to wear suits, too?
Yes, I really like to set up a stage and how it looks. My mother is an interior designer, she’s really into spaces and how to make it look good. I fail, because I’m never as good as she is. I’m trying to make it look unique. That’s also something I learned from the Pete Doherty tour. How to set up the stage, use it for the show. Wearing a suit on stage, gets very hot, depends on the venue, and often I just get super sweaty. Super hot shows, but it’s nice. I just love wearing suits, normally I don’t do it.
I did the showcase in Berlin, where you’ve been, and I wore a suit, because we were in a Herr von Eden shop and it was a suit from them. But there was no stage and usually, when there’s no stage, I wear whatever I wear in that day. Maybe a nice shirt. Sometimes you want to dress up. I mean, who doesn’t want to go to an event and putting on a suit.
HDIYL: Everyone does for sure! Coming now to your music. The Irish Times compared you with Jeff Buckley, how do feel, when you hear something like that?
I think, Jeff Buckley is Jeff Buckley. You can’t compare anyone with him. He’s more than a singer, he’s a songwriter and an incredible guitar player. He used to play guitar, before he started being a solo singer. Any person, I could compare in the last ten or fifteen years, would be Nothing But Thieves, the singer of the Band, Conor, he sounds like Jeff Buckley. Especially in the song called “I Get High”. Jeff Buckley inspired so many bands like Queens of the Stone Age with melodies. It’s a lovely thing, when someone compares me to that. I wouldn’t thought that about myself, even though I’m a fan.
HDIYL: So you don’t feel proud or anything else?
No, I seem too pissed of. Who the fuck am I? This guy is a legend, a better guitar player than I am and he was that way longer before he started singing. I started playing the guitar and singing at the same time. I’ve been playing the guitar since I’m eleven years old, but I can’t do the things Jeff Buckley does. In my opinion. He really embers all, when he performs. Maybe I’ll do that and maybe that’s where the comparison is. It’s a nice thing, but listen to my record and then you can compare it.
HDIYL: I listened to your album and I didn’t compare you to Jeff Buckley, because I try not to compare artists with each other.
HDIYL: A couple of years ago, you played “Wanna Be Like You” from the Jungle Book at a radio station competition in Ireland and I wanted to know why. Because it’s one of my favourite songs of my childhood and reminds me of it.
I watched that film every day! I played the song all the time, because so many Irish artists do it as well. About a year ago, I heard a version from Paolo Nutini. When I heard it, I was still playing the song. I never brought it to my live show, but after that I did. Now everyone from Ireland is doing it, like Gavin James, but I watched that movie so many times and I loved it. I learned it on the piano first, my piano teacher at school taught me it in a jazzy way and much slower. He was the best! One day, there was this competition and my mother used to listen to me, when I was playing it on the piano. She texted me about this competition. She’s always listening to the radio and wins every competition like a trip to Ibiza. So weird. She won money, trips and cooking classes. I think you can make a job out of winning radio competitions.
HDIYL: They’ll probably know her now.
Oh yeah, like not “her again”.
HDIYL: How long did you work on your debut album?
In total, writing the songs in the studio took us a week, actually to record the album. Because, we recorded every song live on tape. It’s all live, there are no over dubs. We had one song with over dubs, because the guitar was sick that day, a part of that we did everything live. We rehearsed maybe three weeks. First we went in the studio, we recorded everything separately. The drums, the bass, the guitar… and vocals. We did it for two songs and I didn’t like it. I felt the songs needed to be played live with a band to really get the emotion and the feeling of it. We spent two weeks, I think, in the studio and rehearsing every day. Then we recorded it and that was it. Did the album in a whole week.
HDIYL: Did you already have enough songs or did your start writing new ones whilst in the studio?
I had 200 songs. I played 20 songs for the A&R of the label and I chose five or six of my favourite tunes, that I’ve written. The rest of them were lower level songs, which I’ve written. I didn’t want to show my best songs straight away. Also I took older songs that I wanted to record, when I was 17 years old. So now they’re recorded and the next album will be with newer tunes. On that album there are songs on which are five years old. I had so many and I chose the top six to put on the first album and the rest of them are good, but as good to put them on another album. But I’m writing new songs every week, so there’s no abundance of songs to choose from. Some people just put a first album out with incredible songs and only with pop hits. I don’t want to be a pop star, I want to focus on lyrics a lot. I chose songs with more lyrical stable than having a huge hook.
HDIYL: Talking about your songs. Do you write songs like „Nothing’s Wrong With Loving You“ or “All I Need Is You” for a particular person?
It’s situations. I don’t think there’s a writer who puts his experience into his writing. Like you have to experience something to make a story out of that or have a feeling or been to a place and see something. All my favourite writers, not songwriters, are people who write about what happened to them. They take a story like Jack Kerouac “On The Road”, it’s one of my favourite books. Have you read that?
You should read it, if you like to travel. It’s a good book. He wrote about his experience in the world and he says in the prologue, he just wrote and went on. Nothing was planned. He just did it. It’s the same in my songs. I come up with a melody and have situations or an experience and I built the song around that feeling. The rest of it is maybe a message or something I want to explain. All of that comes from one situation. „Nothing’s Wrong With Loving You“ came from being with a girl and my mates were all angry, that I didn’t spend time with them anymore. That’s how I started the song the rest came from what I’ve been listening to that time. Some Amy Winehouse tracks or Motown. Just incorporated that into the song and tried to send a message with the one idea I had. It’s never about just my personal experience and not trying to send a message. It’s the combination of the two.
HDIYL: I seemed to remember, you mentioned the story behind your new single „Elephant“ at the showcase. Can you tell me the story again? Was it about sex?
A lot of people just go out, they want to meet people and be loved and they want sex. In a bar, it’s not just about sex, it’s about finding someone that is really good and holding on to that.
HDIYL: The person or sex or both?
Both. Sometimes it’s just about the sex, sometimes it’s just about the person.
HDIYL: That’s totally true!
I had a very long fucked up relationship, that didn’t end well. After that I just wanted sex and that was the only song on the record we didn’t do with the band in the studio. When I came back to the studio and played the song, it was more than an upbeat song. I really wanted to record that song, when I wrote it, it was a really aggressive rock song. We popified the shit out of it. I still like it, it’s cool. The original song was never this pop song. I used to play on the street in Berlin under a bridge. A homeless guy watched me. Remember it?
HDIYL: This part I can remember.
The Polish homeless guy watched me, hadn’t enough coins to give me, so he gave me cans of Elephant cider. It was disgusting. Whatever, I used to play Red Hot Chilli Pepper Songs and all of the songs were about sex. He asked me, if I have songs about sex. I already had one, didn’t put it on the album. Next time I played it to him and I figured it out and rearranged it. He was so excited, so I put this song on it for this guy. He seemed so hopeless, when I met him and I think the whole message of this record is, when you’re feeling like an outsider or nobody in a world, you can find your music or your passion in some way. This can give you hope in a way. Sex can do this for you, too.
Does this all makes sense? I’m so shitty in talking today. I’m sorry. So what was the question again?
HDIYL: Well, it was about the story behind “Elephant”, but I would say you actually answered it.
I think, sex is a very important part of love and I have a lot of songs about love, loss and heartbreak. Songs about the best part of being in love, you know? Sex without love is also great, but sex when you’re in love is the best. “Elephant” is about that. Holding on to that feeling of being in love, having sex while being in love. That is sex. When you’re not in love it’s just fucking in my opinion.
HDIYL: You summarised it quite well!
HDIYL: You have some really good acoustic songs like “Go On and Get it for Me” or “Having Breakfast In Amsterdam” on YouTube. Why aren’t they on the album? Do they not fit to the rest of the songs?
HDIYL: “Go On and Get it for Me” is one of my favourite songs and I thought there is this one song missing on the track list…
Oh you like that one? We recorded in total 14 songs and on the album there are 11 or 12 on it. We took a few out, because they didn’t fit or whatever. With “Go On and Get it for Me”, I was just in the moment. When I play a song, I’m in the moment. If you’re doing an interview or a live session, normally you plan what song you will play and practice it. For that session, I had another song to do from the record and I just decided to play “Go On and Get it for Me”. I had this beautiful guitar, borrowed from a friend, because I was in Dublin and it fitted the song. It wasn’t on the record, because it wasn’t good enough for it. I probably will release it as a single or something.
HDIYL: Great! You said, it is an Irish rap song. I guess, you have a thing for Hip Hop. There are two great covers of you on YouTube. From Chance The Rapper and Eminem. What song will you cover next?
Yeah, I love Hip Hop and Chance The Rapper.
HDIYL: That Chance The Rapper cover is great!
HDIYL: I didn’t know the original at first and then I listened to it. And the funny thing is, that HONNE recommended me Chance the Rapper in the last interview. I never listened to him, because I forgot it and then I listened to other bands… Then I heard your cover and started listening to Chance and I wanted to hear the original. You did a good job, because both versions sound like an individual song. You know?
What do you prefer?
HDIYL: Well, that’s hard to say. It depends on my mood and I can’t choose.
I’ll always go with the original. In my version, I’m not using the real chords from the song. I’m using chords from a Eminem song called “Infinite” and it’s the most brilliant lyrical song on that mixtape!
HDIYL: Ok, now I have to listen to it again! Especially with that info…
That was the same thing with the “Get it for me” song. On that day, I was meant to play one of my other songs and I just talked to Sebastian, my other guitarist, and asked him, if he can play the chords. I used to sing to the song with my mates at home. We loved it. I love Hip Hop and Rap, I don’t feature it that often in my music, but I will with the next record. The next record will be Soul, Hip Hop and Irish Folk combined with really poppy stuff, I’ve done.
HDIYL: Which song will you cover next?
Yeah, there is Irish group called Hare Squead.
HDIYL: Oh, I know them! Herside Story? (An. d. R. Natürlich haben wir schon über diesen Song geschrieben…)
You know them? That’s the song! I will do that, but I can’t say “Nigga” and it’s said so many times.
HDIYL: Really looking forward to that!! Maybe you have to find someone, who is saying that word every time?
I was thinking about that! I have friends, who are Rappers, maybe I’ll ask them. Just for this one word. Or I will cover Anderson.Paak with “Parking Lot”. Do you know it?
HDIYL: No, not that song. You’re learning German and at the showcase you told, you can say “Ich bin die Naschkatze” in German. Have you learned some new words? Do you want to end the interview with a German sentence?
I was driving to London, the traffic there is crazy! It was the rush hour and I was losing my shit and I decided, last minute, to turn around a corner and then a truck caught me off and I break down all of a sudden. The car just shut down. How do you call that in German?
I said: Oh mist, schon wieder abgewürgt! That’s my new one.
HDIYL: Really good! Finally coming now the last question: What’s your favourite song or album at the moment?
My favourite song at the moment is Slow Club with “Tears of Joy” and favourite album right now is, I don’t know. There hasn’t been an album. Mac DeMarcos new album is good. Liked it. There hasn’t been a major album that came out, that was holy shit since Tame Impala.
Thanks again to Sion Hill for this very nice chat!
Hossa – das war ein langes Interview. Respekt an alle, die es sich durchgelesen haben und danke dafür! Der Release steht unmittelbar bevor und „Elephant“ ist bereit in die große weite Welt hinausgelassen zu werden.
Das Album ist an manchen Stellen poppig, vielleicht ein wenig zu poppig, doch in Kombination mit den restlichen Titeln gleicht es sich wieder aus. „Elephant“ kann man zu den verschiedensten Gelegenheiten hören, ich habe das schon getestet und deswegen: Hört es euch an und vor allem, schaut euch Sion Hill auf der Bühne an! Männer in Anzügen schaut man sich ja eh gerne an und wenn die Musik dazu noch so gut ist, was will man mehr?
PS: Man munkelt, dass er auf dem Nürnberg.Pop Festival spielen wird…
/ Text: Matilda Pfeil / Bild: Michael Sessinghaus /