Interview: Charlie Hill

Photo by Sam Poggioli.

We’re big fans of the new wave of music coming out of the Brisbane underground scene here at Twistedsoul. Underground music is being reimagined all over Brisbane by acts formulating their own unique sound. Step forward Meanjin-based drummer-producer Charlie Hill, who returns to Sampology’s Middle Name Records for Yore, his debut solo EP and the first release on the label that is not a solo or collaborative Sampology record.

While trained in jazz tradition, Hill aims to push jazz music in new directions. A variety of influences can be heard in his music, including jazz-funk, neo-soul, downbeat, house, techno and broken beat. You’ll hear tracks that challenge genre norms and erase genre boundaries throughout the EP. The wonky electronic sounds, percussive grooves and hypnotic embrace of ‘Her Four Thorns’ will show you what we mean.

Across its six tracks, Hill combines recordings of himself drumming with programmed rhythms, synthesisers, and a painstakingly curated personal library of samples of friends and family playing instruments and singing.

Although the term Yore traditionally refers to times from long ago, for Hill, it’s more representative of how the passage of time can reframe our memories through a nostalgic rose-tinged lens. “Yore is a dance-inspired release made with a sample library made up of snippets of recordings of close friends and family,” he says. “The collaging of all these recordings represents many amazing memories of the people that mean so much to me.”

We were lucky enough to catch up with Hill, so join us as we delve into the details of his EP and explore his musical journey.

Hi Charlie. What are you up to at the moment?

I’m spending a lot of time on the drums at the moment. I’m trying to brush off some cobwebs that formed while I was occupied releasing ‘Yore’. Other than that, I’m pottering along on Ableton, constantly searching.

What first got you into music, and when did you start writing music?

It’s hard to say what first got me into music. My family has always been a musical one, so there was always music around from day one. I was given piano lessons from about 5 years old, and although I really didn’t like going to lessons, I was always using what I was learning to explore by myself. Things like reharmonizing ‘Happy Birthday’ and piecing together chords. So, I guess I could say it was my parents giving me that environment and the tools to navigate it.

I’ve always been writing a little bit in different chapters of my life. I really enjoyed writing for large and small group ensembles when I was studying, and I’ve always been active in sharing ideas in any original groups I’m a part of. The YORE project started in early 2020 and was definitely another chapter.

Could you describe the themes or stories contained in the Yore EP?

‘Yore’ was like a little ode to the places and people I was involved with over a 3-year period. To put it in context, I first started producing in my family home while we were locked down during the pandemic. I hadn’t yet moved out of home, and I owe a lot to my family for that time. In the following 3 years, I moved out of home with three close friends (two of them musicians I went to uni with) and then again into another share-house with my partner. I was collaborating with Sampology throughout that time, which would later become our ‘Galaxy’ release. All those people played an integral part in my process. I was always bouncing ideas off them, collaborating with them, recording, and sampling them. My sample library turned out to be really personal and was equal parts functional audio for me to play around with and a memory bank for some really special moments. I think ‘Yore’ is a collaged group of fond memories of those spaces and people over a time that saw a lot of change in my life.

In the time between producing electronic music on your laptop, collaborating with Sampology, and releasing your debut solo EP, what has been the journey?

Pretty much exactly that, and in between those three things, I think there was a huge amount of musical growth for me. In the past 3-4 years, I think I’ve been the most open to new music than I ever have been. I began DJ’ing records and USB, and I have changed what I think is important in my drumming and maybe in music in general. It’s been a great journey.

What is your style of writing? Are you more focused on composition or jamming?

I think it’s definitely loop-based, collaging at the moment. Because it’s really just me in front of a laptop, I think I just sit down and start putting puzzle pieces together. My process is a lot slower than if I were to approach it in a live way, but I think the slower pace suits me for the time being. It could definitely change, though.

Which track is your favourite on the release?

It’s an annoying answer, but I don’t really have any favourites in the EP. They all have little memories and things that mean something to me. Perhaps there will be favourites down the line, but for now, I’d say I don’t.

Tell us about the drummers that inspire your style.

I don’t know how much their playing comes out in my own, but Marcus Gilmore has always been a big one for me, and three local legends, Perrin Moss, Tully Ryan, and Lucky Pereira.

That takes us nicely to my next question..

You are surrounded by a pretty vibrant music scene. Who should we be looking out for next from Brisbane?

There are so many, but I know that Sampology, Squidgenini, and David Versace are always working on things.

What’s coming up for the rest of the year?

Much of the same, I think. It looks like more producing, drumming, and DJ’ing. I’m working on some clubbier tunes that I hopefully feel like releasing at some point. But for now, I’m just searching.

CF Smith

Permeating your ears with good music.

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