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Interviews With People: J. Riley Hill

J. Riley Hill’s eclectic sound has been festering for years, as a young solo musician, songwriter and member of Winnipeg local cult band The Fo!ps (and, of course, a plethora of side projects). This year marks a new chapter in the artist’s story as he unveils his first “official” self-titled LP through Canadian imprint Woven Records on June 12, 2012.

We heard that you played all the instruments on the record, is this true?
Yes it’s true, I played everything on this album, except one sample………. which is a secret. Some of the drums are drum machines as well, but for the most part it’s all real instruments.

Can you describe your recording process?
When I record I tend to try out a lot of different things, and find new ways to record and experiment. On this record, in the interest of having a cohesive sound throughout the process, I decided to record all the songs the same way. I tracked a guitar to a click track and then played drums along with the guitar. Everything else was added after that. Only one song wasn’t recorded in that way, and it’s also the one that has a secret sample.

What are some of your favorite tracks on the record? What makes them stand out?
My favorite songs to play, and my favorite songs to listen to are different, having worked on this record for a year or so, I’m starting to get a little tired of hearing the songs, but I still enjoy playing them all. My favorite tracks to listen to are probably Alone and Mountains n’ Birds. I like the arrangements on them, they sound the most like music I would listen to. Those would be my favorite songs on the album.

Everyone we’ve shown your record to hears a different singer or band in your sound. Some mention The Band, The Beatles, David Byrne, Elvis Costello… (to name a few). What do you hear in your music? Where do you place yourself musically?
I’m not really sure where I would place myself, I have certainly thought about it a lot, but it’s hard to put into words. Certainly all of those bands mentioned above were around in my house when I was growing up, my parents are great music lovers and their taste certainly influenced me a lot.

When I was a little kid, all I liked was pop music, my first cd’s where Ska, and uhhh I think Sugar Ray, that sort of stuff is what I was really into, then when I started playing guitar I wanted to be a lead guitar player, and all I listened to, was the shredding gods like Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen. Once I actually started a band I rejected that sort of stuff and got into punk, metal and grunge and thought that was where it was at. And then after that all I was into was avant garde music like Captain Beefheart and Keiji Haino. At some point I realised that it was ok to like all those different sorts of music, and that something can be enjoyed just as much for being kitschy and weird as it can be for being deep or profound. If you think it sounds good then that’s awesome. My main interest is in trying to make music that I wanna listen to myself, and that I feel really strongly about.

You’re known as a real down to earth chill dude, but on stage you become “an animal” (as someone pointed out to me the other day). Can you tell us what changes you when you step on stage?
I would say that a lot of the time on stage I am pretty timid and do a fair amount of shoe gazing, but from time I guess I do go a bit crazy…. I’m not really sure, I’m definitely a different person, but I’m honestly not really sure where it comes from, I would say that alcohol is probably usually involved.

What’s next for J. Riley Hill?
Touring hopefully lots and lots of touring, making cartoons, I have a YouTube channel for my cartoons, and I will be putting out a new one soon that I am pretty excited about. Also playing music with other people, hopefully lots of that. (Editor’s note: sample some of J. Riley’s animation work below.)

BONUS ROUND!! What would you do if someone gave you ONE MILLION DOLLARS RIGHT NOW!?
I have been thinking about this dream studio idea…. I would build it for sure. I have a lot of ideas for that, it needs to be a big living room basically… but also it needs to have a big room to send sound through to get a real acoustic reverb sound….. and a room filled with tons of one of a kind analog effects. And a robot gardener, and a talking pillow that could write song lyrics and whisper them to you when you slept; so that when you woke up you would have a new song ready to go.

J Riley Hill’s eponymous record will be officially available in digital and physical formats on June 12. Until then, catch his CD release party on Thursday, May 17 at the Times Change(d) in Winnipeg. Find all the details HERE.


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    J. Riley Hill’s eclectic sound has been festering for years, as a young solo musician, songwriter and member of Winnipeg...
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