In der Kleinstadt Mullingar in den irischen Midlands aufgewachsen, hat Nathan Johnston bzw. sein musikalisches Alter Ego Sion Hill einige Umwege genommen, um jetzt mit seinem Debütalbum Elephant endlich angekommen zu sein. Einen ersten Hype gab es um seine erste Single Nothing’s Wrong With Loving You und demnächst geht es mit dem Debüt im Gepäck auch auf große Tour! Grund genug den Iren zum Interview zu bitten!
– Name: Sion Hill
– Founding year: 2015
– Location: Dublin
– Album: Elephant
– You’re coming from a little town in the Irish midlands – when you crew up there, how did you get in contact with music and what were your first musical influences there?
I taught myself to play the guitar in my bedroom when I was about 11 years old and had dreams of being a rockstar so I started a band in my garage.. My first influences were mainly indie bands like Arctic Monkeys, The Kooks, The Strokes and some pop punk music like Green Day and Blink… I think every 11 or 12 year old in my town at that time was into that sort of music so it was almost impossible not to be inspired by that in some way.
– When did you first start to make music on your own and how would you describe your style / project then?
I started writing songs at 11 years old, almost immediately after I taught myself to play power chords and was writing Green Day-Esque songs.. I was sort of just writing in an easy going pop punk style with not many chord changes (but hey, I was 11!) But I mainly just always loved the energy that band had on stage and knew when I got older that I wanted to do that too.
– Then you were visiting a residential school – did you have much time to work on your music then and how did your sound change there, which influences did you have?
I was sent to a boarding school that really encouraged students to get involved in musical activities, I was in the choir and played in the battle of the bands in school and would always jam out with friends in my class who played music too. My sound became much more acoustic based as it was a lot easier to practice & write on the acoustic guitar than the electric. At that time, I was introduced to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Springsteen… guitar music has always been my thing so it was inevitable really that I would look to the past as modern music was largely moving towards the electronic scene.
– At which point and out of which reasons did you then move to Berlin? What did you do there and how did the city influence your style?
I moved to Berlin when I was 21. I wanted to get out of Dublin and go somewhere new and a friend of mine was living there and asked me to visit him so it was just a spontaneous thing, I packed some things, grabbed my guitar and booked a one way flight. The city influenced my personality and character more than my style but definitely made me more interested in techno and electronic music.
– When did you come up with the name Sion Hill and what meaning does it have for you?
I was in Germany and wanted to have a name that was different than a standard, run of the mill singer/songwriter and something that represented where I came from.. Sion Hill was popping up everywhere I went in Ireland so I thought it fit and rolled with it.
– In your bio it’s mentioned that Motown did influence your single „Nothing’s Wrong With Loving You“ – what do you like especially about that sound, which song do you like most and what parts of it did you adapt?
To be honest, I am a big Amy fan and was inspired by what Mark Ronson had done with her sound and music and it wasnt so much going back to the 60’s as it was trying to take an element of the Motown style and developing on that.. And I think it worked pretty well.
– How did you then proceed from playing street gigs to supporting Pete Doherty, recording your debut and releasing it on a German label?
I had recorded some demos of a few of my songs and a friend of mine showed them to someone in a pub in Ireland…a few weeks later I got a call from an A&R for this record label in Hamburg and they were just like, ‘we want to fly you hear, record your music & sign you,’ So I just basically dropped out of college and went there…Peter was also recording there at the time and we met at the artist apartment at clouds hill and got to know each other there. It ended up that his manager saw me performing and invited me to come along on the tour. It was pretty spontaneous actually but that’s usually how it goes in this business.
– Could you tell us a bit about the production process of Elephant? How and with who was it done, what was the best, what the worst moment during production and whats the most told anecdote from that time?
We recorded the whole album live to 24 track tape, vocals included, which is quite rare these days. We spent a couple weeks in the studio rehearsing with the band, trying out new ideas, figuring out new arrangements until we got a sound that we liked and then recorded the whole thing in a few days.
There wasnt really a best moment, it was all so exciting being in this incredible studio with all these musicians.. Essentially what I had dreamed about when I was 11… The worst moment.. Was probably when I lost my voice during the demo recordings and couldn’t sing at all.. We had been partying quite late the night before and I was totally hoarse and thought I had messed up the whole deal… but these things happen and it turned out alright in the end.
– For us the song All I Need Is You kind of stood out of the record as our favorite. How was it done, is there a story behind it and when did you come up with it?
The song is about unrequited love.. When you want someone so badly and you know that there is serious chemistry between you and some unspoken connection, but they are with someone else and it tears you apart.
– Johann Scheerer did produce the record – how did you get in contact with him, how would you describe does he work and how did he influence the sound of the record?
Johann is a master of sound and also a vinyl enthusiast. I think he really had a clear vision of how we should do the record. He put together this band of incredible musicians he knew or had worked with before and most importantly let us figure it out together. Often producers can take total control over what happens in the studio, and sometimes that works, but other times it can totally kill the energy and vibes. With Johann, he let us find our own way and let the band jam it out but was also able to say no when something wasn’t right and to find a way to fix it.
– How do you see the actual movements and situation in the music business, with a growing digital market and a flood of artist trying to make a living from playing live, as/for a newcomer artists?
It is incredibly difficult for newcomer artists nowadays.. I dont know any young bands who dont have to work in bars or restaurants to pay their rent. CD sales have fallen so low and downloads are barely hanging on. The future depends on live music and finding some new revenue streams for musicians otherwise we’ll all be broke.
– Do you still buy records and what was the last one you brought / listened too?
Yes I do, the last record I bought was ‘Angelina’ by Louis Prima. The last record I listened to was NAS – Illmatic.
– What are your next plans?
I am going on tour in the UK in September, followed by a German tour starting October 14th and ending in Hamburg on November 1st. After that I plan to get back into the studio and lay down some new material.
– What did you learn in 2017?
No matter how big the event, once it’s over, nobody cares anymore, so don’t sweat the small stuff.
– Which song makes you dance makes you dance every time?
P.Y.T – Michael Jackson
– How would your Bedroomdisco look like?
Discoballs, DJ Decks, Hallucinogenics.