Justin Hill goes behind the music on Jr. Hill, SoCal Slaps, and more
On the track, he goes by Justin Hill, but on music streaming services, he goes by the name Jr. Hill. Of course, this isn’t exactly a secret, as Hill has talked many times about how important music is to him and has even written and recorded songs for his own videos, like the opening segment of MOTO 10. Just before the 2019 Anaheim Supercross, Hill dropped a two-track digital release, titled SoCal Slaps, which strikes a lighter chord than his debut album, Bitter. Knowing how important music is to his program when he’s not on track, we caught up with Hill on race day to talk more with him about his other passion.
Rather than ask you the usual questions, I wanted to ask you about your music. Your album just came dropped, so how has that been received so far?
It's fantastic being that it's just me having fun with it. I just treat that like therapy. I play a lot and I always try to play and get better at it. I enjoy creating and I am a bit of an artist. That's just one of the things I like to create. I've always loved music and being from Portland, it's a big grunge area. That stuck with me so much and I just wanted to make stuff like that. Now, I'm branching out and making a little bit of everything. That last album that dropped on Halloween is doing pretty good. I actually didn't get paid for it for a couple of months because it gets backed up, but I don't really care [laughs]. I do it for fun and so many people hit me up and say, 'I love it, it's cool,' and that means the world to me. I never really thought about that before, I just put it out there because I like it, but it was really cool to put heart into something and have people really like it. I've got zero poor feedback, everybody likes it. I just made a couple of funny songs, like the Buttery one. Then in a video I just did, I made this punk song that went along with it, so we dropped that. I called those the SoCal Slaps because it was just a joke. I don't even have a real studio here on the West Coast so I was just jacking around and it was kind of cool that it turned out so good with such terrible equipment. I had a blast and I might even release a couple more before I leave town [laughs].
You mentioned you don't have your real gear with you here, but as far as your equipment goes, what all do you have? I'd imagine you have a few guitars.
I've got a lot of stuff. I've got close to 20 or so different guitars that I record with and a couple of junkers here and there. Before I record a song, I'll pick up six or seven different guitars and play it on each one. Then I'll pick the one that it I like the best and go with it because sometimes it's not necessarily the sound, but how you play it with the action and how it feels. It's all up to what I'm feeling and what feels right. I like having the options because it gives my sound a versatility and I don't want it to be the same thing on the same tempo. I do what I feel like and I have nobody giving me any direction or telling me how to do it. I make everything on my own from the percussion to the bass, the guitar riffs, the arrangement, the mixings, the vocals, and everything. It's all me, I do whatever I want.
Do you gravitate towards a particular guitar or a type of guitar? I know some guys prefer certain pickups or necks or other things.
My favorite thing as far as pickups go is the ones that come on the top-of-the-line PRS guitars. They come with the best pickups as far as I'm concerned. It's always the most solid and some of them can be a little finicky or the action can be a little taller, but they come with unbelievable tones. I have a custom built PRS that I record with a lot. I also love the noiseless on the Teles a lot. If it's anything like Hendrix, then I use my HSH Fender and it's got singles and humbuckers, so I have the options. I do a lot of that stuff with the Fender. I could go on and on and on [laughs]. I also do a lot of nylon strings for the acoustic stuff. I've got a couple of killer D'Angelico guitars, but you know what's funny? I've got a ton of great stuff, but a couple of my songs I've recorded on a $99 junk guitar and it sounded good. It's how you portray the instrument, and it's weird, but with all of the money that I have in guitars, to record and release a song on a $99 pile doesn't make a lot of sense. It just happens sometimes. I made a song with it and was like, 'I can't release a song like this knowing that it's recorded on a junker,' so I recorded it with one of my killer Gibsons and didn't like it as much [laughs]. It happens sometimes.
As I understand it, you also have a full-blown recording studio set up in your house in North Carolina, right?
Yeah, I have a cool studio. It isn't done by any regulation, like it isn't legit, but it's just me doing my stuff. I'm comfortable there, it's ten feet from my bed, and I can make music at night until I crash. It's exactly what I want and I feel like I have some cool stuff. People come over and are kind of taken aback at first because they don't understand it, but then they walk in and they're like, 'Okay, I see this.' I've got a couple different drum kits, I've got electric stuff and amps and mic setups that I've collected over the years. At one time, I had two separate studios, one there and one in California. I just recently mashed them together in North Carolina and left the bare essentials back in Cali, which is what I did SoCal Slaps with. I made a giant studio out of a couple and it turned out better than I thought. It's weird, but I have a really good time with it.
When it comes to instruments, they're practically works of art with the different paint colors and styles. Is there any instrument that you've looked at and wanted to take inspiration from for a helmet scheme or any other gear?
Some of my favorites are the pearl white PRS guitars and some of my other favorites are my Les Pauls. I don't really play those that much, they aren't necessarily my favorite because I have others that supersede them, although I have recorded with them. Those sunburst paint jobs on the Les Paul are really hard to beat though. Those things are sweet. The same thing goes for the 50's Tele sunburst. I was planning on basing a helmet on one of those at some point, but now that the cat's out of the bag, I might have to re-strategize. I really like those though, and I love the style of those pearl white styles. I've also got this old Dean with this full money paint job – I want to say it was a Megadeth theme – it's just all cash and skulls, so it's kind of cool and I thought about doing something like that, but it's green [sighs]. You can't even really get away with that. I'd say those are my top ones.