Artist Interview: Hip Hatchet

We had the opportunity to ask Philippe Bronchtein, aka Hip Hatchet, some questions about his music. You can read the review of his new album, “Joy and Better Days”, here.
What’s your story? How did you start making music?

I started playing piano when I was four years old. I can’t remember a time in my life where i didn’t know how to play music in some capacity. I started writing songs in high school, but didn’t get really serious until I was about 19 or 20. Beyond that I don’t really have much of a story. I don’t have Bon Iver’s cabin in the woods or any other easy narrative to assign to my music. I write songs because it’s what i know how to do.
The name Hip Hatchet is pretty unique. How did that name come about?
The name came from Gary Paulsen’s book Hatchet. I read it when i was very young and a lot of the imagery stayed with me. The name is just a reference to the hatchet that the protagonist always keeps hung on his hip. All of my songs tend to reference anatomy and specific body parts and I wanted that to be integrated into my band name. Unfortunately i picked out the name before “hipster” really became a thing, or at least before i was aware of it. Now a lot of people ask me if it means socially relevant hatchet. I find the name Hip Hatchet to be pretty polarizing, but i’ve more or less stopped caring about what people think of it.
How has being a “solo” artist helped to define the kind of music that you make?

The biggest impact is definitely in the studio. because I track the majority of the instruments on my albums, I can conceive of the orchestration as a whole. Though, having that much control can be scary. Multi-tracking gives me more sonic control in the studio, but at the cost of the album’s live feel. That’s something I tried to address on Joy and Better Days, and is probably the major difference between Men Who Share My Name and JABD.
Though, I don’t necessarily consider myself a solo artist…If i was truly i solo artist, I’d probably just go by my own name. I always bring in different collaborators on each project. Other people’s input help to keep my songs interesting to me. At the end of the day, I’m the creative authority for Hip Hatchet, but the collaborators always bring quite a bit to the table.
What kind of music are you trying to create? What’s the goal when you sit down to write and record?
I guess I’m just trying to make really honest music. I never censor myself when I’m writing a song. After I have a first draft I might go in and make something a little less obvious or more poetic, but people can smell bullshit. If I was singing about rodeos and farms and stuff, it wouldn’t be convincing because I’m just some dude who grew up in north jersey. I write about specific incidents, things that have happened to me. I try to relive them in my mind and pick out some of the beauty and symbolism that naturally occurred in the moment. The goal is always to stay honest.
Who’s inspiring you to write and make music?

I’ve been living in Portland, OR for almost two years now. I’ve met a great community of songwriters out here including Barna Howard, Dan Sheron (Balto), Vikesh Kapoor, and Daniel Dixon. Just seeing the level at which these guys are writing really inspires me to keep writing and keep getting better.
If you could play with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?

I’d love to work with Nico Muhley. His orchestrations are always incredible. I’d also love to play guitar with Mark Kozelek. The new Sun Kil Moon album has some really great guitar work on it. Kozelek has always been one of my favorite songwriters, so I would love to work with him one day. Also Bryan Devendorf, from The National. He comes up with the most interesting rock beats. I’d be curious to hear what he would do with a Hip Hatchet song.
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  1. Hip Hatchet – Joys and Better Days | Ear To The Ground Music

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