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HIji RR is an independent American electronic rocker. His name is pronounced “high” “jye” “are are”. He fuses synthesizers, electronic instruments, and guitars to create catchy rock and synth-pop songs, in addition to imaginative instrumentals. His sound resides somewhere at the intersection of The Smashing Pumpkins, Depeche Mode, and Nine Inch Nails.

Where are you based?
Silicon Valley, California, USA

How long have you been making music?
For as long as I can remember… As a kid, I had a toy similar to a Cool Keys Touch Guitar that I would just fiddle with for long periods of time. It was then that I realized that I enjoyed electronic music. My family was too poor to invest into any meaningful music training, but in my teens someone taught me some basic chords after I convinced my dad to buy me an inexpensive guitar. Prior to this, I was an active listener to music that built up a lot of my music preferences. Later, we were gifted a computer with music software, and I would sequence drums, piano, and bass while I played along. In college, I took electronic music courses, and from that point, I began producing my own music.

What genre would you consider your music to be?
HIji RR is best described as electronic rock. But, that’s really an oversimplified description to describe how I create my music. Rather than have a band, I use music software in place of real people to play the various roles: bass player, drummer, keyboardist, pianist, and so on. I contribute vocals, guitars, and some keyboards. Of course, I write and produce all my own songs. Occasionally, I’ll work with another creative artist. While most of what I create *is* electronic, that doesn’t mean that my music lives within a specific genre: I have some heavy rock tracks, some dancy instrumentals (or remixes), and synth-pop songs.

What inspired you to pursue a career in music?
It’s not a career for me. It’s a labor of love that’s driven by something inside my heart, soul, and mind – I’m passionate about what I do. For a long time, I questioned why I was doing any of this, but there was also no replacement. There are people who are a million times more talented than me when it comes to playing an instrument, songwriting, or producing. In my experience, it’s rare for someone to be excellent at all three, and most often, they excel at one or two (at most). When I combine my production with my songwriting and performance, something very special and unique comes out that becomes HIji RR. So, for me, it’s been a path of growth and that’s what excites me; e.g., when I write a better song, improve my guitar or voice, or do a better job of producing and mixing a track. I get something out of it that I can then share with the world.

What are your biggest musical influences?
Artists who express their talent through innovation and a drive to break barriers are really inspirational to me. Alan Wilder (Recoil, ex-Depeche Mode) as a musician & producer definitely makes the top list because of his methodologies, standards, and aesthetic sensibilities. Max Martin (Swedish songwriter, record producer, and musician) has written and produced more top songs than people realize; he’s also someone who has pushed himself to evolve in a number of ways. Other artists who I have deep respect for: Garth Brooks (American country singer and songwriter) who created the grossly underrated Chris Gaines album (his rock alter ego), Taylor Swift for consistently evolving herself as an artist, William Patrick Corgan (Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins) for having the drive to keep going, John Lennon for his songwriting (plus I appreciated his music as a solo musician LONG before the Beatles’), all past & present members of La Ley (Chilean rock band) for writing excellent songs in Spanish, and Trent Reznor who doesn’t get enough credit for pushing the boundaries of music production.

Are you signed to a label or are you an independent artist?
I’m an independent artist. It’s just a better fit for me. I work at my own pace and have full creative control over what I do. Once upon a time, I worked through a (pre-digital) distributor, and when we separated, I felt like they made the entire experience unnecessarily unpleasant and unfavorable. It underscored the negativity that I had read about the music industry for years through established musicians, and I recognized that this was only a taste of what it would be like to work with a mature label. The terms and conditions would have to be extremely fair and transparent for me to consider no longer being independent. Of course, today, there are services that handle all the mechanics of music distribution, and so far, they have been operating in fairness for what I do.

What have been the biggest challenges in your music career?
The ever-changing landscape has been the most challenging on two fronts. The FIRST is the demand on musicians to be more than musicians – market forces are driving many to be entertainers, personalities, or produce content that is social media-worthy. I saw a reel recently with Trent Reznor being cut off by a skateboarding Tony Hawk; I thought it was funny, but I also realized that this would have never been given a first or second thought decades earlier. So, for me, I’m having to constantly think about how I want to define the brand of HIji RR. The SECOND is people’s tastes in music continue to evolve and broaden. I think we’ve moved past the genre wars where people would identify as fans of rap, country, rock, classical, or something else – they would avoid each other’s territories while making a case for why their genre was great and the others were terrible. This is why it was such a big deal that Queen put “no synthesizers” on one of their releases, why Depeche Mode was not accepted for a very long time for “not fitting in”, and why the Run-D.M.C./Aerosmith “Walk This Way” collaboration was such a big deal. Now, electronic music is widely accepted, people can openly appreciate music that came out decades before their birth, and genre crossovers are the norm. All music is accepted. So, when I share something new, I have to recognize that people are not so rigid with genres, and that includes appreciating the talented The Kiffness (who is best known for creating pop songs with cat samples, among others.)

How many songs or albums have you released to date?
I’ve been rereleasing my archive music and music videos, including “Don’t Mix Too Fine”, “When I’m Ready”, and “Dark as You” – all excellent tracks that deserve a second lease on life. Over time, I’ll release other tracks from my archive. I’ve also remixed a couple of other artists including electronic music duo Test Subjects and singer/songwriter Joshua Dennis.

Can you tell us a few things about your latest release?
“Another Number” marks my first official new song, as both a single and music video. It’s a synth-heavy track that has some excellent pop hooks. It speaks to the idea of being lost in the sea of other people, but when you stand out, what it means to miss the benefit of anonymity. I think it’s a fitting release given the influence of social media.

Any plans for new music or upcoming projects we should know about?
“MirrorBridge” will be my first non-single release as HIji RR; “Another Number” is included on it. I like albums that have a deeper meaning, and “MirrorBridge” is no different. It is 6 tracks long with 3 tracks that are mirror versions of the other 3. The concept here being that the same song can coexist in two (or more) ways. Are they remixes? No. They are each their own song, but interpreted in different ways. Other tracks include the melodic, but guitar-heavy “Way of Life”, and “Wild and Free” which is a pop-ish track that opens with a vocoder hook. The mirror version of “Wild and Free” is “WAND-F”, which is an industrial synth instrumental. You can stream “MirrorBridge” on all major platforms, or you can queue it up for its release on February 16, 2024.


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