ZION: a hill in
which the Temple
From the beginning, Hillsong UNITED has committed
everything they are to developing a platform for
worship the whole world can see and join. With their
latest release, ZION
, it’s clear that this group of worship
leaders has grown into much more…they are a collective
expectantly waiting and preparing for the Kingdom of
God before them.
At the helm of this prolific group (who has an
impressive number of singles and albums to their
credit) is Joel Houston. He, along with band members JD
Douglass and Matt Crocker, recently caught up with CCM
to explain the journey they’ve been on, the new sound
and the things that inspire them all.
CCM: Why did you choose the title ZION?
From the outset, I felt like this was
going to be a project that spoke simply and decisively of
the story of God…of the sense of purpose and mission
that comes from realizing where we fit in that picture.
I’m convinced that we are not only redeemed, but we
are redeemed and called into the story of God with a
specific plan and purpose. This is why we undertook
this project in the first place; not to just add another worship title to the catalogue, or to fulfill
the project quota. In fact, it was the
opposite; we did it because we believe
that God is wild enough to entrust us with
His song and His message, and use us to
display it the best that we can to others.
That’s the call; we are going to answer it
to the extent of our ability and a whole
lotta faith. This is ZION; the city of God,
the people of God… allowing the Spirit
to breathe His eternal and unshakeable
kingdom in and through us as we simply
trust and love Him. It’s a completely
ludicrous thought, but it’s the truth, and
the revelation of it has filled me with more
passion, purpose and confidence than ever.
ZION is not held hostage for the future;
it was established at the cross, and the
cornerstone (Jesus) was laid down, so that
we may triumphantly take our place in
establishing the New Jerusalem, the new
reality…here and now.
CCM: Can you tell us about the more
aggressive sound on this project?
I don’t know that the
sound is more “aggressive.” Unless by
“aggressive” you mean “new.” I think we
have always set out to write songs and
create musical expression that is almost
uncomfortable in its uniqueness. Not for
the sake of progression, or to keep pace
with whatever the trends say, but simply
because I feel like it’s an essential aspect of
what I believe worship is. It’s supposed to
be costly, it should always cause us to step
into a place where our strength is made
invisible in the complete pervasiveness
of His power in all that we do, and that
involves taking risks. With this project, we made a very simple decision not to
compromise…not on anything; the lyrics,
the sound, the devotion and the story
behind each and every song carries a
weight and a confession and a beauty that
comes from KNOWING God is in this! That
doesn’t mean the album is perfect, but I do
believe it represents the true heartbeat of
really ordinary people who, in desperate
need and passionate response to their
Savior, chose to give the best that we
CCM: What are your personal favorite
songs on the album and why?
I am so proud, and in
the same breath completely humbled, by
every song on this album. I’m not one for
playing favorites, but with this record I
feel like every song has such a specific and
powerful story, and it would be an injustice
to focus squarely on any of it as a part. The
album is a story made up of stories. Much
like the Kingdom. Much like Zion.
CCM: What do you want listeners to take
away from the album?
I think my favorite thing
is that it all points to one
thing — the kingdom of God established
here on earth and in our lives. So, I want
the listener to engage with the lyrics more
than anything. We didn’t want to just
record another album for the sake of it, so
everything had to have a reason for being
on the album. It’s a journey that we want
people to experience start to finish, so they
can fully immerse themselves in the story
and feel what we were feeling when we
wrote and recorded this album.
CCM: You have had tour dates internationally;
what have been your experiences
overseas and how did it effect you?
JONATHON “JD” DOUGLASS:
I think the
biggest impact that we have seen through
touring internationally is the strength
and passion for Jesus and His church that
is universal around the world. We have
had the privilege to worship with many different countries and cultures, but what
they all share in common is a passion to
worship Jesus. It has encouraged me in
that all around the world, there are people
giving their all to God. I think if we can all
just do our part (where we live like Jesus
and encourage others to do the same) then
we can really make an impact for God on
CCM: Are there any different band
members on this record, and how did they
effect the new sound?
As far as new members,
there was really only one guy. He had
never done anything with us before, but
got super involved with the recording of
. His name is Benjamin Tennikoff, but
everyone knows him as “Tenni.” Tenni has been a part of the team back home in
Sydney for years, and is one of the most
loyal/faithful guys you’ll ever come across.
He plays keys and is super creative with
sounds, so Mikey Chislett (who produced
ZION and several other of the UNITED
albums) thought he’d be an awesome
addition to this project, and we flew him
over to NYC with us. He came up with a lot of the synth sounds and actually wrote the
music that was inspiration for the songs
“Heartbeats” and “Tapestry.” We also had
some of the guys from past projects like
Joel Hingston and Matt Tennikoff (Ben
Tennikoff’s older brother) come back in and
help record guitar and bass parts for some
of the songs.
CCM: What is next for Hillsong United?
JONATHON “JD” DOUGLASS:
want to keep doing what we have been
doing; and that is building our local church
(HILLSONG) and giving the best of our
creativity to glorify the name of Jesus and
point people towards Him.