UK 5 piece Hacktivist will be performing a string of shows mid-September when they support Enter Shikari around Australia. Hacktivist fuse djent, nu-metal, and UK grime to produce a unique sound that’s halfway between metal and hip-hop.
We spoke to Hacktivist bassist, Josh Gurner, before their performance at The Gov on September 22 after a massive performance at Reading Festival in the UK, where they shared the stage with the likes of Good Charlotte, Crossfaith and Giraffe Tongue Orchestra.
Hacktivist takes lots of influences from English rap and Grime music. However, the band mainly performs at metal festivals and on bills with other hardcore bands such as Enter Shikari and Crossfaith. Josh and the rest of the band have many unique influences that created this fusion in style.
“I was very into my rock and metal when I was younger. I loved bands like Incubus and Skindred. I got really into hip-hop about 18 years old onwards. What I listen to mostly is 90s American hip-hop. Ben (unclean vocals) and Jay (rapped vocals) are more into UK Grime stuff. It’s nice we all have different backgrounds that we listen to. But when it comes to the tour bus we take it in turns for everyone to share different acts with each other. There’s a lot of stuff I wouldn’t have heard of if it wasn’t for Ben and Jay. It’s a nice sharing experience.”
“By taking the same tempo from different styles and focusing on what made them grow so much I guess is where we found Hacktivist’s sound. Trying to find the midpoint to all these genres” Josh claims.
Although the band has a split genre sound they seem to gravitate more towards the metal scene.
“I think we’re maybe still weighted to a metal crowd. Just because I think we play a lot of metal lineups. I don’t know if we’ve managed to crack the live hip-hop scene or grime rave scene. It’s not very common unless it’s bigger events. I guess it’s just trying to find where Hacktivist fit on a lineup like that. I’d love the opportunity!”
“We’ve introduced a lot of metal heads into hip-hop. It’s quite a common thing for people to come up to us at the merch table and ask ‘what are your five best hip-hop albums, I’ve never listened to hip hop before, what should I go listen to?’ Which is cool, we can share some hip hop love,” Josh states.
Hacktivist will be touring Australia supporting ‘electronicore’ genre pioneers Enter Shikari. Hacktivist have a strong relationship with Enter Shikari to the point where Enter Shikari’s vocalist Rou Reynolds features on the single ‘Taken’ on their latest album Outside The Box.
“Personally, the first time I saw Enter Shikari was in 2004, playing second on a four-band bill at our local venue, they were virtually unheard of at this time. I remember this was the first time I had heard someone mixing electronics in with a live band; no one was really doing that back then. I was following them from the first album release up until where they are now.”
“When Hacktivist became a band Shikari was a band that had a taken a model that had really interested us. They rejected the major labels and did everything DIY and independent. We managed to get set up with the same management and the same team. As a result, it means that we’ve been paired up with them a lot and they’ve just been big brothers to us. They showed us the ropes on our first tour and have been there as we went from a local band to a professional… ish sort of band real quick” Josh jokes.
Hacktivist released their first EP, Hacktivist EP, in 2013 to a massive response. Their unique sound and blend of genres had set a trail for the band to release a full-length album. Fans had high expectations, as there was a lot of hype around the band and what they were going to do next. After three years of recording the band finally released, Outside The Box.
“By the time we did our first EP we were already going out on headline tours and it was a full-time commitment doing the band. Getting the balance right between touring so much and finding the time to write just made the whole process quite stressful. Every day you had someone saying ‘where’s the album’ and we’d say ‘it’s almost there, it’s almost there’ for a couple of years. Even having it from done to release is a six month waiting period while the industry does all of its stuff. It’s a weird black science that I don’t ask a lot of questions about. You just kind of sit there patiently saying ‘can we release it yet’, ‘can we release it yet’. One day it finally comes out and it was such a weight off getting to share all this new music, getting to play it live and having the full long set” Josh explains.
“But, in a lot of ways, I think the album was drawing a line of the five years of the band up to now. It has left space for the band to go to the next progression of Hacktivist. We’re all excited about the second album already. We’ve got stuff together, writing for fun, putting together demos, trying to make it not such a long winded process as the previous one.”
The band took a long time to finish the album and wouldn’t release it till they were completely satisfied. However, looking back there’s always something you can fix.
“You know the phrase, it’s never finished is it. You have to let it go. If it was down to us being perfectly happy with it, it would never come out. You just have to let it go; otherwise, that stuff will haunt you. ‘Ooo, I didn’t quite hit that one bass note, that’s it I’m never listening to the album again’” Josh laughs.
“You can change it up every night live. The album is a snapshot of ‘then’. Even if it’s not perfect, it was perfect how it was then.”
Hacktivist have many political influences behind their songs and evidently shown in their activist based name, ‘Hacktivist’. The band recently toured Russia in April and Josh expressed how great the tour was over there despite the countries political reputation.
“It’s not so much as a culture shock depending on who you’re with. I find that there’s quite a divide between 30 years and younger and older. 30 years and older is maybe how you’d expect maybe a bit of a cold Russian, bit hard people. But under 30’s it’s just like being in London, then again, maybe I’m biased because the kind of people that I meet come to Hacktivist shows are generally more progressive people. It’s the same everywhere, you can have good people and shit governments. I was speaking to another person in Australian saying there are similar problems over there where the governments are maybe not quite as forward thinking as the people,” Josh explains.
“I would hate for people to generalize me because of David Cameron, he does not represent me.”
The interview sidetracked with a laugh about the current Brexit situation and how political influences and generational ideologies have affected the country.
“How actually engaged were the young population? A lot of people thought ‘oh it won’t happen my votes not that important’. But, it was that close, a lot of those people who decided not to come out could have made a difference. But 20 minutes isn’t enough for me to go into Brexit, I have A LOT of feelings about the entire thing,” Josh gripes.
“But as a touring band, it’s a bit of a nightmare. A lot of our business is in Europe. Look at the band as five people’s careers, well, more than 5 people’s careers. All of a sudden, getting outside of the UK has become a lot more expensive and it’s going to become a lot more difficult. Even the knock on affect coming to Australia, the Australian dollars we were being paid a year ago didn’t quite add up to where they are now. So we had to readjust plans because we’ve had direct knock-ons from Brexit. A lot of European festivals have had to pull out and cancel entirely because they can’t afford to pay the American band’s dollars. If you agreed 2 million dollars all of a sudden 2 million dollars is about 3 million dollars. It’s a big strain on bands and festivals.”
Moving towards a lighter note, Josh further discussed the fusion of genres Hacktivist creates and his dream cross-genre lineup if the band could headline a fiftieth anniversary show of their debut album Outside The Box with unlimited budget and no limitations.
“Ooo, obviously I’d like to get Cypress Hill….. no but it seems like an insult to ask Cypress Hill to support us. Maybe if it was way down the line and we had paid all the dues we need to pay and Cypress Hill is still being kept alive by pure marijuana.”
“I love Odd Futures Wolf Gang Kill Them All. If they were still about in fifty years time I’d have old man Tyler The Creator up on stage and Rage (Against The Machine). I’m not sure if we could fit all of that in one night but maybe we could go back to back or we could just set everyone up on the stage at once like a 20 man royal rumble. Hip Hop Gig To The Death!” he laughs.
Catch Hacktivist when they support Enter Shikari at The Gov on Thursday, September 22.