In the four years since their conception, Hacktivist have toured relentlessly all over the world touting tight, technical metal, layered effortlessly with a hip-hop aesthetic and vocal style. However, in their already successful career, they’re yet to release more than a handful of tracks. At this year’s 2000trees festival, we spoke to Josh Gurner (bass) and Rich Hawking (drums) about collaboration, their story so far and their upcoming record.
As a band, you guys have obviously taken heavy inspiration from rap music, grime in particular. In grime, collaboration seems to be a key part of the scene. Is it for you?
Josh: We’ve got a few collaborations on the album. It was nice getting some friends in. Get your mates in and everyone contributes something and it’s all good.
Is there anyone you’d particularly like to collaborate with?
Rich: Dizzee Rascal or Skepta.
Josh: I reckon it would be cool getting feature producers in, Foreign Beggars or Noisia.
Someone who can hammer the electronic side?
Josh: Yeah, that would be pretty cool.
You guys are from Milton Keynes, which has both a strong electronic scene and a strong metal scene. Have those two things nurtured each other? Have they played a part in how you’ve come together?
Josh: Of course, we’ve all been quite heavily influenced by the different bands we’ve listened to growing up. Before the interview we were talking about Fell Silent from MK who are absolutely amazing. Outrage, big influence. Graveltrap, Capdown. Whilst MK gets a lot of flack, I think a lot of roses have grown from the shit.
Touring with Enter Shikari: you’ve done a fair number of shows with those guys. Presumably that’s down to an overlap in subject matter and fan base. Did you know them pre-formation and were they an influence?
Rich: Yeah, they’re a band that have loose ties with MK and Fell Silent, they did tours together. We’d never properly hung out with them before though.
Josh: I’d hung about with them a couple of times.
Rich: Ooh, ‘Hollywood’ Gurns over here.
Josh: But no, they absolutely took us under their wing and showed us the ropes when it came to being a touring band. They’re a very slick production and we quickly realised we weren’t. We took a lot of pointers from them. They’re killing it right now and they deserve it, they’re really nice guys. Apart from Rob, he’s a sexual deviant. You heard it here first.
Rich: Shots fired!
You’ve been together and performing since 2011. In the four years since you’ve released an EP, but no album.
Josh: Yeah, but look at a lot of bands that started in 2011; how many of them have got albums out?
But the amount of shows and stuff that you’ve done; you’ve been all over the place touring quite a small set-list.
Josh: It’s a bit of a double-edged sword. We’ve been able to do some amazing tours and some great shows, but all of that has left us very little time for writing and developing as a band. This year’s been a lot slower; we made the decision to turn down quite a lot of shows so we could spend some time bashing through the album, and now it’s done! It’s just up to the forces-that-be as to when you hear it.
Do you think that ten or fifteen years ago you could have made a living as a band and not release an album for this long? Is the album important anymore?
Rich: I think ten or fifteen years ago it definitely would have had more weight. There were many more platinum albums, many more platinum artists across the board. Nowadays, not even many pop acts go platinum. There are one or two people who get that.
I would say to your second question that the album would have been more important then, but also that it would have been something to really push for; that would have been the immediate, life-changing thing. It would have had so much more potential to be a massive form of income. Nowadays,you can tour your arses off and just get peanuts from the Internet based stuff.
Josh: It’s a reflection of society and technology, and how people consume music. Fifteen years ago you’d see people waiting for a band to come out with new stuff, waiting for a single. As soon as the single comes out on the radio you’re listening to that all the time, then the album comes out and it’s like “yeah, gotta get that!” Nowadays it tends to be that when an album’s ready we’ll get a video on YouTube and people will listen to it once or twice, then there’ll be the full album stream via the label up on YouTube anyway. It’s a lot more casual. People might be excited about it but twenty minutes later they’re looking at something else. When you’re waiting in a queue outside HMV for it to open and you’ve got £15 in your pocket, it’s going to be the only CD you have in your car for the next month or so. Everything’s a lot more disposable now.
So is the album dying then?
Josh: I think the album will always be important as a collection of work. It’s a snapshot of the artist. I would be really upset if the album died and people were only interested in releasing the next YouTube video, the next advertising campaign. No, the album needs to exist.
Rich: I heard a great analogy: a single is like a chapter of a book and an album is the full book. It’s wrong to just pick and choose which chapters you’re going to read. If you’re gonna respect the book, you need to read it from beginning to end. You want to get the album and appreciate it from start to finish. It depends how well the album’s written I guess. Good artists will write a journey from track one to track fourteen.
Is that your album?
Rich: Yeah, I think so! We’ve got ups and downs, dynamics, there’s a broad range of shit. Epic outro. There’s even a guitar solo! That’s an exclusive for you guys.