HACKTIVIST (from l-r): Richard Hawking (drums), Josh Gurner (bass), Jot Maxi (rapping/unclean vocals), Tim “Timfy James” Beazley (guitars/clean vocals), Jermaine “J” Hurley (rapping)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
One band who have made quite an impact on the British rock scene in recent years are Milton Keynes five-piece Hacktivist.
They have amassed a legion of followers up and down the UK with a sound that blends dark, distorted metal grooves with politically-charged rapped vocals.
Their debut album, ‘Outside the Box’, was well received, they have been tipped for bigger things by much of the music press, and even played a set at this summer’s Glastonbury festival.
Whilst preparing for their eagerly-anticipated headliner at Nottingham’s Macmillan Fest earlier this month, drummer Richard Hawking chatted with me about what has surely been an unbelievable couple of years for the band.
How did the band form initially?
The band formed initially out of a solo project which was being developed by our guitarist Tim. He had been in a band called Heart of a Coward, and after he parted ways with them, he just kept on writing stuff which he then uploaded onto Soundcloud.
It got some attention, especially from “J”, one of our vocalists. He came down to the studio and added some vocals, it was kind of like a jamming session, and it sort of grew from there.
Some more stuff then got put up onto YouTube, getting us more attention, and after that, it became more of a full-on line-up.
How did the name Hacktivist come about?
It came out of the internet thing, it was the name of the Soundcloud profile, and it’s also the mentality behind the whole Anonymous thing.
We all admire what they’re doing, because of their non-violent approach, and using skills to try and make a lot of stuff out there better.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
Well usually, a song would often either come out of a lyrical concept, with us being inspired by the subject matter, or it will come out of a guitar riff, which serves as a jumping off point.
Obviously with our style of music, a lot of the rhythms are all very much in sync, so once we’ve got that basic riff or rhythm, then a lot of things will fall on top of that.
That’s kind of how it goes, really.
Jot Maxi recently joined the band. How has it been for him being the new guy?
For him, it’s definitely been a steep learning curve, because at the stage when he joined, we had a couple of gigs, a small-ish festival in the UK, a small festival over in Europe, and then it was basically playing the main stage at Download.
He’s smashed it though, as he is an accomplished MC in his own right and has been for years, so yeah, to be honest, his style, approach and attitude has gelled really well with those of the other band members.
You recently played with Korn. How was that as an experience?
Well, we’re all big fans of Korn, for a few in the band, they were teenage inspirations, so for them, as well as the rest of us, playing with Korn was a huge moment.
We’d actually supported them on their European tour a few years back, and that was great. We also got to play the Brixton Academy for the first time with them, and that was obviously a massive event for us.
They were great guys, really nice and totally approachable, and it was fantastic to see them put on a wicked show night after night.
The band’s debut album, ‘Outside the Box’, released last year, was well received. Did any of you expect the reaction that it got?
I dunno. I guess we didn’t really think so much about we expected from it. I mean we had been doing stuff for a fair while by that point, so we knew what kind of fan base we had.
I supposed that moulded our expectations a little, but yeah, we all knew that it was as close to perfection as possible, because we had had a lot of time in which to go over everything.
Obviously, it’s been great to see how well it has been received.
What is your opinion of the current state of the British music industry?
Industry-wise, it’s okay. I mean we’re a signed band, so obviously, there’s advantages that come from that. Also, to a very high extent now, you can do more or less everything yourself, and that’s been something a lot of bands have been doing for years.
So yeah, it kind of depends on how you are looked after as a participant of the industry. If you’re in a group of people who don’t care so much, and it’s all about the money for them, then you might have a rough time.
However, if you’re involved with people who genuinely believe in what you are doing and want to promote your music and stuff, there are still plenty of labels out there willing to help.
I would say universally, in terms of finances, it’s not in the best state, so really, as a band, unless you’re number one or played often on Radio 1, it’s very much weighted on making your money through relentless touring, but even some of that is down to how much merch you can shift.
What are the band’s plans for the near future?
Writing, a lot of writing.
Another album, maybe?
That’s what we would like to push towards, but we haven’t yet decided if it’s going to be that or a couple of releases, because again, that sort of comes back to the environment the music industry is in right now.
Lots of people are just releasing continuous EPs, so that could be the way to go, or it may be a full-length album after all, depending on how much material we can come up with at once.
Basically, as we’re now “gig-ready“, smashing out a load of shows, and everything is nice and comfy, it’s time to get some new material written and done.
What is your long-term aim?
To just keep on contributing, because we’ve always been trying to put out material, not just to focus on being relevant, but to try and say something with merit, you know.
I think, no matter what we do, we try to contribute as much as we can, to make it as good as possible, and to encourage people to maybe see the bigger picture more, question everything they know.
MORE INFO ON HACKTIVIST CAN BE FOUND AT THESE SITES:
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: www.hacktivist.uk.com