Hacktivist are a phenomenon. The band that has mixed djent and grime to create something unique, memorable and more importantly, energetic. They’ve been able to tour the UK and Europe with their heroes with many of their heroes including Enter Shikari, Korn and SikTh. Before the band’s UK tour, I had a chance to chat with bassist Josh Gurner about the band’s current releases, their UK tour, the band’s history and their cover of Jay Z and Kanye West’s “Niggas in Paris”.
Jack: Hey guys, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. How are you?
Josh Gurner (Bass): No problem! I’m doing well, just having my morning coffee.
Jack: You released your debut album Outside the Box in March. Considering many reviews described the review as your best piece of work yet, how blown away by the response were you?
Josh: We’ve always been a band that divides opinion, so we learnt quite early not to pay too much attention to reviews or comments. But we could see how quickly the songs spread globally and the positive responses from our fans at shows, which is the most fulfilling kind of review.
Jack: As a band who had only released EPs, was it harder making an album?
Josh: There can be a lot more freedom to explore when making an album, but there’s also a lot more pressure for it to be significantly better than anything you’ve done before, but still come together as one big cohesive piece of work.
Jack: What was the biggest challenge when making the album?
Josh: We found it quite hard to balance time on the road with time in the studio. We were self-producing so our recording sessions would be squeezed in between tours, which just wasn’t very productive. We learned a lot from the process and feel like we’ve each aged about 20 years from doing it, but we’re excited to get on with the next one!
Jack: Do you feel in this increasingly political age, that there is more pressure for bands to be political?
Josh: We generally don’t sit down with an agenda of what topics we want to cover on an album, but we do aim to not do what’s expected of us! With all the messed up stuff going on in the world, there’s a lot of ammunition for political tracks. But we would use it because we want to voice our opinions, rather than because we’re expected to.
Jack: What was the recording process like?
Josh: It was quite relaxed over all as the vast majority of it occurred in our guitarist’s spare bedroom! Once the songs were all written, the actual recording was the easy part!
Jack: There were a number of guests on the album including Rou Reynolds from Enter Shikari and Jamie Graham of Heart of a Coward, how did they become involved?
Josh: We wanted to take a bit of a hip hop style with the album, bringing in lots of features. Everyone involved is a good friend or family of the band and have supported us since the beginning so we wanted to get them involved and share the spotlight!
Jack: What’s it been like working with UNFD and Rise Records?
Josh: They’ve been incredibly supportive, offering only advice rather than dictating anything about the record. It’s a great roster to be a part of, especially when the guys there are as enthusiastic as you are!
Jack: You’re going to be touring in November and December, will you mainly be playing material from Outside the Box?
Josh: The sets we’re playing are a good mix of new, old and special bits! Who knows, you could even hear something brand new…
Jack: In the UK you’re supported by Zoax and Bad Sign, what do you like about these bands?
Josh: I’ve been a huge fan of Zoax since first playing with them on one of our first London shows! Adam is such a charismatic frontman and the sound they produce is massive. It’s our first time playing with the Bad Sign guys but I’ve been enjoying what I’ve heard so far, so I’m eager to see the live show!
Jack: On the 10thDecember you play Camden Underworld where you’ll be clashing with Bullet for my Valentine who will also be playing London. Do you feel there is too much competition for bands in London, or is competition healthy?
Josh: Fortunately, I’m hoping we pull slightly different audiences, but London is an over-saturated scene. As a young kid I was advised by Pin of SikTh not to bother playing London until you have a solid fan base that you’re certain will travel to see you. It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, there will always be a dozen other events on. It’s much more worthwhile playing the rest of the U.K. to develop a proper fan base where there’s space to be noticed.
Jack: Hacktivist have been going for five years, did you think you’d achieve this much when you formed?
Josh: We expected nothing when we first started jamming and it just exploded! The band started as a creative outlet for Timfy after leaving HOAC, then we got involved once there were a few tracks together, just for something to do in a boring town! We’d have never guessed we’d be here now.
Jack: Did you think you were compared unfairly to other bands such as Enter Shikari when you first started out?
Josh: It was tough to work out quite where we fit as a band in the early days. We were too heavy for the hip-hop heads and not brutal enough for the metal elite… Being placed with a band like Enter Shikari worked well because although we aren’t too similar in sound, we have similar fans who are open minded to innovation in music and blurring the lines between genres.
Jack: What’s been a career highlight for the band?
Josh: Touring with Korn was a childhood dream come true. For them to continue following our music and posting about us on social media is just unreal!
Jack: What are your upcoming plans?
Josh: We’re busy writing and preparing for these upcoming tours. Plans for next year are starting to come together, but nothing we can comment on just yet…
Jack: One of your most famous covers is of Jay Z and Kanye West’s Niggas in Paris. Why did you decide to cover this?
Josh: It was one of those songs that was an instant classic and was everywhere, but Timfy felt it could be improved. To be honest, it was originally done as a joke, but people wanted to hear a proper version of it and it’s become a strong fan favourite!
Jack: Do you think the success of the cover overshadowed some of your other songs or are you happy that the attention the song got brought attention to the band?
Josh: It certainly opened us up to a lot of new fans who had heard the song at metal nights, or shared by friends on social media. We’d hate to be ‘that band that do that cover’ but we own that version and it gets the crowds going!
Jack: Finally, are you planning to play any more covers at all?
Josh: We’re always playing with stuff, but it’s not a priority for us. We’ll have something ready when you least expect it!
In the meantime, after this interview was conducted, Hacktivist have since released a surprise new EP, featuring a cover of Cypress Hill‘s ‘(Rock) Superstar’.