Fiona Stephens

Hacktivist at Download: Reaping What They’ve Sewn

On Saturday afternoon in the media garden at Download, Fiona ran into Rich and Josh from Hacktivist. They gave her some solid life advice, as well as a little bit of insight into being a British rap metal band.

Let’s jump straight into it! Rap metal is obviously a very niche area, how did you find breaking into it?

Josh: From my own teenage years to being a young adult, all the kids at metal gigs seemed to go either really techy metal or really hip hop and start wearing tracksuits, the piercings come out and the stretchers heal up, so I feel like there’s still that demographic of like guys who are into rap, but actually used to listen to stuff like Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park.

Rich: These days there’s so much crossover though, because nowadays it’s getting a lot less of ‘are you a greebo’ or ‘are you this or that’ and it’s like ‘what kind of music do you enjoy?’ Most people will say ‘oh you know, a little bit of everything!’

[Laughs] That’s literally the standard answer.

Rich: Erroneously, but most of them have a good heart.

So were there any specific barriers or challenges or anything that you guys faced?

Josh: Oh yeah, totally.

Rich: Purists. Sonisphere France was a particular… [IronMaiden headlined Sonisphere France, the whole first six rows was just Maiden fans.

Josh: Yeah, it can be pretty tough to place us, like a lot of promoters and people who put on shows don’t really know who to put us on with, if there’s any other band with guitars and rappers it’s usually that, even if they’re the complete other end.

Do you have any advice for upcoming bands who are similar to yourselves?

Josh: You can use crisps to spread butter because venues never provide cutlery.

Rich: Make sure you pack flip flops on tour.

Josh: Hmm, yeah, actually very handy.

Rich: Or basically just practise all the time and just get to be the best.

Josh: Get real real used to eating sandwiches. If you can get to peace with that, then you’re halfway there.

That’s pretty sound life advice to be fair [laughs].

Rich: If you can eat sandwiches for breakfast lunch and dinner then you’ve literally made it in the music scene.

Josh: Yeah.

How did you go about choosing a new singer to replace Ben, who left this year? 

Josh: Um… it was an interesting process, we had quite a few people apply from metal bands and different scenes. A lot of people were like ‘yeah, we could do something really interesting’ but we didn’t want to lose the niche-ness and become another heavy band with heavy vocals. So, Jot is someone we’ve all known from Milton Keynes for quite a long time, he featured on the first album, so we had a bit of working history as well. He messaged us, we didn’t know he’d be up for it, but he said ‘what do you reckon?’ and we were like ‘yeah, actually that would work real nice’.

Rich: He’s usually based in France, so that’s why some of us discounted him, but then the more and more you start thinking about these things it’s like, it’s only a flight from wherever to Luton, or if we’re out in, for example when we’re playing in Belgium that’s like an hour drive from where he actually lives.

Josh: It’s literally like five times more expensive to get to Manchester.

Rich: So yeah, the previous history just showed that it worked out back then.

Josh: It’s a testament to modern technology and the future, it’s possible to be a band across different land masses, thanks to stuff like Whatsapp and Dropbox and other web services that are available.

Rich: And migration, until it’s not!

Josh: Yeah that’s gonna be a real pain in the arse, but we’ll deal with that bag of shit when it comes around.

So is he bringing a fresh perspective to the group?

Josh: Yeah, he’s given us a proper kick up the arse, because he’s bringing new stuff in, and he’s listening to the stuff that we’ve got already and he’s getting us all excited about it again. Everything is going in the right direction, and I’m excited about the end of this year.

What’s your personal favourite band that you’ve ever supported?

Rich: Limp Bizkit for me.

Actually I saw them this year, they’re really good!

Rich: We played one show with Limp Bizkit and it was over in France, but they were one of my favourite bands from when I was a teenager, so being able to watch them side stage and have a bit of a chat with them afterwards was a big moment for me personally.

Josh: [EnterShikari still stand out as one of the finest live bands in the UK, and just some of the nicest guys to play a show with, they’ll always make you feel entirely at home.

Rich: I feel like I’m taking something away from [EnterShikari by saying Limp Bizkit.

Josh: It’s obviously a given. We’ve been lumped in with those guys and I’ve got zero problems with that, because they’re an awesome band. If there’s anyone to stick to, it would be [EnterShikari.

Rich: Maybe someday we can all get a joint house together. That’s a plan.

What’s your personal favourite group to have supported you guys?

Rich: Oooooooh.

Josh: I was a big fan of The One Hundred. Those guys are smashing it now. Maybe my opinion is skewed, because I just like bands that are nice guys, because it’s a lot of fun to play gigs with nice guys, even bands that you don’t really like, if it’s a nice group of lads you’ll go out and watch them.

Rich: Asteroid Boys for me I think, they’re a bunch great lads as well, and the music, especially when we’re talking about supporting and stuff, the cross over element with our two bands is really good, so obviously they’re really serious about their thing as well, they slay it and they’re good boys!

Josh: Amen!

[Laugh] What’s your songwriting process, particularly with the new guy Jot as well?

Josh: So it’s pretty studio based, which I think is pretty common across a lot of modern bands. It’s affordable to actually have your own studio, if you’ve got about £200 you can get yourself a set of speakers and an interface. We started off there investing in the band and investing in ourselves. We’ve got Tim and runs his own studio and he’s actually a really talented producer. We spend a lot of time hanging out with Tim. When you’re writing the techy choppy stuff, it doesn’t sound very rock and roll but it’s a lot of hours banging your head against a computer desk, figuring out what works and what doesn’t. It’s maybe more scientific than just rocking up, smoking some doobies and jamming out.

Rich: It’s less of a jam and it’s more formulaic.

Josh: And again because you’ve got the home studio, when you say that nothing’s ever finished and you’ve got to let it go, if you’ve got your own studio you can do version 56 and just adjust a tiny thing.

Rich: You’ve just got to submit it.

Josh: And then you realise you’ve sent the wrong thing at the wrong speed. Or sent it as a jpeg.

[Laugh] Do you have any musical recommendations for our readers?

Josh: If you’ve not checked out The One Hundred or Asteroid Boys, they’re wicked. I imagine if you listen to us you’ve probably heard of Issues, that’s a band we’ve toured with and that’s a great great band.

Rich: I feel like it doesn’t need to be said but Sikth? Do people not know about Sikth? If people don’t, shame on them, they’re always tight, so watch them live.

Josh: Ok here’s a nugget, Fell Silent. They’re a band from Milton Keynes that a lot of people haven’t heard of, but they’re like MeshuggahMeshuggah had a big name by the time Fell Silent came about but they were one of the first bands of that type, it was Fell Silent and PeripheryPeriphery went on and did great things, Fell Silent split up and became TesseracTMoment and Heart of a Coward, so if you haven’t heard of Fell Silent, their first album Hidden Words is the blueprint for most bands out at the minute.

Last question, any plans for after touring?

Rich: Writing.

Josh: Drinking… I mean writing.

[Laugh]

Rich: Lots of writing, because now we’ve got the line up all sorted, we’re gig ready and stuff now, so we stepped up to get that bit, so now it’s material.

Josh: Reaping what we’ve been sewing.

Rich: Or sewing, to further reap. Further reapage.

 

If you haven’t heard Hacktivist‘s debut album Outside The Box, it’s available now!

My Hopes Instilled – Dancing In The Crisis [EP]

My Hopes Instilled are an up and coming alt rock band, and they released their debut EP Dancing In The Crisis earlier this month. They are planning their first UK tour for February 2018.

Dancing In The Crisis opens with instrumental Through Emptiness, which flows effortlessly into the title track. The Italian group incorporate orchestral themes, heavy guitars and drums, gentle vocals and modern effects to make up their sound. The listener expects a female vocalist, but the lead singer is actually male. Although they have a huge sound, each individual instrument is quite stripped back, but put together they create something epic.

Riff based Sitting On The Roof features a prominent bass that carries the tune in the verse, where the vocals are incredibly soft and the lyrics are indiscernible. It contains influences from Within TemptationLinkin Park, and Evanescence. There isn’t much difference between this track and the following track, Lies And Prayers.

The most unique track on Dancing In The Crisis is the penultimate track, Wiser, which contains some very hidden elements of A Day To Remember in the verses, but it’s masked by the guitar’s effects and the chorus. Finally, in the bridge the listener hears some chugging and blast beats on the drums that make the song heavy. However back into the third verse is that hidden ADTR influence. The influences in Wiser jar together and shouldn’t work, but somehow they do.

Green Leaves finally has some piano and the haunting orchestral sound returns. This more metal themed sound seems to be My Hopes Instilled‘s preferred sound; the tracks sound more comfortable and are written and performed better than the others.

Each song on the EP starts with a long introduction before launching into a riff, and then the standard verse/chorus structure. However most of the tracks sound too similar to each other. If My Hopes Instilled were writing an album they would need to include much more variety between songs, and write songs of similar genres, not metal on one track and pop punk/metalcore on the next. However they are different to other metal bands in that the male vocalist doesn’t scream or use heated vocals, he just sings. Musically My Hopes Instilled are talented, but they need to refine themselves a little more before committing to a full album.

Cheap Trick – We’re All Alright

Cheap Trick‘s succesful PledgeMusic campaign to fund We’re All Alright included rare items such as a signed guitar, different presses of the LP and more. Over their four-decade career they have clearly built up a strong fan base, which is why the campaign was so successful.

Opening with the explosive You Got It Going OnCheap Trick deliver an exciting new album called We’re All Alright. Their 18th studio album contains 10 stunningly produced, well rehearsed tracks, each with something different to offer.

With a repertoire probably to rival The Beatles, it would have been difficult to write fresh material for a new album, however Cheap Trick have managed it with aplomb. The listener can really hear different musical influences within We’re All Alright, showing the group’s versatility. There is riff based rock in You Got It Going On and Long Time Coming, hard rock in Radio Lover and acid in Floating DownNirvana influences can be heard in the opening She’s Alright, with more of a summery feeling to it rather than grunge.

You Got It Going On is the perfect opening track to We’re All Alright as it caters to rock fans of all ages. Cheap Trick would be perfect on a line up of a festival such as Download, or even Hellfest, with tracks like this one. With a screaming guitar solo, harmonised backing vocals and high energy, it would be hard for any listener not to enjoy this song.

Nowhere is reminiscent of recent Green Day tracks, which are heavily influenced by The Beatles. There are also other influences such as high energy indie rock. Following Nowhere is Radio Lover, which is riff based rock with Elvis Presley style vocals. Each track in this album really does have something different to offer, however the immaculate production ties every track together to give them that unique Cheap Trick sound.

We’re All Alright gives each musician in Cheap Trick a chance to shine. At the forefront of the group is vocalist Robin Zander, who’s voice varies from track to track depending on the genre. Lead guitarist Rick Nielsen has plenty of guitar solos to choose from, but perhaps the best one is in Long Time Coming, which really shows the range of the guitar and involves notes from the low end of the guitar to screeching notes right at the top. Most tracks are riff heavy too, showing Nielson‘s impeccable timing with the rest of the band.

Although bassist Tom Petersson only has one solo phrase in the album at the beginning of She’s Alright, the bass follows the main guitar riff in Brand New Name On An Old Tattoo, and even expands on it under the rhythm guitar, giving the track the real groove. In all other tracks, Petersson knows exactly where to sit in the mix, and works well together with the drums.

Underneath everything else is drummer Daxx Nielson. Although there is no real shining moment for the drums, Nielson provides a solid base for the rest of the band to build on. Nielson often chooses impressive fills at the end of phrases, especially in You Got It Going On, which adds to the overall shape of the song, instead of detracting from it.

All in all, We’re All Alright is an album to rival the rest of Cheap Trick‘s work to date, and is definitely worth a listen.

Gnash Rambler perform at The Media Club

Sometimes all great venues must come to end and all must have a great blow out. Offering a superb brand of hooky punk rock tinged power pop, Vancouver, BC’s Gnash Rambler will be performing one of the last shows at The Media Club on 30th June for the CD release party for their debut self-titled album released this past March. The Media Club will join the list of many other venues in the city that have been closing over the years making it difficult for the local scene to grow and be exposed.

Show Details:

Date: Friday, June 30th
Venue: The Media Club, 695 Cambie Street, Vancouver, British Columbia V6B 2P1
Time: 6pm
Cost: $10

Mutank release W.H.A.T.S.T.H.A.T

Currently on tour across Canada with metal legends Annihilator, Montreal thrash champions Mutank unleash their new EP W.H.A.T.S.T.H.A.T. via Boonsdale Records. The new EP from the 2014 Wacken Metal Battle Canada winners follows their debut cassette EP M.E.C.H. Metal and is a taste of what’s to come from the band’s full length album, planned to be revealed later this year.

 

Iced Earth Release Incorruptible

Iced Earth‘s new album Incorruptible was released yesterday. It is available in the following formats:

  1. Deluxe CD Digipak with extensive booklet, fold-out poster and slipcase (only available in Europe)
  1. CD Digipak (only available in the USA)
  2. Strictly limited artboook with gold foil band logo, 36-page booklet with introduction, additional artworks, sketches and comments by Jon Schaffer to each individual song, CD and double 10” vinyl, worldwide limited to only 3000 copies
  1. Deluxe 2LP version in various vinyl colours (see below for exact colour split)
    With gatefold sleeve, 4-page lyric sheet, 180 g vinyl, black anti-static inner sleeves, etching and 12-page LP-booklet with artworks to each of the 10 songs
  1. Standard CD Jewelcase
  2. Digital download / stream

Jonny Lang Reveals Trailer For New Album

Jonny Lang has revealed an exclusive look behind the scenes of his upcoming new studio album, Signs, which will be released in 25th August via Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group.

“A lot of my earlier influences have been coming to the surface, like Robert Johnson, and Howlin’ Wolf. I have been appreciating how raw and unrefined that stuff is. I had an itch to emulate some of that and I think it shows in the songs. Still, I let the writing be what it was and that was sometimes not necessarily the blues.” – Jonny Lang

Protosequence Announce More Dates For “The Greasy BC Tour”

Edmonton, AB’s Protosequence announce more dates for their The Greasy BC Tour. The tour is in support of their latest release Schizophrene along with them premiering new material that can only be heard live from their forthcoming follow up. The tour will kick off in Abbotsford, BC on June 10th and wrap up with a hometown show in Edmonton, AB on June 17th. Supporting Protosequence on the tour for select dates will be Calgary melodic progressive death metallers Plaguebringer.

The Greasy BC Tour sponsored by Absolute Underground
June 10 – Abbotsford, BC – Brother’s Billiards* – With Plaguebringer
June 11 – Victoria, BC – Intrepid Theatre* – With Plaguebringer
June 12 – Nanaimo, BC – The Cambie* – With Plaguebringer
June 13 – Vancouver, BC – 333* – With Plaguebringer
June 14 – Calgary, AB – Broken City # NEW DATE
June 15 – Grande Prairie, AB – The Blue Room # NEW DATE
June 17 – Edmonton, AB – Rendezvous Pub

 

Vola release acoustic EP ‘October Session’

Danish group Vola have released their acoustic EP October Session worldwide through all digital channels. October Session contains two acoustic performances of Gutter Moon and Stray The Skies. The original, electric versions of both songs were featured on the band’s critically acclaimed 2016 label debut Inmazes. Until now, both October Session tracks were only available on the vinyl version of Inmazes.