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… [Iron] Maiden 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.
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: [Enter] Shikari 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 [Enter] Shikari 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 [Enter] Shikari.
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?
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!
[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 Meshuggah. Meshuggah 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 Periphery. Periphery went on and did great things, Fell Silent split up and became TesseracT, Moment 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?
Josh: Drinking… I mean writing.
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!