Hadouken!: firing up all-ages dancefloors
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Forming in 2006, Hadouken! soon became a buzz act within the music industry’s more erratic tastemakers, polarising opinion with their grime-goes-indie, or ‘grindie’ if you must, anthem ‘That Boy That Girl’. Released in February 2007, the single made its way to Radio 1 and beyond, becoming a staple of dance-floors populated by over-18s and under-age ravers alike.
Combining traditional rock instrumentation with ‘90s rave synths, the band’s signature sound is immediately accessible if questionable of uniqueness – influences are worn quite proudly on sleeves, and there’s nothing wrong with slipping a mighty pop hook into the equation to get those kids bouncing. Last year’s Not Here To Please You mix-tape, released exclusively in USB form, is followed-up by the band’s debut album proper next month. Music For An Accelerated Culture seems an apt title, its contents rarely dropping out of fifth gear in pursuit of ensnaring attentions.
The band – James Smith (vocals), Alice Spooner (synths), Nick Rice (drums), Chris Purcell (bass) and Daniel Rice (guitar) – head out on tour on May 5, with Music… arriving in stores the same day; then, they tackle the summer festivals. Ahead of this chocker schedule’s start, DiS gets Smith on the phone to talk about their considerable live appeal, and how they’ve struggled to translate studio extravagances to the stage.
Video: ‘That Boy That Girl’
Last time you spoke to DiS was for our first DiSband article, the response to which was almost unanimously positive, readers coming around to the band. A decent experience on reflection?
I did enjoy it. Okay, he wasn’t being completely kind to us (interview here), but when elsewhere you’ve got an interviewer asking, “So, tell us about the new album…”, it’s nice to have someone intelligent talking to you, even if they’re ripping you to shreds.
In the DiSband article you say that you’re not that bothered about attracting critical acclaim. With Music… on the horizon now, though, wouldn’t you like a few positive reviews on your side?
I mean, in a perfect world it would be nice to be well received, but it’s not necessary if kids keep coming down to our shows and our profile keeps building that way. Then the press will either have to come around, or it simply doesn’t matter anyway. That’s one thing I have learned about all this hot air and hype, that surrounded us when we started – you start out on hipster blogs but they’re fucking vampires sucking your blood, on which you’re old news two months later.
That’s pretty much the nature of the business these days – everything moves at triple the speed it did ten years ago.
What I have learned is that the hype helps and it does get you known, but if you throw your shit to the wall and it doesn’t stick… and if the cream doesn’t rise to the top… all those kind of things, whatever you call such terminology… truisms. My focus now isn’t about getting those great reviews, as much as they might help get the band on radio playlists and all that crap; I want to just get in there, get out on tour and play every non-major town in the country and play to kids who don’t get bands passing through every week. Hopefully we’ll change something for them, musically.
Kinda like when pop groups go on ‘school’ tours?
Sort of. I know it’s not the smallest town in the world, but we played Wolverhampton on the last tour, on a Monday night, and it felt like such a special and important gig to us, even after playing the London Astoria. It felt like a turning point, as it was a Monday night and there was literally nothing else on in the town when I walked out afterwards to get a kebab. I thought: “This must’ve been an alright night then, for all those people that came to our show”. Being that attraction in the town that night felt really good, and if you’ve got that you don’t need to worry about the hype machine going on.
The album sounds a little straighter than some pre-release hyperbole regarding grime, and your incorporation of it, might suggest. It’s fairly pop in places, and there are definite echoes of The Prodigy.
I think all the irony of it – and I say this to DrownedinSound – is that we were dismissed initially as just covering rave tracks, people saying we were a nu-rave band playing dance-punk, but now people have come around as I have been truly listening to so much rave, it’s unbelievable. It’s like, shit, I can’t make a rave album! But it’s all I was listening to, and it was rubbing off. I was looking at programming synths certain ways, getting them to produce these weird rave sounds – I’m one of these people who just can’t use presets. Imagine someone plugging in their guitar but someone else adjusting their amp settings – it’s like that. So I was working out these things, and suddenly there were these crazy sounds, and it all felt so fresh, not just like the standard electro lines infiltrating so much indie music at the moment. We’ve tried to make a collage of lots of things going on – there’s pop, there’s punk, there’s grime and indie – and we’re not ashamed to mix all this stuff together.
Video: ‘Leap Of Faith’
Do you think the release of the Not Here To Please You mix-tape has taken some of the heat off this proper debut? There’ll be less scrutiny directed its way, as people have had their taste of you already?
The reason it has taken 18 months to get this out is that we wanted to get it just right, and to let the hype subside a bit – I think it’s turned into general hate now from most of the press, which is pretty cool as now it’s more fun, more of an uphill battle. But any publicity is good publicity, right? I’d like to think the defence of Hadouken! is these eleven tracks, at this moment in our lives. I feel that by taking our time we have got it right, and while we went through the process of the label booking us time in nice and expensive studios, the end products rarely felt right and we couldn’t work out why they felt so lifeless. We ended up going back to the bedroom demos, deconstructing them and realising what was right about them; then we recorded as much as we could in bedrooms, and taking that material to a nice studio to clean things up for the final mix, so that it sounds good on CD, really.
And the label has been cool with you taking your time?
The label has been really cool – if you hear a commercial edge on the album, it’s come from us, as they were more keen for the material to be raw sounding. I think they think we can’t compete with the Razorlights and Killers, so we might as well go straight for a niche market. That’s fine with me, but we want to write an unashamedly pop record, in places – pop has been a dirty word for some time, but now I hear great pop coming from indie bands, whether they choose to call it that or not.
You’ve a phenomenal live reputation – is this where you’re having the most fun, up there on stage?
I personally like the studio stuff – I don’t overly enjoy human contact, so I’ll take twelve hours in a dark room over one hour on stage. But the live show is something that’s quite weird. When we started a lot of people thought we were absolutely atrocious, and some may well still think that, but something did click along the way. I never saw us as being a live force at the outset, but it seems to have gone that way – a lot of people are telling us that this is our strong point. I don’t know if that’s because of the crowd reaction we get, but all we’ve been doing lately is working on the live show, seeing how we can improve it and change it. We’re now performing in a semi-circle, with the drums completely on the left and me in the middle. So we’re making slight changes at many levels; we’re looking at midi things so we can play synths with guitars, and all these things that’ll alter our dynamic and push us to the left of everything on the live circuit right now. And all the time we’re becoming better musicians in the process.
I can remember seeing Muse in their early days and thinking they were awful, likewise Klaxons – both are huge live draws now.
Looking at Klaxons and Muse, both had this real vision in their music, and a confidence too, and that’s now coming through in their live performances. I’m sure the same was the case with a band like Sex Pistols – eventually it all clicked live. If you play enough gigs it will come together, and I think it is coming together for us. We’ve always had the nice cushion of kids going mental to us and our support bands, though, so that’s nice.
Do you notice anything different in a crowd’s reaction if you play to a predominantly, or exclusively, over-18s crowd? Given we’ve established that the kids go mental…
You know, it’s interesting. If you play to over-18s it’s mostly the same. Although I do have some concerns – if there’s a 30 year old at the back and he’s being barged by 15 year olds, he’s going to think we’re just for kids. But at the same time I’m really proud that we’ve got a young fanbase. If you look at hardcore bands back in the day, they went out of their way to play all-ages shows, so they weren’t biased against anyone. The thing about your little brother loving it so you hate it will always be there, but if you can win fans at that age hopefully they’ll stick with you. Look at the ska-punk bands, like Less Than Jake – they come back out on tour and sell out huge places, because of that fanbase they’ve always had. It’d be nice to have that, to maintain that audience, as it means we can always go out on tour and do our dream jobs regardless of what the Guardian Guide might say is or isn’t hip.
So how do you, as someone who says they shy away from being in the spotlight, get psyched up for a show?
You always get the adrenaline flowing ten or fifteen minutes before you go on stage; where I struggle is getting myself prepared for that 40-day tour, living on rider food and kebabs. I like my sleep, y’see. But I always approach things from the point of view of them being a challenge, and that will be a challenge for me. Also, my vocals – it’s easy to get something right on the fifth take in a studio, but the live thing is totally different. I have to do warm-ups, and I have been taking lessons. That’s another bridge to cross, and I will get across it.
After this May tour you’ll be nearing festival season – a good opportunity to take on the sceptics and potentially win them over?
I want the festivals to be a period where people like your readers will give us a chance, stand at the back of the tent and let us hopefully convert them. They might not have seen what’s good about us before, but then they will. We really have been working on this live show. I’m really looking forward to playing Japan – we’re building a real fanbase there.
The quiet after a song doesn’t freak you out?
The quietness is really disturbing! It’s weird – when you stop there’s complete silence and your heart sinks, but then the clapping starts. It’s a completely respectful culture – we played a festival out there last year and I didn’t see one spot of litter on the floor the whole time. Can you imagine this in Reading or Leeds? It was absolutely mad.
Video: Hadouken! at the Camden Crawl, April 2008
Music For An Accelerated Culture is released on May 5. Find Hadouken! on MySpace here, and then go mental with the kids at the following venues next month:
5 Manchester Academy
6 Birmingham Academy
7 Sheffield Academy
8 Nottingham Fopp in-store set
9 Leeds HMV in-store set (afternoon)
9 Leeds University (evening)
10 Stoke Sugarmill
11 Cardiff The Point
13 Newcastle University
14 Glasgow QMU
15 Dundee Fat Sam’s
17 Bournemouth Old Fire Station
18 Nottingham Rock City
19 Bristol Academy
21 London Electric Ballroom
24 Rayleigh The Mill
25 Cambridge Junction
26 Ayelsbury Civic
27 Liverpool Academy
27 Liverpool Sound City with Does It Offend You Yeah?, Crystal Castles and more
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- Crystal Castles, Hadouken!, Does It Offend You Yeah? at Liverpool Carling Academy, Tue 27 May