On 2nd November 2012, in the back of their dingy tour van, I interviewed Timfy James, Josh Gurner and J Hurley of djent rap troupe Hacktivist, on behalf of GUITAR CAFE, who introduced the interview with:
“Before their storming, albeit brief, headline show at Southampton Joiners, Nick Pollard caught up with Hacktivist to have a chat about musical genres, chicken and digital terrorism!”
I did indeed. Sadly, just a couple of weeks ago, Guitar-Cafe.co.uk shut its doors forever. In its wake, I will now post the transcript which disappeared with the rest of the website. Enjoy.
Me: It’s the most unprofessional question ever and it’s asked all the time… What is the relevance of the name?
Timfy James: Josh?
Josh Gurner: Well, you’re the one who named it!
TJ: I’ve always been fascinated by Anonymous in the past, and I kind of like what they do. It’s not in any way a promotion of what they do. It’s just a cool how people can hack into things and literally be terrorists without using weapons. We are in no way connected to that. People think we are, but we’re not.
JG: We’re not trying to be terrorists. (laughs)
TJ: Yeah, we’re not terrorists! It’s just a fucking cool name. Some of the things that they are inspired by and talk about are the kind of visions that we see as well. It’s just a wicked name. I just liked that name and I just like the whole aspect of hacking into computers and doing damage without guns and grenades.
JG: The whole ‘hacktivism’ thing is quite recent and quite upcoming. Kind of like our sound as well. It’s a bit different to anything else.
TJ: People are just coming around to Anonymous and that sort of thing and I guess that it’s kind of the same with the band. It’s just a cool name really at the end of the day! It’s cool. It means ‘damage’.
Me: It’s been a year today exactly that an article went up that I read that called you ‘so new that you only had one song and it doesn’t even have a name yet’…
TJ: And it still doesn’t have a name! It just remained untitled. Sorry, self-titled. It’s still called ‘Hacktivist’. It wasn’t gonna be self-titled, but we left it so long that we could think of a name at the end of it so it just stayed what it was – Hacktivist.
Me: So what has changed for you over the course of that year?
JG: Forming the band!
TJ: Yeah, obviously getting a line-up. Getting everyone in the band. Working with different people because it was all me at the start. People were joining and bringing new ideas to the plate, it’s kind of let the evolve into the way that it has become today. I think that people are because quite receptive to us, which is good. People are coming round to it. It’s just developing a bit quicker than we thought and we’re just trying to catch up with everything really!
Me: One word that comes up a lot is ‘djent’. For readers, considering it’s a bit a niche, what is djent?
TJ: I’ve never been asked this question. I have been so scared this was gonna happen. This is the day isn’t it? (NOTE: I think he might have been sarcastic.) It was just a word that was created for a guitar sound. The noise of the guitar and the way they play it. The gated tone of the guitar. Don’t make me make the noise, I’m not gonna do it! It’s literally just a label. It’s not a genre. But it’s kind of become a genre now, because people have just forced it. I guess it is a genre.
JG: It’s the source of about five billion online arguments. 40% of YouTube comments are probably arguments about whether djent is a genre or not.
Me: Speaking of which… Randy Blythe from Lamb of God has got some very nasty words to say. “There is no such fucking thing as djent. It’s not a genre. Metal is already way overclassified. All this bullshit ‘deathcore’, ‘djentcore’ and fucking ‘can’t-play-in-real-life-but-can-on-a-computer-core’…
TJ: (laughs) The thing is, I can agree with him there because the whole djent movement and everything has come from guys with a guitar and a computer, and the fact that they record it straight to a computer means that can play things that they can’t actually play in real life. Kind of like a bedroom band. I think it’s kind of like gamers, people that do World of Warcraft. Those sort of people who are giving it a bad name. They’re sat in their room on their own and all they do is write riffs that they can’t really play, because they’ve got such access to really good sounds now. Misha (Mansoor) from Periphery puts his presets up and they just get his guitar tone and his drum sound and then they put a song out and then it’s massive because it sounds so good. I can see what he means about them cheating and they’re not really playing it… well, they are playing it, but each to their own. It’s pushing the online music isn’t it? In a big way. In a massive way. I do feel his pain a little bit and I do agree with him because people are cutting corners.
Me: It was quite a harsh statement though!
TJ: Yeah it was, but he likes to be a bit of a stirrer, doesn’t he? I think it has secretly become a genre, but people don’t accept it. Anyone will argue at any point these days and just say that blue is red for the fact that they can argue about it. If it becomes a genre… well, as I said before I think it already has! I think that day has come already.
JG: It’s got a big enough following for it.
TJ: It has. Everyone follows it and the thing is the scene is brilliant in a way, because people feel so strongly about it and spend hours arguing. There’s not a lot of styles that people will do that to anymore. They just let it go and let it die. It’s getting quite strong, so as long as it keeps the music alive, then whatever!
Me: If that’s caused so much argument, you’re really screwing with things, as a lot of people won’t touch metal with rap in it with a 20-foot pole.
TJ: But if you listen to bands like Korn, and even Run DMC touched a bit on that sort of thing with Aerosmith. I know it’s not the same. But Slipknot have got drum-and-bass riffs and scratching, and there’s loads of hardcore metal fans who like Slipknot. I think it’s probably the ‘chavvy’ element that they don’t like. If they actually sat and listened to it… there’s a lot of people who have said to us ‘I hate it, I will never like it’, and then we brought another song out, and those same people who we recognized that put their backs up against us actually said ‘I really like this now’.
Me: That distinctive style, is it something that falls into place or is that a sound that you actually set out to make?
TJ: It was an accident! J just turned up at the studio once and I was just playing him a track that I was writing and he just really liked it. He wanted to put some vocals over it so we did it, we listened to it, put it online just as something that we did. Just a collab, and we didn’t expect to be sat here now at the Joiners, touring.
Me: Do you have a clue why it’s getting so much attention?
TJ: I think it’s just that it’s different. Myself, I love to hear different things and if I hear a band that is different then I’ll just rape it because it’s different! You get so bored of listening to the same old crap every day that when you hear something different, you want to be a part of it. You want to follow them around. It’s instant. Everyone is searching for something that breaks the mold.
Me: This question has become a mainstay. It’s daft, but I’ll ask it anyway. If Hacktivist were a foodstuff, what would you taste like?
TJ: Ugh, I hate these questions! (laughs) Probably chicken.
JG: Chicken? No, that’s far too dull…
TJ: Deep-fried chicken. No! J likes it!
J Hurley: Yeah, definitely chicken! Juicy chicken. Really juicy.
JG: No, we’re like those people who take their McDonalds chips and dip it in a McFlurry. They’re two things that are pretty good on their own, and then if you mix the two together, some people think it’s the shit, and other people go ‘what the fuck is that?’.
TJ: Yeah! There you go. That’s brilliant. I would have said chips and McDonalds milkshake. Basically, any two foods that shouldn’t go together and taste amazing. Bacon on syrup and pancakes.
JH: Peanut butter and jam.
Me: I’ve given up on letting anybody suggest any questions. I always get daft things. The first ones I get are always either ‘will you marry me?’ or penis size.
JG: We’ve had ‘who would win in a fight?’.
TJ: Yeah, we’ve had that once or twice. It’s a silly question so we’ll give a silly answer!
JG: And what your favourite type of cheesecake is.
TJ: That’s a good question I think, cheesecake.
JH: And I like cheesecake.
Me: I have asked you some very clichéd questions today, so dare I ask, are there any that you’re sick of?
TJ: The djent one, a little bit. We just make music and play music and we enjoy it. If other people like it, then great. Simple as that. We don’t want to put a label on it or a name on it. We’re just going to go up there and do what we love, and that’s it. I can’t be bothered to get into arguments about what’s right and what’s wrong. There’s nothing that’s right and nothing that’s wrong. It’s whatever is in your head. That’s how it should stay. I started to sound a bit patriotic then! Where’s my flag?
JG: It’s not written to fit into a genre or to hit criteria. We just write stuff that sounds (jumpy?)
TJ: The people that I don’t agree with are the people who will listen to something and write that ‘that’s not cutty enough’ or ‘that’s not complicated enough’. ‘It’s not djenty enough’. ‘It’s not groovy enough’. ‘It’s too fast’. This sounds good. We’re not trying to impress anyone apart from ourselves. Well, not impress ourselves, but enjoy ourselves.
Me: I understand that your EP is coming…
TJ: Yeah, our EP is coming out on the 12th November. Worldwide, physical and digital. It should be in like, HMV and that sort of thing. Just look for the big ‘H’! Next year is gonna be our year.
JG: Lots of exciting stuff coming up.
TJ: Lots coming up, but nothing we can say now!
Me: Are you being really professional and secretive?
TJ: We’re not being professional. It’s a massive secret! And it pisses people off. (laughs)
Me: I’m used to that!
TJ: I know something you don’t know.
Me: Oooooh! Anyway, thank you very much for your time.
TJ: That’s alright.
JG: Thank you.