An Interview With Hadouken!

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Remember Hadouken!? In early 2008, the band could be found providing kids up and down the country with optimal ‘cider-drinking-down-the-park’ songs and house party anthems. Their music combined the synth driven ‘nu-rave’ of bands like the Klaxons with the urban coolness of the grime scene to create a hybrid musical form that many young people were powerless to resist. Lead vocalist James Smith’s mildly acerbic lyrics directly spoke to a captivated teen audience – their tales of boys in skinny-fit jeans and girls with lego haircuts were wildly popular with the Myspace generation.

It’s four our years on, and the kids (myself included) that were drinking cider on provincial parkland are now – technically – adults. Many of them have grown up musically and have expanded their horizons beyond listening exclusively to songs that directly reference their misguided choice of attire. Many of them are at university – swapping cans of Strongbow in for double vodka Red Bulls in student pubs.

Perhaps Hadouken! have been on a similar journey over the last four years. They have switched record labels – from rock ‘n’ roll imprint Atlantic to the independent dance legends Ministry of Sound. They have also completely transformed their sound, their newest singles fall very much into the category of dubstep… or bass music… or whatever you’d like to call it. Smith’s lyrics seem to speak less to the contemporary youth zeitgeist and more to a generic mainstream – whether this change is for the better will be decided when their as yet untitled new album is released next year.

First things first, I’d like to award you several man points for getting on the soundtrack to FIFA 13. That is kind of a big deal.

Oh yeah, we’re getting the biggest lad points down the pub at the moment for that. Basically the song has almost got a football chant in the chorus. So our management put it forward to FIFA because we’ve got a deal in America with EA Sports and the company that owns them. They kind of pay us a bit of money and we get certain tunes on their games. So we put them forward this track that we’ve got that we haven’t actually released yet called ‘Bliss Out’ which has kind of got this football chorus and they came back to us and said they loved it and they were gonna stick it on. I think they’re going to use in the trailer as well. So we were well happy about that, because it’s a big game.

So what kind of a track is ‘Bliss Out’?

It’s a kind of rap, basically, but kind of on a dubstep beat… with kind of guitars. It’s a massive hybrid of all kinds of genres really. It’s difficult to explain! Classic Hadouken! really. It should be on the new record hopefully, which will be out next year. But people will get a sneak peek when they buy FIFA.

You’re playing the iTunes festival with DJ Fresh and Example in a couple of weeks. They are two acts who have been flung from relative obscurity into huge popularity after signing with Ministry of Sound and changing their musical style a bit. Do you think Hadouken! are on the same trajectory at the moment?

I’m not really sure. That’s not up for us to decide. I’d love it to be that way, but it’s going to be up to how good our music is, the quality of the song writing and also if the fans are into it and if there’s people into it beyond our fanbase. I hope that will happen, and I think it’s very possible, but we’ve got to put the graft in and we’ve got to make sure we’ve got songs that are going to connect with people.

So, in terms of putting the graft in, you have a university tour coming up. Are you looking forward to that?

Yeah, very much so. Coming out the back of festival season we’ve been really happy with our festival performances and we move into touring season before Christmas. Freshers is a time when students are up for it and everyone’s got their loans in and stuff – so hopefully we can have a good time! Obviously the shows that we’re playing are open to the public as well – everyone’s welcome basically.

And what sort of stuff can we expect to hear at those shows?

Mainly it comprises of our former album For the Masses. We only play one or two songs from the first album because we’ve moved on from that really, we just play the most popular songs from that album. We throw in a few new ones, and also the new singles which are on YouTube.

And on that tour you’ll be playing the Freshers’ Ball here at Southampton. Have you ever played down here before?

Yeah!  We’ve played the Joiners a few times, and we played one of our first gigs somewhere near the port too. We love coming down to Southampton, we always have a good time there. There’s a big uni so everyone’s up for it!

Do you think students comprise quite a significant part of your fanbase having perhaps grown up listening to your earlier music?

Well we’ve got younger fans and we’ve got much older fans. But if you’ve got a 19 year old student now, they might have got into their music at about 14 and they discovered us then and they’re grown up with us five years ago, when we started. But then again there are people that would’ve discovered us who are getting into their 30’s and 40’s now and we see plenty of them down at the gigs – everyone’s welcome. You don’t have to get down at the front, you can stand at the back and have a beer and that’s the way we like it.

Hadouken! play at the Freshers’ Ball on Monday 8th October.

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