Hadouken! Interviewed: "We Are At The Top Of Our Game"

They've made a career out of dividing opinion, but with a new single getting some big name backing they are nudging themselves into the mainstream conciousness...
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They've made a career out of dividing opinion, but with a new single getting some big name backing they are nudging themselves into the mainstream conciousness...

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Seemingly, everyone in the world has an opinion on Hadouken! Since 2006 when the band first appeared through their own label, Surface Noise Records, the music world hasn’t quite known how to deal with them. Never quite slotting into one genre, the band takes influences from Nu Rave, Dance, Metal and Grime, with inventive use of samples and trippy stage shows which in the past have sparked some outright venomous reviews and spite from hardcore genre fans. So in 2012, when the band announced a move to Ministry of Sound’s independent label and promised the world something new and exciting, it’s safe to say that a fair few eyebrows weren’t raised and not a lot of people took much notice.

But then something happened. Whether it’s through Ministry of Sound’s careful press strategy, teaming up with super remixers Xilent and Wide Boyzor something else entirely….people heard new single ‘Bad Signal’ and warmed to it. First to jump on the bandwagon was Radio 1 music guru, Zane Lowe, who heaped praise on the song in June on its first radio play. So what’s happened to Hadouken!? I caught up with the lead singer James Smith to have a chat:

New Single, ‘Bad Signal’ talks very much about the perils of social media and Facebook, especially where relationships are concerned, what’s the story behind the single?

Yeah, it’s definitely about feeling and actually being really connected in this world, through online personas and social media and all that, but at the same time feeling completely disconnected. So you’re kind of brought together with these people but you feel like they’re not even your friends even though they are your ‘friends’, or at least they happen to be on your friends list or whatever. I think also, you know, going out and getting drunk and those embarrassing things you might send when you’re drunk to people ….that you then regret…. You know, to your ex girlfriend or boyfriend?  I think that a lot of young people have been in these situations. I think also that the sample we used (The Supremes – Keep Me Hanging On) helps people to connect to it.

So are you saying you wrote this single after you drunkenly Facebooked someone then?!

[Laughter]Ha we’ve all been there! No actually I haven’t done it for a few years in fairness, but I know some of my mates will know what I mean!

Zane Lowe recently made ‘Bad Signal’ his Hottest Record In The World, but in the past you guys have come in for some almost spiteful criticism from the press and fans. Do you think people are starting to warm to you now and why?

Totally. I think it’s a bit of everything, I feel like we are at the top of our game in terms of what we do. We’re writing better songs than ever, I think we’ve nailed our sound and we know what we want from our music and I think we also know now how to get the crowds going. We’ve got better live.  I think we’ve all just matured. We’ve got rid of the silly or ironic, edgy maybe like humorous tones in the music, which I think is very fleeting. Hopefully, I think now that has all come together, people can just start enjoying it. And we don’t have any pretence. We just want to get out there and make some good music. That all we can do really isn’t it?

So it must be a good feeling to have such an influential DJ quite vocally backing this single after some of the criticism you’ve faced…

Yeah, well, you know. People can be negative but I just think if you don’t like something, why talk about it? Just talk about the stuff you do like! Though, that’s not really how the British Music Press works I guess! [Laughs].A lot of it’s dying.  I think we’ve got more fans on our Twitter than some of these big magazines sell in a week. I feel like they don’t have any power anyway which is quite satisfying.

You already mentioned the sample you’ve used on the track from The Supremes; you’ve always been very diverse in terms of style. What other particular bands or genres are you listening to and looking at for inspiration with your new stuff?

Well there’s a lot of exciting dance music going on at the moment. You know Feed Me, Dylan Francisand then there’s the whole Skrillex thing going on right now. I think Knife Party are totally at the forefront at the minute. It’s like, a really really exciting time for dance music.  I guess anyone that’s on Skrillex’s label really.

 Speaking of labels, this is your first single after recently signing to Ministry of Sound’s label, from Surface Noise. Why did you guys decide now was the time to move, and what if anything is next for Surface Noise?

Well, you know that label that we ran, when we started was actually just a way to actually be allowed to release our music and keep control over it. Initially, that was what it was anyway. I think what we like about Ministry is that they just seem like a label that actually understands their acts and I suppose they also, you know, do things the new school way, which is actually the big problem we’d always had with major labels in the first place. I think sometimes they [large labels] were very much kind of, ‘dinosaurs’ of the old music industry. Ministry though, they push their acts in a very grass roots orientated kind of way. They build it up and they manage to get music in the charts, which is something I think we all want now.

So is that something you think you couldn’t have done through Surface Noise?

Well I think that that was something we suffered with on the last record. Just doing it ourselves, there’s a lack of A&R help and all the sort of technical stuff other than the music, you know, it’s actually really difficult doing all of that yourselves. So yeah, we were all looking forward to working with a label again.

So we shouldn’t be expecting you guys to go Global and do a Skrillex style label of your own any time soon then?

[Laughs]It’s a lot of hard work as it is!! I think you need a really strong team around you so no, I think we’ll just be focusing on the band and the music for the minute!!

You guys are very energetic live and you’ll be playing clubs and festivals as part of your tour, where do you feel more at home? The clubs or the festivals?

Clubs and festivals both have their pluses and minuses. At festivals you get to play to new crowds and may convert a few people into fans, especially in a festival atmosphere where you can stick around and have a good time before and after the gig and see other bands. It’s a bit of a party! At your own gigs, you’re a bit special because everyone is there to see just you and I guess you’re the centre of attention, everyone’s going to sing along a bit more than at a festival.  So they both have their pluses and minuses really.

Will you be altering your set for the crowd at say, Reading Festival as opposed to Ministry of Sound?

I think, you’ve got to play to the crowd. But the crowd also has to respect what you do. We just do our thing, if it doesn’t go down well with the crowd, so be it. If you stick to your guns you’ll always have fans that are into you for exactly who you want to be. So we don’t really tailor our sound. But we play a really varied set anyway so I think people at Ministry will be into it and I have no fear that people at Reading will do too. I think we’ll be alright!

Finally, you’ve set the bar high now….what do you think the next 12 months holds for Hadouken!?

Well more music hopefully! Keeping the bar high! I think we’ve got better singles coming than ‘Bad Signal’, so I think we’ll be okay so long as we can get some support from the media and stuff like that really.

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