Jason Gregory

09:57 15th May 2007


“It’s been quite a whirlwind ride in terms of the hype and the way it’s snowballed,” recalls an excited James Smith, who’s just about to head to the studio for an Hadouken! writing session. “I think I’d put that down to the whole internet phenomenon and Myspace and the way that everyone can get hold of your tunes and all the information really quickly,” he adds. “The digital revolution of the last couple of years has made it happen so much faster.”
Smith’s coherent and thoughtful words could have spilled from the mouths of almost every new band that have found themselves lifted from a position of near isolation to one of fast-tracked notoriety since the internet became everyone’s personal A&R man during that “digital revolution.” Hadouken!, the band that Smith fronts in a fierce, intimidating but ultimately captivating manner, aren’t afraid to admit that either. After all, they’ve (pro)actively embraced I.T. more than most. “Myspace is the most obvious one and I think every band does that now anyway, but the kind of things that we’ve done, like a youtube channel where we’ve tried to make documentaries, although they’re very amateur they can still be quiet amusing and I think people have enjoyed that and we hope to carry that on, on a larger scale now that we’re with a major label.”
Ah, a major label. Surely that means increased pressure from the top? An impatient commercial push? Restricted free speech? Not likely. Hadouken! may have signed to Atlantic Records on the back of one single, ‘That Boy, That Girl,’ (more on that later) but it soon becomes clear that like everything with this band – particularly Smith - it certainly wasn’t a decision made without some careful consideration.
Formed in May of last year as the university creation of Smith and guitarist Dan ‘Pilau’ Rice – who, like the rest of the band (which includes Smith’s girlfriend, Alice and younger brother, Nick) were part of the ‘arty’ set at Leeds University - Hadouken! never even expected to get to this stage – that is, being on the brink of recording their as-yet-untitled debut album. “We didn’t expect it to be the kind of thing that would go off,” reveals Smith, honestly. But, “go off,” it has. Combining the wild neurosis of The Prodigy with a very colourful 21st Century, fluoro-fluorescent forward thinking outlook, Hadouken! have swiftly established themselves as head turning band. You know the sort, even if you don’t like them, you can’t help put gawp inquisitively.
There’s no finer example than the bands debut single, ‘That Boy, That Girl.’ Released last year, its lyrics paint a luminous watercolour image of London’s trendiest east end hangout, Hoxton, through the frank documentation of the areas assortment of “skinny-fit jean” wearers, “indie Cindy’s” and “sluts and whores” who are all just a bit too cool to dance. What makes the single so remarkable though, as Smith points out, is that it was written after the bands first visit to the capital. “We were living up in Leeds and we’d been up there for three years for Uni and we came down one summer and just decided to go out in Hoxton one night and we had a really good time and the night kind of opened our eyes to what had been going on in London for the last few years because we were kind of oblivious to it,” he continues. “It’s kind of a Londoner’s perspective on London but still from being an outsider.”
Although many “Hoxton heroes” took the words the wrong way, Smith points out that the song wasn’t designed to offend. “The whole point of the song – which gets misconstrued a lot – is it’s not actually dissing scenesters. It’s saying you can be a scenester but you don’t have to pose, you can have fun as well as looking good, you don’t have to just be moody and miserable.” If anything, the reaction to the song has made Smith more sceptical about the Hoxton ‘clique’ now. “All those indie Cindy’s with polka dot dresses have all ditched the polka dot dresses and are wearing fluoro save the rave t shirts now,” he laughs, “so it’s like I’m more cynical about the whole thing now.”


He may only be in his early twenties but Smith is gifted with an old head on young shoulders. Growing up on a diet of grime and candid lyricism, music has been around him for a long time. At fourteen he was already DJ’ing and MC’ing the genre with the same passion that now flows like blood through his Hadouken! performance. It was at seventeen, however, when he started to produce records (which he still does for Hadouken!) that he really saw a career in music, or as he puts it, he found “his forte.” “I’d say it was production that really got me into music,” he adds coolly.
With more than a hint of Smith’s background in grime in their own music, Hadouken’s! impassioned live performance coupled with their love of day-glo acid t-shirts and occasional synth sirens, soon attached them to 2006’s blossoming ‘new rave’ scene when they emerged last year. Smith’s voice suddenly sounds exasperated at the association. “The name doesn’t really mean a lot to us as a band. The term, ‘new rave,’ it kind of changes everyday. I don’t think it was a kind of scene as such - it didn’t have the true makings of a scene and for that reason we kind of felt a bit distanced from it,” he adds. “I think we’re a little bit more established now as to who we are as a band to be worried about having certain labels and stuff like that.” 
Indeed, when it comes to categorising their sound, Hadouken! aren’t naïve enough to think that because of their grime influence they’re going to become the first successful indie to grime cross-over either – nor do they really want to be. The two scenes, as Smith highlights, are two very different worlds. “Because we have come from an indie back ground, I think the urban crowd are less likely to accept something ‘indier.’ I think it’s more likely to happen the other way round,” he continues. “Someone like Dizzee Rascal has more chance to break the indie scene because I think the indie people are more accepting. You know the stigma of white kids with guitars and posing and all that and then urban people, probably regard themselves as more authentic in that regard and I don’t think we’re the band to do that, but that doesn’t bother me to be honest.”
So what are Hadouken bothered about? Well, first of all there’s the debut album. Due for release in October, it’s something that’s been on Smith’s mind throughout our conversation. With his background in production and the band currently writing new tracks for the long-player - which Smith promises will have “some elements that people will recognise from early songs and some new stuff that they might be surprised about” - it’s something he in particular is excited about. “I think the studio is going to be the most enjoyable period of being in a band,” he says enthusiastically. “I like touring but I don’t love it, and I love recording so hopefully that will be fun over the summer. If we can get some good work done then we can sit and chill and have some barbecues and take our time recording it and it should be fun.”
It won’t all be barbeques however. Besides the album and Smith’s love of the mixing desk, the band have just announced their first full headlining tour for June, which are their first set of dates since performing on the Myspace Bleep Bleep Tour, where – on the three dates they played – they attracted bigger audiences than the events headliners, Pull Tiger Tail. “It should be fun to go back out on the road,” says Smith, rather nonchalantly, before adding, “Hopefully the whole experience should be wicked.” With the bands understated but undeniable confidence and reluctance to “fail,” you can’t help but think the whole experience will be just that – wicked.
Just before Smith dashes off to pen some more lyrics, he leaves Gigwise with a rather fitting synopsis of just why he thinks Hadouken! appeal. “I think that it’s because it’s kind of half a rave and half a gig and I think there is a very good party atmosphere at our shows so hopefully through word of mouth it will spread further.”  So then, if you like your gigs to feel like the best party of your life, leaving you gasping for water but begging for more, then start spreading the word now because that’s just what Hadouken! are offering.

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