Cover Story: Hadouken!

Now, we here at Music Feeds are all about supporting Sydney’s independent music scene. “But why is there an English band, signed to a major label on your cover?” you ask. Well it’s simple, HADOUKEN! are rad. Not only have they taken indie music in an exciting new direction, they’ve done it all without ever giving into the pressure to tow the line down the middle of the road.

It was with this in mind that I flew over to Leeds to chat with guitarist and founding member Dan “Pilau” Rice.

HADOUKEN! Erupted onto the British scene in November 2007, rising to fame off the back of their USB only mixtape, Not Here To Please You. Their music is an insane blend of electronic sub-genres such as grime and dubstep, fused with British indie and electro. The result is a hyper-charged sonic-wallop that’ll have you up on the dance-floor faster than a drunken bridesmaid at a wedding.

Dan, however, is the polar opposite. On stage he is as energetic as you might expect yet in person, he is quite reserved and polite. His voice is cloaked in the hushed tones of old Blighty, and his speech is charmingly littered with ‘sort of’ and ‘like,’ and you get the feeling every word he speaks is earnest, or at least thought out.

We’re sitting in the back room of one of Leeds’ famous DIY events, although room doesn’t do it justice, it’s more of a cavern. The walls seem to have been hewn from living stone and the ground is scattered with a fair amount of kicked up moss and lichen. The brooding bass tones of the DJ’s dubstep remix of Love Will Tear Us Apart comes wafting through shakily erected curtain separating us from the main section of the “venue.”

“Me and James (Smith, vocalist) started out running an indie record label, Surface Noise Records.” He recounts, reservedly looking around and taking a sip of his beer. “It just kind of came about because I’d moved up to Leeds to go to Uni, and I met James there. We both kind of realised that we had mutual interests in music and that we both wanted to work in that sort of field in one way or another, and the label was kind of the first thing that came to mind.”

“We just tried to do something a little different,” he tells me humbly. “We don’t make any claims of being revolutionary, or to be doing something that no one has ever done before, but we just got out and did something that had a slightly different tinge to it than most of the music we were hearing around. I think we were just lucky it connected with a whole bunch of people.”

What about Aerials? “Well we had just finished the album and we were kind of looking at different ways of releasing it and everything,” he explains, moving closer and raising his voice. “Like we’re all like physical music collectors and we wanted to do like some kind of special edition release for other people who are into that sort of thing. Obviously though, we were a new band so we didn’t have loads of bonus CDs or extra tracks and everything else, so the way we did it was to do this Aerials thing. Fans got a deluxe box set of the album with a few extra bits than the physical release and they got signed up to Aerials, which means for the rest of the year, any remixes or B-sides or other material that we’ve got, they just get sent it online for free.”

Some people enter through the curtain, and Dan and I walk through a door into another deserted space. We sat down on a ragged sofa facing a cracked window. It’s so caked in grime on the outside, that it distorts Dan’s reflection across its fractures.

Their recently released LP, Music For An Accelerated Culture however has seen the band return to some of their more brooding-electronic roots, as well as including a wide range of other influences and sounds.

“The way the album turned out was the product a lot of experimenting over the last year or so with different styles and also different styles of recording. We did some recording in some big studios, with the whole band and we’ve done other sessions, just like on a laptop, just James building beats in,” he tells me. “I think for us that was kind of like bedroom production, more kind of beats based which is where we started, where before we had sort of done a few more like live band tracks. So the album went back in that sense to our kind of more electronic sound that we started with.”

“In terms of the tone of it, we probably did get a bit more aggressive, and a bit less sort of fun and carefree than our earlier stuff, but I think that’s just because we wanted to make an album that’s fun, but also has a few sort of lasting ideas in it.”

The album deals with issues of today’s youth culture such as binge drinking and debt, but it does so in a very subtle way. A lot of critics have dismissed songs like Get Smashed, Gate Crash as endorsing hedonism, but beneath the exuberance of the lyrics the band are actually highlighting the increasing wild and dangerous nature of youth party culture.

“Our way has always been to deal with topics like that in a kind of ambiguous and light-hearted way, and I think with some of the rock press that doesn’t quite translate,” he explains with a hint of bemusement in his voice. “They’re looking for more traditional indie bands, with really kind of poetic lyrics. But our influences are more kind of like Mike Skinner, which is kind of more observational. It’s not preaching or anything like that, we’re just pointing out the sort of thing that’s going on.”

Does that ever get to you? “I think there’s definitely a lot to be said for the criticism being what motivates you. I find that if you’re sitting on the Internet reading some of the casual positive comments on the MySpace, they just go over your head a bit. But when you eventually find someone having a bit of a dig, it really sort of winds you up or whatever and inspires you to go on and make it bigger and better.

Dan decides to leave and offers to drop me back at my hotel. The atmosphere at the party is at fever pitch as we leave and hop in a cab. Are you exited about coming to Australia? ”Yeah, but I don’t know whose idea it was to come down in the winter.”

“It’s Japan after that, then we’re going to stop touring this album. It’s all pretty quick because we only released it here in May, which is a pretty short cycle for an album,” he explains as the streets sweep by. “We’ve kind of been on the road and touring for a long time because of the mixtape which came out here last November and we were already playing big shows back then before the album came out, so it just feels like we’ve been in our fans faces for a long time.” The cab driver keeps looking over his shoulder as Dan continues, “we’ve been releasing a lot of stuff over the last year and a half even though the album only came out a couple of months ago, so we’re sort of ready now, after the summer, to sort of dip out of sight for a little while and start work on the second album.”

I get out of the cab and thank Dan for the ride. As he pulls away I realise to myself “FUCK! I forgot to ask about Streetfighter!”

HADOUKEN! will be playing in Australia on:

03.08.2008 – Byron Bay, Australia – Splendour in The Grass
06.08.2008 – Sydney, Australia – The Forum

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