Interview: Hadouken!

2007’s break-out nu-rave sensation, Hadouken!, are keen to escape the label of being 2007’s break-out nu-rave sensation. “Hadouken! exist on our own terms”, lead singer James Smith assures Cherwell during our intimate meeting in a cramped dressing room backstage at the O2 Academy.

Earlier this year, the grindie gang released a new album (it missed out on a Cherwell review, but the NME gave it 7 out of 10). “Every Weekend is about losing yourself and letting go”, James tells us. It drags the nu-rave vibes of their 2007 debut kicking and screaming into 2013 via high-tempo dubstep drum patterns and aggressive drum & bass synth lines. We tentatively suggest “nu-nu-rave” as a label for the record- but James is less than impressed. “I have absolutely no concern whatsoever with genre. It bores me. If I give myself a genre I’m putting myself in a box, which is just constricting for an artist.”

“When Hadouken! go about making music, we don’t think about constraints”. Genre for Hadouken! is a tiresome limitation, a mere obstacle to be overcome on their quest to bring music to the masses. “Genres have superstars in them but they live and die”, whereas James hopes that Hadouken! exist on a plane beyond these passing concerns- and beyond nu rave. Despite these admirable sentiments, the album is not entirely divorced from all that has gone before it. James acknowledges the influence of “all the EDM vibes from the west coast.” Specifically, he namechecks one of the great electronic artists of our age. “Skrillex started that whole thing… at least for me.”

One way for Hadouken! to distance themselves from their nu-rave roots, we suggest, could be to drop their jaunty exclamation mark. After all, Panic! At The Disco briefly ditched their own punctuation mark in 2008, to the outrage of their fans and the utter indifference of literally everybody else. This is not a sacrifice Hadouken! are willing to make. “Actually, we stole our exclamation mark from Panic! At The Disco”, James tells us.

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Our conversation does not solely focus on their artistic endeavours, but covers a wide range of nu-rave bases. James is unequivocal in his assertion that he “prefers a wall of death to a moshpit”, but unexpectedly tells us that he’d “rather be a beanie than a glow-stick”- a shocking admission, and something of a scoop for Cherwell. The question of which historical character he would most like to be in a moshpit with proves more difficult to answer. After a pause of some seconds, he opts for “the Minotaur”. In contrast, if he could be any Skins character, he would “probably be Effie. She’s fit.”

He also provides Cherwell with advice on how to keep nu-rave in drab, post-recession Britain. “If you want to stay nu-rave while doing day-to-day chores around the house, do them naked with glow paint”. However, not all his comments are so uplifting. The computer game attack move from which they derive their name provides a platform for some searing social commentary. “If I could Hadouken anyone, I would Hadouken the person that gives me all the traffic warden bills from the local council”, he tells us, in a grim illustration of Broken Britain.

When we ask him to summarise his band in 3 words, James goes for “in your face”. It is doubtless this rock-and-roll attitude which led him to get a skull tattooed on his bicep. “I like skulls… they are associated with death but that reminds me to celebrate life”. Despite Hadouken!’s attempts to distance themselves from the term, the nu-rave flame is clearly still burning bright in their fluorescent yellow heart.