Instant success is a tricky thing. When Hacktivist unveiled their genre-crunching sound online in 2012, the impact was immediate. A groundbreaking blend of detuned, post-djent heaviness and rapid-fire rapping, it swiftly turned what was originally just an impromptu collaboration between former Heart Of A Coward guitarist Timfy James and grime MC J. Hurley into a genuine phenomenon. But despite numerous major tours, including high-profile jaunts with Enter Shikari and Korn, Hacktivist arrived in 2016 with only their self-titled 2012 EP and a handful of one-off singles to their name. As they finally prepare to release debut album Outside The Box, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to ask whether they’ve squandered a golden opportunity to be the next big thing.
“Well, most bands get a lot of time to write and experiment before the pressure of that first album comes along,” Timfy shrugs. “But within our first year we were out doing big tours that we wouldn’t have expected after 10 years, let alone one. We came back from all that, an album was needed and I sat in front of the computer thinking, ‘What am I gonna do?’ I suffered really heavily from anxiety for a year and a half and I couldn’t write anything. I was like a rabbit in the headlights. So people might think we’ve just been pissing about, but really I was having a huge battle with myself, purely because of the pressure we were put under from day one. But if the album had come out two years ago, I swear it wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as it is now.”
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Hacktivist’s debut album is how they have evolved in such a way that, even four years after their initial burst of success, they still sound utterly unique and fresh. Once Timfy emerged from his depressive slump, it’s clear that he had no shortage of great ideas to choose from as he planned his accidental band’s next move. A combination of older material and brand new riffs and grooves, Outside The Box is precisely the kind of vibrant, bullish manifesto that Hacktivist fans will have been praying for. Well worth the wait, in other words.
You should fight for what you believe in
“Your first album is a big stepping stone, and we wouldn’t have been as connected to it if we’d rushed it,” Timfy notes. “We’ve already moved on from how we sounded three years ago. We’re trying to think a bit more… outside the box! Ha ha! We don’t try to move away from the crowd, we just end up there. We know what works and what doesn’t, and it just happens.”
It’s that sense of spontaneity and unstoppable energy that has made Hacktivist such a powerful live band; one that has made light work of winning over crowds from Manchester to Minsk. But one other aspect of their appeal must surely be the fact that their greatest songs exude genuine rage and defiance, whether it’s assailing the corrupt leaders on False Idols or having a deserved pop at Milton Keynes’ local council on brutal recent single Buszy.
“We don’t go into the studio and say, ‘OK, David Cameron’s been a twat today, so let’s write a song about it!’” Timfy smiles. “Jay and Ben [Marvin, co-vocalist] write about how they’re feeling, whether it’s something personal or something they’ve seen on the news, and it becomes a montage of what was happening when the track was made. We’re all very opinionated about what’s going on in the world. We wouldn’t pretend to know everything but we say it how we see it.”
Inspired by the planned demolition of The Buszy, Milton Keynes’ quietly legendary ‘youth community hub’ and skate park, Buszy may be unlikely to have any major impact on the council’s proposals, but its underlying message is undeniably potent and positive.
“We can’t stop it from happening and the song isn’t necessarily a direct hit, it just says that you should fight for what you believe in, uniting and doing something instead of just letting things happen,” says Timfy. “If you watch the party scene in the video, that’s what it used to be like there! But where will young people go when they knock it down? It doesn’t make any sense.”
Doing things on their own terms and at their own pace may yet pay off for Hacktivist, regardless of how long it has taken them to arrive at this first album milestone. The truth is that, right now, there is no one else like them out there and, perhaps against the odds, what they do still sounds like the beginning of something very exciting indeed.
“Our music is so energetic and it’s built to get our juices flowing,” says Timfy. “We’re normal guys and we write music that makes us want to lose our shit, and if it does then we know other people will feel the same. It’s like when you go to the gym – there are certain things that you listen to and they make you go harder! And that’s what we do.”
Outside The Box will be released on March 4 via UNFD