Paul Fennessy talks to the lead singer of Hadouken!, James Smith, about the pitfalls of rock stardom and the virtues of the Sugababes
While researching for this interview, otwo came across a curious comment made by Hadouken!’s vocalist James Smith. In response to the question: “What’s the most annoying thing about journalists?” the singer replied: “Their two-facedness.” I’d like to make it clear that despite my amiable tone during the interview (in case the recording should ever be podcast), I absolutely loathe James Smith. But if he ever asks, tell him otwo says he’s lovely, okay?
Fresh from forgetting to turn his phone on and thus making all journalists wait for two hours, Smith is in no mood to dwell on anything – or give a response comprising of more than two sentences for that matter. And never one to leave a cliché unturned, Smith asserts that their new album (For The Masses) “is our strongest”, explaining how the band have “progressed as songwriters”.
Although For The Masses has so far failed to better the 100,000 copies shifted by its predecessor, Music for an Accelerated Culture, Smith rejects the idea that his band was tempting fate by giving the album such a prophetic title. “I didn’t really intend the title to mean for the commercial masses,” he says. “It’s more about playing to a large crowd. And it’s also a bit tongue in cheek as well.”
In addition to the tribulations which a new album entails, the band was also told by their label to remix the Sugababes’ single ‘Get Sexy’ – pragmatically, they complied.
“We’ve always had a lot of respect for the Sugababes,” Smith explains. “We aren’t necessarily big fans in terms of listening to the music, but we respect their success. We got asked to do it by the label and we felt like it was a good enough song and that we could add our own stuff to it, so we did.”
Smith revisits the theme of record label politics when asked to identify the most surprising aspect of a rock star lifestyle. “I think it’s quite interesting that there’s a certain amount of stress,” he reveals. “You’re always thinking about your next move and your next tour, and there’s a lot of pressure from fans and record labels.”
otwo is becoming bored by Smith’s moany pony replies, yet is heartened by his answer to the Desert Island Disc question. His response – “probably the Radiohead album Hail to the Thief” – is an extremely welcome one. After years of being bullied by bigger, older publications like The Ticket who say that Kid A is “mostly unlistenable” and who routinely describe HTTT as Radiohead’s weakest album, otwo feels vindicated to have finally found a like-minded soul who can appreciate this underrated epic. Maybe Smith really is lovely after all.
Hadouken! play the Button Factory on March 12th