Hyper: punk rave ”â interview (blog)
LTW caught up with punk rave band Hyper, infusing rock energy into visceral, hard-hitting electronic dance music”Â¦
Words: Carl Loben
Hyper aren’t a new band, they’ve just released their third album ”ËThe Panic’, but line-up changes have meant that they haven’t come through as prominently as they might have done – until now. They started out with Leeroy Thornhill (ex-Prodigy) on vocals, and had a minor hit with ”ËWe Control’ a few years ago, a snippet of which will be familiar to many after it was used on a Peugeot car advert (and also on several computer games like Pure and Need For Speed: Most Wanted).
Leeroy couldn’t commit to touring with the band (he’s a successful international DJ in his own right), and they recruited female singer Alex Baker for second album ”ËSuicide Tuesday’ ”â but now have a new singer, the rather wonderful and, yes, very hyper Axe.
Hyper were kicked off initially by Guy Hatfield, who also DJs under the name Hyper, and Jim Davies, former axeman for Prodigy live gigs and also lead guitarist of criminally under-appreciated 90s industrial metal band Pitchshifter.
Guy’s first independent musical loves as a teenager were bands like Brazilian metallers Sepultura, Black Flag and other hardcore bands, grungey Sub Pop acts and stuff on Earache Records (Napalm Death, Godflesh etc). He then got into dance music, and carved out a successful career as a breakbeat DJ ”â founding the ”ËY4K’ compilation series, touring with America’s biggest dance act the Crystal Method ”â before linking with Jim and Leeroy to start Hyper, the band.
“Guy says he was into a lot of bands on Earache ”â I used to be in bands on Earache, we’ve probably got a very similar background,”Â says Jim. “Over time, he’s gone more rock and I’ve gone more dance, and we meet in the middle.”Â
Singer Axe, a skater rock and punk freak, came along at the end of the second album, and having her as a full member for ”ËThe Panic’ has really increased the cohesion of the whole thing. The band can switch from a feelgood old skool dance thing like ”ËBeyond The Rave’, with Axe’s vocal chopped-up in the studio”Â¦
to a neo-stadium rock track like ”ËThe End’, with Axe’s vocal belted out over the juddery guitar and dynamite beats.
Hyper started out with a live drummer and bassist, but have abandoned those now as it didn’t fit their way of writing songs. Jim tells LTW how his guitar style differs these days. “My way of playing is now totally dedicated to how to play with dance music,”Â he says. “It differs a lot, I learned the hard way early on. You don’t want it to be too chuggy and low when there’s so much sub bass and frequencies, so I’ve changed my style to be more FX-based and lead-based ”â more influenced by the synth sounds that you hear in dance music.”Â
“I’d rather not bother with a traditional rock band set-up now, you lose all the power you can get from sub bass,”Â Jim continues. “Live drums can be good for a big festival, but for smaller gigs it can just be a mess. Drums take up so much room as well”Â¦”Â
Guy tells LTW how they largely work remotely, sending each other stuff over the internet before meeting up for final takes. “There’s none of that standing around like you get with a traditional band,”Â adds Axe, “when we come together we’re really focused.”Â
So what does Axe sing about? “It’s different to writing in rock music, you’re not telling a whole story. The voice is like another instrument, but you still try to get some of your character across. It’s not like writing a rock song where you could strip everything back and it would still sound like a song, it’s more about energy and a vibe.”Â
“With a track like ”ËMachine, you don’t need to say everything in a song, you can know it in your head,”Â Axe continues.
At their album launch in London recently, Hyper do, indeed, rock like muthas. Axe is a mesmerising frontperson, and the dynamics are huge. The tricky pitfall for a band like Hyper is that they can be seen as too rocky for the dance scene, and vice versa… “Elements of the dance music scene can be just as heavy and as energetic as a lot of rock stuff,”Â reckons Jim. “Some of the tracks on this album are as heavy as rock stuff ”â it’s hard to do it well, to make the guitars sit properly.”Â
“Dance music as much as anything was the new punk rock, I don’t think anything else has been so exciting or revolutionary since punk as dance music,”Â adds Guy. “All independent labels are doing their own thing. And things don’t just happen for you ”â you have to go out and make them happen yourself.”Â
”ËThe Panic’ is out now on Distinctive.