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Friday, Sept. 5, 2008

MY PLAYLIST: James Smith, Hadouken!


British band Hadouken! are a curious construction. If you left them out in a storm to be struck by lightning and broken into their constituent parts, in among the blood and guts would flow a river of toxic neon goo, melting cyberpunk sartorials and a sprinkling of electrochip innards.

News photo
Slightly jumpy: This is what happens when you whisper "Dixie Chicks" into the ear of Hadouken! frontman James Smith.

In the sprawling technopolis of Japan, Hadouken!'s mangalike sonic marauderings have captured the imaginations of a hyperactive youth.

"People seem to like us here more than anywhere else in the world," says frontman James Smith. "The crowds are always so excitable — not like if you go to somewhere like Paris, where everyone just stands there trying to be cool."

Stubbornly refusing simple genre classification, the London grime/dance/ indie/whatever ravers seem as much a twisted science experiment as a real-life band. And after successful appearances at the Summer Sonic festivals in Chiba and Osaka last month, they're back to wreak hard-wire havoc once more with a string of dates in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya.

"We headlined the dance tent at Summer Sonic in Osaka — the venue was rammed. Plus the album has done really well, so that's why were coming back out again. As we'd finished our season of festivals, we decided to come back to Japan for an encore!"

As for future endeavors, Smith hints, "We're already quite heavily into the second album and we'll start recording by the end of the year. We're not ones to sit on our arses and just stick with one sound. This album is going to be more mature. There's a bigger nod to other styles of dance music on this album, and we're going to use a lot more live instrumentation."

First song that comes up when you set your MP3 player on shuffle
"What's the Story Morning Glory,"
Oasis (1995)

They haven't had any direct influence on Hadouken!, but I loved Oasis' first three albums — including "Be Here Now." Lots of people hated that: It was Oasis' big cocaine blow out, the end of Britpop. But I just liked its extravagance.

First song that alerted you to the healing power of music
"Bad," Michael Jackson (1987)

I used to play this song on my plastic toy Fisher Price tape player when I was about 5 years old. He was the first person whose music I really loved.

The song that soundtracks your most unsettling dreams
"Wide Open Spaces," Dixie Chicks (1998)

My parents always listened to really lame country music that made me feel sick as I was growing up. Now occasionally they come back to haunt me. Don't expect Hadouken! to be taking a country direction anytime soon.

Song that inspired you to make music yourself
"Eskimo," Wiley (2002)

Proto-grime really inspired me, and a lot of that can be heard in Hadouken! Wiley was an MC at first, but when he started getting into production he produced some great stuff. It really got me to have a go myself.

Song you wish you'd written
"The National Anthem," Radiohead (2000)

Hadouken! could probably not get away with going down an avant-garde route like Radiohead did. Sometimes I really restrict the type of music we write so as not to alienate people from what made them like us originally. We're not going to be throwing in a ballad anytime soon. If I wanted to do something a bit different, I'd save it for a side project.

Track you'd have played at your funeral
The "Back to the Future" theme tune (1985)

This is always changing — I have a funeral playlist. But at the moment I'm going for "Back to the Future" . . . I hope that after I've died I awake in some other life and it's a futuristic paradise.

Hadouken! play Sept. 10 and 11 at Liquidroom in Ebisu, Tokyo (6 p.m.; [03] 3462-6969); Sept. 12 at Shinsaibashi Club Quattro, Osaka (6 p.m.; [06] 6281-8181); and Sept. 14 at Club Quattro, Nagoya (5 p.m.; [052] 264-8211). Tickets are ¥5,500 in advance.

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