The road to Download

Music Journalism courseCassie Andrews speaks to Josh Gurner on being in two breakthrough bands that are playing at Download music festival

Sat in a room full of old Bush radios and vintage bric-a-brac is Josh Gurner, the bassist of both Hacktivist; a new hip-hop metal hybrid and Sacred Mother Tongue; a progressive heavy metal band. Freshly back from a UK tour with Hacktivist, and with bad-ass bass blisters to prove it, he blurts out ‘I’m not very good at talking.’ For someone who has played at Download Festival twice, and created a ‘Joshpit’(yes that is a pun on a moshpit)he comes across as quite shy and calm, the opposite of a stereotypical metaller. Don’t let that fool you though; he may just be one of the busiest men in metal at the moment, playing for two bands on the cusp of breaking through who are both playing at Download on the same day!

Hacktivist are following in, soon to be tour buddies, Enter Shikari’s footsteps; combining two genres in auditory ecstasy. They create a hip-hop metal fusion at a dub-step tempo.  ‘The two genres are very opposing but also routed in the same things. Where it’s just about groove, so we meet in the middle, come up with something a bit new.’  Many people would say it doesn’t work but it definitely does, the solemn metal guitar with hip-hop rhymes layered on top has a revolutionary feel to it, something mirroring the feeling of youth in the British society. The band formed in 2011, the dream child of Timfy James, ‘initially [Timfy] just asked to borrow one of my bass’ to do some recording with. I said oh actually I’ve heard some of the demos you’ve put up and would be up for putting some bass on it and he said yeah that’d be really great we need a bass player.’ Since then the band had has had a bit of a rollercoaster year, having released Unlike Us which got to number 2 in the Amazon Metal Chart, the band have almost been on a constant tour all year, and have now released a self-titled EP.

Having joined Sacred Mother Tongue in 2008, Josh has made a name for himself by creating something now known as ‘The Joshpit’ , where he would jump into the moshpit with his bass (on a wireless amp) and start riling up the crowd. At smaller gigs you may still get a glimpse of The Joshpit but as the fan base has grown so has the need for Josh to stay on stage.  With his best gig being with Sacred Mother Tonguein Cardiff; It was cool we had Padge from Bullet For My Valentine and then Benjamin from Skindred came down’ you can tell that he has pledged himself to both bands and ready for the workload.

The two bands fans very rarely mix; with one primarily having metallers cascading into the venue with the other has a mixture of Hip-hoppers and metallers swaggering in.  ‘We had a great bit in [a] magazine, at the beginning of the one page you had a big picture of Hacktivist and a write up about us and then on the opposite side of the fold there was Sacred Mother Tongue with a big picture of us there as well, I thought yeah brilliant. I don’t think anyone noticed that I’m in both photos’. This shows how down to earth and unfazed by all this attention he really is.

Most people when they meet their idol would babble for England, let out a little squeak or just stare. When Josh met Flea from The Red Hot Chilli Peppers at a Nas and Damien Marley gig, he reacted the way any of us would. ‘I was completely star struck! Didn’t say anything, just shook his hand profusely and told him I loved him.’  Most people inspired to play bass by Flea own a fretless bass, and Josh does, along with 6 others. ‘Well, I play two different ones for the different bands. I’ve got a six string for Hacktivist which is tuned really low and is really hard to play because the strings are really thick, it’s tuned low but it sounds really cool. My other 4 string ESP is a really nice bass to play; we use it for sacred mother tongue.’

Only two people are playing twice at Download this year, one of which being Slipknot and Stone Sour’s Corey Taylor, and the other being Josh (unfortunately Josh’s are on the same day). ‘(laughs) yeah I’m playing in both bands think both sets are on Sunday, which is a bit of a pain because I’ll finish one set and then have to run to the other stage and get sorted. It’s stressful enough doing it once. I need a little golf buggy to escort me!’

Both bands are embarking on a tour on the UK with Sacred Mother Tongue touring with Halestorm and Hacktivist touring with Enter Shikari , it’s going to be a busy road to Download.