Our interview finds Beazley in the middle of a production rehearsal in preparation for next week’s European tour. “It’s stressful because it’s a lot of work and we’ve got a lot of high tech gadgets that we take on the road. There is a lot of preparation that goes into our live show, and it’s been a while since we’ve played the new songs. But, we’re getting there,” says Beazley.
With the Hacktivist sound incorporating elements of djent, hip hop and grime – there is a lot to account for in a live setting. “We have a backing track that we play to, that means that our drummer is continuously playing to a click track and keeping everything in time. I’ve got MIDI controlling my guitar amps. It changes all of my patches as the set goes along, so I don’t have to worry about pressing buttons or pedals. It’s quite high tech sort of stuff, but it’s there to make our life easier on stage. Because I’m the only guitarist and I sing, it’s very difficult for me to get up to the mic and sing and make sure I’m on the right patch for lead parts. It’s made my life so much easier.”
“We use Ableton live, so everything is triggered from a laptop, we just press play and the whole set – even between the tracks we have some ambient stuff going on. We try and make it as much an audible pleasure as possible. I nd it very awkward when bands play and it’s silent while they are tuning in between songs.”
The technical know-how doesn’t end there either. On the topic of the band’s forthcoming debut album, Outside The Box, Beazley con des in a love of integrating modern amp simulators and tube amplifiers. “It’s taken me a while to get back into valve amps, but I am quite proud to use digital to bring the most out of valve amps; they just work so well together.”
While admitting his Axe-FX is his go to piece of gear, Beazley says it is his use of his two Blackstar Blackfire 200 Gus G Signature tube heads – in conjunction with the Axe-FX that makes up his meaty guitar tone. “I don’t actually use the Axe-FX on the album for tone, it’s used as a tool to get more out of the [Blackstar] amps. The Axe-FX has an amazing feature where I can run my tube head through it, instead of the other way around. The way I use the effects loop means that I can put my head as a digital block wherever I want in the Axe-FX signal chain. So if I wanted to put a gate effect in front of the amp and behind it, that’s possible. In doing this, I have been able to hone in on the frequencies that I want to pull and push.”
“The Blackstar Blackfire’s are quite rare, only a few hundred were ever released. It’s actually got a tube screamer built into it and that’s where you just get that massive tone wall. I just love it and there is nothing else that can beat it for me really.”
Lucky for the band, Beazley’s creative input doesn’t only cover a good chunk of the songwriting, but includes the production side too. Outside of the band, Beazley works as a producer and engineer from his studio in the UK. With the band’s tech reliance and approach to songwriting a key to their success, it pays to have an engineer and studio-owner on board. “I write most of the music. So I’ll write a shell of a song with all the riffs and rough drums, and then upload that so the rest of the guys can have a listen to it. Ben [Marvin, vocals] and J [Hurley, vocals] will write their bars, Richard [Hawking, drums] will take the drums away and make them a bit more snazzy.” “But, as we write, we record. So there is never really a time when a song exists that hasn’t been recorded. That means we kind of have a working model, and so we just re-record everything and develop the sound.”
With the debut’s release imminent, Beazley reflects on what he got out of the recording process for Outside The Box, “The main thing I learnt was simplicity. I use to rely on putting a lot of processors on my mixes and relied on the fact that just because I’ve used loads of stuff that must mean it’s good. But I’ve learnt to strip back, you know – less is more. Some people record like eight guitar tracks and I just find it’s unnecessary. If you get one fat tone, pan it left and right and that’s all you need. As soon as you start adding more to it you start getting phase problems and it muds it out, and it’s just a pain in the arse.”