Hacker Singer Cathy Computer Discusses Psy Wi-Fi, Cyberpunk Influence & Aussie Hardcore

For the No Echo readers who might have missed my previous coverage on Hacker, the Melbourne, Australian band plays a no-nonsense style of hardcore that was last heard on their 2021 Pick a Path 12".

The group's lyrical and graphical aesthetic is in the cyberpunk tradition of William Gibson and their record layouts and merch is designed by their drummer, Charlie Ickeringill. The music and visual representation all comes together in a bold package.

Hacker recently released their sophomore EP, a blazing 4-track collection called Psy Wi-Fi. The material finds the band introducing some metallic punch to their songwriting, and is as catchy and punchy as their previous 12" and 2019 demo.

I spoke with Hacker vocalist Cathy Computer via the internet (so fitting) and got some insight on Psy Wi-Fi, its lyrics, and the Melbourne hardcore community.

Tell me how the songs on the new EP tie in with the material on Pick a Path. You’re one of the few newer hardcore bands that have a strong lyrical/conceptual point of view. 

Well, firstly, thanks for that take, [laughs] I usually call it more of a gimmick! Lyric-wise, I used the same several techniques that I did on the Pick a Path songs. The first track, "How Do You Kill It?," is a fairly straightforward love letter to playing a barbarian in Dungeons and Dragons; the song is also dedicated to my DnD group and in particular the DM (love you guys x).

The lyrics are mostly a pastiche of barbarian-class character descriptions, feats, etc. So that's similar in vibe to "M.D.K." off Pick a Path, which is totally not lazy song written from the point of Wesley Snipes character in Demolition Man.

"Scammer" is probably the most straightforward, and it's just about how much I fucking hate real estate agents in this country. On "Deliverator" and "3/4 Dead," there's the proper science fiction, dystopian speculative fiction elements that I mainly try to speak things through.

"Deliverator" filters my short unpleasant experience of driving for DoorDash through elements of Snow Crash, a classic '90s sci-fi book by Neal Stephenson. The main character is a freelance hacker and pizza delivery driver for the mafia in a future where the world is run by corporations (openly like in William Gibson books, openly like in the near future). "3/4 Dead" is Mad Max meets Nick Blinko.

I've always loved science fiction for the way it examines current issues by extrapolating them into a stylish, alien future. Using that as a focus helps narrow my scope and solidify that lyrical point of view. It can be overwhelming just thinking "OK, what am I going to write a song about?" but having some conceptual guard rails surrounding the imagination really helps.

How did you hook up with Beach Impediment in the US? That’s a great look for an Aussie band. Also, tell me about Helta Skelta Records since I'm not familiar with that label.

Helta Skelta Records is our lovely friend Kyle Gleadell in Perth, who has been running the label since 2012. It's named for one of his many excellent bands, others being Cold Meat, Gaffer and more. It was all him linking up with Beach Impediment, and it has felt like a great fit since the beginning! Very grateful to Kyle and Mark for their hard work and good vibes.

What’s your take on the social media aspect of hardcore? Do you think we all share too much?

Look, it's here to stay whether we like it or not; the best we can do is be self aware and intentional with how we use it. I thank my lucky stars often that social media didn't exist when I was in high school, just MSN Messenger and weird anonymous chat rooms.

I didn't grow up feeling observed. I think that's a key component of how social media has mutated now. We are all complicit in our own surveillance at this point, while curating our profile to be surveilled. That being said, information sharing has been heavily democratised; look at the current movement to free Palestine as a recent example. The truth is out there. 

Photo: Nick Nolan

How strong is the hardcore scene in Melbourne? Is it a truly united and inclusive community? 

Hacker's members have as much background in punk as we do in hardcore, and we have a foot in both of those worlds. We care about ethics, politics, and DIY as much as we do a genre. Naarm (the traditional Aboriginal place name for the Melbourne area) is a funny size. It's big enough to have a bunch of overlapping "scenes," but small enough that most people know each other or of each other.

The bands connect and play together based not only on genre but on shared politics and friendships. 


Psy Wi-Fi is available now via Beach Impediment (US vinyl) and Helta Skelta Records (Australia vinyl).


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