Twelve Foot Ninja are on a precipice of something BIG.
Album #2, Outlier drops August 26 and with rave reviews starting to filter in, including our own review (read here), Australia might just be the home of the ‘next big thing’ internationally in the world of heavy music in the form of Twelve Foot Ninja. We tracked down the brains (or is that the mad genius?) of the band’s well known music videos as well as guitarist, Stevic MacKay, to talk about the new record, as well the upcoming tour and what the rest of 2016 holds for the band.
Stevic thanks for joining Wall of Sound…..
Googling the word ‘OUTLIER’, it is defined as; “…a person or thing situated away or detached from the main body or system”. I think this pretty much sums up Twelve Foot Ninja, you guys are definitely out there in terms of music styles. Is that what you were trying to get across in the album title or am I on the complete wrong path?
You’re definitely on the right path, I like the interpretation (laughs). It could be applied to the band when you place us in that context but we actually came up with that title to pay homage to our supporters. We put on this crowd fund campaign and people started purchasing the album eight months ago and we see them as ‘outliers’. If you think about how people are consuming music these days, the value on recorded music has gone down to less than a copy. Instead of whinging about it we just wanted to focus on the people that get behind our music. It’s a way of saying thank you. The industry norm is to be like, “she’ll be right, $10 on Spotify, make a playlist, and listen to it 10,000 times”. The artist ends up getting 0.004 cents per play. The industry will say that’s great as it will lead to exposure and that kind of thing but if you’re in Australia it costs you $20,000 to leave the country. It doesn’t add up.
Congrats on the album though. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a copy I’ve been playing feverishly for the past few days, I think it’s a winner. Another step up from a very good album itself in Silent Machine. How did you approach the 2nd album going in, with regards to song writing, arrangements etc.?
It was a stealthy kind of progression. It’s hard to pin point. After touring Silent Machine and playing the songs live, reflecting on how we recorded and the way we write, it just kind of evolved depending on what the idea or on what the song is. I know that’s a pretty shit answer but I can’t really define it in a neat concise way. We definitely went into recording Outlier wanting to record more cohesive songs. We wanted something that would pass the acoustic guitar test. If you strip it back to the basic nuts and bolts is it still good? All the songs on Outlier pass that test for us internally. The tracks for example on Smoke Bomb our 2nd EP, if you played them on acoustic guitar it would sound ridiculous. So we went from about 60 songs to get it down to the final 10. On Silent Machine we wrote 13 songs and 12 ended up on the album so we tried to find that balance between the bing-bong muso music and shit that kind of means something.
How difficult did you find the process of trying to back up Silent Machine, especially considering the accolades you received both here and internationally?
It wasn’t about beating Silent Machine so much it was about deciding who we wanted to be and who we are becoming. The process was long. We took a bloody long time to complete it and I’d love to say it was awesome fun but it was like pulling teeth. It was like getting a 20 million piece jigsaw puzzle and tipping it all over the floor and putting it back together. The best bit was listening to a demo and going “yep, that’s cool” and recording that. So, it’s like this weird combination of torture and just something you have to do. It’s a bizarre thing.
I’ve described your style as schizophrenic at times. You’ll go from a djent sound heavy Meshuggah kind of vibe to funk. Is it hard trying to come up with this craziness to make a track work or is it just the different influences of members in the band that make it easier to incorporate stuff into a final Ninja track?
I think for me personally, it’s harder to be normal. The weird shit comes easier. I’ve got this temptation sometimes to take the track to ‘weird-town’. The song, ‘Dig The Bones’ (a new song on Outlier), is a good example of where I just went off the leash a bit. It goes into a Commodore 64 video game background half way through it. Yep.
So touring wise, you’ve got some east coast dates coming up. How many new songs are you hoping to incorporate into these shows?
We’ll be playing probably 6 or 7 new songs. We kind of go according to trends playing live. It’s a process in itself. We’ve discussed this thing with Monuments (the band). When you write in this style it’s really like you’re an architect. You plan and then execute in the studio. So playing live, it’s like you almost have to go back to the drawing board. “How the fuck do you play these songs”? You need to learn your own thing, work out what you did in the studio and then duplicate it over and over again. It’s probably the same for bands like Periphery and anyone who is trying to create something a little bit different. We’ve just changed all our technology in the band too, crossing over to new guitar rigs, different monitoring system, so everything takes a little time to integrate.
Then of course the massive support slot with Disturbed. How did that come about? Was it just good business or did someone in Disturbed specifically request you guys, like Fear Factory did for their Australian tour in 2014?
My understanding is they requested us. I hope it was that way (laughs). Frontier Touring is connected to our booking agent so I imagine there was a range of bands placed on the table and we were selected.
Bigger stages for the tour with Disturbed around the country in November, I think a few of these new tracks will definitely transform well to a larger audience. Will you need a different set up for these shows?
We’ve played a few festivals in the States. I think with the gear we have the furthest I can go is 15 feet from one spot at any time. Then we’ve got to jump back and change sound and shit, so I think we’ll go out and probably do what we’ve always done. We’re a bit younger than Disturbed, so we might have a bit more energy (laughs). I need to go to a chiropractor after a gig. Maybe that’s just me getting old or maybe just me giving everything I got.
After Disturbed what’s next heading into 2017? U.S shows on the cards? Have the offers been coming in or is it case of waiting, see how the album goes in the U.S and go from there?
We’re actually heading to the U.S in September. We’re doing as four week tour with Sevendust and a bunch of festivals that feature Deftones, Korn etc. Some of the festivals are 25,000 cap so they’ll be big shows. We were picked to play with Tool and Meshuggah but unfortunately we’ll have to come home. We’ll likely head to the States next year as well as we get a lot of air play over there and we also have to get back to Europe. It went really well (our shows) in the U.K. We sold out a headline show a few weeks before we got there and we haven’t been back as the stuff in America kind of took over.
Are you hoping to maybe get on a few Europe festivals in 2017?
We did ‘Euroblast’, headlined by Meshuggah and had a heap of bands kind of similar to ours, like Monuments, Algorithm. A lot of the stuff happens simultaneously so we had to make a choice at the time. But Germany was awesome, we’re hanging to get back there.
When I interviewed you back 2 years ago, you had just released ‘Ain’t That a Bitch’ crowd funded music video and of course you had a similar campaign for this album. How was the reception by fans to go down that path again?
Good, it’s gone really well. It was a different vibe. We had the pre-order thing and the response was good. In terms of the music video, the reception was good. It was little bit weird (the video) in terms of the gory shit, it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but you live and learn; cannibalism isn’t really viral (laughs).
Plans on the next video?
The next video comes out end of August or September, but we’ll keep that a secret for now.
**cough cough ‘Post Mortem’ cough cough** (* Post Mortem is a new track on Outler by the way )
(laughs)…wait and see
What about a major label? Surely Twelve Foot Ninja could be on major label soon or are you happy doing your own stuff?
Along the way we’ve been offered probably six record deals but that’s the funny thing about record deals, nobody buys records. So it’s like saying do you want to sign an ‘air’ deal? What’s the point? The offers, they’re just not that good. So for time being we’ll stay independent unless we get an offer we can’t refuse.
OK, Stevic thanks for your time champ, we’ll see you on tour!
Dates for the Outlier tour are below…