Hiding amongst the awesome Australian Download Festival 2019 lineup is a little known three-piece metal band out of New Zealand named Alien Weaponry. Despite their relative anonymity amongst the metal brethren of Australia, mark my words, they will be well known in the coming years and well worth a viewing at next year’s Download Fest. If you want a hidden gem on the festival line up, then these guys should be your first point of call. The band utilise traditional Te Reo Māori vocals and thrash metal in half of their songs whilst powering through strong lyrical content featuring political statements and historic battles by their forefathers. It’s intense!
Two of the band members including vocalist, Lewis de Jong are just 16 years old. If that isn’t jaw-dropping enough, they have already played Wacken and Bloodstock Festivals! Clearly, age is no barrier for these metal teenagers and one listen to their debut album, Tū, quickly dispels any doubts you should harbour against these guys just for their age. We spoke to frontman, Lewis de Jong about the band’s rise, what they stand for, the band’s influences and more before they slay Download in March next year.
Mate, thanks for your time. I know a lot of Aussies heading to Download next year are going to love your style of metal. Let’s start with the band name though, Alien Weaponry. Was it a love of sci-fi movies?
The band name came from a movie named District 9. Peter Jackson another New Zealander was one of the directors of that. I guess the movie had a lot of cool alien weaponry in it, and the name just stuck ever since.
You’ve been playing music or jamming with your brother, Henry (18, drummer) since you were just 8 years old. Is that right?
Yea, I mean Henry (drummer and brother, 18) and I have always been jamming. We first thought of the idea for Alien Weaponry when I was about 8 years old. We’ve been jamming pretty much since birth ha-ha.
That’s crazy. The chemistry is definitely there. Now with Alien Weaponry becoming bigger, releasing an album, playing festivals, I imagine it must be a very exciting time for you guys. Being so young, what role have your parents played in your development?
Our parents are really supportive of what we are doing. Neil, my dad helps with the managing of the band. We couldn’t be doing this without their support. Even most of the venues we play at, we’re not legally allowed to be in there because of our age without them.
So may I ask how old you are at the moment?
I’m 16 at the moment.
So, school wise is that done and dusted or are you still studying between the music?
I don’t have that much time for school anymore, so I guess I’m focussing everything onto Alien Weaponry.
Download Festival. Congrats on making the bill. A killer line up! Who are you personally looking forward to seeing play or catching a few songs side of stage next year?
Probably Anthrax, Slayer and Behemoth. Anthrax were a really big influence on me growing up. They are probably the top band I want to see.
Of course, you blend the Te Reo Māori vocals and tribal stuff into your music. So what’s your personal history behind that?
Henry and I are from Ngati Pikiāo descent, which is a multi-tribe in New Zealand. We both grew up speaking multi-language. When we started writing songs, we wrote in the two languages and that helped us getting back into it and connect with our culture and history.
Speaking of influences, I’m curious what a guy your age has musically? I mean, on first listen to Tū, I would have said there was a deep Sepultura Roots vibe, but that album is 22 years, so what bands influenced your sound?
Its weird you say we’re influenced by Sepultura because we never really started to listen to that band before people came up with those comparisons. I guess early on one of my main bands was Metallica and Rage Against the Machine was also a huge influence on me. One of my guitar heroes was Stevie Ray Vaughan. Later on when I was 11, 12 years old I started getting into Lamb of God, and they are probably like my all-time favourites. They have that kick arse sound. Also Pantera, Anthrax.
Tom Larkin of Shihad produced you guys. Shihad, no doubt, the most successful heavy band from your country. How was it working with Tom and what words of advice did he have for the band moving forward?
Tom was a really cool guy to work with, a really down to earth personality. A no bullshit kind of guy too. If you fuck around in the studio he’ll really tell you off for it. I guess as far as advice goes he gave us one bit of advice I remember. No meth, no heroin, no motorbikes. That was his three rules in life. Stay clear and you should be safe enough. I’m not really too sure what he meant by the motorbikes, but I can see where he’s coming from haha.
Europe. You just toured, playing Wacken and Bloodstock Festivals. Congrats again mate, incredible induction for the band, tell us about those experiences.
Wacken was literally our goal from the start. A dream come true. After getting off that stage I felt like I had really achieved something. It was probably one of the best moments of my life. Bloodstock, was a really interesting gig. We were having technical difficulties left right and centre and that was eating into our set time. My monitors were fucking around so I basically ripped them out, walked on stage and that was it. It went better than expected. I remember signally to the monitor guy that I don’t have any ears, but it all worked out.
Did you meet any of your idols?
Personally I didn’t. I got to see them, but I’m a bit of an awkward, shy person so I didn’t introduce myself or anything but I guess Neil, our Dad and manager spoke to Max Cavalera (Soulfly). That was pretty buzzy hearing about that. I’m sure I did meet a couple of people, I just can’t remember names.
Back to Tū, what does the title translate too and what were the influences with songwriting on the album?
So, Tū is an abbreviation of Tūmatauenga, the Māori god of war. I guess quite a few of the songs are surrounding conflict, battles and war based stuff so Tū is a very fitting title for that.
How is the current metal scene in NZ and being so young, did they embrace you straight away or was there some animosity?
I guess at first when we were trying to get gigs it was difficult. People didn’t want to take us seriously because of the age. Someone who really went out on a limb for us was Paul Martin, bass player from the band Devilskin. He invited us to open for Devilskin and some of their shows and that’s what really established us as an actual player in the NZ metal scene. It’s just been progressing ever since.
Thanks for your time Lewis, we look forward to catching you guys backstage for a chat at Download next year!
Interview by Jim ‘Plugga’ Birkin
Download Festival Sydney & Melbourne 2019
March 9th @ Parramatta Park, Sydney
March 11th @ Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne
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