Twelve Foot Ninja have been relatively quiet these past twelve months playing random shows here and there but all that is about to change as they head around Australia early next year on tour as well as landing a spot on Download Festival for 2019 in Melbourne and Sydney. With their album Outlier, now two years old we spoke with guitarist and the band’s video making legend, Stevic MacKay to get the scoop on what the band have been up to since we last spoke to the band in 2016. From eating croissants with Disturbed to playing shows in Nepal and eating toenails in a quiet corner bin at festivals, here’s what the Ninja guitarist had to say to Wall of Sound;
We sucked didn’t we? (laughs)
No, not at all haha. But thinking back I remember at the time laughing at a few of the Triple M/The Sound of Silence bandwagon new Disturbed fans and watching you and silently laughing to myself, just being so happy Twelve Foot Ninja were playing that tour. Their reaction made my night. How was it playing those shows? Did you get to hang a little with Disturbed?
The actual experience of playing those shows was awesome. The catering was second to none (laughs). A fantastic array of sandwiches and baked goods. So fresh and a smorgasbord of delights every time. So the catering was next level.
It was great seeing a band like Disturbed. We’d never seen them play before. There’s a real different type of music that works in stadiums and I felt our stuff was a little bit more fiddly. I got a bit lost. On stage that’s how I felt sometimes. I don’t know how it translated out to the audience. When you’re playing in such big venues, playing that knuckle dragon, slower shit kind of works. We got to meet the Disturbed dudes a number of times. They were really friendly blokes. The singer (David Draiman) is like a sci-fi character or something. He said to Kin (12FN vocalist), “You’ve got a lovely voice” in his deep voice he has and it sounded like Bane out of the Batman movie. But he was serious (laughs). That was particularly good for me to witness. The Disturbed pyrotechnics were insane. You could feel the heat from them the flames going off. We had a great time. It was a weird mix though, Disturbed and Twelve Foot Ninja. But fuck it, we loved it.
I also recall the Perth show was the day Donald Trump got elected to office and was hoping Draiman might tee off a bit. He didn’t get involved much with the crowd that night however. Did it come up in conversation with the band at all?
Well funny you mention that. We saw that there was some heated shit going on between them (Disturbed band members) and I didn’t know what end it was coming from, as in were they happy or not happy. I didn’t know where they stood politically, but I think some of the band maybe had some differing political views. It was an interesting debate but they didn’t really unleash or open up about it too much. I think they just sat back and ate their croissants with a little bit more aggression. A little more gusto.
Your album, Outlier, released 2016, so two years down the track, when can we expect a new Twelve Foot Ninja album?
Well, we’re working on that at the moment. When? Likely next year but if not next year, for one I’ll be disappointed but it’s hard, we all do other things. Just life and writing intricate music it can be quite difficult to juggle. With all that said, next year is the short answer. As to which half of next year? I’d like to think the first half but I also would like the right to retract that (laughs).
And the new material, what can we expect? I mean Twelve Foot Ninja always like to push the boundaries and meld some genres into their music.
We write a lot. We have a shit load of songs. It’s just coming down to picking the right ones and using some different techniques from what we’ve done before. Adding lyrics and amalgamating all the elements we have together, so that adds to it all time wise but I’m really happy how it’s turning out so far. There’s some interesting stuff. I mean half the battle is if we kind of like it, we just hope that fans will like it as well. We don’t want to do another Outlier or Silent Machine. We want to evolve.
Will it be another independent release with some crowdfunding again?
With Outlier we did pre-sales, so we’ll probably do a similar thing with this next album. And definitely independent release. I mean, we’ve been offered a whole bunch of record deals but when you read the fine print, they’re shit. I mean some of the names (record companies) are pretty big but fuck it, we’ve been doing it this way the whole time by ourselves so we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing.
Back to the band touring, 2017 saw you head to Europe for headliners and then you also played shows in India and Nepal. Crazy. First off how did the headline shows go down in Europe? And tell us a little about the reception in India and Nepal? What is the metal scene like in Nepal?
The headline shows were sick. We had a blast. You never know what you’re going to walk into with those shows unless you go there and just do it. You’re guessing the reaction off social media or whatever, which in itself, is getting weirder and weirder. Places like Russia and Ukraine were really good, and the people were lovely. I think you get a weird perception of places from what you get fed from the media and then you get over there and it’s completely different to what you thought it would be. I think a lot of the shit going on with those countries leaders is perhaps done in spite of them. There was just a family or brotherhood feel there.
To have a good time and listen to music, so that was really cool. I particularly got that vibe from the Nepal shows. I mean that country has had a lot of difficulties. The cops came and shut the show down early. The fans just went hard and were so appreciative of the bands there playing. It was quite humbling. India, was fucking crazy. I just couldn’t believe how they drive. Lines on the road are suggestions. There just zigging and zagging everywhere, holy shit! Cows walking across main roads. It was insane. We were delirious with those shows, just no sleep. I think we did a different city every day. It was trippy.
Of course, Download Festival. I won’t mention the whole doctoring the tour poster thing lol.
No, let me go into that. I inherited that situation. I reckon a lot of people think that Twelve Foot Ninja all live in a big house on a hill and we’re all there sleeping in bunk beds and when something happens in our world we’re all jumping up posting shit on Facebook or whatever and we all agree and then it happens. For fucks sake, our manager lives in Sydney, we didn’t even know the poster was up or anything. But, anyways, he’s not going to do that again (laughs).
Great news seeing you on a main festival in Australia. I can’t remember ever seeing you guys play Soundwave?
No, it never happened unfortunately.
When you guys are playing festivals such as Download, do you look forward to catching up with other bands or seeing them play? Or do you keep to yourselves?
I suppose you’re really asking the wrong bloke. I tend to stick to myself at festivals. There’s some pretty epic bands playing Download Australia though. I feel a bit spun out at festivals to be honest. I try find a quiet little bin to jump in, shut the lid and just eat my own toe nails. (laughs). I actually want to check out Polaris. Russ has been raving about their album, he’s a big fan of them, so we’ll check them out for sure, and they’ve been smashing it, those dudes.
And the downtime the band have had this past 12 months, what’s been happening with band members? Regular 9 to 5 jobs or helping other bands? Producing? What the go?
For me personally, I’ve done a few things. I wrote a screenplay. I teach songwriting at a uni in Melbourne. I had a son. My son is now 6 months old.
There goes all your spare time then.
Nah, he’s great. He sits on the bean bag while I’m working on the album. I think he really digs music. But yeah, I’ve been working with Shuriken Guitars. We’re all just normal blokes, doing normal shit.
Finally coming to the end of the year, we’re in the middle of compiling our best of lists for 2018, what album stood out for you and what new band, if any did you discover?
I wish I had a good answer for that, but I fucking hate music (laughs). From my Spotify list I’ve been listening to Andreas Varady, Asgeir, Chris Cornell, Chris Stapelton, Daughter, Jace Everett, Jason Isbell and Hans Zimmer. It is true though that after playing gigs and listening to heaps of music it does my head in a bit because it’s what I do all day. I need a break from that shit ha.
What about a band that inspires Twelve Foot Ninja or you hope to emulate what they do on stage? Is there a band that perhaps you wish you were as good as?
For me I’ll give you the same answer every fucking time. No one beats Meshuggah. In terms of a live band they are absolutely off their face. I spin out every time I see them play. I saw them in L.A earlier this year and I just couldn’t believe their show. Honestly, it seems weird but I don’t often see bands play live, but I’ll see Meshuggah every time I can. It’s like getting alobotomy every time they play. I can’t believe how they put it all together on stage.
We’ll see you at Download Stevic!
Thanks man, have a great Christmas!
Interview by Jim ‘Plugga’ Birkin
Twelve Foot Ninja play Download Festival 2019 and the Upload Tour Sideshows
Twelve Foot Ninja – 2019 Australian Tour
Saturday 2nd March 2019 – Rosemount Hotel, Perth
Friday 8th March 2019 – ANU, Canberra
Saturday 9th March 2019 – Download Festival Sydney
Parramatta Park, Sydney
Monday 11th March 2019 – Download Festival Melbourne
Flemington Racecourse, Flemington
Friday 15th March 2019 – Miami Tavern, Gold Coast
Saturday 16th March 2019 – The Valley Drive in, Brisbane
Saturday 23rd March 2019 – The Gov, Adelaide