Melbourne’s fusion metal maestro’s Twelve Foot Ninja are about to launch an all out sonic assault on the world in the form of their second full-length Outlier, the much anticipated follow up to their 2012 debut Silent Machine.
An appropriately titled record for a band who have attained an enormous amount of success, without so much as a whiff of support from a major label, Outlier is a genre-bending melting pot of djent, funk, latin, jazz, salsa, reggae, acoustic, bossa nova, metal and hard rock that should solidify Twelve Foot Ninja’s title as the next big thing in modern metal. With over 5 million views on YouTube and a crowdfunding record for a video clip that resulted in the superb One Hand Killing, it’s obvious that the ‘2014 Golden God Award Winners for Best New Talent’ have amassed a clan of followers whose loyalty Shredder would be envious of.
Armed with all new ninja get-up and a batch of fresh songs, Twelve Foot Ninja are about to embark on a national headline run before taking their rightful place on the stages of some of the biggest festivals in the world. In the lead up to the tour, vocalist Kin Etik spoke to Music Feeds about the making of Outlier, and the mysterious ways of the Ten Foot Ninja.
Music Feeds: Twelve Foot Ninja’s second full-length Outlier is set to drop on August 26, how excited are you to get it out to the masses?
Kin Etik: I’d say more relieved than excited. It’s actually a bit of both. I’m excited to see what our core fan base responds to, find out how they feel about it and I’m also excited to just get back out there and play some shows and have a really good time. But I am also relieved that after three years of chipping away at creating this beast we are finally able to set it free and let it go and see where it wants to fly to.
MF: The second or “sophomore” record, as our US friends like to put it, is often described as the “make or break” moment in a band’s career. How confident are you that Outlier will be a case where it’s a “make”?
KE: Pretty confident. Yes. Whether or not it is, I mean, the proof will be in the pudding, but of course we’d like to think that this will be the make of us. We were told that we’d go through a bit of sophomore syndrome, and we did. We didn’t expect to, because we sort of said “Ah, it’ll be fine. It’ll be all right. You know, just whack a couple songs together, and it’ll be great.” We expected to have it done within a year, and here we sit three years later and we’re only just getting it out! So we sure hope Outlier is the making of us, it sure took enough out of us! If it doesn’t work out that way, at least we’ve had an awesome time.
MF: As with Silent Machine, Outlier covers a lot of sonic territory, blending elements of metal, djent, funk, latin, jazz, salsa and hard rock into a coherent wall of sound, while maintaining distinct melodic properties. How in hades were you able to make it all work?
KE: Those songs go through quite a bit of filtration before they get signed off on. Sometimes, with certain songs, we might go through a range of different styles before one just clicks. That’s where we direct a lot of our attention in the writing process. We spend a lot of time ensuring that it’s not just us exhibiting the ability to do different styles with no consideration given to the structure or purpose of the songs. I mean, if you work hard enough at learning a whole heap of different feels and grooves, and made that your focus, then arguably any band could make that happen.
For us, the devil is in the detail. It’s in ensuring that the transitions between the eclectic styles and the heavy stuff are smooth and that’s why we spend a lot of our time focussing on those elements. I think the skill is really nailing those transitions so that it feels seamless or it feels natural, whereas, on paper, it would probably appear that it’s not natural at all.
MF: The Twelve Foot Ninja live experience is almost universally heralded, are you stoked to get out on the road in support of Outlier? Have you made any notable tweaks to the live show?
KE: The shows are definitely what I’m in this for. I love recording, too, and I love creating music, but we just have the most fun playing shows. I love meeting new people as well, so there’s always lots of opportunities for that, so yes, I’m excited to be playing shows.
MF: Have you made any notable tweaks to the live show for the upcoming headline run?
KE: We’ve integrated some new technology into our setup. So, there’s going to be a new in-ear monitoring console, and our guitarists Rohan and Stevic are using the new Line 6 Helix system. So we’ve made some tweaks to those sorts of technical things.
As far as the stage show is concerned, I think it’s still going to be pretty meat and potatoes, man. I think it’s just going to be us playing. Perhaps our lighting guy is going to let his hair down or get really stoned and do something crazy with the lights. I don’t know. I do know that we’ve upgraded our ninja get-ups though. So there will be that element, which could work for us or against us. I’m not sure. For the most part, I think we’ll still be focusing on being able to nail the songs. So, yeah, if anything else happens, it will be entirely by accident.
MF: An actual Twelve Foot Ninja would be cool.
KE: That would be cool. A lot of people have said “Why don’t you do an Iron Maiden-esque type thing and have some giant inflatable 12 foot ninja sharing the stage.” I don’t think any of us are really opposed to that. I think that would be pretty crazy. It would be all about being able to afford it.
MF: Disturbed were foolish enough to offer you guys the chance to be the only support on their upcoming tour…
KE: Incredibly foolish of them.
MF: Are you looking forward to making them regret that decision by blowing them off the stage every night?
KE: I don’t know about that, but we’re definitely looking forward to those shows, that’s for sure.
MF: Thematically your lyrics have previously been based on the saga of the fictitious Twelve Foot Ninja that is the band’s namesake. Can you give us a little insight into where Outlier takes his journey?
KE: With this album, we purposefully decided to separate the fictitious story from the songs, and it was the first time we’ve sort of done that. It was quite a challenge, actually. I found it challenging, myself, from the point of view that it’s actually a lot easier to write conceptually, to have a fantasy story to fall back on.
It’s actually quite a luxury, because you can take that story and do whatever you want to it, and people don’t necessarily have to know exactly what you’re talking about as soon as they hear the lyrics. They can interpret it over time, and it can be interpreted in a myriad of different ways, whereas, with this, we wanted it to be a bit more clear and a little bit more succinct.
We realised that the only way to do that was to reference actual experiences, from our own personal lives. Even though we’ve managed to get a couple of obscure, sort of ambiguous things in there, I got them past the goalkeeper, luckily and sneakily; for the most part, we’ve attempted to be a little bit more direct with what we’re talking about, so that even if a person doesn’t know what we’re about, they could hopefully hear a song and just connect with it instantly.
Invincible is a really good example of that. I’ve had messages from quite a few new fans that said “Oh, I really connect to that.” Soon as I heard it. For me, that was exactly where I was at at that moment in time. So it’s good that upon first listen, a lot of people just connected with it, and it either resonated because they had gone through something similar or were experiencing something like that at the time. That’s exactly the type of connection we were going for.
MF: Twelve Foot Ninja are pretty outspoken on social issues at times, given the current political climate is their anything that you’d like to be able to call attention to or inspire people to support change?
KE: I think the number one thing that we’ve been discussing mainly and the reason why we called the album Outlier is that we’ve been in the game now for 8 and a half years as a band, almost 9 years, and despite the fact we’ve got “bigger” than we were at the start, it’s actually become harder to function as a band financially. We’re kind of in a new era where streaming is king and while streaming is great for promotion, and it’s a really good way of getting a band’s name out there to a bigger audience, the revenue coming from those services is so minimal. So, we’ve started sort of questioning that. Like, are we actually going to be able to continue to travel to the states, because it costs a lot of money to get over there.
The simple logistics of it, there’s five of us. We’ve also got to pay for an engineer. We’ve got to pay for a merch guy. There’s all of these expenses to cover that come on top of our visas and transportation. I think that’s been on our minds a lot, actually, this new media, and how we adapt to it.
MF: How did those discussions impact Outlier?
KE: Outlier came about in those sorts of discussions. I should preface it by saying an outlier is someone that’s on the fringe, is outside of the main group. Still a part of the group but outside of the group, due to a difference of attitude or behaviour.
What we realised was that the outlier these days, the fringe, are the people that are still buying albums, that are still contributing to a band on that level, because that’s the only way a band can really fund themselves. So we started to realise that our core fan base are kind of the fringe, the people that have contributed to our crowdfunding campaigns, such as the crowdfunding campaign for this album. To us, they’re kind of the true heroes. Without them, we couldn’t keep doing this.
Outlier is out Friday, 26th August. Next week Twelve Foot Ninja will take on a run of national headline shows, before supporting Disturbed on their forthcoming Australian tour.