Melbourne prog-meisters TWELVE FOOT NINJA have gone from strength to strength over the past 12 months. Following a sold-out Australian tour opening for Dead Letter Circus & Fair To Midland, they released their debut album Silent Machine accompanied by rave reviews and huge kudos for their creative and humorous video clips.
With high profile fans in the form of US acts Periphery, Fear Factory and even Wolfgang Van Halen, the band’s social media profiles have soared. At home, the success of their album launch tour in January & February was unprecedented, selling out venues across the country from the Annandale to the Corner Hotel. The buzz is growing ahead of their dates at Tasmania’s Breath of Life Festival and Melbourne’s Pushover Festival, so I wanted to find out what’s next in Ninja land.
Here’s the lowdown from Stevic (guitarist/producer).
PB: Congratulations on the success of your album release and tour, with sold-out shows across the country and a sharp increase in your fan base over the past year. Did you ever hope for this kind of response?
S: Thank you. Hoping for a great response and actually getting one are two different things, but of course like every band, we do what we do with the aim of getting a positive response. In this case we are stoked that we’ve been getting one.
PB: The album and touring has been a long time coming – I remember seeing the band back in 2009 when things were ‘nearly finished’. Did you ever doubt that a full-length would see the light of day? What took so long to get it out?
S: Each week that passes after releasing an album adds to the amnesia surrounding how difficult it is. There may have been doubts, but nothing serious enough to stop us. In 2009 we did have a lot of tracks for the album demo’d, but demo to pre-prod to final product can be a fairly significant process. We recorded a lot of it twice with different engineers; we had to make sure the mixing was spot on… I built a house during that process. I never realised how much that process can drain your creativity.
PB: The comics and video clips that the band produces are great, but obviously a lot of effort to create. How important are these to presenting your art, or are they just frills for fun?
S: It is very important to deliver content in a unique way. It is also fun. So a bit from column A and a bit from column B.
PB: The band have obviously benefited from having some high-profile prog friends in the form of Periphery. Will we see any more shows with those guys either at home or abroad?
S: If all goes to plan!
PB: You added a second guitarist, Rohan, to the band at some point during 2012 I think. He’s clearly a fantastic player, but how did you come to the decision to invite him into the band?
S: Rohan learnt from the same guitar teacher I did, only he studied a lot harder! He was actually a bit of a fan of the band and started making instrumental arrangements of our tracks. We saw one on YouTube and knew he could sing as his previous band supported us… It seemed to make sense to try him out as we were considering bringing on another guitarist/vocalist to help pull off the production live. In summary: Ro is from YouTube.
PB: The album is obviously a melting pot of many influences, but the comparisons to anything Mike Patton-related are fairly frequent. I don’t consider genre-hopping bands to be all that uncommon myself, but Kin’s vocal phrasing does seem to pay a little lip service to Patton at some points. How do these tags and comparisons sit with you guys?
S: You are right. Genre-hopping has been going on forever and I’d be surprised if there were many heavy bands with melodic vocals that didn’t cite Patton as an influence. Mike Patton is a very innovative/experimental vocalist, often singing in heavy bands, so he pretty much uses every technique available to him. But in response to your question, Kin getting compared to Patton is a compliment from my view because I’m a big fan of a lot of Patton’s work, although a lot of people have to label things and pigeonhole them so they don’t fall off the earth or something.
PB: As this is a Prog Blog, I have to ask the obligatory question about something relating to prog. So, what do you think?
S: About prog? or the obligatory question relating to prog that you haven’t actually asked me? Ha ha ha, this interview is prog! In all seriousness, I think all music is progressive isn’t it? Moving forward etc. Do I like 10-minute songs that go nowhere except up their own ass? No. I mean yes. I love that shit. I put it on when I’m milking rats in the glass museum.
PB: Given that it’s taken so long for this album, how long might we need to wait for the next one?
S: It’s only been out 3 months dude! But to answer your question, hopefully 2014. There’s that ‘hope’ word again. Hoping and actuality are different things.
PB: It’s clear that a potential audience exists for the band overseas. Are there plans to take TFN abroad?
S: Definitely. We’ve seen an increase in people outside of Australia engaging us online and buying our music/merch (thanks internet!), so plans are underway to start touring abroad as soon as practical.
PB: How do you guys juggle the work/life balance as an up-and-coming band at the moment?
S: It is difficult, but shit could be a lot worse!
PB: At what point did you guys consider that your passion project could become a more serious pursuit?
S: From day dot. We’re not here to fuck spiders!
PB: What other goals are you guys hoping to achieve with your music?
S: More hopes eh? Ha ha. I don’t really think I hope for much. There’s cause and effect. I believe if you work hard, shit will happen. Our goals for the next phase are to tour Europe and the US, and continue to grow our following in Australia.
PB: You’ve shared stages with a diverse range of acts, including Periphery, Thousand Needles In Red, and Dead Letter Circus, as well as a slew of others…any juicy backstage stories you can share?
S: Not really. After a show I usually try and pack my shit up and figure out where I can get a piece of toast. Those rock ideologies of crazy backstage antics are fairly fictitious in my view, apart from that time everyone was snorting coke off a corpse while an African parrot said the word “FART” into a funnel full of dicks.
PB: What is influencing you guys at the moment and which Australian bands are turning you on?
S: Just speaking for myself, I am really enjoying Melbourne band Hiatus Kaiyote.
PB: Having just finished a tour here, what’s the plan touring-wise for Australia over the next 12 months?
S: We will do that again within the next 12 months, but we haven’t locked in any dates just yet.
PB: Finally, word is that you’re filming another music video…any hints as to which track and who’ll be in it?
S: Can’t say which track just yet, but Periphery will have a cameo appearance. Madison Rhys (Hustler, Penthouse, Zoo), and Melbourne comedian Liam O’Brien are in there, and we have a 7ft brown bear from Alaska – it’s all happening.
Sun, 10 March – Breath of Life Festival, Launceston (All Ages)
Mon, 11 March – Pushover Festival, Melbourne (All Ages)
Watch Twelve Foot Ninja’s video for Coming for You http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ST85Sui43Q&feature=youtu.be