Twelve Foot Ninja released their long-awaited third full-length album Vengeance on Friday.
The feverishly anticipated record arrived accompanied by a high fantasy novel The Wyvern And The Wolf. The over 1000 page novel is the final piece of an innovative record rollout for Vengeance that saw the band release a graphic novel, a video game and several high-concept cinematic video clips. Following the release of the record and riding high on the success of their recent single Over And Out AND the announcement that they’ll play the new Uncaged Festival, we had a chat with the band’s guitarist, the creative visionary, Stevic MacKay, going deeper than a djent bass tone on Vengeance, hypothetical interband battles for ninja supremacy and of course, dream gravy.
Twelve Foot Ninja’s new album Vengeance has just dropped how does it feel to finally have this one out in the world?
It feels like that moment after getting something foreign cut out of your body when you’re finally free of it or like when you accidentally eat a piece of glass and you just hope that it comes out quickly and painlessly without tearing apart your intestines."
The release process has been quite a complex and convoluted one incorporating a variety of creative mediums including cinematic videos, a video game, a graphic novel and now a full-on fantasy novel series! What inspired all of these ideas and how did you bring them all together?
It was a culmination of multiple years of throwing ideas around. The origin of the whole band started with a story in 2007, so when the COVID thing hit, we were sort of gifted this time to work on things that we wouldn’t usually be able to do. That coincided with us doing a lot of experimentation and thinking about what formats this story would be best suited to and what formats our supporters would respond best to. So we ended up with an epic fantasy fiction novel series, a graphic novel, a video game and a bunch of clips and just a weird amount of content that I don’t think we’ll ever repeat again."
Now I'm very curious about these video clips that you put together for this release, most notably the short-film treatment for Over And Out. Who came up with that concept and whose odd-mind did the dream gravy come out of?
"That was my mine and I can’t really explain where it came from other than to say It just sort of popped into my brain. It feels like I have this odd little TV station in my head that I can tune in and tune out of and I write down what I see. The dream gravy itself is inspired by the fact that Vegemite is not typically something you’d think to suck off of someone’s finger to inspire lucid dreaming. It is a little bit like someone saying that cannibalism is the cure for baldness, where you’re pretty sure it isn’t true, but you can’t say for sure, because no one is in a hurry to try it out to disprove it."
It is a very odd and yet entertaining watch. I am curious though, does it have much to do with the lyrical narrative of the song?
"There’s a little bit about the call to the void, in there, in that it is a dreamlike depiction of the call to the void. The idea of flirting with death, but then coming back from it. There’s always a loose idea, but the reason why we do our videos the way that we do is that we find music videos pretentious, they’re like extended selfies, and so we find the call to take the piss out of the process irresistible."
It appears that taking the piss out of the whole process is in the spirit of everything you’ve done in the rollout for Vengeance. This is especially true of the photos that you’ve circulated that depict you all standing around a child’s toy car acting like gangsters. Was that the intention of those photos, to sort of send-up that idea of looking ‘harsh’?
"Photos belong in that pretentious category too and that makes them one of my favourite things to look at. Like, there's always you know, the dude, that has got the leg up on the wall and then there’s another person that’s gazing at nothing in particular and the vocalist acting cool up the front. It is so unnatural. I reckon if you walked past and saw a bunch of people doing that in public it would be so abstract."
People should start doing that and calling it art, don’t you think?
"People should start doing that. It reminds me of how in the ‘80s movies there’d be dance-offs in the subway between gangs. It would be cool if people started doing band shoots in real life."
Over And Out has been doing quite well for you on radio, particularly satellite radio in the USA. How does it feel to be a band in that position, where some of your biggest exposure is coming from a media outlet that we don’t have access to experience and is going out to an audience that you currently can’t capitalise on by playing live to?
"It feels the same way that it feels to have a government that doesn't give a crap about the arts. It is disappointing, but I think we’re just sort of accustomed to the concept now, that we’re going to get more support from the industry overseas than we are at home. At the same time, we have heaps of Aussie supporters that back everything that we do. So it isn’t the people, it isn’t the fans, that are the issue it is the infrastructure and unfortunately as a band that’s something that you can’t do a whole lot about."
Changing it up a little, Twelve Foot Ninja are going to be playing the brand new Uncaged Festival this summer. Are you excited to be one of the most notable names on a brand new heavy festival in Australia?
"Oh shit yeah! The first thing that I would say is I’m super appreciative of the people who say “I’m going to do a festival, after the worst few years in the industry’s history”, so massive kudos to everyone behind the scenes for pulling that shit off! I’m also excited about the lineup and the way that it mixes up genres and eras. It has a real throwback feel to it in that way that not a lot of other festivals do, and I think that’s great because there’s some talent in this country that is mind-blowingly unbelievable and we don’t get a chance to see them often enough because we are all too busy trying to work out who’s hip and who’s not."
Let’s talk a bit more in-depth about Vengeance as a record, what do you think it is that differentiates this album from the others?
"We made a concerted effort to focus on songwriting, as opposed to riff porn. We really wanted to be able to strip everything back to the melody, lyric, and basic harmony and feel like it holds weight. We wanted the record to be concise in its delivery. We tried really hard to focus on that. I think as a result there are quite a few different songs on here that people wouldn't have heard from us before. There’s a lot of genre exploration, so while it still has that heavy kind of element, we incorporated a lot of other styles that we haven’t before. Ultimately the main difference though is that it has different songs on it!
It does have different songs! Now speaking of different things, outside of music, what do you consider yourself to be a Maniac for?
That’s awesome! Do you want a Lego Twelve Foot Ninja?
"That would be cool! I’ve got the 3D software where you make your own mocks and then you can order the pieces and submit them to be considered. I’m definitely a maniac for lego. I’m also a huge fan of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy I’m also a maniac for that."
If you could have any song play when you enter a room, what song would you choose?
My Pal Foot Foot by The Shaggs and The Imperial Death March, Hip To Be Square, I’m Walkin’ On Sunshine and Fantomas from The Godfather.
In your opinion who would win a fight between a Twelve Foot Ninja and Iron Maiden’s Eddie?
Ah, that's easy. The Twelve Foot Ninja would destroy Eddie. Eddie is a zombie, a fucking brainless zombie. The Twelve Foot Ninja is a highly trained assassin. There’s no competition.
Who is the best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?
I relate to Leonardo because he's in a band of brothers, but he's sort of the leader, but he doesn't necessarily get the power of a leader. Because he's in a band of brothers. So he's, The dynamic o Twelve Foot Ninja is very similar to the turtles. Nick is Raphael you know, Russ is Michelangelo 100% he's all about food and instead of skateboarding it is sim-racing. you know and Roh I suppose he could be Donatello, but he's more like the studious one that will get out his jazz chord book and practice, instead of playing with computers, so yeah, Leonardo!
Alright, and last but not least in the ninja world, if you want to all have a ninja showdown, which band member walks out victorious?
"Well, I would say that I would win out of pure psychopathic determination. Russ would give it a good crack you know, he's into his boxing and fitness, but I’d get him. I know this from when we deathmatch in Halo that he gets too hot-headed and he runs in with a shotgun. And I'll just be in the right place with a sniper rifle or set a trap and bounce a grenade off of a wall. So I think he would walk into a trap that I laid previously. I'm gonna say me.
Vengeance is out now!
Listen to more Twelve Foot Ninja now.