Interview by Scott Smith || Live photos by Thomas Woroniak
Antihero Magazine’s Scott Smith had the opportunity to chat with Twelve Foot Ninja during their stop at the Rock Allegiance 2016 festival in Chester, Pennsylvania.
Good Afternoon, everyone. Scott Smith with Antihero Magazine, and today, I’m sitting down with 3 members of Twelve Foot Ninja, and before me, I have…
Rohan: Ro, guitar and vocals.
Russ: Russ, drums, vocals.
Damon: Damon, bass.
Rohan: I don’t know what Russ was thinking just then. Both drums, vocals. [laughs]
Damon: Good jab mate.
Russ: Got him, got him.
Do you want to drop an F-bomb just to get rolling?
Russ: Fucking yes.
Rohan: You’re breaking him mate.
Russ: That’s it. That’s good. I feel good now.
Makes you feel good! There’s some bands that kind of got rolling along prior to the Internet, prior to Napster, it was easier to make money and support themselves. I was researching and I saw you guys did some fundraisers to develop new material. I would think with being a new band you really do have to have a new way of thinking. It might be more difficult for some, but it seems so far to be fairly easy for you. Your response was overwhelming. Do you want to talk about that a bit?
Russ: I think even in the earliest stages of the band we were fairly eclectic early on. Radio was a bit… they weren’t jumping on board as quickly as I thought so we ended up making a lot of skit videos for YouTube and promoted the band through YouTube and a lot of that.
Rohan: We’ve been trying to really embrace the different personalities that are in this band, that’s always been our angle. But it is tough.
Russ: It hasn’t been easy. We need that crowd-funding campaign; it’s been a lifesaver. It is brutally hard. Back home we’re just working jobs, normal jobs, and that’s why it took so long to get this next album out because we’re just do what we can, when we can. We’re doing the maximum.
Rohan: That ties in beautifully to the album we just released. It’s called Outlier for that reason. That’s a tribute to the people who’ve actually gone… they actively support our bands. We’d be done without them. As Russ just said just then, crowd-funding kept us alive. That’s the reason why we were able to be here right now. It’s the reason why we’re able to release that album. Outlier is the fans who have funded. It’s what we do.
You mentioned YouTube and I saw you guys have over 6 million views on YouTube. That’s pretty incredible.
Russ: I’m pretty happy with that. I think our film clips and our aesthetic is so… Jesus, he’s so creative.
Rohan: Again, it goes back to what I was saying before is that we try to embrace the different personalities in this band. One of the biggest personalities is that dickhead. His name is Stevic, he’s the other guitarist in the band.
Damon: Guitarist, vocalist.
Rohan: He’s on fire. His brain’s constantly just ticking and we bring that into the video clips.
Damon: So far his hit rate is pretty bloody good. Even “One Hand Killing” we were like, “Oh I wasn’t really feeling it. I’m not feeling it.”
Rohan: During it, I was like this is going to be the shitiest film clip we’ve ever put out.
Damon: I’m pretty conservative. I’m the conservative guy in the band, and when I hear his ideas it’s like, “Okay, now you’re going to be in a bathtub with a machine gun. Do we really want to do that?” It’ll be good. It’ll be good. Just do it, he’ll say.
Russ: Just trust me dickheads. [laughter]
Rohan: We do. We trust him. We trust his vision. He always makes it happen. We just do our thing and it does work out.
Rohan: The next one is going to come out later this year. It will be the second time he’s dressed one of us up as a chick.
Who got selected?
Rohan: Me this time actually.
Did you shave your beard?
Rohan: I didn’t shave.
Russ: He still looks beautiful. He’s definitely the best looking chick in the band.
Rohan: You would date me. You would take me out for a nice dinner.
I don’t know. The beard might throw me off a little bit. Maybe with a couple of beers. A six pack at least!
Now, you guys got some traction. You’ve been around for 7 years, 8 years. I’ve never heard of Twelve Foot Ninja until recently but the next thing you know on the Octane channel it’s Twelve Foot Ninja, Twelve Foot Ninja, Twelve Foot Ninja. I thought, where did these guys come from. Obviously, it’s a lot of hard work and you finally climbed to a higher level. Do you think you have the steam now to keep going and producing and make this full time without having to go back to whatever else you were doing in Australia to supplement yourselves?
Damon: This gives us energy when we experience this sort of stuff.
Russ: Particularly festivals. You come out and you walk out to a crowd like that today to where it’s just a sea of people. You feel revitalized to keep going.
Damon: Like you said with the Octane thing, Jose Mangin, he’s been an absolute…
Damon: Yeah. Yeah. We’ve got to thank him for he’s just so passionate about the band and we’re so grateful that he’s spread the Ninja Love. It’s very important for us to survive.
Rohan: We know… This is the ninth year the band’s been kicking on now. The band has two EPs. Before we put Silent Machine out in 2012. That’s where it really stated to get a little bit of traction.
A little bit of traction?
Rohan: Over here, yeah. Like Russ said, Jose has been a big ambassador for that. That was 4 years ago. In those 4 years, it was hard to see what was actually how we were doing. We live in Australia. It’s a lot of water in between us.
Russ: Right. We go back to our normal jobs at home; we don’t know what’s going on here. It’s hard to tell until we get here, and then you have a lot of…
Rohan: It seems to relate to this album. Since we got back, we can tell because…
Stevic: Don’t listen to anything they say.
Russ: There he is.
Damon: Our vocalist.
Rohan: We put a bit of pressure on ourselves to back up Silent Machine, and I think we did it. I’m very happy with it. How about you boys?
Russ: I’m very happy with it too. It’s a good album.
Rohan: I think it will take us to that next level of many levels.
Damon: Still a way to go.
Who are your influences? If you had to describe your music to a new listener that hasn’t heard you yet, how would you describe the music you are creating and your influences?
Rohan: We like to blend … What does Steve say?
Russ: He changes it up every time.
Damon: It’s kind of like you’re watching a rom com and it goes along and it just becomes a change to a massacre.
Rohan: That’s the way the dynamic is. I describe it as being very colorful and dynamic and it’s the most fun band to be in because of that.
Russ: Especially for a drummer.
Rohan: Yeah. Absolutely. We get to mess with different genres, and it’s just so much fun. Most people say we sound like Faith No More and Mr. Bungle. They were influences of ours, and the same with us Korn, Deftones, all those bands growing up.
I hear a little bit of the Korn and the Deftones in your material. Now you guys mentioned that your Outlier album, you wanted to experiment a little bit. Tell me how you experimented with that album?
Rohan: We took a bit of a different approach to the writing. We had what was called the acoustic guitar test. Everything that we wrote basically needed to stand up on its own. The head of the song is the melody and the chords. We had to sound good naked. Once you take away all the production and all that sparkly shit that you dress it up with, once you take all that away and the song still sounds good on acoustic, you’ve written something that will stick. That was one of the most important steps that we implemented into the writing process over the last 4 years.
Of course, it was a hectic 4 years, man. It was brutal. We wrote about 60-70 songs somewhere in between that, full songs that obviously 50-60 of them got trashed. Only 11 of them were survivors. We got there, and Outlier is the best of what we did in the last 3.5-4 years though.
Russ: With doing that process, we got quite a few acoustic songs that turned out quite well which was … it was a worthwhile mission doing that so standby on that one.
I’m assuming you guys probably have enough material to put out at least another album, two or three. Can you rework some of that material into new stuff?
Rohan: I think there will be, there’s a couple that have been put on the shelf. There’s a lot of good songs, but for the most part a lot of them won’t see the light of day, but there’s plenty more where that came from though.
Russ: That’s right. We’re all still spring chickens.
Damon: Especially you mate.
Russ: Actually, Ro wrote quite a bit of this album, and it was actually at a most intense time of his life. He just had a baby, and he was flat out. I can’t believe it dude how much you were an animal on this album run writing this album.
Rohan: Now it’s your time to shine though because you’re having a baby.
You’re having a baby? Congratulations.
Russ: November 17th. Two days after the Disturbed tour back home in Australia.
That’s right, you’re touring with Disturbed now for the Australia tour. You’ll be in Australia when the birth takes place.
It may make it difficult tour to her when you leave family and kids. Hopefully, you can bring them along.
Rohan: Absolutely. Well, if we get big enough we can do that. We can make that happen.
I have a feeling with what you have going that it very well may happen. You guys were well received today and you’re getting a lot of airplay. I wasn’t very familiar with you, but I’ve became familiar just through the Octane channel. What do you guys have planned for next year, 2017? More touring? Will you be coming back to the US at all?
Rohan: The rough plan was to come back early next year and do a headline tour. That’s the rough plan, but anything could happen. What if offers like Korn if they’re listening will take us on and we’ll do a world tour and dominate.
Russ: Korn or Deftones.
Rohan: Yeah, Korn or Deftones, we’re not fussy. We might take it if they put it on the table maybe [laughs]. Pretty much it.
Not only have you been putting out great music, but you guys are a lot of fun to be around. You make me feel like stepping away from my table and cracking a few beers with you. I had a great time sitting down with you today. Now, where can new fans find you on the Internet.
Rohan: TwelveFootNinja.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
Damon: You whack it in Google man.
Russ: Twelve as in spelled twelve.
Rohan: It will all come up. It will all be there. YouTube, Facebook, all of it.
Well, fellas, I appreciate that you sat down with AntiHero today. I wish you the best of luck with your Australian tour with Disturbed. I hope to see you back in the US and I really look forward to new material.
Rohan: Thank you very much. Absolute pleasure.