Twelve Foot Ninja has taken their home country of Australia by storm with their debut full-length Silent Machine. While the album has yet to be properly released in the U.S., the group’s unique style of prog metal (imagine Mr. Bungle infused with elements of djent) has already caught the attention of many American fans, including none other than Periphery. That’s why it’s not surprising that the members of Periphery are making an appearance in Twelve Foot Ninja’s new music video, which the group recently launched an online campaign to help fund the making of.
Guitarist Steve “Stevic” MacKay took the time to chat with Metal Insider about the inspiration behind the new music video (which finds the group taking retribution against the world of internet trolls in an extreme way), how Periphery became one of the band’s closest allies, and about Twelve Foot Ninja’s hopes to soon perform in the U.S.
The concept of the video essentially has the band attacking and decapitating internet trolls who do nothing but post mean comments about other people. What exactly inspired this idea for a video?
When we released the album [Silent Machine], we got so much positive publicity and so many awesome comments from people saying they enjoy what we do. But what we did notice was that when it got more exposure and we started to get a bit more well-known, and we had a lot more high profile bands and such giving us kudos publicly, out came these troll like comments that I hadn’t really experienced before that. Obviously I experienced people saying “It’s not my cup of tea,” “It’s not heavy enough” or “It’s too heavy,” all that type of stuff which is subjective, but then you get these sort of comments that’s beyond a subjective view. It was interesting to deal with, and I actually spoke to Spencer [Sotelo, vocalist of Periphery] because he’s had horrible shit [said about him] on the internet for his vocals. It was just really personal stuff that I just thought was really absurd. It’s an abstract concept because when you make an effort, like Twelve Foot Ninja and I know Periphery do a lot as well, I try to talk to everyone who takes the time to talk to me on the internet. I see the internet as an extension of real life, not as a separate thing. So I see it as if someone comes up and is abusive, it’s like they’re doing it to me at a show. And my reaction at a show [to this] wouldn’t be positive. No one likes that shit.
So I started looking into internet trolling, and there’s so much stuff on the internet, there are psychological profiles on what causes people to do this sort of thing. And I saw in the UK that there’s a 150% rise in online convictions for cyber bulling and such. It’s a new kind of phenomenon. My initial response was to try and find the people and confront them in person, and be like “What’s your problem?!” Then it dawned on me that it could be a really cool film concept, to actually depict what an internet troll is. It’s someone who essentially had something happen to them or they feel powerless in real life, so they become this sort of “internet hero” or “keyboard warrior.” Then I thought “What would happen in an extreme circumstance of playing out a tale of retribution on these people?” So I took to the extreme because I love films and Quentin Tarantino’s stuff. I wouldn’t condone doing what I’m suggesting in clip. [In the video] I actually track one down and we have a battle. He turns into an actual troll, and I end up dismembering him and turning him into hamburgers and feeding him to Periphery. I thought it was a little bit like the South Park episode [where Cartman feeds another character chili made out of his dead parents’ bodies, and gets Radiohead to call him a whiny little bitch], and I thought that was just the best. It’s something with a bit of humor.
At the same time, I think it’s interesting to shine a light on these people who just lash out. I don’t think it’s cool that bands have to absorb that shit. It doesn’t sit right with me, and I guess I sort of make a bit of a statement about it and open the discussion. And I know it’s probably going to bring more dickheads out, but at the same time I think we got the last laugh.
I’ve previously seen the videos for “Mother Sky” and “Coming For You”. And it seems as though Twelve Foot Ninja choose to take a more humorous approach with its music videos. Do you feel that the group takes a more serious approach in regards to its music?
Yeah, definitely. It’s an interesting point that you raise because I just started working with a guy in Texas on visual effects stuff for the video, he did the head explosion and that kind of stuff, and he said to me that a few of his mates in America wonder whether we’re a serious band because the clips are so… we love self-deprecation, I guess is the word. We definitely take the music seriously, but it’s important to not take ourselves too seriously because there’s kind of too much of that. Ricky Gervais is one of my favorite comedians, and he said that it’s just not funny when someone’s this shiny, photo-shopped cool dude starring off into space with his knee up on a brick wall or something. Nobody gives a fuck about that. They want to see down to earth people that could be their buddies or next door neighbors. People that like the kind of music we do, it might be generalizing, but I’d say that they probably like similar pop culture stuff that we like. We’re all kind of drawing from the same pool of entertainment. I think that if it’s not fun, it’s not fun and a lot of bands take themselves a bit too seriously.
Well I mention about the band’s approach to music because when I first heard “Coming For You,” I could definitely hear influence from Mr. Bungle. Yet the song didn’t seem to have the same silliness lyrically as a lot of Mr. Bungle’s songs did.
Yeah, I always… I heard Mr. Bungle in high school and it was the best. I went ‘This is what I’m looking for’ because I get sick of too much metal. I see it as a horror movie. A horror movie is the best when it’s got the gore sparingly. If you’re just getting chain sawed for an hour, eventually you’ll get desensitized and it means nothing. But when you got that suspense the dynamic flow, then I think it’s more interesting. I suppose Mr. Bungle did that for me. I had a classical guitar teacher that was getting me into Frank Zappa, trying to expose me to different forms of composition that didn’t necessarily adhere to any set thing. Mr. Bungle’s stuff is pretty experimental and uses abrasiveness as a dynamic in there as well. What we’re trying to do is have songs that actually have meaning, but how we present that is kind of free and unpredictable. Hopefully people will put on one of our EPs [2008’s New Dawn and 2010’s Smoke Bomb] or the album and hear something different or something they didn’t expect. That’s what we’re really going for.
As you mentioned before, Periphery makes an appearance in the video and has also been a major supporter of Twelve Foot Ninja. How did the band first get involved with Periphery?
It’s actually a pretty funny story because the first time they came out for the Soundwave Festival, there was this other band that was supposed to support them [at the shows]. But some of the fans of that band wrote all over Soundwave’s Facebook wall. And the dude that runs Soundwave is hardcore, like you don’t fuck with this dude. And he didn’t like it and was like “Fuck those guys, they’re not playing! We’re gonna get someone else.” And we picked up the gig. I remember talking to the guys before we went onstage and was like “Dude, whatever happens, let’s just have fun” because we thought they were going to hate us. With Periphery, it’s full on, real progressive metal. I mean, Matt Halpern [drummer of Periphery] is like a fucking octopus on the drums, he’s unbelievable! So we literally went out there thinking they were going to fucking boo us offstage. Then weirdly everything just went right, we just played like we didn’t give a fuck and went crazy. And Periphery loved it, and the crowd was really responsive and we got heaps of great feedback. Then from that point, the dudes [in Periphery] were just really benevolent, they were constantly tweeting about us and writing to us, which is so generous and not at all pretentious in any way. It’s interesting because I think there’s a correlation between musical proficiency and skilled profile bands being the least likely to be fucking dickheads. And that connects back to the troll thing, those people who are putting bad shit out into the universe are the ones internally damaged in some way.
So Periphery are just great guys. They’re like our fairy god brothers, they really just embrace us and have just shared us to their fanbase, which has been awesome. I mean as I said, it shouldn’t have happened and just by chance it did, and I’m very thankful for it. I think we sort of have similar humor, and they like our videos. I mean, Misha [Mansoor, guitarist for Periphery] is a funny guy. He was doing all sorts of funny shit [on set]. We had this bear [during the film], and Misha was just trying to talk to him. We just really get along as people. And also we really respect what they do musically. It’s different from what we do, and vice versa.
The band’s full-length debut Silent Machine has been getting a lot of buzz in your home country, but I know the band is looking to grow its audience in the U.S. When can we expect to see the album come out in North America?
That’s a good question. I think we’re looking for the right partners. I understand that the pricing is pretty different, what we sell CDs for here in Australia is different than in the States. So it’s hard to work it out with all the distribution stuff, but we’re looking for a distributor in the States that makes sense to us and gets the band. We want to get over to the States this year because we’re getting a lot of air play on Sirius XM’s Liquid Metal. Jose Mangin is another one who has come out of the woodwork and has gone out of his way for us. I told him I’m going to get my mom to make him short bread for Christmas [laughs]! But he’s just cool.
It blows me away with how supportive a lot of Americans have been for what we do, and it’s just a gravitational pull. We’re pumped, we just can’t wait to get over there and see what happens, meet some different people because we’re on an island and you do get isolated. It’s Australia, it’s in the fucking middle of nowhere! So it would be great to get to the States. That’s where a lot of the bands that we really look up to are from. It’s just a different community. Already online, we’re hearing from Dino Cazares from Fear Factory, and that shit is amazing to me.
What do you foresee being the biggest difficulty for Twelve Foot Ninja in its attempts to cross over to America?
I mean, I think it’s logistics. To bring five dudes and some gear over to America is $10,000 straight off the bat. Then it’s getting on the right shows and stuff. We really want to seize every opportunity, so if we can get in front of a crowd, we’ll do everything we can to convert them, or at least put on a good show and make them feel like it was worth coming out to see us. So it’s more logistics than anything, and obviously if we can get some shows with Periphery and dudes like that, then that’s going to be a big help as well.
In case you’re still not sure if it’s worth helping Twelve Foot Ninja fund their new epic music video, watch this video pitch featuring a sneak peak at Periphery’s appearance: