Twelve Foot Ninja

It has been a mammoth year for Melbourne rockers Twelve Foot Ninja, releasing debut album ‘Silent Machine’, embarking on their first national tour (selling out every capital city in the process) and scoring supports for the likes of Fear Factory and Periphery. They hit the road at the end of the month on their national ‘Shuriken’ tour, their last shows on home soil before embarking on international touring – chats to frontman Kin Etik to get the lowdown.

Last time you guys spoke to KYS you were about to release ‘Silent Machine’. What’s the response been like, how have the past eight months been?

The response was incredible. Better than we expected – although we have very limited expectations about those sort of things. On our ‘Silent Machine’ tour we saw our audiences double, we had our first run of sold-out shows, we’ve seen our name spread further across the globe and a lot more people from overseas are getting into it, which is fantastic. It’s definitely bigger than we expected, and we’re very humbled by that.

On top of that, you recently finished a tour supporting Fear Factory from the US, how was that?

It was incredible. It was a real experience. They were one of my favourite bands when I was a teenager so to play with them was surreal. They’re the loveliest bunch of guys too, they were really friendly and open with us and they loved our music as well, which in and of itself was pretty amazing. We felt honoured. It was a lot of fun – it was too short. I think it was only six shows, we would have liked to have continued with them.

You’re about to embark on your last Australian tour for a while, before you head off to Europe, the US and Canada. Are you excited to start international touring, a little nervous maybe?

I think it’s a mixture of both, of nerves and excitement. I think the excitement definitely outweighs the nervousness. It’s incredible that we’re at that point now, where we can do shows overseas and see the rest of the world. That’s definitely been a goal of the band, to be able to travel and to see new places, experience new things and tastes and smells and sights and sounds. It’s very exciting.

On that note, the “Shuriken” clip you guys released a while back, it’s a bit of a snapshot of the past twelve months you guys have spent primarily on the road. Do you feel more comfortable in that live setting or are you more inclined to the studio, putting the songs together?

I can’t speak for the rest of the band, but I personally love the whole process. I definitely think we’re a live band though, we’re geared towards our live shows. We’re much more comfortable as a band, I think we have a greater synergy going on and we’re closer as individuals as well. I think that’s reflecting into what we’re doing, and the music we’re writing. We’re definitely comfortable doing live shows; the stage is our home, I believe.

Coming back to the album ‘Silent Machine’, the album took about two years to complete. How did that process all come together?

Well, we’re constantly writing new material. Just before we released ‘Smoke Bomb’, we had about half an album’s worth and we were going to basically add another six or seven tracks to what we had and make that the album, but we felt that the songs we were playing that we had already were more of a snapshot of where we were at at that particular point in time so we decided to make it its own release. From there, we had a few songs we’d been playing live that we thought would be a lot better in a grander album context. We just kept writing and chipping away at it. It was a long process, but we thought we kind of owed it to ourselves to make a full release. That was about it really, we thought “Well, it’s time to make an album, let’s do it”.

You’d been a band since around 2007 I think, had you planned to have an album out by then already?

We’d planned to have the album out within a year of commencing work on it. That ended up becoming two years, we wrestled with the direction we were going to take and it just ended up taking twice as long as we’d planned, but that just happens. With any plans you make you have to double your estimated time. We just wanted it to be the best possible release we could make.

Do you feel like you accomplished that?

Definitely. I think it represented the dynamics of our sound and I think it reflects how broad our tastes are as well. Everyone had a say in the finished product. I think for a debut album it definitely is a good indication of where we were at as musicians at the time.

You promoted the album by releasing a 12-week webcomic by Keith Draws. How did you work with Keith to make sure the comic fit the vision of the album that the band had in mind?

Well, Keith worked on the cover for our ‘Smoke Bomb’ EP. We were looking at different artists and I think Keith approached us actually and said he was into the music, and thought the concept and story was really fresh. We got him onboard for that, and he did such a good job, that when it came around to doing the album and we were throwing around concepts of how we’d release it, I think that was one of the ideas at the top of the list – that we’d release a graphic novel to go along with it or a series of comics. It has definitely been an aspect that we’ve wanted to branch out into because we’re kind of influenced by those things. He just had a really good grasp of where the songs were coming from, not just in conjunction with the story but also philosophically, so we pretty much gave him free reign as to how he presented it. There was a little bit of back and forth between us but I think he absolutely nailed the concept.

Sure. You recently successfully crowdfunded a music video, tell us a bit about the video. It sounds like a pretty epic, massive project.

It certainly is [laughs]. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s pretty wild. I think it encapsulates not only the precedent we’ve set with the previous videos, “Mother Sky” and “Coming for You”, it has that aspect of humour but it also branches out into things like prosthetics and special effects. It’s definitely a grander vision of our video concepts to date, that’s for sure. It’s a bit of everything, it’s a really interesting piece. I think people are going to find it really entertaining – well, I hope they do.

One of the things I really like about the band is definitely the fact you do have a sort of very strong identity, but like you mentioned, there’s a sense of humour in the videos and things like that. Do you think it’s important to have that humanity about you as a band?

I do, I think it’s important. We’ve all got a quite acute sense of humour, and I think it’s really important to reflect your personalities through what you do. We take our music seriously, we take the writing of it seriously, but at the same time we don’t take ourselves too seriously and I think that makes us a bit more personal to people. We don’t consider ourselves, you know, better than our audience, we are part of the audience, and I think it reflects that. It just makes it lighter and warmer and I think it invites people to be a part of it. When you take the piss out of yourselves, it gives other people permission to laugh at your expense, which I think is a powerful thing. There are a lot of acts out there that take it all very seriously, and I think that can create a barrier between you and your audience. It’s a barrier we definitely endeavour to dissolve. We want people to feel good, when they watch our clips, they’d have a laugh. Or when they’re at our shows, they leave with a smile on their face. I think that’s definitely important.

Absolutely. Just to wrap it up, last time you spoke to KYS you said your goals for the future were to get international support slots and to tour internationally – those are both things that are either happening or about to happen. What are your goals for 2014?

Well, more of the same. We’d love to support bigger international acts – the bands that we look up to, a lot of them have been doing this for a very long time and we learn a lot from touring with the likes of Fear Factory, or Periphery, those sort of bands. I believe it just makes us a much stronger touring act. Also, we’d just love to see the world. That’s definitely the forefront of what we want to do.

Thanks for chatting, Kin. Any last words for those reading?

Come check out our national ‘Shuriken’ tour! It’s going to be a lot of fun, and you won’t be disappointed.

Twelve Foot Ninja’s national ‘Shuriken’ tour kicks off at the end of the month – check out tour dates here.

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