Protest The Hero are one of the most respected bands in modern metal. With a versatile sound, Protest The Hero always manage to impress, and they’re back with their latest offering, Volition. Lead singer Rody Walker recently took some time to chat with us about the album, anti-pitbull laws, and the possibility of a return to Australia.
How are you this morning, Rody?
I’m doing pretty well.
What’s happening right now in the world of Protest The Hero?
Well, we’re practicing up, getting ready to go out on tour. We leave on November 3rd, then we’re going to zip around North America, then we’re going to head over to…what’s that other continent called? Europe! (laughs) Yeah, we’re heading over to the UK, and then we’re gonna spend the next two or so years on the road, touring on the back of our new record.
You guys are getting set to release your new album ‘Volition’ next week, and it’s been streaming for about a week now. How are you finding the response from fans?
It’s been really positive. I mean, like, exceptionally positive. You can never really know which way it’s going to go. Being in the band, we’re just too close to it, ya know? I mean, I thought Scurrilous was pretty damn good, but our fans didn’t really like it all that much. So when you sit on music for this long like we have, you just never really know, and it’s always a very welcome surprise when people actually enjoy it. (laughs)
What is it in your mind that sets ‘Volition’ apart from the rest of your releases?
The way that it was written was a lot different. Obviously, we were down a member at the time, our drummer [Moe Carlson] had just left the band and we had never written without a drummer, so we needed to come up with ideas fast, and so we spent a lot of time listening to programmed drums, so the writing process was completely different, which sort of ended up bringing us back to those songs that we’ve been trying to write in the back of our heads for all these years. I think we sort of lost them there, but I think we kind of discovered it again here.
You guys ran an incredibly successful crowdfunding campaign for ‘Volition.’ Do you wannt to walk me through a bit of how that went down for you guys?
Yeah, that was crazy! Our former drummer at the time was a big video game enthusiast, and he’d watched a lot of video games make a lot of money independently through like, Kickstarter, Indiegogo and all of these things, and we thought ‘why don’t we apply this to a band?’ Then we looked into it, and it turned out that plenty of bands had done this before, and to great success too, such as Murder By Death.
So, we put together our campaign, we put it out there, and then we made the money in under 30 hours, and now we are humbly, forever in the fans back pocket.
Did you find there to be more pressure in that a lot of your biggest fans had already put money up before you had even begun the album?
Yeah, a little bit, I suppose. It’s really just that feeling of pressure, I think, because there wasn’t any actual pressure. I mean, when it comes down to it, we were always gonna do our darndest to write the best record we were capable of at the end of the day. Ultimately, no matter what the circumstance is, some people are gonna be overjoyed with the outcome and some people are going to be disappointed, so once we realised that, the pressure kind of went away.
How did the writing and recording process differ from previous releases (aside from the different drummer and crowdfunding campaign that we’ve already mentioned)?
For me, it really didn’t differ that much. I don’t generally sit there with them in the jam station when they bang their heads together and work out where to take it. For me, that is the worst thing in the world, and I hate it. I got sent rough recordings of the song, and then I write my part over the music (laughs). So that’s what I did, and essentially it’s what I’ve always done, since our second record.
I think the real difference was bringing Cameron McLellan into it. He helped with the writing, and was really a great help with the composition side of things.
You guys had Chris Adler from Lamb of God in as a session drummer after the departure of Moe Carlson. What do you think he brought to the table that wouldn’t have been there otherwise?
He brought some serious professionalism to it. His years of experience certainly show. We’re all just f**king teenagers at heart, and we very much act that way, but as far as his drumming style goes, he brought his own drumming style, and he didn’t have all that long to learn it, and perform it, and get it all together.
He was telling me at first, “you know, these really don’t sound anything like drumming for Lamb of God” which was true, but he told me afterwards that he felt it had made him a better drummer, which I took as a massive a compliment to the music we make. I feel like I’m kind of babbling here, but he put his own twist on things and it was great!
Let’s talk about ‘A Life Embossed.’ That song was written in response to anti-Pitbull legislation. Do you want to explain a bit about what it was that made you guys write that song?
My girlfriend and I, we adopt rescue animals, and that’s our big thing, and we would love to start adopting and fostering pit bulls. However, Ontario, the province in which we live, is the largest province in the world to pass legislation that is breed-specific. So, in Ontario, you’re not allowed to own a pit-bull, unless they’ve been grandfathered in since 2005.
The biggest problem is that they can come in to yours, these ‘by-law officers’, which is important to note. They’re by-law officers, not police officers, but they can come in to your f**king house without a warrant, and they can take your dog and they can have it put down. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be a pit bull either, because a pit-bull is a mixed breed, which makes it harder to identify. The legal definition of a pit bull in Ontario is a medium sized dog, with short hair, a short snout, and a large brow, which frankly is all kinds of dogs, which when they fall into this category, they’re illegal and they can be put to death just like that. It’s discriminatory and it’s ridiculous, and it’s extremely costly on the taxpayers, and it’s ineffective.
Personally, I think it’s really great to see people writing about stuff that they’re really passionate about, and using music as an avenue to get that across. On that note, are there any other songs on ‘Volition’ that particularly resonate with you above the rest?
Yeah, there’s a couple of songs for sure on there about various things. For example, humans rights violations. I’m a big believer that the justice system in North America is failing rape victims, and I think that a lot of people are denying rape culture, but it’s damn time that we started acknowledging that it’s real. We shouldn’t be willing to accept s**t like Daniel Tosh getting up on stage and making a bunch of s**tty rape jokes, because that just contributes to rape culture, and to victim shaming, and you see it on your favourite sitcoms and you think, “oh, but they’re just making jokes about it: and you know what, it’s f**king real, and that’s contributing to it!
‘Plato’s Tripartite’ is a song on the record which is very much about that, and I had a rape case in mind from the United States, where this young girl was essentially raped, and this dude, who was a football player at their high school, got let off with a slap on the wrist because he had a promising career and he looked remorseful, even though he had raped this young girl, he got away with it. This young girl’s life is forever scarred, forever altered, and this guy gets a slap on the wrist, and that’s what this song is about.
As well as that though, there’s other cases that are almost exactly the same that just go under the radar with similar results and it’s ridiculous. I’m thankful that people who listen to our music can hear about that and then do some research and actually see what’s actually going on and I think that when we write about something real like that it’s so much better than just writing some kind of cryptic mythology.
You guys came down and visited Australia in 2011 as part of Soundwave Festival. Do you have any particular memories from that festival you can share?
I have never lost my voice so bad as I did on that trip to Australia. I don’t know what the f**k happened, hey. I don’t know if it was flying every day, or allergies or something, but I couldn’t speak for two weeks after that. I remember we went down to like the opera house and all of that, and had a wonderful day, and I just couldn’t speak this whole time. I felt like I was in the Metallica video for one, just being like trapped inside my body or something (laughs).
I remember trying oysters for the first time while I was down there actually. Holy s**t, do I hate oysters. I hate them so much, they taste like blood. It’s all they taste like. But yeah, I had a wonderful time in Australia, and did all the tourist things. I held a koala, I ate some kangaroo, and all of these really s**tty tourist things that everyone does.
Are there any definitive plans to come down to Australia on the back of ‘Volition’?
Not just yet. We were actually hoping to get an offer for Soundwave, but it’s not looking likely unfortunately. We’d like to do the circle, you know. Japan, the pacific rim, Australia, New Zealand. We’d like to do all of that on the back of this album while we’re around there. Yeah, we were hoping for Soundwave, but it looks like we may have to do some kind of separate tour. We’ll definitely be there in the next 12 months.
If you could play with absolutely any bands in the entire world, with no barriers of genre, what would be your dream lineup?
My favourite band in the world is Propaghandi, and we already toured with them, and you know what, I’d do that again. I’d waste my wishes on Propaghandi (laughs). There’s all those big shots that we could hope to play with one day, but frankly, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve done.
What’s your favourite place to have toured?
Strangely enough, it’s Ontario. It’s my own country. We’ve been to all of these awesome places around the world, but nothing compares. They’re extremely accomodating people, they love getting f**king wasted, and they party hard, and we’ve always had the best time in the world here.
What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you guys as a band?
Our drummer leaving? (laughs) Actually, you know what, it’s the indiegogo campaign. You know, we’ve done the whole getting wasted on the rad and doing crazy s**t, but that’s not nearly as crazy as the dedication we saw through the indiegogo campaign.
Any final words for your fans in Australia?
Hold on, we’re coming. We’re gonna get over there as soon as we f**king can!