Melbourne progressive rockers Twelve Foot Ninja are all set to release their debut album to the masses. Emma sat down with front man Kin to chat recording, comic book ninjas and interpretive dancing.
By Emma Dean
Tell us about how you all met and how Twelve Foot Ninja began…
We all used to be dancers for the 17th most popular all-male review cabaret show in the North-Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Man Boobs.
When I joined, Stevic, Damon, and Russ were the most sought after male burlesque dancers in the Southern Hemisphere, and Rohan was their stage manager/choreographer/seamstress/personal body-guard. One night, back in ’91, we were performing our “Faith” routine, where Stevic would impersonate George Michael and Russ had to play a Catholic Alter-Boy. In the heat of the routine, Russ pulled a hamstring and incited a riot after deciding to pull the plug on the performance. The cougars went crazy and smashed up the venue, and we were all subsequently fired from Man Boobs. A few days later Stevic called to inform us that he had decided to form a George Michael tribute show and the rest is history.
Congrats on completing your debut album ‘Silent Machine’! What can you tell us about it?
Thank you! Recording this album was a fairly intense process and from inception it took us 2 years to complete. It was produced by Stevic, and engineered by Hadyn Buxton who previously mixed our 2 EP’s New Dawn and Smoke Bomb. We then did some additional tracking with Christian Scallan at Soft Centre in Melbourne. He was joined by Ted Furuhashi from Melbourne band Circles for mixing. Ted looked after the heavier end of the spectrum, while Christian mixed the more intricate parts and brought it all together (somehow!).
How have things changed since the release of your first EP ‘New Dawn‘?
We have become a more cohesive unit. More live experience has allowed us to further define our identity as a band. We’ve been exposed to a whole heap of new music and inspiration since then, and have also undergone a lot of personal changes individually, so our sound/song-writing has subsequently changed and evolved.
You have been releasing a track and a matching comic book each week leading up to the release of ‘Silent Machine‘, called ‘Project 12’. Talk us through it…
The idea came about after throwing around some ideas as to how we would go about releasing the album. We wanted to do something different, a little left-of-centre.
The original fable of the Twelve Foot Ninja was co-written by Stevic and his partner/buddy, Fiona Permezel. It was loosely based on the James Redfield book ‘The Celestine Prophecy‘, and is the story of an assassin, Kiyoshi, and his personal journey of atonement in a world controlled by 4 tyrants. He is the reluctantly prophesied ‘Chosen One’ who is granted the ability to become 12 foot tall at will. Kiyoshi must rid the world of these tyrants to restore balance and peace.
The artwork for the comics was created solely by Keith Draws from the UK, who did an amazing job. The lyrics for the album are based on the fable, and the comics are based on the lyrics.
What inspires you as a band?
The inspiration comes from a myriad of sources. The musical concept was conceived by Stevic, who was inspired by the juxtaposition of soundtrack and visual content inherent in Quentin Tarantino films. It also draws its influence from each member of the band, and our own musical influences.
You released the film clip for ‘Mother Sky‘ in August – how was filming? Do you have another video clip on its way?
Filming was arduous but a lot of fun. It was a last-minute concept that turned out better than we originally expected.
There is another film-clip on the way in the next couple of weeks. We’re all pretty pumped about it, so hopefully it’s received well.
What’s your opinion on the music scene in Melbourne?
I’ve heard quite a lot of bitter muso’s declare that the Melbourne music scene is dying. On the contrary, I think it’s thriving.
I should point out that I’m pretty biased about Melbourne and truly believe that we have the most fertile and flourishing scene in Australia.
How was touring with Dead Letter Circus earlier this year?
It was awesome! It was our first national tour, so it opened our eyes to what it takes to play at DLC’s level. Both DLC and Fair to Midland are such a great bunch of dudes so we all got along famously, and had a freakin’ ball!
Will you be hitting the road again soon?
Yes and we’ll be announcing tours dates very soon! Keep an eye on our website and Facebook page for dates.
What are your live shows like for the uninitiated?
In one word: outrageous! Stevic and Rohan set themselves on fire, Russ does a 40 minute drum solo, Damon is a one-man laser/light show, and I do some interpretive dancing, complete with jazz-hands.
In all seriousness we put a lot of energy into our shows and we’re definitely in our element in a live setting.
Describe a typical writing session for the band…
5 guys in a room, all singing parts at Stevic who is usually manning ProTools. “It should go duh duh duh dooowwww duh”, “Nah, it should be duh duh duh duh dooowwww…”.
Anyone you’d like to collaborate with in the future?
I’d personally love to collaborate with the likes of Amon Tobin, Kimbra, Phrase, TaikOz, Mike Patton… My dream collaboration wish-list would be a mile-long. As a band we’ve talked about wanting to work with Daniel Johns coz he has really pushed the boundaries with orchestration in ways that interest us, Guthrie Govern, the dudes from Periphery… and getting Freddie Wong to do a film clip would be awesome!
2 of the album tracks were a collaboration with a guy from France, who goes by the name Tenkan. We are big fans of his metal remixes of pop songs, so we invited him to write some music with us. Hopefully we’ll collaborate further with him in the future.
Who are some awesome up and coming bands we should be checking out?
Circles, Breaking Orbit, Serious Beak, Humality, Xenograft and The Schoenberg Automaton. Check ’em out!
Many thanks to Kin for taking the time to chat to us.
You can find out more about the band at: http://twelvefootninja.com/