The legend of the Twelve Foot Ninja is one that stems from over a decade ago. Seemingly stealthlike, the Melbourne-based unit are masters of the sneak attack. Between dropping their highly anticipated album Outlier last year, smashing some Australian headline shows and supporting Disturbed in November, the men behind the myth are more than set up for the year.
Sharing two of his fondest (or foggiest) touring memories, guitarist Steve ‘Stevic’ MacKay’s tale was fantastically detailed. “We played a festival in Germany that was sponsored by Jägermeister and there were a couple of attractive people dishing the Jägermeister up,” he explains. “Russ (drums) and Damon (bass) said to them, ‘You won’t break me’ to the people that were giving him free Jäger. So they were giving him double shots. I went away and was doing a couple of other things and by the end of the night; we’d lost both of them. We found Damon curled up in a ball sleeping under a table in a restaurant that was shut – I don’t even know how he got in there,” he recalls.
“I usually keep it together but there was one time, it was towards the end of the night and there was a bottle of Vodka that someone dared me to skol. I ended up on the roof of a venue; I picked up someone with a broken leg and was going to throw them into a tree. I became the Hulk. I think you repress that stuff and then it comes out. I was actually shoving pizza down the throat of one the dudes from DLC, he just sort of went with it. It was the combination of fear and surprise.”
Moving onto their more recent endeavour, MacKay takes us through the thought process of naming the bands second full-length studio album, Outlier.
“The first and primary reason for calling the album Outlier was to pay homage to our supporters who actually buy our music,” he says. “In a consumer-driven market, they are actually outliers, people who go and support bands and buy CDs are now the minority. It’s really just acknowledging them – that was the purpose.”
With its predecessor Silent Machine being released in 2012, the record came after a three and a half year wait for fans. MacKay details the various challenges Twelve Foot Ninja overcame.
“We’d been writing and recording demos since the previous album,” he reveals. “It’s actually really difficult to subsidise playing in a band with a job – to maintain that and some kind of life and then tour and write and record music. If it were just touring, writing and recording that’d be quite dualistic. They say that a dog year is worth four human years and I think a Twelve Foot Ninja week is like six months. We’ve got our own time zone.
“I don’t think we could’ve recorded this album in a more anti-social way. Everyone did everything separately. It was like ploughing a field on your own and then you come back and say ‘Here is what I harvested.’ Recording isn’t my favourite thing to do, it takes ages and everything’s under the microscope.”
As expected, the guys of Twelve Foot Ninja have created a genre-jumping album compiled of unexpected, explorative elements.
“There’s one track, Monsoon, where I got an instrument called a Tumbi which is made out of a pumpkin, it’s got a bit of dowel stuck into it and one string,” says MacKay. “It’s an Indian instrument and there was a car ad that gave me the idea. I tracked down this guy called ‘The Guru’ out past Sunbury; he has this shed full of all this weird stuff. I bought the instrument and the first thing I played was the riff that formed the entire song,” MacKay says.
“We just gave our pledgers Dig For Bones. We were on tour and Russ made the riff up with his mouth, he just went, ‘G’day, what about if a song said bow bow badada bowng bowng?’ We wrote a lot of it on the tour bus when we were travelling across America and then when we were tracking, my dog Sachi came up to the microphone and barked perfectly in tune. So there’s actually a part when my dog is barking in the track.” Headed out on a headline tour around Australia later this month, MacKay says he is looking forward to a few weeks away from reality.
“You really turn into a caveman when you’re on tour, you just sleep, eat, play gigs and the rest of your preoccupation is based around where you’re going to go to the toilet. You’ve got the tour manager there and they are often ushering you around like you’re completely lobotomised half the time. Last tour I bought the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle films from Wal-Mart and watched them up the back of the bus. We’re generally mellow dudes now, we just get on the bus like a bunch of old men.”
Written by Phoebe Robertson
Via Beat Magazine
When & Where: Commercial Hotel, Morang – February 2, Chelsea Heights Hotel, Chelsea Heights – February 3 & Village Green Hotel, Mulgrave – February 4