Twelve Foot Ninja Members Talk First U.S. Tour, ‘Silent Machine’ + More
Australian fusion band Twelve Foot Ninja have won over North American fans on their first ever U.S. tour with Periphery this year. With their high energy and combination of hard rock, heavy metal fused with reggae and Latin undertones, their sound is something fresh for music fans. Their latest release, ‘Silent Machine,’ is anything but silent. Instead it is forceful and heavy while the melodies have an infectious groove and are sure to give your eardrums a quantum lift.
Before the band took New York City by storm, we caught up with Twelve Foot Ninja frontman Nick “Kin” Etik and drummer Shane “Russ” Russell. The two talked all about about the creative and recording process of ‘Silent Machine,’ where exactly the name Twelve Foot Ninja came from and the music scene while growing up in Australia. Both Etik and Russell also spoke their experience touring with Periphery, trekking around the States and even engaged in a little bathroom talk. Check out our interview with the two Twelve Foot Ninja members below:
How has the tour been? How would you describe your relationship with Periphery and the other bands on the bill?
Nick Etik: To sum it up in one word: Magnificent. It’s been such an honor playing with this bill. Dead Letter Circus we’ve toured with back home in Australia. We didn’t know Born of Osiris before this and we had met most of Periphery – they’re all awesome guys.
Shane Russell: The Born of Osiris guys are crazy, they really like to enjoy every night. They certainly party.
Are you guys the partying type on tour?
SR: I’ve got it in me. [Laughs] But I’m 34 now, so it hurts a bit more.
NE: We’ve been on tours now where we’ve been a bit more disciplined.
What bands would you love to tour with that you haven’t hit the road with yet?
NE: We would love to tour with Deftones. They’re probably at the top of the list.
SR: They know their s--t. They’re veterans and they’re classy. Man, that would be an honor, wouldn’t it? I’d just check that one off the list.
What is the most interesting an Australian band trekking around the States?
SR: Oh, the food. The truck stop showers, they’re amazing. You got to pay but I’m happy to do that.
NE: Our touring experience consists of three things: searching for toilets, showers and wi-fi. The food is a bonus.
You guys really enjoy the greasy American food though?
SR: Look, I love food, all good and bad. I’m just loving the experience, this is our first tour in America so I’m really experiencing it. I’m having the chicken fried steak for breakfast, I’m doing it properly.
NE: He’s really doing it properly, Cheez Wiz right in the mouth.
SR: I think my body’s starting to get used to it, it’s now American.
NE: His arteries are American. [Laughs]
Or what’s left of them! So you’re searching for bathrooms, but you’re downing chicken fried steak and Cheez Wiz...
SR: That’s the thing. You need a good sturdy bathroom. [Laughs]
NE: With a couple of rails! [Laughs] We’ve discovered they’ve got those at Walmart.
Talk about ‘Silent Machine’ -- what does this title mean to you?
SR: Yeah, it was almost going to be called ‘Shuriken.’ It was a compromise because it’s called ‘Silent Machine’ but we’ve got the shuriken on the cover. Then Steve [Mackay] our guitarist was like, “Technically a shuriken is a silent machine.’ It could mess you up silently. So we went with ‘Silent Machine’ that’ll do. [Laughs]
NE: It just so happened we had another song called ‘Silent Machine,’ as well on the album.
SR: ‘Silent Machine’ is a beautiful track. Nick, your vocals are unbelievable.
NE: Thank you Russ, your drumming is just splendid on that song. No, there was nothing really to it we were just throwing out names ‘Shuriken’ was pretty much the first one. We thought about it because we settled on the shuriken being the cover and it didn’t feel right having it as the title. I think it’s a more fitting title track for the album too.
SR: ‘Silent Machine’ is classier sounding. It’s a nice-sounding album name. It’s a true Ninja track, it’s got everything in there.
How was the recording process of this album for the both of you?
[Both sigh, then laugh]
NE: It was hefty. It took us two years. There were a lot of debates and jams and sitting together in a room singing riffs at each other. There were times where it was really inspiring and we had great ideas and it was flowing and then other times it just felt like we were beating out heads against brick walls trying to come up with ideas.
SR: There was a bit of writer’s block happening there.
NE: It was a tough experience for all of us. I think many of us got out of it unscathed. The actually recording itself was pretty cool.
SR: Once the songs are already there and they’re written, recording was cool.
NE: It was just conceptualizing everything was the hardest part because we didn’t really know what we wanted to do. We knew we wanted it to be a step up from our previous release but at the same time we wanted to forge new territory.
SR: I remember listening to the demos and having moments going, “Wow I think this is actually pretty good” and then other times I’m like, “I’ve heard it too much, I can’t tell.” As soon as we released it, it’s been amazing. It was all worth it, wasn’t it? It’s gotten us here.
Growing up in Australia, how was the metal scene over there?
NE: It was really healthy when I started and it still is. It’s pretty underground, you’re talking about a really small market as it is in general. Metal is even smaller niche market in Australia but there are a lot of great bands over there just really good, raw, true metal bands. No bulls--t, no veneer, no makeup or costumes. It’s all about the music. I think we as Australian’s are purists when it comes to those sorts of things.
Just curious where the name Twelve Foot Ninja came from?
SR: That was Stevic [Steve Mackay], he comes up with hypotheticals. He’s got a very interesting mind that guy.
NE: I think the question was something like, “Would you rather be the only person in the 16 or 1700s with a machine gun or a twelve foot ninja? Stevic asked, “Well if I was a twelve foot ninja could I have the agility of a six foot ninja?" And the answer was yes. So Stevic said, “I’ll be a twelve foot ninja” and it just clicked.
SR: That’s a big ninja that would dominate and he rang me straight away like, “Russ what do you think of this name?” Some of his ideas I don’t know about, it sounds a bit childish but it’s cool and it’s different. He extended on that and him and his girlfriend wrote the comic book, an eight chapter novel, which we’ve sold out of. Steve wanted it to me more than just a band and expand on it. We wanted crazy visuals and s--t going onstage but it’s unrealistic, you’ve got to have a lot of money -- the end mission is that.
Have actual twelve foot ninjas onstage!
SR: Yes! We’d love to do that.
NE: We do draw the concepts for the songs from the story. We use ninja iconography so we’ve created a fantasy realm as well that people can delve into if they want to. At the same time, I try to keep the lyrics as ambiguous as possible so if you’re not into that stuff you can still relate to it.
SR: It’s funny, I’m in the band and I’ve never been a comic book sort of dude. I just focus on the music but I do love the art and it’s a great story.
NE: We’re thinking as far as animation and computer games and stuff based on the story and scoring it ourselves. We’ll see what happens, that could be way too big for us but yeah that’s the dream.
With all of this touring, what is one thing you must have on tour with you? No electronics.
SR: Ah Damnit!
NE: He would have said his phone straight away. Well for those who have been reading my tour diaries, mine would be coffee. It is my saving grace.
SR: Deodorant, it’s got to be up there. Not every day you get to shower and I’m a drummer so I’m a mess after a gig. So some new underwear and deodorant and I’m good.
Watch Twelve Foot Ninja's Video for 'Coming for You'