Latest album: Silent Machine (Volkanik)

Melbourne’s mercurial Twelve Foot Ninja have blasted their way to the fore of Australia’s heavy music consciousness over the last year with the success of Silent Machine, confounding the crowds on their tour with Fear Factory and setting a crowd-funding world record. As their new tour gets set to kick off around the country and beyond, Loud caught up with the band’s appropriately-named vocalist Kin Etic.

When last we spoke you were about three weeks away from releasing your album. Since then you’ve done lots and lots of things; mostly notably, doing that tour with Fear Factory which, I think, freaked out a lot of people.  They didn’t seem to know what you were doing.
Absolutely! It was really out of left field. It was left field for us, too. We’re big fans of Fear Factory, so just to get selected by Dino to do the show was pretty surreal  and very humbling. A lot of people didn’t know what to expect from us. They’d never heard of us! Something like that, unless you’re a pure metal band, can be a bit of a hit/miss situation., but we were fortunate in that a lot of the people who were fans of Fear Factory really embraced us and sort of got what we were doing. We were fortunate that a lot of their fans were so open-minded.

It’s interesting because they are one of those bands that do seem to have a quite open-minded fanbase. So many of us grew up listening to those guys and yet even when we’ve moved on to other things, they’re still close to our hearts in a way. So you may have got a lot of people there who were a little more open-minded than if you’d gone out with, say, Morbid Angel, for example.
That’s for sure.  When you think about it, back in the day, Fear Factory sort of came out of nowhere. They were doing something different with metal. Back in those days you had to be open-minded to get what they were doing even as a purist metalhead. There was also a lot of other music around at the time which a lot of dudes I knew that were also getting into Fear Factory, were also getting into grunge and certain pop music and hip hop and I think a lot of those people came from that background and I don’t think that much has changed. People are still open-minded and listening to a plethora of different styles of music. We’re just fortunate that people embraced it even though it was different. There were still a few die-hard metal fans who were shouting out, “Play something heavy!” But you’ll always get that touring with a band of that ilk for sure. There are people out there who are definitely purists, no matter what scene the band comes from.

You think that you may have won over a few more people now who’ve come across after seeing you play those gigs?
Yeah, we’ve received a lot of messages and support from people who hadn’t seen us before, and from that tour became fans instantly. So I can probably safely say that there were a lot of people who saw us for the first time or experienced us for the first time through Fear Factory that will definitely attend our shows.

What have you found to be a real highlight of your year so far? There’s probably been quite a few, so if you could pick out a couple, what would they be?
Well, there’s been a lot! There’s been a lot. I better wrack my mind and remember it all. But the first thing that comes to mind of course is the Fear Factory tour. I was actually invited by Burton to sing “Martyr” on the final night in Perth, so I got up on stage and did “Martyr” which is my favourite Fear Factory song. And that was just something else! Out of this world! That was definitely a highlight for me. Also shooting the film clip that should be coming out fairly soon. Being able to meet the dudes from Periphery. A great bunch of guys and very aligned to our sense of humour and we got along with them like a house on fire so to actually meet them and hang out with them was awesome. The crowd-funding campaign for the film clip was also a highlight. The fact that we had specifically asked our fanbase for $45,000 for the making of a new film clip which we thought might have been a bit of a big ask for a band of our calibre. But they all banded around us and contributed and got us over the line. So much so that we ended up raising $53,000 which is just incredible and we actually got the world record for the most amount of money contributed to a band for a film clip!

For any band to say the fans, “Help us pay for stuff” is a big thing. To have them come out and do so to that extent must have been an incredible feeling, knowing that the fans had so much faith in you.
It really was. It was a little bit touch and go for a little while. We weren’t actually sure we were going to get over the line. This guy from Singapore contributed ten grand to the campaign in the last week, which is really amazing, and I think that was just enough incentive for them all to go, “They’re almost there, let’s go” The response was just overwhelming and we were really, really humbled and touched by that.  The fans are that passionate about what we’re doing that they contributed in such a way. It’s something that I can’t actually describe and we’ll be eternally grateful for that.

When you are crowd-funding something like that, you must feel some level of responsibility not to make a mess of it, because people are paying for it and they’ll expect a real quality product. Does that put you under some kind of pressure?
To a degree. It does. But at the same time, you’re reminded of the fact that most of them have appreciated the past stuff as well, and that was without crowd-funding. Your audience are going to be prepared for whatever you’re going to deliver too. You do feel a little bit of pressure but you can’t let that pressure… sometimes having that much pressure on your shoulders can be a hindrance to the fruition of the project. For instance, you might over-think the concept. For us, we just wanted to make a new video that was pretty much more of the same: the same sort of humour, the same sort of approach to film clips, but at the same time we wanted to employ prosthetics and sets and catering and all those sorts of things and make a professional production of it. From where I’m standing, I’ll be surprised if people are disappointed with what we’ve done with their money. I hope they’re not! (laughs)

They probably won’t be. It’s not like you’re a band that’s come out of nowhere and there isn’t a precedent. If people are expecting it be the same quality and style that you’ve done before you have that advantage.  But what’s the plan after this tour – what’s beyond that?
The national tour actually extends into Europe. We were selected to play Euroblast this year, which was awesome. We’re actually taking the Shuriken Tour over to Germany. We’re only doing a few dates there, I think it’s a week. So it’s a few dates in Germany and then Britain and then back for Euroblast and then from there we’re looking to conquer North America.

What’s the reaction been to the music from overseas so far?
It’s been fantastic. I believe actually where we stand right now, we have a bigger fanbase overseas than we do in Australia. It’s spreading like wildfire in the States and Europe and the response has been awesome. So we just decided it was time to follow that through and cross the ditch, so to speak, and start solidifying our brand of music over there and see if it will work and see if it’s a model that people will appreciate in those territories.

It’s great to see another Australian band kicking goals in a big way. It really seems to be a boom period for Australian heavy music right now. You must have seen that yourself too.
That’s right. I think there’s a lot of bands doing really good things in Australia right now and we all just rub off on each other. So to speak! (laughs) I think we all sort of give each other the impetus to keep pushing, keep experimenting with our artforms and keep trusting in what we’re doing. I think, as I said, there’s a plethora of really good bands now, breaking through and that’s really well deserved. It just seems to me that Aussie music is finally having its day in the sun, and I’m ecstatic to be a part of that. It’s amazing. It’s an amazing time for Aussie music. It really is.

Brian is Loud‘s editor and the curator of The Australian Metal Guide.

Twelve Foot Ninja is touring nationally from the end of this month:

30/8:  Ferntree Gully Hotel, Ferntree Gully VIC (+ Engine)
5/9:  Coffs Hotel, Coffs Harbour NSW (+ Shepherd)
6/9: Tempo Hotel, Brisbane QLD (+ Caligula’s Horse + Humality)
7/9 Parkwood Tavern, Gold Coast QLD (+ Caligula’s Horse + Humality)
12/9: Zierholz UC, Canberra ACT (+ Meniscus)
13/9: Waves, Wollongong NSW (+ Breaking Orbit + Meniscus)
14/9: Manning Bar, Sydney NSW (+ Breaking Orbit + Meniscus)
19/9: Small Ballroom, Newcastle NSW (+ Teal + Let the Number Be X)
20/9: Entrance Leagues, The Entrance NSW (+ Teal + In Hydes Shadow + Bleeding Gasoline)
21/9: Mona Vale Hotel, Mona Vale NSW (+ Meniscus + Dividers)
26/9: Prince of Wales, Bunbury WA (+ The Meaning Of)
27/9: Rosemount Hotel, Perth WA (+ The Meaning of + Ron Pollard Quartet)
4/10 Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC (+ Caligula’s Horse + Toehider)
5/10: Fowlers Live, Adelaide SA (+ Quiet Child + Red Light Sound)