Photos by Joseph James
Photos by Joseph James
Alien Weaponry are not your standard band. The three of them – brothers Henry (drums) & Lewis de Jong (guitar and vocals), and Ethan Trembath (bass) – are all still at highschool. They are also known for their unique brand of thrash metal delivered in both English and Māori. Singing in Te Reo sets them apart, but is by no means a gimmick. The music not only stands up on its own, but it crushes. After gaining success in two national music competitions, the trio have begun to garner notoriety, and are now booked to tour Australia and Europe in the near future.
After a string of relentlessly good singles, they are working towards recording their début album, which they are using Indiegogo to help raise funds for. I’ve wanted to interview them for a while, and I figure that now is a great time to do so, catching them on the cusp of the next stages of their success.
Will Not Fade: How are you at the moment?
Alien Weaponry: We are absolutely hammered by media requests but it’s a great problem to have and are so grateful that people seem to like what we are doing and want to write about it. It’s very humbling.
Do you ever expect to get far in Rockquest and Pacifica Beats, considering the nature of your music?
In all honesty we totally expected to fail and be hated at Rockquest. Looking at videos of other years finals we couldn’t find any metal at all and entered as much to make a statement about what we wanted to do with no expectation of winning anything. It took a few years but to their credit Smokefree Rockquest embraced what we were doing and the rest is history. I think the turning point was when we entered Pacifica Beats (also run by Rockquest) and decided to write a song in Māori for that. Some mates had entered in to Pacifica Beats two years earlier and they were a ska band and they won so we thought let’s get noticed and enter a thrash metal song. We fully expected to get noticed but not win. We won, go figure.
Do you feel like a success story? You already have tours lined up overseas before you’ve even finished school.
It’s pretty exciting really, yeah it’s happening fast now. People think of it a bit as overnight success but we have been together now for six years and we have spent plenty of nights playing in pubs around NZ to small audiences. It’s really hard to get your name out there. We are real happy it’s happening now. The European thing is happening faster than we expected. We fully had a goal to be playing at festivals like Wacken Open Air in Germany and thought we might achieve that by the time Henry was 20. It’s crazy to be doing that shit next year – it’s booked and happening! We have five festivals already and counting. We were approached by a big festival promoter in Europe straight after we released “Rū Ana Te Whenua”. A friend of his had seen it and showed it to him on his iPhone at the airport in Athens … next thing he is messaging us on Facebook offering us a slot … Crazy. We are now signed to German music agency Das Maschine.
What are the biggest struggles of being in the band? Does age factor into it?
Not really our age, although we do have to go to school and that can be a major drag when we are trying to get band stuff done. On the other hand it gives us a context for writing songs about frustration and conflict. We have occasionally had people write us off as a “school band” without ever hearing us but that’s not much of a problem anymore. We are obliged to have our parents or legal guardians with us at all times on tour because of the legal stuff with licences venues so that’s a bit dumb sometimes but they are not really a problem and they are a good support when we need it. I think now that we are all over six-foot tall the “little kids” tag line can finally be shaken off.
Does it make it easier or harder having two brothers in the band?
It’s both. You go from wanting to punch each other hard to understanding exactly what they are trying to do or say with songwriting. We haven’t had a serious punch up in a while now but we do get on each other’s nerves. Living in the same house makes rehearsal easier but it’s hard to get away when you need peace. In the end we will always come to an understanding because we are brothers. We can be pretty rude to each other though at times.
Many of your songs reference stories from Aotearoa history. Are these stories something you grew up with, or do you actively seek it out?
We know most of these stories from our dad and stuff he told us when we were kids. He used to point out landmarks and important Māori battle sites when ever we went on a road trip. He has a lot of books too. A history of Te Arawa has some mean as stories in it about early Māori conflict with English settlement. We are from Ngati Pikiao so the Te Arawa stories are often about our tīpuna. Now we live in Northland (Ngāpuhi) we are learning more about the northern conflicts and songs like “Urutaa” are partly about Northland events.
Obviously, as well as honoring your tīpuna with these stories, there is underlying political subtext. What are some key messages you want to share with your listeners?
It’s hard to grow up in a Māori speaking whanau and attend a Kura Kaupapa without having your eyes opened to the recent history of this country. Anyone learning our recent history will in some way or other adopt an activist mentality. It’s inevitable. We try not to be one-sided and songs like our upcoming song “Kai Tangata” tell the story of Māori on Māori conflict and the musket wars. It’s important to say it as it is. talking about the difficult and ugly subjects is what thrash metal does well.
I think it is awesome that you sing in Te Reo Māori. It’s like combining the passion of haka with the heaviness of metal. What prompted you to sing bilingually?
As we said earlier we had mates who had entered Pacifica beats, They are in a band called Strangely Arousing. They had also entered in Rockquest as a band called Aftershock. As Aftershock they played metal and we thought they were cool. They made it to the finals one year but won Pacifica beats as Strangely Arousing and playing as a ska band and it got us thinking what if they had entered as a metal band. It came naturally for us to write a song fully in Māori, it was a no brainer, we didn’t even really think about it we just did it.
I saw a Wireless video that involved you playing a koauau [a traditional Māori flute]. Are you planning on integrating some traditional instrumentation that one wouldn’t expect to find in metal music?
Yeah we have already recorded an intro to “Rū Ana Te Whenua” that will probably end up on the album version. We recorded it last year in the Waipu caves. Tom Larkin came up with a mobile recording setup and we went out to the caves. We had to do several takes cause tourists kept coming through. They must have thought we were nuts doing this stuff deep underground. The reverb is awesome though and total organic. Sounds wicked with the koauau and purerehua.
Ethan, I read that you scored your spot in the band because you could play ukelele. Are we going to hear you thrashing it out on uke for any songs on the album?
Nah probably not. I have just landed a sponsorship with Spector basses in the USA so unless they do an electric Spector uke then i can’t see it happening.
Do you have other contemporaries who sing in Te Reo? This is something I haven’t come across much – or at least within rock music.
We have met heaps of Māori guys in metal bands but non singing in Te Reo. Johnny from Amachine is a pretty wicked Māori speaker too and an awesome guitarist, We played with them a couple of years back. Average Mars Experience have Māori guys too. Wicked musos. They are an instrumental band but these guys should fully do some Māori metal.
What has your reception been like in other countries? Does it compare to how we listen to bands like Rammstein? I played your songs to many of my friends when travelling in America recently and most people loved it.
Yeah we have been overwhelmed by the number of positive comments from fans all around the world. Metal is a good genre for “foreign language singing” I think as the vocals are often more of an instrument than in other genres. Really we have nothing negative coming back at all. We do sing a lot of stuff in English too so yeah something for everyone I guess.
You have some creative options for your Indiegogo campaign. Who came up with the idea of jumping into the Waipu river?
When we first looked at the crowdfunding thing we looked at what other bands were doing and a Polish metal band was offering to immerse themselves in the freezing cold swamp behind their house. I guess the Waipu river is our swamp, but cleaner.
What’s it like working with Tom Larkin? I’m a diehard Shihad fan.
He is a hard man. We mean that in a good way and he is really good at calling bullshit if he thinks things are not going as they should or reaching full potential. As a drummer he worked a lot on Henry’s drum technique and is a perfectionist. We have another producer also working with us and it will be interesting to compare their production styles.
What can we expect from the upcoming album? I’m loving the singles that you already have out.
We have a bunch of new material written after “Rū Ana Te Whenua”. Some of it in Māori like “Kai Tangata” and quite a lot in English too like “Holding My Breath” and “Cult of Sanitised Warfare”. We are pretty excited to be going into the studio next month to finish it off. We will probably be doing some Facebook live streams from our sessions too.
What are some of your career highlights to date?
We have had so much happen to us lately. Being included in the lineup for Soundsplash is pretty awesome given we will be the first ever metal band to play there. We have a number of cross genre festivals coming up over the summer. Also we are booked on some huge European metal festivals next year. The high light as of today must be the Apra Silver Scroll Maioha Award. That was so unexpected and such a privilege.
And what are your upcoming goals for the future?
We would really like to be in a situation where we are doing this full-time as a living. Touring the world and being recognised for our unique approach to metal. It would be cool to think we had inspired a younger generation not only to get into music but into te reo Māori too.
Alien Weaponry are currently raising funds to record their début album. To support them check out their Indiegogo account: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/alien-weaponry-debut-album#/
All photos supplied, taken by Lisa Crandall.
Thanks to Niel Hammerhead for setting this up.
I first heard of His Master’s Voice when Mathias Hallberg reviewed Into Orbit’s latest album release show. I had been in the South Island at a sporting event, and came back to Mathias raving about this bluesy band from Auckland.
Needing to make up for missing the show, I made a point of seeing the band next time they visited Wellington, and Mathias was 100% right. They’re damn good.
The band sent me Woman yesterday. I’ve been playing it on repeat non-stop since.
Take the blues and revive them with dosage of danger. Add filthy southern rock riffs. Swirl in a generous serving of Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Drop in a few drugs. And then, amidst the swirling haze, you will find you have produced His Master’s Voice.
They play with such a swagger. Whether laying down a doomy groove, or ripping into a fast-paced swing section, the music is saturated with infectious feel.
My personal favourite is first track, “Burning” – a slow burner with a smooth, rolling riff. That is, until frontman Jesse Sorenson cries out “Come the groove!” And that’s exactly what happens. It all kicks in. If the bass line doesn’t get you moving then wait til the tambourines start ashakin’ and the primal drums kick in. And then, just to send you over the edge, we have a guitar solo.
There is no denying how much Black Sabbath have influenced His Master’s Voice’s sound. The title track on this EP reminds me of “Electric Wizard”. Sorenson channels his inner-Ozzy as he wails over a sweetly picked guitar melody. The rest of the band joins in, and the soaring guitars and organs elevate the music to the next level.
The only problem with Woman is the duration. 20 minutes is not enough! But I’ve been playing it on repeat and I can’t see myself tiring of these songs anytime soon. But honestly, what more do you need? Groovy blues with a heavy edge. Music that will possess you to dance. It’s just fantastic.
His Master’s Blues have pulled it off again, and Woman comes with my highest of recommendations.
Woman is due out digitally on Bandcamp on 1 October 2017, and will also be available through the usual streaming platforms. The CD will be available at the EP release show at The King’s Arms on October 28th.
His Master’s Voice are:
Jesse Sorensen – Vocals and Guitar
Brandon Bott – Bass
Az Burns – Guitar
Renè Harvey – Drums
(Plus Paul Lawrence – Keys on ‘Evil’ and ‘Woman’)
Words and photos by Joseph James
All photos by Joseph James
I faced a difficult decision a few years ago
I was a year into my university studies and hadn’t been able to find much work over the Summer break. I was in the process of opening up a student account at the bank for when I’d need the interest-free overdraft for the upcoming year. I had to take 11 weeks off work that year to do the teacher placements as part of my studies and I couldn’t see any way that I could afford to do that.
So of course AJ Maddah announced the lineup for that years Soundwave festival.
It wasn’t the big names that drew me in. Sure, I’d like to see them, but I didn’t see them as major drawcards. It was some of the lesser known bands that I reeeallly wanted to see. You know, the bands written in tiny writing at the bottom of the poster that you have to squint to read. Like my favourite band: Scottish trio Biffy Clyro. Or Arizona act Jimmy Eat World. Or funk rock titans Living Colour.
There was no way I could afford to attend Soundwave, but there were a few sideshows that could have been viable options.I had friends I could stay with in Melbourne. Biffy Clyro played at The Corner Hotel, where I’d seen hardcore legends Terror play a few years beforehand. Living Colour were to open for Alter Bridge at The Forum. Dipping into the $1000 course related costs I was entitled to became veeeeery tempting.
Financial reason won in the end. Sad face emoji. No trip to Melbourne, no seeing awesome bands.
Buuuuut, I have been fortunate enough to see those three bands since. All at the Auckland Powerstation. And tonight, Living Colour proved that they were worth the wait.
Local quartet Heavy Metal Ninjas came onstage dressed very much like Kora, which isn’t too surprising seeing as the two bands share members. As well as rocking the samurai garb, the two guitarists and bass player all had half face masks that gave off a Kylo Ren vibe. Maybe the drummer didn’t get the memo regarding dress code, choosing to opt for a bogan Jesus look instead.
Their music was sharp technical metal, full of double kick drums, guitar noodling and djenty riffs. They took Steve Vai worship to the next level. I counted 22 strings between the three masked men. As for the drums… well you can never really have enough cymbals can you?
The hard-hitting sci-fi take on instrumental metal delivered blow after pummeling blow, strengthened by the regular inclusion of strong sub bass that made me want to vomit. I’ll give them points for making an impact, and the crowd lapped it up.
Living Colour last visited our shores in 1993. A few people in the audience were rocking t shirts from that tour tonight. I, however, was merely an infant at the time, being born in 1992.
Not that this made a difference. Being one of the younger people in attendance made me feel as if I was in on a special secret.
The band weren’t scared to add a handful of covers to their set; they both opened and closed with a cover, as well as interspersing them throughout the night. Their influences range far and wide: Robert Johnson, Notorious BIG, Junior Murvin, Elvis, The Clash. Both familiar yet new, the songs all worked seamlessly into the set.
Living Colour are well seasoned pros. Their abilities are phenomenal. I don’t say this lightly. They. Can. Play.
The way Corey Glover sung, you wouldn’t know that he has worked those vocal cords hard for over 30 years. Not only is his singing great, but he has such range. He can bark during the thrash numbers. He can scream – you know, rock star style – like in “Hey Jude”. He has speed. I swear that even though I was watching his lips move, my brain couldn’t keep up with how fast he was spitting out words in some songs. And of course, he can do sexy soulful. He wore a paint splattered denim suit with gingham shirt, tie and a feathered hat.
Doug Wimbish was the centre of attention, playing up for the cameras. He may be the newbie in the band, but you’d never pick it. His bass solo was one of the highlights of the night. He played a tune – great in its own right. Then using a looping pedal, he added upon the tune, jamming with himself. His joy was openly visible as he expanded the sound during his solo. He employed various pedals to change his tone – deep, rich bass, higher guitar tones, alien sounds. And if the music wasn’t enough, he started playing with his mouth too. It was a wonder to listen to as he masterfully played his instrument.
Drummer Will Calhoun was just as mesmerising. His two kick drums sported Australian art. The first with a picture of Ayers Rock and a kangaroo, and the second depicting the Aboriginal flag (which looked like a pokéball when cropped into a circle). Situated around him were his many signature drums, cymbals, electronic pads and a large corrugated Hammerax sheet cymbal.
The way he approaches his playing is so outside-the-square that I doubt I’ll ever see another drum solo quite like his. First of all, he’s lightning fast. Living Colour have their thrash metal moments, but I didn’t realise how frenetic a lot of the rest of their works are. And then there’s his experimental side. He discussed it with me when I interviewed him a few weeks back. He takes electric drums and messes with the sound just as a guitarist uses pedals and effects to affect their tone. And on top of all this talent and creativity, he is highly educated in the ways of drumming from cultures worldwide. For me, his drum solo was worth the price of admission alone.
Which leaves Vernon on guitar. The unsung hero. He played the joker, cracking funnies to wind up Corey. He bore the blame when the band made a few mistakes. He referred to himself as the nerd in a band of sexy people. But he is the man responsible for forming Living Colour. And his guitar work is damn amazing. Humbleness is a virtue, but Vernon Reid is more than deserving of an ego.
When you consider the talent, the showmanship, the vibrancy of each of these four men, and realise that Living Colour is more than the sum of its parts, you come to understand that this show is one of those truly amazing nights that surpassed even the wildest expectations. After 30 years, you’d expect them to know how to own a stage. Which they did. The jokes and banter was funny. The music was immersive and compelling. The musicians were genuine. And just to prove it, they all came and met with the fans to take photos and sign merch after the show.
All words and photos by Joseph James
These days Ice-T is likely best known for his acting career, and then his solo rapping career. But his metal side-project Body Count deserves as much recognition – especially after having just released their intense sixth album Bloodlust.
Body Count started as a group of friends interested in heavy music at high school. And they sound mean. They combine gangsta rap mentality with heavy rock and metal music to create an aggressive sound verging on hardcore.
If my description doesn’t sum it up well enough for your liking, then try Ice-T’s explanation, taking from the vocal intro to their cover of Slayer’s “Raining Blood”
” Body Count is a band I put together just to let one of my best friends, Ernie C play his guitar. He’s always been playing guitar, we all went to Crenshaw High School together in South Central Los Angeles. And I had the idea of let’s make a metal band, let’s make a rock band, ’cause I had been to Europe and I noticed that the kids would mosh off of hip-hop. So we put the band together and I used the three bands that were my favourites at the time to set the tone. We used the impending doom of a group like Black Sabbath, who pretty much invented metal; the punk sensibility of somebody like Suicidal, who basically put that gangbanger style from Venice, California into the game; and the speed and the precision of Slayer – one of my favourite groups and always will be. “
Not only do Body Count take inspiration from some of the big names in metal, but they also collaborate with a few of them on this album, including Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, Sepultura’s Max Cavalera and Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe.
As you would expect from that explanation, the music is in-your-face. Tight, fast drums, distorted riffs, squealing solos, and punk-meets-thrash delivered vocals.
The lyrical and thematically content seems contradictory within the album, with Ice-T bragging about criminal activities on one track, whilst protesting black stereotypes on another. I acknowledge that maintaining a tough guy persona is an integral aspect of the band’s image, but I would argue that singing about violence would further perpetuate negative stereotypes. Ice-T tackles issues like racism, poverty, street violence and police brutality, but also paints himself in an intimidating light.
Sure Black Lives Matter is worth acknowledging, but singing that you “gotta get paid the ski mask way” and discussing your thirst for bloodshed is a surefire way to become another statistic at the hands of a trigger happy cop.
Not that this criticism is exclusive to Body Count. Many political charged rappers walk that line between voicing out against injustice and playing to clichéd hiphop conventions of being a drug dealing gang banger.
Body Count use voice to add variety to the tracks. The opening passage on the album features Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine taking on the role of the broadcaster who delivers a faux broadcast from a dystopian president announcing martial law, before delving into a blistering guitar solo. Samples from news clips in “No Lives Matter” paint a picture of how it many young black men are being shot and killed by police in America. Ice-T also switches up his own style, providing monologues to preface a few songs, aping Tom Araya’s bark in the cover of Slayer’s “Raining Blood”, and acting out a bank hold up during the break down of “The Ski Mask Way”.
Bloodlust is a great introduction for those uninitiated to Body Count’s work. The slick production sounds great – especially when compared against the band’s early work from the ’90s. Ice-T gives a few explanations at the start of some tracks, which give insight into how the band came about and what drives them. The music is energetic and tight, and the topics touch on some issues that need to be addressed.
It is a real shame that the braggadocio attitude dilutes the genuine attempts to raise awareness for social issues, but the music and delivery on Bloodlust is killer. Mean metal with real gangsta swagger, loaded with memorable hooks and filled with intensity.