Twelve Foot Ninja
w/ Underside (Nepal), Empire (NZ)
San Fran, Wellington
Friday 20 April 2018
Twelve Foot Ninja
All photos by Joseph James
Twelve Foot Ninja
All photos by Joseph James
Marcos Curiel has lots to be grateful for. He’s the founding guitarist of P.O.D (Payable On Death), the San Diego nu-metal crew formed in 1992 who boast three Grammy nominations and over 12 million record sales. He strikes me as modest, downplaying his achievements and humbly attributing any success he’s had to his fans and “the beauty of music”.
When I ask him about the longevity of his band, he deflects the focus away from the band and towards his fans.
“We are very gracious and thankful for this and to fans that are so loyal. Whether in South America, Europe, here in the states or even Australia or New Zealand. People still come up see us doing our thing and we are still riding that wave until that wave stops.”
But he’s also quick to credit his band members and crew for P.O.D’s success as well.
“I think a lot of it comes from our upbringing – having the same sort of background – basically coming from nothing. And just aspiring to want to play music for people and just doing it, acting out on it and building a following. We were independent before we signed to a major label and kept saying that there was an audience there for what we were doing. It encouraged us to continue to do it and encourages us to keep doing it today even though we are 25, 26 years deep.
“We are definitely a second family on the road. We were basically teenagers when we started jamming together. Now we are full on grown men with kids and families of our own. P.O.D is our second family, you know what I mean? We’re probably together more as a band then we are with our own family sometimes. You know, we travel the world together. We are in an airplane, we’re in a bus… we are always travelling together as a band and with our crew”
Curiel is also a fan of New Zealand, having come several times in the past decade. Last time they co-headlined with NZ act Rapture Ruckus. Before that they’ve toured with Disturbed and played Edgefest. He begins the interview just gushing about our country.
“Given the opportunity, if I had to leave the states and go somewhere else to live and I always say New Zealand. . . Maybe I could even retire there.”
In recent years P.O.D have tried new directions, putting out an acoustic record (SoCal Sessions, 2014), and a concept album (The Awakening, 2015). I ask if the latest single, “Soundboy Killa” will be part of any upcoming album and Curiel admits that he isn’t sure at this stage.
“Well that is kind of a transitional single kind of thing We put that kind of to let our fanbase know that hey we’re working on new music, we’re still here – you know what I mean? I don’t even know if that’s going to make the record. Some people are like ‘That should go on the record!’, and we’re like ‘well… you never know…’ We’ll figure it out.
“Actually, we just signed a new deal with Mascot Labels. And they’ve taken us on, and hopefully releasing the new album in the summertime here in the States. We’re currently writing and working on pre-production which started in November. We were in the studio last week and we’re working through December, but we’re taking time off for holidays and we’re going to jump back in in January and head on tour here in the States. And jump back in and hopefully record that record in March and drop it in the summer.
“It’s been pretty cool, because we usually get one producer to do the whole record and on this album we’re working with different producers and different production crews. We’re working with HEAVY – they’ve done stuff with Sublime, The Dirty Heads. .. Just a bunch of different artists. And we’re working with Cameron Webb – he’s produced NOFX, Pennywise, Motorhead… He’s actually the producer of Soundboy Killer.
“We’re just trying different things, man. We’re at a stage in our career that we don’t really have to go out and say ‘hey, look at us, we’re a band.’ You know who we are and you either like us or you don’t. We have freedom to be able to experiment and do what we want, how we want to do it. Which, quite frankly, is pretty awesome.”
One interesting fact about P.O.D that draws attention is that they collaborated with the then-unknown Katy Perry for their song “Goodbye For Now” back in 2005. This remains a seemingly hot piece of trivia, despite the fact that the band have also collaborated with many other artists from acts like In This Moment, Suicidal Tendencies and Bad Brains.
Curiel wasn’t part of the band during that period, so never actually met her. He tells me what he knows about the collaboration though.
“They were working with Glen Ballard for Testify and she was one of his protegés – so to speak – that he was trying to get up and get out there in the scene. She was always hanging around the studio and wanted to go on a track. The guys became friends with her and she actually performed on the song on The Jay Leno Show, I believe. That’s how that all came to be. She will occasionally tweets about the band, tweet out how much she loves ‘Alive’ and certain songs. That’s pretty cool.”
POD are known as a Christian band, which earns them flack from both atheists and churches. In my experience, non-believers are often quick to condemn anyone of faith. And many conservative churches dismiss POD because of the company they choose to keep, playing along the likes of Marylin Manson and at metal festivals such as Ozzfest.
Marcos virtually scoffs when I ask him about this. “Do you know what’s crazy about that? I call it scenester stuff,” he explains, “I know vegans who are in hardcore bands, and I’m like, so what… you’re only gong to play with hardcore vegan bands? No, they’re playing with all different types of bands – you know what I’m saying?
I understand, I explain, my friends in Declaration AD used to get similar criticism. People would question their motives, asking things like “Why would a band of Christians choose to play alongside death metal bands? This strikes a chord with Curiel. He proceeds to explain that he tries to write music for all walks of life, not just Christians.
“Christian people maybe want to hold themselves to be the poster children, but that’s not what we’re called to do. We want to write music that inspires everybody. And so we took an approach that we’ll play most of the shows, because we want to play for everybody.
“But as far as being caught in the middle – we don’t look at it like that. We are a band of faith. Definitely we have our personal beliefs. We try to write music that connects with multiple cultures and different types of people.
“I think that’s the beautiful thing about being an artist. There’s people who are gonna understand your art, and some that won’t. The thing is, we’ve never really tried to become, at an early age we were a little more – so to speak – old in the faith. We never knew there was metal, or punk rock or any kind of scene that was a Christian scene. The band that we referred to as a major influence was U2. We’ve always look at them as inspiration. They had Christian roots and have written songs that are very conscient of humanity, or being positive in general, and we’re taken that approach – obviously playing a different style of music.
“And when we went to Singapore we found ourselves playing in front of Muslims. And they were singing ‘Alive’! And we were like ‘What the heck!’, we were tripping out at it. But at the same time, that’s the beautiful thing about music – it’s universal.
“What we get our inspiration and a lot of our confidence. First of all, it comes from that Chrstian faith, but we don’t go out and say ‘Hey, we’re this and that’s who we are.’ We’re just a rock band, man, that wants to inspire . We have our struggles and try to write songs about those struggles and we try to encourage all walks of life.
“The Beastie Boys, towards the end of their career they all about Free Tibet, and Jay was a Buddist, and they were playing with everybody, from Pearl Jam to Jane’s Addiction.
“You know how it is. Music should be universal. People have certain beliefs that drive their music, and that just happens to be ours.”
I feel that the way he concludes the interview is incredibly indicative of his character: positive and humble.
“We’re excited to get down there. We love your country and everything about the culture – the energy – and we cant wait to get down there and perform. Bring some Southern California vibes down there!”
Saturday 14 April Auckland The Studio
Sunday 15 April Wellington San Fran
Buy tickets for New Zealand: https://metropolistouring.com/pod-nz/
Tuesday 17 April Melbourne 170 Russell
Wednesday 18 April Adelaide The Gov
Friday 20 April Sydney Factory Theatre
Saturday 21 April Brisbane Eatons Hill Hotel
Sunday 22 April Gold Coast Coolangatta Hotel
Buy tickets for Australia: https://metropolistouring.com/pod/
Photos by Joseph James
Recently, when browsing through my emails, I opened the newsletter from German label Pelagic Records. Imagine my surprise when I saw that they’d signed Wellington act Spook The Horses! Win for local music!
Now to be honest, I’m never been a big Spook The Horses fan. I cam appreciate what they do, but the heavy roaring often put me off. But their set tonight has completely made me reconsider. They are incredible!
They had some screens free-standing on stage, with a projector shining images onto the screens. The new music sounded mellow and sparse, with pleasant singing in place of roaring. In my head I started to compare their new sound to the likes of Blueneck and softer Opeth.
The band slowly started in increase the intensity, finishing the set with some of their older material. It was an interesting evolution, from ephemeral music with nice singing, to heavy post-metal with roaring. And because the transition seemed so gradual, I not only warmed to the roaring, but really got into it. Tell you what, I was thoroughly impressed! The drums sounded especially thunderous, so props to the sound guy.
Rosetta have recently come off a month-long US tour. I recently came back from touring across a America with a band as well, so I can understand the immense scale of where they went. Philadelphia is on the east coast, a few hours drive south from New York City. Their tour was mostly in the west coast region. That’s a long way from home.
And now they’re in New Zealand, which is almost as far as they can get from home. Speaking to Mike (vocals) before the show, he told me how the response in Asia and Australia on this current tour has been unbelievable. By the sounds of things, it feels more rewarding playing in foreign countries because people make the effort to see bands that don’t have the opportunity to play those places as often.
Clearly all that touring has helped them mesh as a band, because they are one helluva unit! Seriously tight, and delivering blow after blow of intensity. Rosetta’s latest album, Utopioid, is a dynamic exploration of musical textures and timbre. Tonight they brought those textures to life, pummeling us with searing riffs and busy beats.
Mike was a brilliant front man. Funnily enough, most of the bands I’ve seen in recent months haven’t had singers, and the ones that do usually have the singers playing guitar. It felt special to see a vocalist freed up to move around without an instrument to restrict him.
One of the most vital aspects of putting on a show is energy. It’s the difference between listening to an album and home, or seeing the band play it live. Seeing guitarists throw themselves around and flick their hair about, seeing drummers beat their kit into submission, seeing singers draw us in to sing along – that’s what it’s all about. And you can see from my photos, Rosetta brought their music to life. You could feel the energy.
Admittedly, I’d been apprehensive about a Tuesday night show. I’ve been worn-out recently, and I knew a late night wouldn’t do my body any favours.
As it turns out, the opposite is true. Not only did I have a fantastic time watching two brilliant bands, but I feel revitalised. There is something to be said for exposing yourself to things that inspire you. I just want to sit down at my drum set and smash something out, to create something new and exciting.
Rosetta made a point of touring extensively after writing their most recent album. This is their first time in New Zealand. And I’m grateful that they came this far, because it has been rewarding for everyone involved.
Words and photos by Joseph James
Philadelphia post-metallers Rosetta have recently released their sixth album entitled Utopioid [Will Not Fade review here] – a portmanteau of Utopia and Opioid. Utopioid is a concept album composed of four distinct sections that explore the extremes of texture and dynamic. It is also the band’s third independent release, offered for pay-what-you-want on Bandcamp. This is an interesting move in the current age of streaming, but the band not only recouped recording costs, but also achieved top-selling status on Bandcamp.
Believing Utopioid to be an album worth hearing live, Rosetta just underwent an extensive tour across North America. After a short break, they will embark on another tour throughout Asia and Oceania in a month.
Will Not Fade’s Joseph James chatted with guitarist Eric Jernigan about the album, the band’s philosophy, and touring.
Eric Jernigan: Thank you! This is the first time everyone opened his contributions to direct criticism from another. As always the primary focus was to create something that spoke to us as individuals. But we also learned that each one of us does better work in collaboration, challenging as that process may have been at times.
With the four parts of the album, did you write each separate section in sequence, or did you write everything and then arrange them by mood? Because this album is cyclical, so I was wondering about the order it was written in.
We dedicated certain blocks of time to each movement, but if the creative fire went dark for a certain section we allowed ourselves to explore new ideas or tweak existing songs based on what we were in the mood for. Can’t waste time after all.
Does coming up with a concept make writing music easier or harder?
I think musically speaking many concept albums are born haphazardly and later sequenced to fit the story at the artist’s convenience. We avoided that by drawing the map for the concept shortly after we finished the first song structure, and we stuck to it religiously. It made certain aspects of writing feel more cumbersome, but we know it produced our strongest work to date.
Tone, texture and timbre are clearly important to you. What are some ways you try to achieve these things?
I’ve found lately that purposefully limiting the number of tools at my disposal can force some extra creativity to the surface.
To continue that discussion of collaboration, who’s idea was it to create the remixes of your songs included on A Dead-Ender’s Reunion? How does it feel hearing someone else’s take on music you wrote?
We’ve been friends with Will Benoit (Living Phantoms) for many years and deeply admire his work as both a producer and a songwriter. It’s a real treat to hear your music filtered through the mind of a respected peer.
With the recent record, you stressed that this was worth hearing live, and have tried to tour it more widely. Is it hard living on the road so much?
As long as we remain cognizant of the privilege inherent in sharing our music with audiences around the world it’s not hard. No one likes operating on minimal sleep for 30 days straight or sitting upright in a van for hours on end, but the reward is worth the effort.
How was the American tour you just finished?
It helped remind us we live in an unbelievably beautiful country. We found a few hours to visit Yellowstone National Park on a cold day in late October and saw a bunch of geysers, a herd of bison, and a pack of wolves. And then of course we ruminated on the crushing power of the supervolcano lurking beneath us.
What are you expecting from the upcoming Asia/Australia/NZ tour? You’ve chosen a good time of year as we are coming into summer.
It’s been 5 years since we were in Australia and all the rest of the territory is brand new for us. Couldn’t be more excited. Hoping as always to find extra time to meet interesting people and check out whatever sights we can manage.
sleepmakewaves are opening for you in Australia, and Spook The Horses in NZ. They are strong bands, and I actually thought sleepmakeswaves showed up This Will Destroy you when I saw them play together once [Review]. What is your process for choosing support acts?
Actually we’re the support for sleepmakeswaves in Australia, so we built the rest of the tour around that. Spook the Horses have been on our radar thanks to Robin from The Ocean and Pelagic Records, so we were stoked when our NZ agent suggested them. In general we aim to travel with bands who push music somewhere new and hope to make friends along the way.
I recently attended dunk!festival in Vermont, where Pelican and Junius were among the top billing acts. One thing I noticed is that they appear to have more cross appeal than many other bands who played the festival because they cross from post-metal through to doom/sludge territory. But then there was also Russian Circle, who don’t have vocals, and still have managed to achieve similar success. I realise that when Rosetta formed, the idea of post-rock/post-metal wasn’t so prevalent, but do you think that including vocals affects how accessible you are as a band?
To be honest accessibility has never been among our goals so we don’t spend much time thinking about it. Many of our friends in prominent instrumental bands receive unsolicited offers from random singers no one’s ever heard of: “Hey, obviously you left out vocals because you just haven’t found the right front person yet.” Likewise I’m sure there’s a contingency of people who’d prefer we didn’t incorporate screamed and/or sung vocals. Truth is none of that has any bearing on what we create.
After parting with Translation Loss Records, all your albums have been released independently. Talk me through that decision. How does staying independent compare to the option of re-signing to a label?
Translation Loss is a great label that helped us out immensely over the years. Independence simply gives us a more direct line to our listeners and vice versa. We value that connection.
If you were to give advice to a band starting out, would you still recommend the DIY route?
There’s no other way for a young band as far as I know!
When you first decided to offer your music at a pay-what-you-want price, did you expect to earn enough to cover recording costs? Has this helped you gain more exposure?
No, there was a lot of trepidation within the band on the eve of the release of The Anaesthete. We’re lucky to have a wide-ranging group of supporters who understand that music and art are valuable. I doubt it’s helped us gain more exposure, but who’s to say?
How does it feel to have gained best-selling status on Bandcamp?
We are immensely proud of that achievement. Again, we owe that honor to our fan base for their contributions.
Bandcamp offers different formats like FLAC and WAV, and I noted that you recently re-uploaded Utopioid at a higher res.. Do you care about how people access your music (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play etc…)?
For me the idea of caring about how people access our music is tantamount to exploring how people devote their attention to the consumption of music in general. If caring means I wish people would actively listen to our records rather than stream them from Youtube while reading pointless articles online, then yes. But I also recognize music serves different purposes for everyone.
Do many people still buy the physical albums when they are made available? Is there still a demand of supposedly outdated media like cassette tapes?
Yeah, with each album we expect more digital and less physical but demand for CDs and vinyl is actually increasing. We manufactured a small run of cassettes for Utopioid and have been psyched to see them selling through our Bandcamp page and at shows.
I see that you have offered bonus tracks on a few albums for the Japanese editions. Now that the internet opens up access to a global audience, do you feel that you still have separate markets based on location?
That’s a good question. For the most part I think the internet has effectively leveled things in that respect. Nonetheless, it’s tradition in Japan to have some bonus material on a CD. So far we’ve always had the extra tracks around so it’s fun to release them with a great label like Tokyo Jupiter.
Rosetta has been around for 14 years now. How does being in a band now compare to back when you started?
As you might expect the responsibilities of life outside the band weigh a little heavier these days. Luckily the balance is manageable for the most part.
29/11 Kaohsiung TW – Paramount Bar
30/11 Taichung TW – Sound Live House
01/12 Taipei TW – Revolver
02/12 Singapore SG – Analog Factory
03/12 Kuala Lumpur MY – Rumah Api
05/12 Perth WA – Badlands
06/12 Adelaide SA – UniBar
07/12 Melbourne VIC – Howler
08/12 Brisbane QLD – The Zoo
09/12 Sydney NSW – Oxford Art Factory
12/12 Wellington NZ – Valhalla
13/12 Auckland NZ – Ding Dong Lounge
15/12 Launceston TAS – Greenwood Bar
16/12 Hobart TAS – Brisbane Hotel