Fresh from their national tour with the legendary Fear Factory and recent praise from the likes of Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Dino Cazares (Fear Factory), Wolf Van Halen (Van Halen/Tremonti), Misha Mansoor (Periphery) and the folks at Soundwave, genre-bending five-piece Twelve Foot Ninja will bring their sharpened live show to Australian venues this August, September and October for their last homeland tour before heading to Europe, USA, and Canada – where they will undoubtedly become utterly huge. Check out the dates here.They’ve gone from strength to strength since the release of their critically acclaimed debut album Silent Machine in late 2012, recently breaking a world record for the highest amount crowdfunded for a music video. While the massive production for that video is currently underway, Twelve Foot Ninja have released a brand new tour scrapbook video for new single Shuriken, documenting on-tour experiences of the past 12 months. And here it is:
And here’s an excerpt of a chat I had with guitarist Steve “Stevic” Mackay for Mixdown magazine recently:
How on earth do you manage to maintain consistency from song to song or from section to section with so much going on?
It’s often harder than it seems, hahaha! But that’s what sort of drives me, personally. I love flipping things on their head and somehow not making it too abrasive – or making it totally abrasive, depending on what the desired effect is. The vocals and harmonies sew the patchwork together with a constant thread.
What was the recording process like for the album?
I’d be lying if I said it was just sick from start to finish. It was definitely quite tumultuous. We kind of recorded it twice, which was pretty annoying! Just different processes… the way we write, we wrote a lot of it in the studio. We had a framework and it drastically altered, while other songs were more comprehensive from start to finish before we got in there. It was a very non-traditional way to record an album, which frustrated the engineer we were working with initially because he was used to working with jazz musos in indie bands and stuff where they write their songs, rehearse it, get in a room and punch it out over a couple of days. But for us it was a full-on process.”
Guitar nerd talk. So who are your guitar heroes?
I really like Tommy Emmanuel. He was the dude that really inspired me and I learned a lot of his songs when I was younger, because they were very dynamic and technical. I never got into Steve Vai and those kind of dudes but I really like Guthrie Govan. He’s one of the most proficient contemporary guitar players on the planet. He plays so many styles and he does it with so much skill. I like Django Reinhardt, Pat Martino… anything that’s a bit different. I’m not huge on a lot of jazz but there’s some that I just love to death. I guess I’ve got fairly specific tastes, which could sometimes be said as narrowminded, but to have a filter enables me to do what I do with the band, to go ‘That’s out… that’s in.’ So to be excited about what I like, I see that as a benefit.
What gear are you using?
Live I play all Line 6 gear. I use a James Tyler Variax 89 US, which is pretty unusual. I haven’t seen many guys playing them in Australia. I use that because of the drastic tuning and rig changes. I can change it from a Strat to an acoustic guitar to a kind of seven or eight string configuration. But I’ve actually got an endorsement with Paul Reed Smith guitars. I love those guitars – the look, the feel, the sound of them. But predominantly a lot of the stuff I’ve been doing is the Variax. I’m trying to get a hyrbid with a Variax brain. Other than that, I use a Line 6 POD HD500 and that’s it! I keep it pretty simple. On a completely nerdy topic, I upgraded the POD firmware, which has individual string tuning in the actual unit, but there’s a bug which creates a slight click when you change patches, so I had to roll back the firmware. And there was a bug with the tuning where you’d go to switch to another patch and it’d forget what tuning you’d set, which is kind of hilarious when you’re playing an eight-string type tuning and it’d come out as some kind of Nashville or bloody banjo tuning or something!