Twelve Foot Ninja’s Stevic MacKay Says Culture Shift Is Both Progressive + Regressive
Twelve Foot Ninja guitarist Stevic MacKay was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The band's new album, Vengeance, coincides with both a novel and graphic novel to tell an original, conceptual story of the origins of the band's name based on the fictitious protagonist.
With plenty of time to execute this grand vision amid a pandemic lockdown, the group made excellent utilization of this unusual break from touring and the regular grind of being in a band.
They even based a music video for the song "Start the Fire" around the Joker film and MacKay explained the tie-in and, expounding further, noted that society has now shifted toward attributing the characteristics of individuals to entire groups of people, which he found to be a lazy type of assessment.
Read the full interview below.
It's been several years since the last Twelve Foot Ninja album. What was the timeline of writing and recording Vengeance, including the disruption of last year?
We wrote it in a strange and impractical way [laughs] — it's not really conducive to being prolific in terms of output, but we actually wrote a lot of songs and then we stopped. Some songs were left over from the previous album when we were writing new ones. We trashed a whole bunch of stuff and whittled it down.
The COVID thing has definitely been interesting in terms of how to release music. A lot of artists were trying to navigate this unusual obstacle and we moved into other content creation in the meantime.
I usually just say we record under the ocean and that's what takes so long. I think some part of me wishes I played grunge and that I just stuck with my like of Nirvana and kept that vibe going — to create [and be] clever takes ages.
There's a multimedia component to the new album, including video gaming, a novel and a graphic novel. What's challenging about composing music as the basis for such comprehensive storytelling?
It's just a bunch of different disciplines to write a graphic novel, a novel and music. They're all completely different skill sets. Being able to be true to the different art forms and do them concurrently is probably the challenge.
The video for "Long Way Home" is weird, absurd and fun. In what ways does giving music such an alternate context enhance its meaning and impact?
That video is such an assault on the senses, I'm not sure if it helps [laughs]. A lot of people watch that video and need therapy afterwards.When you back it up with a visual thing, it becomes more of an immersive experience, so I think music videos are kind of the equivalent of body language. When people are speaking, it adds other context and is another sort of channel of communication. That's what makes it cool, but it can hinder things as well. It can help or hinder, depending [on the circumstances].
Twelve Foot Ninja, "Long Way Home" Music Video
Let's talk about the song, "Start the Fire." It takes inspiration from Joker, the 2019 film starring Joaquin Phoenix. What aspects of yourself and your audience did you recognize in the movie?
I think a lot of people who really responded to that film recognized what can happen to an individual if they are pushed to the extent that the character in that film was. I personally could relate to it.
It's a pretty weird world that we're living in at the moment and I think there's a real preoccupation with attributing individual characteristics to entire groups. It's lazy branding that goes on and a lot of the individualism is getting rubbed away. A lot of our audience seems to be likeminded in that regard and it's something that feels prevalent in this entire album — some commentary about the current state of affairs and how our culture is shifting. In one way, it's progressive and really kicking goals and then aggressive and regressive and tribal. I don't know if that is too deep, but that's kind of in the ballpark.
Twelve Foot Ninja, "Start the Fire"
During pandemic lockdown, Twelve Foot Ninja covered Huey Lewis and the News. Why are heavy bands willing to embrace unlikely genres of music now more than ever before?
I honestly can't speak on behalf of heavy bands, I've just always loved Huey Lewis and our singer had constantly used the American Psycho jab. I hadn't seen that movie until recently. It was one of those weird hit films I just never saw, so there's no correlation.
I just genuinely like Huey Lewis. I think it stems back to Back to the Future and that album Sports... when it came out with just had so many hits on it. I really respect the guy, so it's an honest, genuine connection.
Twelve Foot Ninja, "Stuck With You" (Huey Lewis and the News cover)
Thanks to Stevic MacKay for the interview. Get your copy of Twelve Foot Ninja's new album 'Vengeance' here and follow the band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.