Be kind to one another,” instructs the message at the end of Twelve Foot Ninja’s latest video, ‘Ain’t That A Bitch’. Guitarist Stevic Mackay says there’s another message there as well.
“Don’t fuck with us,” he laughs.
Melbourne’s epic genre mashers have always enjoyed extreme opposites – in their music, their visuals, and their message. Listen to ‘Ain’t That A Bitch’ and you’ll get a good idea of what they’re about: hard rock, bossa nova organs and crooning pop vocals all share space in a song that’s either about a relationship or a murderous revenge against an internet troll.
“Trolling used to be harmless, funny even,” Mackay says of the inspiration behind the clip. “But it’s gotten personal and dark. It’s become a serious issue for people who don’t have positivity in their lives. So our clip is a little reaction against that.”
The band famously raised a record destroying $52,000 through crowdfunding site Pozible to film the music video which features martial arts, comic book effects, an actual troll and probably a metric tonne of fake blood. “It’s not an instructional video,” laughs Mackay. “But it was fun to live that fantasy.” (Seriously, just watch it.)
So how does a band get away with such an eclectic mix of sounds and media in today’s instant industry? “We started this band with an idea for musical freedom,” says Mackay. “We’d probably get bored if we just did the one thing forever.”
We’re in a time when musicians taking risks in sound and image are rare. Many acts tread the same ground as those preceding them in order to assure their safety in a fickle industry. But Twelve Foot Ninja could never be accused of just playing it safe.
“A lot of people will only support what has been validated by the mainstream,” explains Mackay. “So it can be hard to make a career by doing exactly what you wanna do. But if you try to keep ingenuitive, and think outside the box, you open yourself up to a million more opportunities.”
Opportunities such as Twelve Foot Ninja’s 12-page comic book – one page per song, released a week at a time in the build-up to the release of their 2012 debut album, Silent Machine. A pretty ballsy move. Who does that? Twelve Foot Fucking Ninja, that’s who. “The comic was something I wanted to do from the beginning,” says Mackay.
All this adds up to make something more than just a rock band – Twelve Foot Ninja are a multimedia experience. Fans can now engage with these musicians through music, film and print in a way that most other bands don’t allow.
“We’ve tried to create a bigger world through our songs and clips. An ongoing story for people to follow. And taking it to the comic page was just the next step.”
And the next next step is the tour. Right now, the band is taking its van around the country in support of the album and the latest single. And with all this talk of trolls and comic books, how exactly does a Twelve Foot Ninja gig play out?
“High-energy,” Mackay laughs. “Real high-energy. Eventually, we’d like to get to a place where we can bring the comic stuff and the video visuals into the show as well. But for now, we just wanna keep smashing it.”