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INTERVIEW – Stevic McKay – Twelve Foot Ninja, August 2013

| 11 September 2013 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

Twelve Foot Ninja have an epic film clip almost set to drop and an Australian tour just started, so it was high time we sat down to talk about the crowd funding campaign for the video that raised a record $52,000 in just 28 days, and Stevic McKay took a break from his guitar and editing the clip for just long enough to give us a pretty good summary of the Twelve Foot Ninja plans for world domination.

An edited version of this story was published in X-Press Magazine’s 27 August 2013 issue

Twelve Foot Ninja 01
100% ROCK MAG: Hey Stevic, thanks for your time today. Fantastic result!

Stevic: Yes, definitely! It’s been a very rewarding few months I suppose.

100% ROCK MAG: First of all, why Pozible, rather than Kickstarter or PledgeMusic or one of the other mobs?

Stevic: Well Kickstarter you need an American bank account – or it did when we were researching it. So that kind’ve ruled that one out. Kickstarter would be the most obvious choice – they are the biggest existing community and there’s a different culture on Kickstarter ‘cos they actually get involved – they just look for stuff to support. It’s kind of a different culture. Whereas Pozible and crowd funding in Australia I think is more about having a vehicle or a facilitator to service an existing fanbase. And I think that’s possibly where some bands are going wrong. In that they’re assuming there’s a culture but there’s not. Not yet anyway – hopefully that changes. It’s less about a conscious thought and more just a by-product that the population just isn’t there and it hasn’t existed in Australia long enough for people to get on it. And you know, I think a lot of the projects being supported in Kickstarter, the Australian contribution is for video games and stuff like that, where it’s more like purchasing a product.

100% ROCK MAG: Yeahhhh… I think the crowd funding thing is fantastic for 80’s or 90’s cult artists who have that die-hard fanbase, not enough to warrant a major label investing in them, but they can easily – for want of a better word – ‘easily’, raise the $50 grand to make another album. But for a new band like yourself it’s a bit harder but I think you have a really good point about the community aspect to Pozible

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Stevic: In terms of why we chose Pozible rather than PledgeMusic – I didn’t answer that one. Pozible basically in the beginning offered us a little bit more hands on support, and that’s why we went with them. But I think, I came out of it… I don’t have anything more to say about who to go with. I think it’s more about bringing your own… the question I suppose is, is your fanbase dedicated enough to contribute to what you’re intending to do? And that’s the difference between succeeding and failing, I think. The only reason we went of it in this regard is that the clips seem to be a big part of what bonds us to our fanbase – they really like the clips. ‘When are we gonna see another clip?’ and that sort of thing. So we were able to put it into perspective with the cost of it… ‘cos there’s nothing that really directly creates gain for us. You know, you hear a lot of the negative portrayal of crowd funding is it’s glamourised charity – which is inaccurate, but I think creating a product that is purely for the hell of it – it’s not going to line our pockets in any way, I think people dig that, when they know it’s just a collaborative thing – we’re contributing to this, we get something back hopefully proportionate somewhat to our subjective view of value, and at the end of it we get something that we were a part of and we can share it around!

100% ROCK MAG: Not being negative, but surely $52 grand – that would pay for you to go record a new album. Is it sensible to spend that sort of money on a music video clip nowadays which, as you said, doesn’t directly generate income fro the band?

Stevic: Absolutely not. [laughs heartily]. But I think that’s partly, I dunno, I go a bit kamikaze with that shit -because it’s not sensible makes me wanna do it! You know, it WOULD pay for an album. That’s for sure, but I think it’s – that’s okay, ‘cos I don’t think it’s government funding and there’s a very finite amount in the pool and we’ve just scooped it out and we’re gonna piss it up against the wall with a music video. I see it more like, if people didn’t want to see that, we wouldn’t be talking about why it worked – we’d be saying why it didn’t work, ‘cos we wanted so much money to just make a music video. So I think it’s a good point that you raise and if you look at it like there’s a very limited amount of funds and you look at it from the cookie jar kind of angle, then I think it is probably a misuse of money in that way. But on the flipside its, wouldn’t it be cool to see something like that from an independent band? To put it in perspective, The Living End spent, I think in the early days, like 180 grand on their clips. Filmclips cost shitloads of money – they cost so much more than albums. There’s just so much more involved. When I say that I don’t mean to generalise, because you can make a brilliant film clip for a thousand bucks, but if you want multiple locations, and you wanna have action and have props and all that sort of stuff, and create that elaborate sort of vision, then there’s no way to avoid spending tens of thousands of dollars. And I can say that with authority, because I absolutely pulled epic favours from everyone who worked on the clip and the band still put ten grand of our own money into it to make sure that it happens, and that was after we got the crowd funding thing. We just kept looking at the budget, and saying we have to do more, we have to get it happening. Whether or not it’s worth it at the end will be up to everyone who sees the clip, but it’s been – it’s gonna be fucking crazy, yeah!

Twelve Foot Ninja Stevic

100% ROCK MAG: [laughs] I wanna talk about the video in a minute, but firstly, one more question about the campaign. It’s a bit of a risk isn’t it – you guys obviously invested a bit of money and time upfront in the campaign video, you look like you had a lot of fun doing that…

Stevic: Yes!

100% ROCK MAG: …storyboarding it all and shooting a couple of scenes – that must have been a fairly big investment in terms of time at least?

Stevic: Yeah well I can be honest and say it’s pretty much absorbed four months of my life this year, of nothing but working on that. It’s scary in a way – you have to really back yourself. I mean, imagine if we’d failed – how embarrassing!

100% ROCK MAG: Well, exactly, yeah!

Stevic: To have roped Periphery in, to have got this penthouse to shoot these scenes and to pay for that. To do that video, to put out such a bold figure and for the whole thing to come crashing down – I mean, that’s an epic failure! That’s a huge… I don’t know how you recover from that sort of shit. But I just had a feeling that this was within the realms of possibility and you know, the rest is history I suppose!

100% ROCK MAG: Well look at you now – talking to the country’s media – so it’s gotta be worth it in publicity alone?

Stevic: Well that’s another side of it too. Because it… I think you nailed it earlier when you asked if it was sensible. Because it ISN’T sensible – so it’s interesting!

Twelve Foot Ninja 03

100% ROCK MAG: [laughs] That sums up so many Friday nights over the years!

Stevic: EXACTLY!! [laughs] Sometimes the shit that’s not logical from a pragmatic point of view ends up being the coolest shit to do! Yeah I’m just feeling confident enough to say I think we made the right decision. And you know, to be fair, I said that you can’t sell a film clip but it brings a lot of publicity and if the clip is kick arse and people love it, it’s gonna go viral on the internet and a lot more people are gonna see Twelve Foot Ninja. It’s gonna be a polarising concept – it’s actually going to appeal to more mainstream media because it does touch on the cyber bullying and that worst of world, even though we do deal with it in the clip in the more sort of horrific, violent kind of way. In no means are we condoning… it’s not an instructional video! It’s just something that raises the conversation at least of ‘why did they choose to do that. Why that subject or theme?’ And ironically the guy who plays the internet troll has been bullied extensively himself. He’s a bigger fella, and now he’s a stand up comedian, you know, he’s experienced bullying and all that sort of shit. I think – it might be idealistic, but I do actually feel strongly about this issue. I think we’ve evolved beyond it, on the internet. I think internet trolling will dissipate, because more people will be less affected by the words of internet trolls and have more sympathy for them, because to be an internet troll is evidence of mental impairedness, as far as I’m concerned! You’ve got issues if you’re lashing out to the extent that causes kids to hang themselves and shit.

100% ROCK MAG: Absolutely!

Stevic: Yeah and just to raise that conversation, I think it’s a good thing. Anyway… we didn’t make the video to do any beauty pageant speeches or anything, we did it because it’s kind of a Quentin Tarantino fantastical reaction to what a lot of bands experience. Periphery especially have been trolled hardcore – Spencer, the vocalist, cops unbelievable shit on the internet all the time, so yeah, I think a lot of bands will see this and get some quiet satisfaction with how it goes down.

100% ROCK MAG: I was gonna ask – your musical style is very eclectic, and really hard to pigeonhole – which I think , personally – is a really good thing. But has that brought a lot of haters out against you guys?

Stevic: Yeah I think… I mean, it’s only since we’ve started getting a lot of airplay in America – you’ll see people on forums lash out and often they say ‘it’s gay’ – which is completely backwards to begin with! But I think that’s just because it’s not hardcore – I think more open minded people kind’ve appreciate what we’re trying to do, and they dig it, they appreciate it. So you get more of that than the negativity, but I definitely think it’s a good sign to me – with any different, I mean, what’s the usual bone headed reaction to anything different? Its people condemn it. I think I can make a distinction between people who genuinely don’t like it, and people who are too confronted by it and just can’t wrap their head around it, so they go ‘it’s fucked’. I think there’s actually a difference – ‘cos a lot of people will actually listen to it and say ‘ah, it’s not my cup of tea’ and move on, but the ones that are so passionate on some of those boards – I just think it’s really interesting to know what’s driving that passion. I mean – who cares? You either like it or you don’t! Do you like scones? No, it’s just not a fucking thing to get all passionate about, you know. Anyway – I like watching it all, I turn into a bit of a weird voyeur, just sort of monitoring people, and just how they sort of deceive us. Like, it fascinates me – it is weird.

100% ROCK MAG: You’ve got a… the band, looking at your video clips and campaign video, you’ve obviously got a pretty keen sense of humour…

Twelve Foot Ninja - Silent Machine CD

Stevic: [laughs]

100% ROCK MAG:…how do you think that’s going to translate overseas?

Stevic: Ah… you’ve got some good questions – that’s a really good one, ‘cos it has been a concern that we didn’t want to be mistaken for a joke band. You know, a band that puts the humour first. I’ve actually had one guy who has said to me, ‘I thought you were a bunch of session dudes that just got together and made some wacky shit – cos who in their right mind would actually do THAT?’ [laughs] And I sort of loved that in a sort of self deprecating kinda way. I think how we get around that, I think it’s, again, I’m just going to stick to my guns in the sense that hopefully we’re paving a bit of a different path. Not one that hasn’t been paved heaps before – many times by many bands – but people tend to go the safe option and I think there’s a preoccupation with looking good. And that’s open to interpretation from many different angles, but bands want to play it safe. In pictures they want to look off into the distance, one dude’s got his knee up, all that shit…it just gets so old, like ‘that’s not how people are!’

The rockstar ideology is dead. It’s so old – it’s a revolving door that’s fucking fallen off it’s hinges. It just doesn’t fly any more. Longevity doesn’t come from being a fucking idiot and getting wasted every night. You just won’t survive, that’s a very short term mission. And I think that imagery and seriousness of how you should behave, and all of that kind of stuff goes hand in hand. Ironically I guess it’s more of an old school punk attitude, that we’re just gonna do what it is we do – and hopefully people will have the bandwidth to delve a bit deeper than seeing a clip and thinking ‘okay, they’re having fun and making jokes, so therefore they are a joke…?’ I dunno, I reckon… we’ve come up against that with American press, but I reckon we take all that side of things seriously. With the clips, I reckon you’ve gotta have fun! Ricky Gervais nailed it when he said ‘Nobody wants to see a good looking, skinny comedian.’ From my point of view, how boring is it to just see the same old shit, you know? Anyway, it’s philosophical – maybe next time we’re be wearing makeup and we’ll be a goth band and be totally serious? [both laugh]

100% ROCK MAG: I’ll remind you of that when you stop making clips where you’re all GI Joe Ninja wannabes and you put on a big long wig and shoot a guitar solo off the top of a cliff, shot by helicopter! I’m looking forward to that!!

Stevic: [laughs] Hey that’s actually sounding pretty tight! Well, I’ve always wanted to kick a door down while taking a guitar solo, that is a dream of mine! You know though, one thing we haven’t done is the ninja thing, so funny you should mention that. I have thought of a few clip concepts that delve into that world a little more. You know the problem with doing that, and the reason why I’ve been apprehensive doing it, is that if you’re going to do it, you have to NAIL the shit out of it – otherwise it’s just so cheesy it’s unbelievable! Ninjas and white dudes – it’s fraught with danger! So I’ve sort of backed away from that so far.

Twelve Foot Ninja 04

100% ROCK MAG: I suppose I should ask a serious question or we’ll end up talking about videos all afternoon! So, relocating to Europe – is that the masterplan, to base yourself overseas and see how it goes for a couple of years?

Stevic: Look, I don’t think relocating is on the cards at the moment. I think multiple trips. You know, you have to hit places several times to make any kind of impact. Financially and pragmatically it doesn’t make sense to relocate for us at this point, and Australia’s good to us, you know. So we’re going to be here as a base, and then go back and forth – that’s the mission.

100% ROCK MAG: That sounds like the way to do it, especially when you have America which is just so bloody big!

Stevic: Yeah, exactly!

100% ROCK MAG: With your energy focussed on the touring and the video, will there be a bit of a wait now for the next album?

Stevic: No, we’ve been doing it simultaneously, to be honest. Which has been interesting, juggling different sorts of psychological states. With touring I go into this primary sort of hunter-gatherer state where my primary needs are food and where’s a toilet. And when recording and writing, you get into a sort of nutty professor state – so, we’ve been trying to balance the two, because the summary is, we don’t want to make it too long between releases.

100% ROCK MAG: That’s good, with the album having come out last year, and with the added publicity from the video campaign, I think you’d want to capitalise on that! Thanks for your time today.

August 30 Ferntree Gully Hotel, Ferntree Gully
September 5 Coffs Hotel, Coffs Harbour
September 6 Tempo Hotel, Brisbane
September 7 Parkwood Tavern, Gold Coast
September 12 Zierholz UC, Canberra
September 13 Waves, Wollongong
September 14 Manning Bar, Sydney
September 19 Small Ballroom, Newcastle
September 20 Entrance Leagues, The Entrance
September 21 Mona Vale Hotel, Mona Vale
September 26 Prince of Wales, Bunbury
September 27 Rosemount Hotel, Perth
October 4 Corner Hotel, Melbourne
October 5 Fowlers Live, Adelaide

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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