Dead But Dreaming: Protest The Hero Interview

Posted April 28, 2011 in
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Protest The Hero

Happy spring, my little Elder things, and welcome to Dead But Dreaming! In this edition, I sit down with vocalist Rody Walker of the crazy Canadian band Protest The Hero before their highly anticipated Salt Lake show at The Avalon. We talk about their new album, Scurrilous, and why the band will always buck the trends (and pussy vocal rest). I also have web-exclusive reviews of Between the Buried and Me and the always brutal Winds of Plague for you, my dear cultists. Read on! The secrets of metal immortality may or may not be buried within.
First, some live shows! Club Vegas is holding Heidi’s Heavy Metal Bash featuring Dead Vessel, Wicked Hergan, Akin To Strength, and DarkBlood on April 30; $5 preshow, $7 day-of. Also Saturday, Bar Deluxe is hosting a glorious metal showcase including Arsenic Addiction, Cave of Roses, Embers Of Yddrasil and all the way from Arizona, Animus Divine; show starts at 8 p.m. Next Wednesday, also at Club Vegas, we have Accept, Sabaton, Deny Your Faith and Sonic Prophecy coming to rock your socks off.

 


On May 2, the immortal Danzig will be coming to Saltair, with special guests DevilDriver and 2Cents; tickets are available through SmithTix, $18 (plus service fee) in advance, $23 the day of; this show starts at 6:30 and is all-ages!

INTERVIEW WITH RODY WALKER OF PROTEST THE HERO


SLUG: The new album is a masterpiece; I daresay more so than even your previous work. You’ve said in other interviews this album was more a personal experience for you guys––what made it so?
Walker: This is the first time I’ve written lyrics since we were very young.  I guess it was just years and years of not really writing anything. It had come to a boil; I had a lot of stuff I had wanted to talk about and not any medium to do it in, so I started typing ‘er out and it came out in a way that was definitely more personal than anything we've done in the past, for me at least.

SLUG: How has Scurrilous been received?
Walker: It's difficult to be objective in the matter. The day it came out, we began touring, so the people coming to the shows are clearly fans. We don’t get to see the negative side; I’m sure that side exists and in abundance, but we don’t get to see it. So, in that case, it is very difficult to be objective and truly know what the reaction has been like.

SLUG: Protest The Hero seems like a band that’s hard to fit into a genre, hard to simply define. How do you guys maintain that certain je ne sais quoi ?
Walker: I don’t if we have something special or are just incredibly spiteful individuals. At any point, when it’s very popular to do something in a given framework, we have a sort of natural tendency to hate that very same thing. In a time when it’s very popular to have screaming and breakdowns, or breakdowns at all, it’s something we’re willing to throw away and get rid of, because I think, specifically in an all-encompassing thing like metal, everything is so fleeting. Trends, all of this stuff, it’s so fleeting. So it’s not necessarily an attempt to make something timeless, but something that’s just not so “right now” that it’s going to be thrown out of the window tomorrow.

SLUG: Another amazing feat you guys have maintained is your band lineup, which hasn’t changed since you formed ten years ago as teenagers. What’s helped you guys stick together in a genre where it seems bands break up every week?
Walker: We grew up together, we were definitely friends with common interests as opposed to people with common interests that got each other’s numbers at the local music shop. We were all just very interested in doing this from a very young age, and I don’t know that we would be the same with a lineup change of any variety. We have a very tightly knit relationship between the five of us, and to force someone out or in, it would be very difficult for that person to have the same kind of relationship with us, and I think ultimately it would lead to our downfall.

SLUG: What’s the hardest part of writing your songs?
Walker: For me, I kind of come in blind. The first couple of songs for me, it’s like I’ll sit down and they’ll give me a CD and I’ll listen and go, “Oh, what in the fuck is this?!”

SLUG: So they make the music first, and then bring it to you?
Walker: Yes, and the first couple songs, it’s always like, “I don’t know man, I don’t know what I’m going to do with this, this is insane!” But I get into it. And I’m not as theory-based as the rest of the fellows, so I have to spend some time figuring out progressions and time signatures and different things, and that’s difficult for me. But I like to think if it was easy, it wouldn’t really be worth doing.

SLUG: So is the rest of the band more formally trained than you?
Walker: They all have a lot more training than I do. They’ve done the online Berkley stuff, all very practiced and skilled, whereas I do have some formal training so I can figure out, but it takes me a lot longer because it’s been years since I’ve done any of that. Gotta pound it out in my head and count, and it ultimately screws me up. Last night, I fucked up so badly. There’s timing in some parts where I have to sing where it doesn’t feel natural at all. Because I sing in a very “feel-based” way, you know, if it feels right. And some of this stuff, because of the way I’ve mapped it out, it doesn’t “feel” right.  It sounds good to me but doesn’t feel right, so it screws me up a bit. And I’m perfectly willing to admit I screw up live all the time.

SLUG: This album had a lot less screaming than your past albums, but the vocal work is just incredible and unique, not to mention difficult. Do you have any special maintenance you perform on those chords to keep them in working shape?
Walker: I don’t do it very well. I fuck myself up all the time. I was just diagnosed with Muscle Tension Dysphonia right before this tour started. I couldn’t speak, my voice was fucked; it’s still a little fucky. It’s the muscle, it’s basically fatigue. I had a guy stick a camera down my nose, gagging me, feeling like I was going to throw up all over him. I don’t really know what the condition entails, I’ve just sang through it. My voice has come back, and I’m pretty happy. I have sort of a “devil may care” when it comes to anything in life.

SLUG:
So you’re not the guy going back to the bus after shows to have a cup of hot tea for his voice?
Walker: [laughs] No, I drink a lot of water. These guys who go on “vocal rest” and tea, they’re pussies.

SLUG: What are you guys listening to now?
Walker: We’re not listening to much heavy music. It sucks sharing a bus with a band who only wants to listen to music that sounds like themselves. We do have a passion for heavy music, but you go into a show, you listen to hours of heavy music every night; even the songs in between bands are heavy. You get back to the bus, you’re tired, and it’s like, I wanna have a couple beers and talk with my friends. I don’t want to listen to something raging, screaming in my face; I wanna relax. Typically, we’re tossing on Roger Miller, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, old country.

SLUG: As a video game nerd, I’m interested to know how you guys got your music on the NHL video games, and if you have plans to try and get on any future games?
Walker:  We love video games. I don’t know exactly how that came about, I have a feeling they contacted us to license the music. There was a predominant push to have Canadian bands on the NHL soundtrack, of course, since the games sell best in Canada. We’ve been on two of those games, plus some download packs for Guitar Hero. We’d love to be involved in games in any way, shape or form. I’d love to be on a Call of Duty or something, that’s my shit.

SLUG: Any special plans after the tour?
Walker: Last tour, it was very disorganized. We missed shows, we flew off tours, we did a lot of bad shit, and it’s because there was no order. We’d get home and they’d say, “This tour came up, you guys wanna do it?” and we’d be off again. It was chaos; the team of people we had working behind us weren’t working with us. They were fucking clowns. We have fired almost everyone; the tour production, agencies, management, it was wonderful! We have an entire new road and home team, it’s a very liberating feeling. We’re set up right now.

SLUG: Well, you made it to Salt Lake this time, you’re already doing better!
Walker: [laughs] Yes! We’re booked through ‘til September, trying to book further with planning breaks, making sure we’re not just paying for places to live we’re not actually living in. Summertime we’re spending in the European festival circuit, we are very excited for that. Coming back, we’ll do some Canadian stuff on the East Coast, but we’re not sure how much yet.  Newfoundland is the greatest place on Earth, and to get there, you have to go through a bunch of terrible places, places we’ve been touring since we were 16 years old. We’re trying our best to just fly to fucking Newfoundland and skip the coast.



WEB-EXCLUSIVE REVIEWS

Winds of Plague
Against The World
Century Media Records
Street: 4.19
Winds of Plague = Bleeding Through + Hatebreed
When it comes to darkly beautiful war chants, California deathcore band Winds of Plague has it down to a bloody science, and new release Against the World is a testament to this. Blending brutal traditional death metal with melodic keyboard, the album paints an epic sonic picture of war and death. Opener “Raise The Dead” has a deliciously creepy children’s chant over organ chords that sets a frightening stage before the vocals rip in. “Refined In Fire,” while lyrically inferior to the other tracks, gets your blood boiling with its chanting vocals and pounding drums. Guest vocalists, including Jamie Jasta of Hatebreed and Martin Stewart of Terror, were excellent choices, their styles blending seamlessly with the band’s sound; they even bring in ex-wrestler (I know, right?) The Ultimate Warrior for a beautifully written spoken track, which would be more enjoyable if his voice didn’t sound so ridiculous. Rap-rock anthem “California” is the weakest track, straight out of an ‘80s thrash metal playbook, but should play well at live shows. “The Only Song We’re Allowed To Play In Church Venues” is a gorgeous, heartbreaking instrumental; the clean piano plays wonderful tandem with the guitars. They even give us a cover of The Cranberries’ legendary “Zombie,” and while the vocals are lacking, it was worth it to hear the track with double-bass. –Megan Kennedy

Between the Buried And Me
The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues
Metal Blade Records
Street: 4.12
Between the Buried And Me = Dream Theater + Opeth + Dillinger Escape Plan
The prog-metal geniuses return with a 3-track, 30 minute EP which is meant as almost a prequel to the upcoming full-length album to be released on Metal Blade in the near future. This is a conceptually heavy and beautiful work, and comes off almost as a mini-metal opera with wonderful jazz-inspired accents. The guys are doing what they do best: setting prog-metal standards with their complex song structure, creative vocals, deep lyrics and musical acrobatics. After Giles’ recent solo release, it’s nice to hear his thick screaming again, as well as the intenseness of Blake Richardson’s precision drumming. “Lunar Wilderness” is the track that most haunts; special attention to the bass is recommended, as you don’t hear confidence with the instrument like Dan Briggs offers every day, and Tommy’s voice remains one of the most emotionally charged in the genre. The EP is a wonderful listen for fans, both old and new, but doesn’t really offer us anything that we didn’t already know and love about this band. –Megan Kennedy



Primordial
Redemption At The Puritan's Hand
Metal Blade
Street: 04.26
Primordial = Wyrd + Enslaved + Agalloch + Suidakra
Dublin, Ireland's Primordial are quickly becoming legends not just in the underground metal scene, but further into mainstream realms. Classifications fly quick to attempt to label what the band does, but for me every label never seems to fit. They have Celtic and Pagan themes, black metal type instrumentations, as well as folk. The band's now seven full-length releases, while containing similar styles, offer something new for listeners. Redemption At the Puritan's Hand is a grandiose affair not so much in the fact that anything is overdone, it's just extremely well done. There are quite a few mid-paced tremolo riffs that roll and keep the tempos for the tracks in odd territory, balancing somber to depressed feelings with anger and flat-out power. One of Primordial's true assets is vocalist A.A. Nemtheanga, who isn't content to just scream or growl, or even copy previous vocal styles. If you know his voice, you know it's one of the more prolific in metal. Primordial do what they seem to accomplish with every album of theirs, and that is to take listeners on a vast journey with potent, thought provoking lyrical content and the ability (well, it's just flat-out talent as far as Primordial goes) to make every listen to the same album an almost completely new experience. Redemption at the Puritan's Hand lacks nothing fans or newcomers can't find enjoyment from. –Bryer Wharton

Blut Aus Nord
777 Sect(s)
Debemur Morti
Street: 04.19
Blut Aus Nord = Deathspell Omega + Godflesh
Responsible for some of the most disheartening, dismal and outright menacing black metal sounds of the last sixteen years, France's Blut Aus Nord offer 777 Sect(s) as a beginning of a trilogy of albums, with the sequel expected in the fall and the finale in the winter. If you've come to admire what Blut Aus Nord does, this album won't disappoint, but it does offer some starkly contrasting songs to its repertoire where previous albums may not have treaded. This reminds me if Godflesh had a really bad acid trip––it's all hazed in the industrial landscape of smoke stacks, warehouse after warehouse of useless crap for the consumers of the world. Listening gives me the imagery of Dr. Seuss' Lorax when the landscape is bled of all its animals and colorful trees. The album is split up into six tracks titled Epitome's I throughVI. "Epitome IV," the longest of the album's tracks, literally causes discomfort in your stomach and brain simultaneously, grabbing your nerves of sanity and twisting them. With the dismal, there is some equally demonical beauty to the album in some of the softer atmospheric tracks and actual melodies. Ultimately, 777 – Sect(s) feels short and incomplete, which is a great start for what madness lies in store in the upcoming two albums. –Bryer Wharton

Bodyfarm
S/T
Abyss Records
Street: 04.26
Bodyfarm = Vader + Pestilence + Bolt Thrower
Sometimes we all have the need to go to a fancy restaurant and dine on fancy goodies, but really, all you need is a good old burger to satisfy. Bodyfarm offer up simplicity in good old '90s death metal, heavy in the groove department and not fully focused on blazing speed––the band's debut runs in at around 17 minutes, though it's quite the fulfilling 17 minutes. The self-titled album offers some boisterously beefy death metal riffing, pounding drums and straight-up death metal guitar soloing. There is always comfort in what you know, constantly looking in music to find something new and exciting is eventually going to get you lost. The production on this EP is damn fine and the bass is tuned in perfectly to give the songs the heaviness they need and showcase the outright riff-machine Bodyfarm delivers. –Bryer Wharton

Super quickies for releases of note for the week of April 26: By Bryer Wharton (bryer@slugmag.com)

Aerial Ruin – Valleys of the Earth – Vendlus Records: Not necessarily neo-folk, but not flat-out folk––the only reason this humbling and beautiful album gets lumped into the metal realm is its sheer heavy weight and darkness. The Portland one-man act from the mind of Erik Moggridge (Old Grandad, Epidemic, Drift a Curse) will haunt you and entice you. As a starting off reference point, it's Agalloch's, The Mantle without any black metal. A highly organic, moody, atmospheric piece of music that transcends any current mood the listener is in.

Agoraphobic Nosebleed/Despise You Split – And On and On... – Relapse Records: Things get a bit crusty on this split, most of the tracks come from Despise You, but the playing time of each artist is relatively the same. Surprisingly, Despise You come out guns blazing with fastcore attitude and lots of noise. Agoraphobic Nosebleed punches out some very memorable songs, some even sludgier fare. Agoraphobic fans should definitely pick this up, or fans of anything loud and noisy.

Baptists – Baptists – Southern Lord: A nice little 7" from Southern Lord, well, maybe not-so-nice angry harsh noise. This is the first release from the Vancouver-based, chaotic hardcore/noisecore band. Gaza, Converge and Today is the Day come to mind. The 7" is limited to 1,000, get the splattered grey if you can, it's limited to 300!

Diabolical – Ars Vitae – Abyss Records: Unfortunately, not a fully new album from this Swedish death/thrash band, that I nearly forgot about despite endless spinning of their 2002 album A Thousand Deaths when it came out. Ars Vitae is a compilation of some new, some unreleased and a bunch of live tracks, which includes a personal favorite of mine, "Children of the Mushroom Cloud." Slightly reminiscent of early Dissection.

Graviton – Massless – Translation Loss: Debut album for Graviton that crushes post-metal, industrial metal and shoegaze stuff into psychedelic realms of infinite possibilities for listeners to grab a hold of. Features Sacha Dunable of Intronaut, which actually outshines anything said band has ever done. A demonical bipolar Jesu comes to mind, but so much more. This is 45 minutes of futuristic and natural tones to bend your mind. Shoegaze, post-metal, ambient and sludge fans should all hear this.

Hyperborean – The Spirit of Warfare – Abyss Records: One of three records released Tuesday from Abyss Records, it's a massively promising debut from this Swedish melodic black metal act. A far cry from your typical Swedish melodic black metal, precise and potent songwriting not ruled by the standard black metal tremolo riffing. A great sensory assault reminiscent of the innovativeness of Melechesh and Absu.

Vomitory – Opus Mortis VIII – Metal Blade Records: An appropriately titled eighth full-length album from Swedish death metal destroyers Vomitory. If you're looking for something new and insightful from this forcefully brutal and somewhat under-appreciated death metal crew, you won't find it. You will find awesome, down-tuned meaty guitar riffs and rotten vocals. The main riff in "They Will Burn," as well as its accompanying solo just plain owns.

Winterus – In Carbon Mysticism – Lifeforce Records: A highly unlikely entry into the Lifeforce Records usual repitoire of modern metal bands comes this debut from Michigan's melodic black metal band Winterus. A notable fact is the band contains no bassist, just two guitarists, a vocalist and a drummer. The end result is an extremely organic and fluid album, far from overly produced studio mechanics. Not a bad starting off point, reminiscent of early Agalloch, Ulver and Burzum.

Wolf – Legions of Bastards – Century Media: Got heavy metal on your mind? Wolf has been playing traditional heavy metal since 1995. (Seems like there are quite a few releases from Swedish bands this week.) Forget the newer acts like Holy Grail, White Wizzard and Cauldron, these guys were duking out the heavy metal long before it was a trendy thing to do. Legions of Bastards feels highly German-influenced with hints of Mercyful Fate, but with the band's own little panache over things, there are some great guitar licks, unique vocals and greatly themed tracks on this monster.
Photos:
Protest The Hero