INTERVIEW WITH PROTEST THE HERO’S RODY WALKER
Protest the Hero’s recent release Fortress is, even at this early stage, in the running for my favorite album of 2008 (read my review). So I was thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with vocalist Rody Walker, who, between the time of our chat and now, posted a message on the band’s MySpace announcing they’d be pulling out of their already-underway tour with Silverstein due to being “exhausted and miserable.” Though this interview was conducted on the second day of Protest the Hero’s tour for the Fortress album cycle, it’s evident that the band were already having their share of problems on the road.
Rody told us about the pitfalls of touring during the winter, his feelings on the commercial success of Fortress, the band’s writing process, and his perpetual hard-on for Symphony X. Read the entire chat transcript after the jump.
MetalSucks: So you guys are out on tour?
How’s the current tour going?
It’s going pretty well. Well, that’s not true actually. It sucks, man, it’s fuckin’ from the east coast of Canada, it’s so fucking cold here, the van keeps breaking down in one way or another. It gets stuck on uphills and shit like that. We’re having an awful time. We got broken into the other day. All I can do is complain about the east coast of Canada. It’s the worst fuckin’ place on earth.
Those other bands, are they Canadian bands too?
Yup. Hypodust is the band of our producer Julius Butty. Track Dirtyaz is a hip-hop group from Toronto.
Are good crowds coming out to the shows or are the crowds equally as bad as your van?
It’s great so far. We just played the first show yesterday in Fredericton, and had a lot of fun.
So up next you guys have Silverstein, and that’s hopefully a little nicer weather because it’s farther south.
Yeah, I’m very excited to get down to Texas and shit.
As far as that tour goes, you guys are a good bit heavier than Silverstein, and I can’t recall the other bands on the tour, but I remember seeing it and thinking, “Wow, they’re gonna stick out like a sore thumb.” Is that something that worries you?
(laughs) No man, we kind of stick out like a sore thumb whatever tour we go on whether it’s because we’re heavier than the other bands or we’re not as heavy as the other bands. It’s kind of a strange little relationship we have with music. But as for being afraid of any of that, absolutely not. We’re never fitting in, and it sucks. But it’s something that we’re completely comfortable with and kind of happy about.
Do you at all resent getting grouped in with certain kinds of scenes or groups?
Oh, absolutely. I think that “genre” is something kids apply to things so that they can define them pathetically. You put yourself in a little box when you put yourself in a genre, and you can’t write anything outside of that. We hope to constantly be writing non-linear music. It just kind of bothers me that people feel that need to define things within themselves.
Doesn’t to some degree the press perpetuate those genre labels?
I don’t think you guys really fit into any neat genre really. And your new album, which is absolutely amazing, debuted at #95 in the U.S. and #4 in Canada on the charts. Is that something that makes you guys proud or do you not give a fuck?
I don’t know, it’s kind of like, strange for us. But to tell you the truth it doesn’t change anything. We don’t become millionaires overnight or anything, we still fuckin’ struggle through on the starving artist weight loss program. We don’t really give a fuck about any numbers or anything like that.
Do you feel any sense of pride for getting so high up on the Canadian charts?
I don’t know, not really. We hit #1 last week. And it’s like, I don’t know, I guess it’s something that a lot of people would be proud of, but we don’t really give a fuck because as soon as you get any sort of level of meager success people just try and bring you down for no reason, digging up shit on you and acting like assholes. So it’s really sort of a curse more than anything.
Well fortunately it seems like at least most of the stuff I’ve read about Fortress has been overwhelmingly positive, but I’m sure there’s haters out there. There always are. Do you guys take that stuff to heart or are you able to just brush it off?
We don’t really take anything to heart, you know? Like, we don’t take the good, we don’t take the bad, and we don’t give shit. Because I think we all realize that this isn’t a permanent situation. This band isn’t something that we’re gonna be feeding our kids with when we’re 45.
Well hey, Metallica probably didn’t think they would either.
Haha, yeah, well Metallica probably also didn’t think that they’d be the most laughed about band in the universe. (laughs)
Better hope you don’t end up on any festivals with Metallica this summer! Then what do you see yourself doing down the line?
Uhh… I don’t know man! Personally I’d like to do musical theater. (laughs) Probably just get some kind of heroin addiction and slowly fade away.
Going back to the new album, what’s the writing process like for you guys?
Well we have a jam space in Toronto and it has several different rooms in it. So the guys just sat in one room and Luke would come in with a couple of riffs, and they’d sort of make the riffs flow together in a cohesive fashion. Then they’d record the songs when they were finished and they’d give them to me instrumentally and Arif would write some lyrics. And then I’d get very complicated music and very complicated lyrics and do my best to record vocals over top of them! That’s sort of how the writing process goes. It’s not the most efficient one, but it’s one that seems to be working for us.
Does it feel weird to be singing someone else’s lyrics?
Not really. He’s a very talented writer. He’s one of my best friends, I’ve known him since I was probably 11 years old. So we’re very confident in the things that he has to say, and we feel that he represents us all quite well. I don’t think that he would write something that doesn’t represent us as a collective. And it’s all comfortable.
So this album I guess you could say is a little more musically involved, challenging, and progressive than your last one. Was that a conscious decision or is that just what happened?
When it comes to the music there are no real conscious decisions. We just kind of sit down and we write what we write. I think everyone progressed so far from the time we released the last record to the time we started writing this record, it was just a very natural progression. It was very obviuos the direction that we were going to be going I think, and we took it.
Are there any bands today, or older bands, that you were listening to, or that you like, that inspired you in some way during the writing process?
For me, personally, it’d probably be things like Symphony X, Ronnie James Dio, Judas Priest, Jeff Buckley, Colm Wilkinson. Those are some of my main influences for the band. We listen to a lot of… collectively, we listen to a lot of bands like Aeon, Sikth.
That band is amazing!
Yeah, Sikth are one of our favorite bands. Collectively, anyway. But we still listen to a lot of things like Propagandhi, NOFX….it’s not just strictly based within metal. But it’s definitely a majority based in that.
So you guys are gonna do a Siverstein tour next. Do you have any plans for after that? You going to Europe for the festivals?
Yeah, we’re working on that right now. Actually got in a big fight with our management this morning! We were looking to go over there to hit Japan and Australia and Europe and the UK and then come back in time to do the Warped Tour.
Have you played in any of those places before, like Japan for instance?
Yeah, we did Japan last year. It was a pretty much crazy experience.
What was that like?
Yeah, it’s a pretty rough situation, but I think that’s to be expected. You travel across the world and you can’t expect the culture to be exactly as it is in North America. It’s funny, a lot of people come back from Japan and are like, “The culture was real different!” (in stoney, slow voice), you know, but it’s like, no shit! It is completely different, and it’s very interesting. I think there’s a certain reason why a lot of profound musicians like Paul Gilbert and stuff moved to Japan and live there. It’s because it caters very much to musicianship and appreciation of technicality and shred.
Which certainly works for you guys.
We love Japan very much.
Are there any places you’d like to go but haven’t been yet?
I’ve always kind of wanted to go to… what is it, Greenland? Iceland. Iceland, that’s where I want to go. I wouldn’t mind doing something kind of weird like South Africa or South America, anywhere south so that we can be warm.
Any last words to impart to the masses?
Nothing profound! (laughs)
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this.
Thank you very much, man.