Protest the Hero's Rody Walker gets intimate
For a bunch of guys from Whitby, Ontario, Protest the Hero have done pretty well for themselves. Their hardcore-punk-metal debut, Kezia, has received praise almost across the board, only to be outdone by their latest effort, Fortress. A commercial, and artistic success, Fortress has propelled the band to new heights, debuting at number one on the Canadian charts. I sat down with their lead singer, Rody Walker, the last time they were in town, in what ended up being perhaps my most interesting interview to date.
TK Dallman: So I thought I'd start by saying I've seen your penis before.
Rody Walker: What? (laughs)
TD: It was in Burlington at Heatwave a few years ago.
RW: Ohhh maaaan! A bunch of people saw my penis that day! Did you notice my disease?
TD: Um, no.
RW: I have the same disease Michael Jackson has, it's called Vitiligo. It's on my penis. It's just a skin disorder where the anti-bodies or whatever are attacking the pigment cells, so my penis looks like a dalmatian to some degree. Just not as tall.
TD: Well it takes a strong man to admit that.
RW: Not really. I'm very weak.
TD: Well, anyway, congrats about hitting number one in Canada...
RW: Wait, before we get into this, how'd you like it?
TD: No complaints.
RW: All right, cool. But yes, thank you.
TD: It's amazing how much you've grown in the last couple years
RW: Are you talking about my penis or the record? I mean I'll show it to you again if you need to compare or something.
TD: It's, um, ok. But, actually... what do you think it says about the music industry that a more local band on an independent record label can hit number one in Canada?
RW: I think it says people are willing to support integrity, whereas, last week, Avril Lavigne or Hannah Montana was number one. And as much as I love Hannah Montana, she doesn't deserve anything. [Her music] is just fucking contrived.
TD: When you went into the studio, did you have any idea of what kind of record you wanted to make?
RW: Absolutely not. We sat down, and hadn't written for about two years, and just wanted to write so desperately that... it was a very natural progression into further obscurity. We don't like, sit down and say ‘let's write a metal album' or ‘let's write a punk album'... when we write, we just write whatever comes out, grabbing from the collective conscience.
TD: You worked with Julius ‘Juice' Butty again. Why'd you choose the same producer, and what was different about it this time around?
RW: This time around we drank a lot more, and we pretty much tracked the whole album drunk off my ass. I couldn't be happier about it. And [Julius] was a very obvious choice — we look up to him like a fucking father. He's an incredible vocalist, and gives us a lot of creative room to do whatever we want. Whereas, I did pre-production with two other guys, and any of the death growling or weird high pitch noises I make, they were like ‘That shit is stupid. Don't fucking do that.' Maybe they were right, but Juice is a big Mike Patton fan, so any of that kind of influence that has shown through, he supported.
TD: With so many parts and dynamic changes, how does the music get put together?
RW: Essentially, Luke comes with a million riffs, and we try out best to make them cohesively exist together, with very rarely returning to parts. You know, seeing our white boards in our jam space was really strange, because every song has at least 15 parts that are all named things, like “Clown Clappers” or something stupid. We wrote an entire song in alliterative parts.
TD: Is “Clown Clappers” actually one?
RW: Yeah, it's on the record. It's the intro from “Limb to Limb,” sorta circus music.
TD: I noticed that there was a lot of hype in the weeks prior to the release about it leaking. Now, leaking can be great for bands that are just coming up, helping to expose them, but for guys like you who are a little more established now in Canada, has your attitude changed towards people downloading your music?
RW: That's a good question, but not really. We've never seen a royalty check from record sales. Of the hundreds of thousands of disks we've sold around the world, we've never seen one. The only benefit is that it beefs up our SoundScan, and depending on how many records you sell really determines what tours you get. But for the most part I think the industry is a dying breed, and I'll be happy when those clocks finally stop turning and we can entirely rely on the Internet for music.
TD: So you've toured with Dragonforce, and you had the keyboardist play on the record. Was that just, phone him up and say ‘hey we've got this song'?
RW: Yeah, we're Facebook friends (laughs). No, we're good friends with him and he expressed an interest in playing on the record, so we sent him a clip of the song and he sent back in 15 minutes with this crazy-ass solo, and we didn't even include the whole thing because it was so ridiculous. Like, it was good ridiculous, but a little too ridiculous.
TD: How do you keep your mind active when you're on tour?
RW: Drugs, man (laughs). Actually, we read a lot... I guess most bands are a bunch of uneducated fools, and we're not too different than that, but we're self-educated enough to the point that it separates us from others. We've self-smarted ourselves. I think we're just trying to defy the whole dude-bro complex. Everyone we meet that's in a band these days, every word that comes out of them is either dude or bro... and it's a despicable bastardization of our language. I read this article... about language, and it said that in 1990 the average 14-year-old could speak 20,000 words, but in the year 2000, the average 17-year-old can only speak 10,000 words of their own language. But it's hilarious that our language is being degrading to the point where we're all LOLing around and OMFGing around.