Interviews

Interview with Rody Walker (Lead Vocals) (Protest The Hero)

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Interview by Alan Daly

© Olga Kuzmenko

Photos by Olga Kuzmenko

http://www.olgakuzmenko.com/

 

Alan: Hi Rody. Firstly, that’s an unusual name! Has there ever been any confusion with people thinking you’re one of the guys who carries the gear?

Rody: Hi! Actually, yes! This one time before a gig, a guy came up to me and introduced himself, and I said “Hi, I’m Rody”, and the guy says “Well if you’re a roadie, what the hell are you doing here drinking the bands’ beers?”

Alan: Haha! Well… Welcome back to Dublin anyway. The last time you were here was in March 2012 in Whelan’s. Do you have any particular memories of that visit?

Rody: That gig was great. The venue was fantastic. There was a poster for a Damien Rice gig coming up, and I’m a big Damien Rice fan, so it was kinda cool to think that he might be taking the same stage. Also, I think that show was with Propaganda, who are my number one favourite band. That was one of my favourite tours of all time. I also went to the Jameson distillery and I got cussed out by the tour guide: At the end of the tour you have a taste testing, and there’s one shot of Jameson, one shot of Jack Daniels and one shot of Johnnie Walker Red. But they don’t tell you what any of them are, and they tell you at the very end to push forward the shot that you like the most. And I was just being a contrary dick, and I pushed forward the Scotch. The fellow was not very pleased with me.

Alan: And did you get time to see a bit more of Dublin today?

Rody: Yeah! I walked around with my buddy Calvin, and we went to the Guinness Storehouse, and then we went back to the Jameson distillery and we just kinda walked around and soaked in the city. It’s a really nice city. I really like it here. We had the day off here yesterday, but we just kinda sat in a pub and drowned ourselves in booze!

Alan: So this venue; The Voodoo Lounge; it’s your first time playing here and it’s another intimate venue. From your own experiences, do you prefer playing small intimate gigs, or do you prefer big stages?

Rody: They both have their benefits, but I do prefer the smaller stages just because it is more intimate, and you get to really see the looks on the fans’ faces, and there’s not as much stage to fill. You know, when you’re on those big stages, you’ve gotta be running back and forth, and trying to fill up all that dead space. Whereas onthe small stages you can just stand and deliver. It’s wonderful.

Alan: And you can reach out and make physical contact with the fans…

Rody: That’s right.

Alan: Your last album Volition is out over twelve months now, and has been very successful. You funded the recording with an Indiegogo campaign and you had a phenomenal response, raising three times your original goal quite quickly. Tell us what you were able to do with the extra money that you could not have done with your original budget.

Rody: Well, we did something that was kinda stupid, and we went to the biggest studio in Toronto, which was completely unnecessary. If we were going to do something again for the next record, we definitely wouldn’t go to such an elaborate studio, because the money just went away. You know, every day, the room just cost so much money. All the equipment they had there was just ridiculous. I think you could get the same results from a well-trained friend’s bedroom. So that’s one mistake that we made with the money. We also bought a DSLR camera because we were like “Oh, we’ll get a bunch of footage for the fans” and stuff like that, but none of us know how to use it! So that was another waste of money. We basically just piddled it away! [Laughs]

Alan: Do you really want your fans to hear that? I suppose at the end of the day, they got their album, and whatever exclusive items they paid for.

Rody: That’s right. I mean, I wish it was different, but the truth is we kinda just didn’t know what to do with it and we fucked it up.

Alan: Do you think you would do the same again for another album? Would you use Indiegogo again? Or would you go back to a record label?

Rody: We certainly wouldn’t go back to a record label. We’ve become very comfortable as an independent unit, but I don’t know if we’d go back to Indiegogo because I think it would be disappointing if we were to do it again and it wasn’t so successful. I really don’t want to set myself up for such disappointment. I think we’ll just figure out a way to fund it ourselves, and there is a bunch of different options. At the end of the day it’s kinda tweedle-dum or tweedle-dee.

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Alan: Keeping on the topic of your Indiegogo campaign: You had some unusual things up for grabs and I was curious to hear how those went. First up was the “Arif Postcard” thing: Arif has since leftthe band, so how did you handle that? Is he still sending postcards?

Rody: No. He stopped, and we’ve taken over for him; probably much to the dismay of some of the people who signed up for it. But we’ve all been taking turns writing little notes and sending them out as we travel around. But yeah… He stopped doing it shortly after he left the band, and we didn’t know that he had stopped doing it until we got a fuckin’ email. But there are no hard feelings against him; it’s just why would he continue? It was just a bit of an oversight on our part.

Alan: Cool. So did you write and record a song about anything for somebody? That was another item for sale; “Rody Karaoke” for $400.

Rody: Oh, yeah! I wrote ten songs for that.

Alan: Yeah? And what happened to those songs after you recorded them? Were they just sent to thepeople who requested them?

Rody: Yeah. They’re mostly ukulele and violin tracks, which is a very strange pairing. But yeah, I wrote ten songs and I sent them to each person individually. A couple of them put them up on YouTube, but for the most part, they just kept them.

Alan: Did you get any feedback from those people or online?

Rody: Well, they all seemed to like them, despite the fact that I recorded them myself with absolutely no background in sound engineering. But the feedback was positive, strangely enough.

Alan: And what did they ask you to write the songs about?

Rody: This one guy wanted a song just about boobs! Which I thought was stupid; and I made mention of in the song! Another wanted a song about Lord of the Rings, which I know nothing about, so I had to do quite a bit of research. Some people wanted really sentimental songs, which was peculiar for me because I sort of went into it thinking I would be writing somewhat funny songs to the best of my ability. There was a fellow that had been in Afghanistan and wanted a song for his wife and children to let them know how much he missed them. And there was a fairly young fellow that wanted a song for some girl, and I was just kinda thinking he spent quite a bit of money on this, and teenage relationships don’t often last. So I think by the time the song came to him, they were no longer an item, and he had wasted his money.

Alan: Hardly surprising! There were other things like the “Pizza Party at Tim’s House”. Did you do that?

Rody: I think we sold four of those and we thought that they would be people from our local areas so they could come to Tim’s house. That’s what was really special about it. But one was in Australia, one was deep down in Florida. We travelled all over the place and we did them all but none of them were at Tim’s house. We had to either go to their house, or a hotel room.

Alan: So did you travel especially to meet them, or just when you were passing through on tour?

Rody: When we were passing through. It was a lot of fun, for the most part. One fellow saved our day! Our trailer broke, and he took us to the show. He brought his truck out and he filled it with all our gear and drove us to the show, and it was like “we should be fuckin’ paying you to do this!”

Alan: What about “Be heard on the new album”. Did you have some guest vocalists on the new album?

Rody: Oh, we got eight people! It was really quite strange because on the Indiegogo site we put up “bring a friend”; meaning to hang along in the studio. But every single one of them took it as “bring a friend along to also be on the record”. So we honoured that, and four people bought it so we ended up with eight people on therecord. But it was good. One kid came in and sang me under the table. This guy was an amazing singer. One of my favourite parts on the record has the highest note, and I couldn’t hit it, so I was like “Why don’t you do this?”, and he just said “Sure!”.

Alan: And there were two items that were marked as “Bad ideas”: A signed guitar, and “Cover any song”. Why were they deemed to be bad ideas?

Rody: Well, I’m not sure about the signed guitar; I don’t really remember that. But the cover song; it would take us so long to learn the song, re-arrange it to our style, and then pay to record it, that it just wasn’t feasible really.

Alan: Have you ever recorded any cover songs?

Rody: No.

Alan: That’s probably quite unusual these days. You started when? 2001?

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Rody: We started in 1999 when I was 12!

Alan: That’s pretty incredible. And your first album was released a few years later. You had a consistent line-up for twelve years, and then within a short period, Arif and Moe left the band. How are things between you all now?

Rody: We’re still very much friends. We all grew up together, even before we started the band, I had met these guys in the first grade. So that’s not something that falling out of partnerships and business can really eliminate. It was all done very amicably. It wasn’t like anyone was fired. They both quit, and I can’t blame them for quitting. It’s been twelve gruelling years of touring the world and not making a hell of a lot of money. It’s hard to maintain relationships and stuff like that. You don’t see your family ever. I understand their reasons for leaving, and I respect them, but… Not for me! Going back to having that normal life…

Alan: …You almost know nothing else at this stage?

Rody: Oh yeah! I do know nothing else! If I quit tomorrow, I’d be fucked! I’ve got mortgage payments to pay!

Alan: And how are Mike and Cam fitting in to the band?

Rody: They’ve both been good friends of ours for a long time. Because we’ve been doing it so long with thesame five guys, it’s a little weird to have two new guys, but we couldn’t have picked a better group of guys. Cam has been touring with us since about 2006 and he started as our lighting guy, and now he’s in the fucking band! We’ve always said there’s room for growth in our company! Mike used to play in a band called The Kindred. We toured with them quite a bit, so we knew him quite well and it’s going really well.

Alan: And in those 12 or 14 years that you guys have been together, have things ever gotten so tense that it came to blows?

Rody: Oh no! No, we’re Canadian stereotypes; we’re docile; we like having a beer; we like watching Hockey. Nothing ever comes to blows really. There’s a fight here and there, but never anything serious.

Alan: You guys all enjoy a few beers… Which one of you can least handle your drink?

Rody: Mike!

Alan: Have you ever done anything nasty to him or any of the others when they have passed out drunk?

Rody: Of course! We were kids when we started, so we did some of the shittiest things to each other that anyone could ever do. Specifically, I can think of a time where Tim passed out, and when he passes out he’s fuckin’ out! So what we did was; we took sharpies and traced his clothing where his sleeves and pants cut off. We then took all his clothes off and we coloured underneath his clothes with black sharpies, and then we put all his clothes back on. It took fuckin’ hours! And he woke up in the morning and thought he was all good until he went to have a shower, and removed his clothes to find out that we had coloured his entire body, and penis…

Alan: Should I ask which one of you coloured his penis?

Rody: I think we all shared a little bit! It takes a while to get it all in. I had a good hand in the shaft. I think Arif and Luke did the balls.

Alan: Haha… That could have gone a few ways!! Changing the topic… You had Chris Adler from Lamb Of God recording drums with you on the last album. Did he have any advice or wisdom to give you guys? He’s probably been playing in bands since you were in diapers.

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Rody: Absolutely. He’s a very patient individual. And he taught me maybe true professionalism. He takes his time and he makes sure that he gets the takes right, and he never gets angry. Ever. I think I learned a little patience and professionalism from him.

Alan: In the past when you guys were recording, would you sometimes lose your patience?

Rody: Oh absolutely. When you have to do take after take after take, over and over again, you get to the point where you’re like “Wow, I’m the fuckin’ worst singer on Earth”, and you start to hate yourself. The truth is, that’s how everyone does it. Except for people with perfect pitch.

Alan: That leads me onto another question I wanted to ask you. Who would you consider to be thegreatest vocalist of all time?

Rody: Probably Colm Wilkinson, an Irish fellow. He’s the original Jean Valjean in Les Misérables. I think he would suit a metal band very well as well. He’s got that slow vibrato. He’s my favourite singer ever, I fuckin’ love him. I saw him live in concert a couple of years ago, and it was amazing.

Alan: On this tour you’ve had a few things happening on the side. Mike is giving drumming lessons; how’s that going?

Rody: Yeah. I honestly don’t know.

Alan: Is it something that he is doing of his own “volition”, or is it something that the band is endorses?

Rody: We definitely endorse him doing it, but that’s his deal and his money and we don’t ever touch that. I know a lot of bands, when they give lessons, it goes into the pot, but that’s not something that we would ever do.

Alan: Have you ever considered giving vocal lessons?

Rody: I’ve given a couple of vocal lessons but I’m not very good at it.

Alan: And you’re doing VIP meet & greets. Whose idea was that?

Rody: We did a tour in Australia recently, and the promoters had set up meet & greets, and it was a lot of fun first of all. You know, you get to meet a lot of the fans, which is cool. But the promoters were keeping the money from it, and we were like “This is kind of peculiar!”. So as far as business goes, it’s sort of a way to supplement our income. It’s not very much, but we make a little extra money, and also we get to meet some more of thefans.

Alan: Have you ever had any weirdos turn up at the meet & greet? Anyone given you their underwear?

Rody: Not yet! But there’s still time!

Alan: So what have you got lined up for 2015? Any festivals?

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Rody: We don’t have any lined up yet. To be honest, we had a big festival run this year, and we’re probably going to be taking next year off to just write the new record.

Alan: Have you written anything for that yet?

Rody: Not yet, no. We’re trying to make our release cycle a bit quicker this time around.

Alan: What was the first album you ever bought?

Rody: Probably “Punk-O-Rama 3” which was like a skate-punk compilation from Epitaph records. But the first tape I ever had was Bryan Adams “Waking Up The Neighbours”. I didn’t purchase it myself though.

Alan: And what was the most recent album you bought?

Rody: The last record I bought was probably “Language” by The Contortionist.

Alan: And what format do you buy your music in?

Rody: Now I usually buy it on iTunes.

Alan: Could you imagine having to share and promote your music nowadays without the internet, like so many artists had to do, little more than a decade ago?

Rody: When we first came into the industry, it wasn’t as big a tool as it is now. Then MySpace showed up and we were adverse to it. We didn’t really want any part of it, but it’s such an amazing tool; we don’t have to go out and just fuckin’ tour the world necessarily for people to hear our music. We can just sit back in our easy chairs. I mean, I still pirate music as well. I purchase records if I really like the band, and I purchase records if I know they’re not making a fuck-load of money. I know it’s not going to contribute to them financially, but it does contribute to what tours you can get when you can say I’ve sold this many records, so we can bring this many people, and it makes a difference for a lot of bands. But Taylor Swift? I’m a big Taylor Swift fan, but fuck her! I’m not going to contribute to the millions of dollars she makes, you know? I’ll fuckin’ pirate that; I don’t give a shit about her.

Alan: And you’re happy being open about that stance?

Rody: Oh yeah.

Alan: Do you rely on purchases of your physical and download albums or do rely more on touring and VIP packages and merchandise?

Rody: Yeah, we rely more on tickets and T-shirts. We don’t make money off record sales. It’s nice when a record sells really well and you can go home to mum and be like “Look at it!”. But people pirate the fuck out of our music. So maybe it’s the wrong attitude to have; “If it’s happening to me, why the fuck shouldn’t I do it to someone else?”. But at the end of the day, there’s no stopping pirating. And ultimately, it’s a good thing; more people are hearing your record than ever before.

Alan: Ok, well we’re out of time. Any last words to your fans before we finish?

Rody: Looking forward to playing… Looking forward to coming back…

Alan: Cool. We’re looking forward to seeing you play. Thanks for taking the time!

 

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