I had the chance to meet up with Protest the Hero vocalist Rody Walker at the London stop on this year’s Tour and Loathing trek, which has the band playing alongside All That Remains (check Spenny’s video interview with frontman Phil Labonte, suckas), Bless the Fall and others. My thoughts on the show are coming shortly, but until then hopefully this interview will suffice as a holdover. The Choad was as well spoken as ever, and one of the most laid back people I’ve met in awhile. We sat for a talk in the back of the band’s trailer, sharing a few laughs on a beautifully sunny day with Rody’s seemingly never-ending chain of Peter Jacksons. Enjoy, friends.
Okay, first I want to know about the new stuff you guys have been writing – I think you’ve started recording it. Am I correct? Rody: Uhh, we’ve started pre-production on it. We start actually recording it on June 17th.
And when can we expect that record to be released? Rody: We have our fingers crossed for October.
The progression from A Calculated Use of Sound to Kezia was undeniable. Can we expect any big surprises or changes from Kezia to what you’re working on now? Rody: Umm, there are definitely some changes, but it's nothing as drastic as the last record. Like, A Calculated Use of Sound, we were 16 when we recorded that and Kezia was a couple years down the line, so it was a very natural progression. And this is another natural progression from that, but not nearly as drastic. Like, we didn’t write a country record. [laughs]
The lyrics – last I’d heard, you’d had six tracks done with vocals, is that right? Rody: Yeah.
So what is the lyrical content like for this new one, as opposed to what it was for Kezia? Rody: Well, it is conceptual. It’s not as story-like, you know? I think there’s a problem with that, like it’s very superficial. Like, people getting attached to those lyrics and forgetting about the music, so we tried not to write, like, a ‘story’ in just those three dimensions, but we’ve got cohesive ideas that stretch to that fourth dimension [laughs], umm, but it’s a bunch of ideas about eternal... re-occurances.
I haven’t heard any of the new lyrics, but from past poetry I can tell you guys are very well read. What kind of literature has influenced the writing on, say, Kezia, and what have you been reading lately that could influence the newer lyrics? Rody: Well, in Kezia particularly, I think it’s pretty clear we were all really influenced by [writer Fyodor] Dostoyevsky. The writing style is really a page out of a book like "Crime and Punishment", or "The Brothers Karamazov", but uhh... this is a little more blunt. It’s not as cryptic. It’s more... blatant. I don’t know – Arif wrote the lyrics, and I’m not too sure what he’s reading. I’ve been reading a lot of [writer Kurt] Vonnegut, [Friedrich] Nietzsche....
Okay, so that was my next question about Arif writing the lyrics. Does he do that exclusively, or do you guys ever sit and collaborate? Rody: Well, he writes the lyrics about things that are really commonplace within all of us. Like, I’ll sit there and if the lyrics aren’t working, I’ll change them slightly. I mean, they usually work, but like, if I have a certain melody or a certain phrasing, I can add stuff if I hear it in my head. Um, but for the most part he does write all the lyrics.
So after you guys came off that Dragonforce tour, I remember reading that you’d said you’re: “too metal for the punk kids and too punk for the metal kids.” Just looking at this years run of Tour and Loathing compared to last year’s, where you had The Fully Down and A Wilhelm Scream…. Rody: We stole The Fully Down’s tour manager, by the way.
Oh yeah? Rody: He’s back... with a different band. [laughs]
So anyway, which stretch of Tour and Loathing do you think fits Protest better, if you don’t mind me trying to pigeonhole you? Rody: I think, you know we definitely fit on this tour better. Last year’s was interesting. You know, we had [Underground Operations act] Machete Avenue, umm, The Spill Canvas – it was, just like, all over the place.
Oh, I didn’t know [The Spill Canvas] were on there. Rody: Like, it was a lot of fun. This year’s fits us bit better, though. I mean, there’s metal, there’s kinda hardcore rock and shit, and uhh... I think it’s a better fit personally. Myself anyways.
So how is the tour going so far? Rody: Just... swimmingly!. We’re very good friends with all these bands playing. I mean, The Holly Springs Disaster, we just met before the tour.
Oh, they were the only group on the bill I wasn’t familiar with. Rody: They’re uhh, don’t let this get out, but they’re definitely my favourite band on the tour.
Oh, okay. We’ll keep that one off the record. Rody: Well, you can put it on if you want....
But then it won’t be too well covered, depending on how many people read this thing. [laughs] Your video blogs… [laughs] They’re interesting, to say the least. Where did you get the idea, and what kind of response do you think they get? Rody: Ummm....
Like, do your parents watch them? Rody: My dad does. My dad loves them. My mom… HATES them! She doesn’t even watch them anymore. So I don’t know, I mean, the shit comes from just, biding my time, right? I’m just not doing anything, and I’ll have something creative going on in my mind, as ridiculous as it is. I mean, I like to be ridiculous. I’m a weird fucking guy. [laughs] And uh, I don’t know. It’s something to give fans of the band to watch while were on this kind of hiatus for writing. I think the reactions have been positive. Some people think it's funny, some people think it's stupid....
I miss the print ones from MySpace. I always got a good laugh out of those. Rody: I’ll come back to it sooner or later. When I run out of tape. [laughs]
I saw you guys play once, you had a hip-hop song – I think some Wu-Tang - come on, and said something about how people are often ignorant in their musical taste, and that good music is good music, regardless of genre. What have you guys been listening to lately that wouldn’t be classified as from the ‘scene’ you come from? Like, hip hop or anything new? Rody: I don’t know, I mean we went through a hip-hop phase. It’s not like we claim to be... rap enthusiasts to any degree, but I listen to Michael Buble, fucking....
We actually listened to him on the way down here. Rody: I love that “Everything” song. It’s fucking awesome! Damian Rice, Jeff Buckley. I spent some time in Guelph [Ontario, Canada] recently, and I’ve grown to have everything ‘indie’. [laughs] And anyone ‘indie’. But there’s always, like Sikth, grindcore. We have our intrigues.
Are you guys going to do any stops on Warped [Tour] this year? Rody: Nope!.
Really? Rody: No way. No way.
Was it no fun last year? Rody: It was fun, like it was cool. But you wake up in the same fucking place every fucking day. You walk out, and it’s just like, “oh fuck, it’s this shit again...”, but I mean, it’s hot. It’s uncomfortable. There’s not a lot of bands on there that I love.
Shit! I was hoping you’d sneak on, even just for the Barrie date, cause I remember last year you guys played alongside Mute Math, and them Moneen shortly after which was one of the greatest lineups.... Rody: Mute Math were awesome. Someone’s on the Warped Tour this year I’d want to... oh, As I Lay Dying. Those guys are friends of ours, so we’d like to be on it for that reason. Maybe one date would be fun, but I don’t know. We’ll be in studio while that shit is going on, so....
Well if you hook it up, I’ll be stoked. Rody: I’ll do my best. [laughs]
The next question I have is asking about the Southern Ontario music scene, which you’ve been a part of since you were, like, 16. Happy Go Lucky was before then, wasn’t it? Rody: No... [laughs]
I think I saw Happy Go Lucky Once. [laughs] Rody: Fuck... poor you! [laughs]
So, what are your thoughts of the success of bands from this area who’ve been ‘booming’ the last couple years? Rody: Yeah, I think it’s great. Like, it’s very positive. But, it’s also kind of a fart in the middle of the shit storm. Like, you go everywhere and there’s like, ‘booming scenes’ everywhere.
And a lot of garbage gets in? Rody: Exactly!
Okay. How has you’re reception been south of the border, or on your trek to Europe? Like, anywhere outside of the home and native…. Rody: It’s awesome, actually. Obviously, it’s not as strong as in Canada, but it keeps getting better. And it’s a lot of fun. I mean, it’s fun playing to, like, 20 people that know you. Uhh, every time we go to the States it's bigger. Every time we go to the UK it's bigger. Uh, we’ve only been to Europe once, so hopefully it’s bigger next time.
You went with Every Time I Die, right? Rody: Yeah! I guess it was pretty big.
How was touring with those boys? Rody: It was great. We actually stole our sound guy from them. He used to play bass in Every Time I Die. But he’s no longer with us.
My one goofy question on here – I know you’re a big Moosehead [Canadian beer] fan. Any alcohol-influenced mishaps you’ve had on stage? Rody: The last tour we did before Christmas with I Hate Sally, was....
That was the tour where you could win ‘dates’ with you and [I Hate Sally vocalist] Dee, hey? Rody: Yeah, it was! [laughs] I did every one of those dates drunk out of my mind. [laughs] And uh, I sang so horribly it is hilarious. So not anything significant happened onstage, but it just sounded really, really bad. And of course, things happened after the show....
Two more here. You may have covered this before, but A Calculated Use of Sound was a very politically charged record, whereas Kezia was more subtle and metaphorical with its discourse. How have current events been influencing you guys lately with the new record? Rody: Yeah, well there’s always a politically minded background in everything we do. Uh, like I’m just trying to think of some situations [that] are affecting us now. I can think of the ‘War on Terror’, which is hilarious. Every time George Bush opens his mouth, it’s about that, and we can just think of all the assholes who just jump on ship and say, “George Bush is a cocksucker!” And it’s like, just because you watched one Michael Moore documentary, it doesn’t make you a political scientist and doesn’t give you a right to make an opinion.
That’s what I noticed about the last few Warped Tour’s – everyone was like, “put your middle finger in the air and say ‘fuck George Bush’”, people start forming opinions based solely on what these musicians are saying…. Rody: [laughs] Yeah, like you get all these 17 year-olds like, “yeah, fuck George Bush, he’s a jerk.” I mean, I used to like NOFX, but fuck em’. [laughs] They’ve ruined politics for ignorant 15 year-olds.
Alright, I guess this is the last one I have for you. I can’t remember where I read this, but you’ve said you won’t play anything off of A Calculated Use of Sound ever again, except for “I Am Dimitri Karamazov, and the World Is My Father” and “These Colours Don’t Run.” “I Am Dimitri Karamazov…” is usually in the set list, but do you guys play “These Colours Don’t Run” anymore? Rody: We’ll never play that again.
Really? Rody: [Jokingly serious] Never!.
Oh, I was going to ask if we were going to hear it tonight. Rody: “These Colours Don’t Run” is never going to be in the set ever again. [laughs] We hate that song! We’ve played it, like, a million times, and if I ever sing those words again, my head will explode.
Because that was the first song I’d ever heard from you guys, so I guess I’ve got a sentimental attachment to it, but after you write a record like Kezia…. Rody: The instrumentation is just boring, to tell you the truth. I mean, we’re just going [play’s air drums to the intro of “These Colours Don’t Run”] do do do.... I mean, it's just not challenging. We feel bad that people want to hear those songs, and we won’t play them, but you gotta think for yourself.
So no one’s ever convinced you to knock it out? Rody: No one ever will. [laughs]
Well, that was a great way to end the interview. Any final things you want to say? Rody: I got a boner, and a bottle of whiskey.