UTG Interview: Protest The Hero

Protest-2

Photographer Melanie Hodgins was lucky enough to interview Rody Walker of Protest The Hero before their show on April 26th, 2011, at the Magic Stick in Detroit, Michigan. Along with being an extremely down-to-earth individual, he has an extremely commanding stage presence that’s entirely unique. Look below to read Walker’s thoughts on musical inspiration, cats, mythological creatures, the music industry, Twilight, and more.

How did you guys meet each other?

I met four of the fellows in the first grade. Then I met Arif in the sixth grade, I believe, he went to a different elementary school so it took a little while to meet but that’s how I met them. Just in class.

Who is/are/were your musical inspiration or inspirations that led you down this path?

I think there’s quite a few varied inspirations. Collectively I would say they’re bands that stuck with us through the ages. Number one, and most importantly, being: Propagandhi, number two being: Sikth from the Uk… but yeah, outside of that we all have our personal influences and we’re all kind of coming from different schools of thought when it comes to that kind of thing; therefore, to list the influences would be gratuitous to say the least. But I think such a varied, diverse, and a large quantity of influences is what gives us such an interesting sound, I think. Others would probably call it ridiculous.

Could you describe your music making process?

Well I sit alone and play video games and drink booze for about sixth months while they sit in a semi-circle in our jam space. They write the music, usually Luke will come up with the riff and then they’ll just kind of jammm on it. Not to sound too stupid. [Laughs] They record instrumental versions and they send it to me and then I write the lyrics and melodies on top of them.

Besides Scurrilous not being a concept album how does it differ from your previous releases?

I think there’s two very definite differences with this record. One is that I took over majority of the lyrical duties as opposed to Arif who had written both the records in the past. The second being that the bass, the drums, and the rhythm section really found themselves on this record as opposed to just following around the noodling of the guitars in the superfluous nature of what they’re doing. We sat back, they found their own rhythm, and they found their own grooove [laughs]. They really found themselves on this record. Those two things are enough to set it apart from the rest of our catalogue, if you will.

In the song “Wretch” off the album ‘Fortress’: what inspired you to have cats meowing before the bridge?

Um… here’s the biz: The guy who owns the studio we record at has a cat and I don’t really like cats… so I was holding it in my arms and giving it a shake [laughs] and I was also attempting to record vocals at the same time and it meowed in every pause perfectly and we were just like: “Well, fuck it, that was kind of amazing” so… we just kept it on the record. We had to fight a few people within our management and shit because they were like: “That’s the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard in my life.” So we were all: “Well, fuck you, it’s awesome.”

It makes people think! It’s like “What the hell is this cat doing in here?!”

“What the fuck is that about!?”

Is there a difference between live shows in the other countries?

Uhm, yeah. Ya know? The kids are all kind of the same, everywhere you go. People don’t really change. There’s assholes everywhere and there’s interesting intelligent people everywhere as well. So I do my best not to discriminate. Coming from a Canadian background we all, obviously, get this animosity bred into us towards the United States but I think just being down here and experiencing the people for so many years really wiped the slate clean. There are some places that are more excitable than other places.;

You’ll find those everywhere.

Exactly.

What sets Protest The Hero apart from other bands?

Hm… Uhh… I would like to say that it’s probably the fact that we don’t take ourselves seriously. [I make a motion of stroking my non-existant beard] The beards? [laughs] Is that what it is? No, every fucking hipster has got a beard now. Ya know? Hipster in a plaid shirt just fuckin’ riding their single fuckin’ bicycle around drinking the finest brewed coffee.

Most of them have Macs, would you agree?

Yeah, but I have a Mac. [laughs] but I don’t differentiate between the two because I don’t give a shit. But um… what might set us apart from a lot of bands, I don’t want to say all of them, is that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. I think you should take your craft seriously but at the end of the day you’re just a bunch of scruffy stupid guys in some stupid band. Ya know?

Have you ever thought of performing a secret show under the pseudonym: Men With Beards?

Men With Beards? Like Men In Hats? [laughs] Maybe, um… I don’t know. I’d be afraid of what kind of audience that would draw.

Women with beards.

[laughs]Women with beards would probably be preferred.

What do you think of the state the music industry is currently in?

There’s a love/hate relationship with it. I LOVE the fact that it’s dying. I think that’s fucking awesome because if the industry dies we can get back to what’s really important and that’s making music and having fun as opposed to making money and exploiting people and making money off the hard working people’s back. And when the industry dies it will also kill things like fuckin’ Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and all this bullshit.

Like auto-tune?

Yeah, and all the auto-tuned artists as well. It will go away because those artists wont be making money so they wont have any interest in this top-of-the-water bullshit, ya know? So it’ll bring back the only people who’ll want to make music. It’ll be for the love of music, for the fun of music, and integrity will mean something in this industry again.

So the music industry is sort of like a phoenix, in a way, where it needs to collapse into ashes in order to be reborn and made beautiful again?

And rise again, yes. Aboslutely! I think it’ll be the death of the Pop-Star and hopefully the industry does collapse and they don’t figure out a way to fuck artists even further. It seems as though they might. They’re not musicians, they’re not artists… they’re fucking businessmen. They have no place in this fucking industry.

When did you first realize that Protest The Hero was going to take off?

I don’t know if I ever realized that. I don’t know that I’ve realized it yet.

Look at this bus! [laughs]

[Laughs] Well, yeah. I guess. We have afforded some success that we could have never expected but I don’t know. It’s kind of like the creation of the airplane. Ya know? They created these things and they just pushed them off a cliff and it’s like when you’re in the plane and you can’t really tell if you’re falling towards the Earth or if you’re flying. So basically it’s very difficult to be objective. To simplify it, We’re not sure if we’re going down in flames right now or if we’re going to be all right.

If the members of Protest The Hero, as a whole, had to be a mythological creature or being who or what would they be?

Uhm, I might say Taurus(?) The Mighty Dragon. [laughs] No! I want to say Saphira The Dragon from the Eragon novels.

Excellent choice.

Yeah. [laughs] As much as those books are ridiculous I’ve read them and I love them, and I also know they’re for like fuckin’ teenagers and I’m an aging man but yeah, I don’t know I have a very strange attraction to the female characters that aren’t actually in human form. [laughs] I don’t know, it might be a fetish. I don’t have sexual fantasies about them but, I just… loveee them.

It’s so overplayed. I mean they’ll have…. Desperoux [laughs], the mouse which is a male character, but it’s a mouse. A lot of the times the female heroine is human, at least it’s much more likely in the main stream. It’s not so much anything else.

Absolutely. When you look at popular culture…if you look at the Twilight Saga, I’ve read those books as well(!), as sort of a way to look at what the fuck is going on with the youth of today. It’s like you have this character, Bella, who is this pathetic little whiney bitch and then this big sparkling handsome vampire. It’s like: Come onnn, what are you doing? You’re reinforcing a glass ceiling and you’re just telling that all they can be is a wife, and it’s wrong.

So would you be Team Jacob or Team Edward?

Well I am Team Edward just because Jacob pissed me off in most books but I AM  fuckin’ Team Lautner. He’s a hunk.

He’s from Michigan, actually.

Is he really?

Yeah.

I tried to look up his ethnicity once, I just failed miserably.

How is your diet on tour different from what you would eat at home?

[laughs] I try to eat properly when I’m at home. I live with my girlfriend so we try to cook meals together and we try to like… displace our adulthood from its womb. When I’m on tour I go a couple of days without eating sometimes not because I have to, but because I’m pretty much too hungover to eat. Most of the time it’s like chicken wings and pizza. Bad shit… but I love it. Delicious.. yeah. Delicious horrible shit.

What are some ‘tour rules’ that you have established?

Some tour rules?

Yes. No number two on the bus?

Well that’s just like… if you do that you have to pay a five-hundred dollar fine. The tank can’t hold it.

Really?

Yes. What? Did you shit on the bus before you came back here? [laughs]

No way [laughter].

We don’t really have ‘rules’. It’s kind of just: mind your business. Don’t be a dick hole. Other than that, there’s no rules.

Sort of Laissez faire?

Yeah, a little.

What advice do you have for bands or musicians trying to make a name for themselves today?

Hm… I thought of something good for this question because I get it all the time but I absolutely forgot it. I don’t know. Stay away from the fucking internet. The internet seems like a real easy way to make shitty musicians popular and I would try to avoid that, stay away from all the break-downs, and stay away from all the bullshit. It’s all trends and it’s all fleeting. If you really want to make music, make something that’s honest to yourself and have some fuckin’ fun. Get out, play in front of your friends. If you’re any good, you’ll make more friends, and the more friends you make the more chances you get to play shows.

Thank you for sitting down with me, is there anything else you’d like to say?

Trek is law. Star Trek till I die.

Written and conducted by: Melanie Hodgins

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