For Europeans they indeed seem to be alien, arriving this summer to conquer the Metal world, one of the few to receive a 10/10 review … the next big thing? Well, Alien Weaponry from New Zealand have spent (literally) half of their lives dedicated to music, Metal and creating a fresh and exciting sound. And until Sept 21 you can still catch them live on European stages (details HERE ). Therefore I am extremely pleased that the guys found time to tell us a bit more about themselves, backstage-minigolfing and where the band name comes from:
Please introduce yourselves in a few words – and are you all 3 of Maori descent, or just the 2 of you?
Lewis de Jong (16) – guitar / lead vocals – I am of Ngati Pikiao / Ngati Raukawa descent
Henry de Jong (18) – drums / backup vocals – I am of Ngati Pikiao / Ngati Raukawa descent
Ethan Trembath (16) – bass / backup vocals – I am of mostly Scottish and English descent
Your full length album came out this summer – are you happy with the worldwide reviews/fan reactions, was it as expected? Which one surprised you the most?
We are more than happy with the reactions and reviews. We were really pleased with the album ourselves, but we didn’t expect so much positive reaction worldwide, both from reviewers and fans. The biggest surprise is the response we are getting from the USA, as half the album is not in English. It’s getting lots of airplay and great reviews over there, as well as in Europe.
Did it surprise you that your band career took off so quickly? OK – Relatively quickly, as you started 8 years ago…
When we started the band, we used to imagine what it would be like to release an album and tour the world. But it is still a surprise to actually be doing it. We set our goal to play at Wacken by the time Henry was 20, and he is only 18 now, so I guess it has happened sooner than we imagined it might.
How was your first festival tour in Europe (Spain and Belgium are at this point still due, the ed.)?
The responses from the audiences have all been mind blowing. Coming from New Zealand, there are not so many metal heads, so it’s been really cool to have all these ‚professional‘ metalheads in the audience, doing circle pits and walls of death all over the place. It’s amazing to see how many people know the lyrics to our songs – especially the Maori ones.
What impressed you the most in EU as totally different to your home country?
The lack of pies, haha. We always stop and get meat pies at gas stations in New Zealand, and we miss them. But the other food is good here – we have been trying all sorts of ‚worst‘ (sausages). All the roads are really good, and sealed – in New Zealand there are still quite a few gravel roads and one lane bridges, especially in the countryside where we live. Lots of people ride bikes in Europe and there are bike paths everywhere because mostly it’s very flat here, which is not at all like New Zealand. And it’s weird being far away from beaches all the time. We live right near one of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand and in the summer we go swimming pretty much every day. The other different thing is, you have to pay to use the toilets at gas stations.
Some weird / hilarious story about touring, or what was your best / worst show ever, what happened?
When we were driving from Metaldays in Slovenia up to Wacken, we had a tyre blow out on our caravan on the autobahn in Austria. That was bad enough, but when it happened, it had just got dark and a huge thunderstorm had just started, so there was rain and thunder, and forked lightening everywhere, which was lighting up the forest all around us. We had to get out of the van, so we were all standing huddled on the side of the road. It felt like we were in a horror movie, and something was going to come out of the woods. That was pretty surreal.
Our best show was … every show. We have been amazed by the crowds and the reactions everywhere. It’s very humbling.
As you are still quite young – did you ever get in some absurd situation adults would not have, e.g. you were invited to perform at a venue although as customers you were not even allowed in? (Finnish alcohol law, 18plus, for some club you need to be 21 to enter; therefore that happened to Finnish teenage Sturm und Drang band quite a lot).
In NZ, you can usually go into licensed venues as long as you have a parent or legal guardian present, so it’s normally OK, as Henry and Lewis‘ Dad does our FoH sound, and their Mum usually sells the Merch. One time when Lewis and Ethan were only 12, Lewis left the venue before he got a wrist band and the bouncer wouldn’t let him back in, but luckily someone who knew him noticed and got him in. Sometimes we have to stay backstage in some venues, which can be a bit annoying when there are other bands we want to see. One time, there was a mini golf course in the backstage area, so that was pretty cool.
Do Metalheads outside your home country manage to sing along with your lyrics?
Yes. We are constantly amazed how many people sing along, especially to our Maori lyrics.
What inspired you to pick up instruments and form a band in first place? And when/how did you encounter Rock & Metal music? Any family members being musicians / Rock fans?
Henry and Lewis‘ Dad, Niel is a musician and is really into music, so he always played us all sorts of music, but especially metal. We grew up on Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, etc. Lewis used to watch a Stevie Ray Vaughan video all the time when he was a little kid, and that was what inspired him to actually want to play. There were always instruments around the house when we were growing up, and we (Lewis and Henry) played guitar, bass, drums and piano. We even had a harpsichord. But we gravitated to our chosen instruments. Henry started playing drums seriously when he was about 10, when he stated a new school. There were only 2 drum kits at the school, and there were 2 other guys who were better drummers, so they got to play them all the time. So he kept practising until he was better than them. The reason Ethan started playing bass was because of Henry and Lewis. He was at our house one day, and our Dad got him to try on the bass, to see if he could reach the end. He could (and none of our other friends could), so we taught him to play and made him join our band.
Did you get in trouble a lot at school because of long hair / Metal T-Shirts etc? How much of an „outsider“ are you as a Metal fan / Metal musician in NZ in general, or in your home town?
We didn’t really get into trouble from staff, but some of our peers were assholes to us just because of our hair, the way we dressed and our musical taste. Although as we progressed more and more as a band they became less judgemental and actually started taking an interest in what we were doing and where we were headed.
Why Heavy Metal in first place – what inspires you, what do you like about this genre?
Metal is un-censored, you can say whatever your opinion is without sugar coating it. We like the strength of the messages portrayed with metal lyrics.
What I have seen of Haka dance on TV, it seems that it’s easily relatable to Metal music and it’s actually surprising nobody else made the connection sooner. And thinking of some European Black Metal performers, some seem to have been inspired by Haka … Can you maybe explain a bit more what Haka is all about and why it is an important part of your culture?
People describe haka as a ‚war dance,‘ which is kind of true, but it’s more than that. A haka can be a way of preparing for conflict or an important occasion, which puts you in a certain state of mind, of physical and mental alertness. But there are also haka used to celebrate or commemorate significant events. A haka can generate power, express anger or sorrow, or just tell a story.
I noticed that traditional Maori tattoos and facial tattoos became a thing in Europe as well. Do you like that or do you rather see it as „ripping off“ your culture for fashion purpose?
If someone gets Maori moko (tattooing) just because they think it looks cool, then that is kind of cultural appropriation. But if they take the trouble to understand what it means, and have some respect for the culture, then I suppose that is OK. But that’s the same for all tattoos – you shouldn’t get a tattoo just for how it looks. It should have some meaning. And, you should be careful about getting tattoos from cultures you know nothing about, because you might end up with something foolish. For example, in Maori culture, only women wear moko kauwai (on the chin and lips), so it’s not something a man should wear.
Is it more difficult for you to express yourselves in English or in Te Reo? Or what is the reason to pick one language over the other for a song?
I think Maori suits the agressiveness of metal much better than English, but some of our songs work better in English. It’s good to have a choice, and we pick the language that feels right for each song, depending on the musical content and the theme and subject of the lyrics. Sometimes we use both in the same song.
Please describe what your home town Waipu looks like, are you the only Metal band there? What do you enjoy doing in your pastime when you’re not making music?
Waipu is a small coastal town with a population of roughly 3,500. They‘re mostly old folks, so we are definitely the only metal band in the town. We’re pretty lucky to live right next to some of New Zealand‘s most incredible beaches and rivers so we go swimming a lot. When we have some time off, Ethan likes to play basketball, cook or build stuff. Henry is really into cars, and is either driving or fixing his own or working on someone else’s in his spare time. Lewis does a lot of art and drawing, and also plays for a steel pan band. And he’s quite into longboarding.
Did you ever have a „plan B“ besides becoming musicians? If yes, which other careers would you like to pursue?
We all make sure we put 100% of our effort into the band so none of us are plnning stopping the band for anything else any time soon. But if for some reason we had to take another path, Henry would be a motor mechanic or a racing driver. Ethan would be a music teacher or a chef. Lewis would be an actor.
Do you see yourselves as „ambassadors of your culture“ to the „outside world“ in a way? At least your lyric themes point out stuff that otherwise might be forgotten. Sadly, Europe has a lot of bloody history to inspire Metal lyrics (see Iron Maiden, Sabaton etc) …
It wasn’t our intention, but we do seem to have become ambassadors for Maori, in a way. We like to sing about historical and political events that have shaped how things are today, but we also want people to make their own investigations and form their own opinions.
How do you choose a topic to put into lyrics? Or does the topic choose you?
We always write about something that we feel strongly about. Sometimes they will be spur of the moment ideas and sometimes they will be thought out over a few weeks. It will always be stuff that effects us personally, whether it’s something dumb that happened in school or something that happened a long time ago. Pretty much whatever we‘re feeling angry, sad or passionate about at the time.
(The song ‘Kai Tangata’ deals with the early 19th Century musket war, the title literally translates to ‘Eat People’ – find the 7min video at our CD review, more info at YouTube; the ed.)
As this is the few things I know about NZ: Did you or any of your family participate in the making of Lord of the Rings movies? And if yes, what was it, can it be seen on screen?
None of our family worked on the Lord of the Rings, but Simon Raby, who was the Director of Photography on our music video for Rū Ana te Whenua, was also the second unit DoP for Lord of the Rings. He was also the DoP for the movie District 9, which we took our band name from. (video clip below, the ed.)
And finally: As abovementioned LotR has been a big tourist „trap“ thing for NZ already – which are the NZ sightseeing tips you would give to tourists, what is a must-see in your opinion?
Some of the most beautiful beaches in NZ are in the far North Island, so we would recomend going there. On the East coast, the sand is pure white and there are these amazing trees called pohutukawa trees that cling onto the cliffs above the beaches. The West Coast is much wilder, but awe inspiring in its own way – the beaches are vast, and they go on forever, and the waves are just wild. There are other cool places we have never been to either. Ethan has always wanted to go to Fiordland, in the South Island. And Lewis always wants to go to the snow.
Thanks for the interview, and hope to see you back in Europe soon (please, festival bookers, take the hint …)
start photo from left: Lewis de Jong, Henry de Jong, Ethan Trembath
photos: Band, all taken from facebook.com/AlienWeaponry