Artist Interview: Protest The Hero
Protest The Hero recently released their new album Scurrilous, which has been receiving much critical acclaim a a departure from their previous work, and are now on their U.S. tour. I had the chance to sit down with frontman Rody Walker before their show at SOMA and chat with him about being called “one of the most forward-thinking bands in the metal world today,” as well as the new album and tour.
AOL Music called you “One of the most forward-thinking bands in the metal world today.” Response?
(A suprised look crosses his face) I don’t think that we’re necessarily “forward-thinking.” It just seems to me that whenever something becomes popular, it gets saturated, and when that happens we have a natural instinct to avoid it… Like breakdowns, or having that singing keyboard player in the band. So I don’t think that we are forward-thinking so much as I would say that we are… well, we just try to stay away from the pack, because if the pack is doing anything it’s usually pretty f—ing stupid. In my opinion.
For Scurrilous, as opposed to other albums, you actually wrote most of the lyrics. What inspired that decision?
It came about very naturally. Arif had usually written them in the past, but I had a lot going on, so I just started jotting stuff down and brought it to the guys very sheepishly, and they thought it seemed apt for them to be put on a new record. Arif had written a couple at that point, and he didn’t really want to write anymore, so I just finished what I started.
And for this album you guys also progressed your sound a bit. Was there any fear of how fans of the past albums would respond?
Well, people fear change. So we weren’t necessarily worried that people weren’t going to like it because of the change, because we knew that there was certainly going to be that little group of people that wouldn’t like it. It’s the same people that say, (in a mock-snobbish tone) “Oh I like his vocals because they’re very diverse, he goes from high screaming to low screaming to singing.” And I really think those people are missing the bigger picture. But we knew those people weren’t going to like the new record, and that’s fine. F— ’em, you know?
On that note, how has the fan response actually been? Have you noticed anything?
Yeah, it’s been great. In that respect, it’s hard to be objective because it’s like, the people who are coming to the shows are obviously fans, so they have very positive reviews whereas the people who don’t like the new record and are fans of the older stuff aren’t coming to the shows. So we’re not meeting those people that are like, “Scurrilous sucks!” Even though I’m sure they’re out there.
Now the title, Scurrilous, what is the meaning behind it?
Scurrilous means anything vulgar, or gratuitous… a wicked tongue of sorts. I think it’s kindof an apt description of some of the ways I tend to describe myself and my surroundings. Also it’s the name of the painting on the album cover.
Speaking of that painting, how was it chosen as the album cover?
That was a painting painted by Arif’s grandfather, Jafar Petgar, some sixty years ago. It always used to hang in the hallway, so we were all familiar with the artwork. Two years ago his grandfather passed away so we found it would be an apt tribute toward him.
For the album, you recently did a track-by-track breakdown of the album for Alternative Press. How did that come about, and why did you ultimately decide to do it?
Well they had sent it to me a couple times and I didn’t really want to do it to be honest. It’s nothing against AP or anything like that, it’s just that I like people having their own interpretations of things, even if they’re crude and wrong in many ways. However, our publicist is a very dear friend of mine, and she insisted it be done, so I did it. I tried to keep it a little… cryptic at times, trying not to expose too many details.
Now as far as the band goes, what are your musical influences, and how did you branch off from them to develop your own unique sound?
Well I’m sure some of the guys would tell you “Oh I like classical, and R&B, and all that, a myriad of different genres.” But that’s bull—-. We like a lot of the older prog metal, Rush of course, our Canadian forefathers. More recent stuff would be bands like Propagandhi, from Canada, because they’re just f—ing amazing.
While evolving your sound on this album, how did that affect the recording process? Did things flow more naturally?
Yeah it was definitely smoother because I knew the lyrics better, because I penned them with my own hand, or rather my own fingertips on the computer. So I was more familiar with some of the words that were being used, and the way they were being spoken was more natural to me. So it was definitely smoother in relation to that. However, it turned out to take quite a bit longer. I think that was mostly due to outside influences, such as alcohol… and drugs.
You mentioned the tour was going well. The new material is going over well with fans?
Yeah, the kids seem to be particularly fond of the song “Dunsel.” It has a real… negative look to it. There’s a negative overview to the song, and I think the kids like anything that’s a little angry and genuine. So they’re pretty fond of that one.
Signing to Vagrant, you had hoped to extend your fan base to the U.S. Is your poularity here aligning with those expectations, and how does it compare to Canada’s fan base?
Well obviously we’re going to be more popular in Canada, but the population density is so much smaller in Canada that even though we might have more fans in the United States right now, it seems a lot bigger in Canada just because our population density is so f—ed up. But it’s good man, we’re really happy with the way things are going in the States, and I’m glad to be back in the States, except for the hockey. It sucks that your teams are doing better than ours, because it’s our f—ing sport! The real strange thing with Canada though… I know that CD sales aren’t really anything this day and age because the internet is a massive force, which I think is f—ing wonderful, but our CD sales took a drastic drop in Canada. However in the States they stayed right on par, which I think is fantastic and says something great about the American people.
Last question now… After this tour, do you have any plans like Warped Tour or anything?
Well certainly not Warped Tour. We are of the opinion that you are the company you keep, and with Warped Tour the company is not always so flattering. But we will definitely be back in the States. We’re going to spend the summer in Europe doing a festival circuit and hopefully we’ll be back in the States in the fall.
If you missed Protest The Hero at SOMA, you can still support them by picking up their critically acclaimed new album Scurrilous, available now!