INTERVIEW: Henry de Jong (ALIEN WEAPONRY)
When three boys from New Zealand are drawing comparisons to Sepultura, sign with a major heavy label in their teens and simultaneously showcase and honour their Māori culture on a global level in a few short years - it's pretty damn hard to ignore. But for heavy metal trio Alien Weaponry, their early success has only strengthened their passionate brutality while cementing their reputation as an explosive sonic force to be reckoned with.
Singing in their native language Te Reo Māori, there's a refreshing vitality behind the warrior-like thrash of Alien Weaponry - a fact shared worldwide with the group recently unleashing in Australia, Europe and the UK, including appearances at Whacken Open Air in Germany, Bloodstock Open Air in the UK and beyond.
After ticking off their first tour down under last year, the Kiwi lads are back in action for round 2, bringing their Tumatauenga Australian Tour to Aussie audiences amid the trio jumping up onstage for the epic Download Festival in Sydney and Melbourne. But before they hit our shores we grabbed drummer Henry de Jong to chat shows, support and slaying the metal world. Interview below.
KAI TANGATA (ALIEN WEAPONRY)
TIANA SPETER: Hi Henry! How are you? I'm very excited to chat to you today, and I'm even more excited because Alien Weaponry are due out to Australia literally next week! Let's jump right in - how excited are you to head back to Australia?
HENRY DE JONG: We are really, really excited to come back. The last shows that we did there...we've only done three shows in Australia, and they were awesome. But we're definitely really excited to come back and see crazy Aussies again!
TIANA: And I need to ask you. Can you teach me how to say the name of your tour properly?
HENRY: Right! So! It's the "Tumatauenga" (pronounced: Two-ma-tau-enga) tour.
TIANA: Ok, I would've messed that up, I'm very happy we've established that. And I believe the tour was named for the Māori god of war, hunting, fishing, cooking and more. Is this an accurate representation of what you'll be getting up to while you're in Australia? Waging war on stage and sampling food?
HENRY: Pretty much, yeah! We're gonna be bringing the fire definitely. We're gonna be bringing a lot of energy to the stage, I feel. And we can't wait to play over there, and play for all of you guys!
TIANA: Obviously you also have some shows surrounding the Download Festival dates, but with Download in Sydney and Melbourne, is there a band on the lineup you're absolutely hanging to catch live while you're in town?
HENRY: Alice In Chains should be a great one. They're a childhood favourite of ours, well me and Lewis at least. They're just an awesome band and I really wanna see them live. And see how they've aged as well (laughs).
TIANA: I love it! And as you mentioned earlier you have been out here previously, but maybe didn't see as much of Australia last time. Are there any particular things you're hoping to tick off while you're here?
HENRY: Experiencing Download is gonna be really great, it'll be our first proper Aussie festival that we've done. We did Dead of Winter last year, which was like a small sort of festival indoors, like a pub gig. It was really interesting, there was a lot of people there, but it was quite spread out. So being able to experience Download, and all these different parts of Australia that we're going to...we've never been to Perth and Adelaide and Canberra, so it should be good fun!
ALIEN WEAPONRY ONSTAGE AT DEAD OF WINTER 2018 // video by GigMonster
TIANA: I feel like by the end of this tour you'll have seen more of the country that I have, so I feel like I'm going to have to hand my citizenship over to you.
HENRY: (laughs) Righto, I'll take it!
TIANA: Sold! And also as you mentioned earlier, some of these bands you're playing with are slightly a little bit older now. And it's no secret that you guys have effectively taken the music world by storm in a very short space of time...have you felt supported in the metal world now that you are more established? Do you still come up against the age stigma?
HENRY: I think definitely over the last year we've been getting some really awesome support from not only older bands, but bands that are kind of in the same place as us as well. The metal scene is a really supportive one, you don't really get bands trying to pull you down. Occasionally you'll just get the odd few, but it's really nothing in comparison to the amount of support we've been getting, which we're really stoked on. And we couldn't be happier!
TIANA: It's good to hear, and it's been amazing to watch you guys ticking off things off your musical bucket list - playing Whacken last year, which I believe was a dream for you. Is there anything still on the bucket list, or have you pretty much carved it up before the age of 20?!
HENRY: Yeah! Well, I think our next goal, or one of our next goals, is to be headlining festivals like Whacken or at least be getting on the main stage of Whacken. And we want to be doing that in 2 or 3 years - hopefully! And another goal that we've got is to get our next album out, we're really keen to get more material out for people, and keep things really fresh. And hopefully it's as kick ass as our last one - which is gonna be a challenge! But I think we can do that!
TIANA: With so many live shows already under your belt, has there been a particular standout off the top of your head? Whether it's been good or bad or just plain batshit crazy?
HENRY: We've had several shows where it's been just insane, one of which was playing Gallup, New Mexico when we went to the US. And it was quite a small show, it was about 400-500 people, but we were the headliner there and the amount of noise that crowd made was insane. They made more noise than three and a half thousand people (laughs). And I think they probably made the same amount of noise that the crowd did at Bloodstock in the UK. That was a really good show for us as well.
TIANA: Well I feel like the challenge has been set now for us Aussies! We're gonna have to up our game with these upcoming shows!
HENRY: Yep! Just go crazy!
TIANA: I've read in the past you and Lewis talk about growing up in a very musical household, and your Dad playing bands like Metallica and Rage Against The Machine, all those kinds of things...did you always have that affinity for the heavier genres back in the day? Were there any other artists that influenced you into this genre?
HENRY: Yeah, we listened to all sorts growing up, anything from Ben Harper to Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pink Floyd, Queen...a lot of old bands, but I think for me and Lewis - metal really spoke to us because we could kind of tell that it was one of those genres where you really didn't have to censor what you had to say in lyrics. You could just say what you wanted. And it was a very raw and down to earth genre. What you hear is what you get!
TIANA: It's that authenticity you don't often come across in a lot. And it feels so inclusive. Interestingly since Alien Weaponry are often referred to as the Māori Sepultura - when I spoke with Andreas from Sepultura last year, he spoke a lot about playing these big festivals and people are there bringing their families, you're not there to be seen necessarily, you're there because of that connection...
HENRY: Yeah, it really is quite like another thing having 80 year olds in the audience that come and talk to you afterwards. Which we've had! It's pretty cool (laughs).
TIANA: In terms of what you guys are listening to these days, is it always this heavier stuff or do you still have quite eclectic taste like you did when you were younger?
HENRY: Eclectic is definitely the way to describe it (laughs). Generally what I listen to is metal, and then the rest is all sorts, I listen to reggae, I listen to drum and bass, dubstep, a lot of rap! And old-school rock, blues...it really is all over the place!
TIANA: If you could go back...I know you guys have achieved so much in such a short space of time...but if you could go back and give your younger self some advice: what would it be?
HENRY: "Don't worry about it mate. It's gonna happen". (laughs) Pretty much keep doing what I'm doing!
TIANA: And finally, there's obviously a lot more to come from Alien Weaponry, you're playing alongside Slayer and Anthrax later in the year...but are there any bucket list bands left on the list you'd love to jump up onstage with in the future?
HENRY: For me and Lewis it's definitely Lamb of God. They're one of our biggest inspirations as far as metal goes. And we're really keen to play with them. And Gojira! Gojira would be a cool band to play with, if we ever get to play with them!
TIANA: Well definitely sounds like a lot more exciting things to come - but I'm so stoked you guys are headed back to Australia, I'm sure we will give you a very, very warm welcome, and look forward to seeing you guys in action!
HENRY: Awesome, we can't wait to get back over there! We'll see you there!
ALIEN WEAPONRY WILL BE KIPPING OFF THEIR TUMATAUENGA AUSSIE TOUR STARTING THIS WEEK.
FOR TOUR INFO AND MORE, HEAD HERE.
BY TIANA SPETER