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Henry de Jong (Alien Weaponry)

Interview with Henry de Jong from Alien Weaponry
by Kyle Scott at 08 May 2018, 7:31 AM

Teenage thrash metal band ALIEN WEAPONRY are New Zealand’s rising musical stars. With a career that started when the band members were just 10 and 12 years old, they supported hard rock icons DEVILSKIN when they were 12 and 14, opened for the legendary SHIHAD a year later, and in 2016 took the top prize in two of the country’s major music competitions – Smokefreerockquest and Smokefree Pacifica Beats. Metal Temple Writer Kyle Scott recently had a chance to catch up with the band in an interview.

You are very connected to your Maori heritage and you imbue your music with it. What do you believe are some important lessons that the Maori can teach or live by?

To be Maori is to acknowledge your family connections (Whakapapa) This is probably the most important concept in Maori. We have had a few people saying things like "they don't look Maori" or "they are white boys how can they be Maori?" but Maori is not a colour, it is Whakapapa (genealogy) knowing your history and where you connect is helpful for everyone.

What makes you most proud about your heritage, and of the history that your ancestors have made?

Knowing that our Tupuna (ancestors) have faced the most most difficult of situations and have struggled through colonization and are still here in the form of our extended family to represent. Like the battle at Gate Pa (Pukehinahina) we can stand strong even if heavily outnumbered. Awesome.

From its description, Haka war dancing doesn’t sound all that out of place in a mosh pit. Have you had to teach it to your fans during shows?

No not really as most people in New Zealand have some concept of how a haka goes, Let's see what happens when we get to Europe and America.

How does ALIEN WEAPONRY separate themselves from the other metal acts in New Zealand?

We try not to be too separated and enjoy the local scene. We are however doing things a little differently than most. Because we were very young when we started we have had to learn quickly how to operate in an adult world when it comes to music and venues etc. We have toured a lot and have had to have a parent or legal guardian with us on tour so we could get into the venues we had to play at. Henry is 18 now so we will soon be able to tour on our own. The use of Te Reo Maori is pretty unique to us in the metal genre at the moment but hopefully more will start doing it. It would be great for the survival of the language.

How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you guys?

We were pretty influenced by the early thrash bands like the big four and later groove metal stuff like Pantera. Some people have described us as Nu Metal but then i think this is because we have some of the same influences as some of the older nu metal bands, Things like rage against the machine and Public Enemy. Lewis is into some hiphop too. A lot of people have compared us to Sepltura but then that's a band we didn't really listen too till people started to say we sounded like them. I think it's the maori language thing (non English) they are picking up on. We like Lamb Of God a lot and would be very happy to be compared to them any day. We have a Spotify Playlist that gives a lot of our influences on our artist page, it's pretty diverse.

In your opinion, what is the best way to put a song together? What does your writing process look like?

We almost always start something by jamming some idea that we have had instrumentally. Some songs have been instrumental for months till we get the right word down for them. Lewis has a big book full of scribblings that he calls the song writing bible. it's full of his crazy thoughts and ideas and we get a lot of lyrics from there. We will decide if a song is going to have Maori or English lyrics based on the feel of it. The album is about half and half (Maori and English)

How does it feel to be the youngest band ever to be picked up by Napalm Records?

Awesome, we didn't realize we were the youngest till Napalm put out their press material before the first single "Holding my Breath" came out. We don't really want to have our age as the thing people notice about us. We are all over six foot tall now anyway so it wont be an issue for long hahaha.

What are some limits/odds the band has had to overcome since forming? Are there any that you still face?

Our age was a big one as we had to get permission to play almost anywhere and had to have parents with us to make it legal. Some people dont take you seriously when you are that young too but now that is all changed. We are the first ever New Zealand band to play at some of the festivals we are playing at this summer like Wacken open Air and Metal Days so we are now pioneering things for the NZ scene.

What was it like knowing that you finally made it to Wacken Open Air? Was it overwhelming at all knowing you made one of your biggest dreams come true?

Yes its been a dream of ours since we started but then we always thought if we work hard and write good songs and stick together we would get there. It's just coming much earlier thatn we thought. Its going to be Massive.

What can listeners expect off of your debut album Tu?

We are excited to have people listen to it for the first time next month. We have put together a collection of songs written over the last 3 years though a lot have been written in the last year or so as we felt that a lot or our older material was not up to it. As we explained before the songs are about half and half in Maori and English on the album with some songs completely in Maori and some completely in English. A few are in both. There are also some Maori traditional instruments that we play on the album too. and one instrumental song like the old trash bands used to do in the 80's. There are 13 tracks so it's a pretty long album. We hope you will enjoy the ride.

What are some of the things you love about your local music scene? What are the ways you have seen it vary from other areas you’ve played in?

We like the down to earth approach that New Zealand has to anything. If we want it done we have to do it ourselves. When we first signed to napalm Records we had a band contact us complaining about the label and saying that they felt unsupported and i think it was supposed to put us off. We don't feel that way at all and as New Zealanders don't have any expectation of having things handed to us on a silver plate. If you want it done well you need to do it yourself, With help if you can convince someone to join in the fun. We have been lucky to have some great believers like Napalm and our European management Das Maschine. We have had some pretty awesome support too from local organisations like NZ On Air and Creative NZ. You guys fucking rule but we know the hard work is up to us.

What are some ways you enjoy yourselves when you aren’t practicing, writing or performing?

Lewis likes to skate and he plays in a Caribbean steel pan band. he has been playing a lot of acoustic guitar for fun too lately. Ethan is into basketball and is building a house out of a shipping container. Me (Henry) I am into cars so i spend a lot of time fixing and driving I have two cars at the moment but have a bit of a wish list for more.

What is the energy like at your shows?

It's been pretty intense and especially at the big arena shows and festivals we have played at here in New Zealand. A wall of death every time.

What are some ways you would like to reach more fans?

By touring I think. We can't wait to get out and meet a lot of you this summer. It's going to be intense.

What is your biggest fear?

We try not to have fears but maybe the one we would have is that people won' notice what we are doing no matter how hard we try. The thing is that at the moment people are noticing and its awesome to have that happening for us around the world.

How do you plan to outdo yourselves in the years to come?

Even tough we have been together for 6 years it feels like we are really just starting out. We know we have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to be i the global metal scene. We would love to be headlining at the festivals we are booked on this summer in Europe. Wacken, Summer Breeze, Metal Days, Bloodstock etc. One day we will but for now we are happy to just be there and meet all the other bands and fans in Europe. Can't Wait. It's going to be AWESOME \\m/\\m/



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