Metal music takes on a variety of different sounds and cultural slants across the world, through the likes of Brazil's Sepultura and their Latin Metal period (think 'Roots Bloody Roots') to Israel's Orphaned Land drafting in traditional Israeli Music (think 'El Meod Na'ala'), metal music has been configured with each metal scene that embraces it.
New Zealand on the other hand is one scene that often gets overlooked by most Western metalheads, either because of it's location on the world map or through the lack of effort to explore scenes other than that what dominate in Europe and North America. Alien Weaponry aim to change that with their infectious and riveting blend of Te Reo Māori Thrash Metal, the sound is combined with a Hardcore-Thrash approach with the battle cries found within the Te Māori language; one the trio are aiming to preserve through metal and one they learned through two ways...
GMA spoke to Lewis De Jong (Guitarist / Vocalist) regarding this, their past and how in 2 weeks Alien Weaponry have reminded Europe that New Zealand is still there.
"I would not feel offended because if you do a haka to someone, if they have achieved something or if they have done a performance, that's what you call a 'haka tautoko' which is basically in support of what someone is doing, it's an honour to have a 'haka tautoko' - I feel it would add to what we are all about."
Alien Weaponry hasn't been going all that long, so could you give us a brief history of the band? Tell us about your Māori heritage and meaning behind the band name.
"Henry and I started the band about 8 years ago and Ethan joined around 6 years ago, so yeah we haven't been going for 'that' long but we've been around for a fair bit.
Yeah my brother and I are descendants from the Ngati Pikiāo which is a Māori Iwi (Maori Tribe) and we have Māori family and blood in us, so that's how it kind of came about doing this. We named the band Alien Weaponry when Henry and I first started and this was before we had touched any of the Māori stuff, that's actually named after the sci-fi film 'District 9'; film had alien guns in it so we called it Alien Weaponry and because of that the name kinda stuck. But now when you think about it, when muskets were introduced into New Zealand, to the Māori muskets were a form of 'alien weaponry', so I suppose that kind of connects a little bit, but it wasn't originally planned like that."
Having played to an overflowing crowd on the Sophie Lancaster stage, what are your afterthoughts of your set?
"I'm pretty blown away by how massive and into it the crowd was, that was a really pleasant surprise."
Having played Wacken and being the youngest band in terms of band-members age to do so, did you feel any pressure whatsoever?
"Pressure? I mean Wacken's been our dream since we started the band, so I guess it's more of a... there's not really pressure, I feel like as long as you're confident in what you do and practise hard out, we feel like we get more of a buzz before going on stage, we're just trying to enjoy the experience as much as possible. But yeah it was a really insane feeling playing in front of all those people at Wacken. The crowd f*cking blew us all away, actually quite a lot of the crowds at these festivals have blown us away because the response has almost bettered New Zealand sometimes, and it's really different because this is our first time touring Europe; it's really great to be doing this."
With your brand of Te Māori Thrash metal, would you hope that neighbouring Oceanian countries become inspired by your music and start scenes up?
"Yeah I feel like we're kind of being a statement to quite a few indigenous cultures that have been suppressed and colonized, I feel like we're trying to reach out to the entire world with this and it's really cool to see the response this big being picked up from it."
Tell us about your debut album "Tū", what do the song titles mean? Tū charted on the New Zealand charts, that's got to be awesome right? Any response from the Māori Iwi?
"The album has a lot of different stuff on it, we've got anything from historic battles to unjust actions by the Government you know hundreds of years ago. Some of our more recent stuff has been more about current issues, like we've got a song called 'Holding My Breath' which is quite personal and is about the feeling of anxiety that a lot of people go through when they're quite young. We've written songs about basically things we feel passionate about, so the album's a really passionate album.
Yeah the album hit #1 when we released it, two other big New Zealand artists released albums on the same day and we were really surprised when we saw that we were ahead of them on the charts. That was a really good feeling when we hit #1, it feel like we've achieved something, something we never thought we would when we first started the band.
The reception from Māori in general has been overwhelmingly positive and when we started writing in Te Reo Māori we didn't quite know how people would respond to it, but they've responded very well and I feel like a lot of Māori are kind of 'coming out of the closet' in listening to metal, Māori wasn't really associated with metal before we started what we are doing."
How long did it take your first music video 'Rū Ana Te Whenua'? What is the meaning behind it and was it easy learning Māori?
"That was probably about two days in the studio and also a day of shooting the music video, that was the first music video we shot, but it was not the first one we released - we've been holding onto that for a long time (eight years) before we released it and when we finally did it was really satisfying for us, because you know we have been waiting all that time.
That was actually based on a battle that our great great-grandfather fought, it is basically a story about triumphing against all odds because the Māori were outnumbered, they had around 200-300 soldiers and the British had like over a 1,000 soldiers, but how they won (Māori) was they built this 'Pā' (which was the first recorded case of trench warfare) with underground trenches and bunkers. The British bombarded the Pā over a day and a half with cannons and when they stormed the Pā there was no-one there, as soon as they rode back to General Cameron who led the attack saying they had captured the Pā, while that was happening the Māori jumped up from underneath the ground and slaughtered them all - it's a brutal but cool story to write a song about.
That was our first song that we written in Te Reo Māori and we really took a chance doing that, but I feel the reception's been overwhelming. Henry and I grew up speaking Māori, we went to a Kura Kaupapa which is a Māori language school... I went to a Māori kindergarden and then I went to Kura Kaupapa for about two years and Henry went about for four years, but then we switched schools and Henry and I, Henry not so much but I lost the language quite heavily so actually singing in Māori now is actually... I'm still in the process of learning the language. I feel like singing in Māori is encouraging a lot of people to discover their own heritage and learn Māori, which is not really a common thing in New Zealand."
Would you hope that bands follow Alien Weaponry in terms of tapping into their indigenous culture and expressing it through metal?
"Definitely, I think that's one way we're trying to keep the culture alive in New Zealand and spreading it through music, people are pretty passionate about music and I guess the culture comes with Alien Weaponry. I feel like it's a great way to educate people and add something different to what you do"
If you were invited by the New Zealand rugby team to perform before a game, would you accept it?
"I think we probably would because that would be an amazing thing to play to a packed-out stadium before a rugby game, and I feel like that the energy we would bring would suit quite well, so yeah that would be really cool to do."
How has the New Zealand Government reacted to metal music?
"The New Zealand Government how has it reacted to metal music? Hmm. That's an interesting question, I guess the music industry is probably the closest thing... because the Government hasn't really said anything to us. I guess everyone in the music industry in New Zealand has been supportive of what we're doing... it's a hard question to answer because I actually don't know what the Government feels about what we're doing."
Tell us what the New Zealand Metal scene is like?
"There is a bit of a New Zealand metal scene but I feel like there's not many people in New Zealand (population is around 5 million; around half of Greater London), I guess there's not the hugest metal scene in New Zealand... put it this way there's probably more metalheads at Wacken than there are in New Zealand. The New Zealand metal scene is weird, it's hard to describe - there is still a metal scene in New Zealand. New Zealand's more known for it's reggae and R&B, Lorde and Lord Of The Rings. There is a metal scene in New Zealand with bands like Devilskin, Seas Of Conflict., there are quite a lot of good bands but I feel like there does seem to be a little bit of bickering from genre to genre, I feel like that's a little bit negative, but all in all scene's not that bad in New Zealand."
For metalheads visiting New Zealand, what sights and attractions could you recommend doing / seeing?
"If you go to New Zealand you've got to go to the beach, but before you go to the beach you've got to learn how to swim properly (laughs). In New Zealand there's a tradition that a lot of New Zealanders do it's called 'popping manus', which is basically jumping into the water and making the biggest splash possible, that's something we do in New Zealand and is pretty unique to our country. New Zealand is a beautiful place and I'm like feeling kinda homesick".
What exactly is the haka? Could you explain it's meaning please? If a crowd member was to haka before Alien Weaponry started playing, would you feel offended?
"A haka is a traditional Māori war dance, if two tribes were going to fight they used to do a haka to each other beforehand and I guess if you did a good enough haka, you might be able to scare the enemy into backing down so that it potentially doesn't have to be war. It's really designed to be in your face, scary and powerful and I feel it really works well with what we're doing.
I would not feel offended because if you do a haka to someone, if they have achieved something or if they have done a performance, that's what you call a 'haka tautoko' which is basically in support of what someone is doing, it's an honour to have a 'haka tautoko' - I feel it would add to what we are all about.
It's all about context, haka these days is mostly used in a theatrical, performance kind of environment and basically sometimes what happens is a couple of haka groups that perform and do well, will see a group in the audience jump up and do a 'haka tautoko', kind of instead of an applause and that's something that happens in New Zealand".
What are some phrases metalheads should shout at your concerts?
"A lot of Māori at our concerts say 'Tu Meke' which is kind of saying 'too much', which I kind of guess is a way of supporting someone, you say 'Tu Meke' it's like saying cheers.
Outside of Alien Weaponry what hobbies or interests do you have?
"Me personally I like to make music outside of the band and metal, I mess around with my friend and making lutes and sh*t. I also do a bit of drawing and painting, I'm quite a creative person so, I'm into that kind of stuff. I'm also into long-boarding which is pretty fun, basically just floating around, hanging out with mates and doing whatever."
What plans do you have after Bloodstock? New album? Any thanks?
"We're basically just continuing our European tour, that's the plan. Regarding a second album we've already got some concepts, I've already started coming up with riffs, I feel like you can definitely be expecting a follow-up album and another follow-up after that, everyone stay tuned.
Thanks to everyone who has been supporting us thus far, you guys are f*cking amazing and keep it up, because at the end of the day we wouldn't be doing this without everyone who supports us, so cheers!"