Metal’s teenage sen­sa­tions stole the week­end at Blood­stock fes­ti­val – and they’re only just get­ting started

Metal Hammer (UK) - - New Noise - WORDS: RICH HOBSON

AS FAR AS dreams go, the op­por­tu­nity to create mu­sic you are pas­sion­ate about while also get­ting to travel the world is a clas­sic. But where most teenagers will idly dream about some­day fly­ing around the world with a band of their own, New Zealand’s Alien Weaponry worked hard to achieve just that. Re­leas­ing their de­but al­bum, Tū, right be­fore em­bark­ing on a mam­moth de­but trek of Europe’s sum­mer fes­ti­val cir­cuit, the Ki­wis prac­ti­cally stole the whole week­end at Blood­stock in Au­gust, draw­ing a mon­strous crowd that packed out the So­phie Stage tent. And all be­fore two-thirds of its mem­bers turn 18.

“Henry [de Jong, drum­mer] was 12 when I joined the band… six years ago,” says bassist Ethan Trem­bath. “There have def­i­nitely been times where we’ve been excluded off bills or what­ever just be­cause of our age, or dis­missed by older bands who were laugh­ing at us a bit.”

Alien Weaponry have seem­ingly got the last laugh on those bands, though, with their dis­tinc­tive brand of Māori metal fu­sion earn­ing im­mense in­ter­est from the in­ter­na­tional metal press, draw­ing com­par­isons to the likes of Pantera, Prong and (most no­tably) Sepul­tura, for their us­age of tra­di­tional Māori beats and in­stru­ments, as well as te reo (‘The Lan­guage’).

“It’s funny, be­cause be­fore all these peo­ple said we were like Sepul­tura, we had never re­ally lis­tened to them!” laughs Ethan.

The dis­tinc­tive na­ture of their mu­sic also helped the band to gain a foothold in the fledg­ling New Zealand rock and metal scene, even­tu­ally de­vel­op­ing into sup­port slots along­side NZ chart-top­pers Devil­skin and US su­per­group Prophets Of Rage. “Lewis [de Jong, gui­tarist/ vo­cal­ist] and I grew up with bands like Metallica and Rage Against The Ma­chine,” says Henry,

“so hav­ing some­one like Tom Morello pass us in the cor­ri­dor and say ‘Hi’ was like, ‘Holy shit!’”

“It was an in­sane ex­pe­ri­ence,” agrees Lewis. “We were in the green room area and this dude walks down the hall and in­tro­duces him­self as James from Pub­lic En­emy [aka Hank Shock­lee – a found­ing mem­ber of the group].”

“James talked about stick­ing to what you be­lieve in and not chang­ing for any­one else, which is also a big part of our own mes­sage,” adds Henry. “Al­though it’s some­thing we’re al­ready pas­sion­ate about and be­lieve in, it was en­cour­ag­ing to be re­as­sured like that.”

SUCH AS­SUR­ANCES could eas­ily go to other bands’ heads, but Alien Weaponry also recog­nise the vi­tal


im­por­tance of build­ing re­la­tion­ships with their fans, some­thing they have done from day one to such an ex­tent that they were even able to se­cure fund­ing for their de­but via the crowd­sourc­ing plat­form Indiegogo. “Back home we have a fan called Te Pūranga who fol­lows us around the coun­try,” Lewis tells us.

“He’s been from top to bot­tom to see us; he’s very loyal and that’s im­por­tant to us. In turn, one of the things we want to do as a band is make sure we don’t dis­ap­point, and make sure we sur­prise peo­ple when we do some­thing.”

A key fig­ure be­hind this men­tal­ity is Lewis and Henry’s fa­ther, Niel de Jong. A mu­si­cian him­self, papa de Jong served in the bands Ebony Sye and Voodoo

Love in the 90s, and fos­tered a love for mu­sic and his­tory in his sons that would later prove piv­otal to their mu­sic. “We’d be driv­ing some­where and he’d point to a spe­cific place and say, ‘What hap­pened there, boys?’ and then tell us the story of a bat­tle or hikoi – a kind of march.”

Tak­ing these lessons to heart, the broth­ers de Jong would later use this as the lyri­cal in­spi­ra­tion for much of what Alien Weaponry does, rais­ing aware­ness for Māori his­tory whilst also cham­pi­oning the cul­ture and the is­sues it faces to­day. “One of our aims is to open peo­ple’s eyes a lit­tle more,” states Henry with con­vic­tion. “A lot of New Zealan­ders can be to­tally un­aware of things that have hap­pened in the coun­try’s his­tory, and are still hap­pen­ing to a cer­tain de­gree. The lan­guage has been se­ri­ously over­looked in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem; if you want to learn it you have to be very picky about what pub­lic school you go to, or go to a full-im­mer­sion Māori school. Hav­ing us in­spire peo­ple to want to learn Māori can help more of those places be­come es­tab­lished.”

As far as lega­cies go, bring­ing in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion to an en­tire cul­ture is about as ad­mirable as you can get, not least when you’re si­mul­ta­ne­ously cre­at­ing mu­sic that has an en­tire sub­cul­ture abuzz with ex­cite­ment.

The in­va­sion has be­gun…


Lewis, Henry and Ethan are bring­ingMāori metal to your ears!

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