Interview: Twelve Foot Ninja’s Stevic MacKay on Rockstar Concept, Third LP, ‘Vengeance’

The Australian heavy fusion band Twelve Foot Ninja are maybe best known for their outlandish music videos, but if band leader and guitarist Stevic MacKay had his way, they’d be known for something else: their depth.  

“I don’t want to prescribe necessarily what people get out of it, and I’m happy for them to just enjoy the music,” MacKay says. “It doesn’t have to be deep and meaningful. But for those who do want meaning, I want it to be almost bottomless, and they can keep going down forever. We’ll meet them every step of the way.” 

The process of fleshing out the concept behind Twelve Foot Ninja has taken over a decade, and—as of the release of their third LP, Vengeance—includes a video game, graphic novels, and even an epic fantasy novel, all detailing the contours of universe in which an enormous martial arts master by the name of Kiyoshi travels between worlds and does battle with an ultimate evil.  

Everything that Twelve Foot Ninja do fits into this grander narrative, as MacKay explains, even the band’s music videos. With their absurdist logic and inscrutable plots, each provide a window into the sprawling multiverse that the band has created. All the strange and irregular scenarios depicted happen in a place called the Illuma Sphere, a realm of pure imagination that breaks through to our world at juncture points, resulting in the band being led on fantastic misadventures.  

Whether it be the guys in the band meeting their doppelgangers in a practice space, summoning a cyborg warrior to stop a meteorite from crashing into Earth, or being trapped in a children’s television program, the structure and substance of the band’s videos are not only diverting, and narratively significant, but are intended to be commentary on the nature of the music industry itself.  

We’re reacting to the whole rock star thing, which I think the biggest load of baloney,” MacKay states. Elaborating further, he says, “I just can’t stand music videos. I think that it’s just so pretentious to try and present yourself as this demigod when your guitar’s not even plugged in, you know? It’s a total farce.” 

While MacKay isn’t a fan of the rock star mindset, he’s not spare with his praise for those he does admire. He sees overlap between his work with the band and that of Dan Harmon’s deeply post-modern commentary on art and society embedded in Community and Rick and Morty, but also sees parallels, somewhat surprisingly, with his work and the original run of the British sitcom, The Office 

As MacKay explains, he is always attempting to cultivate a sense of misdirection and a layering of conflicting moods. He cites specifically the way that David Brent’s story is concluded as an inspiration for him. This is because Brent’s neurosis and narcissism are driven by a desire for human connection and love, and his ultimate downfall is as satisfying to witness as it is painful to endure, as it is impossible not to see yourself in this lowly individual. 

“Ricky Gervais, and people with his talent, are people I look up to. Their talent is kind of like that thing in boxing where you’re waving your left hand to get the other guy to look, and then you throw a right hook that they didn’t see coming. I love that kind of stuff. That’s really been what I try to do with Twelve Foot Ninja,” MacKay concludes.  

Watch the lyric video for “Vengeance” here:

For more from Twelve Foot Ninja, find them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Photo courtesy of Twelve Foot Ninja and Kane Hibberd

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