It’s odd, as a journalist, to interview someone you’ve known for nearly a decade.
I’ve known Rody Walker in some capacity since I was 14. Two years older than me, Rody was the long-haired, shredded jean-wearing frontman of Ontario’s fastest growing punk band. It was 2003 and Protest the Hero, formerly Happy Go Lucky, were riding the momentum of their first real release A Calculated Use of Sound. Sure, Search for the Truth existed, and yes, “Silent Genocide” defined my teen years, but it’s a release everyone, the band included, discarded pretty quickly once ACUoS came out.
For a lot of angst-ridden Southern Ontario teens their EP was the shit. It had it all—verbosity, technicality and political eccentricity. Drummer Moe Carlson free-flowed in a way he hasn’t since, and Rody’s passionate if shrill delivery caused many of us to lose our voices at their frequent gigs.
I was 14 when all this happened. Rody was 16. I’m closing on 23, Rody on 25, and Scurrilous, the band’s third full length, is the first time his name’s been on a lyric sheet since. Understanding Rody’s lyrics means understanding Rody, and for some that’s not easy. The reason for this intro, as long-winded as it seems, is to preface such an understanding.
Ever since Kezia came out, Rody’s been known as the loud-mouth of the band, with good reason–he is, after all, a loud-mouth. But as he shows on Scurrilous, there’s more to him than shit jokes. Reading this interview, which is for better or worse comically long, you might need some context. There are links strewn about, but some things just need a back story.
You’ll hear me mention Space Wars, which was an audio-story Rody voiced entirely by himself a few years back. A trailer for Space Wars was played before one of their legendary, smelly shows at the now defunct Dungeon and to this day I wish I could hear the whole thing. I don’t remember much about it, only that it was the story of suburban robots who fall in love. “They feel it in their mega-hearts,” was the tagline.
The other thing you need to know is that while Rody swears a lot, probably more than anyone else I’ve talked to, it’s just part of how he speaks. He’s actually a pretty soft-spoken guy. The stage-antics–wearing women’s underwear at the Kool Haus, a shark-suit at Warped Tour–those are just part of the personality of a guy who, more often than not, spends his free time watching sci-fi and recording silly skits and songs. He’ll always be a bit of an asshole, just don’t let that define him.
Read our review of Scurrilous here.
SputnikMusic: My recorder died literally, like, two minutes ago, so we’re off to a good start.
Rody Walker: You don’t really need to record what I say, you could probably just guess.
SM: Yeah, at this point you’ve probably…how many of these have you done today alone?
RW: Um, not that many. I did three, and then I did one e-mail interview.
SM: You’ve always been known as sort of the boisterous loudmouth of the band, is it a lot of pressure to always be “on”?
RW: Kinda. Dudes… I did this… I told you I did this Israeli radio show this morning and they were like, “you can say whatever you want, man. You can be as wacky as you want,” and then we got to talking and I was like, “yeah, I’d love to come to Israel,” y’know, fuckin’ talking like a regular human being and they were just baffled by how unstimulating it was.
SM: How’s your voice doing? It still like it’s a little…
RW: It’s fucked.
RW: I just fuckin’ got a specialist… an ear, throat and nose guy… and I’m going to see him tomorrow. I made an emergency appointment, so… I’m sure he’s just going to inject some adrenaline into my asshole but we’ll see.
SM: Did it just die when you were in Australia? Did you just blow it out?
RW: I don’t know what fuckin’ happened to be honest with you. We did those 18 shows in Europe, like 18 days on the road with no day off and it was fine, but the last day there was this intense pain in my throat. When I got home my voice was kind of fucked up and then I got over to Australia and the flight kind of fucked with it a little and then after the second show I couldn’t even fuckin’ speak. It was such a bummer.
SM: And then you had to come home and play the Bovine
RW: Yeah… it was just non-stop fuckin’… all it is is fatigue. I did too much and then fuckin’… couldn’t do anything about it. It’s fuckin’ fucked up and that’s the end of it.
SM: What was it like playing the Bovine? It’s been a while since you’ve played such a dump.
RW: Dude, the Bovine was fucking awesome. I had such a good time. It’s been such a long time since we’ve been able to play in an intimate environment like that. It’s such a better feeling. You know, it’s what we were raised on, and now we’re on these big ass stages where we feel compelled to perform bigger and we kind of fall into ourselves, we think into ourselves when we’re on those big stages. So it’s never as fun for us to do and it’s never as fun for people to watch.
SM: So I guess you miss playing those then. I mean, I remember the old Dungeon shows and while they were awful, they were great.
RW: Well it sounds like shit but it’s so much fun. There’s that certain element of crowd participation that you just can’t get in those big environments.
SM: Is that something you’re going to try and do? I mean, I don’t know how you’d do it since it goes against you guys getting bigger, but…
RW: I’d love to. If there was a way to keep it in small venues but still acquire the cash you make from playing bigger venues, that’d be the best, but it’s also not possible to pay my rent playing for $50 a night.
SM: Well at least you’ve got some time to rest your voice now, other than all these interviews.
RW: Yeah. I haven’t even touched a beer since [Friday the 11th] at the Bovine and [my voice] is just not coming back to me. I think I’ve got something, maybe strep or bronchitis.
SM: So I’ve got to ask you the standard album questions. How did it come about working with Chris Hannah? Was he just around, or… I mean, I know you toured with Propagandhi…
RW: Um, it was kind of a funny, actually. One of the guys who works at Jukasa was mixing, what’s his fuckin’ face, the singer from Deep Purple. Ian, uh….
SM: Ian Gillan.
RW: Yeah. He’s mixing his new solo thing, and started tossing around the possibility of having him on the record for a part in “Sex Tapes” and obviously that didn’t happen. That was a ridiculous idea and we were fuckin’ shooting for the moon. Then we just started tossing around ideas. We were just like, “we want a fuckin’ feature on the record,” and then Luke and I were just piss drunk one night and I was just like, “let’s fuckin’ send Chris an e-mail,” ‘cuz it’s, y’know… being for us, who could we possibly find in the fuckin’ world that would mean more to us on the record, and he responded in like ten minutes and was like, “yeah, let’s fuckin’ do it.”
RW: Which was hilarious because we put together this massive e-mail where we were like, “these are the song lyrics, these are several different interpretations of what the lyrics mean and why they’re so gratuitous,” and he responded and was just like, “you really didn’t have to send me that shit that’s really difficult to decipher. I’ll do it.”
SM: That’s awesome, though.
RW: We were stoked.
SM: You’ve got Jadea Kelly back on this, too. How’d that come about. Did you just get in touch with her and want to bring her back because it worked so well the first time?
RW: Yeah. With Fortress, and as proud of Fortress and as happy as I am with it, there was something missing. I think it was the female counterpart. I’ve always been a big fan of male and female vocals counter-acting with each other. I think Jadea’s got a great voice and it’s really contrasting to my own, so having her in the mix is just a fuckin’ hilarious and weird thing to do. Also there’s a bit of a nostalgia factor so the fans have something to be like, “ah, a throwback to this old fuckin’ piece of junk.”
SM: How do you think it is… it’s weird to me, because I know that AOL or one of those sites just put the album up streaming and now you’ve got people saying, “oh, I’m still playing this a lot” and I mean… it hasn’t come out yet.
RW: Initially when it leaked it was hard not to comment on. All these kids sending me fuckin’ Facebook messages being like, “hey man, great work on the new record.” There’s a little part of me that just wants to be like…”fuck you,” but you can’t. It’s weird. There’s something very annoying about it, like one of the very first comments on the stream is some kid saying, “oh, I’ve already had this for a month.” I understand the nature of a leak, I know it’s going to happen, but there’s something so arrogant about these kids coming and taking something that took us so long to make and just stealing it in no second flat.
SM: I’ve also noticed the reaction is in keeping with your last few – people either love it or they really, really don’t. How come you guys are so polarizing?
RW: For some reason we have a very black and white appeal. I think it’s a good thing. We elicit reactions from people, very passionate reactions, be it whether they absolutely adore it or they fuckin’ despise it from the very core of their being. I think it’s wonderful to see both sides.
SM: It seems like a lot of it extends to you, especially now that you’ve penned a lot of the lyrics. It’s like people have taken it as a personal offence that you’ve written some lines about… it’s hilarious that people are taking it personally.
RW: It’s true. I knew there was going to be some kind of negative backlash regarding me taking over the lyrics because Arif has such a specific, poetic style and when it comes to me it’s like… I just tried to write about things that I knew about and make it rhyme a little, y’know? Obviously it’s going to piss people off.
I think the funniest is with “Sex Tapes.” A lot of people are pissed off at me about that and it was Arif who wrote that. I think that song served its purpose so well. He wrote it with this very specific, gratuitous nature. I’ve gotten messages from kids being like, “I don’t want to fuckin’ hear you singing about jerking off” and it’s like… the very nature of the song is based on people’s negative reactions and the idea of the language that was used in that song to kind of portray the vulgarity and the disgusting nature of it all. As much as it kind of backfires on itself, it works perfectly.
SM: People would be surprised to know I’ve heard Arif say some things that are far more disgusting than I’ve ever heard come out of your mouth.
RW: That’s true. Because he’s cursed with a silver, or a golden tongue. He’s got such a vast vernacular on him that he can produce some of the most beautiful and some of the most putrid things that have ever been said.
SM: How does it help singing your own lyrics. I know it changes the songwriting approach, but does it engage you a little more?
RW: It definitely does. It certainly makes me feel a lot more passionate about the words that I’m singing. Not that I had any problem with any lyric Arif’s ever written, but it gives me a certain sense of identity that I feel I’ve never really had before. The songs, these ones certainly mean a lot more to me than they ever have.
SM: It’s funny, too, because like I asked earlier, you’re always… people are always expecting you to be “on” and when you give them that, in part in your lyrics, they’re pissed off. They can’t make up their minds.
RW: Eh… fuck ’em all anyway.
SM: It’s funny now, too, that people are going through trying to find all the Star Trek references. That’s something you couldn’t do before… it’s a different element. Obviously “Dunsel” is the most blatant one, is that a reference to the record industry in relation to how the word is used in the show? Like a redundancy?
RW: Absolutely. I was watching that episode for and I had had those lyrics all written out. I think that was the first song on the record that received a title. I was watching that episode for the millionth time and that one part where the Admiral calls him ‘Captain Dunsel’ really stuck out to me. It really hammered a point home even though they just fuckin’ made the term up. That wasn’t actually a piece of a naval ship. They just made that shit up. I think anyone who knows Star Trek gets that reference immediately, which I’m sure you did.
SM: It’s the first one that stuck out to me.
RW: I think when you realize the song is about industry, that connection is very blatant. Very blunt… almost harsh.
SM: With the ‘cocaine cowboys’ lines… is that a reference to the documentary or do you just really like Matt Mays?
RW: Hah… no, neither. None of the above. It’s really more just bullshit, it’s common. Everyone is so aware of the idea of cocaine cowboys… it’s not necessarily in relation to the cocaine issue in Miami in the 1970s or whatever. It’s more a reference to people making money off our backs and spending it on partying their brains out.
SM: Which happens a lot. How has your your fanbase changed over the years? You’ve gone from having snotty teenage punks to some wiener kids to some… now you’ve got Star Trek kids. Have you found your fan base has evolved over the years, or have they just stuck with you?
RW: It’s turned into a weird group of people and maybe that has to do with us being kind of a strange band. I find it’s hard to define them under one specific, all-encompassing term. You can look at a lot of fuckin’ bands and be like, “oh their fans are these kind of people, their fans are these kinds of people,” but it seems to me that the longer we go and the more we put out, it seems to be such a smattering of different groups of people enjoying the music for different reasons. So, I don’t know. The fan base has evolved into this grey-matter of just… a faceless thing… entity of some kind. I think that’s the best way to be because we try our best not to fuckin’ define ourselves, so why should the fans be any different?
SM: You guys have already shot a video. Can you say what it’s for yet?
RW: Yep, it’s for “C’est La Vie”. I think it’ll be dropping the same time the album does. It’s a fuckin’ super quick turn-around time.
SM: Is it going to be in the theme of your sillier videos, or is it going to be more blood sucking vampires?
RW: Oh fuck. You had to bring that one up, haha. It’s got a more serious tone than the last few that we’ve put out. It’s basically… it follows the lyrics almost exactly. The very interesting thing about it is really how it looks as opposed to what it looks of. Essentially it’s just a bunch of people fuckin’ killing themselves in different, wonderful ways.
SM: Do you guys have to have a disclaimer on that? Like what Papa Roach used to have?
RW: That’s the thing that I don’t know. I’ve been wondering if at the end they’re going to be like, “Kids Help Phone,” and the list the number. I don’t want that because I think that anyone that would be influenced to commit suicide by a music video is a fucking idiot and probably doesn’t deserve to be on the Earth anyway. That may be a little too harsh, but I just don’t think that there should be an advisory, because it’s not gratuitous. It’s done in a very artistic way. You don’t see people fuckin’ spraying blood or anything like that. It basically cites the examples of what’s listed in the songs, in the song rather, so I don’t think that a parental advisory is necessary, I think it would be so lame if they make us do that.
SM: But you don’t know yet?
RW: No. I think there’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to see that fuckin’ Kids Help Phone come up at the end, hah.
SM: I’ll let you go rest your voice in a minute….
RW: It’s all good, I’ve got like three more fuckin’ interviews to do, I might as well just kill it.
SM: Just before you go, are you still doing anything on the side? I know Arif’s got his country thing, but do you have anything on the side? As one of the few people who’s actually paid to see Cheddar Cheese & the Mouse Trap, I’m wondering if you guys going to be doing anything?
RW: Yeah. I think Arif and I are going to start working on something a little more serious than Cheddar Cheese, but very much the same amount of fun. I’m not really sure what it’s going to shape up to just yet, but…
SM: You’ll be seeing lots of each other so I’m sure you can come together with something.
RW: Exactly. We’re hoping to get an actual fuckin’ side-project of some kind together, if not just write a couple of fun songs to have a good time with. I think Cheddar Cheese is just… hah
SM: It’s done, you think?
RW: We did our one major tour and it was a major flop.
SM: It was fun, though.
RW: It was kind of fun.
SM: Are you going to do any more of those… I remember you used to do skits, you had Space Wars, which I’ve unfortunately still never seen. Anything like that?
RW: Ah! I think about that all the time. I’ve recently become a bit of a Flash specialist and I think about animating short little things but I never really ever get it fully started. Probably one day before this album is dead and gone.
Scurrilous is released on March 22 via Vagrant Records/Universal Music Canada.