When I was a teenager, I remember being something of a closed minded person when it came to music. I was way into my underground anarchist punk period and, to my mind, everything else was garbage, mainstream or sold out! I’m so glad to have grown out of that ridiculous mindset! Now, I can really appreciate bands like NINJASPY who go out of their ways to blend and merge different genres and ways of expression that go beyond music! That was one of the reasons that made me curious about them. Here’s a small interview with Joel Parent (vocals/guitar):
GRZ: Hi there guys! How’s the family? Always prompt and ready to break some musical genre barriers?
[Joel]: Family is great! We are most certainly amped to break things, especially genre barriers.
NINJASPY is literally a band of brothers! How does the family ties weight in and influence you as band? Do you think it eases the way you embrace touring and recording?
[Joel]: I wouldn’t say eases, it’s more of a chaotic fluctuation between love and anger. I’d say that has an impact on our musical fluctuations as well.
You started playing together at a very young age, back in 1999, but NINJASPY only came to be in 2006. What made you realize that was the time and place to say ‘let’s do this’? Were you trying to find your comfort zone? While listening to your music, I’m guessing you feel comfortable in a lot of different places…
[Joel]: We had a series of unfortunate events in our career that made it seem fitting to have a fresh start in 2006. The idea of Ninjaspy really fit with the fusion of genres and for the integration of music, dancing and martial arts.
One of your flags/objectives is the “eradication of narrow mindedness” with a “surgical amalgamation of a spectrum of styles”! From progressive metal to ska/reggae! From Meshuggah to The Police! How does one manages such a mission and how important it is to you to achieve such goal?
[Joel]: First of all, I have to say that I totally get scenes and fitting into a certain genre. Doing so means tons of fun, comraderie and a sense of belonging. I would never judge a band because they aren’t weird enough. But for me, it just makes sense to incorporate everything I like together. It is musically very challenging to me. Accomplishing the fusion is tricky, but it’s all about the segue and sensing the rhythmic similarity between different genres.
Having played live with such different types of bands and audiences (from 3 Inches Of Blood and Today Is The Day to Brutal Truth and Powerman 5000), how do people tend to react to your music? Do you pick particular sets to play or do you go all in with the reggae on the extreme metal fans?
[Joel]: We have the luxury of catering different sets to different crowds. If it’s a ska show, we lighten up! If it’s a metal show, we make it heavier! It’s always fun to lean to and fro. People’s reactions are as mixed as our music. Usually folks either love us or hate us!
Let’s talk a little about the “No Kata” EP: there is a graphic novel released with the EP, but does the EP exist outside the novel? What I mean is, can it be absorbed as an individual piece of music or are they (novel + EP) the two halves of the same work?
[Joel]: The two are meant to be experienced together, the lyrics are the monologue in the graphic novel. But you could definitely read/listen separately.
What is the artistic concept behind “No Kata”? At one point you mention the four elements, but how did ‘Void’ found his way there?
[Joel]: The void is very common in eastern religion and martial arts. In the art I study, going into that “zero” space is the key to survival. The concept of No Kata is that by getting out of the madness of your monkey mind and into a state where your body is free to move and dance, you then have the ability to conquer your enemies. The enemy in No Kata is the Skank, your negative self. And dancing destroys the enemy.
While we’re on the subject of concepts, what kind of themes do you explore with your lyrics? Let’s take, for example, two of my favorite songs from NINJASPY: ‘Evolution of the Skid’ and ‘Out of Tampons’.
[Joel]: ‘Evolution of the Skid’ is about marxist criticisms of capitalism. It’s about being on the right path in life and doing the things that you were meant to do rather than staying at a job you hate. I got fired for writing that song at work hahaha!
‘Out of Tampons’ is an analogy for the way we treat the earth. Earth is the mother, and by doing good things for her we plant good seeds in her womb, and she gives birth to new life. But when we plant no good seeds, mother earth does not conceive, she gets her period, she bleeds. And that blood represents the wastes of the world. It’s a huge mess. And the only thing cleaning it up are the good people, the tampons. And there aren’t enough good people in the world to clean up the amount of bloody mess we are making. We are running out of tampons.
You’re launching a campaign to fund your next album. Do you have everything planned out or are you going to swing it as you move along with the fund raise? We don’t want to jinx everything, but is there a plan B in case you don’t make enough money to do the record?
[Joel]: It’s all planned out! We are finalizing studio time for May/June. Plan B is to find another way to get the money or record fewer songs! So for everyone’s sake let’s hope we raise enough! I’m confident though, things are looking good.
This sort of funding campaigns seems to be pretty common these days. Do you believe that bands don’t trust labels anymore or is it the other way around? Everybody wanting only to bet on the ‘winning horse’, so to speak?
[Joel]: It’s not that bands dont trust labels, it’s that labels aren’t interested as much anymore and bands don’t need labels as much anymore. There are so many ways to make it in music nowadays. I think crowdfunding is the way to go. The only contract you have to sign is the one that says you will deliver music to your fans and that’s what you’d be doing anyways!
Let’s round this up by asking where, how and when, can we, European eyes and ears, catch a glimpse, a note, a full show, a new record or even an old one from NINJASPY? Where can we spy on you Ninjas?
[Joel]: Well we are easy to find online through our website www.ninjaspy.net and we do hope to come to Europe one day! Once the new album is done we will be looking to start travelling outside Canada. Hope to see you soon! Cheers!
official website: http://www.ninjaspy.net/
watch “No Kata” graphic novel: www.youtube.com/watch?v=51YiWk_HaB4
stream “No Kata” (2013): http://ninjaspy.bandcamp.com/album/no-kata
stream “PiNature” (2007): http://ninjaspy.bandcamp.com/album/ature
[GRZ note: while I was getting this post ready the band did managed to get all the money they needed to get the new album done! So, congrats on that, guys!]