This is one hell of a lunch break. I have one hour before I need to sprint back across Times Square to my office, but for now, I’m backstage at the PlayStation Theater, sitting on a black leather couch, and surrounded by the living, breathing humans that comprise my favorite band, Protest The Hero.
Lead singer Rody Walker sits on an adjacent couch to my left, sporting a Star Trek hoodie, a playful smirk, and a baseball cap that read only “Bastards.” Bassist Cam McLellan types away on his laptop next to him, and guitarist Tim Millar sits in a chair behind me, ear buds locked in and also on his laptop. I’m here to interview the band about the issues that matter most to them and their fans, like their latest EP, their ideological inspirations, science fiction, superpowers, video games, and the fabled Rody Walker Big Cock Appreciation Experience. If you have time, I urge you to listen to the full interview because it’s absolutely hilarious, but if not, here’s what you need to know.
At around 3 minutes and 50 seconds, we start discussing their latest EP, Pacific Myth. I mention how, in an earlier interview, Rody had explained that the EP is all about the monomyth, also called the Hero’s Journey. It’s the archetypal adventure story explained by Joseph Campbell in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. (In extremely brief terms, it’s the classic “reluctant hero enters an unknown world, slays a monster or two, gains treasure and wisdom, and comes back” type story. Think of Star Wars, Batman, The Matrix… It’s everywhere.) Rody had also mentioned that the EP was about the collective unconscious, the part of the unconscious mind that, according to Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, is shared by every human being.
Whoa. Feeling dizzy yet?
Check out the band’s song “Harbinger”
Clearly Rody is a thinker, more so than your average metal/punk frontman. He explains that he’s certainly no expert, but he once had a class on this stuff, and it really appealed to him. And with Pacific Myth, the goal was to point out that so many concept records have a big story or narrative in order to make them unique. But if, as pointed out by Joseph Campbell, lots of stories are actually just the same story (the monomyth), then adding a traditional narrative to a concept album will actually make it less original, unless there’s a unique moral at the heart of it. Oftentimes lyricists dress up an album’s story with flowery language and clichéd imagery (of oceans, etc.) and people eat it up, thinking that it’s unique and true. But it often isn’t, and Rody wants to challenge his listeners to demand something truly profound and interesting, not just something that pretends to be so.
Phew. Alright, enough philosophizing! At 10:44 someone (weirdly also named Jeremy, like me) walks in the room and, concluding that I’m an audio technician, asks for my help. Awkwardness ensues.
At 11:45 we talk books, and Rody mentions how he’s read Game of Thrones and has a major love/hate relationship with Stephen King. At 13:40 he offers some book recommendations (including one of my personal faves, Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami) and ropes Tim in to offer some thoughts as well.
19 minutes in, I mention how between the entire Kezia record and songs like “Plato’s Tripartite,” Protest The Hero clearly cares about women’s rights. Rody agrees, musing that women are too often treated like second-class citizens. “There shouldn’t be any shame in a man saying he’s a feminist,” Rody says. “I think too many people have tiny little dicks and they’re walking around like they have big fat swinging dongs and they’re too proud to fucking call themselves a feminist, even though they know there’s a fuckin problem.” Say it again for the people in the back!
At around 24:30, we start talking video games. Rody’s a massive fan of The Last of Us, Naughty Dog’s acclaimed action-adventure survival horror game. Personally, I’m super into The Legend of Zelda, and while Rody can’t quite relate, Cam chimes in to say that he loves it too.
After 28 minutes, I ask Rody about his biggest fear. Cam helpfully suggests, “Boogers,” and Rody explains that Cam does indeed torment him with his nostril residue. But then he reveals what are genuinely his two biggest fears: snapping turtles and gypsy women. I don’t know what I expected him to say, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t that. Don’t worry, he isn’t prejudiced against reptiles or gypsies, but his explanation of his fears is pretty fascinating. Go listen!
In the past, Protest has expressed the belief that record sales do not equate to success, so I’m curious about what does. At around 31:40, one of my final questions is deceptively simple: do you consider yourself a success? “I don’t know,” Rody says. As he talks, I can tell he’s thinking hard about the question. “Being on the road and writing records and doing all that stuff, it’s such a fuckin’ whirlwind… especially when you go out and you play with a band who you think is about the same size [re: popularity], but they’re like not the same size at all, they’re fucking huge. And you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I sell out 500-cap rooms.’ So I think it’s important probably not to make comparisons, because that can be very depressing. But you know what? I’m happy. I have afforded my life so far through playing music, and I’m very appreciative that I can do what I like to do and I can live off it. So I do think that in itself is a success… We’re not fuckin U2, we’re not Nickelback or any of the big arena rock bands that everybody hates. But we’ve carved out a little niche for ourselves, and I love it.”
Check out the song “Plato’s Tripartite”
At 35:55, I ask Rody if he has any last words for his fans. “Mike [Ieradi, drummer] and I have a new project coming out very soon that is unrelated to Protest The Hero… I don’t wanna say too, too much about it ‘cause I wanna keep it a mystery…” He pauses. And then, like an excited little kid who just can’t contain a secret any longer, “It’s called Mystery Weekend!” Laughing, he adds, “Which I think is a hilarious name!” We both start cracking up. When the dust finally settles, I ask, “Any other future plans for Protest that we should know about?” “No,” he says, “but there’s big plans for Mystery Weekend!”
Seriously, listen to the whole interview if you can, because it’s 37 minutes of absolute gold. In case you can’t tell, Rody is every bit the goofy, thoughtful guy he seems to be, and I can only hope I get the chance to chat with him again sometime. Now go listen to the interview!
And when you’re done, CLICK HERE to check out my guest appearance during their set later that night. I was absolutely terrified, but when Protest The Hero asks you to do a flip onstage, well… I guess you just gotta go for it!