GENRE IS DEAD! Interview With Alien Weaponry’s Ethan Trembath

New Zealand’s Alien Weaponry practically took the metal world by storm last year with the release of their debut album . Blending thrash metal with their Māori culture, their fresh sound quickly earned them slots on major festivals, being hailed as the next big thing in metal, and touring with major acts, including Ministry. But this is only the beginning. They’re ready to go bigger and continue spreading Māori around the world. In the middle of their North American tour, bassist Ethan Trembath sat down with GENRE IS DEAD! to talk about Alien Weaponry’s rapid success, the importance of Māori culture, and what the band wants to achieve next.

GENRE IS DEAD!: You guys include a lot of the Māori language in your songs. Part of what inspired the band was keeping that language alive. Now thousands are people are singing these songs in a language they don’t even know. What’s it like seeing that?

Ethan Trembath: I mean, of course, it’s always awesome when we see that happening. We’ll be playing in countries, like say Spain, where quite a lot of people don’t even speak English. Seeing them speaking Māori, which is this tiny little language that’s kind of on the verge of extinction, is mind-blowing. We might try to talk to those type of people after the show and we can’t because they don’t speak English. It’s really awesome to see how we’ve influenced people to pick up on such a tiny thing again and it’s really helping out the language.

GID: I never even heard of Māori before hearing the album and afterward I wanted to learn more. It’s a great way to spread around not only the language but the culture and the history of Māori you guys write about. Do you think you’ve achieved the goal of keeping the language and culture alive?

ET: I think you can say we’re helping. I don’t know if that’s enough. It’s not time to stop yet, so we’re gonna keep promoting the Māori culture and spread the language and hope it gets bigger. There’s nothing wrong with a whole country, like Germany, speaking Māori. It’s kind of impossible to reach full awareness throughout the world when it comes to Māori, but we’ll see how it goes.

GID: You guys recently released your new song “Ahi Kā,” which is about the Auckland city council’s decision to burn down the indigenous Māori village of Okahu Bay prior to Queen Elizabeth II’s visit in 1953, for the Adult Swim Metal 2 compilation. How did you come to be a part of that project?

ET: Well, I found out about it months ago when I got to band practice. Niel [de Jong], who’s our manager, told us we had to write a new song because we’d been chosen for this Adult Swim compilation. I was stoked, I couldn’t believe it. I’ve heard about it before and I’ve seen some huge names on there and never expected to be a part of it. It was an honor. We’re really happy with how the song came out. We actually wrote it in between shows during our New Zealand tour. We booked two or three days in the studio and tried to write it in a day, but it ended up being three hours. We’re surprised how well it came out and we think people are happy with it. It really gets the crowd going live.

GID: It’s an excellent song, so congrats on that! Speaking of new music, have you guys started thinking about the next album at all?

ET: Of course. We’ve already written two songs and have quite a few ideas. We’ve got a song that we’re thinking about dropping soon. We’ve been playing it live so if you come to our headline gigs you can check it out. We’re pretty stoked about this new one coming out so we’re gonna drop that in the not too distant future and have a pretty cool music video to come with it. So, you can look forward to that.

GID: Can’t wait to hear it! You guys are currently on your headlining North American tour. How’s that going? What are you most looking forward to?

ET: Last night [May 16th] we played Montreal in Canada for the first time and I was really stoked. I wasn’t expecting much because it was our first time playing a headlining Canadian gig. It was an awesome show; we sold out the venue. It was a little venue, but sometimes those are the best kinds. It was a real intimate crowd and we really got into it so that was great.

I’m really looking forward to Rocklahoma I think that’s gonna be a cool fest. We played Epicentre not long ago and unfortunately because of the weather it had to be canceled early, but we were on pretty early in the day, so we got to play our set. We’re pretty much looking forward to the rest of the American tour.

GID: The band previously toured America with Ministry last year, so you guys have been here a few times. What has surprised you the most about America or your American audience while you’ve been touring here?

ET: The Ministry tour was great, and their crowd liked what we were doing because of the political side of things. I think in some ways the kind of people who are into Ministry will kind of like our kind of music as well. What surprised me? I was surprised at how people are very kind over here. In New Zealand, people are quite shy when it comes to talking to you after a show, but people in America are very open to chatting. They’ll invite you over to a barbeque and stuff like that. All sorts of hospitable stuff. It’s really cool to see. We found the same in Canada too.

GID: It’s great to hear you guys have been getting such a warm welcome while here. Previously, you guys said one of your goals was to play Wacken Open Air Festival, which you achieved last year. What do you want to achieve next?

ET: We’ve been setting pretty farfetched goals for a long time now it seems and so far, it’s been working out for us. I think the next goal is headlining shows like Wacken and Download Festival. We realize it sounds pretty out there, but maybe one day it’ll happen. So, we’ll see how it goes.

GID: With how much success you guys have had in the last year, you’ll be headlining in no time. You guys have been playing together since you were pretty young. Henry and Lewis cite a number of metal acts that influenced them growing up. Can you tell me about some of the artists who influence you and your playing style?

ET: I actually hadn’t heard of any metal bands before I met Henry and Lewis. They introduced me to bands like Trivium, Rage Against the Machine, Metallica, Pantera and things like that. I think the one that I mostly picked up on back then was Trivium. It’s hard to say who really influenced my playing style because I ended up teaching myself. I know for Henry and Lewis it’s Lamb of God, but to me the biggest influence is Trivium.

GID: So, Alien Weaponry has been together for a while, but you’re still fairly new with your debut album coming out last year and you’ve achieved so much in such a short amount of time. What have you learned about yourself or about the music business during that time?

ET: We’ve come a long way since we first started out. Being brothers, Henry and Lewis can’t get along sometimes, but we’ve all learned to be friends. Learning about the music business – In New Zealand, the music business is very small because the country isn’t very big. Everybody knows everybody in New Zealand. Coming overseas and meeting all these big acts it’s kind of the same thing, especially in the metal community. There’s no room for people being dicks. Everybody is really kind to each other. Nobody is bigger than anybody else, most of the time at least. There might be a few individuals who might not feel the same. Everybody’s kind and friendly and it’s not really a big war or anything. It’s just about supporting other metal bands.

GID: What are some of the challenges you find yourself facing in the midst of all the success?

ET: I’m only 17 and it’s like I just jumped from being a 15-year-old kid going to school every day to being a full-blown adult with a job. It’s kind of hard to think that maybe I’m missing out on my childhood but in other ways, it’s a whole other experience that very few people will get the chance to have. In a lot of ways, I’m really lucky, but sometimes you think about it like that. Another thing we found challenging is keeping up with your health physically when you’re touring. We’ve found it especially hard in America for some reason.

GID: Since the release of the album, you’ve been playing shows and festivals around the world. Considering how fast everything has happened, it can be overwhelming. How do you deal with that?

ET: It’s been strange thinking about how a couple of years ago we were just three little kids jamming out to whatever sounds came out of our instruments and now it’s taken us around the world. It’s insane to think about really. We’ve only left the country for the first time last July. Since then we’ve been all over the place. It’s awesome to see people are finding our stuff as this fresh new thing and they’re supporting it all over the world. It makes us happy to be accepted. Obviously, we’ve had huge help from different people and organizations who saw potential in us. We’re endlessly grateful for that. It’s really working out for us – I’m glad.

Alien Weaponry recently wrapped up their North American tour. They’ll launch the European leg on June 7th. Find all their tour dates here. And if you haven’t already, pick up a copy of their latest album, Tū.

Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Illinois Entertainer. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Creeper, and Green Day.

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