Local noise punk outfit Injured Ninja have been rarely seen on the stage in the past few years as the trio have busied themselves with a plethora of side-projects. But it has never been in their nature to keep quiet, and now they’re back with their first record in almost a decade with new EP TOTAL IMPACT! MAXXX DAMAGE, launched online on Friday, November 27, and on stage at Badlands Bar on Friday, December 4. ANTHONY JACKSON spoke to Matt Bairstow (drums) and Dominic Pearce (bass) to find out what has changed with the Ninja, what hasn’t, and why they’re not planning to go quietly into the night anytime soon.
So a new EP! How long has this been in the works for and why is now the time to let it shine?
Matt: It was recorded about a year ago, but we’ve been holding onto it to release as a little ray of sunshine onto an otherwise gloomy global climate. Also we’re all busy juggling a million other things and stuff takes time!
And what’s different with Injured Ninja now compared to your last release?
Matt: We’ve gone through a few “ch-ch-changes” since then. We had a brief stint of a Melvins big band style version with James Sher from Sugar Army and French Rockets joining for a double drum off which was fun. Unfortunately we never recorded that particular edition of the band, but some of the songs from that era have been reworked to fit the current lineup, and survived to be recorded. Some of us had babies, all of us grew more hair.
The rest of the EP is a bunch of songs we wrote after Jake Steele (Tobacco Rat) spread his wings for greener pastures over east, and we tried to fill the synth and noise gap he left with extra vigorous guitar, bass and drum noise.
It was great to see you guys on stage again at the Return to the Surface show at The Rosemount. How did it feel to get up as a three-piece and play together as a band?
Matt: It was on the best day of the year, Halloween, and I don’t know if you’ve ever worn one of those rubber unicorn masks for any length of time, but it’s a fairly isolating and warm experience. As far as I’m concerned I may as well have been there alone. The other guys probably had fun too.
Dom: Hail, King Lazercorn.
You last did something of a “comeback” show in 2018 where you mentioned you attributed your extended absence from the stage to a “propensity for distraction” for the band. What things have been “distracting” you since then?
Matt: Travels, art installations, wheeling, dealing, keeping things simple, vermouth, overcomplicating everything else, rejecting friend requests from lovely Russian girls and guys, getting sweaty, getting sad about climate change, growing yet more hair, chasing tails, synthesizing, sweating some more, getting angry about climate change, chasing our tails, changing diapers, changes…chickity China the Chinese chicken. Openly considering civil uprising over climate change. Hey look, a puppy!
You guys seem to be creatively across both music, visual art and film. Who could forget the cracker film clip to Fallopian Tube Screamer? Do you consider how the music will work across these different formats during the writing or recording process and is there any more of this, like video clips, incoming following the EP release?
Matt: Absolutely, most of our song names stem from clever dumb portmanteaus from stupid conversations, and the videoclip brainstorming process is much the same. Video concepts are often bought up while discussing songwriting and the ideas come from a similar place of wanting to replicate and reference things we love, while hopefully putting our own spin on things and creating further layers of meaning to the music.
Any idea is fair game, and having a band full of talented, well equipped video, sound and light people with amazing industry friends with their own skills and equipment means that the bulk of the realisation of these ideas can happen in house. The freedom to experiment has always been a core element of Injured Ninja, and we are certainly not held back by what might sell well or what someone might say can’t be done.
Dom: In terms of a new music video, we are indeed cooking up a new clip at the moment, which should be dropping very soon. Some little video niblets will be creeping out soon enough.
TOTAL IMPACT! MAXXX DAMAGE is a rather in-your-face title for a record. Is there a theme to the EP and if so why does that title sum it up?
Dom: 2020. Well, the last few years, really. We wrote a record about the world ending back in 2011. This record is sort of a “the world ended, how ya’ll doing?” sort of affair. Problems of the world are getting cranked up to the max, and those scary post-apocalyptic movie plot predicted futures are getting very real, very fucking quickly.
The Coronavirus sandwich has been served between two thick slices of ecologically crippling bushfire seasons, with slice two coming at us this summer. So this year we’re in now, I’d say that’s what the record is about. We have always turned to our incredibly fucked, wonderfully colourful sense of humour to deal with our problems and anxieties. This record is just another mutation of that. It’s really pretty and pink though, which is fun.
We can’t wait for the launch show at Badlands on December 4, and you’re backed by such a great line-up. What made the support acts you have chosen a good fit for this show?
Dom: They are dope bands, and they do dope shit. Yeah, nah…Yeezus references aside, Last Quokka are sick. We’ve been playing gigs with Ray Grenfell’s various bands our entire gigging lives.
Grunge Barbie are a personal favourite of mine. I took my two-year old baby girl to their Yardstock set. She fucking loved it. They cover Totally Addicted to Bass, which should be a deal-sealer for prospective attendees.
Lastly Yomi Ship are to us sort of inspired by a lot of the same Japanese noise and post-rock bands that Ninja froth on, so we’ve always loved having them play. We’d love people to come down and support local music. After this year musos need as many gigs as they can get, as do bars need bevvy drinkers. It’s a good opportunity to numb the pain and save the economy!