Two years after crowdfunding Volition, PTH are once again taking matters into their own hands
“Well I’d like to say it’s nothing against labels …” said Rody Walker, lead vocalist of Protest the Hero, “but labels suck.”
The Canadian progressive metal band is in the process of self-releasing their second independent album in a manner that, much like their music itself, is unconventional.
On Oct. 15, the band released “Ragged Tooth,” the first track in what is promised to be a monthly release schedule. For a fee, a minimum of $12 per year, subscribers will receive one track each month as part of a project the band has dubbed Pacific Myth, which will culminate in a physical release of the tracks in standard album format.
“When we were kids we wanted to do a kind of ‘vinyl of the month club’,” Walker said, “NOFX did it and we thought it was an interesting way to put out music back then.”
After coming to the conclusion that the subscription price for a vinyl club would be too steep, the band did the next best thing: “We found a way to do it without costing an arm and leg by going to a digital platform,” Walker said.
Pacific Myth is not simply a drawn-out release schedule for the band’s next album. “We’re recording the songs as we go along,” said Walker, “The second one isn’t even mixed yet and Nov. 15 is coming up fast. I also recorded some vocals for the third one.” The band hopes that this approach will satiate fans, while also giving them tracks that are “as fresh to the fans as [they are] to the band. The music will be as new as it can be,” said Walker.
When the band publicly announced they were leaving labels behind in January 2013 with an Indiegogo campaign to crowdfund their fourth album Volition, they were secretly unsure of what to expect.
“Our third record [Scurrilous] didn’t do so hot,” Walker said. “We were blaming it on the decline of record sales, but now I think that the truth was, people just don’t like that record so much.”
Fans did not know it at the time, but their support would determine whether or not there would even be a Protest the Hero.
“We were in a precarious position and [the Indiegogo campaign] was a last ditch effort. If it didn’t work out we would have put out the record and called it quits,” said Walker. After a successful campaign, the band felt a sense of rejuvenation. “It was really a surprise. It did really, really well and was breath of life into our careers,” said Walker.
While it may seem strange, this success was the reason the group decided against going with Indiegogo when it came time to fund Pacific Myth.
“We kept going back to the incredible memory of opening the page and seeing [the Indiegogo campaign] take off,” said Walker. “There was no way we could recreate or surpass that and we were too afraid of jeopardizing that memory.”
While he admits that leaving the corporate music structure has meant taking on more work, Walker has no regrets. “Even if it was the end of our band, it is the best thing you could do as an artist,” said Walker. “Record companies are usurpers; they drain you. It was an easy decision to leave. We’d all been broke for so long and knew exactly why.”
The band blamed their financial shortcomings on the corporate model. “How it works is that [the label] gives you a cash advance to make the album; it’s not a huge lump sum, but you’ll never make it back because albums don’t sell,” Walker explained. “You’re stuck in the label’s back pocket after that. So we found ourselves back in the same position after three albums.”
The vocalist has some advice for young musicians.
“If you are independent, stay independent. Sure, important labels can seem seductive and sexy, but there’s nothing wrong with staying independent. You know, I look at [the band] Intervals. They’ve always been independent. They’re a good example of how to stay independent and produce quality music in a way that’s beneficial for the band and audience. To any musicians who are with the labels, get the fuck out as soon as you can.”
On Aug. 30, 2005, long before their shift towards independence, the band released their debut album Kezia. Ten years later, Protest the Hero is celebrating the release with a cross-Canada tour, performing the full album at every stop along the way. “It’s a little peculiar,” said Walker, “stranger than what we’ve done in the past, because everyone knows the set list, everyone knows what’s coming up.”
A tour focused on an album that is over a decade old would not be complete without some deep cuts. “Some of the songs we have played ad nauseum, but others we haven’t played live since the album came out. I very much enjoy playing some of them, more than some of the new stuff, but hearing the same old ones over and over … it’s like a fart in a shit-storm,” said Walker.
One track that tour-goers will have to get their fill of is “Blindfolds Aside,” as they won’t hear it played live for a while; “I don’t think that there’s been a show we’ve played since the record was released where we haven’t played that song live. I’ve made them promise that it won’t be on the set list next tour.”
As for those who are wondering ‘which hero?’ the band is protesting: “Probably Superman, yeah Superman sucks.”
Protest the Hero will be at Foufounes Électriques with Mandroid Echostar on Nov. 21 for their “Kezia X Anniversary” Tour. The show is sold out.