Monday 14 September 2015

***PROTEST THE HERO exclusive interview/ZBR box set***

GenresPunk / Rock / Hardcore / Metal / Metalcore / Mathcore
Related artistsArif's bluegrass band and Rody's acoustic/surf project with Christopher Wynne.
CountryWhitby, Ontario CANADA
Years Active2001-present
Labels: Self Released / Zegema Beach Records / Vagrant Records / Underground Operations / Universal Music Canada / FACTOR / Spinefarm Records / Imperial Records
For fans ofBetween The Buried And Me, Propagandhi, Coheed And Cambria, Dragonforce, Choke, Thrice, The Fall Of Troy, Anti Flag, Death By Stereo, Guns' N' Roses, Darkest Hour, Dreamtheater, NOFX, Belvedere and Alexisonfire.

This is the story of my life thus far with PROTEST THE HERO. We are going way back here, before the band was even conceived. You see, my younger brother Mike had a friend. His name was Luke. He came over to our house about 18 years ago along with his friend/neighbour Moe. They were pretty cool dudes, especially considering I was 14 and they were 10 when we first met.

It's 1998, now I'm 16 and I just jumped directly into the whirlpool that was skate-punk. I influenced my brother. My brother influenced his friends. So eventually my brother, Luke, Moe and I started talking punk and exchanging 88 Fingers Louie, NOFX, Pennywise and 59 Times The Pain records. Good times.

Jump forward another year and the two young lads tell me they are going to start a band. Cool. I like bands. I like you. I like the same music as you. This should work out well. Wait, you named your band "Happy-Go-Lucky"? Interesting. Let's play a show together. So we did. Which I may still have on VHS somewhere. In fact, I will go look for it now. Wait, I don't have a VHS player anymore. Dammit.

At about this time it becomes blatantly apparent that the band was multiplying their skill level at an astounding rate and began writing songs that were far superior to the skate punk that we were listening to while playing Mario Kart 64.

Another year went by and I realized the boys had hit their stride, so I gathered my thoughts and prepared to make an attempt at realizing my dream of starting a record label by asking to work with HAPPY-GO-LUCKY. A little while before I was able to fully commit to this venture, the band decided to work with a Toronto-based label, Underground Operations. I was crushed for about a month, until I heard they band changed their name to PROTEST THE HERO and Moe brought my brother and I their new 7" 'Search for the Truth'. Before I discuss that, we need to go back a little further, first.

The band is still hesitant to release their old songs from the 'Demo' cdr that has not seen the light of internet day. Luke burned a copy for me back when they recorded it in 2001 or maybe it was early 2002, so I have been lucky enough to hear the true beginnings of PROTEST THE HERO. The five tracks are pretty much right up the alley of "Silent Genocide" and "Is Anybody There?" from their 2002 7". Why is that? Because those two songs are on this demo. The first song "Fifth Commandment" is pure Anti-Flag, especially with the chorus of, "I hate, you hate, we hate war. What the hell are we fighting for?" which my brother and I would rush the mics so we could sing along back in the days of The Dungeon in Oshawa (we all grew up in Whitby, the smaller town to Oshawa's west). "Break the Chain" ended up on the 'Coles: Notes from the Underground' cd compilation along with "Asperity of Sin" which was not recorded during the demo sessions. "Break the Chain" is a good sing-along song and includes some decent guitar layering but is mediocre outside of the chorus. "Just Defy" is the other still unreleased song and it closes the demo with its classic rock intro before breaking into Lagwagon 101 until the AFI influence becomes blatantly apparent and the two mix.

'Search for the Truth' is a ridiculous debut, especially considering that they wrote and recorded these songs while they were still in elementary school. It was blatantly obvious even then how much talent these fellas had. "Silent Genocide" was the first song to get crowds going truly apeshit and other, much older and mature bands dropping their jaws at these kids putting their bands to shame. I might not be remembering the chronological order properly, but I'm pretty sure that my friend Joe Barlow gave Luke tips on how to harmonize when he came to jam with Joe and my old band In Debt. The palm-muted intro is fantastic and would have everyone going bananas from the get-go. The rest of the song is good, especially the ending, "Another child dies, adds to your death toll. How many children must die?", but man, that intro is the shit. This song probably sounds most like Strung Out with dirtier punk vocals. The b-side "Is Anybody There" focuses its efforts on a Primus-esque bass intro and vocals that move away from crust and instead toward a more melodic approach. The "woahs" in the chorus are fantastic and, again, very mature for a band this age. I love the tri-vocals at 2:08 and 3:32 with the members chiming in with "you - youuu - youuuuu". This song also includes some of Luke's earliest vocal harmonizing with excellent results and a screaming explosion at 4:37 that I wish was utilized more.

"Asperity of Sin" was the band's first real foray outside of their comfort zone and out into more experimental hardcore/metal (think Bigwig) and shows Rody's initial singing chops that are much rawer and gritty. I remember seeing this song live and absolutely loving it, especially the breakdown at 3:04 that is preceded by some shrilly, whirring guitar-wind that helps build up to the drop. Rody explained that he was taking his first singing lessons when writing this song and the teacher was flabbergasted that this was his idea of singing and was unsure if it was worth continuing to teach him...and now look at him. Not the smartest vocal coach, from what I can tell.

Next up, the band recorded their 'A Calculated Use Of Sound' EP under the much more apt moniker PROTEST THE HERO. This EP really showed that the band had progressed and were harnessing the power of Choke and Thrice as well as incorporating their technicality and the off-time palm mutes. This album is also chock full of Luke doing some impressive backup vocals which were what initially drew me to the band, besides his obvious guitar playing.

"Red Stars Over the Battle of the Cowshed" begins with a great drum and bass intro coupled with the vocal explosion of, "I declare a war!" and a nifty guitar solo. That's a ridiculous way to begin the band's first real EP and for science's sake they were only a staggering 16 years old. The song is quite obviously a nod to George Orwell's "Animal Farm"and contains some very political lyrics that are quite eloquent by adult standards, let alone teenagers still in high school. The outro is superb and repeats the line, "Yes, I want to topple the system!". Another note worth unearthing is the doubling up on the vocals with Luke taking some lines and adding another layer to the majority of the chorus. I  really do wish they still did this, cuz it'd be sick with the newer material.
"An Apathetic New World" begins with an obvious nod to Choke instrumentals (the band once called themselves a "poor man's Choke") until the intertwined dual vocals envelope the listener with some pretty amazing harmonies. At 1:11 they spazz out in a brief, mosh-heavy metal/hardcore freak-out and then bring in three vocalists with Rody and Luke providing melodies over Arif's bellowing yell.
"These Colours Don't Run" is a political song about the US government but the lyrics are obvious enough that I won't discuss them here. The song itself is very unique for the band and I don't feel like they've ever quite written anything like it. What does it sound like? Propagandhi meets AFI. And it's sick. They also made their first music video with the band playing on the streets of Toronto, which I've embedded here.
"Led Astray" is by far my favourite off this record. The build in the beginning with the instrumentals and Rody's most ambitious vocals to that point are fan-freaking-tastic. Let's not forget Luke's brief input that makes this track at 46 seconds with, "in the aaaaaaair". The breakdown and proceeding vocal interplay at 2:00, again, floors me to this day. Such a mature song for such a young band, and holy moly does it kick ass.
Arif wrote the lyrics to "I Am Dmitri Karamazov and the World is My Father" and as unreal as the lyrics and Rody's vocals are on it, this was Luke's coming out party for fingertapping amazingness. This was also the last song the band wrote for the EP and in many ways it shows, especially the slow, acoustic rock part that begins right before the 3-minute mark. Still, the track's mathy approach was the second stepping stone (the first being "Silent Genocide") to their next collection of songs.

"Soft Targets Make Softer Graves" made Chris Wynne puke. Seriously. This was more than a stepping stone, this was jumping off a cliff with wings for the very first, exhilarating time. My friend Chris was so blown away by the fact that he personally knew this band that wrote a song so amazing that he literally gagged and threw up. This was when the band learned how to project (ha) their influences into their music, right at a time when those influences shifted to very technical yet catchy stuff like Thrice, Death By Stereo and Coheed And Cambria's early material. To this date it's easily one of my favourite PROTEST songs.

Moving forward I more than eagerly anticipated the band's next release with a puke bucket at my side. When I heard the unmastered version of 'Kezia' album I was truly speechless. At this time (early 2000s) there weren't many bands who could properly fuse anthemic punk and math-metal. I remember sitting in my room at University and I fucking cried a little. It was weird to be moved like that, in a good way. At this time Arif (bass/backup vocals) practically took over as lyricist for the band while Rody focused on improving his singing, which he no doubtedly achieved. Arif's lyrics are incredible. Truly. The amount of poetic zingers and emotionally political themes are up there with The Blood Brothers, Old Soul and Old Man Gloom. This continued for the next two albums not because Rody's lyrics were bad (which they weren't), but because Arif's lyrics are, simply put, fucking amazing. That guy has since moved on from PROTEST and currently does a lot of work with theatre and plays in at least one bluegrass band that I know of. The lyrics, especially the story on 'Kezia', are pure poetry, and not in the cheesy, teenage angsty kind of way. These are fucking legit.
"No Stars Over Bethlehem" is the perfect opener, screaming, "This shall never be!" before the band detonates with mathematical precision and a million tiny stop/starts and timing shifts. Rody's vocals matured to the level where they really meshed perfectly with the music, combining a Coheed And Cambria and The Mars Volta sound. The dual guitar attack from Luke and Tim treaded new waters of complexity and for the most part was a showcase for the duo. The insane amount of notes being fired off is unbelievable, especially considering the band's age at this time (18 or so). The 2:13 breakdown and mish-mash of screaming and singing lead this opener to its end. Wow.
"Heretics and Killers" was made into a pretty extravagant music video with the band flying around as monkeys from the Wizard Of Oz. I thought this was a strange move as this song has a fair amount of screaming and Arif's low-end bellow, but this video combined with "Blindfolds Aside" really got the attention of a mass of younger, open minded, MuchMusic fans. The guitars take a strong step towards Between The Buried And Me at 2:41 with a riff that sounds like it's being played by a goddamned wizard. A very cool song with a bunch of twists and turns...but I guess that's par for the course.
"Bury the Hatchet" is a very fast paced song that focuses on a lot of speed and intricate guitar-play with some dope bass riffs sprinkled about. The 1:15 breakdown and proceeding "When he falls to his knees, with his hand on his throat as he begs you to please" screaming by either Arif or Luke brings tingles to my spinal column, and this ridiculousness leads into some fantastic Thrice inspired riffs, "Kill Me Quickly" to be exact. The song concludes with an amazing concoction of group and individual parts that get on track right before careening off to do their own things and then quickly meeting back up again like white water rapids.
"Nautical" was always one of my favourites from this masterpiece. At 1:15 Rody's great buildup concludes with, "...the treacherous use of freedom" which is the catalyst for the instrumental supernova that occurs thereafter. The short section from 1:46-1:52 is one of PROTEST's greatest parts and is probably the most well executed "heavy" bit centered around the growls of, "What will happen to our children when the least of us pass on?" followed closely at 2:11 by the beaut that is, "we who fought the hardest to be swept under the carpet." The vocals that ring this song out are unreal in their melodic creation and delivery. Just listen to the, "I'm still a cigarette softly smoking on the edge of a metal ashtray. I begged this place to let me burn, and it whispered, 'burn away'".
"Blindfolds Aside" was made into a music video and a good call it was, as this song is the most infectious material of the band's entire catalogue. The duration of the song is fantastic but the slowdown that gives birth to the beautiful vocal melodies at 2:43 make me belt them out (poorly) and sing along every time. The lyrics, the melodies, the screaming "trigger"s - they all line the powerful and epic metal/post-hardcore second half of the song which has to go down as one of my favourite songs of all time.
"She Who Mars the Skin of the Gods" is, simply put, a great goddamn title. The song itself is a cacophony of explosions, twists and turns. The song goes next level at 1:47 and is a flawless track.
"The Divine Suicide of K." doesn't stray far from the rest of the album but truly tests both ends of PROTEST's audio spectrum as they opt for their heaviest parts on the album and the most serene, especially with Rody and Jadea's soaring vocals. The collective interplay of singing, screaming and instrumentals that close out the song are mindblowing.
"A Plateful of Our Dead" is, you guessed it, amazing. The conclusion to this masterpiece of an album retains everything the band pushed so hard to achieve on the recording and is the final stamp on my favourite PROTEST full length.

I guess the rest is history because after 'Fortress' came out it was like they were everywhere I looked in the semi-mainstream "punk/metal" category and I couldn't be happier for them. They even won a Canadian Juno Award for "best metal act" in Canada (that's our equivalent of a Grammy!) and have at least one song on Guitar Hero/Rock Band. That's pretty goddamn insane.

So anyway, the opener "Bloodmeat" seems like a pretty obvious choice as PROTEST fires on all cylinders. The opening instrumentals are crazy quick and the recordings are clearer and much more professional - so right off the bat we know we are dealing with some serious shit here. Just after the screams of, "heads will roll!" the song begins flirting with epic riffery and song structures with those sexy palm mutes, pounding drums and playful bass 50 seconds in. The song bobs and weaves through what seems like a million stops and starts like a hot knife through butter. Seriously, the fluidity and aerodynamics of this song really set the stage for the remaining 9 tracks. One more passage to mention is the ground shaking breakdown/solo/closer that explodes at 3:31 and is chock full of battling screams and growls. Check the music video out here.
"The Dissentience" was the first track written by the band for this LP and it kinda shows, and that is by no means a slap in the face, as 'Kezia' is probably my favourite all around album, but goddamn 'Fortress' is a very close second. The Isis sounding heaviness that broadcasts from hell at the one minute mark is without a doubt my favourite part of the song.
"Bone Marrow" might be the closest thing to fantasy metal that the band has produced but goddamn it really bridges the gap in a very accessible way for people (like me) who generally can't stomach the genre. The lyrical placement and melodies concocted with the line, "The royalty must die like common beggars and petty thieves," are just plain unreal.
"Sequoia Throne", I would think, is many a fan favourite and I am no exception. It takes the two extremes of the band and squeezes them together like a goddamn trash compactor with dense-yet-spacious results. Take the intro, for example, as it wastes no time getting ridiculously complex and heavy with screams of, "Did you come here to kill or did you come here to die? Did we really think that spaceships would descend from the sky?". Later on Rody shows off his insane vocal chops with a falsetto romp of, "We are still-life in cold blood and we feel. Stuffing corpses full of shit and faith, they bloviate about a future beyond the moon to bring about another planet's doom," that gets audiences pretty fist pumpy. I believe this may have been the point when Arif and Luke, for most intensive purposes, dropped the dual vocal back and forth as they felt Rody had really come into his own with those melodies. Watch the music video linked here and be sure to watch for Arif's arrow shot, that's pretty sweet.
"Palms Read" eclipses the five minute mark, which is about as long as the band has been willing to write at the time of this post, with the odd exception, of course. This song, along with "Limb from Limb" and "Spoils" are very much along the lines of metal with some hardcore and punk as opposed to the other way around. They are fantastic songs but tend to bleed together when I listen to the record because they all have so many parts, albeit, said parts are amazing.
The final two tracks are tied together with the titles "Goddess Bound" and "Goddess Gagged". The former has flurry of gunshots during the insane breakdown at 1:02 while the latter feeds solos to my soul like the best of Between The Buried And Me.

After 2008's endeavor the band returned in 2011 with their next LP 'Scurrilous' following a live cd/dvd combo of 'Gallop Meets the Earth' which is great and also partially shot by my very own and talented brother, Mike, but not worth getting into detail here as the songs are all pretty much the same, just live. There are no unreleased tracks but is worth watching for any PROTEST fan. On 'Scurrilous' the band went through yet another evolution, but this is one that I can't quite put my finger on and definitely cannot really describe. My general feeling is that the band became very conscious of their own talent and they couldn't shake that nagging shadow, but for the most part continued to evolve and write as one would expect the band to, especially given their previous evolutionary leaps.

"C'est La Vie" opens the album and was the first single with the music video that I've linked here. I'm quite sure that during this time Arif was on his way out and therefore the lyrics were split between Rody and Arif depending on the song. At 1:30 the guitars by Tim and Luke rip through some great riffs accompanied by some of Moe and Arif's final, tight as all hell, drum and bass thunder. This leads to the conclusion of the song that reminds me slightly of "Blindfolds Aside" and incorporates some nice vocal contributions by Luke and Tim which accentuate the close nicely.
"Moonlight" begins with excessive palm mutes (which I'm a huge sucker for) and shifts to some neat noodling after the first 50 seconds and closes with Between The Buried And Me fingertapping at 3:01.
"Dunsel" is one of the closest songs with a throwback feel and besides some of the extremely metal elements at around two minutes, this song sounds like it could have landed on 'Kezia' as the most progressive track. The final minute of the song is pretty damn awesome and gets dang-ass metal at 4:23.
"Termites" is quite playful and reminds me of the fantasy metal style prominent on 'Fortress' but includes some of Rody's best vocal work with the variety he is able to pull off. The guitars at 1:33 floor me every time and wish they were utilized more in the song, but maybe that's the genius of it. More instrumental wizardry is executed throughout the song's 3:55 tenure.
"Tongue-Splitter" from 1:20 to 1:58 is among the album's best work, no matter which member you're listening to during this section. At 2:37 it takes another interesting turn with nods to 80s metal which it mixes with the heavier stuff that must have been influenced by Dillinger Escape Plan's penultimate 'Irony is a Dead Scene' EP with Mike Patton, and the entire thing comes off swimmingly right through to the strange dog barking section.
"Sex Tapes" rounds out this record and does so in epic fashion. The stop/start instrumentals give Luke's guitar solos a booming foundation right from the first few seconds of this closer. Chris Hannah of Propagandhi makes a guest appearance at 1:02 and it sounds soooooo good, especially when harmonized with Rody. That must have been a trip for PROTEST (although the two bands are now friends) to record a song with a member of a band that they nearly idolized for more than a decade. At 2:15 the song goes down a new alleyway combining their style with...what is that? It sounds kind of like a musical - Phantom Of The Opera? When 2:37 hits the song moves back onto familiar terrain and at 3:34 it begins the close with fantastical instrumentation that is the perfect end to the LP.

Prior to the recording and release of 'Volition', PROTEST THE HERO went through some major lineup changes. Founding drummer Moe Carlson and founding bassist/primary lyricist/backup vocalist Arif Mirabdolbaghi left the band. Surprisingly, this LP is the closest thing they've done to 'Kezia', and in my humble opinion sounds like a much more mature and confidently executed offspring of it. The band brought in Cam McLellan on bass and Chris Adler from Lamb Of God fame on drums for the record and afterwards PROTEST acquired Mike Ieradi to fill in permanently. With a very bitter taste from record labels in their collective mouth, PROTEST ventured into crowdfunding with excellent results and were able to release the album as a cd with different covers and an LP to boot.

"Clarity" begins this rejuvenating album with a new focus on PROTEST, the sexy balance between crazy technicality and melodies that sustain long enough for the listener to become immersed, as opposed to just being a passerby amidst the mathematical chaos. The chorus is one of the band's most memorable as Rody croons and wails with amazing control while Luke and Tim litter the song with mathy metal, straight up punk/hardcore, 80s metal and classic rock gems. There's also an epic ending that nears the six-minute mark which will have you humming along to, "We are your beginning, and we will be your end. Affluence permitting, a mutual annihilation". This is most certainly the new crowd favourite and was the first song released from the record, for obvious reasons.
"Without Prejudice" could have been lifted from a vault sealed during the 'Fortress' era including the lyrics, "the plates will shift, the earth will shake" which stem from "Bloodmeat", I'd presume. The vocals that begin at 3:32 are from the goddamn heavens and intertwine with Jadea Kelly's voice like lovers do - naturally complete. Yikes, cheese alert. My bad.
"Plato's Tripartite" has a hauntingly beautiful feel and that sound is encapsulated from 1:07 to 1:22 and repeated throughout in a very general sense of ridiculous hooks - both vocally and instrumentally, without being stale, contrite or overly self indulgent. At 3:31 the prodigiously engaging, "It's irrelevant, her relation to me..." begins and flows throughout the remainder of this flawless song.
"Mist" is yet another track that toys being a lengthy six minutes but feels like three and a half with a speedy, playful and optimistic delivery that is a massive, rhythmic singalong at shows (especially in Newfoundland). This track makes me think of Lamb Of God mixed with Choke, Belvedere and some Coheed And Cambria tossed in for good measure. The song ends with a classical arrangement of piano and acoustic guitars.
Continuing to apply the sarcastic punk with some metal riffs, "Underbite" blazes through in 3:45 and is a huge nod to their boys in Propagandhi. At two minutes the song slows down and employs some nicely harmonized guitars before entering sing-along/head-bobbing city. Todd the Rod also makes a guest vocal appearance here.
"Animal Bones" is a contender for top track here. The instrumentals are very different, oddly timed (even more so) and almost uncharacteristic of the band's signature sound - but it's a goddamn pleasure to listen to. I don't know how to describe it, who to compare it to, nor poetically describe my emotions towards it other than to say weh heh hoooe it's a doozy.

So, if you recall the beginning of this lengthy ridiculousness I quickly discussed wanting to start a record label when I was 16, primarily for the purpose of releasing PROTEST THE HERO records. It was not to be...until now. Zegema Beach Records will be releasing a 2005-2015 LP discography 4x cassette boxset for mid 2016. It will include all four PROTEST THE HERO full lengths - 'Kezia', 'Fortress', 'Scurrilous' and 'Volition'. I can't begin to tell you the emotions and history I have regarding this release, as I've apparently (in the blink of an eye) fulfilled a lifelong dream as well as have been offered an absolutely unreal opportunity. Hot damn, it's a good day.

In other recent developments, there will be a 'Kezia' tour in November and December of 2015 with original members Arif and Moe as it is the album's tenth anniversary. The dates are posted on the poster below.

Here is my 14 month old son rocking out to PROTEST THE HERO. We named him Lucas. My long time friend Lucas Hoskin was the primary catalyst for this choice, as he has always been a solid, hilarious and passionate friend.

Video interview with Luke and live set in Hamilton!!!!!!!
Part 1
Part 2
Live Set

For the new interview exchanged via email in July/August of 2015...



2001 - Demo cdr

2002 - ...Search for the Truth 7"EP
2002 - (Coles) Notes from the Underground cd compilation (contributed "Asperity of Sin" and "Break the Chain")

2003 - A Calculated Use of Sound cdEP

2005 - Kezia cd/12"LP

2008 - Fortress cd/12"LP

2009 - Gallop Meets the Earth live cd/dvd

2011 - Scurrilous cd/12"LP

2013 - Volition cd/12"LP

2016 - Protest The Hero discography LP cassette boxset


(2002) PROTEST THE HERO - "Silent Genocide" (from 'Search for the Truth')

(2002) PROTEST THE HERO - "Asperity of Sin" (from '(Coles) Notes from the Underground')

(2003) PROTEST THE HERO - "Led Astray" (from 'A Calculated Use of Sound')

(2005) PROTEST THE HERO - "The Divine Suicide of K." (from 'Kezia')

(2005) PROTEST THE HERO - "Nautical" (from 'Kezia')

(2005) PROTEST THE HERO - "Blindfolds Aside" (from 'Kezia') official music video

(2008) PROTEST THE HERO - "Sequoia Throne" (from 'Fortress') official music video

(2008) PROTEST THE HERO - "Bloodmeat" (from 'Fortress') official music video

(2011) PROTEST THE HERO - "Dunsel" (from 'Scurrilous')

(2011) PROTEST THE HERO - "Termites" (from 'Scurrilous')

(2013) PROTEST THE HERO - "Animal Bones" (from 'Volition')

(2013) PROTEST THE HERO - "Clarity" (from 'Volition')


PROTEST THE HERO additional links

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