INTERVIEW: Henry De Jong – Alien Weaponry

Interview by Jonathan Hurley

Alien Weaponry

In the past few years, no emerging metal band has shaken up the international metal scene like ALIEN WEAPONRY. Since releasing their acclaimed Napalm Records debut Tū (2018), the New Zealanders’ kinetic presence and unique sound – combining elements of thrash and groove metal with lyrics in the native indigenous language, te reo Māori — has attracted throngs of fans and media supporters across the globe. The young trio are heading to Australia for Download Festival so we caught up with drummer Henry De Jong to discuss the tour and the success of the band.


Metal-Roos: So, you have heard the re-cap a thousand times by now, but it truly is incredible the progress your band Alien Weaponry have made in four years. You have now recently released your debut album Tu to unprecedented success. You recently did a summer stint in Europe playing some of the world’s most legendary festivals, have been booked in an intense US tour with Ministry and Carpenter Brut and soon you will continue to dominate the world’s best festivals by coming back to OZ to play Download in Sydney and Brisbane. When did you guys find out that you had been booked for Download?

Henry: About a month ago, and not only did we find out that we were booked, but that Slayer, Anthrax and Ozzy were also on the show so we are so stoked to be playing…

Metal-Roos: Do you have any idea if you will be on the main stage?

Henry: I think so! Not too sure just yet, but we do hope so…

Metal-Roos: You recently had a quick tour of OZ, and selling out Melbourne, how did those shows go down?

Henry: Awesome! We booked a few club gigs around the country as well as doing the Dead Of Winter Festival in Brisbane. All the shows were awesome, we had a great reception. People really went crazy, everything has been great so far.

Metal-Roos: What about stage production, are you able to have any pyro or anything?

Henry: Oh, we’d love to bring some pyro and stuff on stage but at the moment we can’t really afford that type of thing. It really is quite expensive to get all the stuff and lug it around the world on planes… it is definitely something we’d love to do in the future.

Metal-Roos: If budget or stage space wasn’t an issue, what would you love to see onstage in an Alien Weaponry show?

Henry: Oh boy, now you’re making make decisions, haha, I mean, of course Pyro and stuff, but for us we like to focus more on the band. We’re not really into the AC\DC type of thing were stuff is growing out of all corners of the stage. For me at least, when I go and see a band, I like to see the band, so we’d probably just keep scaling up what we already are doing.

Metal-Roos: I heard in an interview that you had set a goal to play Wacken before you were 18, was Download on that list as well?

Henry: Actually, Download was not on that list, but we did know about Download, like we used to watch a live clip of Lamb of God playing Download UK and it just look so cool that we all said that we wanna play Download!

Metal-Roos: How does the Download announcement compare to playing Wacken?

Henry: Honestly, I’m just stoked to even be able to play these types of festivals, I could never have even hoped that we’d be at this point even a year and a half ago. The past few months have been really insane, just getting into this and finally doing what we’ve dreamed of doing for eight years.

Metal-Roos: Speaking of Wacken, how was the experience of doing the Euro Festival Summer, what else were you guys able to play? I know Summerbreeze was one…

Henry: So, we were able to do Bloodstock, Wacken Metal Days in Slovenia which was an awesome festival. That was the first festival we played in that tour, and that really kicked it off and funnily enough that was the first festival we booked in Europe. That was the reason we booked the whole tour from there, the promoter contacted us and really wanted us to play. So, we thought, let’s get over there, lets find a way to fund ourselves and actually get over there and make it happen. There was also a festival called Into The Grave in Holland, we actually played at the after party there so that was quite different. But we got to see Gojira live a couple of times now, so that was awesome, ugh I’m just trying to remember what else, everything has happened so fast and my memory isn’t the best…

Metal-Roos: Has it ever been intimidating walking on such grand stages?

Henry: To be honest, not really. I mean, we have slowly moved up from doing tiny club shows and I mean, you get a buzz bit it’s never intimidating, you know. It’s always a good time when you play those shows.

Metal-Roos: What about walking around in the artists campsites? Met any of your hero’s yet?

Henry: Umm, yeah, I mean, Howard Jones (Light the Torch) the previous lead singer for Killswitch Engage – we got to say hi to him, we kinda “fangirled” out when we saw Trivium walking past. We got to have a little chat with Gojira, I got to have a chat with Mario (Duplantier) so that was cool. It was really lovely to be in the same rooms, and kinda…I wouldn’t say on the same level, that’s taking it a bit far, but in the same ballpark…haha. It’s all so cool and I couldn’t be happier honestly.

Metal-Roos: I saw that you had an acoustic session at a press conference over there, how did that go down?

Henry: Yeah that was cool, we did a Haka just to give people an idea of how we deliver our vocals and stuff while we are playing…

Metal-Roos: So, it was like a traditional performance?

Henry: Yeah, it was, we used traditional Maori instruments and stuff. It wasn’t our songs, but it made people get that same feeling, I think.

Metal-Roos: Would you ever consider incorporating that into your live show?

Henry: Oh yeah, we’ve done it onstage before, and I guess it would be something we could incorporate into our longer sets in the future.

Metal-Roos: When recording Tu, how much did you work on the songs in studio? Did anything special happen in the studio that shines on the album?

Henry: Oh yeah, there was a loooot of stuff that went into that album. The first few tracks that we recorded for it were actually done the first time we got into the RockQuest nationals. We got a day in the studio to work on the songs and we ended up hiring the studio for another day to keep working on the tracks and spruce it up a bit more for the album. So we did that a couple of times and ended up with five songs ready for the album. That was, I think, two summers before the release of the album, we then spent all summer in the band room writing songs. After that we ended up with like fifty songs and from that we picked the best of the bunch and decided that those would be the songs for the album. That was our songwriting process

Metal-Roos: People may say that you guys are an overnight, out of nowhere success story. In actual fact, you guys have practiced everyday since you were 10, as well as honing your stage craft with help from your father and things like the Anvil workshop for years. Have you always taken your music seriously? Was it ever ‘just a hobby’?

Henry: I mean, sure, when we started out it was like “Oh, wouldn’t it be cool to be in a band” y’know? But we slowly got more serious about it, which turned it into something that we wanted to do, and it just grew from there I guess.

Metal-Roos: Are there many things like the Anvil workshop available for kids in NZ?

Henry: It’s funny cause we were involved in the running of that camp. It’s not something that is generally offered for the kids in New Zealand. We only did it twice I think, but it’s something we would love to continue cause there is lot’s of talent out here that just needs a little push as if to say “You can do this”,

Metal-Roos: Has your practice or preparation evolved the more you tour? Do you find the intense touring difficult?

Henry: Actually, I would say it gets easier! You build up stamina, and we can play till we literally drop from exhaustion, so…

Metal-Roos: So, many people are extremely jealous of your current position, myself included, but is there a downside? What is the worst thing about this success?

Henry: Oh man, I don’t want to put a downside to it, y’know? Like, one thing that is weird though, is that it gets harder to talk to people like they are the same, y’know? I like connecting with people, I’m just a regular guy, I’d hate to think of myself as ‘famous’ or something like that. I just hate the sound of that, like people sometimes freak out a bit when they see us and there is no reason for it. It’s just music man, like, if you make me a coffee you don’t want me to freak about how good it is, y’know? haha

Metal-Roos: Having achieved so much so soon, what is the next steps for Alien Weaponry?

Henry: Just working like we have been man, working on songs for the follow up to our album. Working on improving as a band, improve our songwriting… that kind of thing. We already have a few demos down so we send those off to the label and start making the second album at some point.


Interview Date: 2018-11-06

Interviewer: Jonathan Hurley