When most people think of ninja, they think of heartless human weapons for hire, door to door deliverers of death, medieval mailmen gone bloody postal for a price. It’s true, some people who practiced ninjutsu in feudal Japan did this and profited by it, and gave birth to the modern image of the ninja in all their violent hilarity. But in the beginning the skills for which ninja have become radical and revered arose out of necessity. The ruling samurai class prized honour above all else, even life. The peasant class often reaped the deadly benefit of this disregard for life. But some of them rejected this devaluation of their lives and sought ways to survive in spite of it. They were creative, skilled and deadly in their pursuit of a way of peace. They removed the hindrance of ego and status and instead let a reverence for life shape their approach. Unbound by the protocols of oppression, they invented unprecedented survival methods that have become legend. They unified mind, body and spirit in their art, they used what they had, they broke all the rules.
Ninjaspy takes this approach and applies it to music.
Music and dancing are the means for survival. Without them life is less than it should be, some life is lost. Ninjaspy uses everything they have in their creative arsenal to make music that moves people. Music that is inventive, unfettered by ego-driven posturing or attempts at conformity to social or stylistic norms. Music that attacks and recoils, combines violence with peace. Music that allows both silly and serious to interweave. Music that breaks down the imaginary barriers between mind, body and spirit: reuniting people with themselves in moments of pure freedom. Freedom in which one can laugh, cry, dance, puke, scream, unleash, let go, be, live, survive.
It began in 1999 with three brothers. Joel, Adam, and Tim Parent, (the Triad in Blood) at the ages of 15, 13 and 11 respectively, came to the end of the century with distinctly different musical preferences despite a lifetime of proximity. Being so diverse in influence and having a youthful disregard for genre rules, they proceeded to write whatever naturally came to them. Over seven years they experimented with ska, grunge, hardcore, metal, reggae, funk, surf and jazz and eventually became Ninjaspy in 2006.
Ninjaspy picked up momentum, playing relentlessly in their hometown of Vancouver, Canada, and touring many times across their vast country. They indulged heavily in both silliness and seriousness, and often left audiences aghast, reeling in disbelief of what they had just witnessed. Just as the tactics of the ninja were either scorned or revered, Ninjaspy evoked both disgust and admiration, sometimes from a single individual. But in correlation with a commitment to real and reciprocal human connection and zero-ego, high-energy, fun-filled, free-expression dance pit parties, support for Ninjaspy grew.
Alongside prolific producers GGGarth Richardson (Rage Against the Machine, RHCP, Mudvayne, Gallows) and Ben Kaplan (Atreyu, Haste the Day, Shakira), Ninjaspy released their debut album πature (Pi Nature) in the fall of 2007. The album let bloody surprise and spontaneity spill and soak the ground beneath one's dancing feet, ground that also held firm the belief and conviction in the music. From start to finish one scarcely knew what to expect. From downbeat to breakdown, reggae, hardcore, and much more were forcibly wed. Tracks like the spastic "Defecating On What's Left Of Our Child", the anthemic "Hit By A Cement Mixer", the haunting "Pure Sketch" and the energetic "Evolution Of The Skid" made Pi Nature feel like a ballistic guided nature tour through ninja infested forests.
The band went on to do many headlining Canadian tours, appear on The Warped Tour and Taste Of Chaos festivals, and share the stage with many bands such as Comeback Kid, Periphery, Twelve Foot Ninja, Protest the Hero, Coheed & Cambria, Thursday, Cancer Bats, Death By Stereo, 3 Inches of Blood, Today Is The Day, Set Your Goals, Four Year Strong, Brutal Truth, Divinity, Bring Me The Horizon, Neuraxis, Pierce The Veil, Powerman 5000, Grimskunk, The Dreadnoughts & more.
In pursuit of further inspiration for life and art, Vocalist/Guitarist Joel began seeking out ninjutsu training to add real life experience to the reading and research that had inspired the ideals of Ninjaspy thus far. He began training in 2008 in Vancouver, and found that even deeper connections existed between the art of Ninjaspy and the art of ninjutsu. The philosophy of the mind, physical skill with the body, and spiritual awareness further informed his creative process. Through training with his Vancouver Dojo, Joel eventually had the chance to travel to Japan in the Spring of 2009 to study with the Japanese Sensei of the nine surviving schools of Budo Taijutsu, the Bujinkan.
While on this trip, Joel also met musicians and artists in Japan, resulting in the October 2009 release of Pi Nature in Japan on Zestone Records. Ninjaspy later toured Japan with Death By Stereo and Lost in Summer 2010. After returning from the Japan tour, full of cultural inspiration, the band produced and released a music video for "Circle Pity" in early 2011 that included martial arts choreographed by Joel and painfully endured by the other two members of the band.
Eager to avoid injuring one another and continue putting out new music as swiftly as possible, Ninjaspy recorded a short EP with GGGarth Richardson and Ben Kaplan in Spring 2011, one that was to be the soundtrack to a graphic novel. This "musical graphic novel" entitled Ninjaspy No Kata (Japanese: translates as "Ninjaspy's Form"), was to be the quintessential embodiment of Ninjaspy both stylistically and ideologically. It infused reggae, hardcore, and drum and bass with lyrics that told a story; a monologue in graphic novel form, meant to be read in real time with the 10-minute piece of music.
The story follows a man, Illujin, on a trip through his own tormented psyche, during which he discovers that only through body movements united with his environment can he overcome his enemies both real and imagined. The final five movements of music represent the "Go Gyo No Kata" (Five Elemental Forms) as utilized by Illujin in the novel. These kata come straight from the Bujinkan, illustrating how the martial art and coinciding philosophy have informed and inspired the music of Ninjaspy.
The EP's only single "Skaingkh (The Skank)" was released in May 2011. By combining reggae/ska and "skanking" with hardcore and "throwing down", Ninjaspy championed "throwing the skank down" as their style of dancing (much to the chagrin of miscalculating feminists and their concerned male counterparts who had no idea what skanking or throwing down were). The lyrics in "Skaingkh (The Skank)" characterize "the skank" as the antagonist in the No Kata story. The Skank became the embodiment of one's inner struggles that must be "thrown down" through dancing.
While waiting for the graphic novel to be completed, Ninjaspy stayed primarily in Vancouver, writing and re-writing many of the songs in their repertoire that had yet to be recorded. The music of No Kata was released sans novel in May 2013, and a short western Canadian tour followed. At long last, October 2013 saw the release of the full musical graphic novel with a multimedia performance at Vancouver's Rickshaw Theatre, where the band performed No Kata in it's entirety in real time with projected images of the animated graphic novel.
In Spring 2014, Ninjaspy launched the "Jump Ya Bones" Tour and Crowdfunding Campaign and raised $15,000 to fund a new full length album. While waiting for studio time to become available, and eager to branch out in a new stylistic direction, the band filmed and recorded a live acoustic performance of a song that was to be included with full metal instrumentation on the new album. "Azaria : Acoustic (Live)" was later released in Spring 2016 as a single and live video. It showed the true diversity of the band and their ability to take manic and intense music and make it tender, soft and raw. November 2014, recording finally began for Spüken, the culmination of nearly a decade of songs narrowed down to a only a handful of survivors. It was recorded and mixed over many months in Vancouver BC, once again with GGGarth and Ben Kaplan. The 10-song album features the single "Speak" which was released August 26th, 2016 through Business Class Records. The official music video for "Speak" was premiered in cities across Western Canada and released online December 1st, 2016. It brings into visual context the breaking of the long dark silence that was the 9 years between full-length Ninjaspy albums. Spüken is set for worldwide release in Spring 2017.
Joel Parent, Adam Parent, Tim Parent
Armstrong Metalfest, formerly known as Armstrong Open Air, was started in the summer of 2009, inspired by the summer outdoor metalfest circuit in Europe. Just like anything else, AOA started out small, on a rural farm just outside of Armstrong BC. The first year, with no advertising, drew about 300 people out to see 11 Okanagan metal bands rip up the stage (made of a pair of flatdeck trailers).
With Year eight being the most successful year to date of the festival, The staff at Armstrong MetalFest are getting geared up for year nine, July 14 and 15 2017. Bands Submissions Started September 1st 2016 at www.ArmstrongMetalFest.ca and ran until Nov 1 2016.