By BRUCE DENNILL
“Influence” is a loaded, often misunderstood concept. An artist may sound similar to another but have no knowledge of them, or be a superfan of someone whose output is completely different to their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?
Initially it was an infatuation with punk rock. Punk shows used to be a phenomenon in Cape Town. That’s where I picked up on what it is to be in a crowd and to lose it. So Hog Hoggidy Hog and Fuzigish were monumental. Eventually I happened onto some local rap and electronic music – Spoek Mathambo, Waddy, the Real Estate Agents, Fletcher- that whole scene. It was the first time I realised rap music wasn’t just braggadocio. Dudes were rapping, sounding like actual South Africans, talking about sci-fi… making locally relevant jokes… It was like “I could totally do this.” I totally couldn’t, really, but I did start to learn. The first music I made was horrible.
Has that influence concept changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?
I’m more into contextualising abstract concepts these days. So turning an idea into a consumable story. Which is quite difficult. Tapping into the power of an allegory to get a point or idea across in a way that’s useful. Psychology has always been a fascinating concept for me, but rapping about it would be really boring… Contextualising the concepts is awesome, though. I’m also listening to less music, so what comes out is a bit more original.
Name one song you wish you’d written, or one you’d like to be know as the definitive interpreter of. What makes that song so important?
Dude. Fetish by Selena Gomez: the production, the songwriting, the integration of the rap feature. How it manages to be at once incredibly sexy and also clean as hell. Not a piece out of place in that joint.
Which aspects of your music do you prioritise? For you, would you rather have that your lyrics, your melodies, or your vocals or instrumental work are the are the most memorable parts of your songs?
It really is the way it all comes together. If I prioritised lyrics, I’d be a writer or a poet. Which I am to some degree, but my strength lies in bringing together all the lovely bits to create an enjoyable or meaningful song. In reality, the things people connect with are tone, melody and rhythm. You could make a song with distinctly mumbled or vague lyrics, whack together a video filled with unlinked symbolism and let people fill in the gaps and people would call you deep as hell. I see it happen all the time. Every time a musician says, “I like to leave the interpretation up to the listener,” what they really mean most of the time is, “Look, I went with what sounded good, slapped together some visuals that sort of fit the tone of the whole thing and watched as people let me know what I’d written.”
The music industry is no longer a single-narrative operation. For you, what is the best way to get your music from your head to potential listeners? Please comment on digital means (from social media to full streaming and download distribution), playing live (how often; where; to whom), being a cottage industry (selling CDs from a box in your car or whatever) and any other creative channels you’ve explored.
At the moment, I’m looking at giving people actual real-life experiences. Pulling people away from their phones is a task these days, so I’m trying to make sure that when I do they’re whipped away from their surroundings enough to forget to check it. Make sure the show is something they really enjoyed. There’s all the other stuff too. It’s become cool to be vulnerable now, which I think is cool. It’s a new habit to try and “be real”, which I like to think I’ve always been. But I’m formalising that by dropping vlog posts and what-not occasionally. When I find the time…
From start to finish, the priority will always be the song. On a long enough timeline, a good song will always get heard. That stuff spreads itself. After that, it is now and always has been the case that there are gatekeepers that you need to get past, or more accurately, work with. Those are constantly changing. So basically, I keep my eye on that where I can do that and I’m prioritising making real connections with real people. Chasing influencers or intricate digital strategies will quite often have you losing before you begin if you aren’t rolling thick to start off with.
In terms of the above, is there a gap between what you envisioned and what you are experiencing now? Does it matter, and if so, how do you close that gap?
There is a gap until something surpasses your expectations, really: “Damn… that went further than I thought it would.” How to close that gap? That’s a bloody good question that a lot of people want answered.
What is your most recent release? What is the story behind it – the genesis of the song, the people involved, the muse behind its creation?
The latest release is called sex | love | heartbreak. It’s basically my little look at all of the various aspects of love. Lust, childish infatuation, longing, heartbreak and goodbyes – all of that. I wanted to make each track the most much-iest version of itself. If I was writing a sex song I wanted it to be SO sex. If I was writing a heartbreak song, I wanted people to cry. There were a ton if people involved. Narch, Omri, Ganja Beatz, Mikhaela Faye, Patty Monroe, a mix engineer named Geoff Swan from the UK… We even got mastering done by the fanciest, Dave Kutch and Mike Bozzi.
I’m really proud of it. I feel like it stands up pretty proudly.
The sex | love | heartbreak EP is available now. Stream it here.