Arno Carstens doesn’t need much of an introduction. He first captured South Africa’s attention in the 90s as the frontman of legendary alternative rock band the Springbok Nude Girls. Since then, he’s gone on to have a successful solo career. He hasn’t been in the spotlight much this year but with a new album on the horizon, all that is about to change.
You played with the Springbok Nude Girls in Hatfield a few months ago. How did you find the Pretoria crowd?
Cool, man. It was during student holidays, so obviously it would be nice to go back and do it when it’s not the holiday. But we’re going to do five big shows at the end of the year, with the Nude Girls.
Do you have any plans to work on new material with them?
Ja, we’ve got plans to bring out a box set, with all the CDs, also with a new EP, with five or six songs.
Any interesting on-tour stories?
Ag, you know, it’s all just childish kind of stuff. Same old bulls**t. I can’t really remember much. One time I was puking out of the combi, when everyone was going to work in the morning. The touring vibe is kinda … mostly just drunk.
You guys also opened for U2 when they were here. Are you a fan?
Yes! Ah, you can’t help to be a sort of fan, you know? They’ve got some super cool songs. But just their production and their sound ….
I heard the stage set that they take around with them is crazy, as well.
Look, I’ve played with The Rolling Stones, [they’re] legend. But U2, from a show perspective, takes it to a different level. I don’t think anybody can really top that.
So, you mentioned The Rolling Stones. You’ve shared the stage with a lot of other legends too: The Police, Meatloaf … is there anyone else you would still really like to share the stage with?
I’m a huge Nick Cave fan, but I sort of pity the fool that opens for him. Just incredible. Some things are better left.
You’ve toured a lot of places, won awards, had chart success – but what would you say stands out as the high point of your career so far?
It’s always the first time you hear your song on the radio, the first SAMA award you win. But then also, the first band we ever supported was INXS, just before Michael Hutchence died. And that was really awesome. Michael was incredible, and he was just the closest thing I’ve ever met to, like, Jim Morrison. Probably the last real rock star. So sexy on stage, a great voice, and he could party.
What are the main influences on your music when you’re writing?
Obviously stuff that I’m listening to. I listen to a lot of Blonde Redhead, I love UNKLE, and then this new girl Anna Calvi, she’s very good, Bon Iver is good. I like alternative rock music.
I hear you’re working on a new album – a double CD with one CD of collaborations – can you tell us a little bit about that?
I did a song with the Dirty Skirts, the Civil Twilight song is just f***ing incredible, and then Ashtray Electric, Lizzy Pattison (Rob Pattison’s sister), Josie Fields … I actually want to do a few more with Josie. Molly McQueen (Midge Ure’s daughter). And I’ve talked to Tamara [Dey] about doing one with her. I love her style. I mean, that’s supposed to be the B-side.
And what are you going for with the rest of the album?
I think the first song might be coming out pretty soon. I’m going to let the songs drop one at a time. But it’s going to be more upbeat. The last album I did was a great experience, but I don’t want to ever do it again. Too many people telling me what to do, in a way. But this one’s going to be more what I want to do. More guitars.
When are you looking at releasing that?
Photo: JP Nathrass