Is there a story behind the name of your new album?
I don’t know if you remember, in the 90s there was a rapper called Everlast? He’s not a rapper anymore. He’s a country-type singer now. So I was on tour with him last year in Germany and he’s quite a scary guy – he doesn’t really talk to you. At the very first show in Münster, Germany I did my opening set and he was doing a kind of acoustic thing, and in the middle of the show two people were talking in the audience and he didn’t take a liking to that and he pretty much stopped the show and had a full-blown argument with the guy and was like “Shut up”. The guy was giving him grief back and what ended up happening was he ended up trying to kill this dude, jumped off the stage and then he cancelled the show.
The way he reacted was a bit maybe overboard but I liked the sense of “if you’re going to come to the show and you’re paying good money, you’re coming to listen, everyone else is coming to listen” and I myself being someone who does a lot of acoustic performances and you get these turkeys talking in the crowd the whole show so I think it was cool that he didn’t put up with that.
Many fans have not yet heard the album or some of the new material, what can they expect?
We’ve done one or two shows with the new content just to get it ready for this weekend. I believe how the songs translate live is definitely the best live set we’ve ever had because I think the songs are very strong compared to previous albums. There’s a big focus on song writing on this album so I think the live set flows so well because the songs are so great. Obviously we’re doing pretty much the same thing – this loud, in your face type of stuff – but I just think the underlying songs we’re going to be playing are far stronger and I’m really excited to play the new stuff.
When writing the new material, was the focus been on the live performance?
Not at all. I wrote a bunch of songs, went to studio, pretty much ready to go. Obviously they morph and change when you pre-producing them in the studio. Then, the trick is, once you start recording the album, to get those songs to translate live because you can’t play them exactly like you play them on the album. So the last month has really been taking those songs and changing them slightly so that they change into a live format.
Has there been one main inspiration for your new pieces?
Not really a main underlying thing. In the past I was more of a traditional blues guy – not on previous albums, I’m talking way back – and you write more clichéd blues lyrics, which are cool too. Whiskey, women. There is a bit of that on the album because that is where I come from, but I think, with modern blues rock, you take an almost songwriter approach. You’ll write about life experiences more than just the clichéd type of thing.
There are a couple videos released that document you recording the album. Can you describe the recording process?
It was tough because this was the first album I didn’t produce. I got Theo Crous to produce it, who has mixed and I’ve worked with many times before but we thought that it’d be cool to change it up and get him to produce it. Obviously, Theo was with the New Girls in the 90s and runs possibly the most successful studio in South Africa and he’s produced a million and one things in all different genres that really happen and have done well. He’s a really musical producer.
The tough part was handing him the reigns because I’m a bit of a control freak, I like to control every element of the music. I was cool, we fought occasionally, but we always came to a compromise. So that was a big challenge but otherwise, we pretty much went to the studio in January and we pre-produced for a week. We took the songs we had written and played them how we’d envisioned them happening and then we changed bits and pieces there, slowed tempos down. Some songs stayed exactly like they were and some morphed quite a bit. Then we started recording which was about a month’s worth of recording and then about two weeks’ worth of mixing and post-production, just trying to get everything cool.
It’s not my favourite thing in the world, studio, but obviously it’s essential. It’s a very tough thing to get a vibe in the studio. There are only three or four people in there. If you’re used to playing live, you’re used to drawing off the audience, even if it’s a small audience, but there’s none of that.
You recently played at Splashy Fen’s 25th anniversary. How was the performance?
It was very cool. It is probably my 10th, 11th or 12th year that I’ve played Splashy and it’s always fantastic, a highlight of the year. This year was cool because it was a test run for the new songs. It was quite nerve-wracking at the same time because new songs take a long time to feel comfortable and natural because you’re thinking about them too much and remember lyrics and melodies and chords.
The cool thing was that the new songs went down really well and that was my big worry – doing Splashy and then having a miff set because we’re all still feeling out the new songs. But the songs translated so well live, especially in that festival atmosphere.
Last year you played at the Grahamstown Art Festival with Karen Zoid. Are there anymore collaborations on the horizon?
Me and Albert Frost are doing a collab there [Grahamstown Art Festival] this year at the Guy Butler Theatre. We’re doing pretty much the same thing Karen and I did last year. Obviously there’ll be quite a lot of Albert’s content too but it’ll be me playing with Albert on his stuff, Albert playing with me on my stuff and a lot of the new content slapped in there for good measure and also some old stuff that we’ve always played and been part of our show. But to be honest, we haven’t even talked but we’ll be doing the same thing at Oppikoppi.