NADINE LAGGAR, MELINA MELATAKOS AND JP NATHRASS

 

AWOLNATION

What can South Africans who aren’t familiar with your music expect from an AWOLNATION performance?

We are so excited to play in South Africa! We will be sure to bring the most energy possible to your country. We try our best to bring the spirit of the underground to our live show. Crowd participation is heavily encouraged – sing-alongs, stage dives, crowd surfing …

What’s the best thing about playing at a big international festival like RAMfest?

I have never been to South Africa, so I am psyched to learn and experience this wonderful culture. Plus, music has the power to bring all people together in a positive light, regardless of colour, shape, sex, size, or country.

Your music brings together a variety of genres. Are your influences as varied?

Yes. I am influenced by all genres of music and all walks of life: art, the way the world works and relationships with humans.

Before going solo, the material you wrote was rejected by quite a few artists. Was there ever a point where you felt like throwing in the towel or was that never an option?

Well, I definitely had to figure out a way to make a living outside of music but I knew that I would always write songs. These ideas come [in]to my head out of nowhere, so I really have no choice. Song ideas haunt me.

How has your creative process changed since going solo?

Well, in the other bands, there were three cooks in the kitchen. Now, I am the architect and [I have the] final say to all things AWOLNATION. It is liberating and scary all at once.

When starting AWOLNATION, were you afraid that fans would constantly compare your new sound to that of your previous bands, Under the Influence of Giants and Home Town Hero?

Not really. I have always felt that those bands were constantly growing and evolving. So, I think it makes sense to a lot of our old fans.

Megalithic Symphony has been out for roughly a year now. Did you expect the overwhelmingly positive response that the album has received?

Never. I just wanted to make the best record I was capable of. I never worry too much about what other people think. I am such a music fanatic, so I figured that at least a few people would like the record because I do.

You released Megalithic Symphony digitally before it was released physically. How has the digital revolution changed the music industry for artists like AWOLNATION?

It’s great for us. We can do whatever we want. There are no rules and it is a great time to be the underdog. In addition to our radio success, this record has spread through word of mouth, and that is much more possible these days with the constant progression of user-friendly social networks and recording technology.

Is a new album on the cards in the near future?

I am always writing songs for the new record. I want to be prepared for when the time comes for the second record to be released.

Your music has allowed you to travel all around the world. What is the best and worst thing about touring internationally?

Best: We get to travel for a living.

Worst: Airplanes are like jail these days.

What music festival survival tip can you give those who have flocked to RAMfest this year?

Just save your energy for AWOLNATION.

What else can your fans expect from AWOLNATION in 2012?

We will always keep it interesting and be improving.

 

Newtown Knife Gang

What’s the best thing about playing at a big festival like RAMfest?

Knowing that we’re playing the most talked-about festival for 2012 alongside top international and killer local acts is an incredible feeling.

Does it sometimes bug you that your music is constantly compared to 16 Stitch’s?

Not at all. 16 Stitch is part of the history of this band. Personal and professional experience will always influence your writing and musical approach. The lessons learnt in the past have definitely prepared us for how we are moving forward today.

What was it like working with Prime Circle’s Ross Learmonth on “Taste goodbye”?

Ross was a complete professional to work with. We were super stoked to have him feature on a track. He tracked his parts in one evening session and added a distinct Ross vocal performance to our third single.

You’ve talked about viewing your band as a brand that you have to sell. Why do you think this approach is important?

Music is about passion. If you need outside motivation to do music then you probably aren’t in the right industry. It’s so important to love what you do but at the same time be smart about it. You can’t be making a loss otherwise it will burn out before you get anywhere.

 

Ambush

What’s the best thing about playing at a big festival like RAMfest?

The vibe and the energy at festivals like RAMfest [are] unrivaled. Being able to expose crowds to music they may not have heard before and seeing them enjoying it – there is nothing like it!

Why did you decide to form INISHI8 and Dubmental?

INISHI8 and Dubmental were both formed (albeit many years apart) to push dubstep & drum ‘n’ bass music and artists in SA to new levels. There were no promoters [and nowhere] for people [to] hear drum ‘n’ bass or dubstep. It’s really nice to know that all the hard work, blood, bass and tear-outs have paid off: the scenes now have momentum and are moving forward.

You were touring in the US with your music back in 2001 already. Why do you think South Africa has taken so long to catch onto the drum ‘n’ bass and dubstep scene?

Drum ‘n’ bass never got the exposure that house music got. South Africa has always been a little conservative, so getting radio airplay was very difficult. The internet, or the lack thereof, played a massive role and, in my opinion, slowed the growth of the genre and other similar genres. Now with the internet being easily accessible, it enables people to make their own choices and listen to other music that they never knew existed.

 Does a tension exist between the dubstep and electro scenes?

There are haters on both sides. Some embrace it and use it where they can, [for example] some of the psyDJs are using dubstep in their breakdowns. While other DJs are closed-minded and are not willing to listen to other types of music.  The different genres are now also using similar sounds and quite often switching tempos. So they are so intertwined that it is becoming very difficult to even differentiate (between the two).

 

The Narrow

What is the best part of playing at festivals like RAMfest?

Lias: To see all the various people together, listening to music they love and just enjoying them. Also, to perform for them is a great honour and privilege.

Emile: Mixing it up with the internationals. But also the fact that it’s a festival that is held all over S.A.

Jow: The fans and the vibe.

What act are you most looking forward to seeing at this year’s RAMfest?

Emile: There can be only one, In Flames.

You recently had a competition on Facebook for the redesign of your album cover for Definitely Recycled. Does this mean we shouldn’t look forward to a new album any time soon?
Emile: [Laughs] Not at all. Please look forward …

Jow: Yes, we are busy with [some] new material and [some] acoustic songs.

You Don’t Get to Quit saw the band’s sound heading in a different direction compared to previous albums. Is this the type of style fans can expect in the future?
Lias: We always play what we feel and never try to sell out, that being said, we also try and keep things fresh for the fans, without going too far from our roots. But The Narrow will always be The Narrow.

“Lonely-Lonely” has always been a crowd favourite. Do you ever get tired of performing this song?
Emile: That’s the amazing thing about [performing] live. On the night the song is “now”. Love it.

Jow: Yes. I mean no, never.

Lias: When we practise it, yes, but playing it live for the people that love the song, never.

 

Pestroy

What is the best part of playing at festivals like RAMfest?

Gump: The organisation, the entire setup is extremely professional. Oh, and it’s loud. And there are loads of people. Damn, I’m amped!

Gucci: Playing RAMfest is always a pleasure. It’s becoming one of the biggest festivals in our country with some of the greatest bands and artists. It’s rad to be included in the line-up […] the professionalism of the whole RAMfest team is amazing. They have set the standard for all event organisers to follow. They have taken the festival to an international level! 

You are well known for your heavy but also cross-genre style of music. Is this a natural transition for you?

Gump: It feels natural to us now, I think. It feels natural to be heavy but also natural to be complex and incorporate other styles. It wasn’t a conscious decision, though. It just went that way so yes, I guess it is natural. We are all influenced by very different styles of music and we respect that, so it’s great that we can fuse styles together.

Dylan: As Gump mentioned, we don’t consciously try play “cross-genre”. We kind of just do what we do. We all listen to quite a diverse cross-section of music, so it’s bound to creep in here and there. As long as we enjoy playing it, and people are digging it, what more do you need?

You’ve been in the music scene for quite some time. What are some of your craziest tour stories?

Shane: Our lawyer has advised me not to answer this question.

Dylan: Any tour is crazy. We’ve been banned from venues, thrown appliances from hotel windows, been stranded in the Karoo at 50° Celsius, we’ve eaten horse pizza in Berlin, arrived at a venue in the Netherlands that burned down the day before, thrown floor polishing machines from first floors but it has all been an absolute blast! Good times, good times.

What can fans expect from your performance at RAMfest this year?

Shane: He doesn’t know this yet but we’re going to set Dylan on fire while he performs a 20-minute drum solo. Or he might just roll around on the floor screaming which we’ll just call a 20-minute interpretive dance solo.

 

Double Adapter

This isn’t the first time Double Adapter is playing at RAMfest. What do you think makes it one of the most anticipated festivals in the country?

Dan: I think RAMfest this year is going to be interesting. We have only ever played the Cape Town shows but I think it’s the pure energy and excitement from the crowd. Music festivals are great because people can really let rip without all the consequences of going to a party in the city. And, if you have a great line up like RAMfest has, people are gonna get buck wild!

Can we expect to get our hands on your EP any time soon?

Dan: We are currently working on it and hope to have it out within the next month or two.

Tim: Fingers crossed!

Will you be making your tracks freely available for download like you did with your mixtapes?

Tim: Absolutely. The EP might have to be downloadable only for a while but I’d love to release it for free after we’ve covered costs.

You guys have almost done things the wrong way round by releasing a documentary and a music video before releasing an album. Why is this so? Was it intentional?

Dan: [Laughs] Yeah, I guess that is a good point. I don’t think it was ever intentional but we have always treated ourselves as DJs first. We didn’t go into this with the plan of making multiple albums or even a single album. We started doing this for fun and I think that the documentary was just a natural progression. We wanted to show people what we were about.

You guys have said that you are performers first, DJs/musicians second and VJs/musicians third. What do you think makes an excellent performance?

Dan: A bottle of tequila and kids that wanna dance as much as we do.

Tim: A sore neck the next day!

 

Infected Mushroom

You guys are from Israel, how is the psychedelic trance/electro scene over there?

The trance/electro scene is quite strong, there are still massive parties – and many great producers are Israeli. While it is true that psy is still popular in Israel, most of the clubs are playing house music these days.

Your eighth studio album, Army of Mushrooms, is being released on 8 May. Would you say your music style and sound has evolved yet again with the new album and if so, how?

We are very excited about this album: our first in almost three years. With every LP, [we take] steps to grow our “sound”. If an artist does not grow, they tend to waste away. This project will mark our return to pure electronic music, you’ll be hearing less rock, and more “untz-untz”.

You explain on your blog that the lyrics for “U R So F**ked” come from an experience in Korea. Are there any other quirky stories behind tracks on your other albums?

Sure, there are plenty. You will have to tune into our next video blog [to find out]!

“U R So F**ked” crosses multiple genres, incorporating dubstep, reggae and some heavy rock. How do you decide which genres to draw from when you’re working on a track?

We just let the music guide us. If we “feel” something, then we will explore it. Reggae, for instance, is a nice way to add spice to a tune rooted in a completely different genre (in this case, dubstep). Even in URSF, we used some guitar-distortion riffs to add flavour. If we feel like there is something lacking, we will do some digging.

Does it ever bother you that some of your fans consider your experimental approach to producing new music as disregarding your psy trance roots?

Like I said, artists do not stay the same – they have to keep experimenting, changing, evolving, or they will inevitably fade away with the times.

How was it being in a boxing ring with Argentinean wrestlers Lilian Pavone and Norma Álvarez during the making of your music video for “U R So F**ked”? It looked quite daunting.

It was very scary … it was easy for us to show fear [laughs]. They are very talented and great at what they do! It was an interesting day in Argentina.

When should fans expect to get their hands on the next single/music video from Army of Mushrooms?

We do not want to say an exact date but it will be very soon!

Infected Mushroom has already worked with many artists. Who would you still like to collaborate with and why?

We have always been a big fan of Primus and Depeche Mode – it would be great to work with them some day. They are both sort of psychedelic in their own ways and we dig the fact that they transcend time.

You’ve performed in South Africa before: how would you say the crowd over here differs to others you’ve played in front of all over the world?

It is the edge of the world and South Africans really know how to boogie down – every time we come here, we are amazed by how awesome the people and the parties are. And I (Amit) met my wife in South Africa many years ago, so I have a special place in my heart for the country.

You’ve been touring all over the world. Where do you think the epicenter of electronic music is?

EDM is huge all over the world now – Brazil, Mexico, the United States, Russia: everyone has a scene. The epicentre has always been Europe but with American companies such as Insomniac, it wouldn’t be surprising if the United States gives Europe a run for their money.

What can South African fans expect from your performance at RAMfest this year?

Madness, insanity, energy, bass – an experience they won’t soon forget.

 

RudeOne

What is the best part of playing at festivals like RAMfest?

Definitely the crowd and just the whole festival vibe that goes with it. I feel honoured to be playing a festival of this size and alongside some of the biggest local and international acts. RAMfest is doing amazing things for the music scene in South Africa and big respect to them for choosing drum ‘n’ bass as the main feature on the Electronic stage.

You started Science Frikshun along with CutKeyLow. Did you find that by starting this movement the electronic music scene became more accessible to fans?

Definitely. When we started Science Frikshun four years ago, drum ‘n’ bass was basically nonexistent in Johannesburg. During the last four years, Science Frikshun has grown from small parties with around 50 or so people to big events where we pull around 800 to 1 800 people on a monthly basis. The scene has really grown a lot and has already produced a whole bunch of up and coming DJs, producers and promoters.  

Science Frikshun often collaborates for shows with the It Came From The Jungle group of artists. Do you have DJ battles?

It is not so much competition or battles but rather a collaboration of South Africa’s top drum ‘n’ bass artists where we bring some of the Cape Town flavour to Joburg and vice versa. At the moment it is all about building the scene and getting international acts over to enjoy our events as well as our country while giving our crowd the best drum ‘n’ bass experience possible.

 

Niskerone

What is the best part of playing at festivals like RAMfest?

The crowd. Definitely the crowd. They are in full festival mode and ready to let loose. This allows me to take full control and play everything I’d like to, and we end up having a great time together. Also, the production at festivals like RAMfest is always top notch, which makes it all the better.

What act are you most looking forward to seeing at this year’s RAMfest?

It’s going to be great seeing Netsky play again, and this time with one of my favourite drum ‘n’ bass MCs – Darrison. On the live stage, I’m really excited about Infected Mushroom. I performed with them in Spain last year, and they were insane live.

You grew up in Mitchell’s Plain situated on the Cape Flats which has quite the reputation. Would you say this has had an influence on your music?

It’s had an influence on my work ethic and drive. For kids growing up in Mitchell’s Plain, opportunities are hard to come by and when [they do], you learn quickly to work very hard to become good at your trade, else you don’t make it out. I still hold on to the life lessons I have from [my] childhood there.

How would you say the drum ‘n’ bass scene has changed with the increasing interest it’s received as a popular genre on the South African music circuit?

A few years ago, you would never hear drum ‘n’ bass on stations like 5FM, now it’s become a regular occurrence. The genre has definitely been exposed to a larger audience in South Africa that would normally never [have] heard of it. Now that we have South Africa’s attention, we’re using this opportunity to showcase the various faces of drum ‘n’ bass music and not just the stuff that’s on radio and telly.

 

Photos: Brad Donald & JP Nathrass

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