Taxi Violence have launched their third album, Long Way From Home, this month but with a bit of twist. As the album name suggests George van der Spuy, Rian Zietsman, Jason Ling and Louis Nel have made an artistic roadtrip into the realms of the unplugged with a few new tracks in the mix. Perdeby spoke to lead singer George van der Spuy and bassist Jason Ling about the album, their plans and a roadie named Big Head.
Long Way From Home is your third album but the first you’ve done unplugged. What were your reasons for doing this kind of an album?
J: I don’t think it was a conscious decision, just a natural progression. We had done a lot of unplugged shows and people starting liking it and we said we want to put it down on record.
G: That being said, our unplugged shows are very different to what they are now. It sounded good live but when we hit preproduction it needed a lot of work. We did a lot of rearrangement and rewriting so it actually doesn’t sound like the original at all.
Like the track “Unholy” is vastly different from the original recording. How did you guys go about the reworking your previous tracks?
G: Well, you start off by playing exactly the same thing and then listening back to it. Well, that’s the process we chose. Change things, record, listen back and so we were writing and recording at the same time during preproduction. Except if it doesn’t work on the day we go back home and try something different.
J: Even during the recording process things change as well. We had cellos and pianos and organs and many layers of guitar, so that also changed during the process.
Your first two albums Untie Yourself and The Turn were self produced. How has it been working with a label to produce your third album?
G: We did most of the preproduction. The band wrote and recorded a lot of that stuff so a lot of that was done beforehand. But we worked with Rusti Rossouw who’s worked in Nashville and recorded people like Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton which is very different to a rock vibe. I mean it’s cool doing it yourself but it’s nice to have a helping hand, or helping ear for that matter. The other albums I took a lot of strain. I recorded it and mixed it and sort of mastered it. It just got too much and you lose perspective. But I think it still came out good, you know, it’s just too much pressure.
This album has more of a retro/bluesy feel to it than anything you’ve done before. Is this what we can expect from Taxi Violence in the future?
J: On the The Turn you could already hear more bluesy stuff so we were sort of steering in that direction.
G: We will definitely take what we’ve learnt from this album and apply it to the hard rock vibe.
You guys have this modern vintage aesthetic going on. Why the decision to rework old tracks and incorporate only three new ones?
G: Well basically we wanted to give the people something familiar but put a twist on it. It’s almost like we are the cover band playing Taxi Violence. So it’s not exactly the same. And then the few new tracks to entice [fans].
J: Also, [while] we were doing preproduction these [new] songs actually wrote themselves. We were just in that mood at that moment.
The album cover shows an unusual character who you’ve called Big Head. Who is he and what is his significance as far as the album is concerned?
G: He was a fan of the band to begin with and then he started stalking us in a way.
J: He couldn’t play an instrument so if we let him in he was going to have to pose.
G: He became a roadie first [but] he had an interesting look.
G: But to tie in with the album, he’s a long way from home. Nobody knows where he’s from. He’s exploring new things, foreign territory.
J: I think that for the first time, like the name of this album, we’re unplugged. Putting down the heavy electric guitar and putting out a melody for this one
How was the experience of working with Lonesome Dave Ferguson who features on two of the album’s tracks?
J: Awesome. He’s one of the most talented musicians.
G: No, no, no he wasn’t awesome. He was f****** awesome. We gave him one track beforehand and he came in to the studio and said he didn’t really have time to listen to it. So he did about five or six different takes just of the one song and our jaws just like, dropped. Every take was different and we struggled to find one that was the best because all of them were so good.
You guys had a successful tour of Germany and Holland in 2009. Any plans to do another overseas tour?
J: Not plans but we always want to go.
G: The focus shifted last year to get this product out. We’ll focus on [overseas] again. What we did when we went over was establish a lot of contacts and get our foot in the door like getting on the radio stations and stuff. So we’re getting a following there and that’s the idea. Build a following before you go over otherwise you’re just blindly going over and that’s a lot of money.
J: Times have changed with all the social media now. You can actually build a fan-base before you go over there.
G: We’ll definitely go back [but] there’s still a lot of work to do in South Africa.
It was rumoured that you guys were going to open for Kings of Leon before they postponed their gig. Now that they’re playing in October is it still going to happen?
G: Well it’s all pending, really. We’re in the running with the other bands but we really hope we can. We will suit the vibe.
Tickets were recently released for Oppi Koppi this year. Can we expect to see you there?
George, at the Up the Creek festival this year it was said that you took a bet and landed up vomiting on the front of the stage while Idols winner, Elvis Blue, was performing. Firstly is it true, and secondly, did you get your R1000?
G: Let’s just say I didn’t get paid for all my hard work. It wasn’t planned, it just kind of happened but I think it gave me some street cred, hey.
Photo: JP Nathrass