Savage Industryby Dorothy Mhone / 27.11.2012
It was a rather chilly Friday night but that didn’t stop the Johannesburg hipsters from coming out to look at each other in the city’s sexiest dirt pot, Maboneng. More specifically the plaid shirt and sneaker crowd were there to see the Cassette documentary, Who Do You Trust? at The Bioscope. We know Cassette right? We know them from their hit song ‘Who Do You Trust?’ and that retro black and white video. We know them from ‘Sometimes’ and ‘Tracy’. But mainly we know them from… Jon Savage, the 5fm DJ. Let’s face it, that’s how we know Cassette, the vocalist (and you could call him PR manager too), has never been shy to play their songs on the radio, he has something to say about it, and he’s proud of his work. He’s definitely not one of those vocalists who hates hearing his own voice.
The documentary, directed by John Barker (Bunny Chow, 31 Million Reasons), captured their journey from 2007 to 2012, which all looked like one long road trip, quite literally. During this extended road trip, their backpack was stuffed with five managers, four producers, three lead guitarists, two drummers, thinking hats and quarrelling boots. It seems that they lived together but kicked out a lot of roommates, replacing them with different roommates and new problems. Clips of them at airports that weren’t OR Tambo flick across the screen. They were one of the first South African rock bands to play in Japan and shot one of their videos in London during a European tour. Somehow, with all the change, perhaps too much, the personalities involved butted heads like rams fighting over a mate. Jon Savage says they had two chances: either being the best band in the world or crashing and burning and disappearing into thin air.
They certainly argued with each other about things that we, as the audience, find random. One of the many instrumentalists complained that the girl who plays the keyboard really wasn’t doing anything at all. Halfway through the documentary, I started feeling like this is a relationship and not a band, like an extended Kourtney and Scott scene and not a South African rock band documentary.
To confirm what I said before, one of the girlfriends of the band even admitted: “It’s like soft-cock rock”. They are such adults though, it never seemed like they were having any fun other than when they were on stage or travelling; because Savage has some funky dance moves and of course everyone is excited to be on a different continent.
And although some parts of the documentary were shot on cellphone, everyone’s voice was audible. Everyone except that damn demon-voiced narrator, DJ Fresh. Honestly I could only hear him half the time. Why have a documentary about a South African rock band narrated by a house DJ who sounds like a jock? Hang on, I think I just answered my own question. But they should have at least ensured that the narration was audible.
In the beginning, Jon Savage states that music was always a secondary thing, which begs the following questions: Is this the same stunt you pulled on Idols? Is this an advert like the Christmas advert on Youtube in which they advertise their own album? Is it all staged?
By the end of the movie, in order to be “the best band in the world in the world”, it looks like they have to kick out some more roommates. As Jon Savage admits, “I’m not the easiest guy to be in a band with.” The film ends off with the statement that you can’t really be in a band for more than five years without making it. Luckily Savage still has that job at 5FM, then.