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Culture, Music

The Giant Peach

by Yusuf Laher / 22.06.2010

I keep fishing for that Roald Dahl reference but, so far, multi-collaborating Pretoria muso and producer Peach van Pletzen won’t comply. Francois and the Giant Peach? Nah… First, Peach made a name for himself playing drums for alternative Pretoria rock band SHU. Lately, he’s all over the place, from producing the new Kidofdoom and Van Coke Kartel albums, to working with Francois van Coke on Oorlog Frankenstein and the play 2-21, and touring the country (and Argentina and Poland) as Yesterday’s Pupil.

Mahala: Have you always lived in Pretoria?

Peach: Pretty much, for the last 23 years.

Growing up, did you travel around a lot?

Not in terms of living. Pretoria’s always been my base. We used to go to Cape Town, Hermanus, Durban, Margate… But now it’s at a fairly ridiculous point, since the music thing took off.

Do you still live in Pretoria?

Yes, in die Moot. It’s like the valley.

And how close is that to your recording studio, Sleeproom?

Very close.

As in, the same building?

As in, the building next to my place.

How has the Pretoria scene changed since your Shu days?

It’s difficult to tell if it’s the scene that’s changed or me. To be honest, it’s both.

Did you play more gigs in Joburg or Pretoria?

I’d have to say Pretoria did get the majority. Just because we had a very loyal fan base and they treated us like the people they knew and grew up with, even if they didn’t.

What’s the Joburg vs. Pretoria balance like nowadays, with Yesterday’s Pupil?

Ag… I might do one or two extra shows in Pretoria. I love Pretoria crowds for their consistency. But Jo’burg, on a good night, can really surprise you. It’s nothing to do with turn out, just the mentality of people at that moment.

How would you define the “Joburg-sound?”

Difficult. There’s a huge metal scene going on in Jo’burg that’s always been pretty steady over the years. They have metal, Flash Republic, that whole dance thing – weird house clubs and things like that. Not DJs like Haezer, the dudes at Truth. Ha ha… There’s such a diverse culture, possibly the most diverse in the country.

And Pretoria?

In Pretoria, we have this side of the mountain and the other, separated by the Magaliesberg Mountain Range. I’m on the mountain, so it feels like I’m connected to both sides. The North side’s a breeding ground for sick metal musicians, especially guitarists. The East side is bands like Isochronous and Kidofdoom… equally brilliant musicians, just a bit more sophisticated. It’s a different mindset.

How do they both compare to Cape Town?

Cape Town definitely has the business side of things quite down. In my opinion, Pretoria is one of the most creative cities, but Cape Town will write you the radio hits – and I take my hat off to them. It’s not easy to write hits. Often, Pretoria bands aren’t as commercially successful but they have massive cult followings. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. Joburg, ‘cos of its huge diversity, you get business bands that turn out huge hits, like The Parlotones. But that’s different. In general, Cape Town writes hits with integrity. Parlotones are more of a brand.

What’s the biggest difference?

Joburg has the most diversity, the most genres. In Pretoria, people that go to a rock show will go to an electro show as well. Pretoria People are very accepting and open-minded. Cape Town has a very strong covenant, or brotherhood vibe. The whole Bellville thing is huge: it’s not easy to write respectable hits and do the marketing and business side of it that well. They also have a really booming electronic scene. But in Cape Town, a lot of people seem to attach themselves to a certain scene, genre or venue to define themselves socially. Not everyone. I know a lot of people go to the Shack, then go to Mavericks, then do this and this and this, and then watch Axe On Fire at Speedway… There’s also a whole crowd of Capetonians I’ve never even seen. People that go to Club 91 and Chevelle. I’ve driven past and there’s always queues and queues of people. When I ask what’s going on, it’s some DJ I’ve never heard of.

And do you get more work done in Cape Town, Joburg or Pretoria?

Pretty even, it’s more about where I get my work from. It depends if you’re talking about Yesterday’s Pupil or Peach the producer. The Van Coke Kartel work was generated from Cape Town, and I get quite a couple of gigs in Cape Town. I think I’m pretty well spread. It’s important to know how to adapt.

What about audiences, where do you get the best response?

Look, I can definitely give Pretoria the consistency prize. They’re always warm, regardless of the numbers. But Jo’burg’s got that surprise element. One night can just blow your mind and you’re like, “Joburg, fuck yeah!” I’ve had some good shows in Cape Town, and some really weird shows. I love all three cities. But really, it’s one country. And technically, we’re all the same peas. I mean, I’m not comparing things to Buenos Aires or Warsaw.

Favourite venue in the country?

Hotbox, in Pretoria.

What do you like about it?

It’s got the soul and the spirit. It doesn’t feel like a business, but it also doesn’t feel like it’s run like a hole. The prices are good, the sound’s good, the people are awesome. It’s the closest you can come to a festival vibe without leaving Pretoria.

What was the Toffie Pop Culture Fest like? Was it very “Cape Town?”

I thought it was cool. I wasn’t there for the entire fest, the workshops and all the speakers. I just played the after party, with Oorlog Frankenstein. It was really cool. Or maybe it was just ‘cos I had a good night that night.

What kind of parties are there up north, in Joburg and Pretoria? Dogbox?

Dogbox is exclusively DJs, but it’s very popular. The DJs play in the kitchen and you dance in front of them, in the lounge. It started at Hotbox, now it’s also in Stellenbosch and Jo’burg. Johan (Auriacombe – Kidofdoom) came up with the idea one night at Hotbox, when Haezer was scheduled to play. It started raining but Johan refused to make it a cancellation and moved Haezer inside. He ended up playing a three and a half hour set, in the “Dog Box.” And Johan said, “This is the idea for the next party.” I doubt if they play from the kitchen in Stellenbosch and Joburg.

And finally, what about Durban, on the map?

I love Durban. It’s definitely a place I want to get to more. But if I want to do Durban, it’s like Bloemfontein: I have to make the mission. It’s not at the point where people are willing to fly you down, come up with a set fee, organise a complete sound rig… But I love Durban. I’d like to go there and get more of a consistent thing going.

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