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Bitter Begins

by Roger Young, Images Liam Lynch / 25.02.2011

Bittereinder is Yesterday’s Pupil AKA Peach Van Pletzen’s new project with rapper Jaco van der Merwe and visual artist, Louis Minnaar. It’s conscious Afrikaans electro hip hop and they perform their first gig this Friday, even though the album has been out for a while. We stalked Van Pletzen while he made “TEA OF FUCK” in the Hotbox kitchen.

Mahala: How did Bittereinder start?

Peach: I did a tour to Poland with Jaco in April 2008 when he was still writing and rapping in English which he’s done for, I think like, 11 years or something under the name Ajax. A few months after we got back he called me and said he wants to meet with me about something and we met at Lollipop Roadhouse – it even gets mentioned once or twice on the album. He said he’s really keen to start rapping in Afrikaans and that he wants me to be involved and to produce it. I said cool – being a fan of his work – but I knew in the back of my mind that I was going to be way too busy with the Van Coke Album (Skop, Skiet en Donner). So we kind of spent a whole year just on one track. I was so slow that he started working with Louis on some beats in the mean time.

So basically he got fed up with you?

Not fed up, we’d still meet and he’d play me what they were doing and stuff and I really wanted to get into it but I had to finish the Van Coke album and when I eventually did get round to doing it, Parow and Die Antwoord started blowing up… and I was like damn I was too slow, [Laughs]. But I have this feeling like this is a project that’s like a slow burning thing, I don’t expect it to go boom! But it might just be around for a while.

Just because it’s in Afrikaans does it make it similar to Parow and Die Antwoord?

No, not at all.

Like Parow is comedic and Die Antwoord is shock, but Bittereinder just seems to be more thought through… what’s the word?

The thing is, and I must say, i feel like I have to say this, all the press that we get mentions in the article somewhere, Jack Parow or Die Antwoord and always tries to make some strange comparison. Huisgenoot actually just based their article on that. They misquoted us saying that we claimed we are more sophisticated than Jack Parow, which is bullshit and a bullshit angle to write an article from, I mean, I’m a Parow fan. I think every Afrikaaner has a little bit of Parow inside of them and a little bit of Bittereinder, too. Huisgenoot published this shit article and they didn’t even know that Parow is on the fucking album! They kept trying to compare us, or try to force people to choose one or the other, and that is nonsense.


That’s kind of like comparing The Beastie Boys to A Tribe Called Quest just because they’re both rapping in the same language.

Yeah. It’s lke comparing Ashtray Electric and Springbok Nude Girls because they are both rock bands and both sing in English. I think it’s cause the Afrikaans rap thing is kind of new that they feel like every article has to be a comparison.

Well the Afrikaans rap thing isn’t that new, you get that whole BVK thing, all those early guys.

Yeah, of course, but it’s kinda like the revival.

That’s also because that’s coloured Afrikaans. I mean, besides Snot Kop, what other Afrikaans rappers are there?

Well Snotkop is definitely the father. No no no, the mother. No, I don’t know. I’m not like this big hip hopper who came into this thing like Kanye West or something. I didn’t even see our music as a hip hop album, I just saw this dude, and I really liked his lyrics and I thought it’s something different, at least for me. And I felt like I had to be a part of it.

So you’ve made a whole album without rehearsing live once?

Ja. Because the way we did it, he’d write lyrics, come up with a concept or a lyrical idea and Louis or myself would start a beat and then develop it so everyone would record their part and contribute individually. We didn’t think like, oh we’re going to do this, we just thought let’s make an album and now we have to do it live. Jaco knows how to rap so he’ll just do what he does.

Didn’t he perform with you on New Years Eve?

Yes, he did one song.

And it was cool, obviously?

Yeah, it was cool but I mean that wasn’t Bittereinder, that was a taste. Bittereinder is gonna be different. You’ll feel a different kind of engine working.

And now with Louis involved, you put out the single 3 months ago with the music video and obviously ’cause Louis in involved it’s got a strong visual component.

He initially joined as a visual artist.


So is there going to be any visual art in the live performance?

At some stage, but not right now… for a band that has never rehearsed I think let’s take it one step at a time. So for now, we’ll have awesome lights designed by Peter Rodda, but that’s cool ’cause the band can always grow and take it up a notch. If you watch the band every 3 months I want people to see the growth.

So what you have to do then, to make it easy for you, is have a really terrible first gig.

I suppose so.

So let’s talk themes in the album, are there any?

Well Jaco wrote all the lyrics on the album and he’s interested in things like history and bloodline and orange; he says orange is a very big theme. I just think life, but sometimes in a satirical way. That’s what’s nice in taking some lyrical content and being able to put it with the music. He’s got a line on a song that didn’t make it on to this album where he says “as ons almal by die kraans af spring dan kom ek seker saam” you know, if everyone’s jumping off the cliff, I’ll come along. But the way we put it with the music, it’s very playful, satirical but in reality is still a bunch of people killing themselves; jumping off cliffs and shit, perhaps in the video we could have… I don’t know, I shouldn’t talk about music videos or lyrics, it’s not my role.

So you obviously all have other projects, are you just doing a tour now or what?

We’re doing a tour, like the initial launch tour. It’s kinds like going for a swim and then getting out of the water. But I don’t know, Louis will always have other work, so will Jaco, so will I, but that’s why we don’t want to gig ourselves into oblivion. We’d rather keep the value of the show a certain standard every time even if it means only gigging once a month.

Your first gig is at Hotbox which basically guarantees you quite a big audience.

I don’t know.

Well you’re not going to get less than 200 people.

I hope not. No, but I don’t know. It’s hard for me to assume.

And then you’re playing at Ramfest which is also quite a big audience.

We are playing on the Sunday which is like, the audience that is still alive by then is on their way home. The upside to that is 3 days later we are doing a huge show in Stellenbosch, at Klein Libertas with Inge Beckman from Lark and also a full set by Tumi Molekane from Tumi and the Volume backed by 3 members of Isochronous and myself. We are doing a full hour long set… the entire album, front to back. So if the Ramfest thing could just maybe spark the people to come check it out in Stellenbosch then that will be cool. It is a show that works better with lighting, at night. And we’re doing Ramfest Joburg but we’re playing in the electro pyramid at 16:00 or 17:00, so we gonna do that one in true hip hop style…

With all the drum n bass.

Yeah, so it’s gonna be great. The band is definitely kicking it off in the deep end in terms of shows. And interviews [laughs] And it’s gonna grow, and I’m happy about that because when you’re thrown in the deep end you grow fast. You learn and I think that’s a good thing. If the deep end is very hectic then we’ll go chill in the shallow pool. We’ll just swim back and walk around.

Catch Bittereinder’s first live gig tonight at Hotbox Studios in Pretoria.

*Images ©  Liam Lynch.

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