Sailing with Violenceby Nathan Casey, images by Deborah Rossouw / 03.03.2011
We stare at the breakfast the waitress just dropped in front of us.
“Fucking Hell!” says George. “Four eggs!”
Rian asks if a man is supposed to eat four eggs in a day and even though I’m sure the question is rhetorical, I answer, “I think it’s a week… four eggs in a week.”
This is Sunday morning hangover conversation. After playing at the Ultimate X-Games Saturday afternoon, a few hours later Taxi Violence rocked the hot, sweaty and stuffed-in crowd at Mercury Lounge with We Set Sail. If they’re not babalas, then they’re probably fucking tired.
They warily ask me what I thought of the show. In the past Mahala’s Max Barashenkov slated the band’s performance at Oppikoppi, hard, unleashing a chain of internet indignation and charges of racism by describing their bassist Jason as “an Asian cunt, if I remember correctly” says Rian.
They needn’t have worried about my reaction. The show hosted by Philip Hotz, aka: Papa Smurf, featuring both Marne Gelderbloem and George van der Spuy’s outfits, We Set sail and Taxi Violence respectively, certainly did not disappoint. The line-up was no coincidence, as the whole shebang was organised by recording and rehearsal studio Kill City Blues, co-owned by van der Spuy and Gerlderbloem.
I was a bit sketchy about liking We Set Sail. From the nicely airbrushed band pics I scrounged on the interweb I got the impression they’d sound like the ugly man’s Freshlyground, Coda, a wet fart from a music exec’s pudgy backside. But I was happily mindfucked when they blasted on stage, melodic and rocking, sounding like a theme song for my precious memories.
I remember seeing Inge Beckmann in the crowd and the guys from The Plastics, so I ask Rian and George if the “industry” support is for Kill City Blues or the bands.
“Both,” says George. “We’re doing a song with Inge and we play with The Plastics once in a while.”
Rian Zietsman, taking his focus off the bacon and sausages for a moment, says, “The Plastics fucked us up at a poker night recently.”
As We Set sail finish their set, hornblower Trynity Silk shouts, “Can I get a ‘hells yeah’ for Taxi Violence!” The crowd obliges and soon Taxi and WSS are jamming an 11 musician mash-up of “Riders on the Storm”. The audience is mesmerised, hands in the air, heads throbbing together. I worry that someone’s going to fall off the stage.
The collaboration seems prescient, if that’s the right word, like a look into the future. The forthcoming Taxi Violence album is not only an acoustic reworking of their previous stuff, but features colabs with Dave Ferguson and Kartie from the US band Smokebox.
“I wanted to work with Led Zeppelin,” smiles Rian, “but they haven’t gotten back to me.”
Old stuff “reimagined” – I was sceptical, and wouldn’t an acoustic “Untie Yourself” or “Venus Fly Trap” sound a bit pussy whipped?
“The songs’ve still got some balls,” George reassures,“but then others are completely stripped down, ‘Untie Yourself’, for instance, has just got piano, cello and vocals.”
As We Set Sail drift off and Taxi Violence take over the stage I can’t help but wonder what’ll happen to these bands. Will they, like the majority of the South African music industry, struggle for years and then fade dsigracefully into middle age desk jobs, no matter how much talent they possess?
Taxi Violence have the sound and stage presence, the flair and ferocity, to better most of the kak from Europe and the States that our local radio stations regularly fellate. But here they are playing to a small crowd, made up of the South African music regulars, when they should be up there with the big boys.
“In 2005, after winning the RBF Studio’s Emerging Sounds nationwide competition,” I say as the waitress removes my bare plate, “you guys turned down a recording contract. Was that a case of integrity over money?”
“The thing is,” laughs Rian,“with that deal we wouldn’t have had integrity or money.”
“At the final, maybe an hour before the show, they plonked this contract in front of us and said before we could play we needed to sign the contract.” George elaborates.
“Ja, in case you win.” Adds Rian.
“Our manager made sure that we could play despite not signing, and then when we won he told them now we’re willing to negotiate. And they just didn’t budge.” George pauses to think. “I mean, what do record companies in this country really do for bands?” he shrugs. “Unless they put a shitload of money behind marketing… it’s the only way a band’s going to get the kind of exposure they need. That’s what we wanted to negotiate with them. They couldn’t tell us how much they were going to put in for marketing.”
At a Taxi Violence gig you can’t help feeling cool and wondering if you’re too old to learn how to play a guitar like that. You believe you can skydive without a chute, take out the big guy in front of you who just stomped on your notebook, and vow to punch the next cop who gives you a speeding ticket. Leaving the Mercury, my head spinning and ears ringing, I pencil a reminder in my skidmarked Moleskine with its fresh footprint.
“So,” I ask, “is groupie sex, better than normal sex?”
“It’s good,” says Rian,“but then I don’t really have anything to compare it with at the moment. I’ve forgotten what normal sex is like.”
“It’s good as long as they don’t turn on you,” agrees George. “These people want a piece of the limelight. What they don’t know is when they wake up in your flat… it’s shit. Oh, he’s a normal guy. Shit.”
*All images © Deborah Rossouw / One Small Change.