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Violence is Golden

by Dylan Muhlenberg / 14.08.2009

The camera pans from a digital bedside clock (flicking from 3:59 to 4:00am) to a man tossing and turning in bed.
It’s not everyday that as a fan you get to give back to the band you’ve taken so much from. Which was why I’d agreed to be an extra for Taxi Violence’s new video. For free. On a Saturday (shomer Shabbos!). At the ungodly call time of 7am.
The man pulls his bedmate closer towards him, pushing his left arm under her and spooning her, before pushing her away and curling up into her so that she’s the big spoon. 
To say that I was excited is an understatement. (Imagine! Lil’ ol’ me on the TEEVEE!) Plus-One was less than impressed though, but I told her that if she was going to be on the receiving end of all those complimentary tickets and festival passes then she was just as obliged to give back.
There’s a film crew doing the type of thing that film crew’s do, setting up lights etc. The couple walks into the little side room where they do wardrobe, makeup and hair. Then they sit around and wait… talk to the other extras… eat a muffin, drink some coffee…
The venue is about as glitzy as what is inside your navel right now. Even less so first thing in the morning.

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And so much for all that. The scene has been set. Action!
‘Devil & Pistol is a Robert Johnson inspired song,’ says guitarist Rian Zietsman. A tall spindly guy who walks with his feet pointed at ten to two and plays with his amp turned to eleven. ‘He sells his soul to the Devil, who later comes to collect. We played with a few concepts, but I’m glad that we’ve settled on this.’
‘This’ goes a little something like this: George van der Spuy (frontman) sells his soul to the devil (pop up video fact #17 Played by blipster Mavuso Mbutuma, who also styled the entire shoot using his very own wardrobe). Together they bury a photo of George (pop up video fact #37 This is gorgeous George’s facebook profile) and some bones (pop up video fact #62 These are from director Natasja Fourie’s supper the previous night) in a voodoo box (pop up video fact # 89 The scene pays homage to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo). In exchange for this gift the devil then tunes George’s guitar. Cue mean guitar riff. George becomes a shit hot musician. Cut to scenes of a smoky prohibition era roadhouse, debauched good times, better tunes and a very sexy Devil Woman (played by M1 models’ Jessica Bosman). Heil Satan!

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George says that the video is apt because he’s 27 now and there are links between the video and the 27 Club (pop up video fact # 99 The statistical spike for musicians who died at 27 include Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones and Robert Johnson).
Rian continues: ‘This is the biggest budget video that we’ve ever done. Our ex-bass player did the four prior to this, usually for about a grand, but he’s in Johannesburg now. For Nothing Left To Lose we had some money so we went the CGI route. Went to Mercury for the day and blacked everything out with a top light. That was about two grand. For this we have thirty.’ (pop up video fact #102 I received absolutely no slice of the abovementioned 30K).
And while thirty thousand rand might sound like a lot of money, it’s not really that much in music video terms. Caleb Heymann, director of photography, will be the first to tell you that. ‘This (a Sony EX 1 with an adaptor that allows 35mm Nikon lenses) is a hellish rig to work with. I usually shoot with a Red (Caleb’s company Red One Africa rent the camera’s out) so it’s frustrating to work with inferior equipment, but I’ve got to have my bottom line and it also wouldn’t be fair on the bands that do pay for it (Van Coke Kartel).’
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Still, you can’t deny that this is one beautiful video. Humble as ever, Natasja Fourie, the director, says that it’s all still a learning curve for her, that her photographic background helps from a visual perspective, but ultimately she still has to learn a lot more. Natasja says that she doesn’t have a visual identity yet, but I don’t believe her for a minute. One need only count all the religious undertones in her videos: VCK – Wat Het Van Ons Geword, aKing – In the Twilight, New Holland – Uhuru and now Taxi Violence – Devil & Pistol.
‘Everytime I make a video I say that this one isn’t going to have anything religious in it. And it ends up happening. I don’t know why? I like things that call for a lot of energy to be released. I enjoy dark art.’
The choir is singing the chorus. It sounds beautiful, and I’m surprised to learn that they’re just a bunch of extras that Natasja scouted in Kayalitsha. (pop up video fact # 145 Caleb used a tobacco filter to make the dark skin tones richer, taking inspiration from Seydou Keita photos). The choir doesn’t sing on the album though. George got his mates from The Sleepers and Three Bored White Guys to sing it for the album and when Taxi Violence play the song live Rian just backs him up.

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‘We try to make it sound as Southern as possible,’ says George. ‘But I guess you need black people for that.’
You also need black people for a rowdy tavern scene and it’s together with them that I shoot my first scene. At eleven. Eleven! If you’ve been paying attention you’ll remember that call time was at seven… Anyway, it’s a rowdy tavern scene with arm wrestling, Russian Roulette, a game of cards and trashy girls with too much make up and big hair.
The whisky that we’re drinking is tea, there’s water in the beer bottles and the trashy girls with too much make up and big hair are Natasja’s younger sister, Plus One and that redheaded waitress from Royale. It’s freezing, but we’re supposed to be sweating, so makeup makes up sweat droplets from Glycerine.
We shoot for about two hours drinking our fake booze while the band sits outside, in the sun, sucking on Windhoeks. (pop up video fact #253 Mercury always sells record amount of Windhoek when Taxi Violence play there. This may be indicative of a more sophisticated listenership, or it could just be the fact that the band drink Windhoek and drink lots?)

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Then it’s my big scene. Excuse me, our big scene. How difficult must porn be if being filmed graunching is as invasive as this? There I am, lying on the table, Plus One leaning over me, the two of us under the scrutiny of spotlights, a camera pushing into us, walled in by extras and gaffers and assistants and other hangers one and, action! And, let me tell you, there’s action, what with Plus One’s braless breasticles attempting to escape from her top and my shirt unbuttoned and our open-mouthed tongue kissing and, cut! One take. In the bag. Bang!
The song, Devil&Pistol, plays whenever we shoot a scene. It’s catchy. It’s got great lyrics. The band describes this song and the rest of the new album as such: ‘Epic, sleazy blues infused rock. It is melodic and unconventionally catchy with positive, yet dark undertones. The songs depict stories of addiction, parting ways, betrayal, perseverance and new beginnings.’
‘I don’t write lyrics before a song is written,’ says George. ‘Start with a melody, then create mood, then paint lyrics over that. It’s a rhythm thing. Melodies are full on rhythms and the words I choose need to fit. Almost like hip hop in a way.’

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I ask for a favourite and he gives me a verse out of the very song that we’re making the video for. 
‘Can’t find my pistol and the devil
issa coming and the devil issa
coming and he’s hot on my heels.
Can’t find a pastor and the devil’s
coming faster, and the devil’s coming faster
and it gives me the chills.
Bad luck truly does come in threes. The generators fizzle out. All three of them. The shoot is running behind schedule and so Natasja has to scratch some shots and focus on what’s important. But then some things also just kind of happen and find their way into the video. Every cloud, eh?
‘You have to be flexible,’ says Natasja. ‘Keep yourself open to everything and see things on the day. It’s good to have some room for spontaneity.’
There’s another guy walking around with a video camera. I ask George who he is and he says: ‘That’s Keiko from Smoking Gun Productions. He’s been following us around, making a doccie. Not a fokumentary, more an insight into what it’s like to make an album, getting to know the band, see all the work, note the changes… We’ll show it at the launch, but won’t do festivals or anything like that. He’s coming to Oppikoppi with us.’ (pop up video fact # 200 The band’s third)
I speak to the new, James Iha looking, bassist (previously with The Roswell Kings), Jason Ling: ‘This album has been three years in the making. The big delay was Rudi left and I joined. In one week we left our management, PR agency and booking agent. We needed a change. Which is why the new album is called The Turn. It’s more mature, more focussed and I’d say that we’ve found our niche, our sound. It’s all about new beginnings.’

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Plus One and I leave at around fourish, but the shoot continues late into the night. The next day they shoot in a dilapidated crack house. (pop up fact # 246 I never did get to speak to the drummer, Louis Nel. I was too intimidated by his sleeveless leather jacket).
A week later I meet with George, Jason, Caleb and Natasja to watch the final edit.
‘This was a lot different to our other videos,’ says George. ‘For one we had a crew. A proper camera. A decent budget… We had lots of meetings beforehand, but that’s where our input stopped. After that we let the professionals do their thing. It was such a quick turn around. Two days to do the edit and another day to do the grading.’
This is the first video for the new album, which will launch at Mercury and Klein Libertas. From here it will go to MK, MTV Base and overseas. Overseas? Taxi Violence will be playing nine shows in Holland and Germany in September. Germans are quite receptive to local bands (pop up video fact # 3987 Germany is the only place where David Hasselhoff can sell records). This is a turning point for the band.
The video culminates with a possessed George having a spirit exorcised from him. George’s jaw is on the floor when he sees the final graded version. It’s that good. I blush when I watch my kissing scene. It’s that steamy. Natasja plays some footage of a turtle orgy on the huge monitor next to Caleb’s Delicious Monster. It’s that creepy, so I leave.  
Album launch tour
14 August Mercury Live, Cape Town
15 August Klein Libertas, Stellenbosch
22 August Pool City, Port Elizabeth
27 August, Tings ‘n Times, Pretoria
28 August Pablo’s, Potchefstroom
29 August Jo’burg Burning 2, Johannesburg

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