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Interview: Fokofpolisiekar in London

2011-06-03 12:17
When Fokofpolisiekar announced their hiatus in 2007, like most fans, I assumed it was a passing phase. I wrote the "coming soon" aKING and Van Coke Kartel flyers and gold-plated matchbooks off as temporary ventures. Something new to tide them over.

Watching Fokof at Clapham Grand, the penny finally dropped. "We’ve been playing the same set for two years", says bassist Wynand Myburgh. "Exactly as it is". 

On stage, Fokofpolisiekar still ooze the same intensity: their chemistry’s undeniable. But they sound rusty. Tired, even. Van Coke Kartel, on the other hand, galvanised by the arrival of monster drummer Jason Oosthuizen and shredding lead guitarist Jedd 'Jedi' Kossew, sound better than ever. 

"We’re all putting our energies in the other bands. So there’s no one pushing Fokofpolisiekar forward," says guitarist Hunter Kennedy. "We don’t practice and we don’t do soundcheck," adds guitarist Johnny de Ridder.

I caught up with Fokofpolisiekar over a few beers to find out more.

How are you guys enjoying London?

Snake: Basically, we’re trying to stay out of our hostel as much as possible. We ended up drinking in Camden Town. Strolling around…

Wynand: Mission, mission, mission… London’s definitely different than it was in 2006.

How so?

Wynand: Less South Africans. Definitely.

Hunter: And we’re less stoned.

So it’s a more ‘mature’ tour this time around?

Snake: Definitely more mature. Somehow, myself and Hunter were struggling to get drunk yesterday. I think our livers are broken.

Wynand: Because there were no shots involved. I’ve got two bottles of Jägermeister. So no problems tonight Snake.

When you get back together like this, does it still feel like you’re a gang?

Wynand: It feels like a gang right now.

Snake: The last couple of times we were here, we didn’t have our girlfriends with us. So we were just hanging out, drinking all the time. Now we’re sort of split up.

Francois: I think with Fokof, when we get on stage, it’s still that same vibe as always.

Do you wish you could have played more shows while you’re here?

Hunter: I don’t want to play any more shows.

Francois: I want to play always.

Snake: Basically, where we are with Fokof, because we’re so involved with our other bands, is when someone books us, we play. But we’re not gonna go out of our way.

Wynand: We’re not going to play gigs that aren’t worth it, financially.

Snake: We’re still keen to write another album, if we can get round to it. But it’s definitely not the same mission we had four or five years ago.  

Your London shows are at South African venues to mostly South African music fans. Do wish you had a chance to play with some local bands to London music fans?

Snake: It would have been cool but pointless.

Wynand: There’s no drive behind it ‘cos there’s nothing new to punt.

Francois: There are no goals at the moment.

Hunter: Just to get drunk, and we can’t even get that right.

So when you’re on stage, do you ever feel like The Rolling Stones playing “Satisfaction”?

Wynand: In South Africa, we rock up at a festival, greet each other on stage and play. It’s always lots of fun. With the other bands, it feels like you’ve got to put a lot more into it. You want to impress people. With Fokof, you just kick into that gear and it happens.

Hunter: Getting back to the idea of the gang, I think it feels more like a family these days. There’s no more organised crime or whatever.    

When Fokof was your main focus, do you ever wish you’d put your eggs in one basket and toured Europe and the rest of the world?

Francois: By then we knew we weren’t going to do it full time.

Hunter: Last time we toured London, Albert (Du Plessis) had to promise us a set amount of money…

Wynand: Rhythm booked the tour but we decided not to do it because we weren’t going to make bucks. That was the attitude in 2006. Then Albert was like, "Fuck, I’ll pay you guys. Let’s just do it". We’re focusing on Taiwan now. Europe's over for us.  

Okay, you’ve just released a new book, Biografie van ‘n bende, with Annie Klopper. What was it like digging through the past again for what must have felt like the millionth time?

Snake: It was quite interesting to read. She interviewed us separately and there’s stuff that other people remembered that I can’t. Now I can tell a lot of stories that I’d completely forgotten.

Wynand: After the documentary, we kind of felt forced to help Annie out. To rectify how the documentary turned out for us.          

So you prefer the book?

Wynand: Ag… the documentary’s still cool.

Snake: The book’s always better than the movie.

Wynand: The book reads way quicker than the movie. Ha ha…

Hunter: The documentary was more from their (Fly on the Wall’s) perspective. It was very political and focused a lot on the “Fok God” thing.  

Johnny: It’s a bunch of interviews in a row.

Hunter: The book’s more of a story. It starts out where all of us meet each other and that sort of shit.

Have your parents read the book?

Snake: Yes!

Francois: My parents have.

Wynand: (Looking at Hunter) Have your parents read it?

Hunter: No. I haven’t even read it, fully.

Wynand: I think I smoked so much pot in that documentary… I don’t think my parents could read anything more hardcore.

Snake: In the documentary, they try and strike this chord. Where it’s such a downer. Everything was such a bummer. But I don’t remember it like that. The book has this nice youthful spirit to it.

Did you ask Annie to change anything?

Wynand: We asked her to take out the word cocaine. We swapped it for drugs. Let people make up their own minds. It doesn’t change the story.

Hunter: We didn’t want to brag about how many drugs we did. It’s not a competition. Ha ha…

And how was the book tour?

Francois: We fucked each other up so bad the first night we didn’t party again the whole tour.

Wynand: I picked up a gram of coke in the first half an hour of being at the venue.

Hunter: Seriously, picked it up off the floor.

Wynand: I met the guy that lost it later.

Francois: A lot of people said it was the first book they ever read. So at least we got people reading.

Snake, what’s up with that video of you with a broken arm?

Snake: That has nothing to do with the Fokof tour. But Hunter made a good point, by putting that video out – it’s a viral, promotional video for the new aKING video – it subsequently fucked the Fokof tour up. Everyone started phoning them and asking what’s going on. 

Did any of you think it was real?

Francois. Ja… I called his buddy that’s in the video just to check.

Wynand: We saw it on Francois’ phone. It was the day after Snake left. But there was a lot of kak with his passport. So I thought maybe Snake didn’t leave and went out drinking instead… You never know.

Francois: It looked very similar to the real thing.

Is there a future for Fokofpolisiekar?

Snake: We’ve been talking about a new album for a year and a half…

Francois: We actually had two writing sessions.

How’d they go?

Francois: Not so well. Ha ha…

Snake: We just have to find the time.

Don’t you get irritated with people going on about Fokofpolisiekar being better than your current bands?

Wynand: Ag… people like that are fucking stupid. How do you say this band’s better than that band? It’s a stupid thing to say. I don’t give a fuck. 

Francois: People ask me, “Are you guys working on a new album?” And I say, “Ja, the Van Coke album’s coming out in December”. Then they say, “And the Fokof album?” “Fuck, I don’t know…”

Wynand: Or we post that we’re working on a new single and there’s always one guy that comes in and says, “Wanneer kom die Fokof album?”

Johnny: I think some people still see the new bands as side projects…

Francois: But Fokof’s the side project now.

Aren’t you tempted to just let Fokof die then?

Francois: It will never die completely.

Hunter: The chemistry the five of us have is cool. Which is why we’re keen to write another album.

Snake: We're just keeping it back because people aren't ready for it. It's too next level. 

Photos by Yusuf Laher

Fokof are in London, trying to stay out the hostel as much as possible. They found some time to chat over beers.

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