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A Quickie with the Dirty Skirts

2007-09-29 07:57
Can you really make a living as a rock musician in SA?
I don’t know. Ask Arno Carstens or Chris Chameleon. They’ll tell you ‘yes’. But there are plenty of others who’ll tell you ‘no’. Music is an interesting game. It’s quite a long investment gamble. But what it has going for it unlike some other industries is that the people love it and need to do it. More than say a highly risky venture into air-conditioning. There aren’t very many people called to that. Music is difficult to ignore if you’re called to it. So you have to put in masses of leg work for f-all money for a long time. That’s just the way it works. You can also get other people – like record companies – to invest in you – and then give away much of your equity and choice. But every cent we earn goes into building something.

Building a brand maybe? The Dirty Skirts does have strong currency ate the moment. What do you say to critics who call you a ‘fashion’ band?
A: it’s f**king fun and we’re having fun. B: we don’t take it very seriously. I’ve observed where the criticism has come from and been quietly amused. There’ll always be people who’ll say your music, art, or work is crap. As for fashion, well I have a fun relationship with getting dressed in the morning. I thoroughly enjoy the passing waves of fashion and I love surfing them and playing with them. At the same time I have quite a lot of fun deconstructing it mentally and emotionally and just observing it as a tribal phenomenon. People trying to fit in and be seen and approved of by their peers. There’s nothing to be sincere about in clothing and fashion. There’s no place to be sincere about the shoes that you’re wearing. The sooner that one gets on with the fact that this is actually a game and fun, the better. That’s what we’re doing.

Shucks, is rock ‘n roll authenticity over then?
Rock music is at a recycling phase. Whether you’re listening to the Cold War Kids or Clap Your Hands…there’s a lot of wearing of references on sleeves. Whether it’s referencing Talking Heads or the quite ubiquitous Cure…but remember in their day, these bands were all widely panned by a certain section of the music scene. When The Cure moved from being absolutely gloomy depressives and released Japanese Whispers in 1983 it was utterly frivolous - and in retrospect genius – and they were roasted alive! Can you imagine being Morrissey in 1985, being panned for being limp wrested while writing some of the finest lyrics in the last 20 years. It’s just what happens.

Cool. But does playing ‘the game’ ever tire you? You know, all the posing, ball-crushing skinny jeans and ass-grabbing groupies?
I use the word ‘game’ carefully. It’s a game played with heart. I couldn’t do the unbelievable amount of work I do unless it mattered as much as it does. Essentially I live for music. It’s such a large part of my ID that even when I’ve tried to leave it I’d still be noodling and creating albums. The other side of the lightness, enthusiasm and flippancy is that we would never do all of the things that we do at the risk we have taken or put in as much as we have if we weren’t all utterly serious about it. If we’re absolutely going to desire something we’d rather love and enjoy it than brood over it. To be earnest about one’s passion in a really melancholic, desperate way is to ruin it.
Point taken. Is this why you always look live you’re having loads of fun on stage?
Oh, okay…no, you’re right. I don’t stand on stage with my eyes closed and occasionally look out to see if there’s an audience. (chuckles). I’m going to have to do that now. ‘I’ve won them over at last! It’s been two years!’

Does the flamboyant front man tip come naturally - or have you worked to choreograph it?
No, it’s completely natural. It’s fun. I remember being shit nervous for the first gig. But already my bottom started to want to wiggle! It has been a journey of self expression. If anything the band as a unit and as individuals has just learned to express ourselves with greater freedom. As we carry on hopefully each album will reflect that and so it is on stage. It’s been a gradual letting go…letting my body do whatever it wants to do and saying whatever I say I become more me. I become more me and less somebody else’s cliché. There aren’t really great role-models though. I can’t do…Freddie Mercury say! Okay, I let that one out ‘cos it sounded funny. But no, it’s really just about letting go and people are terribly afraid to do that. The Brits aren’t exactly masters of letting go. Mercury was an absolute iconoclast and brutishly unafraid to let go.

Speaking of letting go – are you guys living the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll stereotype?
No. We generally have a bit of tequila before a gig. We hang out before, focus, connect and warm up and give each other a hug (chuckles). No, a huge part of it is to make sure we’re always connecting, turning to each other. I’ve observed so many musos who sit there lost rock solid in their instrument completely unaware of the most extraordinary things going on around them. The fact that there are 250 people jumping and smiling and watching them is actually totally extraordinary. The same thing if they turn 90 degrees to left they’ll see somebody they know and actually rather like doing some amazing things. You know, if you’re not plugging into that beautiful stuff what are you doing? There’s something fundamental at the bottom of this that spans everything we’ve been talking about: there can be a fundamental lack of gratitude for what simply is. You can diss the SA music industry. You can diss other musos. You can diss the international industry. You can diss local promoters for not paying. Or you can just flip the coin and choose to be grateful for the extraordinary opportunities anyone has if they choose to get off their butt and get over their uptight attitudes. Our entire shtick has always been f**king make it happen ‘cos no one else is going to do it for you.

Cape fans can catch the Skirts Rocking the Daisies on September 29 .

- Miles Keylock

It seems like forever that sex has been absent from the South African indie rock stage. At best it surfaced mostly subliminally in the testosterone-soaked guitar thrusts of Seether or the groupie-groping hip gyrations of Arno Carstens. Upwardly mobile Mother City combo The Dirty Skirts is changing all that. Combining a cocky post-punk attitude with some down ‘n dirty indie cabaret cool and plenty of bi-sexual bottom-wiggling bravura this self-professed bunch of 'pornographic drunks' have been si
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