The Slashdogs talk secret to longevity, Marikana and their upcoming Oppikoppi gig

2015-08-01 08:00

Cape Town – In just over a week it is time for some rock 'n roll in the dust as Oppikoppi 21: The Fantastic Mr. VOS VOS kicks off in Northam.

Channel24 got hold of Johannesburg-based rockers The Slashdogs ahead of this year’s festival to chat about the band’s secret to longevity, Marikana and their Oppikoppi gig.

C24: The Slashdogs is tailor made for OppiKoppi (the interviewer is somewhat biased in his assessment). You guys looking forward to the show? What can this year's audience expect and what state of mind should they bring to the show?

SD: That's very kind of you. Koppi's line-ups are always so diverse, but if you reckon our blend of punk, metal and roll is right up its alley, then brilliant. We seem to have been dubbed the task of closing up the Friday night at around 01.00, so I’m sure the collective Koppi conscious will be uniform, albeit highly inebriated. So they should just bring their hammered selves and come and kick up some dust with us at the Bruilof stage.

C24: The Slashdogs have been around for quite some time, since 2003, while other bands formed in the 2000s have since broken up. What is The Slashdogs secret to its longevity? How do you stay fresh in mind as a band?

SD: We have always known that we will always play a blend of rock 'n roll styles that we love. By not necessarily sticking to a fixed sound, we have kept things interesting for ourselves. We all love punk rock, metal, hardcore, country and blues and just sort of heap it in together and see what comes out. We like writing songs as opposed to perfecting a certain style. We are also a very close unit of people that work hard for each other. Though we have also been through a number of line-up changes, it is about the music. We have a purpose to play what is in our hearts and with the line-up we have right now, the delivery of the music is better than ever. We just don't ever want to do anything else other than play the music WE want to play. Simple. We are also very lucky that the band has generated a core group of followers who are loyal to the band.

C24: Given your experience as a band, what are your thoughts on the current state of rock and roll/alternative music in South Africa? Has it gotten better, worse or has it changed in other ways?

SD: I think that there were more genre defined scenes existing, up till about maybe 10 years ago but with the advent of the electro boom around that time, a lot more people seemed to be getting into all sorts of music and seeking an original experience. People seem to care less about what styles they listen to and more about what they actually like, regardless of genre. That's cool because our scene isn't the biggest, so we need open minded listeners to support as much different music as they can, at the same time. In terms of straight up, arse - shuddering rock bands that are bringing quality performances, there are quite a few worth checking out. Bands like Filth, Stoker, Dead Lucky, Deaf Commission, Cortina Whiplash, Juggernaught and of course, our old friends Fuzigish, Van Coke and a couple more that are still keeping the flame burning.

C24: The Slashdogs’ influences include Killing Joke, Entombed, Motorhead, Zeke, ACDC, Orange Goblin, Johnny Cash, and Tom Waits. What influence has your surroundings, especially Gauteng, had on your music as a band, if any?

SD: I think living between Pretoria and Joburg, you get to be part of a pretty decent core rock, punk and metal scene but they definitely don’t have the numbers to stand on their own. You'll see the same faces at a lot of different types of rock shows. Again, the scene isn’t so huge, but there are enough people in the Joburg scene, to keep it pretty healthy. Also, with the rise of companies like Witchdoctor and Turning Tricks, we get to play more shows with heavier international bands, which has been great.

C24: Apart from OppiKoppi, where are The Slashdogs’ favourite places to play and why?

SD: We've had a love/hate relationship with Cape Town over the years but recent shows their have been awesome. There is a great rock scene down in Stellies and in the City. Newer venues like Manila bar and House of Machines have been a joy to play. We also like going to places like Clarens and Kimberley and playing in obscure little venues to people who don't usually get to see bands like us. Those can be some of the best shows ever. Durbs used to be my favourite 'rock' city, especially during the punk boom of the early 2000s, but lack of funds and mismanaged venues have made it hard to have good shows there recently, which is a pity. I hope it picks up there. Of course, there is nothing like playing to your people at places like Carfax or even crusty old Schivas Rock in Pretoria. Bloem is still a favourite for me personally. Such a great blend of space cadet hippies and staunch conservatives all thrown in together.

C24: I was struck by track three on your album Progress Through Plunder, Marikana, with lyrics such as "Hide your young ones; Turn and stand before you tire of running". Why those words, and now that the Marikana report has been released, what do you guys think about it?

SD: Those words are more of a call to the nation at large to try, in their way to stand up to tyranny in whatever form it presents itself. So many people are taken advantage of in SA, with no retribution. With regards to the miners who lost their lives, they were trying to get away. These men weren't breaking the law. They were protesting for decent, human treatment and a better wage. Now, once again, our dear President has almost completely dummied down the public's attitude to the massacre by simply saying that all those men were criminals and justice prevailed. There was no deep overview of the report by the President. By the time he eventually decided to address the nation, it was done in such a matter-of-fact, brief and heartless way - that it was as if it had become a non-issue for the ANC. But what did we expect? For King Ding 'a Ling to speak out against a giant corporation and its mistreatment of its workers? Not in this lifetime.

C24: What's been the most crazy show The Slashdogs have ever played?

SD: One of the maddest shows I’ve ever played was in Kimberley in around 2004. We played this ancient pub called The Half. Cecil Rhodes used to ride up to the bar on his horse and order his drinks back in the day. We played on some arbitrary weekend during term time and it felt like the whole town showed up. We had just started up, so we felt like a real bunch of swinging dicks. There was no stage so people were dancing and moshing all around and in between the band. People on tables going nuts, smashing glasses everywhere. I remember some kids trying to unscrew our drummer's cymbals while he was playing, to keep as mementos. Every spare drum stick, sticker, shirt or guitar pick was grabbed by some punter and we had to sign it. The pub was really generous and gave each band member a room which housed 5-6 people each and after the show, almost the entire crowd stuck around and ended up partying in all our rooms. Good times! We recently headlined a festival in Reunion Island called Rock a La Buse festival which was just so well organised and attended. The type of show that gives you faith in humanity again, cos the French are wise and pump loads of funds into arts and culture. Simple. Opening for Ministry in March was also a definite highlight for me.

C24: Beyond your time on stage, what are you guys most looking forward to while at Oppikoppi this year?

SD: Cortina Whiplash's Bitchelorette party which is happening at the top bar on the Saturday night after the bands have played. It should be a decent combo of silly games, inebriated puzzle solving and mild nudity (weather permitting). Other than that, I can’t wait for Filth's show and hopefully discovering something new and exciting while ambling through the stages. Can't wait!

*Catch The Slash Dogs at Oppikoppi, which is taking place from 7-9 August in Northam. Tickets for the festival cost R750 and are available here.

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