Dancing with the Diaspora
THE MELT2000 STORY As Told by Robert Trunz
Robert Trunz says
There are a lot of young musicians trying to break into the mould that other artists have taken in the past. In the jazz scene there are a lot of good musicians around, including Zoe Molelekwa who stays with me at the moment. There is a young drummer called Stanley who also goes to school. He is from the Moses Molelekwa Foundation. There are very good musicians, Tumi the drummer, Mandla the trumpet player, Nduduzi the pianist. Some of the younger ones are trying to get too political a view across, rather than musical. I also met the guys from Brother Moves On, very nice bunch but they are breaking into the mould of the white people. We were at a concert at the Rainbow and I thought where am I, I must have gone to the wrong place because there were so many young white people. They cater for that large non-segregated market.
I find there is a lot of segregation. People like Mandla are very sarcastic about things. Sarcasm in the music is not a good thing, because it kills the message. Rather than being critical of what has happened we should look to what should be happening in the future. Sadly there is a lot of past that has not been dealt with and I think somehow the past should be dealt with on a political level and as long as the politicians are not capable of doing so and spread hatred as they do now, and there is greed, I understand that there is a difficult message that needs to come across. Perhaps we should put across more happiness in the music than sadness, anger and political views.
I find they are far away from being spiritual. There are messages that I got from a well known musician and he was talking about basically putting me with apartheid. I said why should you do that? It doesn't help your music and your brain. And I said why are you so angry? There is a guy who works for me, Lungelo. It was something about him. And I like his sangoma calling. Do people hide behind that? What is going in this country. Nobody seems to want to work and everyone wants money for something that doesn't exist.
And then you have the other scene, the dance scene which is huge like one big business. I go on Black Coffee's website and I see has a house in America and a house here and he drives his Mazerati at 200 km'h and gets caught. It is completely the other side of political.
Has music come full circle?
I have two outfits who in my opinion would represent my love or openness towards music and genres and electronic and acoustic and whatever and that is Black Motion and Uhuru. Black Motion recently had Madala and Mabi in their studio. One of the Uhuru guys used to hang out with Mabi. If I was still doing A & R work, I would strive to work with these people. I would love to have them remix the stuff we were doing in the past. They are also quite tragically busy.
These guys also play instruments. They are actually doing what we have been hoping and striving for a long time, incorporate the modern beats into acoustics. They all play instruments.
I think one should not look at the musician based on what his dad has done. What I feel with Zoe is that he is still going to University. He still has to digest all the stiff the teach him. He is digesting a lot of the stuff his father did. Obviously there is a lot of pressure on the young man like this to have a genius as a father. I feel rather than commenting on his future prospect, I would think one should just encourage him to find his own style, his own way. We did a track Wa Mpona. It was done by the Forest Jam Groove Orchestra. We then recorded Wa Mpona in Maputo and we had Chico Antonio on there as well. It is a beautiful track. And then we took it back here and we got Stanley to overdub. And Mabi came in and did some overdubs and at the same time that Mabi was here, Zoe walks into the room. So, now we had the fathers song with the sons keyboard in it as well. We have one of the studens from Moses Molelekwa foundation. Ad whilst I went through the separates I found that Shaluza Max was in there, his vocals that have never been used. At the end of the track we are finding in Moses and Max. It is going to be a super track. Unbelievable. Wa Mpona was very advanced in those days. Except for that time I am watching what is going on here. There is a huge market for gospel which must be part of the positive thinking of people that things might be getting better.
I am sitting in front of a huge screen in my office and I have been working on a new Melt2000 website cut down to more of the African artists. I am doing a website that concentrates on the African part of the label. And it does become more understandable why I have done all these recordings. The way I have been able to find and trace all these different details is amazing. It is almost like a complete brain-fuck. I can't believe all these details and I keep finding all those things I have forgotten which is great. I think what I am able to do now is pout a comprehensive history of what has happened in the 1990's. Melt2000: Legendary Musicians from the New South Africa.
Everyone broke boundaries.
A lot of the things that was learnt from the remix side with music with no name in the early days has had an influence in this market. Rude Boy Paul, I saw a while ago and he was saying how much he has been influenced by the stuff we have been doing. He dropped Madala's Ubombo remix in all the clubs.
Return of Melt2000
I don't want to revive the label it has served its place. I think it is time for someone else to take over. There are other labels. I do invite people to come and talk to me about doing collaboration projects and doing some stuff with material that is available.
We are going to release some stuff with what we have done in the last few years with Forest Jam. I am doing a CD with a promo DVD which will be out towards October. Some of the stuff we recorded on Cullinan with Tarang. It is going to be nice. Stuff we did in Switzerland, Cullinan, Madagascar and in Durban and Maputo.
Robert Trunz says
My story started quite early. Because I grew up with a mother that has been extremely busy running the family. I was the last of six. She was even then at that point of time when all the others were starting to get grown up. I was 6 years behind. I landed up doing all the tasks that before used to be done by two or three of my brothers. When other friends of mine used to have holidays I was working, cleaning classrooms because my mom looked after a school and she looked after three blocks of flats. I was running around in the winter time 5 o clock in the morning clearing snow from the passages, cutting the lawns in the summer time, blah blah blah.
But there was a time when I was given a little radio. It was medium wave because short wave didn't exist in our region. We had one station. It is called Radio Beromunster. In the old days when I grew up, they didn't broadcast 24 hours. After ten they switched off. And then they started to play the background stations. Right behind the dial where Radio Beromunster used to be, a millimetre to the right there were radio stations from North Africa, Algeria, Tunisia. I always waited for ten o clock for Radio Beromunster to shut down. I listened to all this music, hence my love from then onwards for the rhythms of Northern Africa.
Because I had to work hard, sometimes my mum gave me a little money to keep me sweet. But money was quite short in those days. My father was a butcher, He was working 4 in the morning till 7 at night. I managed to at some stage buy a portable vinyl disk player, for singles. In those days you had 33 and 45 rpm. The 45 rpm were these little things. There was a thing by Phillips, the first kind of plastic thing that I saw. Because before that most of the things were Baccolyte , this old plastic, very heavy plastic. That was the first modern plastic, injection moulding. Already the mould was in a red colour and it was quite funky. It was running on batteries. In the top there was a little speaker so it was portable. The Walkman came many many years later, but that for me was my first walking vinyl. Because we lived in this block of flats we congregated next door; because there was a school. There was a big field where you could meet friends. I always took my little player and records. Whenever I had a few pennies I would go down to my friends' mother. My friends' family name is also Friend; Vreund. His mother had a little discotheque right when you come out of the train station, you walk round the corner and there was a shop. Behind that there was this repair shop for TV's and radio's and she had an amazing place with lots of beautiful vinyl's, so that is where I bought my first music. In that family there were two brothers. The older one was going to school, the class below me and he also shared this passion for music but he also shared a passion for electronics. Early on he always started to repair things because he was hanging out with his father and the people who worked there. At about the age of 12 I got a little amplifier and with an actual real turntable, amplifier, everything in one piece. But the speakers were terrible so we decided we were going to build our own first pair of speakers. The whole thing started. That guy Werner Vreund put the love into my system.
When I got to my twenties I started to travel because I got a job as a tourist guide. And I was first stationed in the old Yugoslavia and later in Spain. You are stationed there and then you receive the customers. You get them from the airport and you look after them during the week and you bring them back. It is a kind of a routine. After three years of working as a tourist guide I went to work in Zurich with a company, they are no longer in existence. They imported some real fine hi fi equipment. When you get involved in this kind of brand, you either get damaged for life or change job. Because of the fact that I was such a big fan of music, it fascinated me.
Let's go back before I was twenty there was a period of two years between 18 and 20 when I was working, earning some money. At that time there were three of us, a guy called Derek and Mario and myself. We started to present concerts in the University, like a Technikon. We had this concert hall we were renting and we put some concerts up. In those days they were musicians that you may not have been aware of. There was a band Klaus Doldinger, very funky jazzy. There was an American drummer by the name of Alphonse Muzon. And somebody I became good friends with a man who wrote in my opinion the best biography of Miles Davis I have seen. It hasn't got so many ‘fuck fuck's' in it. His name is Ian Carr. Ian Carr was a trumpet player himself in the Miles Davis feel. Great trumpet player, lovely man. So gentle. He had a group called Nucleus. With him we did some concerts. Then he was also in a group called the United Jazz Rock ensemble released by a German label.
There was a German trombone player called Albert Mangelsdorff. These are the kind of names if you lived in Europe 70's and 80's, they were on the forefront of creative jazz and fusion kind of stuff; jazz / rock.
Back to the equipment stuff whilst I was working with this company, they distributed some very famous brands like a cassette recorder. Here in SA cassettes were around till quite recently. There was a company in Japan called Nakamichi and Nakamichi was a company that manufactured cassette decks that were able to reproduce music in the highest possible quality. In those days when I bought my first Nakamichi I paid like 3500 Swiss Francs which is R35000 and it took about two years to put the money aside and I got it at quite a cheap price because I think it was R70 000 or something ridiculous. But this machine could get sound out of a cassette that you wouldn't believe. But there was also some English brands like Wharfedale. These brands used to be very famous for the people. The people who were actually behind the brands were the legends. There was also another brand called Quad which is a very quaint British design that had a very old kind of design, Q band. Very funny looking thing, small and then they did a so called electro-static speaker. I always call it the radiator. When you walk into a room and you see these things in there, you go like okay and put your hands there and there is no heat coming from it. You say, ‘Hey your radiator is not working.' No this is a speaker and they switch it on and you get the sound coming out of it. So through that I got to know because I was selling in that shop to customers and to dealers. We had all these visits from these different manufacturers that came to visit. I got to know the owners and those kinds of legendary people. After three years there was a lady who came to the shop and asked that I would see her in the next few days. She gave me her phone number and I called her and met her and she headhunted me and got me to come and work for the distributer of B & W. That company also had an expensive Japanese brand called Accuphase and a turntable made in Japan who then in the 80's already was a gigantic big thing. It had three different parts, a motor and a bell that was driving a huge platform. It was like 30kg, made of brass. And it had a motor next to it which would suck the LP onto the surface of the turntable, that means the LP when you put the needle on, it would be rock solid with no vibration. And on top of all of that it is 30 kg heavy. And that was floating on air like the principle of the hover craft. Air is being pumped in underneath lifting this whole thing and you could just touch it and give it a quick shove and it started to turn. It was completely frictionless. Very expensive. Crazy thing. I was working there for a while and there were like trips for people who would go to England to the factory of B & W. I never got in. Then there was a guy who came in and built up the company because the lady that worked there who used to be the owner, from the morning at 9:30 she opened up the first litre of white wine already. By the afternoon she would start crying because her husband left for South Africa. Mr Pruney left her. He had enough. He is somewhere here in Johannesburg. She is a Dutch lady. And then there is this guy who comes in and buys up the company and he loves also white wine. The perfect couple. Now you didn't have only two bottles, you had four bottles every day. People when they drink a lot of alcohol at some stage they get very pissed off about things. Alcohol changes the character of people quite dramatically.
One Christmas he was there and I was in the office when he came in and he started fighting with me because I was in the office and not out in the streets to go and sell components and speakers or whatever, which was bullshit, because right before Christmas you don't want to go to a dealer and tell him he must buy some more because he is busy. In those days the shops were full before Christmas, everyone was buying hi-fi and speakers and all this shit, so you don't want to disturb them in their process. I refused, so he fired me, thanks God for that. Then I landed up with a dealer. I started to work with a dealer further down on the lake of Zurich on the right hand side, where Zurich becomes Shweetz which is another county and there, right in the beginning there is a place called Lachen which means laughing. The place is one of those peculiar tax havens that Switzerland has created since the Second World War and the reason why Switzerland is so rich today because they did that kind of thing. They attracted people to the country. Before the Second World War, Switzerland was very different. It was a very poor country. After that because of their policies they became famous for attracting very rich people. And Lachen is one of those. There are a lot of Germans there. That shop is very well positioned right next to the lake and there are people who go walking there. It is like Italy a little bit. People go walking in the evening to get some fresh air and socialise and show what they have got, the new Porsche, the new Rolls and all this shit. So, I was introducing B & W to this dealer. And helped him. After I got fired I called him and said, ‘I was going to get another job and thanked him for his support. And he said, ‘what are you going to do now?' I said ‘I don't know.' He said ‘Hey you come to my place, you come and work for me, I put you in charge of the hi-fi section and that is it, okay! I get you a little flat next door I know someone upstairs moving out, give me two days.' In two days I was there I got into the flat and set up with my speakers and my hi-fi and started working. Within a short period of time I became Switzerland's top dealer for B & W. I sold three times more B & W in this small little village than any other dealer in the whole of Switzerland. My old boss the one who fired me, suddenly he now had to be quite friendly to me because I was his best customer.
Then there was a trip to England, to go to see the factory. I always wanted to see the factory and the people behind it. This time round he couldn't not invite me. So off I go. My passion was always languages and I spoke English quite well in those days as well. He asked me especially for the French guys to please do the translations and all that. I had to translate from English to German and French. Whist we were there one evening I got to sit next to a guy called Peter Hayward and John Bowers. John Bowers is the founder of B & W speakers and Peter Hayward was his mate who started a company with him. And we got to talk and John got to like me very much despite my quite outspoken nature. Whilst we were eating there was a drink before and after and a cigarette here and there. So you talk and I started to tell John what I felt about the product and its pros and cons and its potential and its downfall which is quite risky when you talk to a manufacturer because most of these people have blinkers. But John was extremely open. We got to talk. The next day at lunch he sat next to me and said, ‘I have been thinking about some of the things you are telling me and I will appreciate it if we can find some more time to chat'. I said, ‘we are going home tonight'. He said, ‘don't worry I will see that we can arrange something at a later stage'. Four or five weeks later I got a call saying John Bowers is coming to Switzerland and he has expressed a wish to see me and would I be prepared to take him and his engineer on a trip through Switzerland and spend a couple of days. I said to my new boss, ‘John Bowers is coming and he wants me to spend time with him'. Felix my new boss said ‘hey.' He was chuffed, he said, ‘John is coming here to my shop,' and we made the shop spot clean. In Switzerland everything is always spot clean so when spot clean becomes even more spot clean, it is clean. John came. It was a big thing. He laid on some food and wine. Then I spent two days with John and Ray Greenwood, his old engineer friend. And, we went up the mountain. We went to some simple places and we went to some nice places. We had some cheese fondues and we took some photographs, up and down mountains back and forth; on trains and onto boats. You know the lake through Switzerland is very nice for tourists, it is very picturesque especially when the weather is nice. So, for two days we talked and talked. I asked him about the Central European markets and he explained to me that because of historical reasons when B & W started way back in ‘66, ‘67 … Before that he came out of the Second World War and he used to be a communications officer who worked behind the lines in France. He was underground. They got some weird shit. They got bombarded and bombed, and couldn't get out. John had a kind of a claustrophobia. If he had to do certain things, going somewhere as well he would become very nervous and have diarrhoea and stuff like that because of his nervousness which all came from that bloody war.
After two days of talking about the market position, and having been told the historic background I got to the point where I thought maybe I can do something for them. Their traditional markets in those days were in Holland.
He had a shop. After the Second World War he and a guy called Roy Wilkens opened a shop in Worthing. It is still there run by the son of Wilkinson. They sold the first black and white TV's. John upstairs had a little room where he modified speakers. He would take the speakers from the manufacture and he would do his own cross over network to improve them. In those days it was the beginning of a magazine after the Second World War, the Bible for classical music, called Gramaphone. And Gramaphone had a couple of reviewers that were like highly thought after. If they said something was good you would go and buy it because it is a reference. There was a little guy called John Gilbert. A lady who bought speakers at John's shop actually wrote to this guy at Gramaphone to say that he should come to Worthing and listen to those speakers; which he did. And John didn't know him. He was coming incognito. And he went and listened to them and later on published an article about his visit to the shop which started this kind of new trend. Suddenly John had no more just a little shop and a little room. Now he had so many customers that he had to manufacture more than the one odd pair or so. He decided to take on the back of the shop. There were some garage units and he converted those into the manufacturing place. And they kept this thing B & W, but Roy Wilkens kept the shop and said to John, ‘you carry on with the speakers stuff because it is too risky for me'. And so it grew very rapidly. Now that the first speaker he put out Gramaphone did such a rave review; the next day, this guy Jack Klusenaar , stood there. He was driving there in his outrageous car. Jack Klusenaar is like death on four wheels, or anything that had a wheel and a pedal or a way of making him go faster. He would never go for half. He did nothing in half. His driving style was ridiculous. He had a boat. He crashed so badly he appeared in the newspaper once with a photograph where his boat, because he couldn't stop it anymore, went up on the side of the dam and it landed up on top of a car. Jack Klusenaar lands up outside of the door and he goes in and says to John, ‘Mr Bowers I want to buy these speakers and take them to Holland and sell them in Holland'. The Dutch are quite close to the English, but the main market Germany has never been looked after. I say to John if there was a change in design and change in approaching the market, then I would think it would be a very good brand for Germany. John then said to me, I was still working back in Switzerland, ‘would you consult for us'. I say, ‘Yes, but I have to ask my boss'. We went into my bosses office and John asked him if he wouldn't mind if I consult which meant flying over to England once a month for three days. Obviously Felix was very chuffed. This kind of consulting became more and more part of my life. John became my mentor and in the end he asked me to move to England and take over management and marketing and then we tackled the German market.
I went to see the German reviewers. I remember the first interview, poor John is sitting there scared of this big German again. He says, “Mr Bowers what makes you think you could sell your speakers in Germany where we have so many good speakers.” That was kind of the opening I looked at John and said okay. Now he understood. If somebody wanted to tackle him like that he would go into a mode of relentless work to prove to the other person the opposite. He said to me, ‘lad,' he always called me lad, ‘this guy you are going to help me show him what we can do.' I said, ‘yeah John I told you long time ago, now maybe you will listen.' He said I am listening, so we changed a lot of stuff and got into the market. I think B & W is still the biggest selling brand in Germany next to the American thing called Boza, which is a load of crap in my opinion.
That was my beginning at B & W, but I am not an engineer. I have no engineering training. I have no marketing training, I have no degree, I have got sweet fuck all, but the universe has given me a gift to see things and feel things and I started to travel a lot to see people and young people. Because in those days, the kind of people who run the market were quite old and very few young people. Because of the fact that I had been traveling a lot and speaking a few languages, I went to Spain once for a meeting, Barcelona. Now Barcelona is Catalonia and in Catalonia they speak Catalan which is quite radically different to the Castilian and the Spanish that is being spoken in Madrid because it is more like the Latin language. Catalonia goes all the way up to France, a vast reach. Whilst I was working in Barcelona as a tourist guide I obviously had to learn a few words and phrases and expressions in Catalan. I was going out with people every day who spoke Catalan. So I went to this meeting a few years later with B & W marketing, there were two guys that were trying to tell me a load of crap. Every time I asked them questions about what they were doing they would confer with each other in their own language Catalan. So I thought okay carry on because I understood every word they say. I think after about ten minutes when they really tried to pull the wool over my eyes I simply responded to them in Catalan and their jaws dropped. Their faces went red. That kind of thing happened to me quite frequently. You go in and speak English and the English are very well known for not speaking any other languages, just English, so people rely on this fact. That helped with the French, but the Germans you couldn't fool being Swiss because they knew you speak the same language but it helped to understand the mentality of the Germans. The Germans couldn't really understand why the Swiss would work with a British company. But then we are so called neutral country bound by the history of the Second World War and all this crap. Now, more and more I got into trying to steer the company to more modern ways.
At a point when I was at B & W the figures at the end of the year, they were quite red instead of black, which has a reason for it, quite a good reason. In the late 70's and early 80's, there was a new media coming into being. There were two major companies who fought each other about the standards of that media. It was Phillips and Sony. One of them won and we all lost because then we had CD's and CD's are very bad quality. You have Mp3 afterwards and that is even worse that is like the killer story. At the same time there were companies like EMI and Decca, Decca being the first label that released Rolling Stones. Also they had a very strong representation in the classical market. That is how we got into the classical market. EMI, Deutsche Gramaphone, Decca. We supplied speakers to them for their recordings and studios, for their masterings and also for their experiments with digital. And in those days they recorded in digital, quite high revolution, much higher than todays' CD. I was looking at this whole thing. There was a span of three or four years where they were fighting - those two. It is like Apple and Samsung today, lawsuits, you can't do this you can't do that, blah blah. Meanwhile the customer got so confused that they stopped buying the hi-fi because no longer did they know what to buy. They were all waiting for this CD player. As clever as the Japanese were in those days, they were building small amps, well priced amps for about 100 pounds in a really good sounding transistors. And they tried for many years to sell their own speakers made in Japan with those amps but the Japanese ear is listening in a different way to music than the European ear. They were successful until one day one of the Japanese companies, Pioneer discovered that the solution is to engage reviewers and engineers from Europe to design the speakers and then build them in Europe. Suddenly you had Japanese made amplifiers of the highest quality. For me Japan is the same as Switzerland. The quality that comes out of Japan is comparable to what we do in Switzerland. There are parallels. There is an incredibly good watch industry in Japan, like the food. It is very similar. I always admire their precision and their approach. So now they started to not only design the speakers in Europe but build them in Europe which is great. Suddenly people see it is local content. And you do accept electronics that come from there, because you can't get better electronics than Europe. All the guys in England have built smaller amplifiers. Those bladdy things always broke down. In those day England was famous for their innovation and they were completely famous for their quality control. And it was the same thing for their cars. When you drive a Jaguar, or a Range Rover; in those days when you had a Jaguar you definitely had to have two because you always had one in the garage. It broke down very quickly.
In that time, we were working already for quite some years with a designer called Kenneth Grange, who has an OBE from the Queen, quite a famous designer, he did Wilkinson sword and Kenwood kitchen appliances. He designed the first little Kodac camera which had a cassette inserted. I spoke to Kenneth and said ‘lets design a range of speakers that could compete with the Japanese'. And I said to John, ‘Look John I apologise but right from the beginning I am putting to you a price that I have to sell this product. I cannot go beyond the price because then I will shift out of the market that is now dominating Europe and almost the world and if that is the case then we must act because we are still writing red figures. And what's the point? It is okay to look after more people, but it has to be profitable so you can employ more people to look after more people'. And we did and we almost had fights over 30 pence. But I said it had to be that price, and they did. Credit to those engineers, and big thanks to John, we had a range called the DM 10, 20, 30. It was spot on. At that point in time I got to know some young designers and we sat together and created the campaign which came out of my marijuana induced brain because every time I smoked something in those days I would always visualise things in front of me. The better the music was the cleaner and clearer it came through the speakers, the more colour I saw and visualised. So, I created a slogan which got me some quite bad comments like you druggy and stuff like that. It is called, ‘listen and you will see.' It is still the slogan for B & W today. We had a campaign with it. We even did an album. I brought Donald Fagan from Steely Dan. Donald Fagan came out with an album Night Flyer. We did a whole new cover with B & W and when you bought the speakers you got an LP. That was right at the beginning of this digital thing. Not only the time that B & W was selling the speakers in the 70's, they were always called DM 1, DM 2 etc. And it used to stand for Domestic Monitor. And at the end of the 1970's, in the 80's I said to the guys digital will come. It is just a matter of fact. You can't tell me Sony and Phillips are putting in so many millions and millions of pounds into a technology and then abandoning it, they are not going to do it. I renamed the word Domestic Monitor into Digital Monitor which got me again bad from the dealers, but it worked. As soon as the CD players hit, everything changed again. And immediately all the sales went up across the world, you couldn't get enough CD's to sell in dealer shops and we started to manufacture speakers like crazy. We shipped every day, two containers and sometimes three containers. And suddenly we went from red to deep black.
And when I saw that I saw that the factory was crammed. There was no more space and we also had a laboratory there, so the engineers were involved in manufacturing and research. They were consistently interrupted so I said okay hold on. I decided to convince John to move research and development out of the factory and right across the hill, to the region we had all the factories. On the coast, behind that coast, there is a range of hills, called the Downs. If you went over the Downs you came down into a village called Steyning . Steyning in those days was quite famous for a product that is known worldwide by hi fi aficionados and specialists in vinyl. They were manufacturers of Toner. There was this guy called Alistair Robertson, and when you meet him it was like meeting royalty. He had this huge listening room, which is still there, because it was there a few years ago when I went to see his widow. And it had this thick carpet, electro static speakers and you would walk in and you had to take your shoes off, and you got house shoes with gold crown embedded into them. The whole place was hi tech, beautifully done. This guy was hit dramatically by the change. Suddenly he couldn't sell anything. I got on very well with him and I was very disturbed. That man was a genius, but I saw he was suffering financially as well. He did have quite a high standard of living including his Porsche, but still you could see the suffering and to see a brand like that going down, that has been around for so long was quite hurtful. I went there and he had a factory unit that stood empty so I convinced him to sell it to me, right in the middle of the village. I created a dedicated laboratory research, moved all the engineers and had nice conference rooms and meeting rooms, listening rooms and called it the University of Sound which still stands today.
And at that time ‘84 he decided to look into active speakers which is a great thing to do, a speaker with the amplifier right next to it done properly, is perfect. But those days they were running quite hot, so it wasn't always a good thing. So we decided to look for an engineer and found this guy called Laurence Dickie, a complete hippie, hair like this and a beard, but utterly intelligent, utterly lovely to be with and incredible knowledge and his parents were both teachers, his mother from France and his father from England. This guy was a genius. But, for electronics he was at times not the right person because he would have great ideas but he would not actually bring them through. He had this kind of English feel, like when you drive the Jaguar you have to have two. One to drive and one to be in the garage to be serviced. But, whilst we were working on this electronics stuff there was a parallel research going on by Dr Glen Adams, an engineer who was researching into the behaviour of the cabinet, you know this cabinet is the wooden thing that surrounds the speakers, because a speaker when it moves, the membrane, when you have bass in it, the energy which is becoming free from this drive unit is often being transmitted into the cabinet which makes the cabinet move as well, so it would create a tone, a resonance. It is a bastard of a frequency. It is 80 hertz. 80 hertz is a very critical low end where a lot of instruments, classical instruments themselves already have their own frequency, like double bass, cello's and so on. A lot of those instruments would also be quite accentuated in that region. So, you had to get rid of this. Now you have wooowooo from the resonance of the instrument and now you have a second instrument from the resonance of the cabinet because the cabinet does exactly the same. Suddenly in those critical regions you have two resonance frequencies, making it out of control. So, the research started in the new materials in how to make cabinets. There was everything from aluminium to space technology. You know in an aircraft there is a thing called Aerolab, the floor of an aircraft is about that thin, it is very inert and you can't break it. It is a honeycomb material of aluminium and I don't know what. It is extremely light. A sheet of 2M by 2M you could lift with one finger. That technology was important in an aircraft because you had to save weight in every corner you can. But, that didn't work, other things didn't work, like cabinets made of concrete, fibre-crete and none of those cabinets would yield the results that they were looking for. And then this guy who was supposed to be doing the electronic side, he was very interested in the acoustic side as well. And while we didn't know that before he was making his own speakers at home. One morning Dick turns up and says, ‘sorry JB, can I have some time? I think I have got something. I don't want to tread on Dr Glen Adams toes but there is something that came into my mind last night. I was celebrating my birthday last night, and my father was giving me a present and I was indulging in this present quite heavily.' And he looked quite frail that morning. I said, ‘what do you mean, because I knew he had been drinking last night. And also dope and all of that'. He said, ‘after the second bottle of wine I went out into the kitchen and opened the box that my father gave me.' He gave him a box of 6 bottled of very beautiful red wine, I even had a sip of it. And then he said, ‘I was pretty pissed already and then I look at the thing and thought that could be a solution'. So, he came in with the empty box, the wine was all gone, accept for one bottle which he gave us. He said, ‘if you look at this thing as the box for the speaker, on the inside it has the divisions, it looks like the matrix. If we connect up that matrix to the cabinet, then the cabinet should be very inert because it can't go anywhere.' So, we tried it out and that was it. Ever since, the technology is called the matrix technology and it changed the industry quite rapidly because a lot of people copied it and tried all sorts of things, so that was the beginning.
Afterwards when John became ill I was in that time traveling a lot. I used to spend 280 nights in some bladdy hotel between here and Japan, between Tokyo and Wellington and Sydney, and Honolulu and Los Angeles and back up again to New York and over to London and the next day down to Milan and the next day back up to Helsinki. It is quite exciting when you are young but after a while it gets to you because now you are traveling meeting from meeting to meeting. I always had these little trips in between which I enjoyed, like coming to South Africa. These were the ones that really made my day, coming here in 1981 for the first time. Like going to Australia for the first time. We had a great guy there. He had a farm like this one out in the Blue Mountains. And he had a tractor and in the evening, they drink. I can't believe how they drink. This guy was always traveling with a little box full of everything he wanted in there, drugs… The next morning at 6 o clock he wasn't attractive. These kinds of experiences were quite nice and you could start to see a little bit some of the countries and some of the places. My very first trip was to Hermanus. I mean the sunset, shit, yes when I saw the first sunset, the colours. And to see the whales. So the travelling came to quite an abrupt end around the time when John got diagnosed with cancer, pancreas which is deadly; Steve Job. We tried to do everything to see if we could operate. We went to a clinic in Heidelberg in Germany but it was too late. There at the same time, one morning I got into the shower and I tried to grab the soap and I couldn't find the soap, and I couldn't figure out what was going on. I was very confused. Suddenly my right side didn't feel right anymore. It felt wrong. But I was still getting on. Getting out the shower, blah blah, get dressed because the driver would be coming up any minute to take me to some bladdy meeting. And then just before I got into the car, a second wave came to me. There were two strokes in short sequence. Which put me down. They rushed me to a doctor who diagnosed a stroke. I couldn't move my right hand. My right side was just gone. I couldn't even speak anymore. I was so confused. And then they put me in a wheelchair. Today you get treatment, physiotherapy. I had nothing like that. I said hey, I must get out of this wheel chair, which I did after a while. So, I fought very hard. In the meantime, John went down. John was losing weight, you could see death coming to him. He said to me, ‘I would like to speak in a letter to all my friends across the world. I would like my friend Tony to take pictures.' He was ready quite yellow. He said, ‘I want Tony to take portraits and I want to send them to my friends. And you also have a photograph after I am gone.' I said, ‘oh shit'. So we went to London and Tony took his pictures. Quite funny these two. They got on very well. Tony is quite an old friend of his. They went through a period together when he divorced his wife and I think she is dead now. She is called Princess Margaret, the sister of Queen Elizabeth and her husband was the first non-royal person to marry into the royal family and his name was Tony Armstrong, Lord Snowden that is his official title. He has been working as a photographer ever since. He did a lot of portraits of all kinds of people and lots of books. He took John's photographs which we could only take in black and white because of the jaundice. Some beautiful photos which I still have. And then John died and he left the whole thing to me. But by now I was feeling that my body was not really back to normal. It was a hard time because we had to take lots of drugs. The chemical industry makes you go and go and go for as long as you can go, but at a price that is very high. You take ten twenty thirty tablets and every five minutes you find yourself in a different reality. In the meantime we had a new American partner, distributer. He started to work with him quite closely. This guy Joe Atkins who today runs B & W. He jumped in and did a lot. So we cemented the partnership. He did a lot of the work that made B & W grow quite fast afterwards. B & W is a company today that does everything, like the Zeppelin in there, to very expensive speakers; the Nautilus and all that. And then after the death of John Bowers, for a number of years we were working on another project. Something like a year and a half before John died he started working on a speaker that was quite funky looking and he was trying to realise an idea that he saw in a patent many years ago. A patent that goes back to the war times. There is a German company called Telefunken, there were two guys called Braunmühl and Weber. These two guys came out with a patent for the tape machine which was applicable for microphones. He was working on that and he involved Dick on this project as well. It was backwards and forwards. Every day they came to the living room. Then when John got really sick, work more or less stopped. Then one of the young engineers fucked it up by losing the cross overs and then he didn't make a notice of all the changes, so the whole thing came to a standstill and then John died. Shortly before he died, maybe a week or two he said, ‘please put Dick into charge of this project because I like to see this project come to fruition'. So I spoke to Dick and then Dick came to John's bed and said, ‘yeah, I will do that with pleasure'. And I said to John, ‘I have got some ideas as well that I would like to implement, if that is okay with you'. So then we started working on it for 4, 5 or 6 years. We started building this speaker called Nautilus, these big snails. I couldn't travel that much. In the meanwhile I got to meet my future wife. She moved to England. And I had also started music.
They year before John died and I had my stroke, I did my first year at the Montreux jazz festival, where I organised a part of the festival in a discotheque called Platinum. So, I got involved with that. Back in the days before John died we spent a lot of time in Switzerland. He loved the country. We often went home to visit my mother. My father was also having a stroke. And then we got to know Claude Knox quite well. And one day John said, you know what we spend so much time down here, let's rent a flat. Just one village below where Claude Knox lived we found this nice flat in an old building. In those days, in that area of Montreux was very reasonable, beautiful view. We were going between Claude's place and us and traveling. It was a good place, like you go down on the train and you change train you can go to Geneva and get on a plane. Travel in Switzerland is very nice. So, by around '92. '93 this Nautilus started to have this shape that looked like a snail. The phrase Nautilus wasn't coined at that time. It was just a project. Dick's girlfriend came in. She is a very good industrial designer. He came up with the basic shape of it and she refined it. And so that thing became a reality in my listening room. By that time I already started to work with music. I founded this thing called B & W music, the label that released under the speaker side, some compilations. We released in Montreux. I had my own part in the festival. Some of the artists said you should put this out and somehow I slid into this stupid thing of becoming a label. Which was the most beautiful time of my life. More and more I got into music and '94 we launched Nautilus and the year before I was in SA with Airto and after that launch we went to do the Outernational Meltdown thing and from there you know the rest …
At what point did you shift into Blue Room
Around the same time we launched Nautilus '93, '94, remember I told you this place the University of Sound, in Steyning, a very quaint English village, with very extremely conservative people indeed. There was this one morning one of my engineers came round and said there is a cop at the door who wants to talk to you. So I went there, asked the guy in and we sat down and he said sorry to bother you but I would kindly request your assistance to help me rectify something we have a problem with. He said we had this search warrant and they went into a young lads apartment. This young lad was working in the video shop in this village. His mother is English and his father is Iranian. His name is Simon Ghahary. And Simon has got this darkish complexion which doesn't go down well in this conservative place. So, on suspicion of drug abuse or drug possession they went into this place. But they couldn't find anything which must have really frustrated them something horrible. They said they could find no drugs, but they said this young man has got a pair of speakers there and I am convinced they must be stolen because how could this young man afford such a beautiful pair of speakers. So, I said, ‘I don't know'. He said, ‘may I please have your assistance that someone come and verify that they are stolen?' So, Dick is like the one when you see the cops. I said wait for me for one second. And I went round to the lab and I said, ‘hey Dick', we were so close friends, we never had this relationship of boss and employee. I said, ‘hey please go with this cop and go and find out what is going on'. He said no problem and he left. Two hours later he comes back, grinning on his face like I haven't seen him do for a long time. I say, ‘what the hell is going on?' We sat down and had a cup of tea and he told me the story. He went into this place. And then they showed him the pair of speakers. He told me the story going into this flat and indeed there was a pair of speakers which was like the top matrix speakers in those days. The funny thing is the background of the story will have to go back because Steyning where the lab is, the lab itself is on a passage from the local school. This school brings in kids from all the rural areas, because it is very rural. Buses bring the kids in. In the breaks, they go past the lab to buy the sweets in the high street. The houses are not straight. Some of these places are a thousand years old and older. Beautiful. And so, we always had a skip, a container, like when you break down a house, you have a transport company bring you a skip and then you fill it up and take it away. That is what we call a skip. We always had a skip for all the stuff, when you work there are always prototypes. My engineers whenever they put something in the skip they want to break it down so nobody could use it. I said no, don't do this, I think it is wrong. Everyday you see these kids going past our skip and I see them looking into the skip and taking things out. I like that. I think it is great. Who knows someday somebody will come along and become an engineer because he has fond all this shit in the skip. Well, this guy who worked in this video shop had this flat just around the corner from our courtyard and he could actually see from his bedroom down to the skip, so every time he came home he looked down and saw there is something they put in there. So, he went in there and collected. Over a period of a year he put together bits and pieces that made a beautiful pair of speakers; cross overs, cabinets, drive units, everything.
So Dick said, you won't believe what pleasure I had to tell this cop that yes indeed this was a pair of our speakers but it came out of the skip and how proud he was as an engineer to see this young man being able to make a pair of speakers. The cop left and Dick started talking to him. And Simon started showing him some drawings of the things that he was drawing because he loved speakers. And then he showed him the first drawings, the first prototypes and that is the beginning of Blue Room Loud Speakers, the first baby ones, the mini-pods. That is how it started, he was the designer of the mini pods. At the same time, Simon was an incredible trance head, into trance music, Goa and all that. When Simon joined B & W at a later stage, I had Melt and then he wanted to do trance, techno, Goa and all that stuff, so I said okay. The Blue Room speakers go with the Blue Room label, the trance label. Melt is more the Nautilus. When I sold B & W after a while because I couldn't get on with my partner because I had spent too much money on music, and I hadn't really had any kind of drive to be in the speaker business as I had before. Because when you get sick you have to make a decision to stay away from it. So, I went into the music more and more. And I decided to sell my shares in B & W and I left. At the same time, Dick in the time of the first Blue Room speakers being manufactured in a separate unit from the factory, there was a big push in the UK for that kind of music, much to the displeasure of the police and the government because everybody was partying. And the kind of people that are partying on trance love to be out in nature. It goes also with the drugs. There were parties taking place everywhere. I remember we went to some Lord Blah Blah's place whose son was a big techno head and we had this party in the grounds of this castle where they had huge grounds and a beautiful place. This place was amazing and I only found out later that this was the place in England for the biggest variety of trees. There were trees from Africa, the Far East, all over the world. All beautiful trees. I thought I was on a trip. I thought I overdosed. I couldn't believe it was so beautiful. Somehow the grandfather of this guy was one of the colonial masters being posted there and there, because 25% of the world used to belong to the Brits. He collected trees and he planted them there and they grew like a miracle. He must have known that this place where he planted them had a micro climate like a climate that was very unique for where they would grow. In that time they introduced a bill, the British government which forbid to have parties and congregations of people. So when it happened that there was a party taking place somewhere out on the sea or the beach or the country the police had the right to come in close the thing down, put the responsible ones of the party behind bars and confiscate everything that was there; all the equipment. So a lot of people lost their equipment and landed up in prison. So, Dick who was building amplifiers, he came to me and said, ‘Rob we must do something'. He created a sound system that could be carried around by small people, even young people with a little muscle could just carry the thing around. It was a cardboard tube, 12 inch, 30 cm wide, speaker one end and cap on the other end and then one person could pick one of those up and walk for a long time. If you wanted to have a decent system, the smallest one would have eight tubes of that. If you wanted a bigger one you would double up to 16 tubes. If you want a better system you go to 32 and if you want a real stunner of a party you go to 64. 64 people carrying a tube like that with speakers in you have a great party. You go together and you make up. Between five to 7 and 7 o clock you would receive a call from somebody to say where it is and it was all coded. You had these coded messages and you would know to meet where. And they would all meet there. Within five to ten minutes they would all be there. They would come out of all their holes and pick up the stuff and go and make a party. And when the police come and confiscated the speakers, it was fine because it is all B & W speakers which he had built himself. I gave him the material. The bass units were from our top unit 801, the reference speakers, the mid-range and the beater as well from the top units. If you listen to the system, wow; that was Dick. When he left, he went to a company called Turbosound for whom he designed a horn.
(Robert shows me)
This is the baby. It got him an award from the queen for innovation for this thing. This is his innovation.
Whilst he was working for Turbosound, my company went down. Melt went down, my marriage went down and I decided to come here. And when I came here in 2001 I got a visit from a guy called Philip Guttentag and a partner and they came to me and said they wanted to build speakers in South Africa. Philip and his partner were helping me in '94 on the Outernational Meltdown series. I shipped a lot of stuff to South Africa and everything came to them and every day they came to the studio to see if the stuff was working. They were hanging out every day during the recordings so I got to know them. I then gave them the distribution of B & W in South Africa. And later this guy Philip got out of the distribution company and came to me to say he wants to build speakers in South Africa. And that is what is called Vivid Audio today and the circle is closed.
Robert says, speaking about Respect by Robert Doc Mthalane
I didn't know anything about this guy. The time comes and Mabi comes with Doc. We have a farm in West Sussex called Brownhill farm and there are two buildings. That has got a house and as you come into the living room and next to the living room is an office and my bed. I know they have arrived and I go into my office and I do some work and then I get up and go out and I see Mabi. “Good flight,” he says ‘Ja, I have a problem.' ‘What's the problem?' ‘Well, Doc is not well. I said, ‘what where is he?' ‘He is there by you in the office.' I said, ‘I didn't see nothing in the office, where is this guy?' So, I go into the office, I go and see this bed and it has got this thing on top of it and there was somebody underneath the cover and there is somebody very thin. I said, ‘fuck this guy is sick'. So, I said Mabi got to get the guy to a hospital tomorrow morning first thing. But then he wakes up and he knows he is very sick. He says, ‘I have come all this way to England because I want them to fulfil my dream to record. And I want to go out and record because I don't know if I will live tomorrow'. So we go out into the recording studio and part of that stuff you hear was recorded there. The next day I take him to the hospital. I went with him to a specialist doctor who checks him up; TB. In England TB is wow, it means immediately everything stops. He says to me, ‘listen you do not go home'. I call Libra up, my wife and I tell her that you are not going there for the next two weeks. At the farm at that point of time we had several members of Amampondo, Mabi was there, Madala was there, Doc was there. We were all there for two weeks. Only one person could go in and out of the farm and that was my old boyfriend Xavier, the Frenchman. He was the only one who would drive in there and bring the food. For two weeks, incubation time. I couldn't go to work. I could do nothing. For me this is a long story. Soon after this, before the album is released, it was so complicated because there were little patches of something that were recorded in Durban. And some stuff that has nothing to do with it. What I didn't realise is Doc was writing Busi's first album, Twasa. He was the guitarist with Busi and he wrote all the songs. With everybody involved, Breeze gets involved in the production because we had little snippets and we had to put the whole thing together without him because he even died in the meantime.
This song here is Busi crying over his death. (One of the tracks on the album Respect that was playing at the time of the interview)
I can't listen to this album without a lot of memory. I still hear today different things and more things.
Doc's brother, Enoch Mthilane, we used to play together. He was also in Sakhile. It was how I knew Doc. Madala told me about Doc. That time I was still playing with Enoch Mthilani. The brother Enoch says, ‘you know what, if you could meet my younger brother, this music, the one that you are playing, my younger brother can play that'. Your younger brother, I say ‘who is he?' He says, ‘he is Doc'. I say, ‘where is he?' He says, ‘he is in Durban'. I go to Durban, because I am living with Sipho there. Can you tell me where I can meet him? He says you can meet him there in Durban at the Bat Centre. It is where I met Doc. I said, ‘Doc I am looking for you.' He said, ‘my brother, my brother, it is long time that I want to be next to you'. I say, ‘you are the one that is going to play the music with me'. So, we rehearsed a bit and I could hear Jimi Hendrix. Oh this guy. I was fresh from the sounds from overseas in America. That time 1965, Jimi Hendrix was the most heavy guy with the guitar. Everybody was ‘Jimi Jimi.' I say this guy he plays like Jimi. I ask him, ‘Doc do you know how to play Malombo music'. He says, ‘I know Philip.' That guy was simple like that. He says ‘I don't want to play like Philip, I want to play like me.' I say, ‘thank you very much for that. Me I play like me, you play like you, so let's go.' The first song, this guy was killing me.
I had to go to Robert. ‘Rob here is this guy the guitarist, Jimi Hendrix what do you say?' Rob says, ‘Hey Mabi you, can I see him?' Rob didn't meet this guy, it was the first time Rob met him and started knowing him from there. Doc told me he has got the flu. So flu, lets go. I didn't realise that this guy had TB. In the plane, when we go to England, that guy, he stayed in the plane, he didn't come out till now. So I go to the people there and I say can you please call for a man by the name of Doc Mthilane. Doc Mthilane, somebody wants to see you. I can't see this guy. Here comes another guy and he says that guy is in the plane. Hey, now I have to go to the plane. By that time I go with security. He is feeling the pain. I take Doc, but I could see he wants to sit down. I was worried. So we got into the plane. I called assistance to take us to check in. When we come there, Doc wants to sleep. And in the plane he was sleeping all the time and didn't want to eat. When I look at him I say, is this God testing me? Or what? Or my ancestors, or what? Until Robert took him to the hospital and Dr Michael took care of him. The same day we came there when he wakes up he says, ‘hey studio'.
We came back. And the guy was fresh like me. Fresh fresh fresh and then he went back to those things again. I said thanks god because he is not under our hands anymore. In Pretoria where we got the place for him there were guys who were selling the heavy ones and he used to be a friend of them. Every time he calls me he says, ‘hey Mabi I don't have money'. ‘But you got paid, where is your money?' ‘No I sent the money home.' Robert had to pay for us every month. That is why I say I will never leave Robert because he has done so much for me and us. Robert is my brother. When I cry to him, he helps me. There is no brother that you can cry to him and he won't help me. I had put him in danger by taking Doc. I didn't know. But Robert made sure that that guy was well and the guy was well.
The part where you say Doc is writing music for Busi. He told me that; Doc. He said, ‘you see that album, I did everything.' That is why I said, hey I trust him because in Durban guitar is gold. Ischatimiya, Mbaqanga. Which is nice. That is why I like Doc, Jimi Hendrix in Durban. Because I was from Philip. I needed someone who was next to Philip but in another way.
Even at home I didn't know how to get other channels on the DSTV, but they knew the number. They taught me. But I bought the TV. You see I learn from kids also.
I say thanks for Robert to come back. When I look at Robert now he is now in a normal place and not abnormal because a lot of people used to drive him crazy, even the wife drive him crazy. You go home, you don't know which way to go, that way or this way, oh fuck I am going to sleep.
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Robert Trunz Interview Durban 2015
He takes me to sit low down on a rooftop overlooking Durban
I come here because of the acoustics. Can you hear that? Because you wanted to hear with more volume. What is happening here in this concave, you amplify the sound. So, when we sit here you hear more. It is like the loudhailer – ‘hello is there anybody in there?'
Good, Ananda … Do you remember the Shrine. Next to the Shrine was his cupboard. And on this cupboard one day appeared this cut out photograph from a newspaper of Mr Virgin, Richard Branson. I already knew a lot about this guy from what you get to know from the press, because I lived in England, so Richard Branson was quite a familiar name. I didn't realise he had never heard of him. He just saw this picture and something that this guy had said and he just cut it out and put it there. And, he always wanted to meet the man. But then, a while later we explained to him who he was and what he was doing and so on, because we found an article on the internet or a newspaper somewhere where Richard Branson said he would pay the people who gave him a solution to counter global warming. Ananda always told us about these things, very accurately, who will be doing what and what is going to be happening, like this date of the collapse of the whole financial system. He predicted that years ago, very accurately. A lot of things that he said were coming true. Others didn't, but some of the ones that are in my memory are the ones that have come true.
He kept asking me about Branson. We were actually making a documentary, a DVD that we were trying to get to Richard Branson. There was this recording with children from the Rudolf Steiner school where Nico used to go. And there were some people there during that recording, it was quite interesting, the children and how he talked to them. He always had crazy solutions for everything. And also he had some solutions for the global warming and stuff like that. He wanted Lianne to put it on video. And then he was talking to him and you must find that video. Ask Lianne to give you a copy because a lot of the insight is there.
Did you understand Ananda from the beginning?
Yes it is. I am very grateful for the time I spent with him or was able to spend with him. Sometimes we had fights and troubles. He helped me a lot through my life, in the later part of my life. After going away from England and coming down here because this country was a complete change over. Even during the time I recorded with all these guys I never spent more than a week or two, three or sometimes a little bit more. But never enough time in a place to understand.
What Ananda did was he was teaching. He was teaching you, whether you understood it or not was not his concern but he was teaching you. He was teaching us, he was teaching everybody all the time. But, sometimes he would get very angry. His whole story was that he had to be able to transform that anger that he had into peace and I think he did achieve that.
You know I did the first Shana's and it was at the second EP that we had a fallout with Shana and then a couple pf weeks later Nathi came round to the farm and said, ‘look.' I would never have an issue with him, he is not the kind of person I would have an issue with. He is too much a gentleman. He came to the farm and said, ‘I don't want to fight with you but I would like you to sponsor me as I would like to go solo.' I said yeah, I helped him with his first initial equipment, computer speakers, amps. I got him off the feet. I gave him Busi's material to remix. There was one of the tracks from Mabi and Thabang “Chililo”. I have a very high regard for Nathi. I find it very difficult to say ‘Black Coffee.' That is the name he goes by. For me it is my boy. I knew him from very young and then you always have some you believe in very strongly and then you have others you don't believe in at all. I think believing in him, he certainly has shown the kind of strength that comes with disability. Because to be the only one armed or one arm used DJ in the world who does so much work and puts so much effort into things; for that, you have to be very strong. After his accident left him disabled, he just carried on and did what he wanted to do and I think he is a great example for this country, the youth, because he denounces drugs, alcohol and all that because he saw what happened. In that accident that happened to him, people died in that accident, lots of people, it was a taxi running into a group of people. There is a very interesting documentary on residential advisor which is a UK website, very popular website for electronic music, perhaps the reference website in the world. They did a documentary on him. There is only one part out, there is a second one coming later. The first part is the early days, even before the Shana, what happened to him. What I didn't know is when they first started filming him, they filmed him as part of a documentary they did on Johannesburg. On that website you will find very interesting documentaries on electronic music from each major city in the world and there is one on Johannesburg. And that is where he appears. And that is where they got to realise how well known he is. Hence the more filming and hence doing a whole documentary on him. He is extremely popular in Europe. He is filling huge venues. When he plays places are packed. What happened - Residential Advisor; there is a girl who runs the show, she called me a week before I left for Madagascar and she said would I be in London. And I said not really because I am in the last preparation days before leaving for 3 months to Madagascar. She said she would like to interview me, I said why? She said we are doing this documentary on Black Coffee and he mentioned twice in his interviews that I was his major inspiration for the work that he is doing today and I suppose partly responsible for what he is today, which is great. Wow, ok. I went to London just before I left and gave an interview and part of it will come out in the second run of the documentary. It is interesting because there is always a cycle which closes.
For me, Durban was a very strong link. The closest of all the artists to me in terms of forming a part of my family, my son and my ex-wife we are very closely linked to Madala. It was Madala who introduced me to Busi and it was Busi who introduced me to Nathi. It is quite interesting to see that loop closing because it all starts here and ends here. And now I sit under a tree with you in Durban.
In 1993 or 4 I was in Matric and I wert to Jam ‘n Sons upstairs, Urban Creep were playing and you, Madala and Airto were there…
In the end Airto said, ‘Ok I will come back.' And we said Ok you must come back next year. But as you know in a country like South Africa where the change has just started to take place, to say something like that and to hear it from someone as highly regarded as Airto, being one of the members of Miles Davis's group, starting up Weather Report with Joe Zawinul and Miroslav Vitouš and the sax player, Wayne Shorter. It is obvious, you can't just say ok I will come and then change your mind. And then it suddenly dawned on me. Everyone was looking at me because I was the person who brought him to South Africa, on invitation from Darius's wife Cathy Brubeck. So, I thought oh shit what am I going to do now. I knew that I had to somehow convince him. Because I knew that Airto would go back and have Flora on top of him and I don't know what and other shit. I knew he would say I have got no time. And that was the case. He didn't actually realise that I was getting a phone call every week from either Pops or Sipho, asking when are you coming. I was tight lipped finding excuses, every three four weeks talking to Airto saying you have got to do something. One day when I saw him on a gig. I just took him aside and said, ‘Airto do you realise what the hell you are doing, do you realise what is happening here?'
Airto is not white or black, Airto is somebody who grew up in Brazil he is as white as anybody and as black as anybody else. He is a musician. He had not experienced this kind of division between black and white. It was very strange for him. I said, ‘look we got to do it'. And then he said, ‘alright I will call you back,' and then two three weeks later he called me back and said, ‘Jose and I will do it'. So I said, ‘ok I will organise it and I will finance it and we will do it'. In the meantime, Flora was finishing, because Airto was producing that album called Speed of Light. It is a very interesting album that had a lot of percussionists. He had Changuito, the Cuban God of the Conga. He had Billy Cobham who was playing with Airto and Miles Davis. He had Giovanni Hidalgo , one of the students of Changuito, he had playing with Sergio Mendez and South American stars. Freddy Santiago, he was from one of the South American islands as well. That album was interesting because there was a gathering of all the great percussionists. After that recording session at Peter Gabriels studios, we went to South Africa in 1994. It says '95 on the album, but it was '94, just shortly after Nelson Mandela came in and we were there in Johannesburg and we did the recordings of the Outer National Meltdown Series. The album came out 8 months later because it was a lot of work, there was tonnes of material. We had condensed it down to 3 CD's in the 3 CD pack. It came out in '95.
There was a very interesting change that happened in Airto during those two three weeks we spent here. We went to places like Soweto because these guys brought us home to their places. Do you remember Shaluza Max? Max took us to his granny who brought him up. We went to visit her, we went to hostels. Airto got so completely puzzled when somebody called him ‘umlungu' whilst he was there in Soweto. That is the first time he realised what it meant - that difference between black and white; because he grew up in Brazil. Brazil doesn't have that gap. All these cultures live together in much more harmony because they have people coming from all different parts of the world. Yes there is Portuguese occupational hatred or resistance but Brazil is a fantastic country when it comes to all these cultures and mixes. Which at that point of time was completely lacking here. Now when they come from a country like that, both he and Jose were, ‘why do these people live in these townships. Why do the white people live here?' They didn't know more than they heard, read or had been told in the press. To see it and experience it at that point in time was quite a shock.
How did Airto react?
During those recordings that was the time when I first met Madala. Mabi I already knew because he was playing in the group with Sipho. Madala for me was the odd one out of all of these people because he played a style I never heard before. I like acoustic guitar and I like trance music. I had a trance label but that is not exactly what I like but the trance in terms of the traditional music. A lot of traditional music is trance music because of the repetitiveness. It is trance. Trance is not just techno trance. Trance has been there for hundreds and hundreds of years. It is putting you into an altered state of mind. I actually always had been fascinated by percussion and drumming. Drum sets with lots of other percussion and repetitiveness. There is a point where everyone goes into a kind of a trance. A lot of these musicians, like the guys from Amampondo, are a perfect example. Mabi is a perfect example. After a while they just go and you can see, and after a while you get the goose bumps, the hair stands up and you have to dance. You can't not dance, you just have to dance. For me it is the only time when I dance really. When I get this foundation that carries everything, flowing. These guys over the years they knew exactly what I liked, so when they played, they had a good time. I always treated the musicians properly in a way so they felt at home. What they gave back for me was a present. When they saw me dancing they would just be happy and add a bit more to get moving.
Outernational Meltdown was obviously the breaking point because up till then there was little or no South African involvement with the exception of Darius Brubeck introducing me in Montreux in '86 to Sandile Shange because he was there with South African artists. You had the usual few things. I knew the jazz side better. Way before that I did a couple of concerts with in those days Dollar Brand, Abdullah Ibrahim, who was represented in Europe by a friend of mine. South African music was far away from my conscience.
My story is putting people together. Putting stars together and music in a different, you know, don't make it so pure; make people work together and feel what they want to do, given the freedom to do what they want to do. There is a South African jazz journalist, Gwen Ansel. Gwen once when I came back in 2003 or 4, I was kind of away from Melt and she came to a gig at the Bassline and she put it very nicely. She was saying in her article afterwards that it was so nice to see Robert Trunz, he always had his own view or take on South African music. Which is correct.
My soul and my head has never been limited by often the things that we say we had to do it the same way we have done it before otherwise tradition will not carry on. I don't believe it is the case. There are always the essentials and the core or the seed of the tradition will always be there if you have respect with what you do with the music. It should not hinder, alter or stop people from going on to do their thing. Look, I go to concerts. This Christmas I went to a concert of Phuzekhemisi just after Madala's. I had seen Phuzekhemisi for the first time in 1997. I saw him again and he is a kind of custodian of maskanda music. Great. Very energetic even at his age. A fantastic performance. When you look at Madala he says I am not maskanda I am Madalaline. He actually takes the liberty of not being pushed in or squeezed into a box whereas Phuzekhemisi will come up and die as a maskanda legend.
Was Busi a Maskanda legend?
I am ashamed that Busi went the way that she had to go in the end. But I had very much hoped to do a jazz album with her because maskanda is not really her thing. It did become her thing because Urban Zulu put her as a heroine of maskanda, because the album has become so successful but then I had the opportunity because we spent a lot of time together. There was a time when we had a great time together when she wasn't so bitchy about everything, because she was part of my family, very close. My son grew up with her; Aunty Busi. My wife and I looked after her for many many years and there were times when we were just sitting in the studio and there were musicians there playing, even with Moses on the piano. In the studio things happened that you will never ever hear again, because they only just happened there once. Busi did some renditions of jazz which is like shit man I just fall off the chair it was so incredibly good. And we did discuss that we would do a jazz album but then Moses went the wrong way and she went the wrong way and it never happened. It would have been nice. I am saying we are boxing people. Now you have to do maskanda for the rest of your life. Even the album she did with Hugh Masekela. Nobody listened to that. It was out in the market. There was a very devastating comment from a journalist who said the album is out and it should be in the bargain bin which I think wasn't very complimentary. Masekela produced the album and that was it. It started off like that, Hugh Masekela started off from the beginning because she was on tour with him and Madala introduced me to her when he was recording. He wanted to have her on his team and then she came to me. I have never met Bra Hugh. I think we are living in two completely different worlds and it is good like that…
Do you know of Rude Boy Paul? He was the radio DJ and co- founder of YFM. I know in 1995 we came out with the first remix album called Music with No Name Volume One which had this track of Madala's on it called Ubombo and there was a remix from an outfit from Bristol called Smith and Mighty. I put this on vinyl as well and I heard much much later when I became friends with Rude Boy Paul, he said to me, ‘do you know Rob that that track was actually changing our vision of traditional music and its integration into dance music'. So yes I am sure. Black Coffee says the same because Black Coffee had all the ‘Music with No Name'. ‘Music with No Name' Volume One is definitely one of the reference recordings because together with Peter Gabriel's label we were the first one to do that type of thing, to take that kind of music and remix it. If you really deeply look into the ‘Music with No Name' and you see the people that were remixing it there were some giants amongst those people. At that point of time you do not realise, but it becomes history.
For heavens sake, we must now jump 20 years. From 1995 to 2015, the thing I want to do now and the thing I discussed with Nathi, is to take a DJ producer out to Madagascar. I would very much like to take these guys, there are a couple of them from a group called Black Motion. They have just done an amazing track of Madala's - totally reworked it. There are no samples, nothing, everything themselves. I went to see Nathi and he said he is working with them and we are now trying to see if they are in agreement. There is no money involved. They will have to pay their flights blah blah blah, but they will have a treasure of music afterwards which we can work on together and make everybody benefit from. I don't know who is going to come. I have some other people I would like to consider as well like Monde who is the drummer from Kwani Experience. Monde did one album with me, ‘Music with No Name' Volume 4 which I also consider a real masterpiece in my opinion. He went through the discipline of all the different electronic styles. I think he has done a brilliant job.
We are jumping around but there are two decades of influencing. There was a guy called DJ Castro B who did some stuff as well in his own style. I was able through the label to inspire people to look at it in a different way. The first album that Black Coffee did was fantastic. The remix of Busi is there, the remix of Hugh Masekela, he became very famous with that. It is all confirming what I said before. There is no way that you should stop the progress of traditional music being passed on to another generation because I went to see this gig in the Playhouse and it was three quarters full, but there were no young people in there. It is like there is nothing but people of my age 40 – 70 and nobody was even dancing. Most of the people didn't even fit the seats. I felt like the thinny compared to most of the people. It is like the reminiscence of the fat cat society that just goes there to see their old heroes in a very highly air conditioned environment where you freeze your arse off. We are in Durban and should have some heat. For me, for twenty years now I have been happy to see people dance to that music and to see young people dance to that music. I saw when we put out the Busi Mhlongo remixes of the Urban Zulu albums, they were selling like hot cakes, fantastic. And people played them everywhere.
What about computer generated music versus live music?
The 4/4 beat lends itself to the computer. It is not as easy to do a 6/8 on the computer then when you play it because most of the things here are 6/8. But there are by now, more and more younger engineers who can fake the 6/8, it becomes more interesting. We mustn't say now it is electronic because what happened in this country in the early 90's. How did the music industry change in this country? Very simple. There were a few computers, Atari computers. There were a few young guys who back in Europe started this garage and house music and all this kind of stuff. And then some of the equipment when it was replaced, they were given away. So, some of the equipment found its way over here. The younger guys were working on Atari. I saw amazing set ups. I saw people like Castro B. He produced music on a PC that in Europe they would put it into the museum. And he had a little crappy amplifier and one speaker. Amazing. In the early 90's that was done by those guys who are now very very famous in this country. Oscar, Arthur, Chico, TKZee, Mdu, these guys. They did kwaito. Kwaito was nothing else than a South African version of house music. That is how house music started. Kwaito is nothing else but house music but with the African beat, the African taste, the African thing. They couldn't get their stuff onto the radio stations. They couldn't get their stuff to be played anywhere else. Their own niche market was the taxi, so they made cassettes because most of the taxi's had cassettes. They were putting the cassette on the way to work so it came a form of entertainment that was aimed at the majority. It is great to go to work with a beat like that. They did it so cleverly. At some stage the record industry in this country was forced to listen to them. And then they took it further and that is how some of the sub labels came up and people started their own lables, Kalawa Jazz, Arthur had his hit ‘Don't call me a kaffir.' And there is Lianne. Lianne has been there from the beginning. She was doing all the music videos.
What was the Achisa story?
The Achisa story is the other angle. Cape Town at that point in time, there was a group that a friend of mine used to bring into London, it was called Prophets of the City. Later one of them became a member of Jozi. Do you know the band called Jozi? You know Bongz? Bongz is the son of Brenda Fassie. There is a group called Jozi in that American way. Prophets of the City were the first ones who came out of this American kind of rapping style. And Achisa were four young guys who were in a home in Langa. They lived there in the orphanage. They befriended Simphiwe Matole from Amampondo. Simphiwe is the kind of guy in Langa who has an open door, he has a piano and a trumpet and he always has people there playing music. They went to him and they asked him to help them with their rap story. There was no hip hop in those days. When Achisa came out it was very strange. And Lungiswe helped them as well. She sang on some of their tracks. Their first album was co-produced by Sheldan Isaac and the second album was produced by Airto's daughter Diana, and son in Law, Krishna Booker. Interesting Krishna Booker, they have a kind of trip hop outfit called Eye-dentity which also had interesting people in there. Some of the very early tracks of Eye-dentity which I released had people like Herbie Hancock because Herbie Hancock is Krishna Bookers' godfather. And there is another guy Wawa Watson who is quite famous. He got his name from the Wawa pedal. They came to England produced this album there. It was called Bill of Rights but it never went anywhere because the guys started to get into shit. One got killed. It was something that came and went. We did a couple of concerts there. They were the supporting act for Busi Mhlongo.
There was a nice story behind the whole Moses thing which will take us back to a few days after the 4 th world concert in Durban. After Durban we went with Airto and Flora to the Arts Alive festival in Joburg in 1993. It was quite funny because Airto was playing two consequent nights and one night was inside the market theatre and that was quite a story because it was announced by a guy from Chicago who was in Johannesburg, I don't know if he is still there. SABC filmed this whole thing and there were interviews with, what's this nice guy called, he did the jazz broadcast in those days, elderly guy with beard and glasses. He has been doing the show for many years very knowledgeable. So, somehow that first evening at the market theatre the festival must have overbooked they were probably twice as many tickets as they should because they obviously some restrictions in terms of safety. The security guys outside the door were holding people back because there were so many. But literally people forced their way in and at some stage they just let them go. We were back stage and I was looking out from backstage into the audience and there were literally everywhere were people even up on the struts people were hanging up there looking down. And it was a great show. Airto did one of the best solos I ever heard. I was in there. But that afternoon I went across to market theatre and in the outdoors they had some stages. There was a stage ad there was a big band playing lots of people I never heard or seen before. There was a big big band that filled up the whole stage and on the side, on the left there was a baby grand. And there was somebody playing the piano. Now, for me the piano is not my most favourite instrument and there are a few people I really love on the piano. Some of the works of Keith Jarrett for example, some f the live stuff I love and then there is obviously Herbie Hancock whom I got to know quite well, there is Abdullah Ibrahim, McCoy Tyner and some classical piano as well. But then you have one pf my real favourites was Gil Evans. When he plays Fender Rhodes. That is an instrument I like a lot. There are a lot of keyboards that are for me too cheesy. There was a time after Miles Davis where they all played fusion. They all started trying out those real naff keyboards that made funny squeaky noises and people playing endless solos. Chick Corea is also somebody I like, but not all. The electric Chick Corea sounded eeeaewawaw. SO, funnily enough there was some half solos wit this piano and I couldn't see anything because there was a lot of people there. I made my way up to the front and I saw this big band with lots of people and I saw the piano. I couldn't see the person behind he piano, it was just a little Muslim hat or whatever he used to wear in those days and yeah it was great. Nice piano playing. So I stayed and then in the next track he played a solo. He started it off and wow wow wow. I asked the guy next to me, ‘whose this?' He said ‘Moses.' So I had to go. The next day they were playing fourth world out on the main stage but sometime before they went on stage I was walking through the side stage area and there was the same stage again but this time there were an electric wind instrument. There is a guy called Rashid Lanie. I think he left and went to the States and he might be back. It was Rashid Lanie and someone else and Moses on the piano. That was completely different music. This big band thing you hear the standards. There was some great South African songs in there. They even did Mannenberg. I thought I want to get to know this guy so I waited. Evening had just settled in. It had got dark. After the concert everyone came off the stage. Backstage there is steps going down. It is dark you can't see much. Up on the stage there is an opening with the light coming through. I was waiting because I hadn't seen this guy coming down. After a while he appeared in this opening. He was very tall and he had some notes and sheets in his hand left and right both arms. He comes out and starts walking down and I thought Moses coming down with the tablets. Funny kind of thing comes to your head. “Hey there is Moses coming down with his tablets to tell us about the music.” So I met him at the bottom of the stairs and talked to him. That was 193 and the changeover had started to happen. I was like an umlungu and now I go and see this young black kid. To me he was very promising. He had already been touring the United States with Hugh Masekela by that time. Shortly before he came back at the age of 17. Yes I talked to him and left my name and address and said if he felt it appropriate I would like to record his music. And I could see in his face that he wasn't really interested but then a few weeks later I got a phone call from Pops, because I said to Moses that if he wanted to contact me he could do so via Pops. At that time, I had met Pops and he has been around all the time. Pops became the Gauteng contact and Sipho was the KZN contact. Sipho was also the one who later invited Amampoindo to the Outernational Meltdown recordings. There was a recording that was done in Joburg for Moses's first album and I the recording engineer was Peter Thwaites. And there were some interesting people on there like Max, whom I only met the year after. And Fana Zulu was on there. I can't remember who was on drums, Vusi Khumalo? The album was doing well. People liked it, it got two or three sama awards. And he started touring and play a lot of concerts here in South Africa. When we came back in '94 with Andrew and Byron, they started hanging out with Moses, Max, Andrew and Byron. They formed a kind of junior section of the whole thing. Fana was in there as well. These people after this whole Outernational Meltdown got together and they formed Barungwa. On Outernational Meltdown in 1994, Moses couldn't join us in Johannesburg on the recording. He did one track in Joburg. It is on youtube. Because he was busy touring the country, lots of gigs. He made it to come down to Cape Town where we recorded at Milestones. Great recording sessions because that finally got Airto in high spirits because he was working with Amampondo and now it was his element working with these guys. And then Moses joined them and they recorded one of the songs that is on Genes and Spirits. In Cape Town whilst recording the phone rang and then I got somebody talking to me from Johannesburg saying I must get Moses on the phone because his wife had just given him a son. I went to call him and gave him the phone and sat in the control room. There was a DAT going on all the time to record the back things. He walked into the studio and sat down. I saw him sitting down and thought OK let me hit the recording button because I knew he would be playing. Immediately after he knew about his son he was there and was playing the song Bo Molelekwa which was the name of his grandfather and the inspiration for his work. I think his direct hero. Which is nice.
Was that Zoe?
Yes. He is twenty studying piano at university. I haven't seen him since Moses's funeral. I knew Zoe quite well. He used to hang out with my son. He used to come and visit. I had a lot of these musicians whose family also became part of this whole thing. It is for me involving people on such alevel that they become part of your everyday life is nice but some people misuse it aswell. They get into you and not do nice things, steal from you, all that. But, at the end of all this time I think today there are afew people I can say are true friends. And certainly for me the closest friend out of all of them is Madala and his family. Madala is part of my family. And I saw it now with Nico coming down, Nico and S'bu, Madala's son are the same age now. It makes me happy that there is another generation interfacing communicating acknowledging that they have grown up together on different continents mostly but that they are one. S'bu for example has just got a drum set so he is drumming there at home at Madala's place. And he has started to DJ as well. And he has to finish his school. He is busy.
It is funny coming back to Durban and suddenly Zoe is also here. I think it has been very very good that he made that decision to get away from that whole family thing up there. He is twenty, he must be living his own life. It is important for young people to live their own life in my opinion. I get shot down by a lot of people like Madala. His son and daughter have to be at home until they are 21. Then my son being aware at 18 already for a year is quite shocking to some people. But I think that is Ok they must grow up. I also left home at 16. My son said, ‘dad you want to get rid of me.' I said, ‘why?' You want to do the same thing you left home at 16, you want to chase me out.' I said, ‘well if I have to chase you out I will.' I did actually once. I chased him out and sent him down here tp South Africa to his mum and then he started to realise that puberty and growing up is not easy and then he changed quite rapidly because down here he didn't like it with his stepfather. He hasn't been very nice to him at all. So, our new generation is those kids that are growing up and like Matthias and these guys. They are like children for me. Not to say a child but a child that grows close to you. It is like your own child. And so because of growing up the way Nico has grown up with all these musicians and all these friends that are around. The first people who were coming to him like Pops with the mbira and Mabi playing percussion on his cheeks. Mabi carried Nico more than his mum in the first two years because his mum was studying as well and Mabi was there half the time. Because of the fact that we have been able to spend a lot of time together with musicians in England because I had a farm there as well. I had a house and I bought a farm and we converted some of the stables into studios. Because of that being together sparked off a number of quite interesting collaborations.
I don't know what sparked off so many recordings. In hindsight I don't know what the hell I have been doing. Everybody wanted to record. Everybody came with other people. You must listen to this and you must listen to that. And down here we had Sipho Gumede was recording some gospel choir people called New Generation which by the way was never released. Coming back to what you were saying, what happens to all this unreleased stuff? I don't know it is just there. Maybe someday somebody will find that and release that. There is stuff amongst that in my opinion yes it is a part of the history of the time. I feel that when you record something it should also sound appropriately good or have some value in terms of when you reproduce it. That is the thing that always bothered me in South Africa, these fast and furious productions that people did. Getting them in the morning to the studio, record ten tracks, then send the people off and then quickly mix it and master it and then a week later it is out. It is kind of an industry that does the same thing because to me a lot of those recording still, all sound the same. They all like a bit more of this and a bit more of that… And then when you have somebody come along that is really good it often goes under in this fast produced worlds and the record companies didn't in those days because nobody wanted to spend any money. But because of my background in Hi Fi and then in B&W, I wanted to know about the quality and how to achieve quality as well. So a lot of the people from here hadn't worked with good recording engineers so there was Chris Lewis, Richard Edwards who had been doing most of my stuff and other engineers often working with the local engineers here. So, for me, I took the stuff back to England and then we were mixing and mastering there. An expensive thing in those days, very expensive because you had these 24 track tapes 2 inch, and a reel like that is immensely heavy to transport. Today you have got that thing in your pocket on a USB stick, but in those days you carried it. When you finished a session, one session when we finished it we had to get it to Santa Barbara to be mixed. That was the Flora Purim one. It was 500kg's of tapes that you had to freight over to Los Angeles. Imagine! In today's terms it is you have only a few gigabytes. What is that? It was extremely expensive to buy those tapes, 24 track high precision reels. Plus you had a lot of analogue material in the studios. Everything that is done today you plug in. An engineer can work fast. Now you can send the track here and there over the internet. Those things were not possible in those days so it was very expensive.
Pops was doing the Outernational part. If you look at the Outernational CD's, part of that was arranged by Pops and part of that was arranged by Sipho. Sipho brought some choir up from Durban. It was planned that we did Joburg, Durban, Cape Town, but somehow it turned out that we didn't have the kind of facility we needed to do that in Durban so because of the relatively short distance compared to the distance between Johannesburg and Cape Town, than Johannesburg and Durban we brought the people up there and put them in hotels and they came to the studio. Downtown studio, full, all the different studios and rooms were occupied by musicians because as I said Pops and Sipho just brought these people in. Pops brought the sangomas in, Susan Hendrix, there was McCoy. McCoy we recorded right at the end that has never been released. There was some stuff with Sipho and people from here, Lindiwe, she died later. There was a beautiful song you should look up. There is a video of it on youtube called Mama Yeah Mama Yeah. Really beautiful song. Like an acapella thing. And Mabi and Airto that is it. Very nice track. There is a lot of footage of Outernational Meltdown on video that has never been released. Because there wasn't much professional video material available. And the guys who were filming were friends of Shaluza Max and they did quite a bit of filming but unfortunately the camera had a fault so all the audio recordings are distorting which is a real bummer. They captured a lot of the stuff on the side which I personally like about any of the recording sessions or these gatherings are the little things happening on the side like when people sit together and rehearse and do things. There is magic stuff that happens there. But a lot of the material is still around. Just like nobody has been interested enough to look at it all because it is massive. There are hundreds of hours on video still in London but if perhaps someone in this country would consider it worthwhile looking at that material and make it available then it would be nice. Somebody would just put the money on the table. There is a lot of money hanging around here. Bu the money doesn't seem to be spent on some of those things.
I was not aware that what I was doing in the 90's would become part of the heritage of the post apartheid. A documentation of post apartheid music. Because there is a lot. They told me afterwards because I wasn't really living here, I was coming in and going back. Some of these guys were recording in Paris, some of these guys were recording in Europe. Suddenly South Africa became an interesting country for music in London especially. This guy Paul Bradshaw did a lot of work to make that happen that these things became more obvious to the listeners and the younger listeners especially because of those collaborations that happened with Byron Wallen and Andrew Missingham and all those people. They were part of the London scene for the young people, the acid jazz kind of thing. South Africa became more and more popular over there. At the same time whilst things became more popular outside the country within the country things started to change so rapidly that people forgot about their heritage very quickly. But they were the exception like Moses was somebody who hit with his second album Genes and Spirits really hit the nail and brought the young generation and the old generation together and filled all these concert halls that he was playing because of his unique sound and this unique sound came out of his experiences in London. That interview which is on the internet, on youtube with Moses; that is an interesting part of what Moses is all about and whatever the significance this album had in this country afterwards. Had he not died the way he did then there would be most likely even more people who would have pushed the boundaries of jazz and electronic. He had a beautiful mixture of beats and stuff. You know traditional beats and rhythms in this country which he integrated with garage rhythms and stuff like that. Genes and Spirits I love that album. Listen to the interview because in those interviews he also talks about his influences and the people that have passed his way to what he was doing.
Is his music, music with no name?
It was really the influence of him coming to London with Barungwa. Andrew and all these people introduced him. The London jazz boys, they didn't just do jazz. They were all the time playing with the most diverse kinds of groups and interface started already in those days, interfacing with electronic and working electronica live at the same time. It was great. Obviously the keyboard and the computers, the beats were created on the computer, no longer did you do it on the recording. You started programing differently. That person who can create the beats on the computer often decides on the success or failure of the album. Because of his whole beat structure is no good it sounds shit. What you see later 15 years later, you started to see in America with all the hip hop and all tis different electronic influences that came about, a lot of the DJ's started working with the musicians as well creating beats, creating things. It was nice to see later in South Africa that this Moses Moelekwa, this boy Taiwa introduced so much of that electronica in a really beautiful way becuase he was playing it on his keyboards. It wasn't just a programed thing. He actually made it up. He would actually be able to play his whole thing during the concert. That was quite unique at that point. He had it all there. He came to me one day and said he wanted to do a new album and wanted to work with Andrew Missingham on it and he wanted Andrew to program the beats. Andrew is a drummer but he was one of those new generation guys who could also program the whole thing so it would sound the way. You know they program the sounds and then they play on top of them as well so it becomes something quite different. But there was a time during the recordings of Genes and Spirits where Moses and Andrew's way of thinking must have come to a dead end. So then one day whilst Moses was recording in England he came down to my house and came and sat down. We had already vastly overspent on the recording budget because he had all kinds of people there. Flora, Airto, Chucho Valdez, recording here and there in London in the Milo studios and then go out to Peter Gabriel's studio. It cost a lot of money. I thought it is ok because we will have an album and put it out. And then he sits down and says ‘I am sorry but I like to redo some of the stuff.' And I like to use a track from the album Outernational Meltdown which we recorded in 994. I would like the tapes but on the tapes I would like to replace the drummer who in 94 was Andrew Missingham and I would like to replace him with Bruce Wassy. So we had to get Bruce Wassy from Paris and we had to re-record a lot of the stuff. It became twice as expensive which was very expensive indeed I can assure you. But who am I, silly little me who loves music but can't even make music because I don't have any talent to compose a track or play an instrument, so how can I tell this boy, Moses was like one of my sons. I can't tell this guy he is totally over the budget without making him feel bad. That is the worst thing to get somebody to feel bad. So I shut up, I bit my lips and that was it. I liked him too much. To have such beautiful characters around, so much inspiration and beauty in the music, hey come on, what is money in the end? Because that album that came out Genes and Spirits you can always listen to that there are always one or two tracks that will trigger some memories, some happiness. You can play it today, you can play it tomorrow and you can play it he day before yesterday. Almost 20 years ago now and it is still around and I am sure you are going to find people who are going to play his songs a long time from now which is good because every time somebody pays his songs sand remembers him I am sure there is going to be a little nice drawing on the big canvass of his life that remains a mystery or the death of his.
And I hope that his son studies piano. I tried to get hold of Zoe for a long time. It was in the end by a guy who has been looking up a lot of the stuff on the internet about Moses that I got in touch with Zoe again because he is like one of his sisters was Moses was his girlfriend so he is part of the family. This made me feel very happy when I was able to get hold of Zoe for the first time again after all this time and Zoe is a two meter tall guy now and he plays basketball and he is really really good. I haven't seen him for many years. He got a parallel thing that happened. At some stage between the first and the second album Moses got invited to Berkeley University in United States/. Moses comes to me and says Hey Robert I don't know what to do? I say that that doesn't sound like you. What must I do I get an invitation from Berkeley University for me to go and study there and all my big heroes like Herbie is lecturing there as well. A lot of my heroes are teaching there and I don't know and then at the same time I really want to do my second album which became Genes and Spirits. I looked at him and said Moses you know what? Oh you got such a unique style you got so much talent why you want to go to Berkeley they teach you something else and you come back playing the sae shit as they all do. And he said you are right plus I really want to do this album because my head is so full. They were traveling with Barungwa, they were recording, performing, hearing other things. He was in London starting to get into all the scenes. So he said no and he stayed.
Whilst we recorded in 94 for the Outernational Meltdown there was Moses there one day. It was all he could afford as the next day he had to be somewhere else. We were like in the studios which had a baby grand and it was after midnight everybody had gone. I was just hanging there with Moses because Moses was not wanting to go to sleep or whatever. So we smoked a spliff and Moses sat on the piano. I was really tired so I lay on the floor under the piano and I was in a state of half asleep, but awake enough to get this amazing shower, a waterfall of sound coming down from this piano onto me, penetrating my body, going into me. He was playing. I was just there underneath the piano. I don't know how long for, I have no idea, I just know that somehow I came out of this ream and it was bright daylight out there. It must have been six o clock in the morning. He was just playing nonstop on the piano. What an amazing experience to be there. Which prompted me at some stage later to say Moses do me a favour let's do a solo album. When you see this Keith Jarret thing, live in Cologne and stuff like that. That night there was amazing. That was a live concert for one person. Lovely. But Moses said no I want to concentrate on this on my group because at that time he got in with Moses Khumalo and the other young Jaws and Selo and all the kids, which was great. And then I ask him again and I ask him again. Every time I saw him I say hey Baba Moses come. By that time his wife became the manager and she was nanana because now she was very busy. Moses you have to do this, Moses you have to do that, Moses you have to play this and that and boom boom boom. I say Moses before you burn out can we please do this. One day he calls me and says I am going to but I just want to go into the studio like SABC and I want to look myself in and nobody to come in and Peter Thwaites to record it and that is it. His wife was there. He recorded it and that was it. By that time things had happened in the UK, Melt was going down, and I had to move and I moved to South Africa and the tapes that were done because Moses wasn't in agreement to release it. We recorded it but there had to be a time that this was released. So, it was just laying there. But then when I moved to South Africa the tapes got lost. Shit you know! I couldn't find them anymore. Until a couple pf days after he died I found the tapes again. I found a copy because Richard Edwards who is as ve4ry meticulous person who was exactly the opposite to Chris Lewis who never writes things down properly so you never know afterwards who was playing and things like that. He always writes everything down and he made a copy of the original tape so we had a one to one digital copy which I then released, under Darkness Pass. Why darkness Pass, Monk told me afterwards that there was this painting that is called Darkness Pass which I think was Moses's painting. And it was for him, something that helped him through.
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