Towards the Peace on Earth
                                                                                                   
Interview Brendan Jury

1992 was very interesting. We were taken under the wing of Hannelie Coetzee. She had worked with Shifty and the Voelvry movement in Johannesburg and she had come down to, underneath the owner, to manage and run the music side of Jam and Sons which it had come to be called. Although I didn't meet Robert then, we opened up a couple of times and started a connection to Busi Mhlongo. At that time her band was called Kajima and Urban Creep opened up for her band in at least two or three occasions at Jam and Sons. I suddenly realised that her and that scene with Madala Kunene was the most interesting thing that was happening around us. Urban Creep, I was playing with Chris Letcher and Ross Campbell and a French guy called Didier Noblia .

It was at the end of Urban Creep when I came across Robert and was introduced formally to him. What was interesting then was I had paired up with Warwick Sony and we were working together. We had done some things like Uba and the Truth Commission for William Kentridge. We had made some music together. We had a project called Transky. We were working together. We had done some movies, we had done some commercials. Through that live work and Warwick I really met Robert and what I was really struck by Robert was two things. One was cultural emersion. He wasn't a tourist. He really emmersed himself deeply in South African culture and its very real need for someone like him to provide some sort of foundation for some of this incredible music that was going on. It was a very deep thing. What hasn't been written about that time was a massive dropping of the ball by all recording companies excepting Shifty music. I don't think it was luck or anything else that a young group of musicians like Chris Letcher and myself, Urban Creep, our lives were Shifty Records then going onto work with Robert. The mainstream recording companies, it is safe to say, even though they had a different time, apartheid was real and a very totalitarian, but from a purely professional point of view I did think there were massive gaps in their vision; maybe in the whole world of recording companies in the 1990's. And that has become evident now in how their technology and industry has changed.

I always get criticised for being some kind of a McCartney to the Lennon, and if the cap fits that is fine. I have always been a person who has somehow had business ideas and kept studios going, and been a survivalist.

The happiest I ever was with lyrics was the lyrics I wrote for a song called Slow Thighs which was a song based on a very early romantic poet and he ,made beautiful paintings and drawings, one was Paradise Lost and he wrote a poem, ‘Oh Rose thou art sick, the dark something that flies through night.' He railed against the dark Satanic mills of the early industrial revolution and he made some of the most incredible drawings. The sick Rose was one of his big set works at University as a poem, William Blake, early industrial revolution, huge impact on England. He did a painting called Satan in heaven and it was this picture of Satan, this kind of sensual beautiful Luciferian angelic very attractive angel character lying in the angels arms in heaven. I think what he was trying to say was how England was God's own country, to the aristocracy and in those fields in ancient time, it was almost like the new Jerusalem, but he was saying this is where Satan has come. There were children of 7 years old dying down the mines and chimneys and this where there has been extraordinary exploitation of the working class. Literally people are dying. The early industrial revolution had all these terrible things happening, so he wrote this poem and at the same time, he drew this picture Satan in Heaven. At the same time, I was in Knysna on the heads looking down and you know the Zionists do there ceremonies, bathing and they do it in the Knysna lagoon at extremely low tide, you have to walk very far into the middle of the lagoon and I was looking down from the heads and I just saw this preacher man and this beautiful big staff and these people in incredible white robes and it looked like they were walking on water because the lagoon was rugged incredibly low tide. And it was actually only maybe three inches deep. There he was walking on water with this big staff and his whole flock was following him because he was going to do this baptism in the middle of the lagoon. And that made me think about colonialism. Amazing how the colonials came also thinking with that religious conviction. They walked over the water from Europe from England, Spain and Portugal and they came with their staff as well. They knew they were going to take, they were disingenuous as well. They knew they weren't going to save people. They were going to take everything they could. So, I wrote this song called Slow Thighs that goes ‘slow thighs walking on water,' because also the beast in revelations, there is some character and she has sloe eyes. I remember always thinking what does that mean? My parents were very religious, so I used to get all this religious stuff. There was this women with sloe eyes, ‘sloe' I think means slanty. All these things jumbled in my head and I wrote this song about colonialism about these slow thighs which for me was a bit more visceral and hinted at eroticism, the kind of rape, physically, emotionally, sexually. There was such a sexuality to the whole colonialism as well. The fetishisation and the creation of mixed race people and culture, it was a real kind of … I wrote this song, ‘slow thighs walking on water, seeing with brown eyes the fishermans daughter, crying with dry eyes, she was a lamb for the slaughter.” And the next verse was how the brown man became not a lamb for the slaughter and became this Jesus with a gun. Very specific lyrics and the chorus was ‘Thy will be done as it is in heaven, wars will be won as it is in heaven .. And Satan gently sleeps with angels at his feet in heaven.' That got to Number One on 5FM. That was a number one song in the whole country. It is called ‘Slow Thighs.' It was from the second album on Urban Creep and was our biggest song in terms of broadcasters. That was massive. No journalists once asked me what the lyrics meant. Not once! It was number one for a long time on Highveld, East Coast and only a couple of times some reborn Christians came at me. I said actually I don't believe in God or anything, that is far more critical than being anti-Christianity. I am talking how religion has been used in a very fetishistic, perverted way to grease the wheels of this massive colonialisation. That is everything we deal with every day. It is very interesting.

I did an album last year with Black Coffee for instance which is our biggest house DJ and house is the biggest scene in South Africa. He is amazing, a really great artist with huge impact all over the world. That album we did, I mixed it for him, I was the arranger and live music director. It won the SAMA award, best dance album. I am sitting there working with people each and every day that have massive impact in South Africa and at those times, there is nothing. It is so confusing because I was brought up in the 80's to be a spirit of activism, to say no I don't care if that is not the law, I am going to break the law if it doesn't work. How can you say this, what are you talking about… You realise it is the case.

We had another number one which I am also proud of called ‘Seven depths of skin,' which had the guitar solo banned by East Coast Radio. The guitar solo was banned because Chris did this hectic very Hendrix like but wild, one of the darkest guitar solos. It got to number one on 5Fm and all these radio stations including East Coast Radio. We are talking middle 90's, as conservative as you can get, a place still holding onto apartheid California dream. Remember when we had the palm trees all along the beach and you could drive your car all the way up … this whole nonsense. You got to listen to that song. It is G minor and goes to the C 9 th crushed chord. It is C, D, E flat in the right hand. I know because I am performing this song tomorrow night so I had to work it out on piano. When it goes to the chorus, it goes G minor and then G minor over F sharp. You don't get more radical. And then there are a lot of passing notes. You get that in the Beatles where we are going somewhere and then we are arriving down at the F. It goes straight to C minor, which is a triton difference. It is the octave divided in half. C to F sharp in the base. That is what the guitars are all crashing into as well. From the F sharp it goes down to C. That was called Diabolus in Musica. It is probably mythology it was banned by the Catholic Church, that interval of dividing the octave in half. What was holy was the 5 th or the 4 th . And then things started developing and you got to a Major 3 rd . Minor 3 rd , Gregorian chants and all that was very rare. I don't know how rare, I studied musicology I have a degree in it, but I don't think it existed, it was all 4 th 's and 5 th ‘s. But then you get this pop song where it hits this chorus and it is a minor chord. And the lyrics are about how I have got nothing. I can give you debts, I can give you bottled water, but there is nothing. It is a very existential crisis kind of song and it has nothing of what is kind of a formula for writing song. It even has 5 / 4 rhythm. 5 beats in a bar, but not everyone is. The only pop song that had 5 beats in a bar was the thing called Take Five by Brubeck. This has got 3 4/4 bars and then a 5/4 bar. It is like going to a place which is number one. People sing along to that. That was part of popular culture. Popular musicians today wouldn't give a toss about that. I don't think they even think for a second.

I did a movie called number number with this amazing guy called Donovan Marsh. He wrote it, he directed it and he edited it. Can you imagine writing, directing, editing, he put some of his own money into it. He is not super wealthy. He lives up the road. The movie came in on a 4 million rand budget. It was the biggest film at the Toronto film festival. It got released all over the world. It made its money back because of distribution deals, international distribution. It was released in 26 cities in the United States at once. It got bought by Universal Pictures to be remade by the Fast and the Furious team. And it is a cool piece of film. It was marketed overseas as sort of the Tarantino of South Africa. There is nothing here. You go out into the press, there is some sort of publicity hype. It did really well it beat a lot of American films on the Ster Kinekor circuit here. It hung in for a really long time. Nobody will go and deconstruct that film, nobody will write about it, nobody will care. It is no the submission for the South African best foreign film for the academy award. And I have strong feelings why. It is because it is a very harsh indictment of crime. It is about these harsh gangster characters who are attractive characters. They basically end up killing each other in warehouse. It is about the very difficult concept of money in a place where people are dispossessed. It isn't really a happy ending. It is very violent and it starts with two policemen chasing somebody and the cops are joking with each other about how corrupt they are, how corrupt the system is. ‘Is your gun working,' ‘No it is not working it has probably been sold,' it is those sorts of lines. It starts like that and it just gets more and more hectic. But, it is a great film, it is a great piece. I was really proud to be part of that. I put my soul into that. But, it does not exist. Like Milan Kundera's ‘Book of Laughter and Forgetting,' or the ‘Unbearable Likeness of Being.' We find reality now in sensuality or some other kind of post modern escape, society in transition.

 

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