“NKG are hot property and in demand…”
Newtown Knife Gang. Hmm…sounds more like an organised crime syndicate, specialising in carjacking, dealing tik and spray-painting highway bridges, than an actual band. It makes you wonder if the Jo’burg rock quintet has seen the inside of an SAPS van more than a few times. “Thankfully, no,” frontman Spencer Martin laughs, before hinting that NKG aren’t quite saints, either. “Maybe we’ve been hassled a few times, but never had to visit the big house…”
Stitches Become the Knives
Disturbing the peace is something that 4/5th ’s of the band should know all about, as they rocked the hell out of South African crowds in their previous incarnation: 16 Stitch. As the newbie in the gang, Spencer confirms that he didn’t have to go through any weird sexual or violent initiations – just an audition or two. “Nick [Argyros, drums] was the first to get hold of me. I was minding my own business at work, when I got the call from Nick; he said he’d seen me perform with my old bands and wanted me to audition for their new project. I had a few studio sessions with Nick and Paul [Norwood, guitar], then we started work on the [self-titled] album.”
Hold up. So, instead of booking shows, the band decided to record an album first? “That kind of preparation was new to me,” Spencer admits. “In the past, and like most new bands, you just want to get out there. You play shows before even considering recording. With us, I had to be patient and understand that, when we dropped, we wanted everything lined up; a kind of assault on all fronts. When someone heard of us, we wanted them to look online and think, ‘Wow! They’ve got an album, music videos, merchandise, shows lined up…’, and immediately set that kind of elite standard.”
Spreading the Gang’s Oath
Finally finding their way out of the rehearsal room and onto the stage, NKG haven’t fallen into the trap of becoming city-centric, instead taking their show on the local roads. “I think that’s the most important aspect of playing in a band – especially, if you are doing it seriously. You have to branch out and take your music on the road. At the same time, it’s also the best part of being in a band; leaving life and its nagging responsibilities, on pause, while you travel with your best friends,” Spencer says.
All the planning and patience seem to have paid off, because NKG are hot property and in demand – even more so now, as their third single, Taste Goodbye, which features guest vocals by Prime Circle’s Ross Learmonth, claws its way up the charts. “The guys have always had a good relationship with the chaps from Prime Circle,” Spencer states, “[and] Frani [Kotze, Prime Circle’s manager], suggested Ross feature on a track, which was perfect, because we already had the idea of getting someone to feature – we just didn’t have an idea of whom – so, it worked out amazingly. He tracked for a single evening, and the result was so good [that] we had to release it as a single.”
Despite the initial hype and success of NKG, there were fears that, as the ‘new guy’, Spencer might be stuck living in the shadow of the legacy left behind by ex-16 Stitch vocalist, Andrew Maskell, who was highly rated by fans.
“When I joined this band I thought [the comparisons were] something I was going to have to consistently deal with – but, surprisingly, no. There hasn’t been much comparison,” Spencer assures.
Truth be told, it doesn’t look like there is much that could faze Spencer, who is enjoying the rock ‘n’ roll ride – and the parties. Oh yes – the beautiful, alcohol-fuelled parties! Mind you, as the youngest member of the group, Spencer is probably keeping the party alive by himself, while the other grandpas sip their tea and eat toaster waffles – right?
“I thought I could party…until I met these chaps,” Spencer laughs. “They take it to a whole other level, so I’d say I’m the one who has to keep up!”