There is unfortunately a dearth of truly unique bands in South Africa. It would appear that despite this country’s ‘rainbow nation’ affectation, the music scene is nevertheless filled to the brim with insipid rip-off outfits doing their damnedest to imitate the rock charts and each other.
So often an evening out watching live music will end up feeling like a single song stuck on repeat. Diversity and originality do not appear to be sought-after traits for an up-and-coming band and it’s a somewhat tragic state of affairs. Trying to pluck names of groups on the circuit that buck the trend is quite a task and the list is woefully short – Lark, The Wild Eyes, The Great Apes, Mr Cat and the Jackal, BLK JKS, Die Antwoord and Terminatryx are the ones that immediately spring to mind.
Terminatryx, brainchild of Paul Blom and Sonja Ruppersberg, are a particularly interesting example because they’ve had incredible longevity in a notoriously fickle local industry, one where when tastes change, bands once popular can simply evaporate.
Terminatryx began operating almost ten years ago and have maintained a unique position in the alternative music scene, straddling a wide range of genres with a flavour that is very rare on the local scene.
Paul says of the project, “it’s an acquired taste, simply because it doesn’t slot neatly into the local scene” but its continued success and persistent presence can be put down to the groups ‘stubborn’ artistic vision and the fact that, as Sonja points out, they “just do it for themselves.” Further, “we come from very diverse musical backgrounds, so when we came together it was inevitable that the sound was going to be something original.” This attitude of not pandering to an audience has clearly worked wonders as Terminatryx has an illustrious history that only a handful of local bands can match.
Their very first gig, back in 2003, was a support slot for renowned Darkwave outfit Diary of Dreams on their SA tour. This fact alone cements the band’s unique standing in the industry but their achievements continued to mount over the years. Terminatryx also performed as openers for VNV Nation, one of the world’s premiere EBM bands, as well as for Sheep on Drugs and Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s very own Martin Degville when he toured these shores recently. They have featured notably over UK airwaves, garnering a slot on the bastion of hard-rock reportage Kerrang Radio.
In 2006, the band was invited to perform at Berlin’s PopKomm as part of a South African showcase. They were one of only 4 bands invited. They have since been invited to play at a number of SA’s finest alternative festivals such as Ramfest, Noisefest and Metal4Africa’s Summerfest; as a live act, rounded out on stage by Ronnie Belcher on drums and Patrick Davidson on guitars. Terminatryx is a very fluid beast and has appeared in multiple guises over the years. Sonja explains that this allows them “to slide into any kind of vibe and work any crowd.” It’s this malleability that has seen them on some distinctly peculiar line-ups, alongside rockabilly outfits for instance, yet, as Patrick points out, “they are great to play, as you find a more open minded crowd and get surprisingly positive feedback and different perspectives on the show.”
However, one drawback that Paul elaborates upon is how the band have been consistently limited by a lack of facilities in local venues – “Terminatryx has always been a very audio/visual experience and we’ve got fantastic video feeds that sync with the music but have found that venues simply don’t cater for it.” It’s a shame considering how cinematic their sound can be and, in a wider sense, as it ought to be a priority for venues to cater for such performances and local bands could up their game if given the appropriate forum.
Terminatryx have released a single critically acclaimed self-titled album and are currently working on a very ambitious, pioneering remix album. They have roped in the likes of Battery 9, NuL, Axxon, The Awakening, Mr Sakitumi, Sheep on Drugs and Martin Degville to reinterpret their catalogue. Paul says that the project is mostly complete and he is thrilled with the mixes that have been delivered, ranging from avant-garde renditions through aggrotech, dance and acoustic versions of the signature Terminatryx sound.
Also recently released from the band is a polished music video for their single Virus. Produced exclusively by the band and directed by Paul himself with the help of a number of generous and extra talented friends, the video is a superbly crafted horror-themed showcasing of their look and sound. Replete with its professional creature make-up and high production value, the video has been requested for screening by the Sci-Fi London Film Fest and EerieTube.com and has become the first South African music video to feature on LoudTV.net. They have also turned out an extended short film version of the piece.
Paul and Sonja have also both been instrumental in fostering the alternative scene in a unique and positive fashion. They have birthed numerous independent film festivals – a perfect platform for the weird and wonderful gems that seldom find their way to the mainstream – X Fest, Celludroid and Horrorfest have become fixtures on the calendar for many. Paul compiled the first-of-a-kind compilation album Kopskoot! – An Afrikaans alternative album from South Africa’s finest. They also spearheaded a fascinating group called the Makabra Ensemble, consisting of Paul and Sonja along with members of Lark and various other musicians, who each year create a live soundtrack for classic silent horror films such as Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and Maciste in Hell at their annual Horrorfest. They have also taken this intriguing performance group to SA’s largest rock festival Oppikoppi.
Terminatryx’s strength lies in their iconoclastic tendencies and pioneering spirit, pleasing themselves artistically first and foremost and it has resulted in many important highlights within the South African alternative scene. There is little doubt that Terminatryx will continue to break new ground for a long time to come.
Pic Credits: Dr-Benway