If waiting around for something exciting to happen to Cape Town is Fun(e), I’m with The Wild Eyes. Welcome Home Boys.
Doodling whilst waiting for the three members of The Wild Eyes to arrive to meet me for our interview at Royal on Long Street was probably the best way to anticipate what happened next. When I looked up from my sketch book, three illustrations by John Galliano back from a bender for the Brothers’ Grimm had sat down at my table. Waiting on beers and braying about four tracks, I prepared to ask my first question about where this cultish trio had been and why they were back in Cape Town with their long awaited EP, Swastique. The last time we saw them around these parts they were doing something of an indie, pop punk thing with Len Cockcroft on drums, Gareth Dawson on bass and noise and Nikhil Singh doing vocals and playing guitar. They come from the early 2000’s clique that consisted of Inge Beckmann and Markus Wormstorm to name a couple and somewhere during their proclaimed self destruction after their album, Our Love Has a Special Violence, they split up. Gareth went back to the UK, where he tells me he spent part of his earlier life squatting in a burnt down warehouse with his dog Chester trying to get TV reception. Len went to the desert and found snseJ while Nikhil went North (to London) and sent his latest creation, Taty to the West.They came back because, well they just came back… like a brain tumour intent on changing the dull thought pattern of South African music.
The weird magic of The Wild Eyes has been enthralling all the beautiful creatures of the night since they began but it’s clear that they only really work when all three of them are there.Gareth: “it’s this thing that we’ve got where when one of us is out of the picture, it’s not The Wild Eyes. Each of us can work on our own but even if it’s just the two of us working together it’s a completely different thing.”“Like the Unholy Trinity?” I ask. They all stare at me with wide eyes. “We like that!” yells Len.So what about Swastique? There’s already been some controversy amongst fans of the old stuff that The Wild Eyes have totally changed their tune not to mention swapping all their instruments for a strange setup of SPD 20’s, a Slim Phatty, a Microkorg and other toys. Now the title of their new release connotes anti-Semitic evil? They deny both accusations saying they’re still doing what they were before, making music they feel like making.
There’s no real change in that way and as Len says, they didn’t go electro because it’s hot right now. “We just get really fucking bored at the drop of a hat,” says Nikhil and Gareth agrees saying, “we’d forgotten the old songs and didn’t feel like playing them anyway.” What about direction? “There’s no direction,” laughs Nikhil, “We make it up as we go along, including lyrics.”My mind goes back to when I saw a recent gig of them playing a song called Chainsaw in My Lover’s Hands. The enigmatic macabre atmosphere of this front man somehow makes me think it would be perfectly logical that his chosen lady friend would be into the darker side of S & M. Yet Nikhil insists the song is to do with his obsession with 50’s and 60’s pop songs and how they were always about getting together and breaking up. “I guess I agree,” I think, “it’s just a rehash of something done before but this time with severed limbs.”“Gareth coined the word,” Nikhil explains about the title of their EP, “It’s a taboo against the symbol and it’s occurring quite a lot in popular culture. The swastika has been around a lot longer than the Germans have. There’s no reason why it should carry this taboo. What it really is, is a form of rebellion.
It’s like saying the swastika is pretty hot right now, we like it and it’s a rejection of taboo… it’s really old. It comes from ancient cultures that don’t exist anymore.”Len: “It’s kind of weird for me because what I got out of it isn’t what you guys are explaining at all.”Gareth: “He (Len) built a Nazi submarine.”“Yes I did,” says Len proudly. “What it (Swastique) was for me was when we first got talking about it, it was about pop culture, about underage kids watching horror movies and the wealth of MTV and black people eating at McDonalds. The disgust.”Gareth: “It’s about taking it back into pop culture rather than it being something that carries weight.”Len: “It’s the glamour in 2011 that is so disgusting that it’s beautiful.”Me: “Like post pop art?”“Popped art,” says Gareth, to which Nikhil and I both shout, “POP TART!” Gareth nods and sneers, “Children playing with My Little Swastika.”Nikhil: “we’re not Nazis. Because I would be dead by now.”Gareth: “Yet we are totally amongst ourselves fascists.” All of them: “Fascists!”
It’s obviously just a bit of tongue in cheek jest from these gauntly glamorous artists which to be honest, is so great when Cape Town seems to have lost its sense of humour down the arse end of Evol’s [local venue] couch. The good news is that there are more creative folks out there who are producing amazing things. Take Jenna Bass (also the creator of Jungle Jim magazine) who did their most recent video for Vampire Radio. It’s a straight up pop video shot in the negative; a brilliant and simple visual answer to their musical concept.Their opinion on music in South Africa right now? Len reminisces about the old days of the underground music scene before social media blew up and everyone got a little too professional. Gareth comments on how it’s become a commercial push to improve your lifestyle as a musician by selling out to radio friendly fraudsters, “Whether people like us or not, we don’t really care, we just wanna be what we wanna be,” he smiles.
Nikhil feels it’s stopped being about the music here, “We’re just pushing boundaries to better ourselves as musicians. Sure, we’re a parody but because that’s just what we like.” The night went on and the stories and opinions that came out of the three led me along moonscapes covered in golden spiders, smacked up ballerinas and a sweet ‘Fuck you’ attitude to the world of commodity and those too boring to consider something different. The EP will be available to download soon and I can’t wait as I feel these are the glittering beginnings of a bloody fairytale where a war wages toward innovation and the real artists will live happily ever after.