Back in the days of local music TV shows like Pop Shop and Fast Forward, it was like a revelation when once in a blue moon an Iron Maiden clip made it to air. Not much has changed – until MK Ondergrond that is!
This animated underground music variety show is hosted by a macabre crew of characters with segments including band interviews, video reviews, gig guides (and a new confidential segment coming soon). Framing this content is the best in local and international underground music videos.
We pulled Louis Du Pisani, the man behind MK Ondergrond from his Ondergrond lair to fill us in on this groundbreaking show for local TV.
The first obvious question would be just how did a non-mainstream show like this get to the air?
“The trick has been getting the buy-in of a channel”, Louis replies. “I was working on the Seasons Wither Music Festival and I approached MK as a media partner. Marketing Manager Haddad Viljoen was curious about our (odd flash animation) promotional material and suggested I pitch a ‘heavy’ music show. At first there were major reservations about this kind of content. One would assume that an unlikely prospect like this shouldn’t even be attempted but if you don’t bash down the door, who knows what reply you’d receive? And in this case, it worked. All credit must go to the people at MK; it was a rather bold move to put their faith in a show like Ondergrond.”
As with the term Alternative, Underground music can be a broad term.
”We use underground as we choose not to pigeonhole ourselves by genre”, explains Louis. “But we mostly cover Metal, Hard Rock, Punk and all varieties of music that defies the mainstream. (Hence our pay-off line Pasop Mainstream!)”.
With not as many Afrikaans underground bands as English ones, I inquired whether this was a problem due to MK being known as an Afrikaans channel.
“At first there was a lot of pressure to keep our language quotas”, he says, “but it seems that Ondergrond has actually helped to capture the English market. Regardless, we’re very bilingual – but the use of language is tactical rather than mandatory – some things are better communicated or simply funnier in Afrikaans…!”
For the 2nd season which launched recently, Du Pisani has taken on the role of producer, also with more fingers in the pie when it comes to play-listing music to fit the underground banner.
Louis strategized that the show was introduced very gently… so it was a case of crawl before you can walk. “I offered to steer the ship for them. I’m a fan of the music, so I knew which labels to approach for videos. And to the relief of fierce followers, it was a matter of days before the quality of our content significantly shifted further underground. I have to thank everyone who has been on the Ondergrond journey thus far – without them we wouldn’t be here”.
Is there enough local content and is the quality up to snuff?
“Very much so, some genres are still a bit shy – and we understand that video production can be expensive. But bands mustn’t be afraid, if they produce a quality video we’ll play it, a lot.”
MK Ondergrond is also heading to the legendary Wacken Open Air event in Gemany.
“A dream come true!” DuPisani beams. “We’re off to Wacken with full media accreditation to go interview the biggest Metal bands in the land. We’re also there to cover our very own Agro.”
While delivering a strong content premise, Ondergrond is finding its feet as a groundbreaking new era for local TV, with still a lot of possible developments and expansions on the horizon.
“As a show we would like to extend our hand to the scene as best we can and help build the music that is most precious to us. There are tons of things we’d love to do, on the show itself and on the field – but we cannot divulge the plans until we can assure it to be a reality. We’re content with the progress we’ve made – but as we go on we want to build this into an undeniable monolith. And who knows, perhaps the South African Underground will commence its hostile takeover of the international scene. Only time will tell…”
For those without DSTV, you can catch all Ondergrond feature segments on Kanaal MK’s YouTube page.
WAAR IS K.O.B.U.S.?
South Africa’s foremost underground Afrikaans Metal band has a song Wie Is Kobus? But of late the question has been Waar is K.O.B.U.S?
For a few years people have been asking why the band has been so quiet, and when the next album is coming. So, I asked vocalist Francois what’s been happening.
“It was partially our own doing and partially due to circumstances beyond our control. Initially our absence was a conscious decision. We started composing new material around January 2010 and didn’t want to perform again until we could work some of the songs into our live set and toward the end of that year we had recorded and arranged virtually the entire new album.
Among a small variety of lesser stumbling blocks, the greatest knock came when my studio was burgled. Everything was stolen including the hard drives containing a year’s worth of work. All our new arrangements, the structured songs, were lost. We still had many of the raw files backed up but it was a huge setback for us. I personally found it difficult to get back to the proverbial drawing board. Even if you have the source material it’s impossible to exactly recreate something which resulted from a particular creative mindset during a particular period.
The project lay dormant for many months before we got back to work. We have a release in mind toward the end of the year.”
Fans do not fear; there’s a free download in the pipeline.
“Since we’ve been quiet for such a long time we decided to release one of our new tracks as a free download to appease K.O.B.U.S. supporters who are confused and/or frustrated by our absence. I don’t want to say too much about the song Drankduiwel other than it can be described as combining elements from all our previous albums. It will be online at 00H01 on Sunday 29 July and the download location and related details will be posted on our Facebook page by the start of that weekend.
No strangers to touring abroad (Francois having done so with V.O.D, and Theo with the [Springbok] Nude Girls), a dream come true happened in 2008 when K.O.B.U.S. was invited to perform at the Manowar-fuelled Magic Circle Festival (Germany).
“We had a great time! Performing at Magic Circle and our inclusion in the DVD release broadened our foreign fan base to a great extent. We got to meet and perform with legendary artists like Manowar, Alice Cooper and WASP.
Playing Afrikaans Metal in front of an international audience in the heart of Europe was pretty surreal, but even more surreal was seeing a group of South African K.O.B.U.S. fans, who travelled to Europe to support us, waving SA flags in the audience! It made the experience all the more special for us”.
About Paul Blom:
With a strong leaning towards all things Alternative, for decades Paul has been involved with music, movies, gaming and writing. Bands have included V.O.D (Voice Of Destruction), F8, K.O.B.U.S., The Makabra Ensemble and Terminatryx. Movie productions include short films, music videos, DVD releases, and half a dozen film festivals. Entertainment writing on music, movies and gaming kicked off in ’97 for a wide range of publications, plus the creation of various web portals like Flamedrop.com. His work is far from done here.
Have some SA Metal news to share? Email Paul: EruptionMuse@gmail.com