Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Derek Lynch vs Crazy Frog

It finally happened: two weeks ago "Crazy Frog" jumped into the Musica Chart. So will the annoying tune, which started life as a tadpolish ringtone before spawning a massive hit, take over Mzansi? Not if music journo Derek Lynch has anything to do with it! Here Derek declares war on the Frog...

I saw it coming, and, while I suppose it was inevitable, I felt a sickening lurch in my stomach when it arrived nonetheless. If I were you I'd switch off the radio, turn off the cathode drip and head off to a nice, quiet, soundproof room for the next couple of months. The "Crazy Frog" has invaded our pleasant land.

These freaks of music sweep across the world like a sonic plague every few years. Who can forget (try as we might) classics like the "Fast Food Song" or even the perennial wedding favourite - "The Macarena" (or the "Margarita", as one tannie once asked me to play during my DJ days). Go back even further and you will find entries such as the "Clap Clap Sound" and the "Birdie Song" rotting away in the Musical Hall of Shame. "Crazy Frog" is doubly bad in that it steals its riff from another novelty record: Harold Faltemeyer’s abysmal "Axel F", which was, in a maddening circularity, the "Crazy Frog" of its time. Groundhog Day, anyone?

The tragedy in this whole thing is this: people are going to actually buy this record. No, really. People are going to fork out serious cash to own the "Crazy Frog". The record has been advertised to death on radio (you even get Schnappi Das Kleine Krokodil as an added bonus track). It's a sure sign that the marketing ponytails from the record company are expecting big chunks of change from this particular nonentity. And who can blame them? We're the fools who will buy it.

So we have "Crazy Frog", we have the new Coldplay, sounding pretty much like the old Coldplay (Mr Martin - you're rich now - time to invest in a new piano sound) and a quick scan around the musical landscape reveals a pretty barren land of one-hit wonders and tried and trusted staples like U2 and Dave Matthews plodding along. In fact, the only really fresh and original international track I can remember hearing in the recent past is a hip-hop track called "1 Thing" by Amarie, and when hip-hop starts sounding good you know you're in trouble.

It was in the heights of my current musical depression that I stumbled across a TV programme on the Go Channel last night. "Gillman, make us famous, dude!" is a 5FM competition for school-aged South African bands and musicians - with the eventual winner getting a slot at this year's Oppikoppi bash. It's a brilliant concept and congrats to 5FM and the sponsor Levi's for showcasing real South African music - a refreshing change from the karaoke calamity that is Idols.

Last night's show featured three bands; punk-ska anklebiters Timmy The Pope, Odious (who sounded like a cross between Nine Inch Nails and Joy Division on helium) and Grounded, who didn't actually perform on the show, but the pimply youth of Fish Hoek assured us that they were indeed the Dog's Privates. Timmy The Pope won last night's round - they had the advantage of having a charmingly cheeky little kilt-wearing geezer on lead vocals. In truth, the bands were not exactly musically brilliant, but hell, they are young, and there is a vibrant talent there that seems to be permeating the local music scene at present.

We have some truly great bands coming through at the moment. Bands like The Parlotones, Running With Scissors and Wickhead are all making the right noises and deserve to reach a wider audience than what they currently do. It can even be argued that the local hip-hop sound is much fresher than its bloated and jaded US counterpart, and international breakthrough must be surely close for some of our local artists.

So at the end of the month, when The Man eventually relinquishes his slimy grip on your hard-earned paycheque and you skip to your local music store to stock up on some fresh sounds to get you through the winter - walk straight past the big "Crazy Frog" display, head for the SA music rack and do the Proudly South African thing and support your local favourite.

And let's make that frog croak once and for all.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Boys to Men? Not Likely!

Boys to Men? Not Likely!
New writer, market researcher and infamous wedding DJ Derek Lynch reckons that just about everything he's ever listened to has influenced him (even if most of it just influenced him to turn the radio off!). Local punk pop crew Tweak, however, influenced Derek to pen this upbeat piece on boybands vs boy bands…

Let 's get it straight - there are boybands and there are boy bands. Boybands are all about manufactured, throwaway tunes, pretty faces and synchronized dancing - a puppet show by any other name. Boy bands, on the other hand, are about ridiculously young, ridiculously talented musicians with tunes and energy that leave you feeling as breathless as a smoking beagle.

And nobody does boy band better than our very own Tweak, who recently decamped to the UK in order to search for their very own pot of gold in the notoriously fickle British music scene. South Africa's best have had very little success in the Big Smoke in recent times. Bands like Boo! and the Nudies knocked on Europe's door for years with very limited success - mainly playing to ex-pat South Africans and the occasional confused local ("but Princess Leonie is a bloke!" was the startled statement from an English friend I took to see Boo! play in a dodgy pub in King's Cross a few years ago).

So does Tweak have the talent, package and pure blind luck to crack the nut that their contemporaries have been gnawing at for years? To paraphrase Mick Jagger, time is indeed on their side (although it certainly isn't on his anymore). The members of Tweak are young. Bugsy the drummer looks as if he is barely out of nappies, let alone high school, and the rest of the band aren't exactly queuing for pensions just yet either.

Recent exposure on MTV will also help their cause, and with two full albums and numerous EPs under their belt already, they have a pretty extensive back catalogue of cracking pop punk tunes to unleash on a UK market that seems to be embracing indie music again. But what they do in the future will ultimately determine whether they can get on to the build-em-up, knock-em-down roundabout that is the music industry in the UK.

As long as Tweak refuse to grow up and keep churning out classic three-minute power pop tunes about teen angst and Britney Spears' breast implants, they should be able to capture the hearts and minds of the extensive European music market.

Good luck boys, we miss you already!

Show Me The Way To The Next Whiskey Bar

Nightclubs in Jozi are generally kinda like sexy R&B babes – they come and go quicker than you can say "Ashanti". Well, except The Doors. See, The Doors has just turned a whopping 15 years old. So what's the secret to its longevity? Regular contributor Derek Lynch revisits the grand old dark witch of the Gauteng club scene to find out.

The Doors nightclub turns 15 on 3 March 2005. When I first heard this, my initial reaction was "My God – I'm ancient! After recovering from the shock of my impending slide into middle-aged mediocrity, it dawned on me: The Doors has to be one, of if not the longest-running nightclub in Gauteng. These days nightclubs change names so often you can go into one and in the time it takes you to wake up from your Long Island Iced Tea, you could be in a completely different club – same faces, same monotonous music, same monsters on the door wanting to beat several shades of crap out of you for wearing shoes that look suspiciously like takkies... but a different club nonetheless.

The longevity of The Doors is due mostly to two things: the music that moves the people; and the people that move to the music. The music at The Doors has always been a seamless mix of current and classic alternative music. Anthems and oddities blare from a sound system so loud that you have no choice – you have to shake yer ass. There is no "cool" way to dance at The Doors either. I've seen every dance style, from mosh to waltz (I've even seen people dance both in one song to Nellie The Elephant), and no-one bats a mascara-laden eyelid. None of the usual self-consciousness that characterizes so many dance floors at clubs around the country – just hundreds of lost souls finding their own primordial rhythm to groove to.

The dress code of The Doors generally subscribes to the old Henry Ford motto: "Any colour you like, as long as it's black." But here again, there are no rules. No-one gives a rat's posterior what you're wearing: you rock the way you wanna rock, baby, and if you wanna do so wearing a pink tutu you are more than welcome.

You would think that the scariest looking clubbers in Joburg would produce some of the most spectacular club violence anywhere. I've been going to The Doors for fourteen of the fifteen years that it has been open, and I have yet to see a fist or Doc Martin thrown in anger. People go to The Doors to dance, drink copious amounts of Black Label and have a good time with like-minded people from the fringes of "normal" society. This is also down to the door staff; more diplomatic and friendly than any other door staff I have ever come across.

My early memories of The Doors as an underage clubber at the old Marshall Street venue in central Johannesburg (can there be a more rock 'n roll street name for a club venue?) are pretty hazy. Toxic Sludge was the tipple of choice in those days, a potent mix of jelly, Windowlene and lighter fluid (or was it Vodka?). The infamous "Doors Wors" (I still don't want to know what was in those suspiciously pink sausages) that provided sustenance for munchie-driven clubbers at 4am until the all-night pizza place opened across the road (where a friend of mine used to perform Michael Jackson impersonations for pizza money on the pavement – he invariably went hungry).

When The Doors made the move to the current Van Riebeck Street venue in Edenvale I feared the worst. However, the spirit of the old venue seemed to pack its boots and come along for the ride, and it has seen off all comers to remain Johannesburg's premier alternative music venue. I'm getting old now, so I don't get to rock out as much as I used to (I battle to get up the stairs with my Zimmer frame), but when they have their 15th anniversary party, I'll be putting in my hearing aids in and heading off to Van Riebeck Street for a fix of the musical junk that I've been addicted to for the past fifteen years.

So this March, lift a bottle of Black Label and salute the grand old dark witch of the Gauteng club scene. Here's to the next fifteen years.

The Lost Boys Of Old London Town

The Lost Boys Of Old London Town
You've conquered the local musical universe. Critics and screaming fans hang onto your every riff, and the view looks pretty rosy from the top of the totem pole. So what now? Well, if you are Tweak, you bugger off to London, recruit a new guitarist and start from scratch with a new attitude and some monster tunes. Derek Lynch chats to Tweak just before they jet back into the South Africa to support Avril Lavigne on her up 'n coming tour.

How's London? Chris: It's got a good buzz - like Johannesburg on speed.

Why did you choose to go the UK route as opposed to America? Bugsy: It just seemed closer to home. There are so many South Africans over here and we know so many people that have come over for a couple of years and had a party.

Are you drawing mostly ex-pats, or are the Europeans flocking to the shows?
Bugsy: The cool thing about South Africans coming through is that they bring all their English friends. That's how it all starts...
Garth: It's great to have the ex-pat support because it gives us a little step up in the extremely difficult process of getting your name out there.

How do the European crowds react in comparison to local fans?
Garth: Before the move we played plenty of shows in the northern hemisphere and it's a completely different story to back home. In SA you can pretty much just feed off the audience's energy and enjoy playing. When you're gigging overseas in front of people who don't know the songs, you're forced to pull out all the stops to prove yourself, and so you up your game. You can't beat a packed SA club for sheer enjoyment value!

Mike's departure from the band will obviously have a major impact on your musical style – any plans to replace him on guitar?
Chris: We have a temporary replacement for him at the moment - Bugsy's old school friend Dylan Benton. So far we are just trying to get the songs down so we're not writing any new stuff at the moment. Will be quite interesting to see how different it will be if we write songs with Dylan.
Garth: We've definitely taken a musical turn for the better I think. That's not to say that I think our old stuff sucks, I love every single one of those songs. It's just that we're getting older and we want to push ourselves musically and try new things. As far as replacements go, we are still auditioning guitarists. Dylan is helping us out at the moment but the plan is to get one more guitarist so that I don't have to play rhythm. Because after six years, I finally realised that I suck.

What can we expect from Tweak in the future? Chris: Some hard-hitting tracks. The music has definitely matured and gone a bit harder, but in the end if you are a Tweak fan I think you will dig the music.
Garth: It's definitely a bit harder, a little less obvious. Everyone is pushing themselves in terms of what they can do instrumentally. It's still very much melody-driven, so I think our fans won't find it too much of a shock.

Any releases planned in the near future?
Bugsy: Yeah, we have a DVD/Greatest Hits package to be released in SA and a six-track EP for over here in the UK.

Have you had any media coverage in the UK yet?
Bugsy: Yeah, we did an interview with a local paper the other day. I dunno how it happened, but I just got a call one day and the guy was like, "Hi, can I write an article about you guys in our paper?" Weird now that I think about it. How did he get my number?

Are you all living in the same house? And how chaotic is that if you are?
Bugsy: At the moment we all stay in a really cool apartment in Islington. It's a bit hectic cause everything is lank claustrophobic and small over here. There's hardly any room to fit our gear in the place - let alone practice. We need to travel for an hour on the tube to get to the rehearsal room that we use. And the only time they can give us is from 9:30pm - 1:30am. It's a far cry from the cool little studio we have back home!

You guys are notorious for prank calls. Managed any good ones in London yet?
Bugsy: Ha ha! Nope. Done and dusted with that. We've all been arrested at least once so far and it's best not to f**k with the English police. Garth: I wish. My boss watches me like a hawk, so prank calls are out of the question. We did save a packet of vomit from a drunken bus drive for future use - we'll keep you posted!

Catch Tweak alongside Avril Lavigne on 8 May 2005 in Johannesburg, Durban on the 10th, and finally down in Cape Town on the 13th. Apparently the boys will also be playing their own shows here and there in between the shows with Avril. Keep your eyes out for dates to be announced soon... And watch out for their greatest hits package also out soon.