Some things have changed for the alternative rockers in Fokofpolisiekar. Sean Christie finds out about the decade that was.
In 2003, Fokofpolisiekar (Fuckoffpolicecar) raised the middle finger to Afrikaner pieties and articulated, with self-destructive behaviour and angry and often harrowing lyrics, a generation's confusion and angst.
Ten years later, Francois van Coke (aka Badenhorst), Hunter Kennedy, Johnny de Ridder, Wynand Myburgh and Jaco "Snakehead" Venter still rule South Africa's alternative rock scene, both as members of Fokofpolisiekar and of the bands they separately formed (Van Coke Kartel, aKing, Die Heuwels Fantasties) after deciding to put Fokofpolisiekar on ice for a bit in 2007.
Now they are back with their latest DVD Forgive Them Because they Suck Kak. We asked them 10 questions about the past 10 years on the scene.
If you had to address a letter of advice to your 16-year-old self, what would be the central piece of advice?
Johnny de Ridder (JdR): Don't suck kak.
Hunter Kennedy (HK): I don't think my 16-year-old self would read a letter coming from a man claiming to be his future him, so I'm not gonna bother. I do however think that my 16-year-old self would try to give me an uppercut if he found out that I performed at Skouspel [a kitsch annual Afrikaans musical extravaganza, sponsored by conservative Afrikaans skinner (gossip) rag, Huisgenoot], but then I would dodge it and kick his ass.
Jaco Venter (JSV): Take more photos, and practise a lot of drum rudiments.
Francois van Coke (FvC): Don't worry about what you are going to do after school, because you'll still be wondering the same thing in your 30s.
Wynand Myburgh (WM): It will be a one-liner: Take it easy.
Somebody pointed out to me recently that fokof is a palindrome–that it means the same thing read both ways. In fact the term is much more versatile than that. What, in your opinion, is the best South African fokof of all time?
JSV: South African history is one long and elaborate fuck off, on the theme of: Fuck off, I want this land, and I'm going to take it.
FvC: Wynand wrote "fok god" on Prop's [Afrikaans singer Bobby van Jaarsveld] wallet. That was a goodie.
WM: When Mandela became ?president.
If you had to compare the Fokofpolisiekar story with a fairy tale, which one would you say it resembles, and why?
FvC: Alice in Wonderland. We've encountered our fair share of mad hatters.
JdR: Three little pigs. If there were five pigs, and no wolf.
WM: The Emperor's New Clothes.
With Nelson Mandela being so ill, you can't turn a corner without running into an image of the great man's face. In your view, who should South Africans be celebrating more, and why?
JSV: I think Johannes Kerkorrel is an underrated icon.
HK: I think Madiba is an amazing international icon, but if I had to choose another person, I would choose … Helen Zille! She is ?outstanding.
FvC: Schalk Burger. I wish he could come back from injury. He should be celebrated more.
WM: Jack Parow.
Fokofpolisiekar spawned a legion of sub-fokofs with incendiary or outrageous names. What would be your pick for greatest South African band name?
JSV: Swembadpyp (Swimming pool pipe).
HK: Kilogram Kak. I crack up every time I hear that!
FvC: Taxi Violence is a great name.
WM: Taxi Violence.
JdR: FokofFokofpolisiekar (FuckoffFuckoffpolicecar)
And while we're on favourites, what's your favourite post-1994 lyric by a band you're not part of?
HK: It's a tie between Jack Parow's "Jy dink jy's cooler as ekke" (you think you're cooler than me), and Die Antwoord's "Fok julle naaiers" (Fuck you fuckers).
JdR: "Apple-bottom jeans, boots with the fur …" Oh wait, you said South African …
You're known as savvy self-promoters. If you were to publish a cookery book based on dietary standards from the band's most intense gigging years, what's the most exotic recipe readers would find in that book, and what cocktail would you pair it with?
JSV: From the early days I would say "The Impala Park Sub": pink viennas, processed cheese and ketchup on stale bread. To drink, it would be brandy and coke with Bioplus to taste.
HK: Signature dish would be "Gourmet Kat Kop": potato chips, processed cheese and hard-dried hamburger buns. Cocktail would be the "Desperado": brandy and swimming pool water.
WM: My cocktail of choice: double vodka and Monster (the blue-labelled, low-carb one), two shots Tequila, two shots Jägermeister mixed with some other illegal substances. It's a cocktail in the revolutionary sense: incendiary, and very dangerous in the wrong hands.
JdR: A BP garage pie and another one on the side.
You've probably each been in more South African bars than Ernie Els and Hugh Jackman combined. What's the strangest bar you can recall being in? And which was the most familiar?
JSV: We've played a lot of dodgy places over the years. There was a club in Port Elizabeth where, after last rounds were called, the staff carried out two mattresses. The owner and his wife slept in the club! Mercury in Cape Town is kind of the band's "home" club. It's where it all started, and we make a point of playing there once a year.
HK: We took some mushrooms in a bar in Bloemfontein once. That got pretty strange.
FvC: A couple of years ago, on tour, a guy took us to a place in Klerksdorp called Lappiesland. The owner wanted to take some photos of us with the girls that worked there. One of the girls had serious body odour, and there was a fat naked guy on stage. The closest to a spiritual home for me is probably the top bar at Oppikoppi.
JdR: The Royal Hotel in Riviersonderend is strange, man.
Most memorable gig?Why? Worst gig? Why?
JSV: Oppikoppi last year was great. Last slot of the evening and 20?000 people singing along. Worst gig must have been our third show. It was in Lambert's Bay–it started at 3am and we played to like 12 people. Hunter was rolling on the ground before the show and yelling "Ek's 'n vis, ek's 'n vis!" (I'm a fish, I'm a fish!). During the show he passed out on his amp for the last three songs–creating a 15-minute feedback loop. Wynand put down his bass in the middle of the set somewhere, went to the bar, bought a round and then carried on playing.
FvC: I would say the most memorable gig was probably the first proper gig we played, at Mercury in Cape Town. The worst one for me was Oppikoppi in 2006. We did a "Fokofpolisiekar en trawante" (Fokofpolisiekar and henchmen) show. Multiple guest artists joined us on stage, all having signed a contract with our management binding them to stay sober for the show because it was at 1am. I ended up being ?the drunk fuck. I was so drunk I could not remember I was on stage. Needless to say, it was terrible. After that festival, we went straight to a studio in Johannesburg to record something, and lived in the same space for the next two weeks. The rest of the band didn't talk to me for one of those, or it felt like that at least.
It seems to me that a lot of South African musical acts are gentrifying. Having provided lessons in rock 'n roll etiquette for the past 10 years, can South Africans look to Fokofpolisiekar for guidance in the next 10? Or is it time for the torch to pass on?
HK: People can project whatever they want on to us, but I would advise them to lower their expectations, just as a general rule. Sure, pass the torch, whatever. I want to live a happy life, and I'll do whatever it takes for me to do that.
FvC: I am married, stay in the suburbs and walk my dog twice a day. Look to someone else for guidance if you want to fuck yourself up. I will also happily pass the torch if there's a band around worthy of running with it.
WM: The local rock scene is once again in a large grey nowhere. We will be releasing something new soon, so the torch will be staying in our camp for now.