Fierce, unforgiving and in your face

The guitar snarls like a rabid dog. “Oukei, ek gaan nou die fokken beans spill met hierdie song,” says Jaco van Schalkwyk to raucous laughter from his cohort, guitarist Zander Blom aka Z-Dog.

A driving rock riff takes over—a slutty Suicide-esque take on the Stooges. It swaggers, ducking and weaving like a drunk, but one with purpose. “Hei, Z-Dog, het jy geregister om te stem?” asks Van Schalkwyk. “Het jy gevote om te register om te vote om te stem om te register?”

Clearly, Jaco + Z-Dog subscribe to the Frank Zappa school of thought, which answers Zappa’s own rhetorical question of Does Humour Belong in Music?

“Ja, ja, ja /Ons ry om jou blok /en ons voel ‘n fok,” screams Van Schalkwyk. Whose block? And what does this have to do with voting?

Two of my initial questions, but the pile-driving track has me by the balls.

Nihilistic attitude
Over the subsequent verses, Jaco + Z-Dog desecrate the abodes of their ex-girlfriends, braaing in their garden, eating all their food, leaving the lamb rack outside and pissing on their beds.

And they still don’t give a fuck.

“Dis nie apatie / Dis nie apatie / Dis Balkanisasie / van die Reënboognasie / En ons voel ‘n fok / Kom ons dans.”

Now we are back on track—the death of the rainbow nation, voter apathy, fading dreams and that nihilistic attitude 00 to party through it all. As Jim Morrison once pronounced: “I’m gonna get my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames.”

“The personal is the political,” says Van Schalkwyk as I sit opposite him at a Johannesburg live-music venue, the Bohemian, a few days after hearing their new song, Balkanisasie, for the first time. “In a case like that I extrapolate ‘we’re driving around your block and we don’t feel anything anymore’ to see where it goes.”

He eyes me and takes a sip of his beer before continuing.

Break-up of the fairy tale
“And where it went was that ­apathy is not the problem. It’s the actual break-up of the fairy tale of our democracy and block can now mean a voting bloc or a political bloc and the girlfriend can be Lady Liberty or this thing that you love and you were passionate for and you would bleed for, but now you don’t give a shit ­anymore.

“Rock ‘n roll has always been ­political; it’s always been about being disenfranchised and staking your claim over something,” Van Schalkwyk says as a finishing touch.

In just three years, Jaco + Z-Dog have gone from a rowdy, humorous side project of two self-confessed “art geeks” to a living, breathing rock ‘n roll machine. Fusing the sound of Detroit’s proto-punk—as birthed by MC5 and the Stooges—with Afrikaans protest music like that of Bernoldus Niemand, Johannes Kerkorrel and KOOS!, Jaco + Z-Dog are one of the fiercest, most in-your-face bands to strut their stuff on a Johannesburg stage in recent memory.

“We want to make proper rock ‘n roll, not this other bullshit,” says Blom.

Their debut full-length album, following the two EPs Eerste Leerstelling and Goud Werd, is titled Emansipasie and has been released to the world for free through their new website,

Assault of the senses
Jaco + Z-Dog lay down tough ­challenges over a distortion-dripping, boom box-pounding sonic assault of the senses. Their songs vent, ­saying fuck the country, fuck being ­Afrikaans, fuck being white, fuck musicians and fuck soundmen. Hard, visceral and unforgiving, it is two men being totally honest about the world from their perspective while having a laugh at the same time.

So how did this band germinate? At the first Johannesburg Art Fair in 2008, Blom was exhibiting with his art-punk ­collaboration Avant Car Guard and was introduced to Van Schalkwyk by artist Jan-Henri Booyens, a colleague in the Guard.

Van Schalkwyk had recently returned after living abroad for eight years, most recently in New York where he had been performing in an electronic music project.

“I was interested in changing from being a laptop musician to doing more rock ‘n roll,” says Van Schalkwyk. “Let’s just say less knob-twiddling and more actual instrument-playing.”

A conversation at a party thrown by artist Michael McGarry ensued. “We started asking each other: ‘If we do something, what would it be?’” says Van Schalkwyk. “And at the same time our girlfriends were bonding, having a conversation about how badly their maids folded their clothes and how it irritated them.” Bloms adds: “Our reaction was ‘What the fuck, this is our lives?’ The thing that frustrated us was that we were seeing all this other music being released that doesn’t speak to us about our lives at all.”

Van Schalkwyk says: “We didn’t want to whine about stuff but we did want to point things out.”

Immersed in the rock world of Johannesburg and Pretoria, it was only a matter of time before the duo took aim at their fellow musicians. They do it hilariously on Musikante, the most hip-hop-inspired song on Emansipasie. “It’s basically our observations of what we started to see when we began to play live,” says Blom. “The other musicians, the sound checks, the ­attitudes, the egos, the misguided ambitions.”

“Essentially we are calling it Musikante because these guys are not musicians, they are just posers,” says Van Schalkwyk. “There is one line in Musikante that goes ‘koebaai tot die ondergrond’. What we are actually asking is, what underground?’ There is no underground.”

Targetting the status quo

And it is from this nether space that they take their targeted blows at the status quo.

The Wrong Rock Show on Bush Radio in Cape Town (89.5) will be airing an interview with Jaco + Z-Dog and playing some of their new songs on Monday night at 10pm. The show will be uploaded for live streaming to mixcloud afterwards

Lloyd Gedye

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