The REAL B-World interview

In the early nineties “grunge” took off worldwide and a wave of Seattle grunge culture swept across the world. South Africa was no exception. Sanctions were lifted and South African youngsters (who had the means) had unfettered access to international alternative and grunge music – mostly through imports. In the suburbs, garages were full of wannabe Kurt Cobain teens screaming angst-ridden lyrics accompanied by raw grunge riffs and apocalyptic drum solos. Yup, I was one of them. Alternative rock bands such as Red Hot Chili PeppersRage Against the MachineR.E.M. and Violent Femmes were just as popular. Although grunge was right in front leading the charge, you had a myriad of bands blending genres and somehow “alternative” music , as we referred to it, became cool and mainstream. But South Africans had limited choices when it came to South African alternative and grunge bands.

In 1993 to 1994 – Springbok Nude Girls was still pretty much a garage band and Sugardrive had not yet even reached the pinnacle of their success. These were the days when bands like Squeal, Urban Creep,Valiant Swart, Koos KombuisNine, Saron Gas (now Seether) and a bunch of crazy funk-rockers named B-World were rocking free South Africa. Rock music became less political after the first free and fair elections and of course Madiba’s inauguration. You could literally count on one hand the South African bands who made the kind of music that Generation X kids could identify with. The kind of music we would go and listen to on a Friday night with our a-political, nihilistic, long-haired, Nirvana t-shirt wearing,flannel shirt around the waist, Zamalek inebriated,cheap cigarette smoking, Doc Martens on sweaty stinky feet, daggakop friends. Man, when we had the money for it, we had a great time at live gigs. But it was also a time when we had limited options in getting our hands on great music to listen to at home. Most bands sold poor quality cassette tapes at live gigs, vinyl was something you sold for next to nothing in order to buy more CD’s, the Internet was something computer nerds talked about in secret and if you asked someone for an MP3 they would probably have thought it’s some new drug.

Fast forward (through two decades) to last year and I volunteered to create a playlist for our twenty year high school reunion. One of the songs I wanted on the playlist was B-World’s ‘Rain’.

In 1993 to 1994 everyone was talking about B-World and the song was extremely popular. They opened for Jethro Tull during the band’s 25th Anniversary Tour at the Standard Bank Arena in Joburg (I was lucky enough to be there) and they were on the same bill as Midnight Oil and Sting during 5FM’s 19th Birthday Bash at Ellis Park – also in 1994. But the most memorable gig for me was during our Matric holiday in Hermanus in December 1994 at a wooden beach bar – right on the beach. The only way I can describe them 20 years on is : energetic funk-an-angst ridden rock. They played music that up to that point we’ve only heard overseas bands playing. It was a hybrid kind of sound mixing grunge with funk rock. B-World received lots of airplay and then for some reason they just disappeared, leaving fans in the dark. There was no media release that I could remember giving us a heads up. I guess the youth moves on quickly…….but I always had their music at the back of my mind.

After scouring the internet I found the song Rain on some MP3 cellphone app, would you believe? And a week or so before the reunion I played it to a muso friend of mine, PH Steyn (also a B-World fan), who knows Sean Kenselaar. PH hooked us up on Facebook and Sean shared B-World’s demos with me. After a discussion with Sean over lunch I had no doubt that I had to publish something about this band! And what’s more is you can’t find anything substantial on the internet about their history. So for me, this is more than an interview – it fills a void and it’s really a peek into a long forgotten part of South African rock history. Sean gave me all the guys’ contact details – they’re scattered all over the country – and all still successful artists in their own right. Their difference in perspective is extremely interesting and younger artists can most certainly learn from their wisdom. Benjy Mudie, the record producer who signed them to Tusk Music, also provided some insights from his own perspective. But without further a due I present to you – a blast from the rock and roll fucking past – for the first time in over 20 years – ladies and gentlemen……B-WORLD!!!:










RR: Thanks guys for agreeing to do this interview. Everyone’s probably thinking….WTF? But in my view, B-World was a huge part of the evolution of South African rock music during the nineties and, however brief the history, your story should be told. So let’s kick off at the beginning. How did it all start back then? How did you guys meet?

Sean: Sherid and Rob were on tour with Anton Goosen, whose regular drummer couldn’t make the Cape Town to Pretoria leg. I bumped into them at a club called Cherries Two in Pretoria and became the drummer for that leg of the tour. When the tour was finished Rob, Sherid and myself, through various twists, decided to continue as our own band. One of them, I’m not sure who (maybe Rob) knew Marc and B-World was born. I moved to Johannesburg and we started rehearsing and writing.

Sherid: It’s going to take a lot of brain power to try and remember all this again:) Rob, Sean & myself met whilst on tour with Anton Goosen. We decided to put something together once we were done touring. Rob had seen Marc playing around Joburg with another band, so we approached him to see if he would be interested.

Marc: There was a small scene in JHB all around the Yeoville area. Rob and Sherid approached me when I was in a band called Gringolean. I had joined them as a new vocalist. It was very much part time but we were writing original material and that’s basically all we wanted to do. Sherid and Rob were in much the same head space of going for it, writing material and working solely as musicians.

Rob: Sherid, Sean and I had worked together previously and Marc was on our radar. I knew of him, from the scene. He had, in my view, the sensibilities of a great lyricist/frontman. That turned out to be true.

RR:What does the B stand for?

Sean: I think Marc came up with the name. As far as I could understand in that vague, distant time, it meant not A 🙂 ….
As in B – movies, B- grade : B – World…

Sherid:  Initially we were all doing music full-time so, needless to say, we had a few hours of downtime to kill. We all seem to gravitate toward the offbeat or ‘B’ movies and came up with the idea whilst sitting around the kitchen table. The kitchen table where most of our brainstorming happened. We also considered ourselves not to be living in the A-world, like Hollywood, so I guess it came from a combination of those ideas.

Marc: It is the concept of the second class world as in B-movie, B team kind of thing. My thought was that the A-World doesn’t really exist and we all actually live in the real world. The A-World is bullshit.

Rob: Not A.

RR: The only information I could find on the net about the band members are your names basically: Marc Rowlston,Rob Nel, Sean Kenselaar and Sherid van Rooyen. Please give the readers a more accurate description who B-World was and their roles in the band.

Marc – vocals, Rob – bass, Sherid – Guitar, Me on Drums


Marc on vocals, Rob on bass, Me on guitar, Sean on drums. Marc wrote most of the lyrics. We all chipped in for the music. I remember phoning around for gigs all the time, but I guess we all chipped in there too. There wasn’t much of a process at the time, so we just went from month to month trying to grind out as many gigs as we could.

Marc: I was the vocalist and carried speakers (roadie).

Rob:  A less obvious role was our collective drive to change the way the local gigging scene worked. When we first started booking gigs, there were only two venues in the country that we were able to play all original music, Wings Beat Bar in Braamfontein and Ruby
In The Dust in Observatory, Cape Town. Everywhere else wanted three or four sets of covers with one or two originals if we insisted. We said we do two sets and we have two covers. Take it or leave it.

RR: I listened to the B-World demos over and over again. Apart from the sound quality of some of the demos, there is no doubt in my mind that B-World was onto something and there is some real gems there. The songs ‘Something Real’ and ‘Swell’ are two of my favourites. Considering what was happening in the music industry at the time, locally, it was distinctly different from other bands on the scene. Did all of you feel the same way about B-world’s music back then?

Sean: Those are two of my favorites too. I can’t speak for anyone else really, but my view on what B-World was producing at that time was exactly that – something different. To paraphrase Marc: “something real”. And at the same time appealing and really fucking awesome. We were doing and writing shit that no-one else in South Africa was doing at that time and we were taking it on the road and burning up stage after stage. I totally believed, and still do, that B-World was on the brink of great things, we had an energy that flowed between us and came out as this amazing, electric and intense music that people wanted more of and were totally attracted to. I’m pretty sure it would’ve translated well internationally too, as was Tusk Music.

Sherid live

Sherid: I think we were trying to write things that were unusual and original and kind of live up to the ethos of not being mainstream, and because we had a great connection to this idea there never seemed to be any limits to what we tried. I don’t think any of us were particularly good songwriters, but once any of us had an idea we would bounce it around the jam room in all sorts of directions to see where it stuck. I guess great taste in music helped guide that process.

Marc: We were still finding our way in many respects. If I listen to the demos now it feels like we didn’t really know how to edit ourselves. Most of the songs are too long. More of a live to tape sound. Back then nobody was really capable of taking our live energy into the studio and polishing the songs into proper album material. We simply didn’t know how. We were very green and just wanted to play our music. I think the first demo sounds more polished. The songs are more solid. We played that stuff hundreds of times at gigs and whittled them into good material. The second demo was more experimental.

Rob:  Yes. We worked hard. We did about two months of Monday to Friday rehearsals refining our material before we set foot on a stage. Musically, I think our process only left room for honesty. When music is honest it translates. Honest music doesn’t care if it’s ‘local’.

Benjy: We basically cut the band`s entire output at Chris Manolitsis’ studio and released the three track E.P. and the full track list on cassette (both collectors items these days) . I loved Rain and thought it was a potential hit but I needed an edit so much, to Sherid`s horror, I edited the guitar solo out. I convinced him that it would be a hit…and it was. Number one across the land! Still sounds good today.

RR: When listening to the demos one can hear you experimented with lighter funky rock sounds in the beginning (songs like Rain for instance) to more heavier grunge during the later demos (for instance ‘Weird’). Kind of Red Hot Chili Peppers meets grunge but with a local twist. Who wrote the music and lyrics and how did you get to that specific sound?

Sean: We were growing at a phenomenal rate. What you hear on the first demo are some songs that were brought in by people as an almost finished product and some that were put together in the rehearsal room from kind of pre-existing ideas and riffs as well as some that originated in rehearsal. We had only been together about three months, I think, when we went into studio for that demo. When the second demo (not even a year later) rolled around we were much more comfortable with each other, we had gelled as a band and we were listening to more music together. We played each other stuff that we were interested in and we were experimenting in the rehearsal room with different rhythms and sounds. Usually Marc was the lyricist but he was not averse to a suggestion or two. I think Sherid wrote most of Rain’s lyrics and music. Otherwise the later ideas started in the rehearsal room, someone would come up with something or come to rehearsal with an idea and we would all start getting involved in fleshing it out and turning it into a B-World song.

Sherid: Rain came from a song I wrote with a blues band I was with a few years before, called Shrinking Railroad. Other than that one all the songs came out of ideas each of us had, which we then brought to the practice room and hashed out. Some ideas were more formed before they arrived at practice and others were born right there in practice. Other than Rain, Marc wrote all the lyrics and the music came from all of us.

Marc:  I wrote a lot of the lyrics and Sherid also wrote some of the tracks. We also wrote a lot of the music and compositions together with all the members. I guess we found the sound through just playing together.

Rob: Sherid had written and performed ‘Rain’ with a previous band (Shrinking Railroad) in Cape Town. He also co-wrote the lyrics to ‘Swell’ with Marc. There were probably other co-written lyrics but it’s all a little hazy. It was the 90’s, goddamn! Marc was responsible for most of the lyrics though. He had that wonderful ability to write ambiguous yet familiar lyrics that meant three different things to three different people, let alone what the song was really about. We all collaborated with the writing and arranging of the songs. Our sound was what is referred to as chemistry. Our specific influences and tonal preferences all mixed up into B-World.

RR: A friend of mine asked one of the members in 1994 right after the Hermanus gig who your influences were. Can’ t remember who answered though. I’m going to ask the question in 2015. Please don’t say Jesus Christ again. LOL!

Sean: That’s a difficult question to answer. None of us intentionally thought of our musical or any other influences when putting B-World songs together, we just experimented and tried things and what we liked stayed. I do know we were listening to a wide variety of music that ranged from acid jazz to funk to grunge to just about anything: from Mother Earth to Ozric Tentacles to Cypress Hill (Rob was very keen on them as I recall), to Soundgarden, to Rage Against the Machine, to Primus to the Peppers. And all sorts of other shit in-between! Rob was always playing us interesting music, he always seemed to be able to find some very different and off the beaten path kind of stuff. Marc was a movie buff and I’m sure that had some influence on what he wrote as well as some social commentary. I’m sure also that our lives influenced what we wrote, what we were going through and had been through as human beings.

Sherid: Mine are Hendrix, Rage Against the Machine, Jeff Beck, Red Hot Chili Peppers…to name a few.

Marc: We had a variety influences. From Hendrix to Rage Against The Machine.

Rob: I still need to respond as of 1994 for the answer to be relevant. Back then it was all Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Rage Against The Machine, Fishbone, Pixies, Jane’s Addiction, Living Colour, Public Enemy, Snoop Dogg, Alice In Chains, Nine Inch Nails, The Beastie Boys, Smashing Pumpkins, etc….the list is long.

RR: How did B-World get the breakthrough to be signed to Tusk Music?

Sean: At our very first gig as B-World Benjy Mudie from Tusk was in the audience. Sherid (I think) had managed to get us a gig at the relatively new Joburg Arts Alive festival and when we finished our set, Benjy came up to us and raved about the band. I think he even made us the offer of the development deal after that gig. He was really crazy about the band.

Sherid: Benjy Mudie was at our very first gig and liked what he saw. We signed a development deal with them.

Marc: At our first gig Benjy Mudie was one of about 10 people in the audience. He offered us sweeties.

Rob: Benjy Mudie handed us a card after our very first gig.

Benjy: In the mid-nineties I was bored shitless with the demos and bands that came across my desk day in and day out. I wanted to sign a dirty rock & roll band with attitude and cool tunes, at that time ‘Bloodsugarsexmagic’ was rarely off my player. I went to a ‘Battle of the Bands’ event, I think down in Newtown, and sat through band after band, all of whom were boring as hell. Then B-World came on and in their short but explosive set really set the place alight. I was so blown away that I made the decision to sign them (I also signed Blue Chameleon at the same gig). B-World hadn’t been together for too long so I made a decision to do a development deal first leading to a bigger agreement later.

cd front

RR: B-World released a 10 track cassette album and then a 3-track CD Single? I know it got airplay on some of the songs because we listened to it back in the day hanging out and partying. What was the overall response to the music you released? Was there any international interest in your music?

Sean: People loved the band! It was new, fresh and exciting.
And yes, there was international interest, Tusk was in the middle of organising an overseas tour when we broke up.

Sherid: I guess it was pretty good locally, but we were just getting started to be fair. There was some interest abroad, but I don’t remember anything coming of it before the break up.

Marc: People seemed to like our vibe. We were committed and I think people responded to that.

Benjy: The band hit the road doing the clubs and basically anything they could find. The idea was to road test the new songs they were writing and then record them as demos in prep for a full album. I went to the UK bearing the E.P. and cassette and got a lot of interest from the labels there. When I got back B-World basically split up and that was that! I kinda remember it this way but time has eroded my memory a little bit so there may be different perspectives on the time line and sequence of events. Like I said, so much potential.

RR: Every Tom, Dick, Harry and Jane is releasing some kind of terrible locally produced CD these days. So let’s forget about fly by night musos whose claim to fame is hilarious Youtube videos. Twenty years later and being a professional muso in South Africa is no longer such an impossible feat. Was that part of the B-World plan? To become professional musos and “B-World” full time? Or did any of you have a day job back then with other prospects? Was it difficult to become a professional muso twenty years ago?

Sean: None of us had day jobs as far as I can recall. I had studied music at Pretoria Technikon (now TUT), but I know I wasn’t thinking : ‘I’m gonna make this my career’. All I knew was that I wanted to play music and I was having a helluva good time in an amazing band doing exactly that, full time. And we were getting somewhere, things were happening. Tusk Music gave us our own rehearsal space in downtown JHB, we were there pretty much everyday jamming and rehearsing and composing… Having Paprika Slap Chips for lunch 🙂 Good memories.

Sherid: I think we were already professionals at the time, but what that meant back then was very different to today. We pretty much scraped through from month to month as far as livelihood goes. We were stubborn enough to think we could do original music for a living back then. We did have the likes of Barney Simon who gave us a platform to go out and do our thing, but it was small pickings for us most of the time. Having said that we did have a few good months toward the end:)

Marc: As I said we were committed. I really wanted it bad. The music life. It did seem possible. We didn’t make any kind of living though. It was like being a student, hand to mouth. We slept on concrete floors a few times. A lot of people were very kind to us on the road. It was fine in our twenties but I am glad that there is scope now for artists to really do well. Here and internationally.

Rob: It was extremely difficult. As it still is. I had already been working as a full time musician for five years before B-World. I worked with bands like The Backwater Blues Band, Jack Hammer and Anton Goosen. After a particularly poor earning tour with another artist, Sherid and I decided we would rather do poor earning tours playing music we created ourselves and believed in. So we started B-World. Of course, if all went according to our dreams we’d have got terribly successful and I’d be answering this question from my chateau in the South of France or something. With gig fees the way they were back then and the amount of driving around the country we did and the state we did it in, I’m surprised we
survived. The infrastructure has evolved in the last two decades but so has the amount of quality musicians. It’s always going to be tough.

RR: How many of you are still in the music industry? For those of you still in the music industry – how would you say the music industry has changed over the past twenty years? Is it easier or more difficult now to make it as a rock band in SA?

Sean: I’m still in the industry. It’s changed in that it’s opened up, become more international and more professional. Wouldn’t say its easier or harder to make it as a rock band, just different. More opportunity but many more good bands.

Sherid: Just by the fact that we were pre-internet. Downloads makes this whole business a very different ball game these days. Also by the fact that we still had to go into a studio to record, which isn’t a must anymore. You can have the Abbey Roads Studio on your laptop, which has made people think they can produce like George Martin & Quincy Jones. So I guess that’s why we have so many fly by nights:) I’m still playing in and around the Eastern Cape. Not as much as I’d like though. I have a three piece I bring out every couple of months. I’ve been threatening to release some new material for a while now, but it takes a back seat to all the other stuff going on.

Marc: Everything has changed in the last twenty years! The world is much smaller. We can access anything at any time. I am not sure if it’s easier for a rock band here. The local stuff I hear now is great. The scene has matured. Your music HAS to be played on the radio. We don’t have the same inferiority complex about what we can create these days. The most satisfying thing for me about B-World is that we made a real contribution towards what exists today in the music scene. I feel happy that we did our little bit.

Rob: Still in it. Still hustling. Still difficult. So much has developed and so much is still painfully the same. The challenge is to remain relevant. Some things only a twenty-something-year-old
should be doing. In other matters those twenty-something-year-olds need to learn from us.

RR: During the B-World days, were you all good friends and did you get along?

Sean: We got along. Not all of us were great friends, but I think there was a mutual respect for each other. We all had a similar goal at that time and that I think was the glue that held B-World together… There was some tension, not a serious kind, but enough that I think it may have helped contribute to the bands energy and vibe in that we let that energy out when we played.

Sherid: I think we all got on pretty well considering the pressures we put ourselves under. We were all a bit mad for it back then, so to say that we overindulged would be an understatement…LOL!

Marc: Friends……it was a marriage really.

Rob: Yes, we were great friends. We obviously had our moments but friendship was key.

RR: If any of you can remember at all….LOL! Do you have any crazy and fond memories of the days when you were in the band and touring the country?

Sean : Not all of my good memories are about crazy things! I remember often leaving a gig at Wings Beat Bar (our JHB regular) in Braamfontein and hitting the road for Cape Town and gigging there that night. I remember a great gig on the beach at Hermanus, loved the tours down the coast, getting on stage was the most awesome thing for me. We did ‘Live on 5’ which was great.. We also had some really good times and met great people in Bloem and the Grahamstown Art Festival – I remember warming up in Grahamstown with the chakras – Marc assigned a note to each chakra and we sang those notes and really pumped that energy. Some awesome memories of Rustler’s Valley – I remember two really stand out gigs there, there was a great energy in that place. I remember a sun rise there sitting with the guys putting together a song acoustically. Great memories of Durban and meeting good people there. Another highlight was a New Year’s Bash at the River Club in Observatory in Cape Town. And of course our Cape Town regular at Ruby in the Dust, also in Obs. Lots of really good memories and good people…

Sherid: Jeezy did we have a great time! If you take out the fact that we were always on the bones of our arses, I would have to say that it was the most fun I’ve had in a band. I don’t think my body could take it now though 🙂 The Rustler’s Valley gigs were particularly fun and New Years ’93/94 in Cape Town, musically, were the best. Oh and what about Rocky Street, Yeoville…crazy days 🙂

Marc: That’s another conversation. A lot of good memories. There is a freedom you allow yourself when you take on the roll of a musician. You need to live in the moment for the music to be any good, hence the fun times.

Rob: Too many to mention.

RR: A couple of the demo songs I got from Sean was recorded with a view to releasing a full album as I understand it. I’m building up to the ultimate question : Why was the album never released and why did B-World break up?

Sean: B-World broke up before it was even decided where or when the album would be recorded! We broke up while on a tour in SA, with an international tour in the pipeline. We were in the Knysna area when the chat happened. I can’t pretend to know the exact reasons, but Marc and Rob had reached a point where they no longer wanted to continue with B-World. Sherid and I tried to talk to them but it was obvious they had discussed it and were no longer keen. Perhaps their focus had shifted, perhaps they didn’t enjoy playing in B-World for some reason anymore. Whatever it was, they obviously had very strong reasons for leaving since they left at a time when B-World was on the verge of major success. Or perhaps they view that time differently. I just remember feeling like a spectator, watching it all crumble around me in dazed disbelief.

Sherid: We broke up before we got to record any of the songs on the demo, so I guess that’s why the album never happened. I think we all got to a boiling point in ’94 and decided to call it as no-one seemed to be able to control all the characters involved. We did try and take on some management, but unfortunately that didn’t work. I think we were all a bit jaded from constantly having to tour for sixteen months.

Marc: Bands break up. Shit happens.

Rob: We split before the album got released. Let’s just say irrefutable differences. I think the root problem was earnings. For over a year we gigged and toured and made barely made enough to survive. That alone strains any relationship. I think if B-World formed now, we’d stand a much better chance of survival. Mainly due to the infrastructure the industry has now.

BB: Do any of you love to listen to South African artists these days? And who do you listen to? Please don’t say Steve Hofmeyr..

Sean: I listen to some… Civil Twilight has a really cool song called ‘Letters from the Sky’. aKING has some good songs. Lira is great. Auriol Hays. Wonderboom has great live shows, I remember doing a few gigs with them when they were still 8 legged groove machine. Still like the old Tree63. Marcus Wyatt. Couple of others, there are some great new SA bands that I catch on Tuks FM.

Sherid: I’ve been listening to a bit of Jeremy Loops lately and really enjoyed Gangs of Ballet live.

Marc: BLK JKS have a great sound. Committed musos. Zebra and Giraffe write great songs. A lot of new talent on the scene now I think.

Rob: One of my favourite bands is Beatenberg. I’m also their live engineer. But they were on top of my list way before I worked with them. Others include Lucy Kruger, Melanie Scholtz, Shane Cooper, Bokani Dyer, Gerald Clark, Sannie Fox, Kyle Sheppard, Isochronous, The Little Kings, The Rudimentals, Marcus Wyatt, Siya Makuzeni and so many more. I’ll probably have a different list every week. BTW anyone who listens to Steve Hofmeyr (and including Steve Hofmeyr) needs some serious introspection.

RR: Do you still have contact with each other? Here comes the cliched question.Would you ever consider a B-World reunion?

Sean: No, I don’t really have much contact with the rest of the guys. I bump into them on Facebook every now and then. Not sure what the point of a reunion would be… perhaps just to have a fun gig…. maybe, I would consider it. But its highly doubtful that it would ever happen, we’re all on opposite ends of the country.

Sherid: I always try to see Rob when I’m in Cape Town, but don’t have too much contact with Marc & Sean as I don’t travel that way much. I’d love to be a fly on the wall in that reunion jam with my funky brothers.

Marc: Haven’t seen the guys in the flesh for years. We were actually approached to tour with the Nude girls (or Arno Carstens) a couple of years back but I couldn’t see myself trying on a stage with twenty year old material. Maybe……

Rob: Well, there’s Facebook. If not real contact with one another, we at least know what everyone would like everyone else to see. I do see Sherid from time to time. B-World reunion? That’s a bit like asking someone if they would like to get back together with their
first girlfriend or partner.

RRP: Thanks for taking the time guys, for me this was much more than an interview. There was a massive void in terms of the history of B-World. I couldn’t find anything substantial about B-World on the Internet before. I think we changed that! Keep on rollin’!!




Raoul and the Black Friday blues


It’s a Friday night in Pretoria and things are happening somewhere. But for blues fans the only way to get an injection of the good stuff is probably to pour yourself a slow whiskey and crank up some old vintage blues tunes at home. This is not Cape Town you know. Here be no wine farms and jazz & blues festivals are smaller and few and far between…but I decide to take a break from my vinyl addiction and pop in at Cafe Barcelona, one of the few Pretoria music joints where you’ll find decent music. Tonight the SA Blues Society is showcasing local blues talent. Mostly amateur guys cooking up some great blues – purely for fun. But one band stands out from the rest. Straight outta Joburg. Raoul and Black Friday!

Raoul 1

I’ve been following this project for the past three years. It’s essentially a solo project launched in 2009 by Joburg Axeman, Raoul Roux. I saw Raoul and Black Friday live for the first time in 2012. Raoul doesn’t have a fixed band but plays with different members from time to time. So I saw different versions of the band live a couple of times with Raoul being the creative mind behind it all. I got hold of the debut album ‘Say it Ain’t So’ sometime in the middle of last year and I’ve been listening to it ever since.

With only 20 or so people in the audience and limited quality of sound (it is a small venue after all) they kick off with some hardcore blues…and it’s just the sound check, man….the rest is yet to come…

Look, I love it when there’s only a few people in the audience – when the blues is great, it’s a kind of musical telepathy. It’s contagious and very visible. Everyone feels the energy. Everyone. But nevertheless I want to rant a bit. I admit the blues, blues rock, bluegrass and folk music has a niche following in South Africa – and yes the demand is not as high as with local commercial music. But I think we can do better in terms of support. We also live in a complex, still very much divided society. I can only speak from my experience but the black middle class (who can afford it) generally don’t rush to go and see live blues acts here in Pretoria. It may be different in some parts of Joburg or Cape Town but I doubt it. When it comes to niche music most prefer jazz. I know this because I try to connect with people through music and my jazz knowledge is very limited. It’s also a fantastic genre and I try to keep up…but it’s strange if you consider the roots of the blues. Think about it, there is a potential fan base that is extremely limited for blues artists in our country at the moment. I’ve seen theaters and music bars in Gauteng packed with white folks before – though we know there is interest from that quarter, it’s also not as consistent as it should be. No doubt our country’s past caused some preconditioned artificial barriers when it comes to music. I went to both the Carlos Santana and Bruce Springsteen concerts at FNB stadium and the racial demographics were totally different. It was very interesting for me to see: one was lily white and the other was so diverse, man. So I’m a bit confused about this. I don’t want to sound like a politician, but we really need to break down these barriers. And what better way to do it with then a shot of the blues, man….

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The band is really cooking and the crowd is under their spell. Raoul Roux’s style is influenced heavily by Stevie Ray Vaughn and (of course) Hendrix, now and then you’ll hear a touch of the eighties – Gary Moore riffs and Van Halen finger tapping – but what I love the most is when Raoul gets into the groove with Tom Morello sounding chords. It’s hard rocking blues and it’s fucking delicious. No bullshit – served straight up – in your face. It’s totally different from most of the Cape Town blues acts. Like an old friend of mine used to say to fellow passengers when the airplane landed at OR Tambo. Welcome to Joburg – the safe part of your journey is now over. Dis rof boet en ek love dit. But the lyrics are also poetic and self reflective at times. I love this too. He’s not overly exhibitionist but – make no mistake – he’s got the chops. And there’s great chemistry between Raoul and his band members and it flows over to the crowd.

So not only is there a limited fan base but South Africans have this tendency to listen to all kinds of mindless shite. I don’t have to name and shame. You know them all. How do we promote the blues to potential fans? I’ve also met true blues fans who don’t know half of the local talent out there. I hear you. Marketing = money. SA blues musos simply can’t throw money at the problem and get an advertising campaign behind them to try and sway public opinion now can they? It’s a miracle that despite these almost insurmountable odds you have musos like Raoul and Black Friday going out there, doing their thing with talent and passion. Working their asses off while you wind down with a drink. It’s inevitable that this rare breed has to find a way to eventually tour overseas – not unlike most SA musicians. I really don’t have solutions locally, but word of mouth is a good place to start! So end of rant and back to business.

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Let’s do things a bit differently this time around and bring Raoul Roux into the conversation. After all, he’s living the dream everyday!

RRP: Thanks for agreeing to do this Raoul. My first question is simple: You guys go out there night after night – sticking it to the man – getting fans all blues’d up. Sometimes large crowds, sometimes smaller ones.What makes you get up on stage every night and play with such passion and drive?

Raoul: Over the last ten years I have played a lot of different styles of music, blues and blues rock music really comes naturally to me, it speaks to me and I think that would translate into soul, passion and drive. I love it!

RRP: I’m going to use the term “the blues” broadly. But what I want to know is this: Why the blues, man? Why not commercial stuff that will sell like koeksisters at a Church Bazaar? 

Raoul: I have played in commercial bands before and have had success with some, the problem is that you have a shelf life when you play for the market. In South Africa you have around five years and then you have to move on. I would like a career with longevity and history has shown that artists who remain true to themselves stand the test of time.

I dedicated my life to playing guitar and for me that is what is important. I truly believe in my music unlike other projects I have done.

RRP: Raoul and Black Friday is the quintessential Joburg blues band, paying your dues in the big hard city. The song ‘Black Friday’ brilliantly tells the story. Why do you think even seasoned musicians have to work much harder to get proper exposure in South Africa? What in your experience limit blues artists here? And what can be done to change this?

Raoul: It’s quite simple, the Media and Press are generally not involved enough in South African music and even less invested in the blues. Unfortunately, the South African public are fed “safe” options and without genre specific radio stations there is no space for the blues.

RRP: We had a conversation last year about why there’s no big blues festivals in Gauteng. The Cape Town guys seem to get it right. Do you think there’s a market for it here? 

Raoul: Oh yes there is a market, but not always a budget, but we have something in the planning. Watch this space…..

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RRP: ‘Say it ain’t so’ is a great blues rock album. Compared to other blues artists, you have a much more rugged hard rock blues sound – even the slow blues songs have an edge to them. Is it geography (the spirit of Joburg), childhood muso heroes or the chemistry of the band that influenced your sound?

Raoul: I think it has a lot to do with the environment we live in. I see my music as the perfect outlet for this Joburg city life, and it’s like the Wild West out here sometimes.

RRP: Where can the readers go to get more info about Raoul and Black Friday with regards to history, gigs and where can they buy your CD ‘Say it Ain’t So’?

Raoul:  My website at where you can find all the links.

Music is available on:

iTunes – http://// album/say-it-aint-so/ id808635504,

Amazon – :http://// ntt_srch_drd_B00IDUZ9NW/186- 3760822-5938629?ie=UTF8&field- keywords=Raoul%20and%20Black% 20Friday&index=digital-music& search-type=ss

CD Baby –  http://// RaoulandBlackFriday

RRP: Maybe just give a few highlights where you’ll be playing in the next few weeks. Spread the word!!

Raoul: I’m playing at the Cockpit Brewhouse in Cullinan on Saturday 21 March, Die Stoep in Nelspruit on 17 April, also we will be performing at Marks Park on 27th April (Freedom Day). It’s going to be a big one! Or go to http:// www.raoulandblackfriday/tour.

RRP: I heard you’re cooking up something new. Can you give us info on when it will be completed? What can we expect? Give us some detail bro!

Raoul: He he, I am currently writing some acoustic stuff which will be just me and my guitar, very intimate stuff! And that should be the next album going out. I’m pretty excited about it!

I am also busy with the second full band album and there are going to be some great tunes on this one, as we grow so does our music.

Also a tour abroad planned for the end of June! We’ll announce details once it’s all set up.

RRP: One of the things I’d like to achieve with this blog is to get more people to support local blues bands (amongst other genres). What message do you have for curious people and existing blues fans who rarely or never go and watch local talent?

Raoul: Get out there, there is some amazing talent in South Africa and people need to go and explore, share and experience great music, you will not find any of these jewels on commercial radio.

RRP: And last but not least I have many readers who are vinyl junkies and, on their behalf, I always promote analogue recording of albums. Most vinyl junkies love it when local artists record in analogue and press vinyl. Is it something you may consider doing in future?

Raoul: I would love to put my music on vinyl and record analogue and once we hit the jackpot we’ll go straight into studio.

RRP: Thanks again man! May the blues be with you!

Raoul: Thank you for supporting the blues! Keep up the good work!

Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti 40th Anniversary Edition on 180g Vinyl



My first blog post with two of my favourite things in this world as subject matter. Led Zeppelin and vinyl. How on earth am I going to keep this short and to the point? Not to worry. To limit my obsessive old school rants and to embrace today’s modern commercial music I have arranged with Mr Vinyl, without a doubt the most professional online vinyl store in the business, to sponsor a few black circles now and then. The only problem is that I have free reign to choose the artists (*drum roll and the sound of crickets at night* ). Who am I kidding? It may only help to invoke my inner analogue muse. My first choice had to be Led Zep. Not just any album but the iconic Physical Graffiti, their sixth studio album, released on 24 February 1975. In 2014 the band launched an extensive reissue program of all nine its studio albums, each remastered by Jimmy Page. They also decided to open their vaults and share dozens of unheard studio live recordings. The remastered version of Physical Graffiti was released last month on the 40th anniversary of its release.

Before I drill down into specifics, its only fitting that I explain my love for the band first. Led Zep was a constant throughout my life and now I guess it’s my fountain of youth. Of course this is true of music in general, but Led Zep is different somehow. It embodies the memory of magical days, the past and present friends I hold dear, the women I fell in and out of love with, the good times, the heartache and the disappointments. The magic endures, especially when I visit the familiar places of yesteryear. Urban jungle or seaside drive, West Coast holiday town or desolate road – with Led Zep in the background, a trip becomes a journey. I don’t hear old seventies music. I hear a force majeure – the celebration of opposites and synergies. Mysticism, love, chaos, freedom, sexual bravado and brotherhood. It’s a kind of explosive transcendence guided by thundering drums, groovin’ bass lines, howling vocals and raunchy geeetar. I know its a great day when I listen to Led Zep and it sounds new and fresh to me. Even more so when I take one of their records out of its cover, slide it slowly out of the inner sleeve, place it on the platter,watch it spin for a while before the needle gently hits the record….and instantly I’m immersed in music…space and time…just… disappear.

20150303_193321In the nineties Gen X’s portal to the world of Led Zep was mainly through the Remasters Double CD released in 1990 (the mastering was also supervised by Jimmy Page). At every party in high school this CD was in the stack next to the CD player. I also remember watching the film The Song Remains The Same on video in the wee drunken hours while discussing politics,religion and other weird topics with friends. But very few Gen X kids collected entire discographies of bands. I remember Led Zep I-IV being on sale for R40 a CD at local music stores. For most of us this limited exposure was sufficient to call ourselves fans. Of course when MP3’s invaded the scene in the previous decade I downloaded more albums – but still not to the point of consciously wanting to absorb everything they’ve ever recorded. No, this was a fate bestowed upon me just over a year and a half ago when I became a vinyl addict. I have most of the studio albums in older press format – but sadly not this one yet. With the increase in vinyl collectors the past few years they’ve become hard to find.

20150303_202258 In 1973, after a year of touring around the world in their private jet, living it up in excess with groupies and copious amounts of drugs, Led Zep began recording ‘Physical Graffiti’ at Headly Grange in East Hampshire. However, it was brought to an abrupt halt. John Paul Jones needed some downtime. The constant touring and ‘living on the edge’ lifestyle took its toll on Jones and his family. So the band went their separate ways for a while. The renewed creative ideas that led to the recording of the album were born out of three months of downtime and soul searching.

Led Zep wrote eight new songs for the album but it was too long for the typical length of a single LP. ‘In My Time of Dying’ and ‘Kashmir’ may have been the culprits. The former was first recorded by Blind Willie Johnson in 1927 but “reinterpreted” by Led Zep. It’s an extremely haunting blues version and just over eleven minutes long. The arabesque and mystical anthem ‘Kashmir’, in turn, is just over eight minutes long and took almost three years to complete. It’s one of their most successful musical statements ever. From a modern perspective, the freedom they enjoyed to record albums sound almost made up – but it’s how they did things back then. The band decided to make ‘Physical Graffiti’ a double album by including unreleased outtakes from earlier recording sessions. No doubt this album is the last of the epic Led Zep studio albums. Before the entire empire began to unravel. If you don’t know the history you can start by reading ‘Trampled under Foot’ written by Barney Hoskyns. I promised to keep it short so I’m moving on.

20150303_193120The rest of the “new songs” like ‘Custard Pie’, ‘In the Light’ and ‘Trampled under Foot’, for instance, are all great songs but in my view the inclusion of the outtakes of previous albums in ‘Physical Graffiti’ led to its ultimate success. Jimmy Page admitted this in several interviews. The album represents quite a few years of creative development – a mix of blues,bluegrass, country, rock, reggae and middle eastern influences. It almost sounds like a greatest hits album. And this is how Gen X got to know Led Zep – diverse and already fully developed. My favourites are the outtakes from their 1973 album, ‘Houses of the Holy’. The title track intentionally left out to be used on the ‘Physical Graffiti’ album is pure classic Led Zep. The acoustic blues song ‘Black Country Woman’ was recorded outdoors in Mick Jagger’s garden – the recording engineer accidentally recorded an airplane flying overhead and you can hear Robert Plant laughing and saying “nah leave it”.Sigh…Artistic Freedom. And then ‘the Rover’, one of those typical wandering free spirit Led Zep tunes, with insane drumming and a killer riff.

The first thing people ask you when they hear you collect and listen to vinyl is“do they still make them?”. Oh yes, and boy do they still make them. I am a fan of the older pressings but when you’re looking for new music or you absolutely love a band (or many of them) or you struggle to find the older pressings, the “new” 180g pressings can give you just as much listening pleasure. There is a whole debate around which of these sound better. In laymen’s terms the “new” 180g vinyl is thicker and heavier then the older 120-140g pressings and it’s less prone to become warped over time. One would think that the new pressings would always sound better but that’s not always the case. The sound quality really depends on the original recording, the mastering and how the record was pressed. Of course the manner in which you looked after an older pressing over the years makes the world of difference.


The 40th Anniversary Edition of Physical Graffiti was released in three editions:

  • The 2 LP Normal Edition replicating the original album,
  • The 3 LP (Deluxe Edition) containing the original LPs plus one vinyl containing unreleased studio outtakes.
  • And then for the serious collector the Super Deluxe Edition Box Set complete with the three LPs mentioned above, three CDs and a hardcopy book.

I play tested the normal edition remaster – what a joy it was opening the album jacket. It looks exactly like the original, consisting of the outer cover, two inner sleeves and a middle insert cover. The inner sleeves has various objects and people on each window. The middle insert cover is white with details of the album track listings and recording info. The windows on the outer cover is cut out, so when the middle cover is wrapped around the two inner sleeves and inserted into the outer cover, the title of the album Physical Graffiti becomes visible. I absolutely love this kind of artwork. It makes me feel like a kid in a candy store while unwrapping Christmas presents.

I may not be the ultimate audiophile but this album sounds superb on my system. I also have Led Zep I and II of this remastered series and its really mastered and pressed with quality in mind. In good time I will include most of the 3LP Deluxe versions in my collection as well.

If you learn to pace yourself collecting vinyl is the best hobby in the world. If only I can figure out how…….

If you want more detail check out the Mr Vinyl website: http://

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The Evolution of Dan Patlansky Part II


Welcome to the second part of my feature on South Africa’s most successful blues artist. No further introduction needed I’m sure. I received some great feedback from fellow music junkies. Thanks to everyone who reads this blog. What am I trying to achieve with it? Well maybe to remind people how rewarding it is to seek out great music (overseas, local, old and new). Also, that it’s great to discuss aspects of music with friends, to really think about it again – no matter how old you are. Agree. Disagree. It doesn’t matter. It’s easy to just download a shit load music for free on the internet and play it on your iPod on shuffle. Something that listening to music on vinyl taught me is that we take music for granted these days. If you’re not into vinyl go and buy a CD or DVD. Own music again. Touch it. Feel it. Admire it. Enjoy the whole experience. If you can’t afford to buy music that’s a different story. But if you refuse to do so because ” like, no one does that anymore preaching dinosaur dude” – that’s cool too. If you can live with your karma at least don’t skip through your MP3’s Lemmings! Try to LISTEN to an album from beginning to end now and then. Here endeth today’s sermon congregation……

So where were we….I raised the question whether the blues can be combined with more “commercially palatable” music and whether it will still be the blues if you do? Think about it while I give you a tour of Mr Dan Patlansky’s discography. I’ll choose two songs from each album that really blew my mind. It will be difficult to limit them but here goes.


I bought Real the very first night I saw Dan Patlansky live in 2009. The album was released in 2007 on an independent label (all of Dan’s albums except True Blues were released on indie labels). Seems like a good place to start. Real was a blues breakthrough album and I remember reading great reviews from international (albeit smaller niche blues) journalists. It’s a fantastic pure blues album. It was undeniable, after Real’s release, that Dan Patlansky is a master at taking the classic blues styles and forcing his own twist on it. His guitar playing on this album ranges from slow blues tunes to extremely energetic ones – extremely fast licks with the touch and tone still astonishingly clear. Throw in some Sonny Landreth, Stevie Ray Vaughn at the core, a dash of Clapton and Hendrix, Robert Johnson for ultimate good measure and Dan Patlansky re-interpreting them all and…..doing it justice. Pretty bold statements, you say? Got a Bad, Bad Feeling alone proves it. Remember the slowing down space and time analogy I used in Part I? Soulful song man. Qualified? What more do you need? Blues for New Orleans is an unrehearsed piece of ensemble genius. It was recorded live on WWOZ radio station in New Orleans,during rush hour traffic, with members of the Batiste Family. It gives you a glimpse of the barriers he can push if slightly nudged by the best in the blues world.

Dan True BluesLet’s take a step back. True Blues, his second album (produced and released by EMI in 2004 under the famous Blue Note label), was the next album I bought. I love this album because its versatile. You can find some great acoustic songs on this one, it’s got trumpets,trombones,tenor sax and mouth organ vibes. What a range of different blues styles man. He must have been only twenty-two years old and already had most of the attributes of a seasoned blues artist. His guitar playing was unbelievably solid already….but the album lacks a bit of soul. Some will argue he may have been a bit too young to be 100% “qualified”. It could also be because most of the musos were session musicians. Not that session musos aren’t brilliant but its not the same as a tight band. However, if you listen to his version of Robert Johnson’s Traveling Riverside Blues and his own brilliant slow blues tune Heart of Stone (one of my favourites) the soul is almost there. I don’t think he found his authentic Dan Patlansky stamp on this one…. yet.


Further back in history – his debut album Standing at the Station was released in 2001. I struggled to get this in 2009 because it was out of print. I spoke to Dan about it after a show and I got the impression that he didn’t really think the album would sell. I bugged his management and they let me know other fans asked for it as well. So they were thinking of making the MP3’s available on his website for downloading – and so they did. Luckily it was also released in the form of a double CD together with Real in 2010. Now the thing about the debut album is if you could undo his future albums – as though they were never recorded – you would be less critical. It’s a great run of the mill blues album. It reminds me a bit of Snowy White and even though the future Patlansky energy is missing, I must admit I listen to it quite often. And then you remember he was just nineteen years old…..

Move-My-Soul-CoverBack to the future McFly! Move my Soul was released in 2009 and its probably the album I listened to the most – I still do. I saw a lot of his live shows during that year and he included some new material before its release at his live gigs. I pre-ordered at Top CD – like in the old days – and I remember on my way back I had to pull over to listen to the entire album. Once again he pushed the boundaries, improved his own blues style and if you still doubted his soul qualifications you must have felt like a right git after this one. In my mind there was no ways he was going to top it. Or so I thought. Extremely difficult to isolate two songs. But the title track – with Wendy Oldfield on backing vocals – does exactly that: Move my Soul. The energy of Namaste Love City is very close to what you would experience during one of his live shows. Electrifying!

Dan-Patlansky-Album-Sleeve-20-Stones-ResizedI will have to break my two song rule with this one. 20 Stones is a “fork in the road” album. It’s divided between a couple of great blues songs for example Lost your good thing, one brilliant acoustic title track and then a few songs that’s more hard rock – albeit still grounded in the blues. The song Bring the World to its Knees (instantly) made me visualize him playing big arenas. Prophetic? Nope just common sense. I think he also settled down with excellent musicians that bought into his vision. With Andy Maritz on drums and Clint Falconer (from Pretoria!!) the Dan Patlansky brand was going places. I had a late night discussion with a member of Dan’s management after the album launch in 2012 and there was no debate and no question. It wasn’t rocket science. We all understood that Dan had to get more overseas exposure and reach a larger international audience even if it meant doing more “commercial” material. Would this amount to selling out? Before you answer – hang on. I know KISS would laugh at you if you think so.

Wooden-Thoughts-CoverYou might get tired of hearing this but I love unplugged music. Wooden Thoughts released in 2013 is in a class of its own. It’s not easy to play acoustic music for starters – even with Dan’s fast paced talents. You can’t hide behind distortion – not to mention the potential damage to your fingers. I’ve given you a taste of this album in Part I already so I’ll keep it short. I’d like to mention the covers for a change. The first is the spirit of Son House – preaching through Dan – on the song Preaching Blues. And the sermon surely raises the spirit. Hallelujah! No I meant the Leonard Cohen cover. Very ethereal blues. And then of course Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. Those who know me can testify that I would not have forgiven him if he fucked this one up. You don’t just cover Led Zeppelin and leave your own footprints on Kashmir without someone cringing. I didn’t cringe at all.

Dan-DST-Cover-1024x1024So have you thought about whether the blues can be commercial?  As I was reading the international blues reviews following the Blues Rock Review in the USA voting for Dear Silence Thieves as the number one blues rock album for 2014 – I felt proud and sad at the same time. Proud because South Africans kicked some ass instead of “the commercial blues artists” for example John Mayer and Jo Bonamassa. But I was also thinking “what the fuck man, you only getting it now?”. Most of these journos were surprised that it’s his seventh album. It’s plain and simple: South Africa is still so isolated from the rest of the blues/ rock world that Dan Patlansky only got proper international recognition in 2014???? But I also thought this isolation may have just pushed Dan and our very own Theo Crous (who produced the album) to create one of the most unique blues rock albums out there. They focused much more on the songwriting and then let the creative genius and mind blowing licks flow from there. If I had to choose proof I’d say: Backbite, Feel like Home  and Windmills and the Sea. Dear Silence Thieves is a piece of work I tell you. After I bought it at the album launch last year I couldn’t analyse or classify it. It’s many different things. It’s a fantastic record with blues, rock and folk elements and yeah it’s more “commercially palatable” in some respects. But if Dan Patlansky set out to make a commercial record then he failed. It may not be pure blues but its still not mainstream. It’s the kind of music that keeps the blues alive for the younger generations. So my answer to the question whether blues can be commercial is: maybe, maybe not.But who gives a shit if the music is superb?


So he’s touring in Europe now and then – my family in Hilversum, the Netherlands represented the nation at one of his gigs in a nearby town – and yet we still get to see him back home. How great is that? I have two wishes though. One for Dan Patlansky and his band mates and one for me. The first is that they get an opportunity to thoroughly tour the States and the second one is that they record a live album. Old school analogue baby. So I can buy a Dan Patlansky record….


Oh yeah and to all the Silence Thieves….you’ve been irritating me for years. Go watch One Direction!