PETER TROMP spoke to Afrikaans rock kingpin FRANCOIS VAN COKE, leading man of trailblazing bands Fokofpolisiekar and Van Coke Kartel. The latter group will be performing at Die Boer Theatre Restaurant in Durbanville on Saturday July 13 at 8pm.
Your rock journey started in Bellville, a place not traditionally thought of as a serious mecca of rock. What can you tell us about how music is appreciated in that suburb?
Growing up in Bellville you get encouraged to play rugby, not to play rock music. Grunge came around and that was about the time I got into music. From that moment on I wanted to play music and I am sure a lot of my friends felt the same. We started our own high school bands after that, after which a couple of things happened.
When I was about Std. 8, 9 and 10 there was a big Christian punk scene in Bellville, with bands like Prayer and 7th Breed that played in Bellville often. So, we went to shows all the time. We started Christian punk bands, that became secular bands and we eventually started Fokofpolisiekar. We also knew that a couple of the guys from Springbok Nude Girls were from Bellville and that made it feel possible to be in a band and be from Bellville. At the moment there actually aren’t a lot of live venues in Bellville and we don’t play here that often.
Bellville was quite a boring place growing up and when I was a kid always looked at Cape Town as this mythical place that I needed to go to, but these days I live in Bellville again.
What did you guys initially think you could bring to the SA rock scene that wasn’t there at the time?
Obviously we grew up on American and British music, so we just wanted to play the style that we like, but try and do it on an international standard and sing in Afrikaans. We didn’t realise how many kids felt like us, but our close friends were immediately into it.
What were your biggest musical influences starting out, and how has that changed to where you are now?
We grew up on rock, grunge and punk, so that was our influences starting out. I guess we still appreciate the same kind of music, but everyone in Fokofpolisiekar and Van Coke Kartel likes different things from pop to metal.
Something the casual SA rock listener might want to know is what are the chief differences between your two bands, Fokofpolisiekar and Van Coke Kartel? Do you approach each one differently?
Fokofpolisiekar and Van Coke Kartel are both rock bands, with Afrikaans lyrics and the same singer, so the casual listener might not think it is that different, but the approach is totally different.
In Fokofpolisiekar, Hunter and Johnny are the main writers and in Van Coke Kartel Jedd and I write most of the music and lyrics. I write all the lyrics for VCK and I think it is slightly more introspective than Fokof, where Fokof is probably a little bit more socially aware. Van Coke Kartel is also a bit more riff based and has more guitar solos, because Jedd grew up on Metallica and Iron Maiden and Fokof has a bit more of a pop sensibility.
These days, image is as important as the music of any act, since what is really being sold is a brand. How brand conscious are you guys, and how do you manage to square that with your obvious love of music?
Since we started playing music we knew that the look of what we put out is just as important as the music, sometimes even more important, because most people remember the visual aspect more than the audible one.
So, it is important for us that our designs have a certain look and we work with artists to accomplish that.
I think if you spend a lot of time with and tour with people you tend to start dressing the same, sharing clothes etc.
That is how our image comes about, if you can call it that. Obviously we get some clothes from sponsors and all of us wear the same shit. I think the only brands that we are conscious of are the ones we get for free.
What are a few of the biggest misconceptions about being in a band?
Playing in a band is actually pretty hard work if you want to do it full time, especially in SA. It would have been great if we could sit around and play music all day.
When can we expect a new Fokofpolisiekar, or Van Coke Kartel album?
The new Van Coke Kartel album will be out at the end of September. We have been working on it for a long time on and off and we are currently back in the studio. Theo Crous will be producing it and we are recording at Bellville Studios.
Since 2009 we have been saying that we are going to release a new Fokofpolisiekar full length album. This is our tenth year in existence and hopefully it happens very soon. It’s definitely on the cards.
What’s special about performing at Die Boer?
I really love playing at Die Boer. It is an intimate show, there is great food, good sound and it is close to my house.
* To book, call 021 979 1911, or 083 406 0111.