Mind Assault staying the course

On the eve of WinterFest’10, just three weeks away and the line-up already well known, it was my duty to start chasing down some of the bands to gather interviews.  Of course, it was easier to catch up with some of the ‘older farts’ of the SA Metal Scene first.  Or so I thought it would be!  As it turns out, Mind Assault are as active as ever and just as hard to pin down as any other younger band, still alive with energy.  I finally got the boys cornered so that they could give me the low down of the scene and it’s movements as seen from their point of view.

Willow:            Hi guys, could you please introduce yourselves to the world of M4A, along with the instrument you play 😛

Big J:              Hos! I am Jacques and I growl and scream at little girls.

Don:                Yo.  Donovan, bassist for Mind Assault and backing vocals.  Mostly, girls scream at me.

Flap:               Wuzup ya’ll, I’m Flapper!  Ek hou van Kitaar speel so veel soos vat ek met my self speel.

Pat:                 Hi.  It’s Patrick, rhythm guitarist for Mind Assault.

Andries:       I’m Andries, Drummer for Mind Assault.

Pat:                 Andries is usually too modest to say so, but he also does the in-studio orchestration for Mind Assault, although Karin Pretorius (not related to Francois ‘Flapper’ Pretorius) helps us out for live shows when we sometimes feature this.

Willow:            Since forming in 2004, I know that you have a lot of mileage under your belts, gigging all over SA, getting your name out there, and spreading the love of SA Metal. What is your impression of the metal scene in the different areas that you’ve gigged at, in terms of fan support for the local scene?

Mind Assault:  It may be fair to say that metal in SA enjoys a pretty even spread throughout, but the attitudes of the people seem to be different at various locations.  For example, many might say that the scene in Joburg is bigger, but we do not believe that to be true. If you look at the Joburg population ratio compared to Cape Town , it numbers into tens of thousands more people, but attendance figures seem to level out in proportion. In fact, if we look at population ratios, the smaller towns are kicking the bigger cities arses in terms of numbers. For example, gigs in towns like Nelspruit (Mapumalanga Province) and Paarl ( Western Cape ) have been the most intense crowds. But when we say the attitude is different, maybe it’s because the smaller places just don’t get metal as often as the cities do, so the people are more hungry for it.

Big J: Each place is quite unique in the metal scene of RSA. The “smaller” places seem to have the more energetic crowds, all with broken bones and blood spilt! I prefer the more intimate “family” gigs, like Stellenbosch and Boksburg. It truly does feel like the Cape is the metal capital though (maybe not in numbers, but definitely in “gees”).

Pat: I agree some with Jacques about the smaller shows.  In a way, they actually feel more true to the character of metal.

Willow:            Its a well-known fact that you are one of the most active metal bands in the scene, helping not only your own band, but also giving new / up-and-coming bands a chance to show what they are made of. This has obviously created some kind of brotherhood amongst most metal-heads / bands; What can be said about the family atmosphere radiating off the scene?

Mind Assault: We as Mind Assault have always regarded it as a sort of responsibility of ours to extend a hand to the younger generation wherever possible. We never had anybody around to do that for us, because in 2004 there simply were no extreme metal bands in Cape Town to give us a leg up.  It was mostly nu-school bands that did not see the value in helping out a thrash/death metal act. Although the opportunities don’t come round so often anymore, we do make a point of inviting new bands to play shows that we host rather than just teaming up with old buddies the whole time. There is quite a list of bands we’ve helped out, after all these years.  Sadly, some don’t exist anymore.

The brotherhood continues, and as the older dudes who are still knocking around, we like to think that our attitude towards the scene has helped to cultivate that feeling of unity in metal.  We don’t believe that any other alternative genre is as well networked as the metal-heads are.

Big J: For me metal has always been about the “brotherhood” and having a great time with your friends! To gig and party with the younger bands keeps us young as well! Haha!

Willow:            You guys obviously know how to party, on and off stage, and no doubt one of my favorite live acts; Are there any thoughts of making another DVD in the near future, Fok Voort en Suip Baie was by far, the most fun I’ve had watching a DVD in ages!

Mind Assault: Oh yes! There are daily thoughts of picking up where we left off. We often joke about what the new title would be. Our biggest problem is the recession, though. Its hard to buy beer and video tapes, and to travel to exciting places when the cost of living has climbed so much since that first DVD was released. It just means we’ll be taking a little longer, that’s all.  There’s already loads of footage accumulated and some of it is fucking insane!

Willow:            Since you’ve been featured in a no. of compilation CDs, you have an independently released 5-track demo, and a 13-track album; how are the plans coming along with a possible new album release?

Mind Assault: Plans are always afoot. But regarding release dates, see previous answer – lol – but at present, we are actually in the middle of a recording project that should see the light of day not too far down the line. Any donations would be appreciated though!  In fact, even just beer, since that’s our biggest expense usually.

Willow:            Could you explain why you regard Stigma as a demo-album, and what you expect from your next album, and its aims?

Mind Assault: Yes. Until a local band churns out a release that succeeds to smash out into a widespread, global listenership, it is safe to assume that our Southern African region does not yet have the capacity to produce a solid, commercially viable album. Forgive the blasphemy in using the C-word, but lets get realistic: the only way a band can make it big or earn a living from making music is if a lot of people everywhere like their music – metal or not. We acknowledge that our country lacks in experience with producing such a standard. We’re not pointing finger at studios and engineers, but simply making a commentary on the industry in general… even the bands.  Although many people in this country have definately got the talent, we all lack the experience that leading countries known for metal have got.  Good production is more than amp tone or how clearly the kick drum sites in the mix.  Rather, it is every detail, even down to what songs actually appear on the album and in what order. We are also not saying that folks around here are doing things wrong, because we are not yet qualified to say what is right. But if folks down here were doing it right they’d have seen greater world-wide acclaim by now. We honestly feel that what sets South Africa backwards is the almost complete lack of independent third party producers in the metal genre, and there’s no way we can afford that kind of help from overseas. Think about it. It is indeed a rare case that a self-produced band reaches financial independence and world-wide acclaim, no matter what the genre or where in the world they are.  We’ve heard that Contrast The Water is now working with an independent producer and we believe that this is the right way to do it.  We’re really looking forward to hearing the results.

In this context, we regard our album rather as a demo showcase of our hottest songs written over a certain time period. We never sat down and wrote an album. The only songs on the album which actually feel like you’re listening to an album are Rise Once Again, Suffer and Revenge.

We are not saying that Stigma is bollocks – hell no! We are very proud of the work and the songs, and we feel that it would be a nice add-on to anybody’s collection, but we would like that the public don’t see it as us thinking we’ve created a masterpiece. Well be sure to let you all know when we have!

Our next attempt will be aimed at creating an album the way we properly understand an album to be. Needless to say, finances currently also dictate that it will have to be self-produced, but we’re working towards gaining a better understanding of the role a producer plays in creating an album.

Willow:            What is the bands aim for 2010 and beyond?

Mind Assault: This previous answer sums a lot of it up. We’ve taken a more back-seat approach towards performance since 2009 in favor of writing. You will still see us tearing up some stages here and there, though.

Big J: I think that our aim and goal is to create an international acknowledgment of South African Metal. So basically writing RSA into the book of heavy metal!

Pat:  There’s a lot of bands in SA with this same aspiration, but I believe that the more people have their sights on this goal, the more likely we as a whole scene are going to succeed at reaching it.

Willow:            Judging from your gigs, you obviously get the best out of your live audiences / fans! Do you see yourselves as more of a live entertainment act, or do you, in future, prefer to do most of your work in studio?

Mind Assault: It’s kind of in our blood to remain a highly energetic live act, and live shows will always be our roots and inspiration.  However, our goals are now to become a more studio-orientated than just always focusing on the stage. We have had a good innings over the years and its time to make room for the dozens of new acts that have sprung up. This will also give us the energy to make our fewer live shows a little more special for the audiences – as has been witnessed in the last year or so. That tradition will continue.

Willow:            I’ve also seen that you guys seem to be sponsored by some impressive names, like Jackson Guitars and Bavaria Beer.  How did that come about?

Mind Assault:  Our band has always been very pro-active about things like that.  We’re also very pro-active in marketing our band and our shows.  People in the right places have become aware of that, or we’ve been able to prove it to them.  Deals like the Jackson Guitar endorsement kind of landed on our doorstep.  We’ve loved Jackson Guitars always, and because a lot of our heroes from the thrash era were jamming on them.  To us, those guitars represent the history and the spirit of heavy metal.  The guys basically said, “hey, why don’t you guys brand Jackson on your flyers and website, and we’ll give you great deals on Jackson gear?”  With their help, we upgraded Flapper from an old PS-1 Jackson to a Randy Rhodes signature (as a combined wedding gift in 2008, with Luzaan Pretorius), and Pat has now upgraded from a PS-3 to a RR3 in his favorite color, black… obviously.

We’ve also done a lot of work with Laney.  We presented a number of workshops on behalf of the brand, which we agreed to after getting to use some of their amps at various live shows.  They also let us try out some gear in studio, hoping that we list it as “preferred gear”, which we got absolutely no problems with because this stuff way outclasses anything we’ve been jamming on before. It’s really nice to see some guys putting something into South African metal.  A lot of them out there couldn’t care less.

The Bavaria Beer is a major plus.  When we were all just out of school and getting into the whole music scene, there was this pub in our town that had bands playing, and they had Bavaria on tap.  That stuff was like mothers milk to us!  Then the place closed and we said a sad good-bye to our favorite beer.  A while back, Donovan found some Bavaria at a local bottle store and bought some for old times sake.  We had a great party and decided we should contact them and offer to be their prepresentative of the brand in our region.  We were actually quite surprized when they came back to us… with a few cases of beer!  Now we drink large volumes of it again with our friends, just like old times.  Not everybody stocks it, but it’s worth looking for.

Willow:            As the Big Brothers of the scene, playing most of the bigger Metal events such as Whiplash, M4A events, Ramfest etc; I know that you too, have day jobs, and like most metal bands, are struggling musicians. Could you please brief us on the extent of your involvement with the Metal4Africa project, and what the future goals of the website holds for SA Metal.

Mind Assault:  It is no longer a secret that Mind Assault members have all played some role behind establishing M4A in the Western Cape . That family has been growing a lot over time. In the future, we would like to see it held more firmly in the hands of the metal community as a whole, because it was created to serve that community. Mind Assault will not be around forever, and we’d hate to see M4A fade into the sunset along with us. Consider it a bit of a legacy that we wish to leave behind.

At this stage, we’d like to further the M4A tradition in other parts of the country as well. For the meantime, Mind Assault will remain very much involved. In the Western Cape , however, we have already begun to make a little more room for others. We’ve stepped aside at two of these events already and will do so at times in the future as well.  In 2011, it’s likely that we’ll not play those shows at all!

With regard to the website, we’d like to see SA Metal, and metal bands from all over the continent uniting under one flag and marching out into the world. Mind Assault realized a long time ago that with our geography and our economy, there is very little chance of one band doing all this work on their own. As a community we can attract the interest of the world, and then its a level playing field for all African bands.  We’d like to see everybody taking part in this vision.

Willow:            Do you feel that there’s a big split between metal heads that listen to / support local metal, as apposed to those who only listen to international bands? I always find myself surprised when people that are into metal, don’t know about our local talent. Do you see the metal scene as more of an underground movement?

Mind Assault: Our local scene is extremely underground. We personally know a lot of people who are huge into metal, but seldom or even never attend local shows. Most of these people watch DVDs of their favorite metal bands live and realize that they will not get the same experience here. That thought puts them off and its these guys who would rather wait for huge international names to come out. The irony is that the big names never can, because our local scene does not display the numbers they need. If you look our local shows, there is a different breed of metal-head. They don’t want to look at metal and admire it from far – they want to experience it!  As a band, we hold no prejudice toward those who choose not to support us live. Many of them own our Album. It is our responsibility to make a live show worth attending, and Mind Assault can already boast a few converts.  Also, we’ve learned to respect that many people are actually intimidated by going out to clubs filled with dudes and chicks all in black.  Other people just don’t go out much because they already are caught up in many other obligations of life, but they still support by buying stuff.   There is always hope of a brighter future.

Big J: South Africa has probably one of the most underground scenes out there. It’s a pity, cause there is some insane talent here.

Willow:            A gig that I will always remember was when Mind Assault supported the legendary VOD for their reunion show at Assembly! I was pleasantly surprised to see the older metal crowd re-surfacing to support the event! Where do you think these guys have been hiding, and what do you think their reasons are for not supporting SA Metal anymore? Do you see them returning to the scene anytime soon?

Pat:                 ourselves, not exactly being spring chickens, have a lot where we can relate to the previous generations vibe of metal. V.O.D is old-school to the max and that show was arguably the most fun any Mind Assault member has had at a live SA bands gig period! That’s not to say that we don’t enjoy the bands that we play with or watch in today’s era, but V.O.D spoke to a part of us that is buried so deep in our upbringing. Kind of like a reflection of our journey that brought us into the service of metal in the first place. Most of today’s metal supporters speak a different language, as they have traversed a different path. Such is the nature of evolution. I don’t believe that the old metallers will return unless it’s to support something which reflects their era. There is definitely a disconnection between their generation and the new one that outnumbers them today. We as Mind Assault hope and pray that we never become too much a relic of the past, but we will always play metal as the way we grew up to understand it. We will not follow the trends of tomorrow to attract new fans, but we also won’t dwell in the past to try and lure out old ones. We and our listeners will spin out our own journey towards greater metal enlightenment. Or en-heavy-ment, if you prefer!

Big J: I am only as old as the woman I feel!! Haha! The VOD show was awesome to say the least! And hopefully we gave the older generation something so that they come out to a show here and there. When we grew up listening to metal, there wasn’t a lot of variety in the shops and internet was fucking slow! So we are kinda in between the older metal generation and newer generation of today. Hopefully we speak to the metal in all of them!!

Willow:            With the keyboard being featured at certain shows, is this just an extra bonus for bigger events, or are you looking to keep the sound for future events / releases?

Mind Assault: Andries, it turns out, is not useful only on drums. As mentioned earlier, he created all the arrangements that featured on the album, and consequently, at some live shows. Karin has always been a good friend of the band and was willing to help out when we felt it might make a nice addition. She has now joined Suiderbees, a promising upcoming band, so maybe she will not be available for future shows. We’re not sure. Although we will continue to urge Andries to explore his talents and contribute to the music of Mind Assault, we will probably never grow to rely too heavily on keyboards for performance. But then again, who knows what the future might bring?  For the meantime, we’ll continue to focus on reserving Karin for bigger shows, if her schedule allows.

Willow:            Is there anything else that you’d like to share with the land of SA Metal, or words of wisdom that you’d like to bestow upon newer bands?

Mind Assault:  Be true to yourselves in music. It is your creations that will live when you die.

Be conscious of your fans and respect the role they play in your bands existence. Beware of crappy shows put together by unscrupulous promoters who just want to get into your fans pockets.

Try to think beyond your own self interests. You will be amazed what rewards lay ahead, even if not in material form. Think of how you can be of service to your community.

Have the most fun you can!!  What a journey metal music has given us so far and hopefully will till the day we die! Promote SA metal to everyone and lets get the world to notice!

Oh, and listen to some of our tracks available online!

If you like it, please consider buying a copy, or at least some shirts and shit.