SACRIFIST: Breaking African Boundaries in 2009

Sacrifist - Nightfall Festival with Blind Guardian

Somewhere beneath a shadow…

www.metal4africa.com recently had an opportunity to catch up with one of South Africa’s longest standing titans of their local heavy metal movement. Entertaining South African metalheads for well over a decade, SacriFist now stand poised to deliver their ministry of metal to a European audience. M4A’s very own Darkfiend visited the SacriFist jam room beneath the shadow of six monstrous cooling towers (the sort that typically come attached with a coal power plant, South Africa’s primary source of energy) in the suburb of Kempton Park, Johannesburg, and indulged in a few beers while talking about some of the bands most recent developments.

Band members present were Mike (drums), Sammy (guitar) and Shaun (bass). Unfortunately, the Darkfiend had to depart before Dwayne (vocals) and Byron (lead guitar) could arrive.

Into the interrogation chamber…

DF: Hi Guys. Please introduce yourselves

Mike: At my age it is difficult to remember these things…. sorry, what was the question?

Sammy: Hi there, my name is Sammy and I’m an alcoholic.

Everybody: Hi Sammy…

Shaun: Hi there, my name is Shaun and I play bass.

DF: We understand that the band’s name, SacriFist, has been lurking about in the South African metal scene since as far back as the early nineties. That’s going back into my own early teens! That’s a really long time to endure a scene that cannot sustain musicians on a pro-level. I’m sure there must have been some casualties along the way. How many original members remain with the band?

Mike: Yes you are right and that is a sad reality here in SA. Being a muso really does take so much time and dedication, and I can understand that some earlier members could not hold out and felt it better to pursue other aspects to their lives.

Sammy: Two original members: Mike and myself.

Shaun: That would be Michael & Sammy from the original line up.

DF: Today is March 19, 2009. Mike and Sammy, could you please tell us how many years that is now? What encouragement can you offer the dudes who have only just started out?

Sammy: I think 16 years since 93? Our very first “gig” was at a 21st, we had like 3 songs but we played them like 20 times… Their neighbors weren’t too happy… Our payment was a whole bass drum FULL of beer… OH MAN GOOD TIMES!

Mike: To make matters worse, I played the same drum line for all three songs as I was too pissed to do anything else. Man am I glad we are past that!

Do what you do because you want to, because you love it, for yourself, not for anything or anyone else. Believe in what you do.

Shaun: The strong, positive attitude of even the more recent members that make SacriFist, know exactly what is expected of them & we all have this incredible drive to do what SacrifFist does best.

DF: A lot of things must have changed in all these years – I think many of the people out supporting metal shows today can’t even imagine! How do you guys perceive the metal scene in South Africa in 2009, as opposed to 1999?

Mike: Honestly not much has changed. I think the biggest shift has been that people have realized that metal is alive and out there, but there have never been proper organizational systems in place, kind of each man for himself. However this mindset amongst the bands, managers, promoters,…has shifted, maybe only slightly and there are those who are still narrow minded in that sense, but there has been more of a realization that to lift metal in SA to what it can be, has to be a collective effort – from the bottom all the way to the top.

Sammy: Well I think the scene has definitely picked up BUT it’s South Africa and we can only hope to get more people involved in building the scene. There are a lot of positives so it can only get better.

Shaun: I think metal in 2009 has more exposure & people fighting for the metal scene than in 1999. I might be mistaken, 1999 is still very blurry. I blame all the beer for that!

DF: Although I perceive a little “battle-weariness” in some of your tone, it seems that overall, you are feeling a bit more optimistic about where we all stand now, and the potential for the future – even if that potential is not yet manifest. Do you think our online initiative with www.metal4africa.com will help to bring that potential full circle?

Sammy: I think that M4A is becoming an established series of events and THAT’S just good, nothing less and therefore it can only get better. We are always battle weary because SO MANY “wanna-be” people rock up and disappear…

Mike: Oh yes, M4A will take time. But, yes it will help in the long run. No doubt.

Shaun: Yes of course! Metal4africa have a strong & positive drive to fight for metal in Africa.

DF: I like to think of the metal scene as consisting of “movers and shakers” on the one hand, and then the “passive observers” on the other. Would you say that SacriFist might fit into one of these categories, or maybe something else? And then do you think the role that SacriFist is playing in SA metal has changed over all these years?

Mike: I don’t think of SacriFist to fit into any such category, that is not something we even think about. We simply go out and do what we do best – it’s that simple. We do not wait around for things to fall into our laps, because that won’t happen – we go out and get it.

Sammy: Well, I think we probably fall under the movers and shakers category if we did not we would not be here. I also don’t believe that we play a role in the local scene, as we’re still just a bunch of guys fucking loving to do what we do.

Shaun: I’d say SacriFist would probably fit into the ‘Movers & shaker’ category, we like to fuck shit up – Hahahahaha!!!

DF: There must be a handful of Die Hard supporters from many years ago, and no doubt legions of new ones. Are there times where you find it hard to “connect” with the younger generation of metalheads who are out there supporting shows these days?

Mike: No, I don’t think so. Why do people go to a SacriFist show? To be entertained, to have a party, to let loose, go wild… did I mention party? And it is this same thing that we have in common with each and everyone of our fans, old or young, there is that same common denominator in all of us.

Sammy: No, not at all. I have a daughter thus making it easier for me to communicate with other people her age. I think that if a band does not communicate with their fans, they fucking SUCK!

Shaun: Not at all! They all have so much energy it’s really awesome to see!

DF: SacriFist has embarked on number of national tours over the last 15 years. What has been the most memorable to date?

Mike: I think each and every tour has it’s own uniqueness and I would not really be able to single one out. Ok, maybe DESTRUCTOUR with Mind Assault.

Sammy: OH God no, It would be insane to just name one… All our tours are very special to us. There are so many things that happen “on the road” even if it’s a negative thing like the members getting in each other’s way, we STILL sort ourselves out. The band is as much a business as it is a “fun thing to do with your friends”.

Shaun: DESTRUCTOUR 2006 with Mind Assault and SacriFist!!! Bassist bite, hey Don!!!! Hahahaha

DF: There are whisperings down “The Grapevine” that SacriFist is to be leading a tour to Europe in the very near future. We say “leading” because you are not going alone. Are you at liberty to supply some details?

Mike: Yeah, this is really fantastic for us and for SA metal as a whole. Hopefully we can help put SA metal more on the global map. Germany from top to bottom, with something like 5 shows a week. Small shows and festivals, ending the tour with a monster party at Waken.

Sammy: For sure, YES, we are heading to Europe at the end July for just over a month. We will be touring from the north to the South of Germany and then we have some shows in Switzerland. The other bands include Warthane and Contrast The Water.

Shaun: Yes, we will be touring with Warthane & Contrast the Water! Be very afraid Germany!!!

DF: Now we know that bands such as Agro, Kobus, and heroes of yesteryear such as Sacraphyx, Voice Of Destruction and Forever Will Burn have already seen audiences on overseas shores. Are you guys looking at doing things differently, or are you using a similar model to what those bands did – ie: aim for a BIG festival or tour with another international act?

Mike: I think the model will be different to the other guys in the sense that, yes, we are aiming for some of the big festivals, but also need to get into every little corner of this massive market. We are there to work.

Sammy: No we’re not going to go there with the intent of playing on the same stage as Hypocrisy for instance, but if the opportunity knocks then FUCK YES we will grab it. The perception of South Africa in Europe is that of “kiddie” if you know what I mean. We’re going over there with the attitude of “The underdog DOES SOMETIMES WIN”.

Shaun: We will aim at big festivals & to play with an international act but if that does not happen, we’ll still be fucking shit up in Germany!!!

DF: Sammy, if I may just reflect a minute on what you say about the perception of South Africa by international audiences as being “kiddie”: Basically, if I am to understand correctly, what you are saying is that the world simply does not recognize that Southern Africa has a “scene” or bands worth observing? …Or perhaps even the whole of Africa?

If so, then I tend to believe that what you say is true, and it is true because African bands have never been presented to the world as a “united front” before. Do you think that the whole thing will be viewed differently, now that it’s THREE bands going over? I’d be interested to hear a bit more of your commentary on this.

Sammy: Hmmm, Yes, I think that your analysis is spot on. I had direct contact with Jogen Maas – Nuclear Blast, if you don’t know who that is then go put on your Britney album – and he mentioned that a big problem is for them even consider bands is location, and obviously we don’t fall under their “preferred locations”. I DO HOWEVER believe that once they see South African bands perform that their tune will change for the better. How many SA bands actually made an effort to tour any European country? Not many in my opinion, due to the fact that it’s EXTREMELY costly.

DF: How do you think other bands in SA might regard this pursuit of yours? Do you believe that this bold move might inspire some of the newer bands into greater action?

Mike: I truly hope others will follow, as SA has really got some fantastic talent. But we all need to be recognized internationally and this will not happen by sitting here and waiting for it to happen.

Sammy: Fuck, who knows, but I can say one thing for sure… whether we inspire or not, bands cannot do shit here. You MUST at least try to better yourself and if that means you have to spend a SHITLOAD of money to promote your band overseas, then so be it. I think bands in SA generalize/fantasize about record deals, money, World Tours, playing at “Summer Breeze” and all that when in fact if you think like that – walk over to a mirror and bitchslap yourself… A LOT. It does not exist or work like that.

Shaun: Well we hope that more S.A. bands will be inspired to go overseas. Music has come a long way in S.A since 10 years ago. I think S.A can be proud of what we’ve got!

DF: What do you expect to experience when you land on foreign soil to deliver the message that Africa has a whole metal culture of its own?

Mike: We are not expecting or creating illusions of anything. We are simply going to do what we always have done, and always will do, believe in ourselves and just do what we do.

Sammy: We don’t expect anything. This is going to be our biggest challenge ever, but we ARE going to give it all we’ve got. No holds barred… The German fans are quite keen to see us because our myspace is full of people from Germany making contact.

Shaun: I expect to drink a lot of German beer – hahahahahaha

DF: What would you say is the primary goal of this adventure?

Mike: Gain experience, penetrate the international markets, spread our wings and fly. It’s not just one thing, but basically everything that we have been doing for over a decade.

Sammy: To make that all elusive “contact” and to show them that South African METAL sounds just as good if not better. Hou my dop vas, check hierdie move!

Shaun: To have fun & show Germany that South Africa will not go unnoticed anymore!!!!!

DF: It sounds like you guys are keen to use this tour as a bit of a “mission” to represent more than just your own band, but almost as if you are going over there to put us all on the map. If we were to arrange a whole whack of flyers or stickers that direct people to the www.metal4africa.com website, would you guys be keen to throw them out at shows? Mike, maybe we should print them in German – lol – would you help me out with that? What should they say?

Sammy: NOTHING VENTURED, NOTHING GAINED!

Mike: Obviously, our primary objective is for the name Sacrifist to get out there and get recognized, however, we cannot do it alone. The SA metal community needs to unite and collectively move forward (with all local and abroad doings) in order to gain recognition and respect from the international markets.

Das klinked sehr gut.

Shaun: Mike and Sammy’s question. I’ll drink a beer while they answer this one.

A conclusive ending…

The team at www.metal4africa.com wishes SacriFist all the best on this great adventure. We expect that we may be chatting to them again at a later time this year to find out just how things went with the tour, but in the meantime, we encourage all African metalheads to put your best support behind these guys as they prepare for this great quest. We perceive that this will prove to be a landmark for African Metal!

Feature by: [email protected]