V.O.D: A post-reunion tour ’09 interview…

vodposterThe nature of space and time is such that when an event takes place at a certain location and on a certain date, we can all be rest assured that a part of our lives has passed which will never be repeated.  The only question that remains is:  Were we at the correct place at the correct time?

If you were present at one of V.O.D’s 10 Year Re-union shows, then the answer would be: Yes!  You most certainly were at the best place possible at that time.  Simply because, if you were not yet born in the year of 1982, then it is highly unlikey that you were old enough to witness a chapter in the forging of a South African metal scene – and this tour was your only opportuninty to travel through time and visit that special place in our metal history and legacy!

And so after a very nostalgic weekend of going to watch Voice Of Destruction, Godathers of SA Metal, perform first at the Klein Libertas Theatre in Stellenbosch, and then again the following night at The Assembly in Cape Town, Darkfiend managed to chase the guys down for a little bit of Q & A…

A Meeting in a Time Warp…

DF: Hi Guys.  Please introduce yourselves

V.O.D: We are Francois (vocals), Diccon (bass), Paul (drums), and Greg (guitar) – aka V.O.D, the Godfathers of South African Metal!!!

 

DF: For those readers who may not remember the glory of the nineties, could you please fill in a few gaps…  The first few years seemed a bit wobbly as V.O.D emerged on the scene.  How did it come together, and for how long was the band active before winding things down?

V.O.D: It all started back in the mid-’80s in fact!  Paul & Francois had a garage band called Moral Decay, messing around with Punk and Metal songs.  At the same time Diccon played in a Metal band called Phoenix.  Greg started V.O.D as a Punk/Hardcore band with 3 other guys.  These bands all converged on the Punk/Metal hang-out, Arties, which had been established by Francois.

Diccon was already playing for V.O.D whilst in Phoenix, which later broke up.  As the original V.O.D drummer departed, Paul was asked to join, since his project with Francois was also dissolving.  The line-up as it was to become known came into being when Francois replaced the original vocalist in the early 90’s.  All of the influences then evolved and solidified into a full-on metal sound, which combined, gave V.O.D their signature sound.

By 1996, V.O.D was touring Europe, and returned to South Africa for some shows in late 1998 and into 1999.

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V.O.D rehearsal back in '89

 

DF: The African “metalscape” must have looked very different during V.O.D’s reigning years.  Could you describe it in short.

V.O.D: Memory often gets a bit hazy and it’s crazy how time flies!  But we can never forget the scene back then – it was a ferociously dedicated one.  The fans were completely into it.  Taking our country’s history into account, we were quite isolated and Metal or extreme bands simply didn’t make it to our shores, so when people got to know a local band that really clicked for them, they supported them wholeheartedly.  Venues were few and far between, so it was concentrated in core spots across SA.  Arties became Cape Town’s hotspot, with venues like The Stage, Playground, Raffles and Delirium also congregating alternative music fans across the board.  The Punk/Metal community was also multi-racial which was quite a testament in the late-’80s.  There was definitely a sense of brotherhood, the music its common point.  Bands had professional rivalry, but were very supportive of each other.

 

DF: Now, after almost 10 years of absence from SA Metal, V.O.D returned to our clubs and venues for a countrywide reunion tour.  I’m sure there must have been a number of people coming out who have not been seen in clubs for the best part of a decade!  And then the “face” of metal has changed dramatically since the nineties – and its support base…  What was the “mix” of crowd like from your point of view?

V.O.D: As mentioned above, the mix was also a multi-racial one. With various alternative musical tastes of the time, from Guns ‘n Roses and Mötley Crüe fans, the Metallica and Megadeth clan, to the Death Metal and rising Black Metal contingency, Punk and Hardcore kids, Industrial-heads – somehow V.O.D appealed to all of these people, where they would be selective when it came to live bands, they all congregated for V.O.D.

Most of us had remained active in extreme music during the V.O.D silence.  In fact, that is part of it – we simply had to explore other musical avenues after more than a decade of dedication to just one band.

Today, one can see Francois doing vocals for K.O.B.U.S, a band he started with Theo Crous of Springbok Nude Girls fame, and Paul is now playing bass in TERMINATRYX.  Diccon remained in England and has since played in bands like Demoniac, Dragon Force, and is currently in PAGAN ALTAR.  Greg pretty much stopped playing after ’99.  Looking in at scene from which he has been absent for some years, he noticed that the industry has not really progressed as much as one might have hoped.  There wasn’t really a gap for Francois and Paul to observe, as they moved on continuously with the music scene in SA.  The flow and changes are not as visible as when you’d been in isolation for a decade.

Many old V.O.D fans are now K.O.B.U.S. and TERMINATRYX supporters, and have always enquired about that inevitable V.O.D reunion tour.  Besides not wanting to disappoint people who had stuck it out for almost a quarter of a century, we also had that burning need to get together and play those songs again.

Many people we hadn’t seen in ages certainly came out of the woodwork on this tour, but it was interesting to notice how many new faces were at the Zeplins and Doors shows in Gauteng, where we expected far more familiar ones. 

One tends to forget that someone who is 20 today wasn’t born when we got started!  We’re sure that many people came out in curiosity, wanting to experience something they only heard of when they were 15 or younger, but couldn’t enter the clubs and venues where V.O.D destroyed at the time.  Some people may wonder what the fuss was all about because the style is hardly what the young Metal bands do today.  It’s important to know your roots.

The Cape Town shows were definitely like an Arties / Raffles / Playground / Stage / Delirium / D’Elyzium reunion!  Some folks even flew in from the UK especially for the V.O.D tour.

 

DF: V.O.D played at RAMFEST III and obviously had a few support acts during the tour, featuring bands that have only emerged within the last five years (or less).  Anything that you would like to comment on about what musicians are “all about” in today’s movement as opposed to 10 years back?  Is there anything in particular that stands out?

V.O.D: Today bands are very focused and make a point of getting their gear and technical shit sorted.  Back in the day affording top notch equipment was difficult for most bands.  Today no expense is spared.  While we had serious sound and monitor issues at Ramfest, it goes with the territory and you have to hammer through – so that wasn’t really a good representation of what V.O.D is all about. 

The other bands seem to show great respect for V.O.D, even if our music is not necessarily their cup of tea, which is humbling.  What we do find is that many of the current Metal bands often have a uniform sound which makes them hard to distinguish from one another. 

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Final gig of V.O.D re-union tour '09

 

DF: I sometimes come across the phrase “The best thing in SA metal since JMSP”.  Do you believe that the song resembles such a landmark in SA metal that it is still referred to by metalheads today?  Why?

V.O.D: Maybe it’s because of the profanity of the song’s title as a rebellious outcry, as was the case a decade after that song was written with Fokofpolisiekar’s band name – who knows?  It’s also the first real heavy Afrikaans song (early ’90s), and with Jou Ma Se Poes being such a true South African insult phrase, some just find it irresistible.  It’s also either hilarious or shocking – no in-between.  It is, however, still a killer song – it takes off and pounds the listener for a grand total of one minute and forty seconds!  It’s both aggressive and fun.  It was actually one of those quick V.O.D songs that just seemed to stick.  Rude, lewd, crude references to private parts seem to be a sure thing by the looks of it.  That’s why 90% of Hip-Hop songs deal with it!. 

JMSP is a classic, no doubt.  That’s why it opens up the Kopskoot! compilation album of heavy Afrikaans songs which Paul put together (www.flamedrop.com/kopskoot) – which also features noteworthy local bands of intensity like Insek, Mind Assault, the V.O.D affiliated K.O.B.U.S. and TERMINATRYX, plus a range of others which are not necessarily of the Metal persuasion.

 

DF: I understand that a lot has gone into arranging this tour – for example, getting Diccon Harper to fly in from the UK to present himself on stage in his position as V.O.D bassist and so forth.  So why the decision to do a reunion tour, and why at this specific time?

V.O.D: As mentioned it was an inevitable turn of events, both for the fans and the band members.  It is also a resurrection of history.  Many of the new bands have young members, and have no idea who V.O.D was, but indirectly may have been influenced via SA bands they look up to, who were in turn, influenced by V.O.D.  The band had a huge impact on local Metal, especially in the ’90s.  This tour was able to give everyone a glimpse of what it was all about – the cool songs, the unique flavor, the energy…

 

V.O.D in Germany '96
V.O.D in Germany '96

DF: Did you guys find that some of the tunes were a bit “rusty” or did it all come together quite nicely?  And how did it feel to be back on stage as a unit – was the old chemistry still there?

V.O.D: Our very first rehearsal together after a decade (14 Feb ’09), went surprisingly smooth.  The songs all popped back with very few hitches.  Some bits & pieces needed some reference to ensure its accuracy, but on the whole it was as though we’d only skipped a few rehearsals as opposed to 10 years!

It was great being on stage together again, all of the old ups and downs still in tact.  We thought age would’ve affected the performance – not at all.  Mind you, we’re not that fucking old!

It’s fascinating how your brain retains all of these songs, simply running on momentum – it’s the physicality of it that you need to work on to ensure it’s tight and keeps up the speed and maintains the energy.

 

DF: With the reunion now neatly tucked away behind you, where to from here?

V.O.D: We’ll continue with our respective bands and other activities as usual.  Some of us are keen to record V.O.D songs which never got laid down, and redo other gems which never got recorded properly.  Others, however, feel it should be laid to rest now with the tour behind us.  We’ll see what happens – there’s nothing stopping us from either calling it quits for good, or striking up a brand new V.O.D – anything is possible and we won’t make proclamations as we know how things can change.  It’s also difficult with Diccon living in the UK.

“The V.O.D Archive Vol. I” was the 10th Anniversary re-release of the “Bloedrivier” album from 1996, which was only originally available on import.  April ’09 will see the release of the first V.O.DVD, “The V.O.D Archives Vol. II: Live ’93 & Europe ’95-’96” – a 180 minute collection of the two V.O.D home video releases with footage on- and off-stage, in the studio, on tour in Europe etc. (plus two current documentary shorts incl. “Before The Storm”: covering the first rehearsal for the reunion tour, and “A Brief History”: an interview laying out the V.O.D timeline).

This DVD will be followed by “The V.O.D Archives Vol. III: Return To The Great Abyss” on CD, including a collection of classic V.O.D tracks, rarities and demos.

We are also currently in production for “The V.O.Documentary: 25 Years Of Destruction” (working title), a feature length documentary on the band, from the mid-’80s Punk days up to the 2009 reunion tour, including in-depth interviews (with band members past and present, fans, members from other bands etc.), and never-seen-before footage from across the band’s tumultuous existence.

 

DF: How do you feel about the “keepers of the flame” that dominate today’s scene.  Does it make you proud to see some of the guys taking things to higher levels, or do you sometimes think that the African metal legacy that V.O.D was such an instrumental player in creating is taking a beating?

V.O.D:  We salute them (strike up AC/DC’s “For Those About To Rock”!).

Extreme music will always take a beating.  That’s a fact of life, and if it makes you feel despondent then you’re in the wrong scene.  Music will remain music and you cannot force anyone to like a particular genre or style – although we feel pity for mindless teens who believe that what they’re fed on the radio actually has substance, or is listenable, loading that shit on their cell phones…  They’re just suckers getting their pocket money snatched!  When young people go out and find something they can identify with and pursue it regardless of ridicule from the commercial numbskulls – that’s commendable!  While the suits try their best to get their fingers in every pie, including Metal, the true guardians will prevail.

So any band or promo group that pushes to be different and not conform should be praised, as there’s no way they’ll hit number one on the billboard charts – doing it for the love of the music is at the heart of it.

DF: Do you think that young metalheads around these parts appreciate or even know the history of our own South African metal culture?  What have been your experiences in conversing with new and youthful faces?

V.O.D: To an extent, yes.  We’ve encountered many young fans and bands who appreciate the V.O.D legacy, but it is a different story when it comes to the wider supporters.  Many youngsters came to the reunion shows saying they’d been waiting for this moment for over a decade. 

We live in a world of consumer overload and there is so much new stuff thrown at you from all sides, a million MySpace bands fighting for your “friendship” – so digging through that to find something which made an impact a decade ago doesn’t seem to be of as much consequence or interest to a 16-year old who wants to hear the fastest and loudest band they can find, regardless whether it has any depth or substance.  But, like many an ’80s Metalhead got turned onto their older brothers’ Black Sabbath records, then becoming Metallica fans, maybe some kids will dig through their siblings’ record collection and find V.O.D, and get turned onto a new slice of history.

 

DF: What do you think of such initiatives like www.metal4africa.com and its peripheral activities?  Do you suppose things would have been different for SA metal if such an organization had existed in the nineties?  Was there something similar – maybe my education is even limited?!

V.O.D: It is essential and should be lauded.  Back in the day V.O.D arose in a pre-internet era where fans around the world spread the news via xeroxed ‘Zines, tape swapping and word of mouth.  It took a lot of sweat and constant live shows across the country to build an army of fans.  Today it is far simpler to connect on-line and notify fans via sites or on-line groups.  A spot like M4A, including its annual shows bring the fans together and also act as an introductory avenue for kids who are interested in this kind of music (be it for life or as a mere curiosity). 

There were some attempts back then to unify the scene via DJ nights or big Metal showcases, which often took the shape of promoters – like the guys bringing out Napalm Death, around ’93 –  but when the effort outweighs the money that came back into it, it didn’t seem viable.

Then came the con artists who also gave the illusion of unification, but once all the bands got scammed, many were far beyond disillusioned.  That’s why, for the most part, it is definitely only for the strong-willed and those who truly believe in Metal and/or Extreme music as an integral part of their culture and lifestyle – not as a stepping stone to becoming an adored rock star or a millionaire.

And so we bid another farewell, but is it for keeps?

Diccon has since returned to the UK, Francois to K.O.B.U.S, Paul to Terminatryx, and Greg to his wilderness retreat.  Our brief brush with the past now, once again, very firmly tucked away within the realm of memories.  What happens now, you know as well as we do and as well as the band members do.  But what about us?  Has this encounter taught us anything about our roots as metalheads in South Africa?  Take from it what you will, but know that we do have a rich history and heritage – those elements which are the foundations of any culture, be it “sub” or no – and may this serve as inspiration for all other metal bands in Africa to add to that heritage.