All interviews start with extensive research. You read up bios, google the hell out of the interwebs, read past articles, listen to music on bandcamp or soundcloud until someone notices you’re hogging all the bandwidth and yet, I still felt largely unprepared for what I was about to walk into. What did I know of Raptorbaby? They’re angry. They’re anti-system. They’re from wildly different musical backgrounds and mixed influences. They have a very interesting approach to structuring music and their arrangements. They use clean vocals. They’re oddly technical… And they’ve been filed into the “Prog Metal” scene. What can I ask them? How would the reception be? Would my questions be relevant? I certainly was not expecting the biggest, warm smile I was given by Zeak, or the belly slap by-way-of-
introduction Buddah (Lolke) gave me. I was not expecting the warmth, friendliness or charm these guys brought to the table. I was not expecting the frank honesty or the back and forth banter, nor was I expecting to be able to chat and joke with a group of strangers. “Thank you for meeting us, we have SO much to say”… And by gods, did they!
Founded in 2010 by Doug and Nelius AKA Zeak, the band has been working constantly to develop a sound they’re all proud of. All members have been in a list of different bands from Underbelly, Their Death Becomes Her, Glaskas to The Paradigm. They’re seasoned musicians. While this is Zeak’s first time being the lead vocals, he is not only the voice but also the main writer in terms of lyrical content, the band itself feels like a brotherhood. Everyone is treated with an air of respect (the sibling play fighting included), and all their voices combine to give a sound that they are proud of.
M4A: Hi Guys, thank you so much for giving me some time. I really appreciate it. First things first… Raptorbaby. Where the hell did you get the name?!
Doug (Guitars): Well… And don’t laugh. Zeak and our ex-guitarist Craig, were recording at my old house, which has a hugely overgrown garden, and we were just playing and recording some demo stuff, you know… As you go, talking shit. And this garden, it looked like something out of Jurassic Park. A raptor nest. Eventually along the line the three of us just decided that’s it. It’s gotta be Raptorbaby.
Zeak (Vocals/Guitars): Or to do the whole hippy thing… Growth from nothing. You know. And dinosaurs are just insanely awesome! (general laughter).
M4A: Your music and from what you’ve posted on Facebook, you seem to incredibly politically motivated. Would you say that you are fledgling activists, or you’re using your music as a platform?
(A chorus of yesses).
Doug: Well, we just want to see the world be a better, nicer place.
Lolke (Drums): That and I have a standard line, if you’re going to be on stage, you have a responsibility to say something not only responsible, but that gets people thinking.
Zeak: Well, we are being responsible, but at the same time we would love to see the global government go.
Doug: We’re formally putting it out there, we don’t want government telling people what to think and do, we would like the governments, not only in South Africa, but the world to step down. Let the people be truly self-governed, return to a trade based economy and stop enslaving people to enrich themselves.
Zeak: We have the answers! We are so prepared to lead the world to a better place. No politics. That’s the problem. Give the voice back to the people.
Doug: It’s why we do the music, and it’s why so much of our music is so angry. We’re going to be releasing a new single soon, called “The Sleepers Awake”, and it’s literally that. We want people to wake up. The idea behind it is that we’ve all been walking around asleep, and it’s time to wake up. No one trusts politicians anymore, no one trusts big business anymore. That entire philosophy has permeated into that song. You reach a point where you start losing faith in humanity, and it just becomes so incredibly frustrating.
Paul (Bass): There will be a video and tour with the release of the track in April. There’s a lot planned around it.
M4A: Do you feel that there’s a sense of apathy from people? The more we read the papers, the less we want to? The more we hear of problems, the less attention people pay?
Paul: Well, there is a strong sense of armchair activism. People seem to go through the world “Oh, there’s another problem, let’s just walk around that and not engage”. Get mad! Get up and do something. Stop hitting like on Facebook. We spend way too much time signing online petitions. People need to act.
M4A: So you’re quite entrenched in a political, if I can call it that, message?
Zeak: It’s an engine for change…
Doug: Yeah, we’re loath to call it political, it’s more along the lines of social development. Seeing things get better. For instance, Zeak wrote a song called Lost, and he speaks about Mugabe. One day during practice, he stopped and just said to us, that he really didn’t want to say the name. He didn’t want to lend any power or credence to a person, by saying his name in the song.
Paul: It’s like fairy tale creatures, stop saying their names and they’re no longer real.
Lolke: One of my favorite lines is “earth from space, is border-less”. We’ve only got this one rock. We need to look after it, and after each other.
Zeak: I don’t believe in nations, I feel borders divide. I want global change. Don’t want external saviors, I want people to save themselves. Drop the borders and terminate the money.
M4A: So speaking of borders. I actually wanted to ask you about your influences. From what I hear, listening to your music is a weird Tool meets Rage Against the Machine vibe. You also only list “music” as influences, who are your influences?
Doug: Veil of Maya, Pearl Jam… Trippy stuff. System of A Down – Wow, they really influenced me when I was younger. Oh wow, The Used.. So much punk. Such anger. Wow.
Paul: Every time I see a local band that I like, I’m inspired by them. I love the music that’s coming out of South Africa. So many people are amazing…
Doug: We don’t want to sound like anyone else. Lolke uses a lot of double base, and I mean Zeak has a strange sound as well.
Paul: Yeah, Zeak snuck some Jazz influences in there.
Zeak: Shneaky, shneakay!
Paul: (laughs) But it’s really brought an interesting dynamic to the sound overall.
Zeak: Our music is not easy to play. We pride ourselves on that. It’s taken a long time for us to evolve in terms of how we’re sounding now, and that’s taken a lot of hard work. In a way, I guess it’s also a call to other musicians. Please, stop trying to sound like everyone else. Make music that will change the world and people’s perceptions.
Paul: It’s really a pleasure being in this band. We give each other free rein to do what we want to, experiment where we want to and at the end of the day, we create music that we love. There are no limitations. I mean, we’ve had string sections.
M4A: So we were talking about your sound, and the fact that you draw from different influences, you’re highly experimental. Zeak’s clean vocal style, is something that I’ve not found a lot of in this genre of metal.
Doug: Yeah, I kinda like that. I mean we still get that anger.
Zeak: There’s nothing wrong with growling and screaming in music, but we just feel that people shouldn’t use that to hide a poor voice. For us, the timing and the technicality of what we do allows me to do more clean vocals, and we still manage to punctuate it with anger, or intensity.
Doug: He does do it, but he still gets that intensity without it. He also largely feeds on the crowd. I remember recording once and we all started just throwing random things at him to get him to give that reaction. To feed that feeling and drive the intensity and aggression.
Paul: There’s something about recording live. I mean, we find recording stressful, because we don’t have the crowd energy to draw from. When it’s live it’s so much more natural. We’re considering recording live more in future. It’s just so much more organic and natural.
M4A: So your music is still evolving then, if you’re talking about changing the way you record?
Doug: Yeah, well if we keep playing for 20 years, I’d like to think that every album is going to sound different as we progress and grow. The music must continue to progress. Each new song has to have something we didn’t do before.
M4A: So, you’re called Prog Metal. Do you think this is a title that suits you?
Paul: Well, it’s putting us in a box, and for now that fits. I mean we’re always changing something. I’m not a fan of putting people in boxes. But, so many “prog” bands don’t sound anything alike.
Doug: I think the best way to describe it is as prog metal.
Lolke: There’s a new breed of crowd. I mean, people who enjoy one type of “prog” like us, and I feel like more people are listening to prog to find like-minded people.
Doug: I mean, look at hardcore punk that grew out of rebellion, and I think by doing what we want and other bands doing what they want, we’ll start seeing a change in the metal scene. Less people defining themselves by the shirts they wear, or the long hair, and just loving the music and the community. I just wish there were more places to play. More places that did live music.
Zeak: I don’t know if there’s really a scene. I think it’s a collective of people who love the music. Yeah, sometimes we play to 20 people, but those 20 people like us. And if we don’t “fit” for that, that’s actually ok with me.
Doug: Yeah, but at the same time we’ve also played with some awesome black metal bands, and those crowds responded really well. We didn’t expect people to like us, but people really seemed to enjoy us.
Paul: I have to say, that’s something that I love about the metal scene. People are just so awesome and open minded.
Doug: At the end of the day we’re off doing what we love and I think it’s working for us. We are enjoying it and thankfully people are enjoying it too.
Lolke: You know, music isn’t a competition, it should just be about jamming together and getting people to love what you’re doing. Damn, I mean if I could be 80 and one day play and die on stage, that would be awesome.
M4A: So you have your single coming out in April, with the video. What else is on the cards?
Doug: We’re also planning some new stuff, with strings, a french horn player… There MIGHT be whisperings of a choir…. We don’t want to divulge too much yet. But we’re really looking forward to it.
Paul: Oh man, if I could one day pull off anything to the level of Devin Townsend as a live performance one day, I will die a happy, happy man.
And there you have it. A band who very clearly are passionate not only about their music, but also about their message. I’m interested in hearing the new live performances, but until then, I invite you to check them out on soundcloud or to go see them at their next performance on 4 April: Wolmer Fest @ Wolmer (of course)).
Stream “The Plague” by Raptorbaby below: