Ruff Majik: living large in Europe

sludge, doom and rock n roll with Ruff Majik
Ruff Majik 1 - Christelle Duvenage Photography
Ruff Majik: image by Christelle Duvenage Photography

Ruff Majik, those lovable purveyors of a very unique brand of sludge doom metal, have been at it for quite some time. They’ve played up and down the length of South Africa, and even been on tours to foreign parts. Not to mention the ever-expanding discography, these guys are by no means slouches when it comes to making music. A harder working band, and a cooler group of dudes you are very unlikely to meet.

Live debut in France this weekend:

And now they have finally taken their wonderfully, and eloquently self-coined, “rot’n’roll” to Europe full time; preparing to unleash their potent, energetic and engaging live shows on a rather unsuspecting string of audiences across the continent. With the band about to play its first show in France at Rock In Bourlon (back-to-back with greats such as Corrosion Of Conformity, Whores, All Them Witches and Wyatt E), we followed up with a band member to see how it’s going with their adventures so far; starting with the decision to relocate in the first place:

“Well, the biggest thing that helped us out was finding a new manager in Germany. Great dude, owns an amazing venue, and a big talent agent in the stoner rock/doom/sludge scene. He’s been helping us get all this done and setting us up with a place to stay, etc. However, it must be said that we found him through touring to Europe in the first place. Sometimes it’s worth it to bite the bullet, make the investment and see what happens.” ~ Johni Holliday (guitar/vocals, Ruff Majik)

Ruff Majik 2019 France

Ruff Majik: no strangers to the European space

Of course, Ruff Majik refer to a previous European visit which we documented last year. As the precursor to a more permanent footing in the larger European market, we asked Johni to spill the beans on some of the experiences had in 2018.

“Well we played amazing shows at Freak Valley Festival and SonicBlast Moledo last year. The festival scene for this type of music is amazing over here, and the fans are really amped for it. I mean, at Freak Valley we got to meet the guys from OM, which was mind blowing to say the least. We saw Candlemass live too, and there was a quick backstage chat with them as well. We were absolutely shitting ourselves at the thought of meeting them though, so I wouldn’t say the chat went over as cool and calm as we’d like to imagine. This year we still get to witness the greatness that is Corrosion Of Conformity live, and many other amazing acts like Mantar, Truckfighters and Bongripper.” ~ Johni Holliday

So, what’s all the fuss about anyway?

Naturally, any readers back home who are already familiar with Ruff Majik will know that this is rather a mixed bag of musical tricks. We’ve seen every manner of reaction to the band live, and were interested to how, if at all, might it be different to the European fans.

“I think people are confused by our shows at first. It’s fast, then really slow. It’s got blues solos and core breakdowns; all tied together by stoner rock jams and slow sludgy bits. I think it confuses the fuck out of people watching us live. But you better believe they’re into it! We’ve been pulling some great crowds, and folks are always invested in the show fully. Jamming out, headbanging, moshing, snatching our bass man off stage for some crowd surfing, trying to get on the stage themselves sometimes. It’s rad to see people trying to find ways to express what our music sounds like to them. I think the only real difference between here and SA is the scale of it. We can fill a bar with people on a Monday or Tuesday night, and that’s not happening back home right now.” ~ Johni Holliday

Ruff Majik 5 - Christelle Duvenage Photography
Ruff Majik: image by Christelle Duvenage Photography

Meetings and Greetings

With such a momentum gathering and avenues opening up, once might wonder what kind of characters are encountered along the way whilst living to proverbial “rock’n’roll dream”. Surely some good relationships are formed with interesting people, or it can be a pleasure when seeing that certain paths might be crosses again in the future.

“For sure! We did some touring with The Devil And The Almighty Blues last year, and they’re the coolest guys ever. On that tour we became really good friends, and now we have a good time together whenever we run into each other at festivals or shows. We usually drink a bit too much; which made us miss a train last year!” ~ Johni Holliday

Overseas is not quite a crowded space for SA bands… yet

Of course, with the current time being the most ripe for South African underground talent abroad, it should come as no surprise when two groups of South Africans meet in a foreign land. We noticed recently that Ruff Majik caught up with a live show by Brutal Death Metal band Vulvodynia in Berlin.

“First off, let me just say that Vulvodynia absolutely DESTROYED the show. They were amazing; professional, and; in my humble opinion they entirely upstaged the American headliners. It showed too, as their merch table was swamped throughout the duration of the night, with people taking photos with them and getting things signed. Much more so than any of the other acts. But as you can expect, a bunch of South Africans finally meeting up in a foreign country was quite a scene; we used the heartwarming expletives common only to our home soil, hugged it out, drank some beers, complained to each other about the prices of beer and weed, and exchanged some tour stories. Basically, it felt like home for a bit, and it was great.” ~ Johni Holliday

And this is only the beginning. Ruff Majik, with feet fresh on European soil certainly do have their work cut out for them. By the looks of it, nobody is thinking of shirking away from this great endeavour any time soon.

“The plan is to play every festival and every club. Get on every TV set and every radio station and get featured in every magazine, newspaper and print magazine. You know; the standard ‘take over the world’ plan! We’ve got a really great team behind us, so we’ll see how it plays out.” ~ Johni Holliday

Taking over the world is thirsty business

As already touched upon with the Vulvodynia meeting, life on the road can take a toll. Being ripped away from all which is familiar for long periods of time can be disillusioning. The question is: are members of Ruff Majik feeling a longing for home yet, and how does the band cope? Johni fills us in, and also touches on the fond farewell at final South African shows in May:

“Beer mostly! Honestly, Germany so far has felt a lot like home. People treat us really well, so it’s been great. Our send-off shows were amazing! We did two, headlining ‘Return To The Mountains Of Madness’ that was curated by our good friends from League of Doom, and also ‘That 70’s Fest’. Both shows slayed, and the local audiences came out in full force to support us. It was great to see so many smiling faces, headbanging heads and flailing limbs. And ya know, the parties afterwards were pretty great too. Also, all the other bands on the lineup of both nights were amazing! The local scene is becoming a force to be reckoned with!” ~ Johni Holliday

We’ve spoken about Ruff Majik‘s 2019 full-length album recently. Johni gives us just a little more juice to go on, for those who might not have latched on yet:

“Well, it’s called Tårn, which is the Norwegian word for tower. The album art is based on the tower tarot card, which symbolizes extreme change and liberation; things we think the album also embodies. Lyrically it’s about depression, and the many vices we use to deal with it. And musically, it’s just a natural progression of our sound over time, or at least that’s what I like to believe. It has bits of doom, bits of punk, bits of stoner rock, bits of black metal, and really everything that we like and listen to on a daily basis.” ~ Johni Holliday

Buy Tårn via bandcamp for the digital release, or via Lay Bare Recordings for the vinyl.

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