We caught up with bass guitarist Errol Strachan aka Bong from The Rudimentals to find out more about this beloved Cape Town band.
You’re known and loved as a ska and reggae band. What inspired the new sound (with elements of drum n bass and hip hop) found on your 2014 EP Blaze Up The Fire?
Our recently dearly departed and loved manager, Clyde Finlayson [RIP], always gave us a tough time and many speeches about producing radio-friendly music that had a broad appeal to everyone. It seemed, mostly, that he wanted us to try new contemporary approaches so that we could reach more people, via opening up our minds to current popular music. We realised we had to stay relevant and we had to add labels and genres that would help us achieve this end.
So, it was time for a change and also due time to evaluate who and what we had become. I guess he wanted us to try to make more people, and ourselves, happy with what we do. Our trombone player and long time co-producer Ross McDonald then just told us: ‘Guys, let’s lose the labels and genres and just play music and see what we come up with.’ And that’s exactly what we did.
We saw to the re-addition of whizz-producer and electro genius, Antonio Cencherle, as our producer and on live electro samples. There were more additions, with the awesome Jamaican born-and-raised Marlon ‘Khaos’ Cottrell and Zim-born Lloyd ‘King Labash’ on dance-hall vocals, alongside long-time frontman T-Boss Maidza. The added hip hop flavour by Whosane Pangaea is now what drives the band to its current form.
What are the band’s current music influences – what’s mostly being played in the car on the way to gigs these days?
It’s tough to speak for the whole band, but I will try to guess as close as possible.
T-Boss, Khaos and King Labash would mainly listen to Jamaican reggae, dancehall, R&B, hip hop, jazz and maybe some mainstream world charts.
Doc Mike is a very eclectic musician and has very eclectic tastes, so from what I know of him one could expect anything that contains a great guitar player. Kyle … Dream Theatre, Cat Empire and any genre he currently has to use on his next projects and sessions.
The brass guys listen to any and everything, being that they are all music teachers (Simon and Jody) and studio owners (Ross). I’m not sure what the keyboard guys like really, but I do know their tastes are eclectic. I, Bong, am into dubstep and reggae.
What was the most useful lesson the band took away from touring with UB40 back in 2007? And what other bands are on the wish list to tour with?
I think the question you should ask is: what did UB40 take away with them when we toured together… (it probably had something to do with hangover effects and lessons from partying with Bong).
Seriously though, they were awesome people – down to earth, salt of the earth. No airs or graces, just really, really nice people.
But I think musically, it was about minimalism and working and playing together as a team. The practical things were that when you are a big band, you don’t need to do complex things to get a good sound – you just need to play your part. Everything falls into place. There’s no need to be loud on stage, just make sure you can hear everything and everyone else in the monitor mix. Don’t ever have your instrument sound louder than the vocals in the monitors, play under them. Let the engineers do the rest.
It was quite an experience standing side-stage and watching UB40play. Everyone was just chilled and relaxed, and played their parts to perfection.
Band tour wish list – that’s tough to say. The various band members will all differ on views here. For me; Damian Marley (any of the Marleys), Steel Pulse, any cool internationally acclaimed reggae act, Cat Empire … the list is too long to give concise answers.
What is The Rudimentals’ advice to young aspiring bands in SA?
Starting and keeping a band together is not easy. First, make sure that you all have the same idea and vision of genre – it will save a lot of arguments later down the line and lots of time haggling over riffs and styles, pace and venue selections you want to try to play at. It helps if you are all friends beforehand, but it’s not a prerequisite.
Next is, stick it out. Be in it for the long haul. You may not be successful overnight – most start-up bands are not – but you need to stick to what you do. Realise that creating a name and brand for your band needs time.
And just mainly have fun with your band. If it stops being fun, you will lose inspiration. It is an honour and privilege to perform before an audience and if you are not having fun with what you do, they will quickly pick up on that and you diminish the chances of anyone enjoying your performance, somewhat. It’s okay to be nervous, but a few shows later you will be rid of stage fright, so mainly just love what you do with music.
Being a nine-piece band, there must be many creative voices to consider when putting together a show. What can Cape Town fans expect from the Cape Farmhouse show coming up?
You can expect lots of our new sound and songs from Keep Your Fire Burning. We are working hard to provide a nicely presented set for the gig. We always try to present our show differently each time we play. Each show is treated as unique. Also, performing on the day will be Ryan Kidwell and our own Antonio Cencherle (VooDoo), spinning his live electronic magic on the decks.
You can catch The Rudimentals at the Cape Farmhouse this long weekend on Saturday 25 April.