17
Oct
13

The Tiger Talks Shit With Joe Theron, Singer For Woodstock Mafia

Woodstock-MafiaWe’re trying a new thing on the site today kids, so don’t freak out ok? Today we’re inviting someone who isn’t me onto the site to chat to ya’ll in what us gonzo journalist types like to call “an interview”.

I hope to do a whole bunch of these “interviews” on the site with different people that are rad and who deserve all the love and respect the interwebs can muster.

So here’s an interview I conducted over a month ago with Joe Theron from Woodstock Mafia who is a not only a stand-up guy, but is also a very patient man for waiting this long for your Tiger Pal to actually post this interview.

By way of introduction, this is the first episode of the Tiger talks shit. I’m sitting here today with Joe Theron, frontman and vocalist for Woodstock Mafia. Exciting times for you guys, we have just been talking about the album launch which took place on Friday at Mercury and you were telling me it was an absolutely killer, killer night.

Yeah, it was the most packed that I’ve ever seen the Mercury, everyone was paying attention and everyone was listening to us, they were there for us, it was cool.

That’s quite a rare thing to see, everyone at Mercury listening to the band. The best I’ve ever seen was maybe an 80/20 ratio of people listening vs people talking shit at the bar. What do you guys attribute that attention to – have you noticed a strong following developing for Woodstock Mafia, are there some regulars you’ve noticed at your gigs?

Yeah, there are definitely a couple of regulars we’ve noticed at the shows. I mean, we’ve based ourselves in Cape Town from the start and pushed as hard as we could right from the beginning. It really all started gaining momentum when we sent our first single “Electric Light” to 5FM last April, which is still playing on 5FM. That was really the lift-off for the band. It was an awesome feeling to have your friends call you up and be like, “You guys are playing on 5FM!” I even had buddies from my hometown Mossel Bay call me up and go crazy about it, so that’s when we knew we were starting to take off.

 

 

Look, even I’ve heard the track play at least six or seven times on 5FM and I hardly listen to the station at all, so that’s a huge positive for the band. Let’s shift the focus toward you as a vocalist and a performer. What was the first album that you heard when you were a kid or a young teenager that blew your mind and turned you onto music?

As a vocalist I really appreciate the way Brandon Boyd sings from Incubus. The album Morning View was one of my favourite albums of all time back when I was in Standard six. That album blew me away, but I’ve been singing ever since I was seven years old. I started playing guitar because my dad’s also a musician. He taught me how to play guitar and I started singing as well and when I realised, “Ok, I can actually sing” I decided to focus on that.

But going back to Incubus, I just really enjoyed Brandon’s tone when he sings and the melodies he comes up with. He’s a very, very good vocalist and for me that’s key. The vocalist in a band has to be good, because even if the music’s brilliant, if the vocalist is crap then what’s the use of having an awesome band?

Tru dat. So how long did you live in Mossel Bay for?

Well, I actually lived in Oudshoorn first and went to Mossel Bay in highschool. Then after that I went to London for two years on a working holiday type vibe. So I stayed there for two years, did some travelling then came back, started studying and then after that I started a band basically.

What did you study?

Sound Engineering. I’m a qualified sound engineer.

Do you find that being a sound engineer makes you overly critical of your work in studio?

Well, I still listen to the album and think we should have done this or that differently because I’m quite a perfectionist when it comes to recording, but overall I’m really happy with the way the album came out.

The one part of being a sound engineer and being in a band that is difficult though are the working hours. As a sound engineer I’m usually working at nights and on weekends so sometimes I have to cancel gigs and stuff like that, but I enjoy what I do and am getting good at what I do, mixing and recording bands.

Out of interest, which bands are you working with at the moment?

Well I’m not specifically working for any bands but I did sound for Freshly Ground the other day, Toya De Lazy is also in our department, my boss actually does the sound for her, but I help out every once in awhile.

She’s a rare example of an SA artist writing pretty decent pop at the moment and I think there’s a lot to be said for that because call me a cynic but pop for me is too easy.

Yeah, I’m not a pop fan. It’s written for the masses. It’s feel-good music.

But you play guitar as well?

Yes.

 

 

Did you throw a few riffs into the mix while you guys were writing and recording your first album Defiance?

Yeah, there’s a song on the album called “Fade Out Night” which I contributed some guitar parts to.

Hectic, I’d actually made a note to ask you about that song because for me, that song and “Electric Light” are the two best on the album.

Nick, the guitarist, is usually the one who writes the songs, but for that one I’d started writing the verse, then Nick took it from there and fleshed it out into a finished track. But he basically took some of the ideas I had and exploded it into a song.

That’s a great choice of words for describing a guitarist like Nick – “exploded” – because he has this fucking crazy energy when he plays, he’s like a force of nature.

I think he has a very original stage personality, the way he plays live. He really jams it out. He doesn’t like to get distracted, as we noticed the other day cause there were a bunch of people jumping onstage and he wasn’t happy about that.

This is my space! Get the hell outta here!

Yeah, I mean he’s got a lot of pedals to work when he plays, a lot of distortion pedals and stuff so it’s understandable.

Yeah that makes sense. But it’s insane because his energy even on the album is infectious.

He’s very good at what he does.

For sure. I mean for me, Defiance is one of those album that when you get to the end of it you exhale and try to get your shit back together because it’s a pretty wild ride. There are only really two tracks on the album that are acoustic one of which, “Ghost”, which is also the album closer I thought was a an awesome stand-out track.

Yeah, with Ghost we actually recorded that track without click track because we wanted it to have a more natural feel, the others we recorded with a click so they are very, very tight.

For the most part on the album though, you guys throw down some seriously explosive, seriously high-energy rock music. What I like about your style is you guys aren’t big into wanky solos. Instead there seems to be quite an emphasis on awesome build ups and pretty solid bridges as well. Is that also Nick’s influence?

Yeah, it’s mainly Nick’s songwriting, but we all work together to create the product that we want to create. Like if I’m not happy with something or Ryan isn’t happy with something, we say it in the rehearsal room and just change whatever it is that doesn’t work so that the end result is the best it can possibly be. We also try to work on our dynamics quite a lot so that our songs aren’t just on one level.

And it’s also not just one tone that you guys use, I also noticed you guys experiment quite a bit with different guitar sounds and tones on the album.

Yeah we used a couple of amps and different guitars from Marshall Music because it’s exactly that, we didn’t want every song to sound the same. We wanted to create something different, something unique on every song so that every song can stand on its own.

 

 

And I know it’s early days, but have you got anything planned for the next album?

Well yeah, it’s awesome to actually think about how we are going to create the next album because it’s never-ending, y’know? Everything is going to be recreated and after Rocking The Daisies we are actually going to start creating the next album.

Do you guys have anything kicking around at the moment in terms of songs or ideas for songs or are you literally going to start fresh with the new album?

Nick has two ideas for songs at the moment but otherwise yeah, we will be pretty much starting from fresh.

Let’s chat a little about Daisies because last year you guys had a slot as well on the Thursday night if I’m not mistaken?

Yeah, we played on the Black Label stage, the Campsite Stage and there were quite a few people there, all the early birds came to the stage and it was quite big, it was quite packed. I think we were the band that started the festival, we kicked things into first gear. It was a good gig, I can remember people going off.

But now, exactly one year later, you guys have arguably a much better slot.

We’re playing at 3.30 on the Saturday afternoon on the main stage so it’s a good slot. People are starting to get amped for the night. It’s quite crazy to think how far we’ve come in a year because as a South African band, you have to start from the bottom up, work your way up and see what happens.

Who are some of the other South African bands that you guys enjoy?

I’ve been playing with a band called Stoker, I used to play drums for them when they started out, that’s a band that I really love. I heard them live recently and they are sounding amazing. The songs are brilliantly written, they have a lot of dynamics, a lot of stop / starts. It’s grungy rock, so I really dig it.

Another band that I really look up to and enjoy their music is Taxi Violence. There’s just a lot of swag, a lot of sass in their music.

There’s also another band, they have more of a funky vibe – New Academics from Joburg. I think they might have broken up now but they had a really cool sound.

It’s pretty tragic isn’t it? I think there are a lot of South African bands that go that route, that have an awesome sound that could even get international recognition but unfortunately end up calling it a day before they can realise their full potential.

It’s mainly a money issue. That’s why we went the whole route of pre-selling the album. We never had enough money to record the album so we started a crowd sourcing campaign and asked people to buy the album and then we got the money from that to start recording it. It was a bold decision, but it worked out for us.

That’s why I had that form I was working with when you arrived earlier, I was marking off the albums that I posted this morning. I’m posting them to people all over the world that helped fund the album. We’re happy to do it and in some cases if the people are in Cape Town we actually go and visit them and drop off the album in person and we listen to the album with them and ask them what they think. It’s just a nice way to repay the people who have been waiting so long for this album.

What is the next big step for Woodstock Mafia?

Yeah, we’ve always set ourselves goals, I mean Ryan (the bassist) is the manager of the band, but we work together with him to set ourselves goals to try and achieve within a certain timeframe so we always have something to work towards. So the next thing, which we discussed the other day, is getting a record deal with Sony or EMI to get the album out there. So that’s the next step, to get the album out there, get it into shops, get it onto iTunes, work on album no. 2 in the meantime and try to get better slots at festivals.

 

 

Here’s a crazy one – let’s say we had to go through the band and describe each different band member as an animal, what would they be?

Nick would be a deer. He’s eating grass and he’s chilled, but he’s also fast, he can get away from his prey, he’s adaptable. Ryan the bassist, he’s like a hippo, but hippos are not angry so…

Yeah, but more people are killed by hippos in Africa every year than any other animal.

(Laughs) Yeah, well then he’s DEFINITELY a hippo. Owen is a giraffe because he’s so tall, but also a really intelligent guy, always on the ball, he knows exactly what he’s doing.

Shit, we’re nearly at the end of the interview and I haven’t even asked the obvious question of “How did you guys start out?” so yeah. How did you guys start out?

I was playing guitar and singing backing vocals for another band, I don’t know if you know a singer called Tailor, she recently recorded an album called Dark Horse and I was singing for her onstage and then Ryan came in to play bass, but unfortunately that band broke up and Ryan asked me to do vocals for his new band which didn’t have a name back then.

I went to Nick’s house in Green Point, did an audition and they said, “Cool, let’s start a band. Let’s do it.”

It’s been cool to see the friendships grow in the band since that point. I mean Ryan and Nick were already friends but the rest of the band has bonded a lot more now that we’ve tasted some success. I mean recording this album has been a big thing in all our lives.

Yeah, I mean how many people can you say you’ve shared that experience with?

Exactly. It’s actually unreal how the big dream is to be a successful musician in South Africa, then all of a sudden it happens and you’re like, “Ok cool, what’s the next thing that’s going to happen?” You’re always thinking about what comes after that, you step up the game a little more. That’s how life goes, you just go up and up and up until you can’t, until you explode.

And then you’re Miley Cyrus naked on a wrecking ball. Promise me you’ll never do that.

(Laughs) No I won’t. I’ll never be naked on a wrecking ball, I promise.

-ST


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