Spoek Mathambo has received a fair amount of exposure, both locally and internationally, but with the recent release of his album "Father Creeper" things are now really starting to move in directions big. We thought it best to capture a few words from the man himself, before his star shoots stellar and phone calls may go unanswered.
"The last few releases have been on international labels. The last album didn't get any distribution in Africa, but this one is licensed to Sony here and the launch is happening about now. This is the first time I have really done press in South Africa. This is the beginning of my career, so, yeah, it's all good."
Photo: Sean Metelerkamp
Channel surfing generation
Spoek Mathambo is self-labelled as "new time artist", meaning a product of the post-postmodern, instant information, one-world-wide-web generation. His music reflects this, in particular album "Father Creeper", a jumble of genres and ideas that has been described as everything from claustrophobic and scattered, to uniquely experimental and bravely ground-breaking.
"I think a lot of people have old-time brains and I'm kinda a new-time artist. Other people still very much think in terms of rock 'n' roll and rap and country music; they live in these different cultural spaces. And for me there doesn't need to be these different cultural spaces, 'cause I listen to country music and I listen to rap and I listen to punk rock, I listen to house and techno as well. And so it's only natural that I reflect that. I think I am of that first generation of musicians that has that, you know, that depth and breadth of musical appreciation and exposure. A lot of it had to do with growing up with the remote control in my hand, flicking through the channels, growing up with the Internet. So combining different cultural spaces is nothing new to me. But to other people it is new because they feel the need for something definite in these very indefinite times, but, on the other hand, a lot of people from a lot of publications that I highly respect, like Mojo magazine and other very credible music magazines, are excited."
This cultural space-mashing sound didn't go unnoticed and international alternative label Sub Pop, which also plays father to diverse artists, such as The Shins, Wolf Parade and Soundgarden, contacted him last year and pretty much told him that they digged his music. Next thing he was signed. A perfect fit.
"They wrote to me, they liked the last album and they played it in their offices. I listened to a lot of their releases, so it was quite an exciting thing. Yeah, so we had a chat and we got it going."
The road to recording
Spoek Mathambo is definitely not a "lock your solo self away in the studio" type of artist, but as he so rightly pointed out, with the many contacts and friends he has made on his musical journey it was a "no-brainer" to utilise and get them involved in the creation and recording of "Father Creeper". From his wife Ana Rab, who penned the first single Put Some Red On It to childhood friends - all helped shape the album to what it is.
"The album was made in over a month; a lot of it was made on the road. I started off in America in a tour van with my friend Steve, just producing stuff in the car. Some songs were written before, one by Richard the 3rd and one by my wife, and then later on I linked up with a band in Cape Town - a good guitarist called Nicholas van Reenen, a drummer called Jakob Snake, Richard the 3rd, a producer I worked with a lot on the last album and then worked out a whole bunch of other songs. We had toured the year in America in 2010 and Europe for a bunch of days; we had honed these songs on the road and now we had the chance to make them work in the studio. And then I also had a friend of mine ,Theo Tuge, who I went to high school with - he is a classically trained pianist, so we linked up and he was a kinda musical director for the whole project and was helping me through a lot of theory stuff. From there, I took everything with me to Sweden and worked with an old friend of mine Marvy Da Pimp from Paris. He came in for mixing. We just experimented. It was a great experience not only to be working on computers, but also to have the whole analogue (Malmö) studio."
2012 will be a busy, busy year for Spoek Mathambo. A South African and international tour, which will have him ascending stages from France to Romania; plans to work on another album; a bunch of remixes - one of them for pop sensation Lana Del Ray; many more colabs and video releases. And being the renaissance artist that he is, he plans to get more involved in video production, trying his hand at directing.
"I want to make more music videos. I have written treatments before and have loosely directed stuff before. But on the last video, Let Them Talk, I worked on the project. I directed that video so I wanna get more into that. The way we shot it was kinda like a short film. I want to write a lot more treatments that are film first, music second."
No doubt that whatever Spoek attempts next it will be interesting and unique, possibly even downright bizarre. Stay Tuned.
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