Represent Interview: SPOEK MATHAMBO
Spoek Mathambo’s Spoek Mathambo’s name keeps on knocking on our radar so we thought we’d get straight to it, get in early before the rest & let you know all about this young rebel musician with his own flow. Expect the unexpected when it comes to our featured peeps! In the first of a whole lot of interviews with young people who stand out from the crowd and are defining their own future, here’s SPOEK – see how he rocks
. You can check out his MySpace site here where you can hear his music and see his videos. It’s a long interview, but we think it’s worth it! Good luck to you Spoek and BIG UPS for the interview! Keep it up bro! : Represent:
So Spoek, give us the short version of your back-story if you don’t mind… from birth to now, how did you find yourself where you are at? How old are you and where do you live?
My real name’s Nthato Mokgata, I like to think of myself as the Ndebele prince (and I don’t mean prince like diamante studded one piece lycra suits and hi-heels, but I mean Maraba royal family of Polokwane). My connection to the crown is somewhat remote, but it makes me feel fun inside.
I’m the singer, dancer, songwriter, fashion-face, doodle artist extraordinaire. I like watching old episodes of Seinfeld and drinking slush puppies until my face turns lime green.
I have come to grips with the fact that I’m a bit of a nerd, because hey, what can I say, nerd is very much in vogue now.
Everyday I wake up to my grandmother’s voice. She’s 94 and very strong, abnormally strong (and perty) for a lady of her age. She asks lots of questions, like what am I doing with my life, when I’m going to wash the dishes and when I’m, going to get my driver’s license. That’s my driving force.
I live in Johannesburg in my mother and father’s house. I am 21.
I have been writing songs since I was 10. I never, ever thought I could be a professional rapper. I wanted to become a ninja, a computer programmer and a doctor, then eventually went to med school (because I was a big hippy and wanted to save the world….long story) and ditched the whole ninja thing. I then ditched the whole med school thing and learned to make pictures on the computer…graphic design. I’ve now decided I will become a professional musician.
I am in a group called SWEAT_X with the incredibly talented Afrikaaner, Markus Wormstorm. We are good friends, he also watches a lot of Seinfeld…that helps! In fact he has the rare gift of being able to relate an entire episode, scene for scene and make you feel like you actually watched it yourself. What can I say, he’s a genius. I cannot help but love him.
How do you define /describe yourself?
I am the many-man…can I still say that?!? Remember the song that went, “I’m every woman, it’s all in meeeee!!” Well, right now I really feel like that. I am enjoying the world through its wealth of dimensions…There’s so much and I want to learn it all.
I mean, I’m a Ndebele boy that grew up in Soweto and Sandton, lived in Cape Town, has been lucky enough to travel the world…I really try and read, watch and listen broadly. So I am the sum of a lot of experiences, and I don’t feel jumbled….just really enriched.
I love people. I like to be interested. I am always in trouble (it’s a curse that I’ve had since primary school). I like to make stuff that I can be proud of. I am not all that precious about the stuff that I make. I think one should produce and let work fly…that’s what I really respect about Markus, he’s the consummate productive artist. He is soooooo productive and diverse in his produce!
ELECTRO – how on earth did a Spoek get into Electro music? Electro – can you define Electro music according to Spoek please:
Oh god, I absolutely hate defining music! Language is so useless sometimes, because these things tend to mean completely different stuff to us all. Further more, I’m into a lot more than electro. Electro vs. Electronica vs. Techno etc etc….It is all very tiresome. Not to mention all the scene politics.
I talk in terms of dance music, and that may be a 60s soul song or a crunk number or the coldest, hardest European techno/electro. I talk in terms of schitt that gets people busy on the floor. It’s not about tempo, it’s a mood, a sentiment for me. It may be instrumental, it may be acapella, and it may have vocals and instrumentation.
I enjoy life as a spectrum and so for me Kraftwerk is obviously linked to Afrika Bambata and Mantronix, but it is also very much linked to DJ Funk and ghetto tech as well as the whole Grime scene in the UK and the screwed and chopped schitt in Houston, Texas. This point in time is really about the spill over of everything, because as much as Sun Ra and the European musique concrete guys were tinkering with electronic sound in the 50s, by the 80s it was such a standard that certain aspects could be heard through from mbaqanga to power pop ballads.
Hmmm…To your question. My affinity for dance music and techy stuff is quite new. I was the consummate nerd and dance music never really appealed to my sense of intellect. I was always into “dumb music” via gangster rap, but 90s rap never really had much as far as dance elements. About two years ago, through being really frustrated, I started going out with the sole intention to dance…no socializing, just dancing, and dancing…and dancing!! I’ve subsequently discovered a lot of really hip schitt.
What’s the Electro scene in SA like? Why?
Hmmm, it’s quite hard to say. A while ago, I think the Cape Town crowd got a bit arrogant and felt no one else was doing it, but I think quite a lot of people all over the country are making stuff. What irritates me most is how afraid people are to be freaks…I say freak out, have a laugh!! I hate hate hate that so many people are so caught up in nostalgia and being boring. I hate that about myself as well and like to kick my own but to keep switching stuff up. Watch for Gazelle, I really enjoy what he’s tinkering with and think it’s only going to get more brill.
Are there Electro producers in SA? If so, tell us about them.
Ja, lank producers. The wide-spread availability of music software has made it such that many, many, many more people than ever are able to try their hand at production…
Tell us about Sweat.X – what’s it all about? It’s that boer-ndebele connect…it’s a rib ting, a chicken ting, a wormstorm shake ting, a get busy on a zebra type ting, a skulls and crucifixes lit like a light show type ting, it’s a sexxx ting, very innocent ting…soooo many tings!!
SWEAT_X is two guys in a fast car singing at the top of their lungs. It’s heaps of fun, ribs, chicken, slush puppies, pretty girls saying naughty stuff in the studio and making up dances and catch phrases. SWEAT_X is friends having fun and doing exactly what it is they like. I think right now the only prerequisite is having fun. I say what I like, I dance like a big spazz boy and make up outfits for us to enchant the world in…Markus has phenomenal fashion dreams. Anyways, I think people are really responding to how much fun we’re having.
We met some years ago, and I thought he was real brilliant from the Constructus work that I heard…I then wrote an album of Prince covers that I wanted to do with Markus…welll, I really only half wrote them. I just kept creating projects, where I felt he’d be ideal to work with, but we were kinda too awkward or something to really chat. Until we went on a road trip…the craziest 14 days! We really connected, and just have since come up with 600000000 ideas. It would take many a lifetime to live out SWEAT_X.
And here we are, we’ve got an album ready, we just got signed, we’re in great health and look better than we ever have and we’re loved from Soweto to St Petersburg. Go figure.
Have you performed overseas? Where and how? How did you hook that up?
I performed overseas two years ago, but not as part of SweatX. I worked with Watkin Tudor Jones (of Max Normal fame) for some time and he took me along on a tour they had of Belgium. It was Watkin, myself and Anri…It was rad, funny, tiring, weird. I love the idea of being invited to make people have fun. It’s a strange public service or something.
SWEAT_X has gotten a great response from the European market and we’ve just been invited to play quite a number of European cities. We’re going to spend a fair amount of time overseas over the next while. First tours in May, June and July.
What do you think of the SAMA nominees?
I’m not really hip as to who’s been nominated for what…I’ve never really been interested. I wish everyone Jesus and niknaks!
What radio station do you listen to and why?
I don’t listen to much radio, I find it kind of boring.
What are your thoughts on House music? How long do you think it will live for?
I have no idea, I don’t really know what house is. I think I love house…f-kit man, I love everything…no that’s a bit fat hippy lie. I like it if I like it!
What are your feelings around local HipHop? Any favourites?
Hmmmmmmmm…HipHop as in 4 elements and all that malarkey? I think a lot of it is really safe, really tame, really boring. In the same breath though I must say I love lots of artists’ work…where to start, let me start with family,DJ Sibot is a monster, MCs Japan Black and Caco (somewhat unknown Cape Town geniuses), graff writers, Mak1, Faith47, Drone, Anoy, Skiet…
I am actually very much out of touch with Hip-Hop right now. I am a loner. I use to be very much involved in the HipHop community…I even started the magazine Levitation a number of years ago. I am very much bored by the politics though.
Have you been lucky in life, if so, tell us how. What was the last exciting thing that happened to you? SO much excitement all the time…is drama and excitement the same thing?? Like I said, I’m always in trouble…but I am hugely blessed to be where I am. I don’t know about luck…but I have been very fortunate…from day one. To have family, education, housing, food in a nation where so many have nothing is very much to be privileged.
What ‘gadgets’ do you use in your life and why? (i.e. ipod)
I should…but I’m really the gadget type. I supped up my computer…but a lot of the time I listen to my 80s/90s sound systems so I can listen to tapes, records and CD. I don’t have the money for gadgets…that’s probably why I still live like I’m in the Stone Age.
You live between the two BIG cities – What’s your best thing about Jozi and what’s your best thing about Cape Town?
Cape Town is hardly a big city…Joburg is too big…not exactly big, rather vast. I feel like there’s not really much here that I want to do. I feel bored a lot. In both places. I love shopping in schitty shops in Joburg city centre…I absolutely love that! I love the fact that on walking down a road in Cape Town I will bump into someone I know and maybe love…or hate.
Do you think Cape Town is progressive?
No! I actually find it ridiculously backward. In terms of the racial, socio-economic dynamic, the music industry…it’s a playground for the rich.
What would you change about Jozi if you could?
Improve public transport or centralize social activity better…I hate that I had to walk from Sandton to Rosebank just last week, because the taxi route is so damn complex and the timing is weird. I am not a mountain man…what is this???
What do you do in the evenings and on weekends? What’s your buzz?
I dance. I rap. I rap and dance! I have a dance squad called the Diskoforce, it’s made up of the fashion designer Rozanne Whyte, Sasha (Rozannes’ sister), and Callum O’Connor. We are a 4-way dance partnership. It’s a really big think…not as in synchronized dance…just spazzing away the work blues really!
Do you have any mentors? If so, who are they?
Not really any that I know…more just people that I am fond of that I read about or who’s career I follow or support.
Who are your top 5 musical artists if I want to get into your sound?
Real Estate Agents
Zombie Disko Squad
Tell us about the record deal with the london electro-funk/electric-funk label Citinite.
Well they contacted us and said they want to put the record out. We have been fishing for a deal overseas for a couple of months…just shopping our demo around. Citinite is a very good looking label…terribly hip in that they are very much different from what the other “hipsters” are up to and they’re offering a good spot. I’m very much attracted to that they aren’t a trendy label…it’s a merit thing!
Will this make you rich and famous?
Yes, that’s is all a part of the arrangement…a clause in the deal.
What is your 5 year plan with your music besides world domination?
A big thing for me is to work towards the growth of SweatX sonically, and conceptually. To put out a brilliant debut album by the beginning of next year…that reflects all the fun we’ve had. And to follow up with something completely left of centre. I need to work on my voice. I’ve started a kind of electro-folk outfit with my friend Jade, called Yum!, I wanna see where that goes. I am starting to work with Sibot again…he’s brilliant, really quirky guy. Has a great sense of humour, I love working with him.
The plan is to move out of South Africa for a while and gig hard on the international circuit. I want to collaborate with all sorts of artists and just keep my music interesting.
Apart from SWEAT_X, I’ve been brewing a conceptual Afrikan Elektro project for quite some time…really ethotech type stuff with vocals and chanting. It’s a place where Fela Kuti can meet Felix Da Housecat….I want to expand that idea into a multi-medium show with dancers, drummers, synthesisers and a strong visual art aspect.
What should I do if I am in high school and I’d like to become an Electro musician. What’s the best route?
Don’t be afraid…be a freak…have fun!! People will curse you out…but you will most definitely have the last laugh over these safe suckers! Cool is such a 50s ideal, just push yourself to your limits.