FPK and Van Coke Kartel head to London in May

Speaking to Wynand Myburgh and Francois Van Coke is fun. They’re more than happy to explain to the novice fan what it’s like playing in two big SA rock bands – and how to support your own band…

Where did Van Coke come from?
WM It kind of evolved naturally – with Fokofpolisiekar at the end of 2006 we decided to take a break after we’d been on the go virtually since we started in 2003 – we’d been touring in Africa and that was the last time we were in London and we travelled a bit of Europe, Belgium and Amsterdam – so we took a break in 2007. Francois and myself, after a month of sitting at home realised we wanted to try and write something together and that was how Van Coke Kartel took off.”

What do they both offer you?
We could do more of our own thing with Van Coke Kartel. With Fokofpolisiekar, it’s like old friends and we get back into the vibe while with Van Coke Kartel it’s a day-to-day thing – we’re writing a new album at the moment, play a lot of shows. It’s Francois and myself and two English guys in Van Coke so it’s 
got a different dimension and a different energy.

When did you decide on London?
We’ve being wanting to go back to London for a while. With Fokof we’ve been concentrating on bigger events in Africa – like festivals. We’re not really doing the club circuit or small festivals.

How busy are you?
There’s a number of spin-offs that are very popular and we’re talking about writing what would be the third full-length album for fokofpolisicecar for next year. A publisher and a writer approached us last year and said they wanted to write a kind of biography and would we talk and work with them – so there’s a bit of an exciting vibe about Fokofpolisiekar and we’ve been touring Africa to promote it ... the main idea was to go back to London and check out the vibe.

When you tour with both bands, how does it work?
Well, in London we’ll do one or two other venues with Van Coke Kartel, we’re looking at the Aardvark, which is a more Afrikaans kind of set up and then we’re looking at a clubby venue with a local act but for the Clapham show – they reckoned we should just put both bands on the bill for one night – so it will be both bands – we did an event called Van FocKing Tasties which was Van Koke Kartel, Die Heuwels Fantasties and aKing – all bands on one night, it was a big success. On those kind of nights the guys will have to do like three gigs a night – that happens quite a lot at festivals –  I think it’s worst for the drummer who has to play a big set and then do another set as well...with only an hour’s break inbetween.

Is it strange to support yourselves?
In the beginning being in both/more bands was strange and weird but we’ve been doing it now for two years or even longer so we’re getting used it. The non-commercial bands battle to get the same kind of exposure that pop music does so being part of a number of bands kind of helps to make it possible to make a decent kind of living. We all want to be involved in as many projects as we can be so we can get people to buy into it and continue to do what we are doing.

What market is there for rock?
When Fokof started the rock music scene, especially in Afrikaans, was kind of limited and our project was to produce music with more of an international flavour, music that we listened to – SA rock then was pretty dull and laid-back and we were all into punk rock bands – US and European bands. After Fokof, the scene exploded quite a bit with the hype we got from it – that was in 2002 and now we’ve got an active music channel MK so people can listen to rock music 24/7. We’ve also got a handful of rock festivals, some sponsors and quite a few promoters and labels, so there is a scene and people making a living from it.

You did a great – and unbelievable cover of Maniac. Is English a plan?
It is a question we often get. When we started Fokof, writing in Afrikaans was quite weird because there was nothing to compare to...we started a new wave of rock in Afrikaans and that’s the way we want to keep it but with Van Coke, Francois and I are way more open-minded...we started doing Afrikaans again because that was what we were comfortable with on stage but for the last year we have had two English band members so the dynamics have changed. With Fokof, it’s Afrikaans guys hanging around speaking Afrikaans, in Van Coke, it’s English guys too so it’s shifted. We want to still write our own stuff but are also looking at covers and we’re talking about one or two English tracks on the Van Coke Kartel album – we are open to that but with Fokof, not at all.

Choosing the name Fokof was to shock? Have you outgrown that?

When we started Fokof, we were all very young and the vibe burst out of the whole kind of traditional background that we came from – the whole Afrikaans vibe and we kind of wanted to rebel against that. A lot of that came out in the first and second album. That theme has never really changed – it’s still present, it’s just not as direct and as we always say, we’re definitely not as angry as we were at that stage – then we were typical frustrated youth – trying to work out our own place in society. We wanted to challenge a lot of stuff. We are more established now, older and more set in our ways, we’ve kind of made peace with who we are and people around us have also made peace with us. A lot of things have changed in the Afrikaans and even South African culture that allow for different individuals to operate together so it’s definitely mellower...

Did you influence Zef music?
I wouldn’t say directly because we do rock music and they do hip-hop but we’ve known Jack Parow from the early days of fokof. He’s always been a friend and Ninja and Yolandi from Die Antwoord, we kind of grew up with them on the music scene. I think Fokof opened the doors for alternative music.

Your lyrics are social commentary, do you think you’d get political?
When we started with Fokof, it was music we did almost for ourselves. Being older and reading more and understanding more, we are a bit more into that kind of side... with Fokof’s new album we’ll see what comes out. With Van Coke Cartel it’s more about what happens inside our circles.

You’re both from Belville?
Yes, but early on Francois and myself moved to Cape Town and then when we started Fokof we moved back – in the past few years it seemed everything moved to Cape Town and then our lead guitarist moved back to Belville so it kind of goes back and forth. We’re all Cape Town blokes at the moment.

Is there still the north/south divide?
When rock music became popular we had English-speaking supporters from the southern suburbs. I think that division has shifted but even recently it used to be ‘oh, these guys are from Belville and the Boerwors curtain’ now we go play Kirstenbosch gardens and it will be packed out with people from the southern suburbs...

What can London expect?

Fokof has always been very upbeat and pumping, we will play songs from our first album to our latest release. They can come check out the band and hang with us and have a jol...

Francois, what is happening with Van Coke Kartel?
FVC We busy writing our fourth album, it’s evolved since we started. We recently got another drummer and guitarist – we are writing with them.

What music is popular in SA?

I think the last year hip-hop became very popular again – things go in cycles – but in general I think good music in every genre is doing well.

To go back to Maniac - how on earth did that come about?
When we were writing the album my girlfriend was listening to that song in her car the whole time – the original and I was kind of like, fuck, I fell in love with it and when we were writing our 12 tracks I said there was a cover we had to do. I was thought of as weird for bringing that to the party but we ended up doing it. It’s nice to play live, we do it a little bit heavily that it’s played on the album – and people love to sing along...It took a lot of people by surprise (laughs) after we’d being playing Afrikaans rock music for seven years or whatever...

How does it work with covers?
We never really thought about them – both of us read Eric Clapton’s biography and Cocaine was a big song that he covered – so we started playing that one live just for the fuck of it and it ended up on the album and then Maniac also came along – but I don’t really think we’ll do any covers for the new album. English songs we will do...

Has anyone in management ever said you should sing in English?
It has been raised but not forced. Obviously SA is just that big, we would like to play elsewhere in the world so it would help to have an English track or two...

At your last gig in London, what did you find the audience was like?

Exactly the same as in Pretoria. We played the Walkabout in Shepherd’s Bush. There were some people who didn’t understand a word of Afrikaans, which is also great.

What are you doing now?

We’re busy with the new album for Van Coke Kartel, we will be recording tracks – the album should be out in December...

The concerts at Clapham Grand will be both bands?

Van Coke Kartel will kind of open for Fokof, which is a bit more established and has played in the UK before...

When you and Wynand started off? What were you hoping for?
We wanted to establish something for ourselves that we could do as a career – it was kind of unheard of for rock musicians to play in South Africa for a living. There were a couple of rock bands like the Springbok Nude Girls.  My mom said to me: “if you want to do this for a living you will have to be bigger than the Springbok Nude Girls... I said ja, mom, don’t worry about it (laughs).

The bands are brought to London by Marcus Oosthuizen and Patriot 
Productions (other dates tbc)
Date : 27 May 2011
Venue : The Clapham Grand – 21-25 St John’s Hill Clapham Junction London SW11 1TT,  Tickets £15