Words: Dave Mann
Photographs: Stan Kaplan/ Vetman van der Naam/ Tim Henny
A Q & A with South Africa’s porkrock godfather
Photo: Vetman van der Naam
In June 1995, a couple of drunk, bored, and reckless teenagers picked up a few instruments, screwed around with them, drank some more, played them a little better and accidentally kicked off a 19 year long career of mosh pit beaten, South African style, Black Label quart drunk punk. Now exactly 19 years later, with four full length albums, a notable amount of touring, and far too many rumours of a band break up, the Hogs are back in studio to bring out their newest album in five years. Frontman George Bacon took some time away from the studio to speak to Archetype about, touring, social media, rehearsal schedules and good old fashioned pork rock.
A: Your last album was five years ago. What has the group been up to since then and how long has this album been in the making for?
GB: Well in a nutshell 2009 and 2010 we mainly were touring SA after releasing the album (Method to the Madness). In 2011 we re-released MTTM on a European label, toured there and played with some really cool bands. In 2012 there were rumours going around that the Hogs had broken up. They were mainly started because we had planned to base ourselves in Berlin, but we still did a few tours in 2012 in SA as well as Europe. This is also when we started working on some of the new material. While living in Berlin, I made some great contacts in the punk rock world that will be a huge help to us once we release the new album. In 2013 after a SA tour I moved to London where I am now setting up a London based Hogs touring band so that touring out of Africa can be done much more easily and frequently.
Photo: Timmy Henny
A: Hogs have seen the rise and supposed fall of punk rock in SA. What’s it like having played through almost two decades of the South African music scene?
GB: When we started in 1995, the punk scene in Cape Town consisted of us and a handful of friends who got drunk together every Saturday afternoon to the soundtrack of 90’s thrash metal at Arties Underground. Back then punk was just something that happened in the 70’s and 80’s and starting a punk band was probably one of the least popular things we could have done. We never intended it, or thought it ever could be anything long-term or serious – hence the name Hog Hoggidy Hog. The way we carried on back then (and sometimes still a bit now) I didn’t expect to live past 25 never mind still be rocking out with the Hogs and still loving it 19 years later. Sure the mainstream popularity of the genre itself has waxed and waned over the years, but it has been doing this in cycles in South Africa for over twice as long as we’ve been around and probably going to carry on long after we’re gone too. Quite honestly, when punk rock falls out of the realm of mainstream cool, that is where it feels the most comfortable. It’s certainly what we’re most used to and where we seem to thrive.
A: As always, we see the influences of bands like NOFX, Mad Caddies and other influential punk icons in your music. Who or what has been the main influence in the songwriting and recording process this time round?
GB: Since the last album, through touring Europe and me living there, the music we’ve been getting into lately has been quite different. I think this is going to come through on the album too. There’s probably going to be what I can only describe as a slightly Balkan feel to some of the new songs. It is still going to be traditional porkrock – in your face, upbeat punk and ska with an African twist, but with something new that makes it feel less western and more central and strangely even more Hog Hoggidy Hog than before.
Photo: TImmy Henny
A: Describe a typical day in the studio for the Hogs.
09:30: Ross arrives at studio to set up.
10:00: Time booked to start at studio.10:30: DV rocks up to set up his drums. (kit has been set up the day before, just trying to set up a decent sound).
11:00: George arrives hoping that everyone is set up and ready to go.
11:30: Lee and Sean Snout arrive hoping the same thing.
12:00: Drums finally set up.
12:30: Sit around talking crap while we wait for Amos who told everyone that he was going to be there at 10:30.
13:30: Amos arrives, but Lee is feeling a bit peckish so we take a break to get some lunch which is a sit-down affair at a restaurant along with a couple of beers.
15:00: Back in the studio, set up bass and scratch guitar and vocals.
16:00: Start tracking drums and bass.
16:45: First track down for drums. Sean Snout not really happy with his bass line though.
18:00: Second track down for drums. Snout a little happier with this bass line.
19:00: Third track down for drums. Neither DV or Snout are happy with their takes, might want to redo it. Ross is tired now so we call it a day.
19:30: A couple of celebratory pints after the session. Feeling good about what we’ve done and looking forward to the same process the next day.
…No wonder it takes us so long to record albums.
A: Part of today’s music industry and its potential for granting success to artists is a strong grasp of self promotion across various social media platforms and a strong online presence, which is probably one of the least punk things ever. How do you guys feel about social media and self promotion of this type? Is it more effective than the earlier days?
GB: How it worked for most of our first shows was, someone would make a poster (usually by hand) and a smaller flyer version. We would then make as many photocopies as possible and the whole band would get together with a bucket of wallpaper glue and a case of beers and we would make a night of it. Sometimes things got out of control and our overzealous poster runs had the police knocking on our door the next morning, but it was good fun and to be perfectly honest it seemed to be more effective than how things work today. It was a lot simpler back then. If you fancied going out to watch a live show, there was a gig guide on the radio or one in the newspaper and because everyone religiously added their upcoming shows to these, if it wasn’t there, it wasn’t happening.
Personally I have mixed feelings about social media marketing. It was cool at first because it made it possible to get the word out to the masses instantly, but over the last few years it’s become so saturated that in order to get your word out there, you need to either pay someone to promote your band/event or to devote all your time into doing it yourself. And for people like us that are more interested in making music than irritating people with social marking spam, it’s just really made us lazy. We do have a mailing list, a website gig guide, Twitter account and Facebook page that we update regularly but we kind of just rely on word of mouth doing the rest. It works for us, but it’s nowhere near as fun as getting shit-faced with a pile of A4 posters and a bucket of wallpaper glue.
Photo: Timmy Henny
A: Almost 20 years after you guys broke onto the scene, we’re seeing bands like Grassy Spark crawling out of the ska woodwork. What do you think of the current punk and ska that’s being produced locally and what does it feel like to know that you’ve been a core influence on them?
GB: There are some really good bands coming out these days, Grassy Spark obviously being one of them. If we were supposedly a core influence, I guess we feel really honoured and at the same time quite humbled as some of these bands are way better than us (and almost all of them are at least better than we were at their age). We always try to do our best to support and help out new bands. The more new bands coming out, the better things are for everyone.
A: George, you’ve been in the UK for some time now where there’s a gig about two or three times a week minimum. How have you enjoyed the shows there and do you think they’ll add to any of your own stage presence and performance?
GB: Yes definitely, it already has. I have actually only been in UK for a few months, I was staying in Berlin for the past two years… but I’ve seen and met loads of really cool bands and been to some awesome shows there too. There is definitely a level of professionalism in the way that things are organised and we might have a way to go with that in SA, but otherwise the one thing that I have noticed is actually how very similar things are… worldwide. Even the biggest internationally touring punk rock bands still play in dingy little clubs smelling of mould, stale beer and cigarette smoke. It kinda puts things into perspective – the only real difference between them and SA bands is location.
A: When the album drops and you guys tour, do you plan on heading to any venues you’ve never played before?
GB: Yes. What we really would like to do is to tour Africa. Like not just South Africa or even Southern Africa. Actually try get out a bit on our own continent. We’ve got a couple of contacts and we’re keen to make it happen. It’s likely we’d have to run a tour like this on a loss, so it’s more something we just really want to do. We’ll just have to work out how much of a loss to see if we can actually afford to do it, but it’s something we all really want to do.
A: Any plans to get the old wrecking crew of Hogs, Half Price and Fuzigish together for a few shows anytime soon?
GB: Of course, it’s a good combination because we’re all really good friends. Although we try not to do this too often because it usually takes us all a few months for our livers and brains to recover from the after party.
A: Lastly, any idea about what the new album will be called or when the world can expect to hear it?
GB: We’re still tossing around a couple of names. Our last two albums took us ages to find a name for, but I think this one will be easier. We’re aiming for 2015, but at the same time, we like to make good albums rather than just release them to keep ourselves in the media or keep our public profile up.