Words: Dave Mann
A Q&A with Sibot and Toyota
Between his recent ‘Arc Eyes’ EP, performing at Sonar Festival in Barcelona, constant touring, collaborations, and music videos, you could say that Sibot has had a fairly busy year so far. But then again, it’s Sibot so not really. Despite their busy schedule, Sibot and Toyota still found the time to have a drink with Archetype Online Magazine ahead of their show in Grahamstown and chat about African Electronic Music, VJing, and making music for commercials amongst other things.
A: Okay so you guys are on a mini tour at the moment and this is the first stop. Where else are you going?
Sibot: It’s here in Grahamstown, a show in PE, Durban, MieliePop Festival, and Soweto with BoyznBucks.
A: BoyznBucks are blowing up. What’s your relationship with those guys?
Sibot: Firstly friends, but a working relationship too. I did that track ‘Nice Shandees’ with Okmalumkoolkat, but friends with all of the other members.
Toyota: Right, we’re like a little family.
A: I’m quite interested in the new movement happening in African Electronic Music. So Sibot, you’ve worked with Spoek for a number of years now and now with guys like Malum, what do you think of the cultural crossover that this music is bringing about?
Sibot: I don’t think it’s a new thing, I think people have been trying to do it since the 80’s, but even with Spoek, and Sweat X and Playdoe I think that electronic stuff that we’re pushing, we were doing that in I think 2007, 2008, but I think it’s important, I think for a country like ours which is completely damaged from its past, it’s important for people in their various scenes to try and work together in order to try and bring those scenes together.
Toyota: Then you’ve also got something like John Wizards that’s like, mostly private school white kids, but it’s bringing a completely African flavour to the international market. I don’t think colour can denote Africanism and an African sound as such.
A: But with musical genres having their own sort of cultures and subcultures that come along with them, do you think there’s any chance of cultural misappropriation?
Sibot: I think there’s a lot of cultural misappropriation happening. I think Africanism is this strange sort of thing that Europe is pushing on South Africans or Africans in general. You see it a lot in the art scene. It’s something that’s been freaking me out quite a lot lately.
Toyota: Michael Stevenson gallery dropped most of their smaller white artists, quite honestly, in order to try and take on more African artists to appeal to the European market.
Sibot: Ja and it’s African artists in the sense that it’s a European buyers perception of African art, because they’ve got the money it’s sort of funding this Africanism. I’ve seen many musical artists in South Africa sort of ‘Africanise’ themselves to appeal to a European market.
A: Can there be benefits to that? I remember reading an interview with you where you spoke about how important musical tourism is for the local scene. Is there a risk of European Africanism in that?
Sibot: For me it’s more based on people coming here to actually experience what’s going on and not just picking up things that they like the most. Maybe international acts going into the townships and playing a festival around there. That would be music tourism to me.
A: Sibot, you’ve got your commercial work writing music for adverts and then you’ve got your DJing and producing. Do you separate the two?
Sibot: I don’t really try to. It’s mostly separate I suppose, but recently I got commissioned to write a track for a brand so I immediately went to Riky Rick from BoyznBucks and asked him if he’d wanna work together on it so that’s a complete merge of those two worlds. It’s Riky Rick and Sibot working on this track and we’ve pretty much got creative freedom so it’s a nice merge of the commercial and then my personal stuff.
A: I remember being a kid and seeing this ad with a guy skating around and they used ‘Super Evil Me’ as the soundtrack and I just jammed out in front of the TV. I think it was a Fritos ad.
Sibot: Ja that was a Fritos ad. You know what happened with that, I did the ad that December before everyone goes on holiday and the client approves it, I say cool, I wanna go on holiday and then the client comes back and pulls the ad and puts some Drum and Bass track on it. But it was cool, because we still got paid though. You must have seen it just when it aired or something, before they changed it. That was a while back.
A: Okay so you two coming together as a live duo, how did that come about?
Sibot(To Toyota): You wanna go?
Toyota(To Sibot): No you go for it, I’d actually like to know how it came about.
Sibot: Okay so I was doing the live shows, but a lot of it was going over people’s heads and Fletcher said to me one day that he’s watched the show and it’s great, but he kept having to explain to people what I was doing. At that point I started wondering, does it matter? Should I even be doing this? Do people really care? So I decided to try something different and I started renting out cameras and giving them to a VJ on the night of a show. It was quite a heavy process trying to organise that. I remember when I went over to France, took the cameras and had to work with a VJ there, it was a bit of a nightmare and I was just sick of it. I think I worked with one more VJ before Natalie (Toyota) came up to me and said “Listen I think we should work together on a live act.” We did a show and it just went so smoothly. I think working with anyone can be difficult, but this has been pretty painless.
Toyota: Except for all the setting up, the setting up can cause some pain.
Sibot: Ja, I don’t really get involved with that, it just stresses me out. When you’ve got like three minutes until your set and there are no visuals yet, I just don’t get involved.
Toyota(To Sibot): You just stick to your songs and I’ll get the visuals sorted.
Sibot: Natalie also comes from an animation background and has a great aesthetic so I think I’ve sort of left her to have her own freedom to do what she wants.
A: Do you have a collaborative process when crafting the shows?
Toyota: Ja, we’ll have some visuals for songs and work on some songs together, but mostly I just incorporate whatever I’m making at the time.
A: And why do you think audiences need more than just a live performance nowadays?
Sibot: I think visuals make a party look expensive. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but you walk into a party and you see there’s a whole thing going on and you’re like “Yeeeah, this is nice.” It’s probably an old school mentality. I think it’s just raising the bar. It’s tricky though, I mean you don’t want to over capitalise and get a show so tricked out that you can’t book it. I’ve often thought “you know fuck this, we could be doing so many more shows and stripping them down”, but it’s tricky.
A: I was interviewing a psych rock group a few days ago and even they were talking about introducing visuals, because they find that crowds need that element now.
Toyota: Yes it’s a tricky balance, because it’s harder to get an audio- visual show in a smaller venue, because it’s quite expensive and it makes it a little more difficult. Overseas most venues are geared towards that, because that’s how it’s been there for so long, but here it’s only the bigger venues that have it. But it’s just the whole audio- visual experience. I mean, you can’t really play a festival without visuals-
Sibot: Well we did.
Toyota: Oh like we did at Sonar!
Sibot: Basically, we didn’t end up doing visuals at Sonar in Barcelona and Toyota’s job is to provide great visuals, but also to help hype up the crowd too. So luckily she was still there to provide that hype and it worked out fine in the end.
A: Do you still make your own costumes like you did in the beginning?
Sibot: Yup. We were busy soldering it at the hotel just now.
Toyota: Ja we’re professional like that.
Sibot: I have a weird problem with handing stuff over to people to do, it’s a weird control freak thing I guess, but even with working on videos and stuff like that I feel like I can get involved and do more than I should.
A: How was the whole process of the Nice Shandees music video?
Sibot: Ja it was cool. It was hectic, a lot when in to it and it was pretty last minute, but it’s all on the editing now.
Toyota: Ja it’s all up to the directors now.