I wake up in Boston, Bellville, over a cup of instant coffee and a Stuyvesant. We’re sitting in his garden making small talk. I’ve only seen him on stage, larger than life and rocking harder than hell. Big gulps of Nescafé and deep draws of our cigarettes has now made us momentary equals.
PHOTOGRAPHY: HAYDEN PHIPPS
STORY : RUAN SCOTT
The answers come without me asking too many questions. Francois likes to talk and is very media savvy. I set the conversation in motion by asking about his real identity, married life and what he really sings about. He sips more coffee and begins:
“Francois Badenhorst is still around. He signs the legal documents. And my wife is still Mrs. Badenhorst. We have been married for three years. We met 14 years ago in a Drum ‘n Bass club called “The Lab”. She’s a big fan of my work, and my biggest critic. There is actually a love song on the new album that I play with Karen Zoid – it’s about her.”
“I just try to be honest in my lyrics. It’s all very introspective and I sing about me and my shit. You know – life, love, God, growing old, living in the suburbs, and not knowing the answers to everything.”
When I very tentaively ask about his stance on religion and politics, he responds,
“When it comes to religion and politics, I don’t know man. I am not a religious person in any sense. People who think that they know everything are full of shit – they don’t know.”
The evil heroes, as some had thought of his previous bands (Fokofpolisiekar, Van Coke Kartel), have become household names since then and are now overshadowed by even more controversial acts such as Die Antwoord, leaving him looking and sounding contemporary in comparison.
FRANCOIS VAN COKE
‘FRANCOIS VAN COKE’
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In his first offering as a solo artist, Francois van Coke dips his hands into the genre bar and pulls out a variety of sounds and complementary guest artists. Rock, industrial, electronica, and even some country and pop sounds. Artists like Laudo Liebenberg, Arno Carstens, Hunter Kennedy and Karen Zoid all perorm on the album, delivering a strong musical drink – with van Coke. Then there are the four big-shot producing entities – Fredd Den Hartog, Theo Crous, Johnny De Ridder and young guns from Potchefstroom, Blakk Productions – added to the cocktail to create a damn good mix. Some songs are straight-up acoustic ballads, but the majority of them, especially those produced by the Potch outfit, have an underlying industrial feel to them, lightly dusted with techno. Imagine a Depeche Mode-esque sound – which when I mention it, is something Francois agrees with, saying that although the comparison is a compliment (he is a fan), it wasn’t a planned thing.
“I want to reach a larger audience, but I’m not going over to the other side. I’m not going to make a ‘skip skop sokkie jol treffer’ album here. It is still a rock album. There’s a full band, even though I don’t play guitar once. Sure, I’d play Huisgenoot Skouspel if they would allow me to play my own songs, but I think the solo stuff is still too hard and dark to play there. Well, that and and I cuss and say ‘God’ on the album, too. So I’ll still be gigging at the Arcade Empire, the Mystic Boer, Sgt. Pepper, Aandklas and in univeristy towns.”
The live band consists of Jedd Kossew, Sheldon Yoko, Richard Onraet and Rudolp Willemse, and all but Jedd and Francois are under 24 years of age.
“I like the energy these guys bring to the stage and set. They’re exceptional musos. Yes, they are young and I don’t get wild after the shows anymore, but I am sure they will all find their way when we’re touring. As long as they make it to the next gig.
The tour for the album starts in April, and for the Cape Town show, I plan to have all the guest musicians on the album performing live with me. That’s going to be something special.”
A mix of loss and eagerness washes over his face when I ask him why he went solo.
“I want to make music ‘til I die and the solo career, hopefully, will enable me to do it. Doing things this way gives me the opportunity to play and focus on my own stuff. It’s a good feeling releasing something under your own name. ”
He then adds, “With bands it gets tricky, you know? People settle down, they get involved with other things, and so managing the dynamics of a band gets tough. Especially because I get emotionally involved in projects, putting everything else aside and giving everything I have – and then things will suddenly change. Band members quit or there are creative clashes. Doing something under my name is a good thing for my future.”
When I ask about new projects that may or may not be underway with his other bands, he answers,
“The other bands aren’t dead. It’s just that they’re on an indefinite hiatus, which we’ll break only to play larger shows and festivals. This approach seems to work, as every show is sold out: filled with nostalgia, passion, energy, sweat and loads of Afrikaans people.”
A 7-inch vinyl, released through Permanent Record, is now available and features the first single “Moontlik Nooit” and an acoustic version of the song “Skree”.
“Releasing on vinyl is something I would like to do more often. It just takes so long and it’s expensive. It’s an alternative way of releasing music, but sadly it’s not as financially viable – yet. I would love to release all the music for free, but fuck me, it’s expensive producing an album. I also think the future of releasing music won’t be in the form of full-lengths, but rather singles and EPs. People have short attention spans and everybody likes different songs. He smiles, “I hear what the kids say at the shows: ‘We have your songs, man! We have your songs on our phones!’ That kind of thing.”
A week later, I am in a crowded club in Cape Town. On stage is Francois, larger than life and rocking harder than hell. He has reunited with his notorious first band (Fokofpolisiekar) for a once-off performance. He’s really going at it. Crowd surfing. Passing the mic along the front for fans to sing along with him. He jumps around with violent energy, misses his step and falls straight off the stage. It looks serious. But the devil comes out at these shows and a moment later he’s back on top, leading the masses of punters. Young and old shout along like it’s their last show. It reminded me of something he said in the interview.
“At a show last year, a kid came up to me and told me he’d just turned 18. He told me it was his first time in a club and his first time watching Fokofpolisiekar. That was a strange thing man. We released our first album when he was six years old, so we have been there his whole life. It’s fucking weird”
Then he smiles again, “It’s also great that people can still relate to the music we wrote 12 years ago. I hope the same will happen with my solo stuff.”
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