The Sick-Leaves Talks to BlaBla (Part 1)
[pullquote]Part 1 in which we talk growing up on a farm outside Ermelo, guitars and playing music in London. Oh, and the SA music scene comes up as well…[/pullquote]Following our recent review of the latest Sick Leaves album Last Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy, we’ve been fortunate enough to get The Sick-Leaves frontman Eksteen Jacobsz to answer some questions exclusively for The BlaBla Blog.
This is the first part of our two part interview, with the second instalment coming soon. Part 2 is here.
Be sure to also check out the link at the end of the interview and enter our draw to win an autographed copy of the Last Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy as well as a stylish “Rock n’ Roll is Not Dead” t-shirt* as worn by rock stars and other people who know a good thing when they see it!
Some background questions to start off with…
BlaBla Blog: Tell us a little about your background and upbringing. Your family, schooling, early life in general.
The Sick-Leaves: I grew up on a farm 30km North West of Ermelo. My dad is a farmer and pilot and my mom has her own business. I went to primary school in Ermelo and decided to go to Pretoria for high school as I felt I needed a change of scenery. I love sport and played as much tennis, cricket, hockey and golf as I could when I was a teenager.
BBB: No disrespect to Ermelo, but it isn’t really a hotbed of musical talent. Or is it? How did you find yourself interested in following a musical life path?
TSL: I reckon that I wouldn’t have had found music if I stayed in Ermelo. I became interested in playing the guitar when I was in high school. I had a room mate in hostel who played the guitar and something stirred inside me when I heard that sound of the 6-string.
BBB: Do you have any formal music education or training? Or is it all natural and self-taught ability?
TSL: I’m mostly self taught but I’ve had a few tips and lessons along the way. After school I went for a few lessons to a virtuoso guitarist named Nathan Smith. I got a solid technique base from him. When I then went to London I quickly realised that I needed a lot more training and knowledge with regards to music theory. I attended Allenby’s Contemporary Music course for a year when I returned. That year was a steep learning curve and by far the best investment I’ve made.
TSL: I’d probably say The Beatles. They made me want to be in a band. They made me want to write songs.
BBB: You’re a multi-talented musician doing everything from composing, writing lyrics, playing and singing your songs. Which is the hardest component for you, and do you have a ‘system’ or ‘process’ that you typically follow when developing a new track?
TSL: The easiest part is composition and arrangement. I love doing that the most and it is my feel-good drug of choice. The hardest part is writing lyrics and singing. Both of those don’t come naturally and is something that I really have to work hard at. My “process” involves fooling around on the guitar, finding a riff or chord progression and then record it on my eight track recorder. Once the song structure is in place arrangement starts. Lyrics are usually left for last.
BBB: Tell us a little about your guitars. How many do you have? And if there is a favourite amongst your collection, what is it?
TSL: I have 4 guitars and a bass guitar. A 1991 Gibson Les Paul Standard, a 2006 Gibson ES-336 and my new 2010 Gibson ES-339. I also have an Ibanez Acoustic and a Fender Mexican Jazz Bass. My favourite at the moment is my new 339. It has just the most amazing tone and is a guitar that I want to keep until I’m either deaf or six feet under.
A little about the SA music industry and visiting England…
[pullquote]…think My Bloody Valentine meets The Sex Pistols…[/pullquote]BBB: You’ve spent a fair bit of time living and working in London. Was that an effort to help establish TSL internationally? Was the stay successful from that perspective? Tell us about living the struggling musicians’ life in London. Where did you play? What were the audiences like? Any noticeable interest that you picked up on from the media or music industry there?
TSL: The London stint was before The Sick-Leaves. To be fair, I didn’t know jack when I went there. I was very naïve and inexperienced. I hooked up with two Englishmen and an Irish lad. We were very disorganized, had no management, but made one hell of a noise. Think My Bloody Valentine meets The Sex Pistols. It was chaos but it was also a time of my life that I will never forget.
We played the club scene to English people… There were great nights and there were the not so great nights, but I learned a lot about music and I learned a lot about myself in that period.
BBB: Was the trip to the UK based on any unhappiness with the South African music scene at all? We know that, despite the SAMA nominations and press and critical recognition for your 3 albums so far, the SA mass music buying public remains sceptical about local artists, especially if those artists don’t fit into the pop mould. What are your thoughts on the local music scene in general?
TSL: I only made my acquaintance with the SA music scene when I got back from England. The scene here has its pros and cons, but despite it all, it comes down to the fact that we have a very small market. We simply don’t have the numbers and it influences everything. Apart from the few people who are into music here, we don’t have a music culture. We don’t have a musical history like the Brits or the Americans have. It is changing, but we are light years behind.
BBB: Why do you think it is so difficult for SA rock artists especially to establish themselves locally? Is it simply a case of too small an audience and market? Or is there something fundamentally wrong with the promotion and support for local artists from the local music industry from record company through to radio station?
TSL: It lot of it does come down to numbers. The odds are stacked heavily against you at the best of times, but here it feels the mountain is just so much higher and steeper. I felt that in England people were not just open to something new, original or weird, they craved it. Here you have to fit into what people have heard before. If it is unfamiliar, people shut down. Record companies are not really a factor anymore, but I feel that radio has the chance to make a difference and yet they choose to play it safe.
[pullquote] In Part 2 we talk about The Sick-Leaves’ next studio release, the attraction of mountains, the best places to play rock music in South Africa, and the perfect dinner guests… [/pullquote]In order to enter the draw to win a personalised copy of The Last Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy and a Rock n’ Roll is not Dead! t-shirt JUST FOLLOW THIS LINK and fill in our simple entry form.
You can boost your chances to win the prize by interacting with The BlaBla Blog, The Sick-Leaves and Springleap via our social media profiles.
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* The Sick-Leaves are Brand Ambassadors for springleap, and wear springleap T-shirts in all these images. Our t-shirt prize is courtesy of the good folk over at springleap.com . All images are courtesy of The Sick-Leaves and Sean Brand