ISSUE 15 founder ¦ editor-in-chief giuseppe russo
contributing editor dylan culhane
sarah jayne fell
assistant copy editor jessica manim
advertising & sales michael littlefield
distribution assistant rachel basckin
leather pants by skinz, trucker cap from poppa trunk’s, pendant by ivka cica for one small seed, chain from poppa trunk’s photographer antonia steyn from one league art direction designed04/giuseppe russo stylist caroline olavarrieta from one league hair & make-up sjani from one league model heather horton from boss models photographer assistant kristin-lee moolman stylist assistant sivuyisiwe giba
dylan culhane, jess henson as jezebel, jon monsoon, maxim barashenkov, sarah jayne fell, paul white as HEADLINE payoff, jessica manim, sebastian stent, talya goldberg, loren philips, brandon jones, natalia zeiss
antonia steyn, justin polkey, georges phillapas, robin sprong, chris saunders, stanimir stoykov, daniel van flymen, adam wallacavage
ryan christian & karen nass (coza productions), paul wilson, annelie rode, pietro russo, jimmy strats, howard simms (hammer live), maléna saldin (jonathan levine gallery, nyc) fiona mckinnon (elms lesters painting rooms, london), natasha mercorio (tretchikoff renaissance), the book lounge
5 constitution street, east city precinct, cape town, 8001 tel: +27 (0) 21 461 6973 ¦ fax: +27 (0) 21 461 9558 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
subscription : back issue enquiries email@example.com www.onesmallseed.com/subscribe
The small print: No responsibility can be taken for the quality and accuracy of the reproductions, as this is dependent on the quality of the material supplied. No responsibility can be taken for typographical errors. The publishers reserve the right to refuse and edit material. All prices and specifications are subject to change without notice. The opinions expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the publisher. No responsibility will be taken for any decision made by the reader as a result of such opinions. Copyright one small seed South Africa. All rights reserved. Both the name ‘one small seed’ and are copyright protected. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written consent from the publisher. one small seed does not accept responsibility for unsolicited material. This is a quarterly publication. ISSN 977 181 6896 033.
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My how time flies. It’s difficult to believe that we’re already halfway through 2009 and just over a year away from the FIFA World Cup; an event that will thrust South Africa into the global spotlight in a major way. Personally, I feel very excited about this. one small seed was founded on the idea that South Africa has an infinite amount of talent to show the rest of the world, and this is a chance for millions of people to experience what this country has to offer in terms of culture. In a sense we’ve been pre-empting this with our magazine and our online platforms, providing both the local and international community a taste of South Africa’s best art, fashion, music, architecture, photography, writing and design for nearly four years.
Speaking of brands, this issue takes a closer look at the origins and histories of some of the world’s most iconic brands in an effort to understand their success and the effect they have on popular culture. Furthermore, we explore in some depth this notion of something or someone being labeled ‘iconic’. What does it mean to be an icon in the modern era? What criteria do we apply for this lofty title? And how, for example, does a small company selling running shoes from the back of a car go on to become the world’s largest sportswear retailer and a street fashion icon? By speaking to a cross-section of iconic artists, musicians and trend-spotters, we hope to lead you towards a greater understanding of this tricky-to-define phenomenon.
It’s encouraging to see the rate at which these ventures are growing. onesmallseed.net, for example, encourages local photographers to showcase work that the rest of the world would otherwise never see. The response has been so overwhelming and of such a high quality, that we’ve recently launched Picture This, an online publication that puts together the very best images posted on onesmallseed.net in a beautifully designed digital magazine. By mid-June we’ll have launched an equivalent project to showcase writers, collecting the best blogs posted on our social network and collating them in a magazine format.
Latent excellence is dormant within every one of us. Hopefully, by exploring the origins of some major icons we will inspire you to seek out and express your own potential for greatness. The truth is, we never really can predict what form an icon will take: a man, a woman, a shoe, a handbag, a car… Who knows? It may even be in the shape of a simple magazine with a vision well beyond mere paper and ink. Only time will tell…
It’s even more encouraging to see brands and companies taking note of these ongoing submissions. Levi’s South Africa recently ran a competition through onesmallseed.net to find a photographer to shoot their 2009 advertising campaign, and were thrilled to discover the talents of Romi Stern. You can read more about Romi and see the work she produced for Levi’s on (pg 28).
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Giuseppe Russo Founder | editor-in-chief
16 PROFILES: RON ENGLISH
24 PROFILES: ASHA ZERO
30 FEATURE: ORIGINS OF AN ICON
46 FEATURE: TRETCHIKOFF
28 PROFILES: ROMI STERN
50 FEATURE: LUCKY DUBE
52 FEATURE: DEPECHE MODE
56 FASHION: DO YOU FEEL LUCKY PUNK?
72 MUSIC:: POWDERFINGER
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64 FASHION: LOCALISED
74 MUSIC:: PLACEBO
76 MUSIC:: RUS NERWICH
78 MUSIC:: FLASH REPUBLIC
THE ART OF POPAGANDA
ORIGINS OF AN ICON
DO YOU FEEL LUCKY PUNK?
What defines an icon in the modern era?
South Africa’s pop art pioneer. LEVI’S PHOTO COMPETITION WINNER
28 MUSIC & HERITAGE
Leaving behind a legacy.
MUSIC: AUSSIE ALTERNATIVE ROCK
Back to form with Sounds of the Universe.
Leading the way for the rest to follow. URBAN ‘HIP-BOP’ JAZZ
SA MUSIC ICON
A legend in his own time.
DEPARTMENTS: IN STORE BOOK REVIEWS CD REVIEWS DVD REVIEWS
PAGE PAGE PAGE PAGE
10 14 80 84
GAME REVIEWS NOW SHOWING DIRECTORY THE LAST WORD
PAGE PAGE PAGE PAGE
86 88 90 94
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DEPARTMENTS: WORDS BY SARAH JAYNE FELL
IN STORE RAY-BAN AVIATORS
The original ‘Pilot shades’ were developed by Ray-Ban at its inception in 1937 and were instantly adopted by the U.S. Army Air Corps to protect pilots from high altitude glare. From the early ‘60s Aviators were donned all over Hollywood, right through to the ‘80s when their mass appeal resurged with Tom Cruise skyrocketing their popularity in Top Gun. Other stars to have sported Pilot shades include John Lennon, Freddy Mercury, Hunter S. Thompson, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Axl Rose and Jim Morrison. Fashionable among aviators and the non-flying populace alike, the Ray-Ban Aviator is now one of the most copied styles of sunglasses in history, firmly entrenching their iconic status in popular culture.
NINTENDO ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM The third generation classic 8-bit video game console released by Nintendo in 1985.
NIKON f The 1959 camera by Nikon introduced the concept of the 35 mm single-lens reflex camera system. The Nikon F is arguably the most significant SLR in history.
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SONY WALKMAN TPS-L2 Sony Walkman revolutionised music-listening habits the world over by making people’s personal choice of music portable. The device was built in 1978 by Nobutoshi Kihara for Sony co-chairman Morita, who fancied some opera on-the-go to enrich his jetsetting lifestyle. Legend tells that Morita hated the name ‘Walkman’ but junior employees had begun a promotional campaign and it would have been too expensive to change it. The original blue-and-silver audio cassette player by Walkman went on sale in Japan in July 1979 and by the end of August the initial batch of 30 000 units had sold out. In 1986, the word ‘Walkman’ appeared in the Oxford Dictionary and officially became a new English word.
rubik’s cube The classic Rubik’s Cube was invented in 1974 by Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture, Erno Rubik. As of January 2009, 350 million cubes have sold worldwide, making it the world’s top-selling puzzle game.
original BARBIE DOLL Barbie Millicent Roberts, better known on firstname basis, was brought to life by Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel, in 1959. Over 300 000 Barbie dolls sold that year alone. Barbie first appeared in her now iconic black-and-white striped swimsuit and signature ponytail, selling for $3. The highest auctioned price since for an original 1959 doll is $27 450.
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DEPARTMENTS: WORDS BY SARAH JAYNE FELL
RAY-BAN AVIATORS (2009) The classic Pilot shades re-envisioned. Available at Sunglass Hut www.sunglasshut.co.za
NINTENDO Wii In its seventh generation of video games, Nintendo launched Wii in 2006 as its fifth home console. The Wii is distinguished by the Wii Remote, its wireless controller that can detect movement in three dimensions. Still leaders in gaming innovation, Wii has surpassed PS 3 and Xbox 360 in worldwide sales. www.nintendo.co.za
NIKON d5000 With a robust feature set and simple operability backed by Nikonâ€™s superlative technology, the new D5000 is the ideal choice for both entry-level digital SLR users and those looking for an upgrade to raise their level of photographic expression. www.nikon.co.za
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SONY WALKMAN MP3 NWZ-S616F The iconic Sony Walkman has evolved with the times and now no longer sports a tape-deck but a video MP3 player with 4GB storage space. www.sony.co.za
RUBIK’S 360 The latest brainchild of inventor Erno Rubik is being launched worldwide in August 2009. But this one’s not a cube, it’s round. And it’s not solid, it’s transparent. Like the classic, the new Rubik’s 360 has but one solution and it’s as addictive as its predecessor. Instead of three vertices, this toy has three spheres to work around. It involves manoeuvring six different coloured balls from a central sphere into colour co-ordinated compartments in the outer layer by shaking them through two holes in the middle sphere. Unlike Rubik’s Cube, this requires less math and more physics, the trick being in the weight and balance. True to Rubik’s reputation, the 360 will keep you puzzled and preoccupied so prepare to have your patience tested. www.rubiks.com
BATHING SUIT BARBIE DOLL Recreated in her signature black-and-white swimming cozzie and heels to celebrate her 50th birthday this year, Barbie remains the world’s most popular doll. This despite incalculable attempts by other doll manufacturers to replicate her fame – proof that an icon cannot be predicted but lies entirely in the eyes of its beholders. www.barbie.com
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DEPARTMENTS: WORDS BY DYLAN CULHANE
BOOK REVIEWS Andy Warhol: Portraits by Tony Shafrazi Phaidon
10+Years 100+Buildings: Architecture in a Democratic South Africa
To the general public, Andy Warhol is known as a painter of famous faces like Marilyn, Elvis, Marlon and Liz. Less known are the portraits he made throughout his career of socialites, art dealers, collectors, politicians and a variety of contemporary cult figures, mostly commissioned work that helped finance his many other artistic activities. This book is the first to provide a comprehensive overview of Warhol’s many portraits, including more than 300 full-page images assembled as a face-book of the amazing cast of characters that populated Warhol’s fascinating, star-studded, and, at times, sordid world. It’s a stunning book to own, but perhaps a tad hackneyed and onedimensional in an age where Warhol’s pop imagery saturates everything from coffee mugs to boxer shorts. If you’ve seen one Warhol portrait, you’ve seen them all (he said, dodging the murderous glares of incensed art-school hipsters).
by Ora Joubert Bell-Roberts
Unlike its popular companion 10 Years 100 Artists – Art in a Democratic South Africa, in which ten art critics each nominated ten artists for inclusion, all featured architectural practitioners in this volume were invited via the South African Institute of Architects to submit work for consideration. The 450-page tome is fully illustrated, with more than 100 scholarly citations and biographic data of the design and construction teams, as well as a bibliographic synopsis. Makes a great coffee table centrepiece, provided you have a sturdy coffee table. The abundance of technical specs and sketches will hold limited appeal for all those non-architects out there (freaks!), but those with a milder passion for the art can simply revel in the gorgeous photographs. 10+ Years is as important as it is heavy.
William Kentridge: 5 Themes by Mark Rosenthal Yale University Press
With a searing body of work ranging from films and drawings to prints, sculptures and theatrical productions, you best believe William Kentridge is one of our country’s most important artists. Time Magazine even listed him as one of their ‘100 Most Influential People’ of 2009. 5 Themes is a beautifully presented and insightfully written companion to Kentridge’s prolific oeuvre, delving into the artist’s creative process and paying specific attention to his most important themes: Artist in the Studio, Soho and Felix, Ubu and the Procession, The Magic Flute, and The Nose. Kentridge has also created an accompanying DVD combining intimate studio footage and fragments from significant film projects, charting the evolution from concept to finished work. It’s an unprecedented incursion into the man’s enigmatic persona and an indispensable asset to any art book collection. 14
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*Books available at The Book Lounge
The 2009 Flux Trend Review by Dion Chang Macmillan
The idea behind The Flux Trend Review is to reduce the onslaught of information we’re faced with on a daily basis into bite-sized chunks for easier mental digestion. Inviting some of the country’s keenest minds to discuss topics as diverse as economics, parenting, travel, social networking, product design, human behaviour, politics and food, it’s an extremely edifying and easy to read analysis of our changing times. The regular global issues like digitalism, credit crunch and the environment pop up frequently, but each chapter is unashamedly skewed to the specifics of life in South Africa. Published at the end of last year – pre-Obama and pre-Zuma – a couple of the topics are already somewhat outdated, so swift is the pace of transformation in the modern era. Thankfully The 2010 Review is due on shelves later this year. An essential read nonetheless.
Avenue Patrice Lumumba by Guy Tillim
Bands on the Road: The Tour Sketchbook
This surreptitiously arresting collection of photographs reveals the decay and detritus of colonialism in Western and Southern Africa on a scale both monumental and slight. Tillim exposes the stains, cracks, and filth of huge, crumbling institutional structures — post offices, school, offices, hotels, and banks – through images that seem to whisper rather than shout. He winds around their staircases and looks through their windows, finding offices and classrooms void of basic equipment and furniture. While the people in his photographs are almost peripheral, there is an acute sense of humanity in the images, shown through the personal objects left behind: an umbrella, a house plant, a purse, a book. I found myself flipping through the first few pages, gradually coming to terms with Tillim’s distinctively ‘empty’ aesthetic. Before long I was hooked, poring for minutes at a time over every bleak image as an indefinable feeling ossified somewhere inside me. That’s Guy Tillim for you.
by Silke Leicher & Manuel Schreiner Thames & Hudson
There’s no real introduction or conclusion or anything like that in this book, but what I’m guessing happened is that the people who compiled this book got high and decided the world would pay good money to see musicians apply themselves to the art of doodling while they murdered time in the tour bus on the way to their next gig. Something like that. Though it’s interesting for the first five minutes or so to see what bands like Bloc Party, Oasis, Franz Ferdinand, Interpol and Death Cab for Cutie can do with a pack of twelve koki pens, the fun wears out when you realise they’re all rubbish at drawing and should probably just stick to singing and drumming and whatever else it is they do. A novel idea, though. I’ll give them that. Paper’s nice too. one small seed
sarah jayne fell IMAGES: photographed by adam wallacavage I courtesy of jonathan levine gallery WORDS:
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Prepubescent Pop Artist series oil on canvas
New Yorker Ron English is a master of the Art of Propaganda. Father of Agit-Pop and an illustrious ‘billboard liberator’, the man is an esteemed social revolutionary as much as he is one of the most iconic artists of our time. Originally hijacking urban billboards with his paintings to hold impromptu rush-hour art exhibitions in the early ‘80s, Ron’s guerrilla art tactics evolved to broadcast a message of a more contentious nature, waging what has become an almost three-decade war against advertising. His emergent ‘subvertisements’ attack monopolisers of public space who shamelessly use deception to sell, challenging everything from commercial to political institutions. Ron usurps the visual codes they employ and turns their carefully constructed propaganda into his own elucidative art form that he’s dubbed ‘popaganda’. Incorporating imagery rampant in the contemporary experience, Ron seeks to redraft interpretations of history and conceptions of modern life. And in turning the status quo on its head he offers an alternative universe where nothing is sacred and absolutely everything is answerable to a little interrogation. Sarah Jayne Fell chats to him in a little interrogation of her own.
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How do you go about creating your art? First I have an idea. Then I devise a strategy to realise the idea. I ask myself certain questions. What is the best medium to express the concept? Who is the intended audience? What is the best vehicle to transmit the concept? A painting, a billboard? A lot of time is spent in the process. I may build models and do lighting effects to help myself discover the image. I may build up layers on the canvas, pushing and pulling until the image balances out for me. I have also developed a cast of culturally loaded characters to act as visual verbiage for the art. I want my art to function not only as individual pieces but as a total vision. In an interview with Artasty you said, “I wanted to be a revolutionary but being an artist seemed easier.” How serious was this statement? I never wanted to be a Sunday afternoon easel painter or weekend revolutionary; real art and real revolution begins on Monday morning. My driving motivation is the evolution of thought and I think art, in its various manifestations, is the way this is accomplished. How dependent is your choice of medium on your ‘message’? Given the way the status quo is moulded by mass media, do you feel it is only possible to provoke a reaction using the same approach? The medium has to harmonise with the message to be effective. The media is the de facto conduit of our collective consciousness and sometimes alternative messages have to be crafted to fit into its cookie cutter fabric; it’s something you have to work with, but there is always the more basic and direct media of the streets, where concepts don’t have to be castrated to get their day in court. The motif of iconography stands out most strongly as a unifying thread running through your work. What is an icon to you, and how would you explain its significance to your work? Standing outside any particular religious belief system gives me a somewhat unique perspective on icons. I don’t differentiate between religious and cultural icons as they appear to fill the same needs in people. Sometimes I think people have a parasitical displacement relationship with icons. They use them as decoys for their own egos and agendas; I use them more as cultural touchstones in defiance of their original intentions.
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Abraham Obama - Orange & Green On Canvas (2008) 90cm x 60cm I hand painted multiple on canvas photographed by adam wallacavage I courtesy of jonathan levine gallery
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Clown Kids Smoking oil on canvas
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Marilyn oil on canvas one small seed
“I never wanted to be a Sunday afternoon easel painter or weekend revolutionary; real art and real revolution begins on Monday morning.”
Apparently you’ve recently realised your goal of having more songs written about you than any other person in history. This achievement would make you something of an icon. Is this the underlying aspiration? Yes, I am the living person with the most songs written about them. It was Saddam Hussein who was the living person with the most songs about him in 1992, most written at gunpoint, and I thought it would be fun to beat his record. I’m glad this was accomplished by outsonging him while he was alive and not by his demise. That would feel like cheating. I don’t know if there is any such thing as an iconic iconoclast but if there is I’m a pretty good candidate. Do you think that repeated representation in popular culture today is synonymous with being ‘iconic’? I don’t know if repeated exposure is the sole factor in the creation of an icon. The candidate for icon status also has to embody a culturally desired idea or ideal. As you say, you’ve been branded an iconoclast – a destroyer of icons. Would you agree with this view and, if so, is this attack on the icon intentional or just part and parcel of disagreeing with the status quo? I think it’s all more of a transformative adventure, rather than destroying icons, I repurpose icons. The meaning surrounding anything is always in flux. Cowgirl Hat - Pink & Yellow (2008) 76cm x 56cm I screenprint on paper photographed by adam wallacavage I courtesy of jonathan levine gallery
How do you perceive the evolution of your art as a body of work? I think the longer I continue on, the more the whole vision pulls together and makes itself apparent. I am not an easy artist for the short of attention span. With a little retrospect, do you still think being an artist is easier? No.
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MEANING IN PIECES Asha Zero is an artistic avatar crafted beyond the confines of gender, age and race so that the artworks can speak for themselves uninhibited. Executed in acrylics, careful brushstrokes imitate the ripped edges of a page while flicks of paint carve the tears. It would be easy to mistake these paintings for carefully constructed collages. This kind of optical illusion uses the technique of trompe-l’oeil (‘trick of the eye’), a new world painting genre and extreme form of realism that allows the artwork to bend the fine line demarcating reality. WORDS:
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A marriage of Abstraction and Realism, Asha’s paintings appear discordant at first. Yet the longer they are gazed upon, the more the pieces pull together to form a coherent whole. Meaning is assembled from fragments – a mirror to the way in which identity is constructed in the modern era. “What happens in our current society, especially with the social networking phenomenon, is that you have this virtual identity,” explains Asha. “It’s put together with bits and pieces which form something coherent. Although it was put together through a complete jumble, it’s this ‘something’ that people see on your profile.” While many critics have praised Asha’s work as a deconstruction of identity, seeing its fragmentary nature as representative of a self fractured by information overload, there is also an element of sublime celebration in the paintings. They are Dadaesque, not in the sense that they rebel against popular modern modes of creative expression, but in the nonsensical and intuitive aspect of the term. The pieces laud the atomised way in which identity is formed as a necessary, rather than a negative process. As Asha says, “The statement, though it’s not linked to me, is that we’re really only pieces.” Combining skill with enjoyment, Asha creates a mode of painting that dissolves the boundary between fine art and the everyman’s creative expression. Utilising a highly accessible medium like collage as his starting point, the works are seemingly within anyone’s creative capabilities. After all, we live in an age where just about anyone can call themselves an artist at the click of a mouse. Yet the level of skill required to translate paper to paint is tremendous. Thus, uniquely positioned, the paintings oscillate between the practicable and the removed. The process of translation crafts onion layers of overlapping meaning and empowers the works, imbuing them with deeper levels of meaning. As Asha describes it, “A mass produced media image gets translated into a painting with some sort of romantic sentiment… Paint in its physicality has an emotional connection.” Asha’s works reignite a childlike excitement. The eye is continuously drawn across the canvas, darting from one segment of creative shrapnel to the next until a glimmer of meaning starts to coalesce. Then all of a sudden it disappears amidst the visual cacophony, and we are forced to re-evaluate the intricately structured composition. Like an alleyway wall coated with a decade’s worth of glued and torn poster advertisements, the beautiful decay seems to add up to some elusive composite history; A story in pieces, that evolves every time we pass it. www.ashazero.co.za
LEFT mouse over text (2008) 100 x 120cm I acrylic on board RIGHT assorted bystander (no2) (2008) 60 x 45cm I acrylic on board one small seed
competacletz (2008) 30 x 40cm I acrylic on board
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dart (2008) 30 x 40cm I acrylic on board
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PHOTOGRAPHER SEARCH WINNER
Levi Strauss South Africa, in conjunction with King James and onesmallseed.net, recently ran an unprecedented competition to find the ideal photographer for their advertising campaigns. As opposed to the safe approach of relying on established photographers, Leviâ€™s South Africa made the bold decision to seek out emerging talent and offer them the opportunity to conceptualise and shoot an upcoming print and in-store campaign. In order to do so, they tapped into onesmallseed. netâ€™s nationwide network of aspirant creatives through an exclusive online call for entries. WORDS: dylan culhane
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Similarly, Levi’s and King James encouraged Romi to bring her own ideas to the table and trusted her talents and instincts to produce the best possible results. “It’s really unheard of for a client to allow the photographer so much creative freedom. Working with them has been an unbelievable experience and I’m so grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given. I still smile to myself every time I walk past Levi’s stores with my photographs in the window!” Faced with the incredibly difficult task of assessing the hundreds of entries from across the country, the judges eventually found exactly what they were looking for in the form of 26-year-old Capetonian Romi Stern. Her delicate yet striking submission portfolio was not only beautiful, it encapsulated the central attributes of the Levi’s brand: authenticity and originality. “We were looking for a fresh, young photographer who could bring the Levi’s brand identity to life in a unique, appropriate and ownable way,” says Levi’s Marketing Director Debbie Gebhardt. “Romi’s work captured a youthful optimism in a very natural way. We appreciate her talent for composition and her eye for colour, and we loved how her work was not contrived or over-styled.” Romi feels that her entry came with a certain sensitivity and softness that sets her work apart: “It’s sexy, but in a way people can relate to without feeling uncomfortable.”
The client was so happy with Romi’s work for the initial Winter campaign, that they secured her to shoot their upcoming Spring/ Summer ranges too, keeping her busy busy busy. The mother of 14-month-old Liam, Romi amazingly manages to balance motherhood with her schedule as a much sought-after photographer. “Having a child has changed my entire perspective of life. Nothing seems scary any more, and no challenge is too hard.” And her plans for the future? “I don’t really look to the future – only today and how much I’ve achieved.” Judging by her recent success, it’s an outlook that seems to be working perfectly for Romi.
A graduate from the AAA School of Advertising, Romi’s background in Art Directing and work experience in mainstream retail design equipped her with the kind of brand awareness and allround understanding of the creative process that the competition demanded; everything from creating mood boards to portraying the garment in the most effective and aspirational way. Most importantly however, her open-minded approach to shooting harnesses the very best from her team. “I shoot with intuition, and don’t try too hard,” she says. “You have to put your ego aside and let everyone involved in the shoot – the make-up artist, stylist, models and so on – fulfil their roles.”
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Heather wears black leather pants Skinz sneakers Pointer Hesperus @ Bonafide one small seed pendant Ivka Cica chain Poppa Trunk’s anvil earrings Iron Fist
Photography: ANTONIA STEYN @ ONE LEAGUE CREATIVE MANAGEMENT Photography ASSISTANT: KRISTIN-LEE MOOLMAN STYLIST: CAROLINE OLAVARRIETA @ ONE LEAGUE STYLIST ASSISTANT: SIVUYISIWE GIBA hair & make-up: SJANI @ ONE LEAGUE Model: HEATHER HORTON @ BOSS MODELS
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Icons, once upon a time, were religious talismans. Thousands of years before the desktop computer even existed, the Ancient Greeks would kneel before ‘Eikons’ of their favourite Olympian god, begging them for help with their problems. The Romans did the same; farmers worshiped Ceres when their livestock became ill, while soldiers begged Mars to give the other side a good kicking before a fight. The ancients not only aspired to their icons, they built their lives and entire civilisations around them. The 20th Century was all about icons too. But instead of being religious, these icons were men and women whose stories and reputations spread across the world thanks to the birth of mass media. With the printing press came unprecedented access to information – and those on the page became like gods; otherworldly entities that exist on some higher plain. They came to personify our ambitions, dreams and desires. The modern era is inundated with these men and women. In many instances their influence can encourage us to rebel against the propaganda of politics and religions, and construct our identities around the icons we find around us in our popular culture. The power of these icons is that they can come from any background. Kurt Cobain, Marilyn Monroe and Oprah Winfrey never set out to become icons, but the integrity with which they have lived their principles means that they had no other choice. To us, they are their message. Che Guevara never expected he would become synonymous with revolution – yet a life led as a revolutionary made him the perfect symbol for sticking it to The Man. Icons and iconic design have become central to the modern, consumerist world, and today we buy brands according to how they make us look and feel. Their meanings resonate like a secret language; their brand identity blending with ours to create a hybrid – part us, part them, part who we would like to be.
As our dreams grow we develop a unique and individual relationship with our icons, each fulfilling a different part of our dreams and aspirations, and giving us a personal power we can each believe in. These icons show us a glamorous other world, and let our imaginations bridge the gap between us and it. A pair of shoes becomes more than just foot protection – they are the gold medal, the fastest time, the highest jump. This shift in the conception of an icon is mirrored in the evolution of culture itself. The criteria for icon status embodies a culturally defined ideal, and as the iconic has transformed from something intangible to something material and well within our grasp, so our ideals have shifted to the concrete and the real. Icons today are defined by that which exists among people, across cultures, beyond borders and outside of spiritual belief. Though meaning is constantly in flux, the icon has always fulfilled a need in people and represents a kind of prototype of ourselves. The embodiment of this exists in symbols that define us as individuals and as part of a collective identity, best exemplified today by the brand. The brands that stand out, that can truly be called iconic, are those which fulfil a role in society that none have filled before them. Ultimately their iconic status stems from something far more humble than celebrity acclaim or monetary success: perhaps a sportsman who wanted to run faster, a worker who needed harder-wearing trousers, or simply a man who had a dream. Those ideals, exemplified in icons from the birth of humankind, are what iconic brands come to symbolise today. To bear a brand is literally to wear your heart on your sleeve. And every individual who does the same is reaffirming a common ideal which that brand has come to represent – an ideal with humble origins and a very human goal. Their products shape our routines and inform our lifestyle choices, giving us a fresh perspective on the world and reinforcing who we are. For with the power of the brand on your side, you carry with it the power of every single one of their other icon-bearing ambassadors. Something to belong to, to believe in, and to strive for. This issue of one small seed considers the icon in all its glory and, in the feature that follows, we look at those that have informed the ideals of popular culture today, from the omnipresent and omnipotent brands to the people who have steered its fluctuating course. one small seed
Nike occupies an echelon of success attained by only a handful of brands in existence. Their universally recognised logo and slogan define the very notion of the iconic: The ‘Just Do It’ campaign – originated way back in 1988 and still going strong – was chosen by Advertising Age as one of the top five ad slogans of the 20th century. Their rise to prominence as a mega-brand can in no small part be attributed to their longstanding relationship with Wieden+Kennedy advertising agency, the brains behind ‘Just Do It’ and the dozens of indelible campaigns since then that have garnered acclaim and notoriety in equal measure. The degree of artistic expression that has defined Nike’s identity has arguably been a key ingredient to their allure beyond the realm of sports.
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But it was the harnessing of air that would prove to be Nike’s most significant breakthrough and establish the company as an iconic brand. Aeronautical engineer M. Frank Rudy patented a cushioning system based on an inert gas encapsulated in polyurethane plastic, a process trademarked by Nike as the ‘Air’ sole. Despite Rudy’s unflagging enthusiasm for the potential of Air, it took nearly a decade for the technology to catch on. The breakthrough came when the company hit upon the watershed idea of creating tubes of air by specially welding sheets of polyurethane so that the seam could be hidden from view, allowing the consumer to actually ‘see’ the air in their shoes. Design legend Tinker Hatfield – inspired by the exoskeletal design of the Centre Pompidou in Paris – seized the idea and unleashed the Air Max 1 in 1987, beginning a definitive chapter in Nike’s history that has continued for more than twenty years. It was a godsend for road runners but, owing to its comfort and distinctive design, it soon exploded on the street scene in an endless array of colourways. The launch of the Air Max was bolstered by a bold and irreverent advertising campaign built around the then-unheard of practice of licensing The Beatles’ ‘Revolution’ for its television advertisements.
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Reprised numerous times over the last two decades, the Air Max 1 has been released in more colour combinations and limited editions than even the most avid collector could possibly possess, elevating the classic sneaker to an objet d’art in contemporary street culture. Today Nike have brought it right back to the beginning with the introduction of the Air Maxim 1, an original Air Max 1 combined with Flywire technology to make the original running shoe even lighter: the evolution of a revolution. Richard Clarke, Nike’s Creative Designer of Sport Culture, maintains that Nike Sportswear works vertically: “We comment on the past, the present and the future simultaneously,” a perfect explanation for the Air Max’s indelible status as a modern icon.
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Reebok’s UK-based ancestor company was founded for one of the best reasons possible: athletes wanted to run faster. So, in the 1890s, Joseph William Foster made some of the first known running shoes with spikes in them. By 1895 he was in business making shoes by hand for top runners and before long his fledgling company, J.W. Foster and Sons, developed an international clientele of distinguished athletes. The family-owned business proudly made the running shoes worn in the 1924 Summer Games by the athletes celebrated in the film Chariots of Fire.
It wasn’t until 1958 that Foster’s grandsons started a companion company that came to be known as Reebok, named after an African gazelle. Towards the end of the seventies, the brand was noticed by American retailers and exploded on the U.S. market. In 1982, Reebok introduced the first athletic shoe designed especially for women; a shoe for a hot new fitness exercise called… aerobic dance. The shoe was called the Freestyle, and with it Reebok anticipated and encouraged three major trends that transformed the athletic footwear industry: the aerobic exercise movement, the influx of women into sports and exercise, and the acceptance of well-designed athletic footwear by adults for street and casual wear.
shoe to have an internal inflation mechanism that regulated a unique fitting cushion in the upper, and became a status symbol on urban basketball courts and eventually in suburban high schools; the Reverse Jam was released as a high top basketball sneaker in the early ‘90s and gained notoriety in the 1992 movie White Men Can’t Jump; the timeless Newport Classic (NPC) was originally launched as a soft leather tennis style sneaker and remains one of the best selling Reebok Classic styles; the Ventilator was released as the first running shoe to incorporate Reebok’s patented Hexalite technology – a hexagonal, honeycomb-style build with unprecedented strength to weight ratio.
Augmented by popular movies like Flashdance, Staying Alive, Wildstyle, and of course Jane Fonda’s aerobic workout videos, the Freestyle soon reigned supreme. Actress Cybill Shepherd even wore a bright orange pair of Freestyles with a black strapless gown to the 1986 Emmy Awards. In the same year, Reebok became one of the first companies to pull out of South Africa because of the country’s practice of Apartheid.
From 2000 onwards, Reebok forged major partnerships with heavyweight sports bodies like the NFL, NHL and NBA and, in 2002, established Rbk – a collection of street-inspired footwear and apparel hook-ups designed for the aspirational urbanite. With many of the industry’s most marketable and valuable sports assets on its roster, Reebok rolled out an integrated marketing campaign that fused together sports, music, technology and entertainment, and was designed to connect the Reebok brand to millions of new consumers around the world. Jay-Z became the first non-athlete to have a signature athletic footwear collection, followed by 50 Cent’s ‘G Unit Collection by Rbk’.
Throughout the 1990s, Reebok began to dominate some of the world’s major sports by releasing increasingly innovative products catered to the specific needs of athletes. The Reebok Pump was the first
It is testament to the brand’s versatility and iconic status that Reebok have collaborated with not only the world’s top sportsmen and women, but also rappers, rockers, dancers and actors. Today the Reebok brand continues to thrive and expand in over 170 countries, proof (if ever it was needed) that classicism combined with ongoing innovation is a surefire recipe for success. 36
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ORIGINS OF AN ICON WORDS:
I suppose one has to acknowledge the irony of an American classic being founded by a German-Jewish immigrant. But then again, the evolution of Löb Strauss’ small dry goods wholesale business into a global fashion empire represents the ultimate American dream; the notion that even a fresh-off-theboat Bavarian teenager with an unpronounceable name could go on to become an iconic American. The legacy of his original denim ‘waist overalls’ needs little elucidation. Levi Strauss & Co. is – perhaps more than any other clothing brand – synonymous with its timeless product: the term ‘Levi’s’ has entered our popular lexicon as a suitable substitute for ‘jeans’. Moreover, blue jeans are undoubtedly the most ubiquitous item of clothing in the modern era. Simply put, almost everybody owns a pair – more than likely button-fly 501’s. More than a century after Strauss’ death, Levi’s continues to dominate the lucrative denim jean market, and have extended their product range into footwear, accessories and recently even mobile phones. Despite operating high street stores from Joburg to Tokyo, Levi Strauss & Co. have always remained true to their original mandate of creating high quality
utilitarian clothing. As one of their first retail catalogues more than a century ago boasted, “The miner, farmer, mechanic and cattle raiser all over the West prefer cut full, honestly made Levi Strauss & Co’s copper riveted overalls!” The same applies today, but one wonders if Mr. Strauss ever envisioned the rock star, the celebrity or the fashionista taking to his product with the same gusto. Levi’s was also one of the first clothing brands to incorporate popular songs into their television advertisements. Tracks like ‘The Joker’ by Steve Miller Band, ‘Flat Beat’ by Mr. Oizo and Babylon Zoo’s ‘Spaceman’ all rocketed in popularity after being featured in Levi’s campaigns. To this day, Levi’s dedicates much of its marketing budget to working with and promoting musical talent, most notably in South Africa with their ongoing ‘Young Guns’ campaign. In 1969 a writer for American Fabrics magazine declared that “Denim is one of the world’s oldest fabrics, yet it remains eternally young.” Levi’s jeans embody this truism more than any other brand, striking an ideal balance between integrity to the company’s founding vision more than 150 years ago, and the need for constant re-invention to maintain its unrivalled appeal. one small seed
ORIGINS OF AN ICON
“Now the adidas I possess for one man is rare Myself homeboy got 50 pair Got blue and black ‘cause I like to chill And yellow and green when it’s time to get ill Got a pair that I wear when I’m playin’ ball With the heel inside make me 10 feet tall My adidas only bring good news And they are not used as selling shoes They’re black and white, white with black stripe The ones I like to wear when I rock the mic On the strength of our famous university We took the beat from the street and put it on TV My adidas are seen on the movie screen Hollywood knows we’re good if you know what I mean We started in the alley, now we chill in Cali And I won’t trade my ‘didas for no beat up Ballys My adidas…” Run DMC - ‘My Adidas’ (1986)
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An aggressive entrepreneur, Adi Dassler was the first to use sports promotion in order to make the public aware of his innovations. He started using well-known athletes like Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali and Franz Beckenbauer as advertising for his products, and developed the optimal shoe for almost every sport in conjunction with the world’s top athletes. By the 1984 Olympic Summer Games in Los Angeles, 124 out of 140 nations were competing in the brand with three stripes.
Adi Dassler in his factory workshop in Germany - 1927
Today, the adidas product range includes shoes, apparel and accessories for specialist sports ranging from bobsled to fencing. The company is Europe’s biggest supplier of athletic footwear and sports apparel, but collaborations with fashion royalty like Stella McCartney and Yohji Yamamoto, as well as their cult-like association with hip-hop legends Run DMC have also made adidas an icon in street couture.
The founding idea behind adidas was as simple as it was brilliant. Company founder Adolf Dassler’s aim was to provide every athlete with the best possible equipment. It was this principle that guided him right up until his death in 1978. Seven hundred patents and other industrial property rights worldwide are proof of his permanent quest for perfection. It all began in 1920 when a young Adi – a passionate athlete himself – began making canvas shoes in his mother’s kitchen using the few materials available after the First World War. By the mid 1930s Adi Dassler was already making 30 different shoes for eleven sports, and he had a workforce of almost 100 employees. In less than two decades adidas advanced to become the world’s leading sports shoe manufacturer. After the turmoil of the Second World War, Adi Dassler made a fresh start. In 1947, with 47 workers, he began putting into practice the knowledge gained from the pre-war period and also new ideas. He made the first post-war sports shoes using canvas and rubber from American fuel tanks. In 1948 he introduced adidas as the company name, a combination of his own first and last name. One year later he registered the unmistakable Three Stripes logo. But the real breakthrough came when Germany won the Football World Cup in 1954. In the legendary final against Hungary, the German team wore boots with revolutionary screwin studs – by adidas, of course. Half a century later the brand is the official sponsor of the FIFA World Cup and has produced the match ball for all major soccer events since 1970, making adidas virtually synonymous with the beautiful game. Adi Dassler with football boots worn by Germany in the 1954 World Cup
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The German National Footbal Team - 1954
Adi Dassler with Franz Beckenbauer
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ORIGINS OF AN ICON
The origins of the H.D. Lee Mercantile Co. were rooted in the production of fine foods like ketchup and canned peaches. Little did Henry David Lee know his name would become a household American garment brand synonymous for reliability, durability and innovation. Unabashedly targeted at the blue collar worker, Lee garments were born at the turn of the century with the Bib Overall, inspired (as the story goes) by H.D. Lee watching his chauffeur fixing the car and seeing the need for an overall that could protect above and below the waist. In 1926 Lee introduced the first zipper fly denim jeans, again as a response to the needs of manual workers who struggled to open button-up pants with their bulky gloves. Along with rail-workers, loggers and seamen, Lee garments were also catered to cowboys and rodeo riders, entrenching an association between their blue jeans and the icons who built America. WORDS:
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As a counterpoint to the brand’s rugged target market, Lee later unveiled Buddy Lee – a cute and mischievous ceramic doll – as its company’s own iconic mascot. Buddy continued to appear in Lee advertisements for decades to come, perpetually evolving his attire to reflect the style of the era. When cowboy fashion exploded in the mid 1930s, sales of Lee’s Storm Rider jackets and Riders jeans skyrocketed, bolstering the company’s market position significantly. A decade later Lee acknowledged women’s major role in the workforce during the war by introducing their range of Lady Lee Riders, befitting the feminine form. At the time the notion of women in working pants was revolutionary, and foretold an imminent era of emancipation. By the time the fifties rock ‘n rolled around H.D. Lee & Co. had started tailoring more casual and refined lines, suitably labelled ‘Leesures’. New colours and styles also arrived in the form of the dressy ‘Lee Westerner’, as Lee extended its operations beyond the U.S.A. with branches in Brazil, Australia, Spain, Belgium, Scotland and Hong Kong. This expansion continued throughout the sixties, with an increasing focus on youth markets. The company’s centennial year coincided with the early eighties obsession with stonewashed jeans, and Lee’s designers and engineers spent millions of dollars a year experimenting with shredded car tyres, golf balls, bottle caps, rope, wood and even volcanic pumice... all in the name of creating the perfect stonewash look. In recent years Lee has defied its image as a conservative jeans brand and has become renowned for its understated edginess. Lee is rapidly gaining marketshare in the U.K, Australia and South Africa, once again adapting to the style demands of an entirely new generation. Today the brand is synonymous with the Skinny Jean, and their range of colourful skinnies is defining the look of our age. But it’s a sense of heritage that really makes the brand stand out. Despite a more contemporary feel, Lee still remains true to its roots as a Kansas-based workwear brand. Here’s to another 120 years of classic denim...
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ORIGINS OF AN ICON
Having recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, the Mini has implanted itself firmly in the consciousness of popular culture and is arguably one of the most recognisable motor vehicle designs of all time. Indeed, only very few cars have characterised the development of the automobile in such an outstanding manner. In 1995 it was named ‘Car of the Century’ by AutoCar Magazine, and in 1999 the Mini was voted the second most influential car of the 20th Century, second only to the original Ford Model T. Mini has been the epitome of economical and desirable individual mobility for fifty years. The same characteristics of the classic Mini presented to the public for the first time in 1959 are interpreted by the current MINI in modern style. Throughout its evolution, the philosophy has been to combine compact dimensions with outstanding flair and genuine functionality. These all-round qualities have made it a truly timeless car over the years. When Alec Issigonis, a genuine visionary and the father of the classic Mini, was tasked by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) to build a “real small car” as quickly as possible, he rose to the occasion by creating a compact vehicle completely different in technical and visual terms from anything else on the road at the time. Its affordability was also a key factor in its widespread popularity, with more than three million Minis on the roads across the globe by the early seventies.
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But it wasn’t simply a car for the masses. At the height of their fame, The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein gave each of the Fab Four a Mini Cooper S as a gift. In keeping with the zeitgeist of the time, George Harrison had his car painted with psychedelic imagery and Sanskrit mantras, and in 1967 this legendary Mini starred in The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. Many other celebrities of the era – including Peter Sellers, Britt Ekland and Marianne Faithful – owned Minis, and they were featured prominently in the classic 1969 film The Italian Job. The humble car’s association with the stars of its time made the Mini even more iconic in the public eye. In 2001, the introduction of the modern MINI defined a new market segment – a small premium car with worldwide presence and a wide range of customisation features. Like the classic Mini decades before, market forecasts were outperformed almost overnight, with sales of the MINI amounting to a million units within just six years of the car’s launch into the market (oddly enough just one month longer than it took the classic Mini to reach the same total in March 1965). Five decades full of driving excitement and individual style – this, in a nutshell, is the history of the MINI: an automobile elevated to iconic status through sheer design ingenuity and mass appeal. Half a century down the line, the brand has never looked stronger.
LEFT Self-Portrait RIGHT Miss Wong 44 x 34cm
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Art, like fashion, is subject to cycles it seems. One of the names that is currently being rejuvenated, refreshed and revitalised to audiences across the world – most of whom would not have been alive in his era – is Vladimir Tretchikoff. WORDS:
Tretchikoff was born in 1913 in Russia and lived a remarkable life, full of adventure, love and superstition, as detailed in his autobiography, Pigeon’s Luck. Our hero’s tale begins in Russia, then moves at an epic pace through Manchuria, Shanghai, Singapore and finally to Java where he visits a séance with his muse, Lenka. During this chance encounter, Tretchikoff consulted a Ouija board to find out if his wife and daughter – from whom he was separated at the outbreak of World War II – were well. They replied in the affirmative, prompting Tretchikoff to inquire about their specific location S-O-U-T-H… was the cryptic response. Further communiqués with the spirit realm foretold his imminent worldwide acclaim, right down to the names of his works that would be the most successful (O-R-I-E-N-T-A-L-L-A-D-Y, for example). Tretchikoff was initially dubious of these predictions of international recognition, being virtually under house arrest in Java in the middle of the war, yet he nevertheless headed to South Africa where he was eventually reunited with his family. It would take a few more years for the subsequent prophecies to materialise but, as we all know now, they were spot on. IMAGES: courtesy of natasha mercorio (tretchikoff renaissance) all 1950’s first hand tretchikoff prints one small seed
Balinese Girl 37 x 33cm
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Once settled in Cape Town, he began itching to hold an exhibition but the Association of the Arts deemed his work ‘unsuitable’. This would only help to fuel the fire of his determination that never faltered in the face of ongoing adversary. As an artist he was adored by the public but the critics did not see it the same way, dubbing him ‘The King of Kitsch’. His use of colour was described as ‘lurid’ or ‘garish’ and his paintings were generally regarded as ‘tasteless’. Despite being disavowed by the art fraternity in the country he would call home for more than sixty years, he went on to tour America with great success. ‘The Chinese Girl’ – undoubtedly his most famous work – became one of the most iconic art pieces of all time. Over the decades since he first began to garner mass appeal, Tretchikoff prints have been sold in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. In fact, his prints have outsold those of his now much better known contemporaries. His fame allowed him to stage one of the biggest exhibitions of all time in Harrods, where people queued around the block to get a glimpse of the man and his work. Tretchikoff was a marketing visionary who began by selling his prints for only $1, thereby making fine art accessible to the masses on a previously unimagined scale. In a sense he had created Pop Art before the term had even been coined. Wayne Hemingway, the legendary English fashion designer, said of him: “Tretchikoff achieved everything that Andy Warhol stated he wanted to, but could never achieve because of his coolness.”
Tretchikoff once remarked that the only difference between himself and Vincent van Gogh was that the ill-fated Dutch painter died a pauper, whereas he became wealthy. Nevertheless, neither’s work was truly appreciated for what it was and they never lived to see the fame that they had deservedly earned. Saatchi & Saatchi Gallery UK is about to release a list of the top two hundred most influential artists of the 20th century, and Tretchikoff has once again been snubbed. His name wasn’t even on the shortlist of people to vote for – even though his artwork is amongst the most iconic and well recognised of all time. Today his granddaughter Natasha Mercorio has established the Tretchikoff Renaissance in Cape Town, an initiative intent on rekindling the public’s love of this great artist by using his images in amazing new formats. Some of these will be deservingly expensive, but most – as the King of Kitsch originally intended – are aimed at the hoi polloi, who will hopefully once again embrace his art for what it was and still is: an expression of his passion and his love for art and painting. The revival of his legacy will undoubtedly inspire a new generation of artists fortunate enough to live in a more open-minded era. His uncompromising and passionate approach to his work should, in fact, be an inspiration to us all. “Express your passion, do what you love, no matter what,” he famously said. The words of a true pioneer.
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AN ICON GONE TOO SOON
It is a testament to the spirit of his life and music that Lucky Dube will be remembered for decades to come for his massive contribution to the world of reggae and how he used its success to become a global mouthpiece for the struggle against Apartheid.
Even in death, Lucky continues to stand for a potent cause. His brutal murder has become a key motivator in the fight against crime. The lack of humanity shown by its perpetrators has led some to call for the reinstatement of the death penalty to help curb the country’s ridiculously high murder statistics. But this is at odds with the life of Lucky Dube, who throughout his career was a powerful voice of peace, love and understanding. Dube was born in 1964 in the town of Ermelo, Mpumalanga (what was then the Eastern Transvaal). He and his siblings, Patrick and Thandi, were raised single-handedly by their grandmother. Later in life, Lucky described his grandmother as his greatest love – a woman whose many sacrifices led him to grow into the great man he would one day become. Lucky Dube discovered Rastafarianism at school, and at 18 he joined his cousin’s band, The Love Brothers. They played mqabanga, an upbeat brand of Zulu pop, and signed to Richard Siluma’s Teal Records in 1980. Dube was still at school and funding his ambitions by working as a car auction security guard, and so it is miraculous that despite such a busy lifestyle he was still able to find the time to record an album in Johannesburg. Lucky Dube and the Supersoul released their first album Lengane Ngeyethu in 1981 and over the following five albums Lucky Dube learnt to refine his style and hone his lyrical abilities. However, his ambitions were focussed in a different direction from the mqabanga style with which he was becoming synonymous. Dube had seen amazing synergy between the ethos of the Jamaican reggae movement and the political issues of Apartheid South Africa. He had received positive responses from the few reggae songs that he had played live, and so, in 1984, he released a mini solo album called Rastas Never Die. While his mqabanga records were selling well in excess of 30 000 copies an album, Rastas only sold about 4 000 units, and was censored by the Apartheid government in 1985. These hardships would deter lesser men, but Dube saw this as an affirmation of his cause and pursued it all the harder. He was right.
Over the next twenty years, Lucky’s success spanned the globe, with his albums winning a total of five OKTV awards in the late eighties and early nineties. In 1993, his album Victims sold more than a million copies. After signing a recording contract with Motown in 1995, Lucky released his seminal Trinity album, following it up in 1996 with Serious Reggae Business for which he won the ‘Best Selling African Recording Artist’ at the World Music Awards. Dube’s success grew in leaps and bounds over the next ten years, with his next three albums each earning SAMA awards and his final album, Respect, immediately snapped up by Warner Music for its international release. A prolific showman, Dube recorded 22 albums over his 25-year career and was able to cross the cultural boundaries by recording in three of our national languages: Zulu, English and Afrikaans. Although he toured extensively, performing alongside superstars such as Sinéad O’Connor, Sting and Peter Gabriel, he was a dedicated South African, a proud father, and a stalwart of his local community. Despite being a Rastafarian, Dube eschewed the Rasta tradition of smoking dope and maintained a healthconscious lifestyle. However, as is often the case in this time of senseless crime, Dube’s life was cut short by murderers who neither knew who he was, nor cared about the role that he had played in bringing worldwide attention to the plight of South Africa. It was while dropping off two of his children at their uncle’s house in Rossettenville that Lucky Dube was murdered – shot by a gang of five intent on stealing his car. The outpouring of grief was heard across the world, with the love that was felt for him in South Africa particularly palpable. Lucky was a man who personified the goodness, talent and personal power of all South Africans – that ‘can do’ attitude that sets us apart, the belief in ourselves that allows us to rise up and pursue our dreams, despite enormous adversity and difficult circumstances. His life – and death – are filled with lessons to us all: to trust our instincts, follow our passions, and remember at all times that whatever we have can be taken away in an instant.
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With global sales in excess of 100 million, Depeche Mode belong to a select premier league of supergroups – alongside U2, REM and Metallica – who have survived from the early 1980s with their ideals, their creative vision and their core members intact. In 2009 they return to the forefront, reasserting their iconic status as one of the world’s most progressive bands. WORDS: dylan culhane
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Sounds of the Universe is Depeche Mode’s latest forwardthinking masterpiece. Harking back to the dark, orchestral electronica of Violator in lieu of the more guitar-driven output that defined their last three albums, the band retains their generation-defining sound without lazily relying on formula. As they approach their 30th anniversary, this latest instalment in their considerable legacy doesn’t come off as a last gasp for limelight or an attempt to cash in on the hugely influential Depeche sound – referenced by everybody from MGMT to Marilyn Manson – but is simply a damned good album that marks a logical progression in the band’s sonic evolution. “The overriding thrust of the album is the number of high quality songs,” says keyboardist Andy Fletcher. “Martin’s been writing really prolifically, to a high standard. We’ve recorded about 20 songs, which is pretty good for Depeche Mode.” The album title aptly references the distinctive retro-futuristic arrangements that resulted from a great deal of experimentation with old-fashioned Moogs and Korgs, many of which were collected via eBay during the recording process. “We’ve used a lot of old analogue synthesisers and drum machines, which conjure up images of the universe and space travel somehow,” Martin explains. “We’ve gone back to a lot of old vintage gear, without making the album sound too retro. It’s like yesterday’s future. That’s why for me it’s a perfect album title.” Producer Ben Hillier (who also oversaw Playing the Angel) rounds off the album’s timeless sound palette by blending vintage bleeps and beats with contemporary electronic textures. Sounds also sees vocalist Dave Gahan coming to the fore as a songwriter more than any of their previous albums, featuring the closest collaboration yet between Depeche Mode’s two primary songwriters. Martin and Dave share vocals on several songs and they have even co-written one track on this record. It felt like “a true partnership”, says Dave. “I think in a blind test people would find it difficult to tell who wrote which songs,” adds Martin. “Lyrically, I’m just being my usual cynical self,” Dave laughs. “I’m the man who has everything but I’m still just poking around in that little hole that feels empty, wondering what I can fill it with.” With many of the stadium shows on their upcoming ‘Tour of the Universe’ already sold out, Depeche Mode are undoubtedly still on an upward trajectory. Having done more for electronic music’s mainstream acceptance than any other group in history, one can only marvel at their universal domination.
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FORWARD THINKING WORDS:
No, he’s not a designer. In fact, the last time he designed a piece of clothing was during a brief fling with the Durban Tech back in the ‘80s. He has also had an affair with makeup and styling. But Dion Chang has, admittedly, fallen out of love with fashion.
His new company, Flux Trends, is slowly beginning to gain
momentum in business circles across the country. The type of projects that Flux gets involved in include consulting to advertising agencies and giving directional presentations to upper management. Ooooh. Upper management. It’s a far cry from the catwalk with which he’s usually associated. When Chang tells people that he works in trends, they almost immediately assume he’s in fashion trends, but the truth is that Flux looks at everything from politics to the state of the economy, popular culture, youth, social media and advertising. Flux specialises in the spaces between, looking particularly at the interconnectivity of all things. They simply join the dots. The Flux philosophy understands that there is just too much information out there to gain a good enough perspective in order to decide which course to follow. Especially in business, this is a big problem. The way that most people deal with information overload is by simply switching off. Flux aims to edit down the barrage of information and repackage it into bite-sized chunks. To do this, the company makes use of Chang’s abundant network of key specialists, employing them as pillars of knowledge 54
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in their various fields. Flux aligns its thinking with thought leaders who have an exceptional vantage point in their given industry. Last year, Flux published the inaugural 2009 Flux Trend Review and the company is now in the formative stages of the 2010 edition. The 2010 Flux Trend Review will cover various topics from the Human Resource drain to a chapter that looks beyond the 2010 Soccer World Cup and what it all means to South Africa. A world away from what colours to wear this season, Dahling. An iconic South African himself, Chang also has some wellformulated ideas on the distinction between trends and icons. “Whereas trends are transient by nature, an icon fulfills a certain need and goes even further to transcend that expectation, pointing the way forward. Look at Mandela, or the iPod, for example. Both can be viewed as iconic, one political and the other in terms of design. Both filled a very human need, be it freedom and love for one another, or simple and stylish efficiency. Both completely exceeded all expectations and pointed the way forward, one in civic life and the other in technological design. Both gained mass appeal as well as respect and were endorsed by mass culture as setting the compass to how things should be.” In this way, Chang himself exercises his iconic status – leading the way for the rest to follow. Ignore him at your peril.
When Bob Dylan spoke the line “the radio makes hideous sounds,” I’m certain that he was referring to the mindless pop shlock and banal banter of the talking head poseur deejay that is forced down the necks of radio listeners every time we “touch that dial”, for dead is the era of the radio DJ (in this country, anyways) who knew a thing or two about music and whose choice of tracks entertained and informed the listenership.
Enter Barney ‘Psycho’ Simon: an alternative evangelist who for some twenty-four years (and counting) has been educating listeners about what good rock music is, while also providing South Africa’s more progressive bands an outlet to have their music heard via the medium of radio wave. From six to nine p.m. on Sunday nights (in the late ‘80s) and then from seven until ten p.m. through to the mid-90s, his Sunday night ‘Powerhaus’ show on SABC’s Radio 5 (later rebranded as ‘The Night Zoo’ from ten til one, on 5fm) was entertainment for a ‘different’ audience – people who simply wanted to listen to music; exciting, new, loin-churning music. Barney broke new bands. He had “a contact” working at SAA that would rush the week’s hottest new releases (on vinyl) through to the studio where Barney would play them, sometimes without so much as even listening to the songs first. “I had great support from the local record companies to play the songs the suits rejected,” he recalls. “It was an era where DJs were never trained to become DJs and we had to teach ourselves.” On those nights when Barney was on, the entire South African alternative community was tied together by radio. Drop-outs and doctors, lawyers and losers, pilots and punks, mothers, metal heads, Satanists, saints, Christians, Muslims and an orthodox Jew or two, all tuned in when Barney was “coming through the doors” (“Brilliaaannnt! He didn’t even open them!”). Truth is, Barney Simon did open doors to entire musical universes. From Nick Cave to No Friends of Harry, Johnny Cash to Joy Division, we got to experience the same heroes, giant-like, especially when hearing them for the first time. Here was something, finally, that belonged to us, South Africa’s other minority tribe: the black sheep, Doc Martin massif. He would be offering some lonely troep in Zeerust moral advice one minute and be deriding the next random caller for requesting a Sisters of Mercy song (even though we knew he loved the band). In the final analysis, Barney made liking ‘weird’ music acceptable. He was, and still is (through his show on Pretoria campus radio TuksFM 107.2) one of us. Will he ever quit? “Not as long as there’s so much weird shit going down in this world and undiscovered new music and bands out there deserving airplay!”
IF IT’S TOO LOUD...
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POWERFUL I THOUGHTFUL I TRUTHFUL bernard, ian, jc, darren and cogs 72
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AT SWEET SIXTEEN POWDERFINGER
IS GETTING IT ON! Give it a whirl and you’ll agree that while it’s easy to listen to and love, it’s hard to work out exactly where their rock ‘n roll grabs and grooves you. Maybe it’s all over. The world, I mean. Because after sixteen years making records, this Aussie act has sold two million albums globally. Not bad for a traditional yet trendy ‘alternative rock’ act that belts out fresh, deep hits. one small seed took a sniff at their latest release Dream Days at the Hotel Existence with bassist, John Collins.
It’s not my place to comment on other countries, but I think in terms of Australian culture there’s always been place in our music for a social conscience. We’ve written about these issues, about the Aboriginal people, the inequality, the lack of interest shown by past governments. Those South Africans interested in humanitarian issues will relate. We feel you’ve always got to ask questions. As a band it’s an awesome opportunity to write songs about things we believe in. ‘Black Tears’ is about contravening Aboriginal culture – ‘The Day You Come’ is about Aussie government apathy.
Every Jagger or Jimi wannabe thinks his own music is amazing. What makes your latest offering unique to planet earth 2009?
What do you wish you’d done differently?
I suppose being honest about it, it’s probably not that unique, but from our point of view it’s just what we are – five people in a room trying to make a record together – after being together sixteen years. We slept on people’s couches for a long time. We started school together nineteen years ago and we’re still mates, and I think we need to be friends to make it work. Any specific musical advances from your previous record?
We don’t judge ourselves and look back; we’re not really reflective. It’s truly hard to pinpoint advances, but I think the use of keyboards and a machine string sound that The Beatles used sets this one a bit apart. Have your origins on the world’s largest island added positively to your sound?
You’ve got to be able to be proud of where you come from – we‘re from Brisbane which was considered a country town in its heyday. Brisbane loves us, because we’re not leaving. If we’re going to be big, we’ll do it from here. Australian culture is about if you don’t get on with your mates, you have nothing. We don’t wear costumes, we’re the kind of guys you can have a beer with on a Friday night. Australians respect us, because we’re not a bunch of wankers. We may have one of the most progressive constitutions in the world but South Africa recently refused the Dalai Lama entrance. Do you think we’d be able to appreciate the attention to worthwhile causes in your music?
It’s weird - we’re in L.A, but we’ve never recorded outside Australia. Part of me really wants to stay and do it in Australia, and though I wouldn’t change it, we’ve learnt so much. You describe this album as a “less dense, brighter sound”? Do you mean less garage, more gold; or less noise, more music?
We set out to write a rock record, so we went and listened to the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, and when we sat down it was pretty full on. The guitar sounds are full bodied; we looked at Rob Seth to try and find more beautiful sounds. The idea with Rob was to make it more cinematic, I suppose. You’ve spoken before of an emphasis on hope, yet the sound is steeped in whispers of melancholy, which is often an endearing element of contemporary pop rock. How do you feel about the balance?
It’s ‘cause we grew up in the nineties – everyone’s melancholy. We were listening to Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins. It’s more that there’s always an imbalance – you can’t be too hopeful. You can’t be mindlessly hopeful. It’s the extremes – the things that sadden or inspire you. How do you hope this album will break the skin of the masses?
Unfortunately I don’t reckon it will. I’d love it to. I suppose in the end I’d just love people to hear it, then if they like it, great; We don’t have this idealistic idea that our music will save the world. We just want to make good records and share them. www.powderfinger.com
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SAVOURING THE SUNSHINE
The tales of excess that surround this band are legendary. Wildly misogynistic, sexually bizarre, drugged-up to the tits and ready to party. Jon Monsoon finds Placebo not like that at all. WORDS:
For a band that has grown up in the public eye, Placebo has turned out rather well, thirteen years and five albums in. Chatting to the sweet gay Swede, original founder member and bass player Stefan Olsdal, the release of their fifth studio album Battle for the Sun finds the formerly wild band super focussed and on the mend. Having seen the departure of original drummer Steven Hewitt late in 2007 “due to musical and personal differences”, the band has been looking forward to looking forward. Stefan is at pains to tell how the new album is brimful of something akin to optimism, more than anything else we’ve come to know and love this band for in the past. Placebo’s style has been known to vary greatly, from one album to the next anyway. Most critically, it’s believed that the band have been softening up over time, certainly since 1996’s wildly minimalist debut Placebo. By album number three in 2000 (Black Market Music), there were fears that the band was on a heading to become the next Depeche Mode, such was their love for a good synth line and avant garde sound production. This time around they have discovered… horns! Instruments they’ve never tried out before on any of their previous albums. Stefan will hint at the fact that they have learnt to embrace technology and have discovered production software like ProTools, calling it “a godsend”. Right. So no songs about doing drugs, staying up all night with strippers doing drugs or naughty group sex whilst on drugs then? A glance at the confirmed album track listing reveals songs with titles like ‘The Never-Ending Why’, ‘For What It’s Worth’ and ‘Come Undone’. Does this mean singer-songwriter-leading-lipsticked-frontman Brian Molko is going apologetic on us? Is he cutting open a vein and letting it bleed for us? “No, no. Not really,” sighs Olsdal. “The band is just in a really healthy place now,” he explains. He goes on to relate how excited they all are, especially now with new drummer Steve Forrest in tow, how this time it’s all about mending old wounds and covering old scars. 74
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“We started this band in 1994, so that we didn’t have to go out and get real jobs,” reminds Stephan, “Sure, we had to make some tough decisions, but we decided that we can’t let the ship sink.” The band called in some heavyweights to handle the finer side of production. They put Dave Bottrill behind the mixing desk, recording the album in his Canadian studio over a period of three months. Bottrill is the man behind such great rock moments of our time as Tool’s Ænima, Salival and Lateralus albums, Silverchair’s Diorama and dEUS’ The Ideal Crash. Alan Moulder, the engineer behind the better moments of bands like Nine Inch Nails, The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, A Perfect Circle and The Smashing Pumpkins, handled the final mix. “Never forget,” Stephan stresses, “that we are a guitar band, first and foremost.” The band’s new-found sense of optimism could also spring from the fact that they have been released from their claustrophobic five-year contract with major record label EMI. “We’re very relieved about that!” says Olsdal. The new album will be released as near to independently as can be. With previous album Meds being leaked onto the Internet almost two months before its official release back in 2006, the band learnt a hard lesson in webonomics and have since gotten real with the dynamic of digital music by releasing the first single, ‘Battle For The Sun’, as a free download on the band’s official website. When the song was debuted on BBC Radio 1’s rock show in March, fan hysteria was such that the DJ Zane Lowe was forced to play the song twice. I should mention that there are also songs on the new album called ‘Ashtray Heart’, ‘Kings of Medicine’ and (my favourite) ‘Happy You’re Gone’ – hope yet that the new album will spawn something suitably dark and Placebo-ish à la 1998’s Without You I’m Nothing. “We all know that Placebo doesn’t write happy albums,” explains the bassist patiently. May the spoils of battle be theirs. www.placeboworld.co.uk
“Never forget – that we are a guitar band, first and foremost” LEFT TO RIGHT Brian Molko Stefan Olsdal Steve Forrest
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Pop culture hardly helps when it comes to clichés about musicians – when it’s in a good mood they’re seen as glamorous, star-studded in diamonds and dripping charisma; when it’s grumpy, they’re those depressed, druggie layabouts who neglect everything but the music. Cape Town’s eclectic saxophonist, Rus Nerwich, is neither of these. Try and attach any of the other obvious clichés to him (like, say, snooty jazzo, kooky new age creative or snoep-pursed Sea Pointer) and he’ll probably smile benignly and go back to blowing his sax. The man has a plan, and he’s too busy enjoying the journey to be put off by sceptics. Rus’s playing is sensual, sometimes simple, often layered and intense, but rarely redundant. Besides a diverse discography, he also has a healthy working relationship with some of the finest jazz musos in the city. He created and co-owns a booking agency, Tones of Note, to support his and others’ initiatives. To keep up with the changing tastes of emerging urban culture he has often collaborated, most recently with renowned musicians under ‘The Collective Imagination’. Typical of his temperament, his overall repertoire appeals to fans of Yiddish folk, fusion jazz and urban mixes alike. His latest release, Under the Poetree, is a self-confessed feel-good album that has earned him a 2009 SAMA nomination and seems set to seduce party lovers across the land. Recorded in isiXhosa and amaEnglish, its melange of musical styles sits neatly under the Urban Pop Slash Hip Hop tab, if you like tabs. If you don’t, think of the album as a bit of a cowboy – jazzy jigging on top; happy hip-hop at the holster; tight, bright electric beats down below and soul right down to its, um… soles. Or is that boots? It also includes sonic additives from the likes of Buddy Wells and Melanie Scholtz. The self-employed, intrepid Rus also challenges the cliché of the broke, bitter creative. He seems to be one of those rare souls at peace with his (chosen) place in the world. “I got no beef with the mechanisms of the music industry” he says, as we discuss the difficulties of making music make money if you’re anything less than mainstream. His perception is simple: if you know what you want, you know what you have to do. And he’s been doing it all over the world. His can-do attitude gets him noticed. In the last year alone, he’s performed at concerts in Paris, Antwerp, Brussels, Spain and this year’s Cape Town International Jazz Fest. 76
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With the candour of a can-do man, Rus DIY Nerwich is cleverly carving creativity out of cliché and setting his own standards in his journeys through jazz. WORDS: jezebel IMAGE: robin sprong
His recent SAMA nomination is a nod from the know-it-alls. As a totally independent musician, he’s pleased about that, but positive about doing it on his own. He keeps himself pretty busy with his many creative projects to ensure his career and creativity are self-contained. This is not a man who wants to be answerable to anybody when he gets where he’s going. Which is…? To the point where he feels he’s a brilliant sax player. At this stage, he thinks he’s at about 30 percent of his technical and creative capacity with the instrument. Which bodes well for those who already enjoy his playing. The natural question around all this effusive outpouring is whether all this mixing and matching leaves Rus a chance to specialise. Xenophobes everywhere are quick to point out that the danger of diversity is dilution. (Of course, xenophobes are SO last year.) But the dexterous businessman is also a dedicated player who spends as many hours waxing his sax as developing the support structures that enable him to play. “I probably have two albums worth of material right now,” he says. His list of ‘To Dos’ for the next couple of seasons includes an exhibition of his illustrations and a children’s book. The obvious question seems to be: “Why so many projects?” But if you’ve had even five minutes of pleasure with the frenetic, fine-tuned hopscotching mind of the man, you’ll know innately that the answer is very obviously, “Why not?”
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There’s no excuse for not having heard of Flash Republic. Whether you’re into clubbing, live music, or simply listening to the radio on your way to work every day, there are few other bands in the country to have initiated such an allencompassing assault on the airwaves, dancefloors and stages of the land as this quartet comprised of two legendary house DJs, one dope MC and a golden-voiced songstress. When I chat to them on the eve of yet another trip to Sun City for the annual SAMA awards (this year nominated for Best Dance Act), there’s an exuberance about them that one would expect from pop-stars riding a wave of success. After listening to Danger, their second studio recording, it’s clear that their optimism isn’t misplaced; the album is a goldmine of dancefloor tracks with the rare ability to tear up clubs and daytime radio charts alike.
Their success seems to stem from three main avenues, most important of which is their knack for writing songs that stay on repeat in your head for the greater part of the week. Secondly, they all enjoyed prodigious solo careers before aligning as a triple threat. If you’ve never been to a party with either Ryan Dent or Craig Massiv behind the decks in the last fifteen years, you probably don’t go out a whole lot. And finally, since it lacked a precedent in this country, Tamara Dey and the boys capitalised on a niche in the musical market for a live dance act – with instruments and everything. Their stage performances and collaborative songwriting process leaves no question that this is a band in the true sense of the word. While they’ve literally exploded on the local music scene in the last couple of years, Flash Republic have garnered international acclaim by working with some of the world’s best DJs and producers. Several of their tracks have been remixed by house music heavyweights like Fonzerelli, Thomas Gold, Sunfreakz, and StoneBridge, many of these appearing on the supplementary remix disc packaged with the Danger album. Whereas many local bands look towards global recognition as an eventual goal, Flash Republic began their odyssey when one of their first tracks was picked up by Dutch superstar Funkerman, who wanted to find out if they had a band for shows. This galvanised the trio into a functioning entity and soon thereafter they found themselves living in Amsterdam, performing at night and writing tracks for their debut album, Time is Now, by day. Upon their return to Johannesburg, Time is Now went on to spawn no less than three top ten hits. Danger looks set to have an even greater impact on the local scene. As we discuss the sonic architecture of their latest album, the conversation overflows with some of the imminent ideas for record number three, already starting to coalesce in their minds. I’ll have to keep a lid on those for now but, needless to say, there’s no limit to what we can expect from Flash Republic in the future.
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DEPARTMENTS: Reviews by DYLAN CULHANE (DC), Jon Monsoon (JM)
CD REVIEWS EAGLES OF DEATH METAL
Man, oh man. The speed at which I tore off the annoying plastic wrapper when this CD first arrived in the office bordered on barbaric. After all, Joshua ‘Baby Duck’ Homme (probably better known as Queens of the Stone Age frontman) generally churns out the godliest riffs known to man, with a vocal style that could melt the heart of an iron maiden. Their third album, I’m gutted to say, disappoints in this regard. Perhaps if I had the inclination to spin it a few more times I’d change my mind, but an initial listen left me unmoved – distracted even – and I battled to recall a single song once the twelve tracks had run their course. It’s more than listenable and some of the tracks (‘Wannabe in L.A.’, ‘High Voltage’ and ‘Cheap Thrills’ in particular) kick some mild butt, but Heart On sounds like EoDM going through the motions instead of fuelling the flames of Rock. (DC)
Good old Grace Jones. She just doesn’t stop, does she? Hurricane is the statuesque sexagenarian’s tenth studio album and the first to be released in over nineteen years. That’s right, she’s taken a recording sabbatical for longer than many of you have been alive, but you’d hardly notice it the way she holds her own on this record. The crushing basslines, glitch electronics and swarms of noise guitar that typified the Grace Jones sound in her heyday as a fetishistic, flat-topped androgyne are still present, though she’s definitely tempered her persona in favour of honest lyricism. As a result the songs are more… human; centred on soul and emotion rather than pure style. Once you get over the novelty of her return to form, you’ll undoubtedly forget the Grace Jones you knew from A View to a Kill and Conan the Destroyer, and simply be absorbed by her voice and musicality. (DC)
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FLASH REPUBLIC Danger
The Adventures Of Captain Stu
Though their first album (2005’s The Untold Tales) came and went like a whisper in the night, this second offering from the Cape Town-based six-piece is certain to attract a helluva lot more attention. Fusing funk, reggae and ska with good old fashioned rock ‘n roll music, The Adventures of Captain Stu oozes irie vibes and infectious melodies through your stereo system. Their style is perhaps most easily comparable to Sublime or Goldfinger (for those who desire points of reference), but the sound they create is truly their own. In an age where the Internet threatens to destroy the livelihood of musicians who rely on album sales, this record does exactly what all records should be doing: it makes you want to go and see the band live. Care to join me? (DC)
The best part about owning this album is that you have the ability to play it over and over again at your leisure, which is what you’ll inevitably end up doing once the grooves sink their doof-doof fangs into your jugular. The combination of live instrumentation and Tamara Dey’s energetic vocals edge most of the songs into the realm of radio-friendly singalong pop, yet it’s all built on a bedrock of uptempo beats laid down by DJs Ryan Dent and Craig Massiv. ‘Twister’ is the standout single, but I could imagine almost any of the other songs on the album having a similar impact on the charts in the near future. This release includes a bonus disc of remixes by European heavyweights like Sunfreakz, Thomas Gold and StoneBridge, just in case ten killer tracks aren’t enough for you. (DC)
BAT FOR LASHES Two Suns
Sounds of the Universe
This may be one of the most anticipated albums of the year, which makes it a bit tricky to assess within a framework of expectations. There’s no mistaking that this is a Depeche Mode album, so all ye legions of loyalist fans needn’t worry too much about any experimental departures. Quite frankly, no-one was really expecting a bad album from a band who have consistently produced platinum-plated anthems for almost three decades, so let’s just all agree that Depeche Mode can do no wrong and move on from there. Sounds of the Universe is, to my mind, an astonishing album that reaffirms the aforementioned truism, albeit in a more understated way. The sonic landscape they create is expansive, atmospheric and decidedly dark with... wait, I’ve just described all their previous albums. Just give me a break and buy it for crying out loud! (DC)
Thom Yorke loves her, Radiohead’s 2008 tour featured her as the opening act, and Björk goes to her gigs. Fact is, Bat for Lashes (the pseudonym of Brighton-based singer-songwriter Natasha Khan) is well on my list as the best thing to emerge off of the English music scene since Björk last donned a bear-suit. This album, her second since 2006’s Fur and Gold contains more than enough reasons (eleven, to be precise) to believe in music once again as a vital and powerful force capable of smiting your ears’ worst fears. Fans of the edgy explosive female vocal styles breathed by artistes like Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, Fiona Apple and Kate Bush will revel in every desolate piano chord, serotonin-spiked synth stab, buzzsaw bassline and whispered vocal uttered on this fine, fine album that demands you pay it some attention. (JM)
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DEPARTMENTS: Reviews by DYLAN CULHANE (DC), Jon Monsoon (JM)
CD REVIEWS THE VIRGINS
EMPIRE OF THE SUN
Walking on a Dream
In an era where quirky electro acts literally fall from the sky, Australia’s Empire of the Sun packs a bit more authenticity than most (despite looking like the karaoke twins at an ‘80s Adam and The Ants revival gig). By this I mean that their music is clever without being dorky or having to resort to gimmicks to sell downloads. Luke Steele (of concept band The Sleepy Jackson) and partner in synth Nick Littlemore (of dance band Pnau) have found in one another’s company a rare formula for making sweet tracks that appeal to the right senses, at the right times. They know how to do cool without over-doing it and make being weird seem almost normal, whilst some tight production takes care of the niggly bits that might otherwise be cause for complaint. (JM)
When people sit around discussing New York rock bands in ten years time, they will make mention of (amongst others) bands like Kiss, Velvet Underground, New York Dolls, The Strokes, Agnostic Front, The Rapture, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Few, if any, will remember this band. Probably best known for their happy garage single ‘One Week of Danger’ (and then only because it appeared on U.S. teen TV series Gossip Girl), The Virgins have managed a full album of mostly banal pop ditties which are about as cutting edge as a stale jam doughnut. If you buy into the pop-rock shlock of other lame-o bands like Maroon 5 then you might find this disposable aural malady somewhat agreeable. I’m not convinced. (JM)
To Lose My Life
Invaders Must Die
Ten years ago, The Prodigy was the most important band on the planet. Five years ago, not so much. In 2009, they probably don’t give a fuck anymore if you think they’re any good – they know they are, and that’s all that really matters. Invaders Must Die, the Prodg’s fifth studio album over seventeen years is probably the best thing they’ve ever done. It’s all back to the rave with sounds and methods that started the fire all those years ago. Fans of old will revel in the nostalgia trip while newcomers will surely marvel at the cheek of it all. As Keith Flint explained to me over the phone just the other day: “It’s all about chucking it out on stage, mate, that’s what we do best…why wouldn’t we want to make music that allows us to do that?” Why not indeed. Long live The Prodigy. (JM) 82
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Representing what could possibly be called the new face of Goth, the West Londoners (formerly Fear of Flying) offer some stark and not altogether happy reflections on life, love and – predictably – death (it’s even the opening song title!). Their debut album will have many clotheared coffin kids wanting to compare them to other smile dodgers like Joy Division, Interpol and even Alphaville, which is not such a bad thing. Comparisons aside, frontman Harry McVeigh offers the endorphin-deprived listener ten darkly polished synth rock songs that veritably shine with melancholic longing and a pervading sense of loss that makes for the prefect break-up album. Indie rock’s last hope? I’ll have to get back to you on that one… (JM)
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Listen Up Babydoll… No-One Needs to Know
Cape Town’s The Ragdolls are a band that positively revels in their own existence. Just happy to be here and intent on rocking our socks to their very inner cores, the quartet’s debut album is something of a DIY indie triumph, being spawned from “an everpresent and growing attraction towards the wild and seductive world of that thing we call rock ‘n roll”. Listen Up blazes with vivacious energy and a whole lotta snap, crackle and rock that will go as well first thing in the morning with a shot of Jack and black coffee as it will late at night in a smoky pool hall at the edge of whatever town you happen to find yourself lost in. Check them out live and be glad for this band. (JM)
THE SLEEPERS A Signal Path
Anyone that thinks South African alternative rock bands need all seethe and sound the same needs a lesson in the finer art of tuning their ear towards the less obvious. Take this band, The Sleepers: four young and extremely talented musicians whose combined aesthetic defies their young experience. They recently launched A Signal Path, their mostly magnificent debut album on a hot night in Cape Town and were themselves surprised by the capacity audience that turned out to appreciate their brand of intelligent, well crafted and balanced progressive rock. Lead singer Sy’s vocals astound in their breadth and range, keeping pace with his bandmates’ tight aural wanderings. Keep an eye on this band, for I think they are about to be very well received in all the right places. (JM)
DEPARTMENTS: MAX BARASHENKOV (MB), SARAH JAYNE FELL (SF)
dvd REVIEWS THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN (2008)
Directed by: Ryûhei Kitamura Starring: Bradley Cooper, Vinnie Jones, Brooke Shields Category: Slasher Noir
Take a Clive Barker sci-fi/horror short story, add to it a Japanese director responsible for some of the best underground gore of the last decade, run it through a filter of unprecedented cinematographic quality and skill, and in the end you’ll get The Midnight Meat Train. The story centres on a photographer (Cooper) shadowing the mysterious butcher Mahogany (Jones) and starts off as a run-of-the-mill slasher, but quickly develops into so much more. The film twists its way through some of the most nail-biting horror sequences ever (the final showdown in a train carriage full of strung-up bodies is too good to describe) and climaxes in the most bizarre way. This one is for the books. (MB)
Directed by: Clark Gregg Starring: Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston Category: Adult Comedy
Directed by: Guy Ritchie Starring: Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton Category: Cockney Crime Caper
Mr. Ritchie sticks to what he does best in his latest offering. RocknRolla screams with the fast paced editing of Snatch and the suave soundtrack choices of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Gerard Butler plays an ever-so-enigmatic gangster who ends up embroiled in a high stakes property scam and has to tangle with underworld heavyweights left, right and centre. The first film of a speculated trilogy, RocknRolla leaves a lot of loose ends and, to be honest, does not match up to the knock-out-punch effect of Ritchie’s other works. It does however contain scenes that are utter gems and lays an alluring groundwork for further gangster exploits. (MB) 84
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Those of you who don’t read might have missed out on the brilliance of Chuck Palahniuk’s prose, but the good folks in Hollywood sure haven’t. Choke is the second of Palahniuk’s books to be adapted for the screen (the first being Fight Club, surprise surprise) and, as with most adaptations, it will probably disappoint die-hard fans. Several parts of the story have been dropped, or at least downplayed, in order to construct a coherent on-screen narrative. This isn’t to say that Choke is bad. Quite the opposite: as a stand-alone film it kicks ass. From the outright hysterical to the deeply disturbed, the cast (headed by the talented Sam Rockwell) and the story will have you on a rollercoaster you don’t want to get off. (MB)
The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson (2008)
Directed by: Alex Gibney Starring: Hunter S. Thompson, Johnny Depp, Tom Wolfe, Sondi Wright Category: Biography
Where do you begin to cover the life of a man whose every step spawned legends? This documentary provides an overview of the creator of Gonzo journalism: his works, his outrageous antics and his personal life. The film is a must for Dr. Thompson fans and any aspiring journalists. Previously unseen footage of Hunter in action is coupled with interviews with all those he encountered during his life, from actors and magazine editors to politicians and criminals. This film will have you rolling on the floor with laughter (take, for example, the footage of artist Ralph Steadman painting on mescaline) and locked into periods of marveling at Thompson’s brilliant mind. (MB)
LARK: A DAGGER AND A FEATHER
Live from the Pavilion Theatre (2008)
Directed by: Quinton Lavery Category: Live Music Concert
The Band’s Visit (2007)
Directed by: Eran Kolirin Starring: Sasson Gabai, Ronit Elkabetz, Khalifa Natour, Saleh Bakri Category: Arthouse Comedy
Lark don’t cut corners with A Dagger and a Feather. Their performance to an intimate seated audience in Cape Town is one of the best I’ve seen by the band, notorious for their wild intensity in concert. According to drummer Sean Ou Tim, “It’s not a standard run-of-themill rock gig. It’s a bit more theatrical.” Well that’s just a blatant understatement. The live event is spectacular – performed in four sections with wardrobe changes and a full stage of playroom props against a dramatic backdrop of a multiform audiovisual display and stateof-the-art lighting and sound, all augmented by guest artists in a choral/orchestral element. The double DVD captures the full impact of the electric energy on stage, and more, with behind-the-scenes footage and personal interviews with Lark. (SF)
The Band’s Visit caused quite a stir in the arthouse circles when it came out on the big screen, raising fairly controversial issues in a non-controversial way. The film examines Arab-Israeli relations from the viewpoint of an Egyptian police marching band that arrives in Israel for a concert, gets lost and ends up spending a night in a bleak yet welcoming village. The film’s style echoes that of Wes Anderson, the comedy arising from uncomfortable moments and the utter surrealism of the situation that the characters find themselves in. The Band’s Visit is a work of quiet contemplation, almost meditative in nature, yet studded with genuinely funny and touching human moments. (MB) one small seed
DEPARTMENTS: WORDS BY JON MONSOON
GAME REVIEWS MONSTERS VS. ALIENS PS3
It all starts out well and the fun is intense; for at least a full hour. In your guise as one of the monsters from the awesome DreamWorks 3D feature film, you control the planet’s destiny, which means defeating the evil Gallaxhar: one mean psychomaniacal alien. Each character has unique powers which you must employ in a variety of battles across 20 levels in locations taken straight from the movie itself. Solid enough fun which quickly becomes routine and, dare I say it – boring – with little sense of progression or real reward for your alien-ass-kicking skills. But, with some good voice work, passable soundtrack, so-so animation and lots of things to pick up as you go, this is certainly not a bad game.
KORG DS-10 Synthesizer
Nintendo DS Xseed Games
The concept of synths and sequencers as ‘game’ fodder is not new, but KORG takes things a step further with the commercial release of their DS-10 app. Modeled on their much-loved MS-10 synth, this is one gnarly bit of software that offers a ton of fun and surprisingly good sound. You need not have worked with synths or sequencers before to get the gist of how to get started, the fun is instant and the results, while maybe not studio quality, are certainly good enough to warrant further explorations on the real thing. Two analogue synth emulators, a drum machine, six-track/16-step sequencer, three types of audio effect, keyboard and KAOS Pad, and you’re on your way. Up to eight DS systems can jam together wirelessly. This is seriously cool.
Mario Party Nintendo DS Nintendo
The first Mario Party game to see the light of day on the DS, the story involves a miniaturised Mario crew on a mission to collect fallen stars before the evil Bowser gets them. Five party boards and 70+ highly inventive and humorous mini games (including all of the puzzles from past Mario Party games), ensures a fairly adequate supply of inventive fun as you play through your mission picking up badges and rewards as you go. Mario Party points are awarded at each completion, which eventually add up to unlock new games that will, all in all, have you mashing buttons, scribbling on the touch screen, shouting and even blowing into the microphone in the name of party fun. Superstar! 86
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Battalion Wars 2 Wii
One of the most underrated strategy games takes it all back to the virtual battlefield for the next round. BW2 is a big improvement on the first game as, for starters, the variety of weapons, soldiers, objectives and missions you can bring into play are vastly upped and improved. The controls are a cinch to figure out and make sense of the Wii format. If you’re new to the franchise, you needn’t have played the first part to understand what it’s all about as BW2 keeps things much the same without too many major deviations (they have added a nifty naval fleet). The cinematics are great – somewhere between cartoon and real life, they are very well rendered throughout. In the final analysis, Battalion Wars 2 is a top tier game that comes heartily recommended.
Donkey Kong: Jet Race Wii
Jet Race is a character racer for the Wii console that marks a less-than-brilliant moment in the Donkey Kong project. Originally appearing on Nintendo GameCube, it made use of a bongo drum accessory and made sense as a game that required you to bang on a bongo in order to do certain things. Replacing the bongo peripheral (also used in the games Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat and Donkey Konga) with Wii controls makes for awkward, nonsensical gameplay that is slow and badly rendered with a crummy soundtrack and… let’s just say there’s a long list of reasons you should avoid this shallow game as if it were a Mexican pork farmer with flu-like symptoms.
Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution 2 Wii
Fans of the tournament battle-style anime game will find the latest installment in the ongoing Naruto Clash of Ninja saga a total treat. While the basic story remains the same four years in, the new interface brings with it seven brand new characters (35 in total), loads of new missions and new stages. Some might find these new additions a bit too similar to the last outing, but that should not diminish the fun factor as you advance through the Survival, Team or Free For All fights. The motion-based controls add hand movements that build your health and increase your chakra. If you’re new to Clash of Ninja or merely looking for a great, easy to handle ass-kicking fighting game, this is a good starting point. one small seed
Cape Town International Jazz Festival Jax Panik Wacky Jax Panik interrogates himself in an interview as mad as his music videos. Catch him live on onesmallseed.tv and check out his latest video ‘Hit or Miss’. 88
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For a complete overview of Cape Town International Jazz Festival check out the footage on onesmallseed.tv. Our film crew was there for all three days to bring you the best of Africa’s biggest jazz fest.
Rus Nerwich Tretchikoff On page 46 we look at the life and work of South Africa’s pop art pioneer and King of Kitsch, Vladimir Tretchikoff himself. We do a follow up interview with his granddaughter and founder of the Tretchikoff Renaissance in Cape Town, Natasha Mercorio, to get a more intimate insight into the life of the man and the work of a true icon. Watch it live on onesmallseed.tv.
one small seed catches up with ‘hip-bop’ artist Rus Nerwich in an exclusive interview at his Cape Town studio then films him with The Collective Imagination as they perform songs from Under the Poetree live at The Waiting Room in Long Street.
Levi’s Photographer Search
one small seed photo shoot Get behind the scenes with us and discover the ins and outs of a one small seed fashion shoot. Check out the ‘Localised’ shoot on pages 64-70 featuring the latest ranges by hot local designers then go to onesmallseed.tv to watch the whole thing being put together. Also check out the shoot where we create the cover of this issue of one small seed magazine – only on onesmallseed.tv.
Levi Strauss South Africa embarked on a search for a fresh photographer to bring their unique vision to the world’s original denim brand. The chosen photographer would shoot seasonal campaigns for Levi’s, to be featured in store and in local media. On page 28 we bring you the winner of this prestigious competition. Now showing on onesmallseed.tv is a live interview with the photographer herself. Check out the video to see the talents of Romi Stern in action from the other side of the lens.
What’s Your Story? Asha Zero The enigmatic entity that is Asha Zero won’t define itself, so we let the paintings piece together their own meaning in a mini documentary featuring the artistic avatar that we interviewed on page 24.
Follow the chain reaction as one creative leads us to the next. We talk to local industry leaders and then find out who they think we should be talking to. Watch us join the dots in an original new series coming soon to onesmallseed.tv. is brought to you by
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IN THE MODERN ERA Greetings. It’s nice to be here again. As you can see, I’m standing in front of this Russian painting of some sad looking lady and her little glowing worm of a child. If you think he looks sad now, come back in thirty-three years time. Also, you might have noticed that I’m dressed not unlike a certain American woman with a gap in her teeth, who has a penchant for adopting African children while wearing conical-shaped brassieres. That’s right everyone, we’re talking about icons today. Or maybe tomorrow, or sometime in the future, if you decide to read this again, but that’s up to you. Many things can be iconic. Designs, architecture, the way your mom dresses you in her old clothes before you go out clubbing – but today we’re going to take our Hp glasses (no, not the Wayfarers) and push them just a little higher on our noses, so that we can take a closer look at how to become icons ourselves. • Be an Irish person. Start a band, perhaps just pick one letter and one number for the name. Make one or two good songs, then piss about for twenty years convincing people to still give you money. When that becomes boring, harp on about ‘global issues’ until someone gives you a knighthood/international peace prize/punch in the mouth to shut up. • Turn yourself into a building. Become interesting to architectural types. Perhaps let function decide your form. Remember: the Bauhaus is not only a dog-kennel.
• Convince people that a certain pseudo-leather-bound notebook with an elastic band to keep all your ideas in will make them more creative. Place this notebook in the hands of people who like to sit in coffee shops with laptops. Let them chew their pens and drink the blood of humanely killed organic coffee beans while jotting down inane thoughts and ‘doodling’. No, no normal paper is good enough for creative people. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel would have looked much better in an artistically coffee-stained notebook, thank you very much. • Take a fairly respectable genre of music (electro, for example) and water it down until it’s acceptable enough for the masses to swallow – because it’s edgy and ‘new’ yet somehow familiar. Almost like a jersey your cat-loving Aunt knitted for you, but with lightning bolts on it! Now that you have a great, watery base for your music-pot, throw in some ‘oh-so-naughty’ references to card games, muffins and large carrots (grown into the most amusing Freudian shapes). Actually, pass on the carrots. Now, for the look. It is suggested that you make yourself look like an idiot. But an idiot from the future. Be edgy. Who needs pants when the only lips that can speak can’t be found on your poker face? That seems to be all the time we have for today. Sorry Sir, did my pointy gold breasts poke you in the eye? Or was that just my opinion of myself? May all of you become transmuted into little graphic representations of the programs that live inside your computer, Paul White, HEADLINE payoff
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The South African Pop Culture Magazine.