Willem Moller: copy editor by day musician by night

By Lindsay de Freitas
27 October 2015

Tell us a bit more about your (secret) life as a musician? ie. what kind of instrument(s) do your play?

I play guitar (mostly electric), bass, drums, various percussion and a little bit of keyboards. And recently, banjo! On stage I usually play guitar and sometimes bass; the other instruments mostly only in the studio. Apart from being a “musician for hire” (which means I don’t play with just one artist; I operate freelance), I’ve always had a recording studio at home where I record and produce various artists.

When did you first start playing and what was it that lead you to pursue music?

I was introduced to music as a child at home. I’m the youngest of four siblings. My eldest sister was a music student (she became a music teacher and church organist) so through her I was exposed to classical music from a young age, while my brother and younger sister listened to rock, soul and pop. My parents loved musicals.

Since then I’ve been educating myself in all styles of music, especially blues, jazz and African styles, but I listen to and appreciate just about any kind of music from around the world. The only thing I don’t like is manufactured pop. My first instrument was drums which I learnt to play when I was about 8; I started playing guitar when I was about 12. I took music theory as an extra subject at school. I joined my first band at 13 and started doing session work (recording) at about 20. I’m also a sound engineer and lectured in sound engineering at a college in Jozi for a few years.

I’ve been fortunate to play with some great artists – including Nataniël, Johannes Kerkorrel, Tonia Selley (my wife), Wendy Oldfield and Koos Kombuis

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You’ve played with rock legend Sixto Rodriguez on a few occasions and even appeared in the Oscar winning documentary Searching for Sugarman – what was that like?

It was a wonderful experience to play with a living legend and Rod’s story is an amazing and unique one – the kind of thing scriptwriters can’t make up. And his songs still move people.

Have you played with any other big names?

I’ve been fortunate to play, on stage and/or in the studio, with some great South African artists – including Nataniël, Johannes Kerkorrel, James Phillips, Tonia Selley (my wife), Jonathan Handley, Wendy Oldfield, Koos Kombuis, Steve Louw (of Big Sky), Luna Paige, Robin Levetan, Jacques Coetzee (of Red Earth & Rust), Heather Mac, Dave Ferguson . . . I’ve also recorded and produced people like Henry 8, Valiant Swart, the Blues Broers, Dax Butler, Greg Schoeman and Die Lemme.

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Do people think it’s odd that you’re both a guitarist and copy editor?

I don’t really care what people think, it’s how my life turned out . . . I did honours in philosophy at varsity, then a journalism honours course just to delay going to the army. My dad, who was a philosophy lecturer and then a church minister, ended up a magazine editor and writer.

Journalism has often paid the bills when music didn’t. I was a reporter for a short while before I found I’m better as a sub and rewriter.

Do you still play, if so are doing any shows at the moment or do you have any coming up?

I still play as much as I find time for and I’m always busy with various projects in the studio – gig-wise it’s quiet at the moment so I’m concentrating on finishing Dax Butler’s second album.

There’s also an album by Greg Schoeman that’s waiting to be finished, and then I hope to get started on projects with Jamie Jupiter and Hatchetman, both great Cape Town artists.

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