We chat to PH Fat and Desmond & the Tutus as Oppikoppi kicks off

PH fat. (Photo: Darren Luk)
PH fat. (Photo: Darren Luk)

Cape Town – Ahead of the 21st annual Oppikoppi music festival we chat to local acts PH Fat and Desmond & the Tutus about their upcoming performances.

First up is Smooth Mike of PH Fat:

C24: Out of all the music at OppiKoppi 20 last year, you guys played one of the best shows over the whole festival. Ready to beat this year's high expectations?

Mike: Thanks dudes. Yeah we worked our asses off on that show. And it was a huge one for us. I feel kinda like we might have set pretty damn high standards for this year. So we’re taking a bunch of time to try and get this show right and maybe even write some new tracks. But new tracks are always tricky, it’s a balance between the familiar and the new when it comes to big shows like this. No matter what a track ended up doing the first time we dropped it live it has never gone down like it does once people are familiar with it. I remember the first time we dropped jump people just kinda stared at us like “what are these dudes doing?”

C24: Being from the fairest Cape, what does the Highveld give to PH Fat, if anything, that Cape Town and coast does not (beyond dry lips in winter)?

Mike: Yeah. Cape Town is a bit comatose compared with further up country which is actually pretty rad and part of why I love the place, but the pulse further up country keeps us on our toes. Any Capetonian artist ignoring what’s happening in Joburg is missing a huge portion of the opportunity that exists in this country as well as like a huge part of what it is that makes ‘South Africa’ South Africa.

C24: Your shows are high octane, punch in the stomach stomps. How does PH Fat go about preparing the gees for one of your shows? Do you slap on a CD of waves crashing against rocks? Watch badly dubbed kung-fu movies?

Mike: Jassie. I dunno. It’s different each time. Sometimes we land just before we go on stage and I don’t even really get to see the crowd before we go on. I hate when that happens because it means I can’t get a feel for the crowd. If you know me and Narch you could probably spot when we’re busy trying to figure it out as we go along. I think the main thing is to keep it sincere. That energy myself and Narch have on stage is pretty sincere. We play to rad crowds and it feeds back to us. It’s pretty difficult to be tired when there are a bunch of people freaking out with you… Know what I mean?

C24: What's the current state of SA rap in your opinion? You guys reckon it's in a good place at the moment?

Mike: I think it’s in a good place anytime the artists are controlling the direction it’s headed as opposed to corporate currents. Like always - there are parts of it being washed around by ‘what sells’ and then there is the real shit happening just below the surface. I like that those parts seam to be bubbling up above the surface more and more regularly. My favourite thing is seeing someone who used to have half a fuck to give about local music be converted and to realise that South African artists are like so much more real and so much radder than the manufactured pop we get exposed to here.

C24: You guys have played all over the country, and overseas. What is the one place you never wish to return to for a show, if such a place exists?

Mike: Generally when we have a shitty show somewhere I hope we go back so that I can show the people from there that we don’t suck. Our worst show ever was opening for The Used. We were so damn mismatched to the audience. There was this weird silence between tracks. We were opening so the volume during tracks was soft enough that i could hear people booing during tracks. You haven’t ever felt unwanted in a room till you can sense nearly two thousand people who don’t want you there.  Even now though -> given the opportunity to open for them I’d take it again cos I think we’ve grown enough to adapt to it.

C24: You guys have been to Oppi five times. What are the PH Fat Three Essential Tips to survive Oppikoppi as a performer?

Mike: Has it been five times? Jeepers. That’s mental. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Oppikoppi is like that bad ex that ruined everything she got near. And you wouldn’t go anywhere near her… If it weren’t for the fact that whenever you hooked up the sparks could cause house fires. And on that one night a year when you bump into her, the actual ‘house fire’ part of the equation melts out of your brain cos the sparks are warm and wild and can take you places you ain’t never been.

C24: You recently teamed up with Al Bairre to produce the very rad "Caviar Dreams". What does it add to PH Fat as a group, and to your music, to work with bands/groups from outside the rap/hip-hop realm?

Mike: Agh I dunno what it adds. It was a cool opportunity for us to not sound like ourselves and to like… i dunno, work within a different dynamic. It made our two person process feel like a warm hug afterwards if I’m being honest. It was pretty complex working with so many people.

C24: Where can we expect to find PH Fat on stage in the months after Oppikoppi?

Mike: If we can afford to we would like to take some time off to write an album. So hopefully Oppikoppi will be an opportunity to try out some of that material before finishing it.

We also caught up with Shane from the Desmond and the Tutus:

C24: You last played at Oppikoppi in 2012. After a two year hiatus, looking forward to getting back on stage in the dust and being in the madness?

Shane: So stoked to be back. Even more stoked to be on the big stage this year. We have only ever played the James Phillips stage, which is fantastic but the mainstage is going to be killer!

C24: Your hometown is Pretoria. Do you think Desmond and the Tutus would be the band we know if you guys hadn't come out of the capital?

Shane: Pretoria is an interesting place, it's a giant small town. It's a creative incubator and lots of great music has come out of Pretoria in the last few decades, I like to think that our home town influenced our sound and our ideas.

C24: Favourite place to play in South Africa and why? Following that, having played overseas, what do you miss the most and least when not playing in the Rainbow Nation?

Shane: I love playing all over South Africa. Every city's crowd has something interesting and different. Some favourite venues in South Africa are Live the Venue, the Assembly, Rumours, Arcade Empire. We have toured overseas a bit, and one thing we loved about Japan's crowd that is really different to any crowds any where else in the world - they dance around during the song, when the song ends they applaud and then the entire venue goes quiet as they wait for the next song. I mean you could hear a pin drop, dead quiet.

C24: Your name sake Archbishop Desmond Tutu was admitted to hospital recently, and would've hopefully been discharged by the time you read this. What does the Archbishop mean to yourselves as a band?

Shane: I won't lie, we chose the name of our band because we thought it was funny 10 years ago in Doug's bedroom. It's not something we chose for any significant reason. Archbishop Tutu is an international icon of peace and love and happiness and tolerance, he's a ray of sunshine in a country with a somewhat dismal moral code (as far as public/political figures are concerned at least), he's unrelenting in his quest for a world living in harmony and if anything we have done as a band even vaguely reminds someone of the values that Desmond Tutu has dedicated his life to we'd consider that immensely flattering.

C24: On your Facebook page it says the "Desmond and Tutus are kak old", having played a show at Kirstenbosch last year where chunks of your audience hadn't hit primary school yet when the band was formed. Having released your debut album in 2008, while being formed a couple of years prior, do you guys really feel that old? "Teenagers" was rather nostalgic...  

Shane: Thanks for bringing that up. This is a weird one because from our perspective we are the same four guys, doing what we have been doing for the last couple years - which is trying to make it as a rock band in South Africa. It's nice to know that Desmond and the Tutus lives in some people's memories of high school or first year varsity, we are a part of their lives in some weird small way even if they have moved on to became adults with jobs.

C24: The awards section on the page says: "not even a flippin mk". Are awards just useful door stops, the be-all-and-end-all, or something else entirely?

Shane: Our new Twitter bio is "three time award losing band". Are we bitter? Does it show? Just kidding, we don't really care about awards but it must be nice for the industry to tell you that you did something good.

C24: After Oppi, where can we check you out on local stages over the next few months?

Shane: We are on our usual touring mission for the rest of the year, playing everywhere from varsity res shows to Plett Rage to Electric Vines on NYE. See you there!

*Catch Desmond & the Tutus on the Main Stage on Saturday 8 August at 22:00 and PH Fat on the Main Stage on Saturday 8 August at 00:00.