SA rock icon Arno Carstens talks about his new album and reflects on turning 50

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Local rock god Arno Carstens has been entertaining music lovers for close on three decades and has no intention of stopping. (PHOTO: One Small Change)
Local rock god Arno Carstens has been entertaining music lovers for close on three decades and has no intention of stopping. (PHOTO: One Small Change)

The Springbok Nude Girls frontman needs little introduction, having fronted one of the most successful rock acts South Africa has ever produced.

In recent years he's established a successful solo career too and found success as a painter.

We caught up with the enigmatic singer to talk about his new solo album, Out of the Light Into The Night, and turning 50 this month.

You’ve just released your seventh solo album; how has it been received?

“For the audience I would say it’s been a fresh interesting vibe. I’ve had four awesome singles from it.  I would say the new stuff has added to the live shows in a positive manner and that’s difficult because the audience always love the old stuff. So, it’s a good sign.”

Are you still enjoying making music?

“As you get older you tend to get better at shutting out the undesirable elements of the job, so I think I’m appreciating it even more these days. Writing a good song is a magical experience.”

Who did you work with on the album and where was it recorded?

“It was recorded in Cape Town over two years. There were four different producers and most of the singles were done by Fred Den Hartog (Heuwels Fantasties) and Dane Taylor. One of the tracks, Strengthen your Soul, was with the wonderful Robin Auld.”

 What do you focus on most on these days?

“Songwriting. I also enjoy painting. It quietens the voices out there.”

What song do you wish you’d written?

“Living on the Ceiling, by English synth-pop band Blancmange.” 

What artist would you love to work with?

“It’s difficult to name one, there are so many. But for fun I’d love to do a song with [British rock band] Idles – great energy.”

 (PHOTO: One Small Change)
These days the singer is also an accomplished oil painter, who exhibits regularly. (PHOTO: One Small Change)

You are such a prolific live performer; did you miss it during lockdown?

“I did miss the live audience, of course. The streaming shows were fun, but surreal, and sometimes comically sad to do. But we survived, thanks to the fans. Doing shows now feels different. I find there is more of a sense of community, more appreciation from both sides, artist and audience.”

You turn 50 this month. How would you sum the last decade up?

“A gift.”

Why are you as committed to the SA art and music scene as you are?

“This is my country of birth. My heart is in sync with the land and sea. I’ve tried other shores, but the question ‘why’ always dominates. I have a wonderful artistic circle and infrastructure here. We, as SA artists, survive only because of our audiences.” 
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