Bam Bam Brown brings the BANG!

While Kieron Brown and I were working at Rocking The Daisies 2017, I got up to speed with all the projects he was busy with and a super cool gig that he was planning with Ann Jangle. Seeing as Kieron is one of the nicest and most well-connected musos in Cape Town I enjoy chatting about the South African music industry with him and seeing where we think the music trends will go next… I realized then that we haven’t done a formal interview for over a year and that he has been extremely busy, so we sat down for a chat:

Bam Bam Brown has been around for some time now, a project that has developed after being involved and leading quite a few well-known groups in Cape Town and South Africa. Although you have an arsenal of great artist backing you, Bam Bam Brown is mostly a solo act backed by a session band. Can you tell us why you decided to manage your music business this way and also tell us some of the perks and challenges that come with this setup?

Yeah sure. For one, having this kind of fluidity and freedom of movement among members allows for a lot of sporadic creativity, and cuts away a lot of the regular constraints of being in a band. My ideal is that the content should always come first, and having so many great minds come in and get to work with someone they otherwise might have never even met makes for some delicious songwriting. There’s obviously a lot of intense scheduling that needs to be done, given that everyone right now in the current band is involved in some or other relatively high profile act. But overall this is creating such a firm and loving new infrastructure in the local scene and it’s amazing to watch it grow and evolve.

You have some new members backing you at the moment who are all very well known within their own rights. Can you tell us how you guys formed, who they are and what bands they’re involved with and how this group makes your performances unique?
When I returned from a short stint in Berlin I recalled being at a party that Alice Phoebe Lou ran in an art gallery called Homies. It was a beautiful platter of musicians purposefully generating a little tornado of culture and enough revenue to push each other further and further forward. I wanted to come back and kickstart that dynamic a little, as well as working on my own fresh full band set for festival season. I called up my standard wingman/woman Al Clapper from Indigo Child, as well as Dawid Bosman who I’d gotten to know from the Queens tribute shows (side-note, I fucking love the shit out that guy, and any band would be lucky to have him). Al’s like my musical safety net these days, when he’s around I can just machine gun compositions out. Then Jules Terea from Brynn and I had met through Dave from Southern Wild, and he just straight up asked to join the band. He’s such a young little prince and brings a necessary fire to the table. Hanno Van Den Berg is my current bassist and the mind behind Well Done Sun. We practically live together, and he’s just a reliable wall of inspiration and energy that is rounds off the team, Everyone here understands the current purpose of the band and the project and are settling quite nicely into each other’s spaces. The songs are quite fresh and young but I have a sense of intent in their foundations which is fundamental to any great music making.

Being a good friend of mine and knowing you’re not scared to call a spade a spade, a lot has happened in the South African music industry since the start of Bam Bam Brown. Can you discuss the current state of the industry, where you see it going and how you’re planning to use the current state to the advantage of Bam Bam Brown?

Can I be honest and say, things are looking a lot more positive than they were a few more years ago. There’s an entire new generation of musicians waiting to be tomorrow’s headliners, and I think that the greater festival and media infrastructure have to put a lot more focus into bringing these acts to the forefront. South Africans and people, in general, have such a vast taste in music nowadays and it really is up to us now to keep building the infrastructure that utilizes that, for both performer and spectator alike.

Your Bob Loves Dylan live video performance of ‘Bite My Lip’ has it over 100k views, more than Stelth Ulvang from The Lumineers as well as some other amazing local singer-songwriters like Wandile Mbambeni, The Johnson Twins, Majozi, Paige Mac, Manny Walters to name a few.

There’s something beautifully raw about this live version, what advice would you give new artists trying to make a name for themselves who can’t necessarily afford high-production recordings? How do you market something like this live version of South Africa and more specifically the world when there’s such a lack of support for live non-commercial music?

I figure you can either complain about how dirty the kitchen is, or you can run some water in the basin and start sweeping. Though I think the viewership of that is down to a few lucky variables, that was also the first song I wrote for the Bam project, and it was recorded on a loop pedal I just learned how to use in the early hours of that morning. But I also can’t recall how many people I showed that video in passing every time I played a show. Perhaps we have to rely a little less on building an online support system and get back to finding real, tangible relationships as opposed to building a numbers system. People need that kind of real, raw, human entity in music because I feel they need that in each other, now so more than ever.

You’re an AfrikaBurner and have been involved with the ‘festival’ building and also performing informally in the campsites for years now. This year some friends and I were lucky to find you, Daena Weeks, Atelier and some unknown artists jamming together under a stretch tent covered with Persian carpets.

Can you tell us about the magic that takes places in some unknown corners of the Burn and how musos like yourself are able to create such beautiful music although never performing or rehearsing together before?

I had actually only met Daena and Jas(Atelier) at that festival after Jas needed to borrow a tool from me. But Cape Town is notorious for its six degrees of separation, and with the inclusion of Matt Pople (Astrafunk) they managed to curate a really hospitable friendly open platform for musos to come in and play around. I kind of equate it kids being able to back and play in the sandpit. I think, especially with the added influx of the electronic generation, that these kinds of spaces are such great fleeting workshops for creatives to meet, feel each other out and learn new things from one another. These people all land up booking shows and starting new acts together and before you know it “hey presto, new scene!”

After this experience, you and I started chatting about creating a themed live music camp, can you tell me why you think this is so needed at AfrikaBurn and how do you think this stage at a cult festival could influence the South African music festival?

It’s always been a bit of hard topic at AfrikaBurn as to whether or not the space should host a bigger live stage, given that it doesn’t want to come across as a conventional music festival. But it’s a festival legitimately built by it’s own ever-shifting demographic. From the toilets and ticketing to the staging and pageantry Right now there’s a dynamic that is thirsty for this space and The Burn is if anything, the perfect platform to test the added dynamic of a live stage. On a ground level, after 5 Burns I can safely say the demand for such a pace was not only neede but also sought after this year possibly to it’s highest degree. I do know that, if handled correctly, a space like this could add a comforting and exciting new dynamic to the festival, so we’ll see what happens.

 

Speaking of festivals, you worked at Rocking The Daisies 2017 assisting backstage but also performed at the festival and was named one of the Top 10 acts by Texx & The City. What does this mean to you and how were you able to work and not only perform but land on such a prestigious list?
A lot off coffee and insomnia helps. That whole top 10 thing was completely unexpected, by the way. I literally played my sets with a walkie-talkie on stage in case there was something I had to handle between songs. I’d load up a golf cart full of gear, drop off some stock at this stage, pick up an artist at another and go play for 45 minutes before hopping back on the cart and heading off to meet up with production again. I mean I love riding the chaos of it all, and I just feel like I’m going to work in general, whether it’s loading up artist fridges, or banging out an hour of great music. The wheel’s gotta somehow, you know?

 

You recently traveled to Berlin and India, can you tell us what these trips a) meant to you, b) taught you, c) influenced your music & writing and d) how the two countries were different from each other?
India was definitely a personal journey for me, whereas Berlin was a place for me to lay my feelers out for international waters. Coincidentally I landed up playing just a tad more shows in India but I that’s because I got around a lot more. I wanted to go to India to take a break from half a decade of grinding away at the music life. But at the same time, I purposefully went in blind with no plan and knew that at some time I would learn a lot of necessary perspectives about myself and the world I suppose. In contrast, I had a large support base in Berlin and landed meeting a lot of great creatives and contacts to set up future prospects. So guess I did India to get a large sense of the present while letting go of the past. Whereas in Berlin I learned about and set a few roots for the future.
You also can’t come back from India and hear music the same way, the sense of melody is so uncanny there, and definitely adapted some tones, scales, and textures to my guitar playing when I got back. In Berlin, I learned a lot more about efficiency and how to create spaces for artists and creatives to find new songs and projects within each other. Bless her, Alice (Phoebe Lou) has that so dialed and I genuinely think it’s a culture we can adopt here in S.A

 

While you were in Berlin you met up with a few South African musos like Alice Phoebe Lou, Sons of Settlers, Thor Rixon, etc. What is your opinion of the music industry that side, the music user and the way that artists make a living by busking?
So Berlin is an amazing city, it runs so very smoothly and there is a hard-pressed culture at every corner. I was sitting on Gerdus’ (S.O.S) rooftop and he just bluntly said, “Hey man, we’re on the breadline here as foreigners, but a least the German’s are good at making bread.” The busking dynamic was so refreshing because it allowed for people to snap out there everyday routine and soak up a bit of their surroundings. The first day I busked out Waschauer train station some guy on his way to work stopped dead in his tracks, watched two songs and left a fresh bag of takeaways along with some coins in my guitar bag. That’s a human element that South Africans are so capable of here, and we need to start learning how to accommodate and initiate that kind of norm.

 

I’ve seen a new flame within you since you’ve returned, that I’ve never seen before, how did your learnings there inspire you to do your thing in the challenging South African music industry.
I realized that parallel in the “Wild Professor” idea that I had for my backing band and how it related to the scene in Berlin. The music is a lot more rich and free, and thirsty because of it. I also love the idea that musicians don’t have to be rockstars these days to be successful, there was a time when that kind of thing damaged a lot of people, I suppose it still does. But nowadays, I like the idea of getting up every day and calling it my job more than ever. That’s how that whole Daisies thing worked out, and if I get to where I really want to be, I’ll know it’ll be because I worked my damn ass off for it.

 

You’ve also adopted an unorthodox work ethic since being back, can you tell us what you’re daily rituals look like and the work you do to ensure success?
Sure. I wake up about an hour later than most folks, eat some breakfast and try and give myself the downtime that nights don’t provide. Then a lot of my day is split between my laptop and meetings. By late afternoon I start picking up my instruments and either practice, write or go over other sets that I am playing on. Then my evenings are usually full with rehearsals, more meetings or shows, and every now and then I am squeezing in an odd bar shift to cover any excess costs I might overlook or not foresee for my plans. I would equate it to being a freelance in a field like design, or writing, where you can genuinely create the content and revenue you desire depending on how much you put behind your own intentions.

Win a double ticket to Bam Bam Brown’s Sibling Rivalries with Ann Jangle at Cafe Roux by commenting on this post, telling us what the most interesting piece of information you gained from the interview, winners announced 5 November.

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1 Comment

  1. Michéle

    October 31, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    I liked all the questions in the interview.

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