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Interview: Stereozen

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Stereozen are an excellent example of not knowing when to stop. By all standards, a group that has negotiated the tricky live music gig-scape, neighbour after neighbour and a self-funded recording process should have played their final outro years ago, but four years later they’re still locking down the fattest basslines and going bossies at their energetic gigs. While kismet seems to have played a charming role in their timely ascent to near 12-track ‘sci-funk’ albumhood, it’s not luck that’s dropped Stereozen in the drivers seat; these guys are quite simply going all in. We catch a couple of words with the defiant progressive funk threesome at Sound and Motion studios (the home of artists such as Lark and Humanizer) and find out all about triple testicles and what Clement can do with a flute.

Stereozen
Going all in: Stereozen contemplate their next step.
© KathyTrautPhotography.com

Howzit going.

Cool, man. Good to not be working again.

I thought this was working for you.

This is the life! It’s going pretty smoothly. Cutting our teeth. [gangster look] Sny jou tande! [laughs]

What was the last recording?

Funk Euphemisms in an Old Brothel. Today, Justin’s laying down some funky tracks.

The album. Any ideas for a title?

Nothing yet. It might be self-titled. We didn’t really release our EP so if we release anything it will be this. We’re gonna be a bit broke after this recording. Maybe we’ll get sponsors that wanna sponsor us. Any sponsors out there, Nandos?


Stereozen: Unfunky [live in studio]
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The drunk sound we’re trying to go for here is quite big. We’re gonna get some taxi bass going. Fat, hard edgy and progressive. Funk has to take on a different form. It’ can’t always stay in the 70s. We’ve gotta kinda keep it real cos we’re the only funk band in Cape Town.

Is your music fat with an ‘f’ or phat with a ‘ph’?

Ph. For sure.

Influences?

Justin: Hanson
Carlo: Ah, fuck, no, dude! You and Hanson. Frank Zappa.
Clem: Mars Volta, Primus.
Justin: Tom Jones.
Carlo: Yeah. Stuff you won’t hear on South African radio, really. Funkadelics, Prince.

You guys got quite a technical setup here. Justin, you’re two floors down…

…and we’re watching him on TV up here!

Do you feel like professional musicians? That this is something you’re working towards?

Clem: This is definitely what we want.
Justin: There isn’t a huge infrastructure or market for live music, so you’ve gotta keep it as much a hobby as something you wanna do full-time. But still have fun.
Carlo: You gotta get enjoyment out of just playing without making millions.
Justin: The dedication comes when you keep on; when you keep on playing gigs, keep on practising. Hopefully that manifests itself into something bigger.

How long you guys been jamming together?

Five years? Four and a half? Our first gig was 2nd Feb 2004. We obviously practised before that, and had band camp for a couple of weeks.

Band camp? Did you do that thing with the flute?

Justin: Yeah , you should see what Clement can do with a flute, man.
Clem: It’s not true, he’s fucking around! [to Justin] We’ve spoken about this!

Carlo:It would have been nice to be cracking two months in the studio, but we’ve got, like, three days, and the rest of the stuff we’ll do at my place. This is gonna be a fully DIY album.

After so many years, we’ve realised that if you wanna do something you gotta do it yourself. You go out there and you do it hands on. Dude, there are so many people in Cape Town talking the talk and walking the walk, but when it comes down to getting stuff down they’re not preprared to do it. There’s lots of empty promises.

“We’ve got no more money, and we’re going all in, like in a poker game. This is our hand, this is what we got. And this is what we’re going with. “


Interview with Stereozen | 06/05/08 | 3.4mb
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This song we’re about to record now is called Going All In. We’ve got no more money, and we’re going all in, like in a poker game. This is our hand, this is what we got. And this is what we’re going with.

There we go, put your balls on the line.

[laugh] Justin: I’ll put my balls on the line. [laugh] I’ll put all three.

Who’s who in the band?

Clem: I’m the nice guy. Cos Carlo’s not the fuckin’ nice guy.
Carlo: Sometimes I have to run it through Clement as a filter. I’ve seen things go horribly wrong in the studio. Sometimes you have to be more focused than you actually are. It’s all fun and stuff, but if you all concentrate and do it well, the result is a lot better than just fucking around.

You guys have a musical background. Clement, you work at Paul Bothners Claremont. Carlo, you’re with Hellfire Sound, Lights & Stage. And Justin plants trees.

[laughs] Justin: I plant trees! I look after bonzais.
Carlo: That’s actually what we need. More people caring about the environment.
Justin: Using music as a medium to raise people’s awareness about the environment. The more people who throw green concerts like Rocking the Daisies the better, cos we’re headed for some turmoil man. Keep things clean.

Keep very specific things clean…[Stereozen have a lyric which goes 'Keep your pussy clean']

Carlo: Justin convinced me to say something serious.
Justin: I finally convinced him.
Carlo: We’re recording it as “keep your body clean”. You know, get the message home, cos there’s people running around with herpes and syphilis. And then at the live gigs, I’ll scare you. Like really shout it at you.

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    Interview: Stereozen

    Thursday, February 28th, 2008

    The distance from the dancefloor to the stage has never been shorter for three-piece funk rock outfit Stereozen. We pick what’s left of frontman Carlo Glenn Thompson’s brain after checking them rock out the Mercury Live in Cape Town.

    Carlo Glenn Thompson

    What’s with the tight pants?

    Maybe not my pants, but tight pants-wearers of Cape Town do disturb me. I say its wack yo!

    How long you been making music as an individual? And as a band?

    Personally been playing for 20 years this year. Classical piano for 10 years til ’bout 16; the rest I’ve been jamming my axe on and off from ’round 18. Stereozen been jamming since 2 feb ’04

    Who’s your biggest influence?

    Groove bands like (old school) Chili Peppers,and Funkadelics, also Muse, The Mars Volta and Beck with a bit of The Edge.

    Digital rights management is on the way out. What’s your take?

    Ha? You must understand that I’ve had my head in almost every club/venue in Cape Town and haven’t really kept up with things. Own everything yourself.

    If someone ripped your hard-worked album, would you beat them to death?

    No, if they’ve been to five or more shows. And if them ripping our CD brings 50 more funk-hungry fans then I guess it’s alright.

    Who pays/will pay for your recording?

    We pay and will continue to do so we can own the material for as long as we can.

    Where do you rehearse?

    Underneath Paul Bothners in Claremont. It’s a shithole but it’s ours. Really, once there was actual shite in the parking lot.

    What’s your ideal gig?

    Any gig where there’s D&B speakers and lots of xpensive processing. At the mo we really wanna play with the New Acedemics. They Rock. I crave to play festivals ’cause the people are there to listen and party.

    What do you call your music?

    Progressive funk rock

    Why do you make music?

    Love. I’ve been playing instruments for a long time and nothing can give freedom of expression and adrenalin-filled enjoyment like playing live.They guys I’m playing with now makes writing music so effortless and thats all I ask for.

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    Stereozen Claim The Groove Nation

    Monday, February 25th, 2008

    If Zen is about sitting under the Bodhi tree in absolute silence while stray dogs sniff you, count upcoming funk three-piece Stereozen alongside Kings of Leon and The Shins as one of those groups whose name means precious little. Stereozen write ass-shakers, not foot-tappers, as we discovered at the Mother City’s Groove Nation, alongside jazz/alt rockers Southpaw and spoken word songstress Blaqpearl.

    Stereozen

    Backstage, they’re fumbling about and chatting idly about the various avenues of funk yet to explore, but up in the limelight, they’re…well, drummer Justin puts it best: “I’m loving it.” Unabashed in their stage act, Stereozen save their energy for the moment. Coming in strong with a short and potent 40-minute set, Carlo Thompson, Clem and Justin Wiggett pretty much put a solid end to the rather dismal turnout at the Groove Nation.


    What’s my name? Stereozen, beeyatch.
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    You don’t have to look much further than the soundproof room at Paul Bothners to find Clem in his element. Poster-flapping basslines layered thick and fat assault the non-dancer like an American nuclear attack, which should happen any day now. Pedals almost outnumber guitarist Karlo’s. Who’da thought longhairs still had class…?

    Karlo has enough style to openly say the p-word. Enough said. Just make sure you know the chick in the audience you’re hitting on next time, buddy. Nobody knows where surferboy Justin gets his laid-back, approachable steez offstage (that’s style with ease, chump), but he’s about ready to unleash it on the world from behind the kit. Stadium-rock, mid-tempo powerdrumming a la John Bonham and Red Hot Chili Peppers and, closer to home, Prime Circle and The Parlotones.

    As underground gigs go, these guys have the type of power that upstages soccer-mom pop icons like Ike Moriz and Arno Carstens. Perhaps a little less pandering to ‘support SA music’ (I mean, honestly, how unoriginal) and a little tighter control on the volume knob will go a long way for the mal, party-hard group. Be yourselves. That’s all we want.

    The band’s approach towards their future is pretty clear. We met up with all three of them separately that night, and all were on the same mission: ALBUM. You’ve seen their name on the flyer. Now get to the gig to check it out for yourself. It’s like a groin shiatsu by the Artist Formerly Known As Prince. You’ll bop, curl and get on uppa.

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