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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.

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.


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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  • Posted in Artist Interviews | 2 Comments »

    Unit-R: Phosphenes

    Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

    Grab the lube cos Unit-R is about to get heavy petted in the back room of clubs following the release of the hyped-up and disco crazy Phosphenes, the second full album from the Cape Town four-piece multi-talented crossover indietronic outfit. The man from Del Monte says Yes.


    Stick it in the CD player or get it up to the top of your m3u. First, you’ll stop conversing and tune in. Then, you’ll ask, “who is this!” at which point I’ll break into your house, sneak up behind you and shout “Unit fuckin R!!!”, giving you the fright of your life, even though you’re listening to it at 320kbps because you bought it off our music store.

    Then, your mom will walk in and ask what all the shouting’s about, and you’ll know you’re tripping because she died in 1997. And that’s Phosphenes for you. Taking you on a journey that wakes you up with complex synth harmonies and great breaks between choruses, all the while putting you in a trance-like state.

    And you’ll wonder how these guys do it. You’ll recognise a couple of the tracks off EP Two By Four (notably the crowd-pleasing megaphone anthem ‘Clap’ and the dance mix of ‘Scared’.)

    Matthew de Nobrega fits into a greater vocal role, and ‘New Moon’ is a rocking, clap-along two-tone breakbeat number that gets your horny side going if you’re into the underground live music scene. If you’re not, your ears will turn pink. He also sings on No Way, which is lakker.

    Seriously, though, you’ll dance. And it’s not hollow dance music, the kind that Madonna and Kylie sell. No no no. We have the rarest of South African beasts on this one: clear, lovely, meaningful lyrics.

    Speaking of which, the design job is killer (thanko, Kronk), and we can’t decide if we’re about to be gobbled up by the plant from Little Shop of Horrors or molested by a gay bunny. And it has little multicoloured Overtone logo eyeballs everywhere, so thanks.

    What makes this album, really, is the fusion between live drums, electronic drums and synthesized beatz, yo [on that note, wanna know how to make music on Reason?] The danceability scores a scintillating seven (admit it, Barry Ronge: you judged movies by alliteration). In fact, I think a no-holds-barred nine would be better.

    So, come on person. Flick the Switch. Buy a CD. There’s No Way you’ll regret it. That’s what It’s All About. Don’t be Scared. You’ll Clap. Don’t wait for Full Moon! It’s New Moon now! Barely. Anyway, So Long.

    [note for readers: the closing lines of this article were a failed attempt to get every track name off Phosphenes in a paragraph that wasn't completely retardedly unintelligible. Daft, huh?]

  • Unit.R: Phosphenes On The Way

  • Posted in Album Reviews | 4 Comments »

    Interview: Unit.r

    Thursday, February 21st, 2008

    Goran Manojlovic is the closest thing Unit.r has to a frontman. He’s also an all-round nice guy, one you wouldn’t mind bouncing a smoke with on a clubside curb somewhere in South Africa. We catch him just ahead of Unit.r’s debut album, Phosphenes.

    Interview: Unit.r

    Tough question. If there’s one thing that we try not to think about, it’s where in the spectrum we might fall. I guess it’s a type of dance music somewhere between electronic indie-pop and experimental rock, but I’d hate to be classified as anything so specific…

    As you know, Justin and I met while DJing at Marvel back in 2001. We were both making electronic music, and after we got bored of the laptop/turntable performances, we started translating our music into a live band context. Our respective brothers joined us and we started the band in early 2006.

    I guess everything leaves a mark on one’s creativity – dj’s, writers, visual artists, directors, even athletes. People who can channel their talent into something beyond what we consider attainable. I could never complete the list, but, just off the top of my head: Neutral Milk Hotel, Daft Punk, Elliott Smith, Murakami (Haruki and Takashi), Kronk, Camus, Rand, Pleix, Konze, Nemov. I could go on for days.

    All we need is great sound. But ideally, a dark and cool club packed with people, a great, punchy PA (sound rig) a skilled engineer and crazy lighting. Oh well, one can only hope!

    Haha, I though this was a 2 minute interview. How do others answer this? I guess our music comes to us as a part of who we are. We could either ignore it all our lives, or let it out.

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  • Posted in Artist Interviews | No Comments »