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Freak Valley Festival Interview Nr. 3 – Ruff Majik

(pmck) Ruff Majik is a South African underground three piece from Pretoria. They not only sound amazingly heavy and groovy and have really awesome artworks by ‚the ever amazing‘ artist Anni Buchner, they are also totally committed to their band. The trio was on their first European tour this year, by train (!!!), and rocked FVF’s stage and many others. Ruff Majik are: Johni Holiday on the guitar and creepily crazy vocals, Jimi Glass on the dark bass and Benni Manchino on the funky drums. I had a long and nice talk with them after their set on FVF’s big stage. Read the interview below!

Pearl: Hello! Thanks for your time. So, is your name actually just Rough Magic spelled weirdly, or how should I actually pronunciate it?

Johni: It’s really just Rough Magic. We have been called all weird possible names this tour though. It seems to be a confusing thing.

Pearl: But it is a pun too, right?

Johni: Yes, it is. Actually that name comes from the pilot episode of a show that was going to be about Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft. The episode was called Rough Magic. There was only this one episode, actually. It never continued.. And it wasn’t really good either, really. But we liked the name of it. And we spelled it differently, so it would stand out a little more.

Pearl: How did you guys meet?

Johni: That is interesting, actually. We all come from the same, small, shitty town and basically all grew up together. Jimi eventualy moved away, and then eventually came back, we were friends then. We were in highschool and I suggested that we started a band. We have been playing together in lots of projects since then. Punk, mostly. And we weren’t very good, haha. But we tried. We were bandless after a trip oversea’s, when we met up with Benni and he said he could try to play the drums. At some point we had a lot of music and wanted to record. We tried it out twice, with two different people, and it never quite sounded as we wanted it to. They wanted to try all different kinds of really weird stuff, like changing my voice, using autotune and shit… we threw both albums away. But couple months after that we really wanted to record again, and we did it. And „Bear“ was born. A friend of ours recorded and mixed it, and it worked out awesome.

Pearl: It is quite interesting to interview my first South African band…

Johni: Quite a lot of people say that we are the first South African band they have ever met. Or even the first South Africans they have ever met!

Jimi: There is a first time for everything. It is also the first time we are being interviewed in Germany!

Pearl: I would love to know more about the underground scene there.

Johni: We have spectacular bands. And many of them. Black Math, Mad God, The Hellcats…. Pollinator!

Benni: They are a mixture of Doom, Stoner and…. ABBA!

Johni: I like to call it Stoner Pop. Anyway, unfortunately we don’t have such a good scene as far as the fans go. There are a lot of people who come to shows, and it is nice. But we don’t have anything on this scale. No scene festivals and so on. So we don’t have the same support system that maybe european bands do. Which is sad, I would really love to see as many South African bands playing these stages. We have been seeing more people at the club gigs we have been playing on this tour than we had ever seen at South African gigs.

Benni: We are used to playing small DIY shows. So we will only show up at small venues with our backlines practically falling apart and we just play. Here, the venues have been so professional, the backlines and stage area always impeccable.

Jimi: There is a big Metal scene going on in South Africa. A lot of Death Metal bands. And the Stoner Rock scene is starting to spread, which is awesome. So, we need some more crowd-supporting in South Africa, or else all bands will start coming to Germany to play, haha!

Pearl: I was just talking to Humulus about that earlier on. All the Italian underground bands want to come here to play.

Johni: it makes a lot of sense, you know? In Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Eastern Europe, this music is appreciated. Much more than it is in our country. And there are not many venues, so we feel like we have already layed everywhere there is to play.

Pearl: Is it possible to go on tour in South Africa?

Johni: It is, but it doesn’t happen a lot. There haven’t been any Stoner Rock or Doom bands touring there yet, for example. But it is possible. You can make a small tour there, 9, maybe 10 shows.

Benni: It is difficult though, because there are only five major cities: Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Soweto, and all of them are far away from each other. Between Johannesburg, Soweto and Pretoria it is only 45 minutes, but it takes 15 hours to drive there from Cape Town. So you have to have some gigs in between, in towns where there isn’t such a big scene…

Johni: We want to try to bring some bands from over seas we like to tour there, though. We have some plans and it is all developing, but it’s not happening yet.

Pearl: Let’s talk about music right away, shall we? Your sound is so interesting. It has grunge elements, and doom and psych and Johni’s voice has something creepy to it, which I really enjoy. I actually listened to all your releases when I was prearing the interview…

Johni: That must have taken you a long time! Yeah, our sound is like that because we all listen to a ton of different music, doom, metal, stoner, blues, jazz…

Benni: We sound just like everything we listen to.

Pearl: Like a jukebox of your musical brains?

Benni: Yes, you could say that!

Pearl: You have three Eps named after animals. Why is that?

Benni: The names are actually the meanings of our surnames. We are the bear, the fox and the swan!

Johni: But that doesn’t mean that the sound of the albums reflect each of our own musical taste. We actually never plan what our sound is going to be like.

Pearl: Is your only plan to always get heavier?

Johni: Haha, you could say so. That is the plan. We jam a lot and it all goes from there. Rough magic, you know?

Pearl: I would love to talk about „Seasons“. You divided it into 4 chapters with different artworks that represent every season. Chapter 1 is winter and it’s called „The Hare And The Hollow“, chapter 2 is spring and it’s called „Finch In A Cherry Tree“. Chapter 3 is summer, „A Dragon And His Hoard“ and chapter 4, autumn is called „The Stag In The Leaves“.

Johni: With this series we wanted to capture the feeling of each season. People are really weather oriented, most of them. And we feel different each season also. And the albums are actually the stories of our lives during each season. Just told differently… With dragons and dark magic and stuff. But it is actually what Ruff Majik is, during one year.

Pearl: I find this concept awesome. When I first saw the album, the first thing I liked was the theme and the artworks. Then I started reading into it and listening all the chapters carefully, and there was a whole bunch of meaning to it.

Johni: We like it when people can always discover something new, each time they listen to an album again. If you dig really deep into it, you will find some crazy stories, connections and so on…

Benni: We are really atracted to concept albums. We like hiding meanings and telling stories.

Pearl: Awesome. I love a good concept album myself. So, you are on your first European tour, right?

Jimi: On our frst tour ever, actually. The first time we have been on the road for longer than three or four days.

Benni: Yeah, it is the first time we are literally on the road, playing somewhere else every night. The awesome thing is that, in Germany, you can play in a venue on a tuesday night and the place will be packed. In South Africa no one would organize a show if not on a weekend…

Pearl: That actually happens in Germany too, in smaller cities where the scene isn’t so big… But you are right, there are enough places where a Wednesday show would be full.

Benni: Yeah, that is the thing you know? In South Africa, it doesn’t matter if the gig will be in Cape Town or Pretoria… if it’s not on a weekend, it’s probably gonna suck.

Pearl: Tell me more about your first tour, then. How is it going?

Johni: It has been awesome. We played really great gigs, shared the stage with such amazing bands… Haha, we even sold out our merch after three shows. This is a problem. But it is actually a good problem for us! See, in South Africa no one ever buys merch. So we actually brought too little stuff with us. After supporting My Sleeping Karma and Colour Haze in Wiesbaden, we were completely sold out. We will get more merch for selling at the FVF tomorrow, though. We actually didn’t know that merch was such a big deal here.

Pearl: Yes, it is. I myself actually wanted to buy some stuff…

Johni: Just come by tomorrow!

Pearl: I totally will!

Benni: I think the most amazing part of touring is just being part of such greats events as this one. You know, when we started the band our goal was to actually get in gigs and festivals for free… haha! And, well, now we know that it goes much farther than that. When we were on tour with The Devil And The Almighty Blues, for example, it was awesome watching those guys going on stage after we played. Hell yeah, we achieved our first goal and many others…

Pearl: You had a GoFund campaign for this tour, right? Because you are touring idependently?

Johni: Yes, we are touring independently. I sent lots and lots and many more lots of emails while organizing this tour. More or less 600 or 700 emails a week. Eventually we caught their attention and got some help from Sound Of Liberation, they got us to support The Devil And The Almighty Blues‘ tour for example. We did invest a lot of money in organizing the tour, and the GoFund was supposed to help us a little with the costs. Which it did, but we still payed for a lot ourselves. Which is totally fine for us, if it got us here. Which it did. And we have been getting lots of positive feedback. There are people coming specifically to our shows, and there are others who had never heard from us but start digging us after seeing us play. Awesome!

Benni: Well, financially, our only hope is always to break even, which is really working out until now. Spending money on our own band is not a foreign concept for us. We like to invest in our music, we are passionate enough about our band for that being totally fine. That is also the way we operate in South Africa. Every gig is an investment, the only hope we always have is not to spend too much.

Johni: People have been pretty schoked here that we have actually been riding the whole tour with a train. „Are you insane?!?!“ Everybody asks.

Benni: Well, we are not travelling by train on purpose…

Pearl: How can one travel by train accidently?

Johni: Haha, no, we actually wanted to tour with a van. We actually had the rental sorted out, when the company contacted me with the bad news only one day before our flight. They told us that the card we wanted to use to pay for the rental was not accepted, that I would have to use another card. Well, long story short: none of us had another card, I couldn’t get an alternative one in time before the tour… we were already on the plane and I was still looking for a company which would accept my card. Without success, of course. So we had no other option… we landed and booked train tickets for the whole tour.

Pearl: To be honest, knowing the Deutsche Bahn as I do, I really think you guys are crazy for touring with the train! I mean, you had backline and luggage with you too, right?

Johni: Yes, we have a lot of stuff with us. The backline is the least problem, they can be transported really easily. Our bags were much worse. They weren’t made to travel the amount that we are travelling with them. At some point the wheels fell off and we were really just carrying everything around. It was an adventure everytime we had to get on or off a train.

Benni: We actually threw away that luggage and bought new ones. Nothing fancy… only bags with wheels, haha.

Jimi: Yeah and, although travelling has been the most difficult part of this tour, it also has been awesome, actually. We got to see all of Germany, we got to see amazing landscapes. It is a beautiful country! And if we had only been driving on the Autobahn, we wouldn’t have seen it.

Pearl: I admire you for finding so much beauty in train rides. You are right, the landscapes are awesome. But I think I would have been too stressed out to enjoy them.

Johni: We really tried hard to make the best of a bad situation. And we were pretty stoked how you can get nearly everywhere within Europe just riding the train…

Pearl: That is pretty amazing. We don’t really have trains in Brazil, for example…

Johni: We don’t in South Africa either! Well, we were happy to make it to every gig despite not having a van. It was hard, it was tiresome, but we did it. We just got to FVF 5 minutes before our stage time. We just got here running to the stage with our instruments. But it worked out, and it did every time. We are really proud of ourselves!

Pearl: Tell me, what is the best food you’ve had while touring?

Ruff Majik: KEBAAAAAABS! Kebab for life!

Johni: We had a lot of awesome stuff to eat, of course also a lot of Bratwurst and Curry Wurst being in Germany, haha, but Kebabs, oh man… they are awesome. They are cheap and have everything you need inside them. I dig! We have been living on Kebabs most of the time.

Pearl: Kebabs and trains.

Johni: And there we have the name of our live tour album!

Pearl: I have one last funny question: If you could be anything, what would you be?

Benni: A unicorn, without doubt.

Johni: That is an odd answer, man.

Jimi: I would be an architect!

Johni: I know a lot of things I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be a pair of my socks, for example. Not at this point!

Pearl: Good enough. Thank you very much for this great talk. Ruff Majik, I wish you a lot of fun and great gigs on the rest of your tour!

Ruff Majik: Thank you, Pearl. And thank you Rockblog.Bluesspot! (Pearl McKurdy, FVF Day 1, 2018)

Filed under: Articles in English, Interviews, ,

November 2018
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