We had the chance to interview one of todays greatest South African rock musicians, Gerald Clark. A mountain biker and fan of Tarintino films, inspired by John Lee Hooker and currently bumming his way through South Africa, Clark has just released a fourth studio album titled “AfroBoer & the GoldenGoose”. Any rock fan would be remiss not to include this album in their blues collection.
Gerald has also gone on to influence a new generation of South African rockers. Our Richard Chemaly spoke to Gerald about his music, life and energy and how it all translated into the new album. See the full conversation below:
Richard Chemaly (RC): I’m pretty stoked to get a chance to interview somebody of your calibre pushing great South African rock. With the rise in popularity of hip hop and EDM, it’s great to see the legacy set by great South African rock legends continue. During your school days, who did you find motivated you to pick up a guitar and push yourself to this career? Have you ever met them since and what effect did that have on you?
Gerald Clark (GC): John Lee Hooker was most certainly my biggest reason to fall in love with the blues! I’ve never had the privilege of seeing him live or meeting him, no. Albert Frost and the Blues Broers were a big influence at the start of my career. I went on tour with them just as I got out of school and then I started my own blues band called Delta Blue. We toured extensively and got to play some of the biggest festivals and stages in SA. Then I started collaborating with other musos and started venturing into other genres, but always keeping what I’ve learnt from the blues close at heart.
RC: Flowing from that, have you found yourself to be an inspiration to the kids of the next generations? What does that feel like? What kind of pressure, responsibility or inspiration does that impose on you?
GC: I have had some youngsters approach me with admiration and appreciation for the type of music I create and play. And I’ve seen some of them going on forming bands and coalitions that became entities in the music industry to contend with. This inspires me to keep on doing what I do as well as push my own personal musical boundaries in following that wild creative side and even pursuing what you’re scared of sometimes.
RC: I enjoyed watching you and Luna Paige at Oppi last year. Your career has seen you collaborating with many artists. What have you found the results of collaboration to be on your career? Have you ever regretted collaborating with anybody. Would you advise up-and- coming artists to collaborate or to build their own brand first?
GC: I haven’t regretted a collab. You always learn a lot from working closely with other artists. My advice to young artists is to jam and collaborate with as many different other artists as possible, but stay in tune with your inner creative genius and respect your talent. The world needs the truth.
RC: Let’s get to the new album…your fourth…and I understand a two year project. The album oozes the soul of rock which has become an awesome feature of your music. Is it a draining process to produce such a rock album and where does your energy come from?
GC: “It’s in me and it’s got to come out..and it feels so goooood!” Lyrics from a John Lee Hooker song. I was born with the blues, so it does drain me to go through a creative process . Whether it is writing, composing, performing live or in the studio. I’m very happy with the fusion between rock, soul and blues on this album! The balance is just right.
RC: Personally, I’m a huge fan of “How I met the Golden Goose” but the music of “Fire” inspires the most questions. You start by contrasting two men, one going through a hard life with the other cruising through it and go on to sing “I got to get up just to survive. I got to work hard just to stay alive”. Is this song inspired by personal events or experiences? Is it meant to capture the struggle of most South Africans?
GC: We are in the process of making a music video for Fire. We tried to convey 2 stereotypical South African characters in South Africa sharing the same passion and values about life and trying to leave a legacy behind. It’s about having passion and ambition. You are the only person responsible for making this visible to the world and our country, one that has put people into boxes. Rich or living in poverty, we can only reach full potential if we recognise the strength and power in ourselves and do something about it. No matter who you are, or where you come from you have to be prepared to work hard at it. Without it, we are lost and life ends quickly for most.
RC: I’ve got to ask, did you write “Summershoes” in the hope that Quentin Tarantino would use it in his ninth film and have you gotten that call yet? What’s the most exciting project you’ve had your music featured on?
GC: I love the fact that you would even suggest that one of my tunes could be in a Tarantino film!! Hell yeah!! I didn’t write it with that motivation, no. I wrote it about the effect blues music has on woman late at night. My music has been featured on some adverts, a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit doccie and it has been the theme song for the Supersport coverage of the MTB race, Joburg2Sea. Seeing that I love riding my bicycle up and down mountains, the latter would be one of my biggest honours.
RC: Tell me about your latest mission, bumming through South Africa with your girlfriend, a bakkie and a tent. Would I be correct that this decision was preceded by a rental issue which led to you writing “The Landlord Blues” I delight at the imagery created in that song of how the landlord keeps acting normal (though not “looking straight at you”) despite knowing about the wrong they’ve been committing. Are you trying to draw attention to something bigger?
GC: Haha! I can see how you would can draw this conclusion! But no, it was purely because of our love for the outdoors and making music, and South Africa has some epic opportunities for both those passions mentioned. We drive a lekka Ford Ranger with a rooftop tent and fridge, mountain bikes, surfboards, guitars, skateboard etc. at the back.
Camping and adventuring as we go! The Landlord Blues was inspired by the way my sister’s landlord treated her. We grew up poor and she works very hard. She started her own craft beer distribution company as well a brewing her own beer. This dude came across like trust fund baby and I interpret that he thinks he is better than others and behaves rudely to those of a lower financial class. I don’t like him.
RC: Back to your trekking through South Africa. I won’t ask if it’s yet begun to inspire a fifth album but I will ask what it has been inspiring. Has the trip been dull or have you made some memories you’ll be taking back with you? Care to share?
GC: I’ll name a few. Skateboarding in Lesotho, conquering the dragon which is the Sani Pass, bribing a dude with a quart of beer to borrow his horse, almost chopping my finger off while building myself a MTB track in Nieu Bethesda, camping in the coolest non-camping woods, getting lost in the rain and darkness in the Knysna woods, playing at some very cool venues, theatres and festivals, running into some buffalo in the Baviaanskloof, getting called a cowboy by a real cowboy based on my riding skills, meeting the most down to earth people on earth…and now I’m cycling to STRAB on a Silverback Fatbike!
And of course, sharing this with the GoldenGoose. I'm stoked! My only complaint is that we haven’t had luck with surf in J’bay. We will be in Ponta d’Oura next week and hope to surf that world-class break there. And yes, the new album is writing itself [pauses to wink].
RC: Finally, you appear to be living the dream. Rocking your way through a beautiful country with an array of fans and taking in all that life has to offer while many of your peers must be stuck as doctors and lawyers and business executives. What set you apart to take this leap, how do you deal with the risk and what would your advice be to anyone who wants to ditch the corporate life to live the dream?
GC: I’m fortunate because of my type of work. I can travel while looking after my primary line. But you can make sure you get your attitude right towards weekends etc. This country has loads to offer. Plan ahead and fill those times off with adventure and healthy activities. And of course, the internet is a great tool, anyone these days can bring their idea to life on the net and live as a professional vagabond. It’s never too late. Just know, it does take work.
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