We love us some Jaco van der Merwe, icon of the South African music scene, experimenter with words and beats, vocalist at Bittereinder and generally awesome oke. So we’re pretty keen to check out his set at Park Acoustics on 2 April. Of course, we also jumped at the opportunity to ask him a couple of questions ahead of his set. I even may have exposed him as a non-rugby loving Pretorian.
Richard Chemaly (RC): Lekker Jaco. As a Free State boytjie, I couldn’t help but laugh at your tweet after the Titans were thrashed by our okes. I’ll assume you’re a Bulls supporter too? How was that final hey?
Jaco van der Merwe (JVDM): Eish, assumption unfortunately erroneous! I watch and play tons of cricket but rugby is a taste I never really acquired with any seriousness.
RC: Be that as it may, let’s get the important stuff out of the way. What’s your beard oil of choice?
JVDM: *laughs* Well, over the years, I’ve been approached by a number of beard oil brands for endorsements and such, but I’ve always been suspicious of men who have too many items in a bathroom bag.
RC: This Park Acoustics is presented as “Jack Parow and Friends”. Are you and Parow friends in real life? In the meta of the South African arts scene are you all friends or is there some rivalry? Like have you and your friends ever had a Satanic Dagga Orgy?…and are they your friends?
JVDM: Yes Parow and I are friends in real life, we’ve spent enough time together in backstages and tour buses and award show waiting areas to get over any hangups we might have had originally. We respect each other’s craftsmanship and find similar things amusing. What is real life again though? I guess rivalry and jealousy in a small and competitive music scene is almost unavoidable, but it’s also always awesome to see how musicians stick together when shit is really tough. I know Zam Boney from Satanic Dagga Orgy, lovely guy.
RC: We know you as Jaco from Bittereinder but there’s so much more to your repertoire. When you’re having a solo gig like this one, what’s to be expected? Can we at least still expect some extravagant dress sense?
JVDM: I’ve actually kept it pretty real with my “dress sense” in most Bittereinder shows, as well as the acoustic shows, pretty much rocking up at the show with whatever I happened to be wearing that day, but as fate would have it I am actually planning something a little out of the ordinary for this show, as part of the buildup to a strange little sci-fi-punk-metamovie that I made recently called “MOMO”. Also, Marie-Louise Diedericks will be joining me on cello, we did a few shows together in 2016 and they keep sounding better.
RC: Other than your wardrobe, do you consider yourself a millennial and what’s the most millennial thing you’ve done this year?
JVDM: Yip, I was bron in 1983, so right on that threshold between generations. I think I retained a lot of Generation X’s rebelliousness and anger but I definitely see millennial characteristics (both positive and negative) in the way I approach the world and art. Most millennial thing I’ve done this year…only thing I can think of now – I sent an e-mail to an American filmmaker whose work I had studied for an academic thesis, and he replied! I was thrilled. So that’s a combination of positive and negative millennial traits I guess, being a little too forward perhaps but also not being scared to connect with anybody on the planet using technology.
RC: Most name brand artists sell out and begin marketing products or even producing their own. My favourite so far is Dexter Holland’s hot sauce. Parow’s brandy is pretty decent too. When are you going to release your own product and what will it be? We’re thinking the Jaco VDM whistle, blown on by netball coaches around South Africa…totally the best thing that we can do in 2017.
JVDM: *laughs* The netball whistle, I can dig that. One interesting thing I’ve heard Hunter Kennedy say a few times, is that in this country there’s not really such a thing as “selling out”. Don’t artists want their tickets, and their albums, and their merch to be “sold out”? Of course the term connotes a conscious choice to discard artistic integrity for (attempts at) commercial success, but that’s another long discussion. I’d probably love to release a line of Kashmir willow action cricket bats, or a series of interestingly shaped fish tanks for Siamese fighting fish.
RC: You’re obviously no foreigner to Pretoria, let alone Park Acoustics. Is there something special about playing with home ground advantage or is it just another show? Either way, we’re keen!
JVDM: Pretoria has always been my favourite place to play. They say a prophet isn’t welcome in his own town, so either I ain’t no prophet, or the good people who come out to live music shows in Pretoria are somewhat different to the regular Snor City squad. I’m guessing it’s a bit of both of those reasons…