Photo courtesy of Dirk Steenkamp
We caught up with Sannie Fox ahead of her performance at Malkop Summer Rock Festival next month.
Let’s talk about personal progression. The first time I encountered you as a musician was when you were fronting Machineri and were opening for Taxi Violence at a Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts show in possibly 2012/2013. You started that band in your earlier 20s and have now progressed to being a solo musician. How do you feel that you’ve grown as an artist and musician since you first started making music?
In terms of progression, I would like to think it is always happening. I try not to stagnate as a player or a performer or a songwriter… There is constantly more to be learnt, more room for improvement, more to do which has not yet been done before.
Let’s actually quickly talk about Machineri – do you think there shall ever be a possibility of the band reuniting to create new music or even potentially touring again?
This is unlikely. That is not to say I do not perform songs from that album with my own project currently. I wrote those songs so I will continue to play them, I may even re-record some of them. We often play “Big Bad Machine” and I will play “The Searchers” again soon, “Cold Sister”… these songs are all part of my body of work, my progression as you put it.
Last year marked the release of your debut solo album Serpente Masjien – an album that was incredibly well-received by the public and critics alike. Was there any kind of nervous tension leading up to the release of your first solo album especially after becoming renowned for your work as part of Machineri?
Yes, it was a bit surreal as it is was only the second album I’ve ever done and very new as it was under my own name so one feels a little exposed in the beginning. I think I am finding my rhythm now in this project, I am really enjoying it.
I play predominantly with the same rhythm section which is comprised of Werner Von Waltsleben on drums and the Ryan McArthur on bass. I bring in a sub if they absolutely cannot make a performance. As a unit, we have been playing for 2 years or so. They are fantastic players.
I understand that you currently working on a new material – is that new music going to continue in the same vein as your Serpente Masjien, or shall it pursue a different artistic direction?
It will be more layered and it will sound a little different but still like me, if this makes sense. Let’s not let the cat out the bag yet.
There are occasionally faint political undercurrents to your lyrics and to some of your songs. How important do you think it is for South African musicians, of any genres, to present music that perhaps attacks and criticises the current political situation in South Africa especially since there is a sheer lack of punk musicians to do that?
When an artist goes into the realm of politics it is pure power and I think it is great if artists do. Politically infused material keeps the communal brain ticking and brings audiences into the present. It can also be electrifying.
It is pretty common knowledge that the music industry is male-dominated. It is a global fact yet internationally female musicians are often look downed up by their male colleagues while in South Africa there is a genuine amount of respect for local female artists. Why do you think that is? Do you think it is linked to the fact that to gain any credibility in the local industry you have to work incredibly hard?
It is a generalisation and I think perhaps untrue to imply that men in the music industry ‘look down’ upon female musicians.
All the male musicians locally as well as internationally I have worked with over more than a decade are great people and definitely do not give off sexist or condescending airs because I am yin!
One of the great things about your music is that it is incredibly diverse and allows you to exist in multiple genre niches such as psych music, blues and it even gets you main stage slots at Rocking The Daisies. With the oversaturation of specific genres in South Africa, is it becoming more and more important for musicians to start exploring numerous genre avenues as opposed to slotting into singular niches?
I don’t see it being a problem to stick to one genre, I just think one has to be switched on in terms of the playing, songwriting and also the brain. If one is engaged deeply and committed on all levels, the band or artist naturally transcends genre because the music bares it’s own style or sound within that genre- it is original.
I think originality is the hard part and what is inspiring to hear, a band or artist unlike any other. Like Kate Bush, Bjork, Sonic Youth, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley and so forth. There can only be one. It’s special.
Let’s knock in back to your personal history. When did you first start getting heavily involved in creating music and how did you eventually land up deciding to pursue being a musician and start getting involved in the local music industry?
I got heavily into music while I was at UCT studying theatre and around the time I left one of my previous projects and went into Machineri. There was a shift in the mind and I could feel that I had become immersed in the profession of music in a more serious context. For the first time there were record deals and managers and proper fees and albums etc… I began to turn down other opportunities because I was working on music. Whenever I had money, it went into music, all my time, it all went into music.
You are going to be playing at Malkop Summer Rock Festival shortly – what are your thoughts on this new festival and what are you looking forward to the most about it?
I was at Malkop last year, I played a sneaky guest appearance with Black Lung. I love the West coast and I love the trek to get out there. Malkop is a sout van die aarde kind of festival- good energy, live bands, alternative music, surrounded by beach, it’s beautiful. I can not wait to return.
Finally, what does 2017 hold for Sannie Fox?
New releases, possibly. Let’s see. And shows. And T-shirts. And collaborations. And plectrums. Maybe a hundred number one hits. Water!
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