Hey Deon Bakkes and The Stolen Horses! Nice to have you return to BuzzMusic to catch up! Your latest release "Punk Gitan" is robust and full of that energy we needed this morning! How did the production go?!
Deon: Hola! It’s good to be back! The production was very quick actually. We tried out a new studio (KVD studios) that gave us a sweet deal and we recorded everything live in studio again. We managed to pack all the tracking into one weekend, although we did have to deal with a powercut that took about 4 hours away from the session. Thanks Eskom! (South Africa’s energy provider).
Congratulations on your album "The Striped Mare"! Throughout every track, we still get that quality that’s specific to Deon Bakkes and The Stolen Horses! How would describe that integral element to your music?
Deon: The main elements in the Stolen Horses music are energy and improvisation. The energy comes from the rhythm we use in our music. Essentially it all boils down to a gypsy jazz guitar rhythm style called ‘le pomp’. It’s very upbeat. Secondly, the improvisation adds a jazz-styled freedom of exploration into notes and melodic ideas to release whatever is in the soul. Very seldom do I write specific melodic parts for the band. I always tell them to play what ‘pops up’. Usually the first thing they play is the best.
Tell us more about how the creation of "Punk Gitan" went about? Did you guys have any creative clashes?
Deon: Well, I wrote the main opening melody on a small ukulele guitar, and was then transported to a strange world where I searched for lost chords among beasts of 7ths, flat 5s and the omega diminished. There I met a dragon, and he told me he was waiting for a dark horse carrying a rider named the Punk Gitan with only two fingers to poke out his eyes. The best part was recording the ‘Tzigano’ shout as a group in the studio!
We know that there's an ultimate statement in each song of "The Striped Mare". Can you describe the kind of statement that was trying to be made with "Punk Gitan"?!
Deon: Punk gitan is a song about rebellion at its core. On one level we’re rebelling against the so-called ‘death’ of rock, punk and jazz. But those genres will never really die, they’re like Rasputin. We’re also trying to show that those 3 genres actually have a lot in common. Rebellion. Jazz is essentially freedom music - and that is very rebellious.
I used the Zulu lyrics ‘umhlobo lwabantu abahambe bezula emazweni’ which roughly refers to a wanderer. A drifter. It means ‘a kind of people that move around the world’. Zulu doesn’t have a word for gypsy. I especially used these lyrics as a mainly white band in a deeply racist country.
I recognise the struggle of Africans since Apartheid. But importantly, I recognise their struggle by also recognising the internal struggle in myself to help a lost and oppressed part of me which I need to constantly show love to. Call it the shadow self. Or all the parts of me that I don’t think I am, but actually can be. That’s Carl Jung’s ideas there. Anyways, the same dynamic is in politics. It’s about loving the opposite of you. Whether that be race, religion, gender or culture. This is something I’ve faced personally in my life growing up as a British/Afrikaans hybrid kid. In today’s evermore connected world, we need to not let our cultures hold us back, but rather share them and see each of their unique beauty’s. But also, we must do that without trying too hard. That kinda makes it feel false. Some people have accused me of cultural appropriation with this lyric, but I prefer to think of it as sharing.
My parents raised me to accept all races and cultures. So the racism in South Africa makes me sick. But I do understand that racism essentially stems from people being unable to accept certain parts of themselves. And that needs compassion, time and learning.
Where do you see yourself in a year from now, musically? Will Deon Bakkes and The Stolen Horses still have the same iconic sound, or can listeners be expecting something new from the band?
Deon: We will have new music in a year from now. We started to rehearse the new songs two weeks ago. The sound will still be the same at its core, but we’ll continue with a more focused line-up with just guitars, violin, bass and drums. The new material will move into a more rock ‘n roll, almost desert rock territory. I’ve also poured my heart out into the new lyrics and have taken a slightly different approach for instrumentation. We’re all very excited to work on that next. The next release will be called ‘Pariayar Prayer’.