After an almost five year hiatus, shock-rockers The Wild Eyes are back with their unique take on music at the boundaries of pop and dance – and they’re playing Up The Creek 2011.
This article by Evan Milton originally appeared in the Cape Argus ‘Tonight; section on 29 /30 January 2011.
Flashback one: The heat hits you like a chain-mail fist as you enter the club. It’s way, way past midnight but finally The Wild Eyes are about to take the Evol stage a few weeks back in Cape Town’s Hope Street. With temperatures in the low 30s outside, and very possibly nudging 40 degrees inside, it’s about to get a whole lot hotter.
Flashback two: It’s the middle of the first decade of the 2000s and a music explosion has unleashed an outpouring of musical creativity that’s being loosely collected together as “indie”, and The Wild Eyes are happily plying its margins. They’re driven as much by inspirations from art and fashion as they are by any musical influences and have released the critically acclaimed, independently recorded and produced their first album, “My Love Has A Special Violence“, an almost impossibly fine debut statement.
“(Lead singer) Nikhil Singh‘s ‘Nagasaki Nikita‘ is a sad reminder that The Wild Eyes are no more,” bemoaned the editor of Music Industry Online (MIO) just two years later, lamenting the loss of one of Cape Town’s most interesting dark lights. But now they’re back.
A long gap
“We didn’t ever really stop,” says vocalist, guitarist and keyboard-wrangler Nikhil Singh, now returned to South Africa after a sojourn abroad, “There was just a really long gap between practices, a gap of being separated by circumstance.”
“The way we construct music is still the same,” says drummer and extended percussionist Len Cockroft, “We’re still stuck in that verse-chorus-bridge mentality which is fantastic when you’re coming at things from a more electronic approach, instead of just rock music.”
“Nik got back and wanted to do a gig and we started practising and we just clicked,” adds Gareth Dawson, who’s responsible for bass guitar, electronics and amplified ambient sounds, “Normally, with electronic music, it’s all written before, and then played. With the three of us, we write together, independently at the same time, and then piece it together. We’ll all be playing something and then we’ll all go to a chorus. You’ve got to respect a process like that when it just works.”
“We don’t talk much in rehearsals,” concludes Singh, “The communication is with our instruments.”
The Wild Eyes are the epitome of a trio that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Edge of the future
So why should someone come into a club and hear The Wild Eyes, I ask. “They can stay out if they want to,” mutters Singh, “If they won’t take a risk it probably isn’t for them.” Dawson offers a more postcard-friendly answer, “If you want to dance to something that will take over and experience an interaction between throbbing, pulsing live music and whatever you have to offer, you should listen. You don’t consciously tap your foot to music, your foot just taps…” Cockroft sums it up another way, more than underscored by their return performances at Evol and The Assembly, “If you want to sweat, come to our shows.”
Singh has been silent, staring into mid-space, but raises his head to conclude somewhere between clarity and crypticism, “The first time you hear good pop is the first time that you’re chronically standing at the edge of the future; the edge of what is about to be remembered.”
A conversation with The Wild Eyes is as much being lulled by a siren’s song as it is trying to high-speed multi-cope with the stream of information scorching in from a three-headed Cerberus guarding the gates of underground contemporary culture. Topics race between airports in Myanmar; advances in nanobots; the strange appeal of the architecture of government buildings; the Michael Jordan / Bugs Bunny film “Space Jam“; Alvin Tofller; the religion of futurist science; how Tumblr.com is the new MySpace.com; how New York’s dominatrixes have unionised; Glenn O’Brien‘s “TV Party” (google it); the growing obsession with a fascist fashion aesthetic; the impact of the internet on finding, collecting and sharing music; the tests conducted when the atomic bomb was being built and the fact that Japan is the only post-apocalyptic society.
All this and then we pay for the beer, the coffee and the olives and walk down the street to sit in a car and listen to a track freshly recorded that day in studio. It’s very, very punchy; a dance-beat injected swirl of post-rock guitar/bass conversations that transcends both even as it is interlaced by pop-screech vocals with just the right edge of dark appeal. Also, as they promised, your foot just taps and, if you could, you’d want to dance.
All on the same planet
“We must give props to Steve Elsworth and Ivan Turanjanin at Red Bull Studios,” says Cockroft, “They’ve basically helped us so much, and taken the ideas we come up with in rehearsals and put them down in studio into something that means we’ll have a new album very soon.” The band are also shooting a new video in mid-February with their photographic chronicler and collaborator, Jenna Bass.
“When we got back together, we realised we’d all been listening to the same music anyway, obscure things like French coldwave and German underground bands who were around between 1979 and 1982,” says Dawson, “We’d burn a mixtape and give it to one another and we’d all go, ‘Oh, yeah – I love this band, and that’s my favourite song at the moment’.”
“We’re all on the same planet and we’re open to the same influences, so it makes sense that people who are kindred spirits will respond in the same way and arrive at the same place,” adds Singh, “It’s so easy to find almost anything you want now, that it’s no longer about finding stuff, it’s about producing stuff to fit in with what you’re trying to find.”
Up The Creek
The Wild Eyes play their first-ever festival set at Up The Creek next weekend. Trying another tack, I ask what audiences can, perhaps, expect? The answer is a stream-of-consciousness from their three mouths: “I don’t know; they’ve put us playing after Elvis Blue… which is a sort of ironic apocalypse. Up The Creek 2011 is venturing out and all the bands are doing collaborations. We were exempt from that, but we’re doing one entirely on our own terms – a collaboration with Righard Kapp (leftfield guitarist extraordinaire, who also founded the record label, One Minute Trolley Dash, which released the band’s debut). One of our songs lends itself to how he plays, and he’s the one guitarist that can create the noise we need for the track to work – who can contribute enough sonic boom on that section. We must give kudos to Up The Creek, though, for being brave enough to want us on their festival.”
The Wild Eyes play Up The Creek 2011 with aKing, Jack Parow, Flash Republic, Karen Zoid, Taxi Violence , Dan Patlansky, Piet Botha, Dirty Skirts, The Rudimentals, Hot Water, Bed on Bricks, Blues Broers, Dave Ferguson, Southern Gypsey Queens, Albert Frost and more (3 to 6 February, Breede River, Swellendam, tickets range from R150 day-pass to R540 full festival (Thursday to Sunday) from Ticketbreak.co.za; children 13 and under free, 14 and over full price). The festival also features comedians like Nik Rabinowitz, Mark Sampson and The Flaming A Brigade, a new Breederiver Late Night stage, the BOS “Pimp Your Lilo” competition, food vendors, coffee stalls, bars, dedicated life-guards and kiddies area. More on UpTheCreek.co.za and on Facebook (“upthecreek”) and on Twitter (@upthe_creek).
This article by Evan Milton originally appeared in the Cape Argus “Good Weekend”; section on 29/30 January 2011.