Juggernaught are probably the hottest band from South Africa at the moment, yet not because there aren't so many down there, but due to their quality performance and - which is most important with respect to a stagnant Heavy Rock scene - original approach. It's not that the quartet does anything significantly different; they simply play it out like they want without giving much about conventions. Let us chat a bit with singer and guitarist Herman, who first is going to tell something about the documentary that is being filmed about the group:
"A local filmmaker. Gerrit Burger from Rockhouse Productions, has offered to make the documentary. He usually produces historical documentaries for one of our local channels, Kyknet, and has also worked on some of our country's most successful feature films which you guys probably won't know . He loves Rock and felt that it would be an interesting addition to his portfolio. The first part of the movie was concerned with the rehearsals and recordings, part two will be with us on tour."
How is the music scene in South Africa going? We do not hear anything at all about it here, so tell us what is worth listening to and how it is in general. I imagine huge contrasts with respect to a wide cultural variety.
"Yes, we have a vibrant live scene. Most of our artists are not well known overseas since it's hard for us to go on international tours as we are located so far from everywhere, to it's the more or less the same distance to fly from here to Germany, the United States or Australia. If you live in the US or Europe, you can take a bus to the next country, and there will be enough people who would be interested. We have amazing musicians and unique styles. Because you can't really start a band in any specific genre and find amazing musicians who share your vision, you often have to compromise and end up with bands that create new styles."
What we also do not hear much about is the political climate in South Africa: How does it tackle you, if at all?
"It's a big subject, the question is too broad to be answered in a few paragraphs but there is tension and we do have a crazy political history which people just can't shake off. One corrupt system was replaced by an even more corrupt system, and it affects our economy as well as the general way of life a lot. Politics definitely affect the music scene because you have brilliant musicians who are starving and there simply aren't any good opportunities to make a decent living out of the music that you love."
How have you been socialized with music? Are you influenced by bands from your continent, or rather exclusively by traditional (American) groups?
"Groups from everywhere: South African, European, American and so on. Because we are in the middle of the world, people don't really care where a group is from as long as the music is good."
„Beef Or Chicken“ is a political song and addresses whom?
"It is about televangelists who make money on people's fear of the end of the world, guys who go on TV and say things like "You have to give money to my church in order to be forgiven".
What is the bad idea in the track of the same name? Is it about returning where you'd better stay away from?
"It's about the fact that a lot of things we do are usually bad ideas. You drink a lot and you do crazy things that you regret, but it doesn't stop you. It's just the way life is, you do it again and again, usually wake up and think: Well, that was a bad idea."
What's the appeal of still writing a lot of songs about women and dirty love? Don't you think the topic has been well covered throughout the history of Rock?
"No, there’s always room for dirty love, we can't get enough and I think most people are like that. AC/DC made an entire career singing about dirty love and are still doing just fine.
In a lot of your lyrics you convey kind of an outcast-image. Is it just that – an image – or are you really shunned by certain people, and if so: why?
"Well, South Africa is extremely conservative and Calvinist. We live in a society that is like Europe was 100 years ago. People are extremely religious and narrow-minded. Because we do what we do, a lot of doors close for us, but we are not going to change for anybody. We are who we are and we do what we like to do and that's it. I mean, you go around looking like me in South Africa and see for yourself how you are treated. I’m not going to change for the sake of fitting or keeping other people happy, they must just get over it and move on."
Is „The Storm“ kind of a cautionary tale about the inevitable low after a high?
"Oh, I didn't think about it that way. It can be if you want to see it that way.
The older track „Zamalek“ struck me in particular: Tell us what it is about.
"Zamalek is a slang term for a local beer called Black Label. If you go into a bar in our town Pretoria and ask for a Zamalek, you'll get a black label. "
How did that odd collaboration with Pop star Mapaputsi in „Sandwich“ come about? Do you plan further experiments like this?
"There is a show on our local TV called Jam Sandwich where they get two artists of differing genres and put them through challenges and stuff. In a few days, they have to write and record a song together, it was a nightmare but it was good publicity. "
Is the text of „Bring The Meat Back“ about regaining something lost?
"No, it is about the fact that women act as though sex is not important to them. They sometimes withhold sex to keep men under control. The song is about how women also like sex and that we can also withhold it until they beg us to bring the meat back."
You obviously have a knack for good food, judging from your song titles: Tell us what we Northerners should definitely check out with respect to South African food.
"Oh man, there is so much. Needless to say we love meat in South Africa and it's a huge part of our culture. We get together and barbeque meat all the time. For me, it's a few times a week."
What does „Wors“ mean? I understand it must be something local down there in Pretoria.
"Wors translates directly to Wurst It's the Afrikaans word for sausage, but a special kind of sausage that is called boerewors, a farmer's sausage. Come to South Africa and I'll make you a killer Boereworsroll or "Boerieroll. The song only basically has one lyric except for the tribute to Guns N' Roses in the middle: "You know where you are? You're in Pretoria baby; you're gonna braai." Pretoria is our city, and braai is our word for barbeque. Even though most of the song is only one word it still has narrative. I say "wors" and the guitarist asks "wors?". Then I explain it to him and you hear the sound of fire. Then he gets it: "Ah, wors!", so everyone's happy."
Which experience do you refer to in „One Of Them Days“? Is it in general about those times you just seem to lose whatever you try to do?
"Yeah, it's like you work hard your whole life long in order to achieve something, but it always slips out of your grasp. It's just the term: "Oh man, it's one of those days", days where everything just seems to go wrong."
„Paint It Brown“ conveys a powerful message: fight and keep standing. Where do you guys in particular have to fight in your daily lives?
"In the same way most people have to, we don't agree with what is going on in politics, and we don't agree with the people running our lives. It's hard to accept that you are living under unfair conditions but you just keep going. After seeing what governments can do we wonder if you actually need them."
Thanks Herman, that was an impulsive and impressive interview. Hats off to you and Juggernaught!
The band is actually offering the new album download for sale at a discounted price until the end of the year. $5 for the entire album "Bring the Meat Back" limited time offer! (via PayPal), DON'T MISS IT : http://www.juggernaughtmanrock.co.za/
Interview by Andreas Schiffmann