Hammers & Angels
Updated: Sep 7, 2022
‘The last verse is about me getting my head smacked with a ball-peen hammer’ – Wat Kyk Jy? interviews Deangersmith
Kyk, almal weet metal is nie vir fokken sissies nie, maar metal in Suid-Afrikaaaaaargh in die tagtigs en negentigs was poes fokken wild, china. En ek sal weet. Check, ek, griffin en ons ander puisiegevreet tjommies het mos al van kindsbeen af uitgeslip om hierdie kief klipharde geraas te gaan luister in dodgy Joburg clubs en skelm te rook, drink en afkak in die mosh pit. Hierso, eet ‘n Doc Marten toebroodjie, ou seun! Maar moenie net ‘n eens-snotkop laatie van Vereeniging se woord vat nie. Hy is anyway fokkol gewoond. Luister eerder vir my bra, Dean G. Smith (oftewel Deangersmith) wat al sedert 1985 in omtrent 9 metal bands was, eers in Joburg en nou in Londen. Sy rocking resumé sluit in Ragnärok, The Blast, Odyssey, 2 Dogs Funking, Balance, Brothering, Pijinfist, Mouthful of Flies, Krokodil en nou sy solo projek Deangersmith. Lekker Dean. Ek sê, you were quite active in the metal scene in SA in the 80s and 90s. Tell us a bit more about that time and how it was?
For me, it all kicked off in 1986 with Ragnärok. It was a wild time in Joburg. Just a handful of headbangers at first, which gradually grew bigger. We used to pass a list around and get people to write their names and phone numbers down. Then, who ever had the list started calling everyone and telling them about the next gig. The list eventually grew to a few hundred names. There were lots of fighting at clubs, like biker gangs and other contingents beating kids up and so on. The bands I played for only started venturing to the coast in the mid 90s and I can’t really comment on the scene in Durbs or Cape Town because we only did a few gigs down there. Besides a couple of clubs in Johannesburg there wasn’t a lot of media support for local metal bands. Radio and TV didn’t give a fuck about the metal scene, although I must chuck some horns to guys like Rafe Lavine and Chris Prior who had weekly metal shows on Radio 5. Then, later on the late Mr. Phil Wright was a monster supporter of local metal on the new and ‘supposedly’ improved 5FM. Guys like Howard Shenker also did loads for the local metal scene, as did Alison Geduld who produced a local magazine called Blitz that featured local content.
One of your latest songs ‘This is how we rock’ seems to chronicle quite a hectic series of events happening in Joburg. Could you tell us more about it? Luister die track hier: https://soundcloud.com/deangersmith/this-is-how-we-rock It turned out being quite a personal song, along with some of the others on the ‘Metal Made Me Do It’ album (which is an album in the works at http://www.reverbnation.com/deangersmith). When I sat down to record vocals for that track I had no idea what I was going to sing about, then thought about all my experiences at gigs in the bands I had played for in Johannesburg. The first verse is about a gig we did on Rockey Street at Dylan’s and there was a bit of an incident with the Hell’s Angels. A fight broke out and our guitar player was getting beaten up, so some guy in the club decided to shoot one of the Hell’s Angels (thank fuck the oke didn’t die!) The deal was we play 10 gigs for free for the Angels wherever they wanted us or we get killed, so naturally we played the gigs. The second verse is about my brother getting the shit kicked out of him for parking in a bouncer’s parking spot at The Doors Night Club in Marshall Street, just before he had to go on stage. I was already on stage, setting up with the drummer when this was happening outside. My brother, like the pro that he is, walks on stage 5 minutes after getting hooked and skopped around outside for 15 minutes and performs a full set of metal. \m/ I only found out after the gig. The third verse is about one of my friends getting pistol whipped and beaten by the same bouncers including the SAP until blood was pouring from his face and head. The last verse is about me getting my head smacked with a lead pipe and a ball-peen hammer, again in Rockey Street in BaPita by a Hell’s Angel a few months after the shooting incident. I don’t know why because we were well into fulfilling our ten gig ‘contract’ and things were apparently ‘good’ between us and them. Anyway, those were a few of the things, there were loads of other similar incidents too, but these four were ones that really affected me directly. Never did I think that being in a band would have led me to experience the Wild West right there in the centre of Johannesburg. You mentioned your brother Robi, who plays bass. Since I’ve known you, there has been a tight musical connection between the two of you. Do you think sharing blood somehow makes you guys be more in synch musically?
We have always just clicked when it comes to playing music. I hear a lot of other guys with siblings in the same band say the same thing. We had a band room in my mom’s lounge and it just grew from there, really. She used to walk in and out and say ‘drop that song, keep this one’. There were times when we weren’t in the same bands but we always seemed to write stuff together, outside of those bands too. Sometimes the different bands gigged on the same bill, so we were always crossing paths anyway. We even sang for the same band once (The Blast) but at different times. He is also the bassist on most of these new tracks I have been doing.
You now live in London. Was it a permanent move or are you intending to return to South Africa ever again?
I think living in London has become permanent after 10 years. Originally it was not a permanent move, but for now it feels like it is. But ‘never say never’. I didn’t think I would live in Canada for two years recently either. I will say that I miss South Africa a lot, I’m a South boy and my roots will always be in SA. You can take a boy out of Rosettenville but you can’t…. you know the rest. What drives you to keep writing, recording and putting out music independent of being in bands, radio airplay or record deals?
Bru, for me it’s about creating and having an outlet. I have music in my DNA I think. I don’t know how else to explain it. I hear rhythms in the oddest things, like the idling of a bus engine while at the bus stop, in my footsteps while I am walking, even in the hum of a washing machine. I have tried to quit playing before out of sheer frustration from the lack of support from the media and the industry. There have been times where I would not record but I would still jam, always guitars or some kind. It’s too late for me to stop now even if I wanted to. It feels like I was born into it, growing up in my house there was always music, without fail. I gooi whatever I feel like out there and if people dig it then so be it, that’s why my songs are all free downloads. If you dig it – have it and share, but don’t try to sell it. Ek ken wie jy is nê! Net so china. Once. Check Deangersmith se kief tunes uit, ook befokte tunes van die ou metal bands waarin hy gejol het, op sy Soundcloud profile (alles verniet, soos hy tune, so no excuses): • Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/deangersmith • Twitter: https://twitter.com/deangersmith • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deangersmithmusic