‘The Keramics’ is a project born in Rome in 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown! Five friends that study at the same music school, ‘Neuma Music School of Rome’, decided to create a band, just for fun.
The Band is composed of: Max M.. “The Grey” (Voice); Mick Pilastri “Blood Hand” (guitar); Francesco Lacovelli “Cesko” (guitar); Alessandro Tozzi “007” (Electric Bass); and Raffaele Marando “The Painter” (Drums). With the Help of the Vocal Coach Sara Facciolo, they started playing some covers in recording studios. The music grew and the passion too, and one day, in the spring of 2022, Max decided to write a tribute to Sixto Rodriguez, due to his love for his songs and his story after seeing the documentary ‘Searching For Sugar Man‘ in 2014.
So the song ‘Sixto’ was written. With the help of Sara Facciolo, Max wrote the lyrics and together they played the first chords. After some practice the band recorded ‘Sixto’ at the ‘Studios Academy Recording’ of Rome.
Now ‘The Keramics’ have created their YouTube Channel, where you can hear ‘Sixto’ and ‘50 Percent’, another new original song. ‘The Keramics’ plan to create their first album at the end of 2023.
Searching For Sugar Man is a 2012 documentary film about a South African cultural phenomenon, written and directed by Malik Bendjelloul, which details the efforts in the late 1990s of two Cape Town fans, Stephen “Sugar” Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, to find out whether the rumoured death of American musician Sixto Rodriguez was true and, if not, to discover what had become of him. Rodriguez’s music, which had never achieved success in the United States, had become very popular in South Africa, although little was known about him in that country. On 10 February 2013, the film won the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary at the 66th British Academy Film Awards in London and two weeks later, it won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 85th Academy Awards in Hollywood.
It’s no secret that the renowned DJ, Gilles Peterson, has long been a fan of South African music, especially the sounds coming out of Cape Town. Gilles is a French broadcaster, DJ, and record label owner. He founded the influential labels Acid Jazz and Talkin’ Loud, and started his current label Brownswood Recordings in 2006. He was awarded an honorary MBE in 2004 and is currently hosting his very popular and acclaimed Saturday afternoon music program called ‘Joining The Musical Dots’ in which he features a mixed-up selection, “joining the musical dots” between soul, hip hop, house, afro, electronica, jazz and beyond”, in his own inimitable style.
On his recent ‘Joining the Musical Dots’ program, on Saturday 22nd October, Gilles played the brand new John Wizards’ track called ‘Rwangaguhunga’. Back In 2017 Gilles was one of the first DJ’s to pick up on the strange story and wonderful music of the Cape Town group John Wizards and brought them into his studio during their UK and Europe tour where they played live.
In August of that year, the British newspaper The Guardian’s music editor, Tim Jonze, wrote a feature on John Wizards, documenting how Emmanuel Nzaramba, a Rwandan car guard in Cape Town met John Withers, a South African advertising music writer, and after adding some of John’s musical friends to the band, they became John Wizards.
The band later released its self-titled debut album, which showcased their unique sound featuring elements of R&B, soukous, Afropop, reggae, South African house, Shangaan electro, and dub, and included the singles ‘Lusaka by Night’ and ‘Muizenberg’. At the end of 2017, the band’s album appeared as No 8 on The Guardian’s list of the 40 best albums of the year.
The six piece band, consisting of vocalist and guitarist John Withers, vocalist Emmanuel Nzaramba, drummer and percussionist Raphael Segerman, bassist and keyboardist Alex Montgomery, guitarist Tom Parker and guitarist and keyboardist Geoff Brink, combined electronic sounds with more traditional African influences on their self-titled debut album, and the success of that album led to their touring extensively across Europe alongside Mount Kimbie and Jagwar Ma.
John Wizards effectively began when John Withers met Nzaramba outside a coffee shop in 2010 and the two became friends. They subsequently fell out of touch for a period. In 2012 they happened upon one another in Cape Town and it turned out they were both living on that same street. Prior to their meeting again, Withers had been working on recording and producing the set of musical ideas that would later become John Wizards’ self-titled release of September 2013.
Nzaramba added vocal recordings to some of the songs and began to perform with the rest of the band. John Wizards released a mix tape in August 2012 that roughly sketched out the songs to be included on the album. This mix tape was passed on to Mike Paradinas, owner of Planet Mu records. Planet Mu would announce the band as part of their roster in November 2012, releasing the album some ten months later.
In February 2017 Gilles visited Cape Town to record an audio documentary about the city’s musical heritage as part of Lufthansa City of the Month. The documentary followed Gilles over the course of a day as he set out to learn about the history of the city’s music, and infiltrate the dynamic contemporary scene. He began with the music of the Khoisan Bushmen, through to Cape Jazz of the ’60s, onto hip hop of the ’80s and ’90s, through to the spoken word and current musical climate of today. By discovering where the music was from and where it was going, Gilles discovered what makes Cape Town so special.
In the documentary, Gilles visited a bunch of the local music scenes’ leaders to hear their stories. From jazz musician Tony Cedras to spoken word artist Khadija Tracey Heeger, local hip hop legend DJ Ready D, the Chimurenga crew, legendary A&R Donald ‘Jumbo’ Van Renen through to today’s upfront talent like Nonku Phiri! The show also featured tracks by Tony Cedras, Miriam Makeba, Dollar Brand, Jumbo Track, Black Disco and more.
On that trip, Gilles also visited the iconic Cape Town record shop, Mabu Vinyl, where he met the shop’s founder and owner Jacques Vosloo, as well as the staff like DJ Mighty, SA online music guru Brian Currin and Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman of ‘Searching For Sugar Man’ fame.
On Saturday’s ‘Joining The Musical Dots’ program, after playing the newly-released John Wizards’ track ‘Rwangaguhunga’ (starting at about 24 minutes), Gilles also mentioned that the drummer from John Wizards, Raphael Segerman, is also the son of Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman, thereby “joining the musical dots” between John Wizards and Sixto Rodriguez followed by his playing of Rodriguez singing his own track, ‘Can’t Get Away’.
Rodriguez: Vocals, Acoustic guitar Steve Cooney: Guitar, mandolin (from Australia) Doug McDonald: Drums (from New Zealand) Jake Salazar: Bass José Guadiana: Flute
Jake and José were Americans who left three-quarters of the way through the tour and were replaced by an Australian Joe Creighton on bass. The local boys all came from the Mark Gillespie Band who were the support act.
…his aussie tour in 79 was an awesome experience…
Stuart, Australia, May 1998
We will never forget the atmosphere and power of Rodriguez first Australian performance at Melbourne’s Dallas Brooks Hall on 15 March, 1979. (We have the “Alive” record released here and treasure it)
Jason and Anne, Australia, April 1998
Sydney Morning Herald, 19th March 1979
Rodriguez – 10 years after by Ted Robinson
Rodriguez Regent Theatre
Rodriguez’s first Sydney concert was the stuff that dreams are made of. A man lost in time and space he reeled on to the stage to pick up the threads of a 10-year old career. A generally young audience on Saturday embraced both the myth and the man supporting his every move with astonishing warmth. He was theirs and they were his. Not such an unusual occurrence or at least until you know the Rodriguez story. A decade ago he made a couple of records in the United States. They went unnoticed and he turned his thoughts to other things: an academic life, social work; and unsuccessfully running for both local and State office. Unbeknown to him, his records continued to sell… and sell in Australia, where until recently his background has remained a total mystery and the subject of much conjecture. He has long since passed the cult stage with gold records, a published anthology of his writing and now nationwide sold-out concerts. This huge success has something of the fairy tale about it. Not only for Rodriguez, but for the two young Australian promoters who have seemingly pulled off an enormous gamble… to play Svengali to his Trilby.
Rodriguez writes (or wrote) simple but often dark songs of street life, drug culture and street life love. His neon-lit world celebrates characters that would be equally at home in Damon Runyon or William Burroughs. Some songs take the form of powerful commentaries and some are merely musings, most seem to somehow, almost inexplicably, touch the emotional pressure points of a young middle-class white Australian audience. Technically the night was sometimes shaky but more sound than you might expect from someone who virtually hadn’t performed for eight years. Someone plucked from innocent obscurity and delivered to the pressures of expectation and anticipation that surrounds the living legend. Whoops of joy and recognition greeted the introduction to each song, often a chord, feel or broken arpeggio was enough for the identification.
Even when he faltered in the introduction to a song and had to start again the spell remained intact. Ovation poured on ovation. Rodriguez sang his songs, hunched over his guitar and drank nervously from empty cups. Finally he told his audience “after ten years you gotta be kidding… I’m just an everyday person”
Rodriguez has several more Sydney concerts at the Regent and State theatres.
The Australian, 19th March 1979
Nervous virtuoso by Karen Hughes
Rodriguez was nervous. On Saturday night the house lights of the Regent Theatre dimmed and the band began to play but there was no sign of the tall, enigmatic Mexican singer. Suddenly from the wings he appeared, looking frail in a beige suit and open neck blue shirt carrying what appeared to be a student’s briefcase and a handful of music sheets. Hard core fans screamed, shouted and gleefully exchanged knowing smiles as Rodriguez, eyes downcast, but beaming excitedly, sat on his stool, turned side-on to the audience and after a sip of something soothing began the familiar opening to Street Boy. There was a collective sigh of relief as the phrases tumbled out with the same intensity that had enamoured listeners of his two solo albums. Obviously his talent had survived the changes of a decade completely intact.
Unused to playing large concert halls, Rodriguez managed to transform the Regent Theatre into a smoky intimate club. A kind of holy communion which only cult performers inspire was taking place…The only thing wrong was the singer’s own continuing nervousness — though he did eventually manage to move around the stage, face the audience and exchange jokes. Rodriguez sang and played his guitar with great authority and presence. The thunderous applause which greeted every number was modestly directed to his musicians. With him from America were Jake Salazar on bass guitar and José Guadiana on flute, though it was the Australians, guitarist and mandolin player Stephen Cluney (actually Cooney) and drummer Doug McDonald (both from the supporting Mark Gillespie Band), who provided the music’s real push.
Apart from a rare and strong empathy between performer and audience the music was the most important factor in the Rodriguez concert, a not insignificant fact in these days of glittering stage and lighting extravaganzas.
Perth 1979 I remember going to his Perth concert in 1979 because I loved Cold Fact. The concert was pretty disappointing and I said so in a review I wrote for the local evening newspaper, the Daily News. Rodriguez appeared to be right out of it, mumbling and carrying on like more excessively than Dylan in 1966. I wrote a scathing review which his daughter may have shown you. In hindsight, I should have been more tolerant. I look back on his music with great affection. I’m astonished and pleased to hear he is still on this earth and singing.
Arthur Hanlon, May 2000
Steve Cooney Fair play to you! I played guitar/ mandolin on the Australian tour in 1979 and my name is Cooney not Cluney! I was amazed at the Perth reviewer’s ‘repentence’!
My abiding memories of Rodriguez are his sensitivity and vulnerability. I particularly remember a delicate moment when a gentle breeze blew his lyric sheets around, but he caught them so delicately; he and the wind seemed to be really at one…
Steve (in Ireland), March 2001
My name is Jake Salazar. I am the bass player who went to Australia with Rodriguez the first time around in 1979. What an experience it was for all of us. I am ecstatic although not surprised that Rodriquez is still making music and doing well as an entertainer. I got an email from someone who stumbled upon my name while visiting a website pertaining to Rod.
It has been many years since that tour. I have nothing but admiration for him and feel honored to have worked with Rod. The thing we went through to prepare for that tour and the events leading to each concert were ritually rock and roll. Rod is a phenomenal song writer and composer. A composer who creates melodies that establishes lyrical visions.
I remember the afternoon José Guadiana who was on the tour asked me if I would join him and return back to the US on account of him and Rod having a fall out. I tried to change José’s mind and I also tried to talk to Rodriquez but to no avail so we were both asked to leave. Basically, Rodriguez fired us both in the middle of the tour. I have always regretted what happened. I enjoyed being around Rodriguez, Connie and the kids.
José Guadiana has since passed away and I haven’t done so bad after 3 Grammy Nominations as a record producer (1986, 1997 and most recently in 1999). I really hope that Rodriquez continues writing and performing his great songs. I will always be a fan and a friend. I would enjoy to someday jam with him again.
I have very little information about this tour. I know that Rodriguez played on the same bill as Midnight Oil (at The Tanelorn Festival) and that the album Alive, recorded in 1979, was released to coincide with this tour.
Midnight Oil: I feel that Midnight Oil is a top band. I first watched them perform in 1981. I witnessed their powerful stage performance at past two in the morning in the freezing cold of the Australian wind. It was so cold that as Peter Garrett performed steam was rising from his head. It was almost phantom-like. He is musical, political and international. I also love the Stones. For me, Mick Jagger is king, but Peter Garrett is also high on the list of music aristocracy. I’ve been lucky to have been backstage with Midnight Oil on several occasions. We were on the same bill in Australia in 1981 … it was a trip!
I think he is speaking about Tanelorn. The Oils playing at 2am, I remember the steam rising from Garretts bald head too. That 12km dirt road into the festival took us over 6 hours drive on that Friday night but we got there in perfect time to see Rodriguez perform.
Alison Elliott, October 2022
Canberra: I went to see Rodriguez in 1981, it was in Canberra at the Canberra Theatre. He appeared on stage with a support guitarist who’s name escapes me. There was no support acts at all, just Rodriguez. I remember it being an eerie/ chilling experience listening to this extraordinary artist.
Mark Hohmuth, August 2000
OCT 20 1981 – Canberra Theatre, Canberra, Australia
OCT 11 1981 – Brisbane Festival Hall, Brisbane, Australia
OCT 10 1981 – Brisbane Festival Hall, Brisbane, Australia
OCT 7 1981 – Hobart Town Hall, Hobart, Australia
OCT 2 1981 – Tanelorn Music Festival 1981
SEP 26 1981 – Bridgeway Hotel, Adelaide, Australia
SEP 25 1981 – Stage Door, Adelaide, Australia
SEP 23 1981 – Ferntree Gully Hotel, Melbourne, Australia
SEP 19 1981 – Commodore Hotel, Melbourne, Australia
SEP 17 1981 – Prince of Wales Showgrounds, Bendigo, Australia
SEP 12 1981 – Royal Antler Hotel, Sydney, Australia
SEP 11 1981 – ANU Bar & Refectory, Canberra, Australia
We are always interested to hear about Rodriguez songs popping up in the soundtracks for new films and TV series. So, for those who have been watching the excellent new series called ‘The Resort’, you would have spotted a song by Rodriguez being used in Season 1 Episode 4 of this series called “A History of Forgetting”
The plot of this new series is briefly but accurately described on IMDB.com as “Exploring love and the weird things we do in the name of it, encased in an elaborate true-crime conspiracy”.
And the music used in this series is a varied and eclectic selection of songs including the Rodriguez song ‘Forget It’ off his ‘Cold Fact’ album.
Released On: 01 Sep 2022, available for over a year
Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman’s nickname came from the song Sugar Man by the American singer Rodriguez. In 1970s South Africa, Rodriguez was a household name as his anti-establishment lyrics resonated with many of those opposed to the strict apartheid state. Sugar, a Cape Town record shop owner, was one of his adoring fans. Very little was known about Rodriguez, apart from that he was dead; rumour had it that he’d killed himself during an unsuccessful concert. But years later, when Sugar decided to find out that had happened to him, he uncovered something astonishing.
Presenter: Emily Webb Producer: Emily Webb and Emily Naylor
I’ll Slip Away, produced by Harry Balk, was released as a single by Impact Records in the USA in August 1967. It was credited to Rod Riguez. This track was re-recorded in Detroit in 1972. The b-side was You Got To Admit It.
And you can keep your symbols of success Then I’ll pursue my own happiness And you can keep your clocks and routines Then I’ll go mend all my shattered dreams
Rod Riguez, August 1967
Rod Riguez could make a name for himself with this bluesy, mid-tempo rock ballad. Keep it in sight.
Cashbox, 23 September 1967
The 1967 single features more upfront Byrds-type jangly guitar, vocal harmonies and a subdued organ in the background, when compared to the early ’70s version. The strings that are so prominent on the later version are absent on the 1967 version.
I’ll Slip Away
And I’ll forget about the girl that said no Then I’ll tell who I want where to go And I’ll forget about your lies and deceit And your attempts to be so discreet
Maybe today, yeah I’ll slip away
And you can keep your symbols of success Then I’ll pursue my own happiness And you can keep your clocks and routines Then I’ll go mend all my shattered dreams
Maybe today, yeah I’ll slip away
Cause you’ve been down on me for too long And for too long I just put you on Now I’m tired of lying and I’m sick of trying Cause I’m losing who I really am And I’m not choosing to be like them
And if you get bored or got loneliness Or it’s dislike for me you express I won’t care if you’re right or you’re wrong I won’t care cause you see I’ll be gone
Scan of the sound engineer’s set list, dated and autographed.
From Sweet Songs To Street Songs
Review by Brian Currin
From the simplistic, yet instantly recognisable bass guitar intro of I Wonder, to the last fading echoes of Thanks For Your Time, this was a show that enthralled everyone from the die-hard old fans with their balding heads and beer paunches to the new virgin devotees.
From sweet songs to street songs,
from bitter to beautiful,
from minor keys to metal mayhem,
from tear-jerker to tear-it-up,
from disgusting songs to rock anthems…this was truly a magic show of vast proportions.
Rodriguez has not released new material in over 25 years, he has no chart-topping singles, yet he opens to a standing ovation – and everybody sings along to all the songs.
Colin Taylor from KFM radio opened the show by shouting with great enthusiasm:
“Cape Town, put your hands together and welcome a true legend on stage – Rodriguez!”
Reuben Samuels started a slow drum beat and when Graeme Currie introduced that classic bass line (de-de de-de de-dum) the crowd went wild in instant recognition and when The Man slipped quietly onto the stage, the Velodrome stood up in adoration for this long-lost legend. I Wonder was wonderful and after the song, Rodriguez just stood and stared at the audience in awe.
Only Good For Conversation was done hard and heavy with great guitar from Willem Möller.
“..you’re so proper and so cute” sang Rodriguez with a smile in his voice.
Can’t Get Away was superb and when he started to sing the second verse again by mistake, the band supported him and the audience forgave him.
All the favourites followed with the arrangements staying very close to the originals and the crowd hanging on every word. Tonia Selley from The Pressure Cookies and Big Sky provided superb backing vocals throughout.
A highlight was the solo rendition of “A Most Digusting Song” sung with great humour. “There’s someone here who’s almost a virgin I’m told” was met with much laughter.
And when he sang “…your government will provide the shrugs” a responsive chord was hit, even though this song was written in 1970!
Rodriguez doesn’t say much, he lets his music and words speak to us, but he did give us one message:
“I want to wish you the best of luck
in everything you do,
you’re gonna do it,
you’re gonna solve it,
you’re gonna heal ’em,
you’re gonna do it“
– perceptive and profound words from this poet and prophet.
And then into an absolutely incredible blues-rock version of Climb Up On My Music. Willem Möller burnt up his fretboard with a classic rock guitar solo and Russel Taylor played a jazzy-blues keyboard solo which left us breathless.
Rodriguez slipped away as the band ended the song, but soon returned to perform a 3-song encore starting with Sugar Man, then Establishment Blues and ending with the perfect show-closer Forget It with those poignant words “Thanks for your time“.
“Thank you, Cape Town” sang Rodriguez.
No, thank YOU, Rodriguez – the mystery and myth may be gone, but the music and memories will live forever and the magic of that night will stay with us always.
Anyone who supported local South African music will remember All Night Radio, the blues rock band from Stellenbosch who were truly world class. I have been meaning to interview Steve for the longest time and now that he is about to release a new album it seemed like the perfect time to interview him now. I would like to give a big shout out to Martin Myers and the sterling work he is doing as CEO of Music Exchange and Triple M Entertainment. Martin is handling the PR for Steve Louw and is also his manager. I contacted him about doing this interview. Thanks Martin 😀
By way of introduction many of you should remember this song, recorded live at Ellis Park Stadium, 1985….
Ernesto: Howzit Steve, hope you are doing well? No need to ask if you are still rocking as I am really thrilled to hear that you have a new album coming out soon but more about that later… I believe ANR started at Stellenbosch University where you met Nico Burger and Rob Nagel and your combined love for the Blues and Rock ‘n Roll got you out there and playing with David Kramer and Lesley Rae Dowling in various clubs and student venues. When was this exactly and what songs did you play at those early gigs? Did you play any covers or only original songs? How did you get involved in music and who were your main influences?
Steve: Hi Ernesto, Great to hear from you! I met Rob Nagel and Willem Moller in 1976 at the Stellenbosch Folk Club and we have been friends ever since. It was great place to get heard and there was always an enthusiastic audience of music lovers. Most of the artists wanted to showcase their own songs, but there were also versions of other artists’ songs. I can remember doing a cover of Gallis Pole (Gallows Pole) on 12 string guitar, thinking I was covering a Zeppelin song! I never dreamed that 25 years later my bud Kevin Shirley would be working with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant! My Dad had a DJ friend in Johannesburg, and one day he brought home a copy of Duane Eddy, ‘Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel’ and I was mesmerised by the sound. Another of my earliest memories is hearing Fats Domino sing Blueberry Hill on my Mom’s car radio and I felt that I was being taken to another mysterious and beautiful place. I started playing piano when I was 8, and when I found my brother’s discarded GalloTone guitar that was it. Willem and I had a band called Rockaway which gigged doing originals and covers. Willem was always into recording, and we started doing demos of our songs between gigs.
I formed ANR in 1983 with Rob, Pitchie Rommelaere and Nico (Burger), as Willem had left Cape Town for Johannesburg with his band Nothing Personal, which had started to do well. Our first drummer was Ronnie Milne, a great Scottish drummer. I had started recording with Willem at a Studio in Cape Town in 1979 and 1980, and we did demos of my songs and then focussed on two songs which we thought had a shot. I finished them up when I moved to New York City in 1981. After trying to get going in NYC, and having some interest from A+M Records, I decided to come back to Cape Town and form All Night Radio.
E: ANR broke up and Steve headed for New York City and Rob Nagel went to Hamburg, Germany. Two years later Rob and Steve decided to return to Cape Town and, re-uniting with Nico, used the Mother City as the base for their assault on the record industry. Then came months of all-night rehearsals, live gigs to test the songs, more rehearsals, more gigs, and live recordings until the band felt they were ready to record.
Why did the band break up? Did you and Rob intend going overseas to gain experience before returning to give it a full go in South Africa? Did either of you play live while overseas or did you go and see as many bands as you could, or both? What bands really blew you away and inspired you with All Night Radio?
S: So we formed ANR, when I came back to Cape Town in March 1983. When I was in NYC, I saw so many great bands! It was a really inspirational time and also quite tough to survive! I met lots of musicians and recording engineers, and we would go into their studios during quiet times, like a Sunday afternoon, and work on songs. I remember walking in the streets of New York in 1981 hearing the Stones’ Start Me Up blasting from every car, shop and taxi wherever you went. It was incredible! Springsteen released Nebraska in 1982 and it played over and over on my cassette machine. The songs really resonated with me and I realised that the art of songwriting and storytelling were one.
That album really inspired me and I bought a 4 track cassette recorder and started making demos. All the first demos of the songs that were released on the first ANR album The Heart’s the Best Part were recorded on that machine, which I still have! I also remember a stand out gig by Elvis Costello, during his Imperial Bedroom tour which was just mind blowing. I knew that I had to really focus on songwriting to connect with people.
All Night Radio’s first release was the double A sided single: Breaking Hearts/Sea Side Love which was released on 1st September 1984 and what a great song it was…
This was on the other side and my own personal favourite…
E: That was a really good single Steve and though the blues influence was there these tracks have a real ’80’s feel. Were you listening to ’80’s music at the time because I can hear a little Billy Idol, Springsteen and Simple Minds influence on these tracks; meant as a compliment of course 😉. I believe your intention was to go back to basics with your sound and this was the first result of that….
S: Yes, the 80’s; what happened was the sound of drums completely changed. Everybody was competing to be heard on the radio and the drums, particularly the snare just got massive! When we recorded The Hearts the Best Part, we put a mike on the metal freight elevator wall, took all the toms off the kit, and placed the kit in front of the lift’s gaping mouth! It seemed like a good idea at the time, and that why the drums are so in your face. Luckily the 80’s passed!
E: The single received a very favourable review from Andrew Donaldson in his review in the Cape Times of 5 October 1984: “The first single from All Night Radio’s debut album was released last week. The double A-sided rocker, Breaking Hearts, c/w Sea Side Love, is a no-nonsense uncompromising recording debut, and an exciting glimpse of what the group intends to offer on its forthcoming album. Produced in Cape Town by New York-based John Rollo, “Breaking Hearts” is probably the noisiest and freshest-sounding rock single produced in this country to date. Guitarist Nico Burger effortlessly establishes himself as wunderkind here in one neat and fluid solo. ANR think they’re a great group. They probably are.” All Night Radio Released their first album, The Heart’s the Best Part in 1984 and you can listen to the album in full here but please go out and buy the album….
E: There is a very interesting story connected to the first ANR single and album and I can remember reading about that in the Argus Tonight newspaper and instead of repeating that article I will try to tell the story in my own words. So, Steve Louw was going to Joburg at the same time as Little Steven (Van Zandt) was in South Africa. A local journalist from Cape Town could not go to Joburg so he drew up some questions, arranged a meeting with Little Steven and gave these to Steve. Louw saw this as the perfect opportunity to promote his own music and looking for a break, dumped the questions and when he did meet Little Steven he asked “Will you produce my band?”.
Steve also insisted that Little Steven listen to the tapes (of the first album) to which Steven replied: “Er, I’d really like to,” said Little, “but, you see, I just can’t spare the time…” Unperturbed, Louw expressed his band’s willingness to wait. The persistence and determination paid off as Van Zandt told Steve that he could not do it but he could introduce Louw to the co-producer of his album, John Rollo. (Rollo was a British producer who lived in the USA who had produced: Little Steven & the Disciples Of Soul, Roberta Flack, Stevie Nicks, The Kinks and George Benson amongst others). Transatlantic phone calls followed, finance was discussed and after listening to the tapes, Rollo came out to Cape Town while leaving George Benson waiting…. Watched by Louw, Rollo completed the mixing of the single and subsequent album in his New Jersey studio, and that is why it sounds so good.
E: Phew Steve, that must have taken a lot of guts. Were you nervous meeting Little Steven but also determined not to miss out on this career altering opportunity? Did you really just drop the interview questions completely and just ask him to produce your first album? He must have been dumbfounded and impressed at the same time?
S: No, I was freelancing as a record reviewer for The Cape Times, so that I could get all the new releases from the Record Companies. I offered to interview Little Steven for the Cape Times and they said sure. I was really keen to meet him as I loved his work as an Arranger/Producer with Springsteen, Southside Johnny and Gary “US” Bonds. I also loved his debut first album, and he had just released Voice of America his second album. We had a great time talking music, studios and production and a 20 minute time slot stretched into hours. He asked me if I was gigging and recording, and said he would love to hear some of the songs. I had the cassette of our live 4 track recordings with me, and the band sounded good after a year of gigging. He listened to the set while I took photos to go with the piece on him. I can still see him in his bandana and leopard print coat looking into the camera while listening to ANR on my walkman. It was a great moment in my life. Anyway he liked what he heard and put me in touch with John Rollo in New Jersey. John agreed to come to Cape Town and work with us on Little Steven’s recommendation, so that meeting was the start of my career.
E: Rollo must have been impressed right off the bat with your sound that made him come out to South Africa and produce your album though I am sure a few words from Little Steven helped that project on its way 😉. Do you know if Van Zandt ever heard the album and I sure hope that you sent him a copy…..?
S: Yes, he came back to South Africa for a second visit in August 1984, (I first met him in May 1984), before starting on his Sun City project. I brought the album, which had just been pressed, (literally hot off the press), to him at his hotel in Johannesburg. Journalist Andrew Donaldson also published a review of the album in the Cape Times Funfinder of 9 November 1984; “All Night Radio’s The Heart’s The Best Part is a thunderous debut, with its hard-driving snare-drum guitar orientated sound (Springsteen a la mode). Forget the “well-produced, technically perfect” spiel (it is a remarkable album in that aspect) and listen to the songs. Singer Steve Louw displays a talent for crafting songs that are free of obvious and clichéd hooks. They’re energetic, they’re thoughtfully constructed and, what’s important, they have a shelf life that takes you far past the first listening.”
E: Jip, I agree. It is a true South African classic. The second ANR album; The Killing Floor was released in 1986 on Previous Records and was produced by Cape Town’s own Kevin “Caveman” Shirley who has produced albums by Journey, Iron Maiden, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Joe Bonamassa, Beth Hart, Marya Roxx, Dream Theater, The Springbok Nude Girls, HIM, Tyler Bryant, Mr. Big, and Europe.
Did All Night Radio ever play any gigs with Kevin’s band The Council or did you only meet him later on as a producer? Your album must have been one of the first albums that he produced?
S: Yes we were often on the same bill at festivals, and he had been blown away by how our first album sounded, and was keen to do our second album. Kevin had already done a lot of albums. He has always been really busy.
E: Awesome. Did the above musicians come in and do their parts or did you jam and record with them in the studio? Who were the Glee Singers? Rob Nagel had left the band at that stage to join the Blues Broers hadn’t he?
S: We used Richard Pickett on our first album, and Richard Devey played live with ANR in 1984/1985. ANR stopped gigging in early 1986, but I still kept writing, and I love recording, so Kevin offered to produce an album with me. He put the band together and we cut all the tracks live. I love Tim’s solo on The Killing Floor. The Glee Singers were a gospel group that came in and sang Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica in the studio. Rob formed the Flaming Firestones after ANR.
E: The album contained seven Louw originals with a storming cover of Here Comes the Night by Them (which featured Van Morrison) (also covered by David Bowie on his Pin Ups album) and The Killing Floor by Howlin’ Wolf and here is the original of the latter…
E: Listen to the album in full here but please go out and buy people. Support our own…
E: The Killing Floor features the cream of South African musicians including: Steve Louw: Vocals and acoustic guitar, Nico Burger: Electric Guitar, Slide Guitar, Dobro, Mike Campbell: Electric Bass, Tony Drake: Piano, Organ, Synthesisers, Herman Eugster (of Ella Mental): Drums, Mike Faure: Saxophone, The Glee Singers: Choir on ‘Fire of Reign’, Tim Parr: Guitar on ‘The Killing Floor’ and André de Villiers, Tracey Dogon, Mynie Grove, Tam Minter: Backing Vocals.
What made you decide to include those two covers, though you do them really well? Were they live favourites perhaps?
S: Kevin thought they would be great songs to cover, and he was right!
E: When and why did All Night Radio stop/split and when did you start with your Big Sky project/band? Big Sky was essentially your band, a solo project where you were joined by some of South Africa’s finest. Would I be right in saying that?
S: ANR stopped touring in April 1986, and The Killing Floor was recorded after that. I just kept doing what I always do which is write songs, and when you have ten good ones you can make an album! Some times it just takes longer to come up with at least ten good songs. Kevin and I just started making another album, and both Rob and Nico play on the album. I had come across a great band in Johannesburg, Ymage, and I thought it would be great to cut the tracks with them. So we recorded with Godla Mgcinga (drums) Jimmy Mngwandi (bass) and Don Laka (keyboards) at UCA Studios in Cape Town where I recorded the two ANR albums.
E: The first Big Sky album, Waiting for the Dawn was released in 1990 on Gallo Records and re-issued in June 2001 on the Epic label and it is indeed epic! The album was produced by Kevin Shirley again and features more of the top South African musicians including; Steve Louw: Acoustic Guitar, vocals, Nico Burger: Guitar, Honest Rod Nagel: Harp (previously on bass), Don Laka: Piano, keyboards, Robbie McIntosh: Guitar, Slide guitar, Rupert Mellor: Accordion, Piano, McCoy Mrubata: Sax, Steve Newman: Acoustic Guitar, Jimmy Mngwandi: Bass, Godla Mgcinga: Drums, Benmont Tench: Piano, Hammond organ, Waddy Wachtel: Guitar, Roy Bittan: piano on ‘Here Comes The Night’, Cape Town Highlanders (The 1000 Pipers): bagpipes on ‘Waiting For The Dawn’ . The Atlantic City Horns: Horns (arranged by Mike Campbell), The Long Street Gang: Backing vocals.
Stunning selection of South Africa’s top musicians and the legendary American Guitarist Waddy Wachtel who has played with the Everly Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Warren Zevon, Bonnie Raitt, Randy Newman, Don Henley and Jackson Browne and co-writing songs with Keith Richards in the X-Pensive Winos. How on earth did you persuade Waddy to play on your album? Did you meet him when you were in the USA or did you send him some demos?
S: When we were mixing the album, the engineer Shelly Yakus thought that ‘Diamonds and Dirt’ would sound great with Hammond and another rhythm guitar, so he called up Benmont and Waddy, and as a favour to Shelly, they came down to the studio and played on the song.
E: This is the brilliant Waiting for the dawn title track and the album also features a Radio Edit towards the end…
Another great song off the album is this one but every track off Waiting for the Dawn is really good…
and another which has a lekker South African sing along chorus…
E: The second Big Sky album, Horizon was released in 1995 and with it Louw clinched the “Best Rock Act” of 1996 award at the FNB Music Awards. The album was mixed by Rob Jacobs and Shelly Yakus and produced by Steve Louw himself. Horizon featured: Steve Louw: vocals, acoustic guitar, Scott Crago: drums, percussion, Mark Harris: bass, Benmont Tench: Hammond organ, piano, Tommy Girvin: electric & acoustic guitars, backing vocals, Mona Lisa & Terry Young: backing vocals on ‘One Cut With A Knife’, Kip Lennon & Mark Lennon: backing vocals on ‘Bye Bye Johnny’ & ‘Kathleen’. This is one of the great tracks off Horizon…
The album sold over 10,000 copies…
E: Well done Steve, that is probably your most successful album then?
S: Yes, ‘One Cut with a Knife’ connected with people, and ‘Kathleen’ got a lot of Airplay. My favourite is ‘Strange Room’, so there were three songs that got people listening.
E: Going Down With Mister Green, the third Big Sky album was released in 1997 by Polygram and was produced by Steve Louw. The album featured: Steve Louw: vocals, guitar, Scott Crago: drums, percussion, Mark Harris: bass, Benmont Tench: keyboards, Tommy Girvin: guitar, Tim Pierce: sitar on ‘Wasted’. Another really good selection of songs and you can listen to all of them here but please buy if you like…
E: Great album and you must have been really pleased with the result but also sad to learn that your former All Night Radio guitarist Nico Burger had died (sometime in 1996). How did that affect you and did it change or inspire the recording of this album?
S: It was really sad, and I wrote ‘Wasted’ for Nico. He was an incredible musician, really just genius! He was very intuitive both live and in the studio and came up with some incredible performances. His playing really makes the ANR albums as does his playing on ‘Waiting for the Dawn’ .
The 1999 album Best of the Decade featured the best songs Big Sky recorded and every single song is a classic. Pick your own favourite. Mine is probably Diamonds and Dirt but that changes, which shows how good the songs really are.
Were any of the songs on this best of compilation CD re-recorded, remixed or remastered or changed in any way from the versions on your previous Big Sky albums?
S: No, they were just taken from the albums, but I recorded two new songs for the compilation with Kevin, ‘Destiny’ and ‘Skin Deep’.
E: Louw returned with an album of new Big Sky songs with the Beyond the Blue album on 9 September 2002 and the album was produced by Kevin Shirley again. The album featured the ex South African musicians; Anton Fig: drums, percussion, Keith Lentin: bass, harmonica, acoustic guitar on track 9, Blondie Chaplin (The Flames/ Beach Boys/ Rolling Stones): guitars, vocals, Pat Thrall: guitars, Adam Holzman: keyboards and of course, Steve Louw: vocals, acoustic guitar. In 2003 Steve Louw composed Amandla for Madiba’s 46664 benefit concert with Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics, Anastacia and Brian May of Queen. The song was performed by Bono and Beyoncé. Here is that song from this historic concert…
E: Wow, aside from co-writing that song were you involved in Madiba’s 46664 benefit concert and did you perform there? Did you ever get the opportunity to meet the great man?
S: I was lucky enough to be on stage for the performance of the song Amandla, and it was great being backstage and watching so many incredible musicians perform. I think the highlight for me was watching Johnny (Clegg) sing ‘Asimbonanga’ for Nelson Mandela in the audience. It was a riveting performance.
E: The Trancas Canyon album was released in 2008 by Sony Music and was recorded in a house in a canyon in Malibu, California, over three days. The album featured: Steve Louw: vocals, acoustic guitar, Blondie Chaplin: guitar, backing vocals, Pat Thrall: guitar, Rick Melick: keyboards, Anton Fig: drums, Keith Lentin: bass. You can listen to the here but please buy…
E: Always thought that this album has a real warm, easy flowing homely sound as it was with the Travelling Wilburys. It sounds like you all had a lot of fun making this album. Can you tell us about the recordings?
S: The studio is up in hills above where Kevin lived in Malibu. It was done over a weekend as Anton had to get back to NYC to do his Letterman show on Monday. Its always great when Keith, Blondie and Anton get together as they are all friends for over forty years, so it is a lot of laughs ,and of course brilliant playing, from them.
E:Heart & Soul was a live DVD “Recorded live in front of a sell-out crowd at Cape Town’s historic Little Theatre. The show captures iconic South African songwriter Steve Louw and his band performing classic material from their other albums as well as previously unreleased songs.” This took place in 2009 and the recording featured : Steve Louw: Acoustic Guitar and Vocals, Willem Moller: Electric and Slide Guitars, Jacques Steyn: Double Bass, Electric Bass and Mandolin, Simon Orange: Keyboards, Tea-Chest Bass, Rob Nagel: Harmonica These are the videos from that show…
E: So good to see you at home in Cape Town playing with your blues buddies and having fun. Did you enjoy that performance? Did you do any more shows like that at the time or was this a once off performance?
S: It was a once off show at the Little Theatre, and as you can see we had a blast!
E: What have you been doing since this live performance and the release of your latest album? Were you in South Africa during the Covid-19 lockdown in South Africa in 2020?
S: Yes I have been living in South Africa the whole time trying to come up with ten good songs! Yes, I left New York on March 7  right at the very end of the beginning of the time before.
E: On 6th April 2021 Steve Louw returned with a new single; Crazy River and you can watch that right here…
E: Louw says of the song “once took a long canoe trip down the Colorado River, through the Grand Canyon and out again. It was a very spacy spiritual place and it felt like I was on a journey to the middle of the earth. I wrote this after the trip. On one level the song is about the river trip and the journey deep inside the raw power and beating heart of nature, but it also reflects on time, our time on Earth, how we experience it, and how the bonds of deep personal relationships with our fellow travellers nurture our souls. I played the acoustic guitar using a few African-style riffs and the band picked up on that feel. Guitarist Rob McNelley contributed beautiful slide guitar.” The song is from Steve’s new album; Headlight Dreams which is due to be released on May 7, 2021. The album can be pre-ordered right here…. https://orcd.co/SteveLouwHeadlightDreams
The album was produced by Kevin Shirley and mastered by Bob Ludwig.
Can you tell us about the latest album Steve? I believe the song, Wind In Your Hair features the legendary Joe Bonamassa on guitar. Awesome, who else plays on the album with you? Where was the album recorded?
S: We recorded in Nashville with a great band that Kevin put together. Greg Morrow on drums, Alison Prestwood on bass, Rob McNelley on guitar, and Kevin McKendree on Keyboards
E: Are you going to have a South African launch for the new album or at least a few shows in Cape Town? I know a lot of people would like to see you perform live in Cape Town again…
S: I would love to, it just depends on how things pan out.
E: Well, I think we have pretty much covered your career and recordings but if there is anything we left out please tell us about that. What would you say has been the highlight of your career, the defining moment that you will never forget? Also, any funny incidents during recordings or live shows that still make you smile?
S: I think meeting Stevie van Zandt in 1984 was a career defining moment for me.
E: Any last words for all the people who have followed your career? What do you still hope to achieve musically and do you have any future plans after this latest album has been released?
S: Keep looking forward to the next ten good songs.
E: Thanks so much Steve and I wish you everything of the best for your future endeavours. Check out Steve Louw’s website here…. http://www.stevelouw.com/ Soundcloud… https://soundcloud.com/stevelouw Twitter @stevelouwmusic Thanks everybody. It is always a humbling experience interviewing someone as good as Steve Louw because he is just as good as any international musician out there. I can not stress how important it is to support our artists like Steve because the music was made by a South African and mostly recorded in South Africa for the South African people which means you and me.
Ernesto Garcia Marques, Hout Bay, Cape Town, South Africa, 9th April 2021
Hi folks at sugarman.org 🙂 I tried sending the below to the fanmail email for Rodriguez but it bounced. I know it probably won’t reach Rodriguez here but thought I’d give it a shot anyway.
Hi Sixto Rodriguez (or whoever reads your fanmail!),
I hope this email finds you well in the absurd reality of the covid world!
I am in the middle of my final year of a Music and Human Development degree in Dublin. I decided to do my musicological research dissertation on your music and its effect in South Africa during aparthied. It’s such a fascinating story and I’m delighted to get to delve into your music a bit more, and the complexities around the social and cultural phenomena in South Africa which endeared your music to so many there.
I have read all about you of course. I’ve focused on your music career but was interested that you got a BA in Philosophy and ran for Public Office. Such a well-rounded life you’ve had! It must be very strange for so many people to know so much about you, but having read the many forums on the Sugarman.org website, it’s clear that all who know you truly admire you and love your music. I have studied some philosophy as part of my Human Development course and am an introverted deep thinker in general (something I inherited from my Dad). I also write music, sometimes about the boy-girl stuff, as you say, but I also incorporate other issues which affect me. I think your music is great and I often sing your songs to myself. I hope to learn to play some on the guitar.
Well, I just wanted to say that you’re an inspiring man and musician and it’s been a pleasure listening to and studying your music. It’s amazing to see what an eye-opening effect you had on South Africans and how your music really got them through difficult times. My brother lives in Cape Town with his wife and I hope to visit next year and walk some of the paths you did when over there. I shall be making a trip to Stephen’s record shop, too!