BILLY SUTER chats to Durban blues guitarist and singer RUSTY RED, who joins Durban trio The Black Lapels as a special guest in their Paul Simon tribute show at Durban’s Rhumbelow Theatre in Umbilo at 8pm on Friday and Saturday (September 22 and 23) and 2pm and 6.30pm on Sunday (September 24). July 22). Tickets cost R150 each and booking is at Computicket or by calling Roland Stansell at 082 499 8636. (Note: the review of the Paul Simon show, which premiered at the same venue earlier this year, is listed under MUSIC on this site).
WHAT IS YOUR REAL NAME – AND HOW, WHEN AND WHY DID YOU GET THE MONIKER ‘RUSTY RED’?
My parents named me Luke Timothy John Wyngaard, which is a bit of a mouthful… but I don’t dislike my name at all.
About a year ago, I was thinking about how our parents name us and how we have no say in that – and it led me to think what I would choose as a name for myself.
I tend to lean a bit towards introversion and for a while, in my teens, had crippling social anxiety. I wasn’t like that as a child. Children tend to just go for whatever they want and they’ll talk to anyone if they want to, but down the line I lost that somewhere.
I became a bit ‘rusty’ when it came to social interactions and other areas of my life, where I used to have child-like curiosity and persistence.
So I chose Rusty. And Red for more obvious reasons.
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO MOST RECENTLY, ON THE MUSIC SCENE?
Over the last year or so I’ve mostly been doing shows with The Black Lapels. There are other groups I play with from time to time, such as The Kickstands, for whom I played bass at Splashy Fen this year. I also play in a duo called A Frame.
Other than that, I work at a studio with Rudi Greyvenstein of The Kickstands, called Vervet Underground. The studio keeps me occupied when I am not doing shows.
At the moment I am trying to get to the point where I can play more often as Rusty Red, with Chris Melling and Skippy Kubekham with whom I performed Crossroads show, a tribute to Eric Clapton and others.
WHERE AND WHEN WERE YOUR BORN – AND ARE YOU FROM A MUSICAL FAMILY?
I was born in Johannesburg and lived there until I was 16. My parents are both Anglican priests (as is one of my brothers) and they all play musical instruments.
I didn’t get the holy genes (every family needs a black sheep, or at least a ginger one) but I did apparently get the musical genes.
My mother sings and plays keyboards, my father is a bassist, my late brother Andrew was a drummer, and my brother Richard is a really good guitarist who taught me basically everything I know about playing guitar. He protests when I say that, but it’s true.
AT WHAT AGE DID YOU FIRST BECOME INSPIRED TO PLAY THE GUITAR – AND WHAT OTHER INSTRUMENTS CAN YOU PLAY?
I was about 15 when I first seriously picked up the guitar. I had piano lessons at school as a child but lost interest when, as a teenager, I figured out that you could make more noise with drums.
I also play bass guitar on the side as an extension of having learnt to play the guitar, but I don’t consider myself a bassist. Skippy is a bassist. He has the groove.
WHO ARE YOUR MUSIC FAVOURITIES, BOTH LOCALLY AND ABROAD?
Queen is my favourite band and probably always will be. I was also quite strongly influenced by John Mayer, who led me to Stevie Ray Vaughan and a bunch of great blues players – of which Clapton is one. I secretly love Ed Sheeran (but don’t tell anyone because I am supposed to be a purist).
Locally, I’m a big fan of Dan Patlansky and Albert Frost because they’re doing the blues thing and doing it well. I also really like Rowan Stuart and think he’s a fantastic songwriter, and his guitar playing speaks for itself.
I’ve had the privilege of playing at the same events as all of the above, and also with Laurie Levine and Josie Field and a couple more great South African acts. We have so much great music.
WHAT HAVE BEEN CAREER HIGHS TO DATE FOR YOU?
In 2013, I got to play some Queen songs with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, alongside Joseph Clark. I’ll never forget that. Joseph does Freddie so well that I almost thought I was on stage with Freddie. Anyone who knows me knows that I have an irrational love for Freddie Mercury and Queen, so that was a highlight of my life, never mind my career.
On several occasions I’ve played in front of large audiences with The Kickstands, but I think the most memorable was when we opened for Mango Groove last year. That was spectacular.
In 2012, I played Splashy Fen with The Hairy Legged Lentil Eaters. It was the Friday, about 8pm, and we were all somewhat ‘well-oiled’. To dat,e I don’t think I have had so much fun on stage.
It was particularly significant for me at the time because those guys were my mentors and had metaphorically raised me in the music world. So it was a coming-of-age sort of experience.
WHAT FIVE WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOU?
Passionate, argumentative, creative, stubborn, Rusty.
WHAT SOME THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF (HOWEVER TRIVIAL) THAT PEOPLE ARE UNLIKELY TO KNOW?
When I was a child I wanted to be an Irish dancer, like in Lord of the Dance. I even took lessons and danced in competitions until I was about 14. I was pretty good at it
Also when I was a child. I had an imaginary spider that lived under my shirt on my chest. I used to take it out and show people. Then one day my brother killed it. I never forgave him.
YOUR MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT ON STAGE?
I try not to have those. I can’t think of any right now – it was probably so bad that I blocked it out of my memory.
THE MOST FAMOUS PERSON YOU HAVE MET – AND WHO WOULD YOU GIVE GOLD TO MEET?
John Cleese. I was an extra for a day for the film Spud. He’s quite tall. He’s funny in real life too. If I had gold, I’d give it to meet Brian May of Queen.
HOBBIES, PASTIMES AND FAVOURITE THINGS?
I made my biggest hobbies my job because you only have one life and you might as well just have hobbies and not work. My favourite things are guitars, studio equipment in general, bars, taking long drives to the mountains, having long arguments about the meaning (or lack thereof) of life, cheese, biltong and olives.
One of my favourite things to do now is to go out to bars alone and walk up to strangers and talk to them. I’ve made some good friends doing this and it’s helped get rid of some of that crippling social anxiety I mentioned earlier.
It’s fun. I’d definitely recommend it.
WHAT THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘VASTLY OVERRATED’?
Dance music, reality TV and Facebook.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST SURPRISING THING SOMEONE HAS SAID OF YOU?
Someone once told me that I was the most interesting person she’d ever met. I thanked her…and told her she needed to meet more people.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR YEAR SO FAR?
Recently, Chris, Skippy and I did a show in Eshowe, The Great Zululand Music Festival. It was one of the most fun times the three of us have had together. Small towns are the way to go!
WHAT ARE YOUR FEARS AND PHOBIAS?
I fear not having done the things I most want to do in life before I die. I also fear that in chasing those things I’ll fail to cultivate and nurture my most important relationships. Ok that is a bit deep. I meant to say I don’t like spiders very much.
WHAT TRAITS DO YOU MOST DISLIKE IN OTHERS?
Arrogance and general negativity. I’ve heard that we dislike in others what we dislike about ourselves.
WHAT ARE TWO OF YOUR MOST TREASURED MATERIAL POSSESSIONS?
My car and my guitar, Mary-Lou, made for me by a fantastic guitar builder from Pietermaritzburg – John Soderlund (www.jgsguitars.com).
IF YOU COULD CHANGE SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I think the only major thing would be to have been born with perhaps a larger nasal cavity, or something, so that I could have a richer voice more naturally. I found it much easier to learn to play the guitar than to learn to sing.
WHAT IS THE WORST TROUBLE YOU HAVE EVER BEEN IN?
I have never been in trouble. My mother says I am a very good boy.