BILLY SUTER chats to Durban musician COLIN PEDDIE, who has devised and performs with hit band The Reals in Poetry in Music, a showband entertainment saluting great lyrics. Also featuring guest singer Samantha Landers, the show features poetic music associated with John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, The Eagles, Indigo Girls, Mumford and Sons, Leonard Cohen and others. It is to be staged at the Rhumbelow Theatre’s Kloof branch at Tina’s Hotel, 14 Beryldene Road, at 8pm nightly from March 20 to 25. Tickets cost R150 each. Book at Computicket or by calling Roland at 082 499 8636.
YOU DEVISED AND PERFORM IN ‘POETRY IN MUSIC’. HOW DID THE CONCEPT ARISE?
The idea comes from wanting to perform in a show that reflected more of my own influences musically.
Many of the shows I have performed in haven’t really reflected the kind of music which inspired me to become a musician. So after a bit of reflection on my angsty teenage years I realised that the lyrics of the early influences were much of the reason why I listened to music.
And so it began. After a few brainstorming days I called The Reals and pitched the idea to them.
WAS THE CONCEPT AND FINAL SONGSHEET ENTIRELY YOURS, OR DID OTHERS IN THE SHOW GIVE ADVICE OR SUGGESTIONS?
I like to work with The Reals. Dawn Selby is a fabulous musical director, so all the ideas were bounced off her and singer-guitarist Barry Thomson. The choices were mine but they were approved by them. Ultimately, we are a collaboration with all that that entails.
HOW CHALLENGING WAS IT TO MAKE SELECTIONS FOR THIS SHOW – AND WHAT CRITERIA WERE USED IN SELECTING ARTISTS AND SONGS TO COVER?
The choices were not challenging. What was challenging was what to leave out.
I had to be strict on what would be considered poetry. You can argue that all lyrics are poetry, but I decided that to shorten my very long list I would choose songs that actually used poetic rules – simile, metaphor and the like. So I ended up with a much more manageable list.
HOW MANY ARTISTS ARE COVERED IN THE SHOW?
There are 17 separate artists and all are given The Reals treatment.
ARE THERE MANY OTHER ACTS OR SONGS YOU HAD TO OMIT AND ARE THERE ENOUGH ‘LEFTOVERS’ TO PERHAPS CONSIDER A SEQUEL?
We will have to see how we do on the first run of the show before we start planning the next. There is so much good work out there, I don’t think it would be a problem to do a sequel or two. If we do well, that is.
Other acts that were considered included Carole King , James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, The Cure and David Bowie… the list goes on and on.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER A HIGHLIGHT OF THIS NEW SHOW?
There are many highlights that have come through during the rehearsal period. Barry Thomson performing Leonard Cohen is very special – it sounds a bit like Mark Knopfler covering Cohen.
YOU ALSO CO-DEVISED THE REALS’ HIT FLEETWOOD MAC TRIBUTE SHOW. ELABORATE ON THAT.
The Fleetwood Mac tribute is a special show. My original idea for it started when I was studying music and working as a waiter at the old Playhouse Cellar supper theatre. When the shows were on, we would all sit in the back, smoke and discuss the shows currently running and, of course, how much better we could do it.
Out of these discussions came the Fleetwood Mac idea and I put down a few ideas at the time. Nothing ever came of it until more recently when Marion Loudon approached The Reals to do a Fleetwood Mac show. I got wind of it and basically forced my way into the cast.
It’s a lovely show to perform and audiences seem to love it when they come. So all good!
HOW MANY SHOWS HAVE YOU PERFORMED WITH THE REALS AND WHAT, WHERE AND WHEN WAS THE FIRST?
My association with Dawn and Barry pre-dates The Reals by a decade or three. Barry grew up in my neighbourhood. I was good friends with his brother when we were kids.
I met them both again at The Cellar when their band was known as Strawberry Fields. It was then that they asked me to fill in for them on a weekend when they were away, in an Elvis show.
Our first show together after that was Red-Hot and Country, also at The Cellar. Over the years I’ve worked with them in many different set-ups, but as The Reals it must be about three or four shows.
YOU WERE A MEMBER OF THE TRIO RISE. TELL ME MORE.
Rise was an electronic rock band that lasted 10 years. We were an original music band. The original line up was Martin McHale (DJ of 330 fame), Kerry Wood (vocals) and me on guitar and vocals. The line up changed a bit as the years went on but the basic sound and energy always remained.
We released two full-length albums, Present in 2007 and Water on Canvas in 2010, and then a variety of singles and remixes.
We were a touring band so there were many memorable shows. The one that stands out for me was performing on the Fifa World Cup Main Beach Stage before a Bafana Bafana game in 2010. There were 24 000 people, pumping tunes, a wash of vuvuzelas, crazy madness. Absolute bliss!
The split was more due to time. Both Kerry and I are running our own businesses, so getting together to create new music became more difficult. Eventually we had to say that Rise was not getting the attention it deserved.
It was a special 10 years filled with some epic memories.
WHAT OTHER BANDS HAVE YOU BELONGED TO, AND OF THESE WHICH WAS MOST MEMORABLE?
Musicians perform in different bands for different reasons. My first band that got paid at gigs was Soul Vitamin, an indie-pop group in the early ’90s; then Paradigm Slip, a jazz-funk outfit.
I was then with Halcyon, the first band where I was the principal songwriter. I then joined a rhythm section that performed with Butternut. a duo with Roly Struckmeyer and Kerry Wood. Kerry then joined me in the formation of Rise.
All the bands have special memories and memorable moment. Each band taught me about myself and, hopefully, made me a better musician.
WHERE AND WHEN WERE YOU BORN, WHERE AND WHAT DID YOU STUDY, AND WHAT MARKED YOUR FIRST TIME IN THE PUBLIC EYE AS A MUSICIAN?
I was born in Vryheid in 1970 and studied music at Natal Technikon. As a 10-year-old I did some classical piano recitals, and as a poor student I did some busking.
My first real gig was with Near Experience. I think we made up the name the day before the gig. We performed at the Ice Rink Archi Ball. Big stage. Big crowd. Way out of my depth.
That gig also marked the first time I started meeting musicians, some of which I still work with today. It was an epic night that confirmed that this was the life I was going to lead.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR RECORDING STUDIO IN DURBAN.
Sonic Studios began in the late ’90s. It was started by Robyn and Richard Walne with Izan Greyling.
I had met Izan at a few gigs, where I had been the sound engineer, and we hit it off. He asked if I could do some freelance engineering at Sonic, and as I had always been very interested in audio production, I jumped at the chance.
I freelanced there while touring and performing in various bands. Then about four years ago I bought the business and it has now become my primary income.
I am a bit of a jack of all trades at Sonic. I’m mainly a recording engineer, but also a producer, musician, mixing engineer and mastering engineer.
Artists who have recorded there include Busi Mhlongo, Demi Fernandes, Neil Gonzales, Neill Solomon, Albert Frost, Andile Ka Majola, Veranda Panda and Gcina Mhlope. The list is long.
At the moment I’m mixing the new Radio Rats album. Who would have thought…?
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF REGARDING YOUR STUDIO?
I’m most proud that Sonic has become a productive part of the local music scene; that I am a part of a small, but dedicated and focused, music and theatre community.
It is never about one song or one album. It is about how you contribute to your field and how people feel when they work with you.
It’s not all about a hit records. Sometimes it’s recording a song sung by a groom, to be played for his wife at their wedding. Lovely.
ANY SONG SUCCESSES OF YOUR OWN?
I write songs. No successes so that Joe Blogs would know my name. but I have had a few of my productions stick around on radio for many years and have even walked into a shopping centre and heard my songs.
Highest chart placing was for Rise’s 2010 release, Be the Change. Check it out on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zoaTyZGRTs
HOW MANY INSTRUMENTS CAN YOU PLAY, AND WHICH OTHER/S WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO MASTER SOME DAY?
I play guitar and have rudimentary skills on piano. also started playing percussion with Rise. I would love to play the drums.
ANY OTHER MUSICAL TRIBUTE SHOWS BREWING IN YOUR HEAD?
I have many ideas, but the trick is to understand the people who go to theatre. I would love to do a punk show – but the people who like punk won’t go to a theatre venue , so therein lies the rub.
Finding the balance of pushing your current audience and trying to create new audiences is the trick.
ANY OTHER PLANS IN GENERAL?
I want to put together a solo album of some old reworked tunes.
WHAT ARTISTS, BOTH LOCAL AND ABROAD, DO YOU MOST ADMIRE?
Depeche Mode is the most influential band on me – and not just because I love most of what it puts out. I love the band’s independent, ‘do-it-their-own-way’ attitude, which has always inspired me.
Forty years on and they are still writing relevant music and selling out stadiums.
Urban Creep remains my favourite SA band. No one has really eclipsed that group.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT IN THE PUBLIC EYE?
I was very ill once and had to perform at a songwriters’ showcase with Kerry Wood, some material from Macbeth – The Rock Opera. I performed so badly I couldn’t even look at anyone. Terrible.
WHAT FIVE THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS’? AND WHAT FIVE THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘ABSOLUTE NO-NOS?
Fab: Donna Peddie, Durban, friends, performing and writing.
No-nos: land expropriation without compensation, too much hype, misused egos, a misrepresentation of the self, and liver.
FIVE OF YOUR ALL-TIME FAVOURITE SONGS?
Shake the Disease by Depeche Mode, The Emperor’s New Clothes by Sinead O’Connor, Protection by Massive Attack, Orange Crush by REM and In My Room by Yazoo.
WHAT FIVE THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE’?
Breakfast at Durban’s Circus Circus on the beach, on a good day; vintage synths; the energy in a session when band and engineer can feel the beauty of creation; time spent with my wife, Donna; time spent with friends
THE BEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER HAD? AND THE WORST?
After a Rise gig at a Durban July after-party hosted by 330, someone said: “You are what we have all been waiting for!”
The worst came after a Halcyon gig in a club down the coast: “How much are you being paid? Whatever it is, it’s too much. You should give up now!”
WHAT ALTERNATIVE CAREER PATHS MIGHT YOU HAVE CONSIDERED?
I studied architecture for a year, but really that was the year I started playing guitar. I have fantasised about opening a live venue.
WHAT THINGS DO YOU MOST MISS FROM CHILDHOOD?
Safety. A lack of consequences from mistakes made. Surfing. Skateboarding. Riding bikes.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
The search for meaning can often distract you from being present in your own life. Be Kind. Try not be a dick. The rest will follow.