BILLY SUTER with a new occasional column in which he chats to popular musicians about their musical likes and dislikes. The spotlight is on singer-guitarist and songwriter ROWAN STUART, who performs at STRAB Music Festival in Ponto Malongane, Mozambique, on May 26, then at the Durban Deutsche Schule’s annual Musik and Laternen Fest on Saturday, June 2. Rowan’s latest album, Faraway Deluxe, is available to download from his website www.rowanstuart.com/shop
What is your favourite song right now?
There’s a new song by Years & Years called Sanctify, which I heard while on tour, and which stuck out in a good way.
The last album you bought – and why?
I think it was Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool. I tend to buy most Radiohead albums when they’re released.
Two of your favourite songs of all time?
Bjork’s Isobel and VAST’s Touched.
Three of the finest albums ever – and why?
Beatenberg’s The Hanging Gardens of Beatenberg. This is a South African album that stands up against any international album. It is rich, complex, danceable, catchy, and full of ancient Greek and classic references! One of the most sophisticated pop albums ever.
Death Cab For Cutie’s Plans. This album is lyrically very stark, brutally honest and beautifully real, and each song unfolds like a complex flower in a brilliant boquuet.
I’d also choose for VAST by VAST – this underground American band’s first album opened my mind to new soundscapes with its dark, brooding intensity. Listening to this album feels like stepping through a doorway to a mythical jungle.
Song you hate the most right now?
Haha, as I get older, I try not to hate anything. I honestly don’t hate any song right now.
Worst song in history?
I’m An Albatraoz byAronChupa.
Song you most associate with your teens?
As a teenager discovering music, I was all about The Smashing Pumpkins. Their albums Siamese Dream, Mellon Collie, Adore and Machina became the soundtrack to my youth. When I hear the song Thru the Eyes of Ruby, I’m reminded of the mix of anticipation, frustration, romanticism and discovery that comes with being a teenager.
Song you most associate with your early childhood years?
I remember getting really excited when I heard the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song on a Saturday morning.
The size of your music collection and the artists represented most there?
It’s actually not that big – maybe 100 albums. Although I appreciate a lot of music, it takes a lot for music and artistry to intrigue me enough to seek out and buy it. The artists most represented in my collection are Death Cab For Cutie, Sting, Lenny Kravitz, Radiohead, Bjork, VAST, and of course, The Smashing Pumpkins.
Favourite radio station and DJ?
I’d have to go with the radio stations that are most supportive of my music, namely Algoa FM in the Eastern Cape, and Radio Life & Style in Ballito.
DJ-wise, on my latest tour, I really enjoyed my interviews with Andy Leve (Hot 91.9 FM in Cape Town) – she was super-prepared and went into great depth – and Roland from Algoa FM, who was lots of fun. I’ve had many other enjoyable interviews with entertaining DJs.
The local artists you most admire?
I love Beatenberg, and would love to be their support act someday. I have great respect for Tresor Riziki, with whom I’ve worked and been guided by. And I really appreciate the hard work and tenacity of people like Nibs van der Spuy and Guy Buttery, who stick to their guns in a very tough industry. There are many more.
Artists from abroad that you most admire?
Paul McCartney strikes me as a true musician, who keeps making music and touring – not for fame and money, but because he genuinely loves it.
And I’m grateful to Ed Sheeran for keeping acoustic guitar music and singer-songwriters on the charts in a very electronic and corporate driven pop market
Most over-rated people in the recording business?
Musicians who don’t work hard, or who expect others to do the hard work for them.
Pet hate/s about the music scene in South Africa?
Again, I’m not into hating things, but I do wish the general public would become more passionate about supporting our local original artists. But then again, I always say that it’s up to us to motivate them with good content as well.
The one music act you would give the world to see perform live?
A tie between VAST (Visual Audio Sensory Theatre) and Radiohead.
Ever asked a music personality for an autograph?
Not for myself. But I think I’ve asked Tresor, Graeme Watkins and Dan Patlansky for autographs on behalf of others.
Music acts you have seen live and loved?
My first international concert was Lenny Kravitz in Durban – front row (so I could see). I was in awe from beginning to end.
Best singing star ever?
Tom Chaplain from Keane. You don’t realise how gifted he is as a singer until you try to sing one of Keane’s songs.
The greatest musician of all time?
This is really impossible to pin down in one person. The most musically gifted people may never become stars. The (possibly) most gifted all-round music stars would be (in no particular order): Stevie Wonder, Freddie Mercury, Michael Jackson, Prince and Paul McCartney
Best band in history?
If you were to define ‘best’ as the most influential, pioneering, popular and successful band of all time, there could be no answer other than: The Beatles
The styles of music you most enjoy – and least enjoy?
Most of my favourite bands defy classification, but could generally be considered alternative, pop, or a mixture of both. I generally don’t enjoy big band music and free-form jazz.
The most embarrassing artist represented in your music collection – and why is it there?
I don’t think I have any super cheesy or embarrassing music in my collection.
The one song that will always be guaranteed to get you on to a dancefloor?
I have not experienced this song yet. So far, nothing can get me onto a public dancefloor.
The musical teaming you would most like to see?
Myself and Beatenberg.
Your choice of karaoke song?
Hmm, I’ll go with Roy Orbison’s Only the Lonely.
The first song you ever performed for an audience?
Wet Wet Wet’s version of Love Is All Around.
Guilty pleasure: a song you really feel you shouldn’t enjoy, but secretly do?
Umbrella by Rihanna.
Worst decade for music?
I used to believe there were ‘bad’ decades for music, but now I’ve come to appreciate that every decade of popular music has its cheesy music and its fantastic music.
Instruments you can play?
Guitar and bass guitar. I dabble in drums.
The song you’d like to be played at your funeral?
I haven’t given this much thought before. Maybe Guitar Man by Bread – this song is eerily close to my life.
The song you find the saddest?
Lots of stuff by Bread, and notably Diary and Aubrey. David Gates has a way of evoking sympathy and sadness – it’s in the purity and innocence of his voice.
Two dead icons you’d most like to invite to dinner?
Prince and Chris Cornell.