Hanging out with PLUS Gig guide part 1
T HIS band is definitely one of the most unique to ever come out of South Africa; they have such a distinctive sound. Their live shows are an explosion of tunes old and new and you can’t help but sing along and bust some moves. Riaan is
electrifying on the drums and Chris Chameleon is one of the most phenomenal, most captivating frontmen we’ve
ever seen! We caught up with Chris to find out what’s going down in the land of BOO! How did your music, which you refer to as Monki Punk, come about?
Most of it was unintentional, sort of by accident. I was working behind the scenes on a television production and one evening, after work in the Sundown Ranch near Sun City, the props master and set dresser heard me play my guitar, singing to myself. They knocked on my door and when I opened, they told me I should not be here, that what they had just heard sounded like I should be on stage, singing and playing. The next day I resigned and started looking for band members. I found a drummer first. We rehearsed a few weeks, booked the first gig, and then I remembered a band mate of mine, from a previous band, a sort of a jack of all trades with a lively stage personality. I asked him to join in with us, which he did. Then we looked for a guitarist right up until our first gig, by which time we still hadn’t found one, but the gig went well and we decided that, unusual though it was, we would continue in that fashion. But the story is way more involved than that and I have a good memory of the details, so I have begun writing the Boo!ography. The full story is in there. You have played so many shows around the world. Where are your absolute favourite places to play?
Seriously, my favourite place to play is where the next gig is going to be, wherever that is. I’m kind of forward moving in that way. I have very fond memories of Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, The Netherlands, the USA... Basically all of it is good, often for different reasons. Travelling around, you do get to realise that each place is different, that the ‘national identities’ vary from country to
country, and it becomes a pastime playing to those differences, becoming a bit of a connoisseur of the various quirks of different nations. What is the best thing about touring?
I don’t mean to sound jaded, but after about 3 000 shows in 32 countries, my favourite thing about touring is coming home. The first time going to a new country is always interesting. New faces, new flavours, new vibes to get accustomed to. After about the fourth visit you start figuring it out. Also, it’s never a holiday. Gigs are sardined into tight, often hectic schedules and you don’t get to chill much. Also, I might be giving my age away a bit, but I have been doing this for 30 years now and one interesting thing I have noticed is how uniform the world has become. Tech, travel, new
approaches to borders etc. have created a greater uniformity among countries. But, that said, we have had some really good times on the road. Moments of absolute debauchery, tender care for members in, say, personal distress, meeting the craziest people under the most insane situations and then a whole bunch of things unsuitable for family viewing. I pretty much tell all in the Boo!ography. Band members come and go, and usually go under horrible circumstances (an amicable departure by a disgruntled band member is as common as unicorns) but after a while all you remember is the camaraderie, the good times, the love. What is the most important lesson you’ve learnt along the way that others may benefit from?
I’m not so sure I am a good one to take lessons from. But if I absolutely had to give a lesson, it would be that everything you do makes a difference forever. So attach a sense of posterity to everything you do, whether rehearsing or speaking to people or doing deals, try to keep in mind that the consequences of what you’re busy with ripple out into the universe forever, so do it in such a way that you may look at it at any given time in the future or the past and go: ‘it is good’. then, forget the lesson and enjoy yourself. You had the same line up for many years and fans became used to the members. Would you tell us once and for all what happened to Ampie Omo & Leon? As I said earlier on, it’s hard, leaving a band, and hardly ever pretty. So when you talk about stuff that ain’t pretty you need to be careful about making it even more un-pretty. The guys are not here at this interview to defend themselves, or to give their take on it – which, I’m certain, will most likely not be similar to mine. So one needs to stick with the facts. Both guys, Leon once and Ampie twice, resigned from the band. I know their reasons, but I will let them tell first, because at the end of the day, I am still here. It is also unreasonable towards Riaan to make too much of this. He is a musical giant, who has in his little finger more musicality than myself and the ex members all combined. But then he manages this incredible thing: not to be a session musician. I have worked with session musicians many times before, but he is something else. His contribution is so unique, so unusual, that it defies the parameters of sessionmanship. He has also occasionally done the near-impossible, like make songs even better. Like Stiki Choon – what he has made of the song has taken it from an also-ran to an absolute highlight of any show. He has brought a power and a masculinity to the music that wasn’t possible in previous line-ups.
Riann and Chris