From the blunt mag archive: Battery 9 – Is Paul Riekert a good oke?
blunt interviewed legendary hard core SA musician Paul Reikert of Joburg’s Battery 9 back in the day after the release of his album ‘Wrok’ to find out what made him tick.
Words by Craig Jarvis
The first track on the new Battery 9 seedee ‘Wrok’ is called ‘Fry My Circuits’, and it is doing just that, writes Craig. I find myself hypnotised by its absolute sonic savagery. This is controlled madness. Mayhem. It actually sounds dangerous. I listen to the album in its entirety. Put it back on. Listen again, and slowly draw a mental picture of Paul Riekert, the man who is Battery 9 .
He is one of two people: A man who never dealt properly with high-school angst and poetry. A man who is facing his adolescent demons by exposing his pain in a pithy series of self-indulgent short stories. Or he is a man who has glimpsed The Void and seen the dark and poisoned heart of this country? Realised that he, like every-one else, is eventually going to be betrayed by life itself and fathomed the absolute inconsequence of our brief and painful visit to this planet. And finds himself not happy about it.
Is Riekert trying to get a message across? Is Paul Riekert the new messiah? Is he a Pied Piper leading us down a path of anger, anguish and self-loathing?
I cut him short, to ask him a question that has been bugging my mates and I for a while now. It’s the question of the CD cover. Some think it’s an arm, some girls I know assure me that it’s a winkie, but my winkie doesn’t look like that. I tell this to Paul and he roars with genuine hilarity.
“It’s actually a cow’s tongue, purchased from a butchery. It’s a kind of leitmotif for tongues wagging, for pseudo-communication. I have a grudge against this. You know, like everyone’s talking but no one’s actually saying anything.”
He gives me a few snappy answers to stupid questions: he’s quick to tell me that if he were to open a shop in a mall it would probably sell music, or gardening tools. When asked where he might be in twenty years time, he reckons that he might still be making music, or growing carrots in France. But he’s chuckling the whole time. Life doesn’t seem too fucking serious for this prophet of condemnation.
I came across the Battery 9 sound for the first time whilst parking off watching a local surf video. ‘Kiss The Machine’ came blasting out through quick, sporadic bursts of high-energy ripping, and the tie-in of sound-to-image was perfect.
Paul has been in the music industry for 12 years. His first album, ‘Protskrog’ was an independent release and was a fusion of guitars, drums, metal objects and wild samples. For his second album, ‘Strop,’ Paul approached nearly every major record company in South Africa. Each one turned Battery 9 down because they were too hardcore for South African audiences across the board.
Paul eventually approached the independent company Tic…Tic… Bang!, who snatched the band up, as well they should have. The release ‘Strop’ saw Battery 9 playlisted on every Campus radio station as well as community radio stations. On top of this, two tracks charted on 5FM, ‘Kiss the Machine’ and ‘Cross No More Rivers’.
Paul writes all the songs and makes the CDs. On stage he is assisted by At Nel (sampler), Hyser Burger (canvas, vocals), and Arnaud van Vliet (guitar). They have played at Oppikoppi, Bosrok, Wingerdstok, Phalaborwa and were the highlight at the Ice Freedom Dance Festival and featured at the 5FM birthday bash.
After humble beginnings Paul finds himself now being approached by other top bands to mix their tracks. I came across the Battery 9 sound for the first time whilst parking off watching a local surf video. ‘Kiss The Machine’ came blasting out through quick, sporadic bursts of high-energy ripping, and the tie-in of sound-to-image was perfect.
“Wel,. I was quite surprised to hear that my music was on a couple of videos. I haven’t actually seen the vids. But I reckon it’s really good. Maybe it’s the idea of my music getting the adrenalin pumping. But then again, I stayed in a surfer’s hostel in Jeffrey’s Bay (Koffie’s) and all these surfers just listened to Bob Marley. I swear, that’s all that they listened to! They had every single Bob CD!’ He bursts out into his infectious laughter again.
J-Bay’s one amazing place. It’s like being on the platteland, but it’s also moving forward. A happening place. Paul rode a skateboard when he was younger, and has never been snowboarding. “Can’t afford it right now, and I haven’t surfed. No, you couldn’t really call me a landlocked surfer.” Much laughter.
I suddenly remembered when I was in Australia I worked for this wild builder with a name like
Rock Granite or Brick Stone or something. He was a vegetarian and told me that red meat
made him angry and mad. Could this possibly be the root of Paul’s acrimony? I throw this to him.
“I eat meat,” he replies simply. “I don’t think it makes you angry. Sugar’s probably more to blame for aggression.” And he starts chuckling again. So do I.
Paul has made a few mistakes on the long and rocky track towards what can be termed success in the South African music scene. His biggest was at university. “Ja (I know now that he is smiling), I studied for four years at Wits. Did a BA with English and Afrikaans. Didn’t earn a cent from it. Now I’m throwing tantrums on stage and getting paid for it.”
It’s to be expected that the conversation will eventually trail off in the direction of Trent Reznor,
the frontman for the ridiculously popular Nine Inch Nails. “Well, I’ve never met him,” said Paul matter-of-factly. “I think he’s probably under a lot of pressure because of all the hype surrounding him. Pressure to release another album. I reckon he’s probably in a bit of a tizz right now.”
Paul is one of two people: A man who never dealt properly with high-school angst and poetry. A man who is facing his adolescent demons by exposing his pain in a pithy series of self-indulgent short stories. Or he is a man who has glimpsed The Void and seen the dark and poisoned heart of this country?
Regardless of Reznor, is Riekert trying to get a message across? Is Paul Riekert the new messiah? Is he a Pied Piper leading us down a path of anger, anguish and self-loathing? I ask him to explain track number four, ‘Frokkipong’ to me. I don’t understand it .
“Well, a pong is a bad smell,” he explains, “and a frokkie is a vest. So it’s a song about the bad smell that emanates when someone wears a vest for too long, But it’s actually a song about the government,” he finishes cryptically.
To this we both burst out laughing again. I can’t stop laughing. It’s absurd. Paul is chortling away, and I can’t stop giggling. But, sadly, our time is over. I say cheers, replace the handset and start lagging again. So I’m drinking coffee, staring at my computer screen and musing over our strange conversation.
How does one sum it up? Can someone like Paul Riekert? Does he fit into a category?
Well, he’s funny. He doesn’t take things too seriously. Alongside his music he is a paradox.
But he made me laugh. Again and again. That simple reason, in my opinion, makes him a good
2022 Update: Find out what Paul Riekert is up to these days on his blog.
Listen to ‘Wrok’ on Spotify, if you dare.
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