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Q&A: Anton Goosen

POSTED: By WILLIM WELSYN

"Steve (Hofmeyr) and I have settled back in our friendship with 'agree to disagree', but the debate in general will always be there..."

     
Anton Goosen and Willim Welsyn
Anton Goosen and Willim Welsyn

Anton Goosen is a deceptively smart man. The answers he offers often make you rethink your questions. So when Rolling Stone met up with the godfather of Afrikaans music, it was anyone's guess as to who or what would find itself up for debate. As it happens, Goosen was open to chat about Fokofpolisiekar getting drunk, the old Hofmeyr vs. Goosen backtrack-clash, his own radio show, and record producers.

A few weeks ago I read in the newspaper that you donated a treasure chest full of your notes, lyrics, vinyl records and newspaper clippings to the Documentation Centre for Music at the University of Stellenbosch. Was this a historical-existential move on your part to cement your legacy in South African music? Or were you afraid lawyers or family members would screw up your legacy after you kick the bucket some day?

No, it was actually on the bucket list of the Varsity - they approached me with the idea and I immediately agreed because it will create a lot of extra space at home! [Laughs]. But it is very cool because it is the first collection of "light music" vs the classic dudes at Domus - the Varsity's music department. Everything will be digitised and archived for students' research purposes. So I guess I feel honoured or something like that...

Being born in 1946, the same year as Keith Moon, Freddy Mercury, Syd Barrett, Dolly Parton and Robby Krieger, and outliving most of them – even after you got hit against the head with a pistol during a violent robbery in 2007, what's the secret behind your longevity?

Outliving Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen or Chuck Berry would be more of an achievement if age is an achievement at all. Surviving a violent armed robbery does not ensure longevity either. Mercury, Barrett and Moon lived like wild men. Like Drake and Morrison and Hendrix and Joplin did. It's a straight choice. One can bundle up one's entire life in a few years or spread it out. "Life is just a state of mind."

At the SAMAs in 2009 I saw you perform with the Lucky Dube Band at Sun City after you received your Lifetime Achievement Award together with Yvonne Chaka Chaka. What did that award and performance mean to you?

The lifetime SAMA Award is probably the big one - it's cool. I really loved working with Yvonne and the Lucky Dube Band. Tutu Cele, the keyboard player, played on some Bushrock recordings. The band was hot (and live). It was fitting to do "Dancer" with Yvonne and the band seeing that Lucky and I had a hit with that song. It was number One on 5FM and Radio Metro - and I was the first Afrikaans artist to top the charts on 5Fm. Lucky was probaby the first Zulu to do it [laughs]. Yvonne is truly the princess of Africa. It was wow staying in the palace chowing oysters for breakfasts every morning.

A few of years back you and Steve Hofmeyr were constantly debating about the aesthetics of music in the public domain, does that debate still continue till this day? Have any of your views changed since then?

Steve and I have settled back in our friendship with "agree to disagree", but the debate in general will always be there as long as there is canned music used instead of musos. Ironically, with the decline of the commercial CD market, both Steve and Kurt Darren are now using live bands. The argument was not about backtracks being used as a supplement, but taking the livelihood away from musicians.

I don't know if you've heard the new acoustic song from Fokofpolisiekar, called "Dagdronk", but in the chorus they've borrowed the precise melody line from Sonja Herholdt's "Ek Verlang Na Jou" (written by Jan de Wet). The part where she sings: "So verlang ek as die son en die maan en die wind en die wolke oor my gaan"...that part's melody is the same when Francois van Coke sings: "Kom ons raak 'n bietjie dronk in die dag en ons hou 'n partytjie in die son". It was obviously purposely executed and quite cool. Has your music (or parts of it) ever been recycled distastefully by other entertainers or artists? And what do make of Fokof tapping Sonja's melody?

Woody Guthrie said "some people rob you with a fountain pen". I have not heard "Dagdronk" (the topic sounds like a day in the life of a bergie), but I doubt whether Jan de Wet is aware of this because he is a dominee - I mean he may be aware of being dronk during the day, but not necessarily aware of the copyright infringement. It will be interesting to know what EMI publishing has to say about it. As I've got it, it is infringement as soon as the melody line can be recognised. On the other hand, maybe no one gives a shit - it's not as big an issue as George Harrison ripping off "My Sweet Lord". If it was purposely executed, I still don't see the point.

It hasn't really happened to me - here and there were bits but never big enough to make an issue out of it.

Are there any young potential Afrikaans songwriters out there who in your opinion could follow in your footsteps? And what advice would you give them?

I don't think anybody should follow anybody else. What follows should be different and original - not a continuation. There are quite a lot of talented, good songwriters in modern Afrikaans and ones doing what has not been done before. That is the future. My advice to all songwriters is simply that originality is almost everything in both the lyric and the music. Write from within.

On Monday nights you host a radio show call "Liedjieboer Rumoer" on RSG, can you tell us more about that?

It is so cool to do it and it is going down very well with both RSG and the listeners. It is a series of 13 - cult sounds and music muti from my collection. It is thematic - anything from new indie rock and folk to Zeppelin, Irish music to African grooves, etc. I record and package everything at home which I prefer 'cause there is a lot research involved. I did music reviews for Beeld back in the 70s, but this is a different level and it is personalised.

In 1994 when Johnny Cash was 62 he met up with producer Rick Rubin to record the American Recordings. Those recordings continued for nine years until Cash's death and Rubin managed to get the best out of him on those albums. Hypothetically speaking: if an acclaimed producer comes along and offers you his expertise, time and money, would you ever consider doing a similar project like the Cash-Rubin collaboration?

My producer Peter Pearlson is highly acclaimed. Rubin is excellent, but I would probably go for the Daniel Lanois route. He produced Time out of Mind, the Grammy-winning Dylan, and Le Noise for Neil Young. I identify better with the latter names than Neil Diamond or Johnny Cash [laughs].

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