Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Brendan Kelly/Joe McMahon

Wasted Potential
Red Scare Industries/Anchorless Records

Fuck Aretha Franklin, Freddie Mercury and Bob Dylan. With his acoustic guitar not-so-gently weeping in his lap, working through Lawrence Arms classics like “Like A Record Player,” Brendan Kelly blows them all away.

So punk rock’s trading in its safety pins and studded anarchy for acoustic guitars and a bit of knee-slapping, country yokelness. It’s happening everywhere, all around us – from Durban, South Africa to Gainesville, Florida. This time, however, my attention peaked.

Wasted Potential’s a new split album featuring gremlin-throated Lawrence Arms bassist Brendan Kelly and Smoke or Fire’s resident boozy dreamer, Joe McMahon. It’s a guilty pleasure, really. And as a fan of both bands, it’s great to hear such personal, naked-sounding versions of some of my favourite songs.

If you’re a fan of The Lawrence Arms, Kelly’s tracks are particularly memorable. Kicking off with “Blood Meridian” (“The Redness In the West” from TLA’s 2009 EP
Buttsweat & Tears), and following it up with "There's No Place Like A Stranger's Floor" (from 2005's Cocktails & Dreams), Kelly works his way through two songs usually sung by smooth-sailing guitarist/vocalist Chris McCaughan.

On songs like “Necrotism” (“Necrotism: Decanting the Insalubrious (Cyborg Midnight) Part 7,” from
Cocktails & Dreams) and “Requiem Once Again Revisited” (“Requiem Revisited” from 2006’s Oh! Calcutta!) Kelly sings unusually deep and clean. On his cover of Jawbreaker’s “Kiss the Bottle,” he trades in his signature scratchy croak, sounding almost exactly like McCaughan – which is kind of weird. Same Chicago accent, I guess… I just wanna know what his speaking voice sounds like.

The kicker in Kelly’s set comes at the end of “Blood Meridian,” when he breaks into, “We said we’ll smoke this city to its filter, we’ll empty every bottle, you’ll see us hanging by the river,” from the Smoke or Fire song “Filter.” It’s a great moment, like he did it on the spot, just for the hell of it. Same chords, I guess.

McMahon’s acoustic tracks are a bit more polished, thought through and “traditional” sounding than Kelly’s – less spur of the moment, less rambling. It sounds like McMahon went all out working on the riffs and re-interpreting his own songs in this new acoustic format. His voice sounds great too, especially on let-loose vocal tracks like “Filter” (from 2005’s
Above the City), “What Separates Us All” (from 2007’s This Sinking Ship) and “Little Bohemia” (also from This Sinking Ship).

I just wish McMahon had included fan favourite “California’s Burning.” Then again, that would have been too predictable, I guess. Much less predictable than his pretty random-sounding cover of Johnny Cash’s “Let the Train Blow the Whistle.” Otherwise, a solid effort from McMahon.

99.999% of the world's just not going to get it. "Why are you wasting your time listening to these under-produced, amateur-sounding acoustic recordings?" they'll ask. The answer: "I don't know." But they're genuine singer-songwriters, Kelly and McMahon, posing as punk rockers. Soaked in booze and cigarettes, their words are poetry, they make you feel something, and it's great to hear them so clearly for a change. I guess it's just "something you feel in the sole of your shoe on a loud city bus on some aching afternoon..."

If you act fast, Anchorless have got all kinds of limited edition vinyl versions for sale.

Anchorless Records
Red Scare Industries

Sunday, March 28, 2010


They just don't make movie posters like they used to. Check out these 10 classic '50s b-movie/sci-fi gems, including killer catch phrases like: "Unspeakable horrors from outer space paralyze the living and resurrect the dead!" Click posters for larger versions.

The Man from Planet-X (1951):
"The weirdest visitor the Earth has ever seen!"
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer

Robot Monster (1953):

"Moon monsters launch attack against Earth!"
Directed by Phil Tucker

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954):
"Clawing monster from a lost age strikes from the Amazon's forbidden depths!"
Directed by Jack Arnold

Bride of the Monster (1955):
"It'll make your skin crawl!"
Directed by Edward D. Wood Jr.

The Mole People (1956):
"Terrifying monsters from a lost age!"
Directed by Virgil W. Vogel

The Giant Claw (1957):
"Flying beast out of prehistoric skies!"
Directed by Fred F. Sears

Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957):

"From the depths of the sea... A tidal wave of terror!

Directed by Roger Corman

The Monster that Challenged the World (1957):
"Crawling up from the depths... To torture and terrify!"
Directed by Arnold Levin

Invasion of the Saucer-Men (1957):

"Creeping horror... From the depths of time and space!"

Directed by Edward Cahn

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959):
"Unspeakable horrors from outer space paralyze the living and resurrect the dead!"
Directed by Edward D. Wood Jr.


© Ricardo Saporta

The Stormy Petrel
Big Ugly Fish Records
No Idea Records

"Don't you ever say goodbye, don't you ever! Don't you ever say goodbye." The online trailer looks like it's advertising the second coming. And you know what, it might as well be. Leatherface, straight out of Sunderland, North-East England, are one of the inventors of raspy-throated melodic punk rock. The kind made even more famous by bands like Hot Water Music, The Lawrence Arms, Dillinger Four and The Sainte Catherines. And now they're back (again).

With Leatherface, you either don't get it or you're a complete disciple. There's no room for in-betweens. And to the disciples, Frankie Stubbs' broken, scratchy voice sounds better and more jaded than ever. "God is dead, buried in my shed... God is dead, he's definitely dead. I wouldn't lie to you..." sings Stubbs, like a wounded ghost from the past: as certain as concrete. It's a strong place to start. Stubbs sounds so matter of fact and convincing you wouldn't doubt him for a second.

"My World's End" kicks off with venom. The chorus steps it up a notch. And the ending's the kind of lament goosebumps were invented for. For now, "Diego Garcia" is my new favourite Leatherface song. It's an up-tempo, melodic punk rock anthem with a killer riff: dark and sinister, yet catchy and apocalyptically melodic.

On "Monkfish," Stubbs sounds like his vocal chords have been cut, his voice quivering like a ram to the slaughter. Backed up by more neat riffing and the album's tight, muscular production, it's another standout. "If my hand's broken, it's broken in two. If my mind's open, it's not open to you," sings Stubbs on grunge ballad "Broken," like a grizzly bear with a thorn in his foot. You can almost feel his breath on your face - and the smell's intoxicating.

According to the legend, Joseph Hodgson was The Stormy Petrel. A nickname he earned standing on the coast of Sunderland, staring out to sea for ships in distress and (often) saving them. But instead of a rich hero, Hodgson died a poor man, pawning his medals to survive. Like Leatherface, another brave Sunderland hero often forgotten by history. So it's
a perfectly-suited album title then, for one of the world's most under-appreciated punk rock bands.

Lyrically, Leatherface don't waste a word. Every reference and old-school British metaphor, from "Diego Garcia" and "Monkfish," to "Belly Dancing Stoat" and The Stormy Petrel, showing off just how much thought and attention's gone into this album. It's a knockout: meaningful, intense and deceptively modern-sounding. Leatherface sound every bit the wise old working class punk poets they're meant to be, and I can't get enough of it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


American Idiot: the Musical

Get this, not happy with the billions of dollars, truck loads of awards and Broadway royalties American Idiot's already earned them, Green Day are now discussing American Idiot: The Movie with Playtone. And according to and MTV, Playtone partner Tom Hanks is the man most likely to direct. Like the musical, the story revolves around three friends growing up in the same small suburban town. Tunny joins the army and gets sent off to Iraq. Will gets his girlfriend pregnant and stays home. And Johnny moves to the big city and medicates himself with heroin. Talk about an ego trip... Well, they're not exactly The Who, are they?

Wait 'til you see this trailer for the musical:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Van Coke Kartel

Skop, Skiet & Donner

Rhythm Records

Overall, it's not as "different" as you might expect. The sound's more modern, fresher and conceptually more intriguing. And when you pop the CD into iTunes the genre column comes up with "easy listening" (another reminder of producer, drummer and collaborator Peach van Pletzen's third eye for detail). But underneath,
Skop, Skiet & Donner still pulses with Francois van Coke and Wynand Myburgh's weighty, emotionally draining take on rock 'n roll.

"Voor Ons Stof Word" (before we turn to dust) is a great place to start. The sound's so fresh it's likely to take off. It's neat songwriting: slick changes, tight beats, cool lyrics, neat backup vocals (by van Coke himself, I guess) and a killer hook - a natural first single. The line that sticks with you is, "Ek glo glad nie in sprokies nie" (I absolutely do not believe in fairy tales). So no happy endings on the horizon for Francois van Coke then?

Track two, "Ondier Kom!" (The beast is coming!), took a while to grow on me. Now it's my favourite song. A perfect blend of van Pletzen's new age electronic gleam and Van Coke Kartel's rugged, wrestling-in-quicksand intensity. "Ek kan my bes probeer maar dit sal nie help nie" (I can try my best but it will not help), sings Francois. There's no controlling it.

Besides van Pletzen's surging brain tremors and his not-so-subtle (this time) electronic punctuation, "Ondier Kom!" also properly introduces guest guitar soloist Nathan Smith with a wailing metal solo. Intense - you'll break a sweat listening.

From the first note of "Huissiek Gebede" (homesick prayers), aKING frontman and lead guitarist Laudo Liebenberg's all over track three. So much so, that it sounds more like Francois van Coke guest-starring on a new aKING track -
the guitar solo and classic rock licks as familiar sounding as Liebenberg's booming vocals. Hearing Liebenberg's deep, composed croon wash with van Coke's raw, unrestrained cries is a treat for South African music fans. Like an iconic Afrikaans Jekyll and Hyde.

Then there's the shock-to-the-system cover of Michael Sembello's "Maniac" (from the 1983 film Flashdance). Van Pletzen leads a full-blown video game charge and Smith's solo is badass to a pornographic degree. It's weird hearing van Coke sing in English again and the song's a surprisingly decadent inclusion but, like "Ondier Kom!," it grows on you. Although the elecro-spoofing video teaser looks a bit ominous:

The rest of the album charges from one emotional landmine to the next. "Man Sonder Missie" (man without purpose) reminds you that van Pletzen also produced Pretoria deep space champions Kidofdoom. "Spookstad" (ghost-town), another album standout, reminds you that van Coke also moonlights with Fokofpolisiekar - as does the acoustic version of "Raad Vanuit Twee Woorde" (advice out of two words), with its Monoloog in Stereo sound. And VCK's cover of J.J. Cale's "Cocaine" reminds us that they all still enjoy a bit of skiing on their holidays.

On a pair of headphones, the production on tracks 1-10 sounds mental. Every time you listen something new pops out. A subtle Peach bomb you didn't catch the first time; a little electronic gem waiting to be discovered.
Previous (current? I don't know) drummer Justin Kruger turns up on tracks 11 to 13 - acoustic (and "gospel") versions of older Van Coke songs.

Overall, it's a classic case of same, same but different. From the striking album art, supplied by Pretoria designer Louis Minaar, right down to the lyrics, Skop, Skiet & Donner's a reawakening. A fresh start of sorts. And often, it's the Kartel's newest recruits pulling the band's sound further. From van Pletzen's imaginative beats, production and electronic garnishes to Smith's shredding guitar solos and Dave Sharp on Hammond - they've even got B-Sharp Studios' JP de Stefani playing a blazing guitar solo on "Cocaine." But deep down, it's van Coke and his own Silent Bob, Myburgh, pulling the strings. And they weighed anchor a long time ago. Dark, but more likely to buy you a drink and check out the jukebox than before.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Damn, on nights like this I really miss smoking. Here are a few reminders why:

"Cigarettes, they fill the gaps in our empty days, in our broken teeth."

Jawbreaker, Kiss the Bottle, Etc. (2002)

"My vingers is al geel gekontempleer. Geïrriteerd met die gemak wat ek in twyfel kry (My fingers are all yellow with contemplation. Irritated by the comfort it gives my doubts)."
Fokofpolisiekar, Sporadies Nomadies (Kom Dans), Lugsteuring (2004)

"A blanket acne'ed with cigarette burns, speak at once while taking turns. What is what I need? What is wrong with me? What is what I need?"
Nirvana, Radio Friendly Unit Shifter, In Utero (1993)

"This swirl of smoke looks like her slender body. I see everything in frames now. Golden gilded."
The Lawrence Arms, Fireflies, The Greatest Story Ever Told (2003)

"You broke me like the cigarette that I busted on the day I quit. But now that I've been drinking I’m outta smokes and I wish that I had it."
Alkaline Trio, Bleeder, Alkaline Trio (1999)

"I'll be drinkin' to forget you, as I light a menthol cigarette."
Tom Waits, Warm Beer and Cold Women, Nighthawks at the Diner (1975)

Kiss the Bottle
Originally: 17 Reasons: The Mission District 3x7" (1992)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Unknown German, Miggs Auer (back), Unknown German, Unknown German, Nic Gaud, Devin Jones

On March 2, Cape Town reggae rockers 7th Son touched down in Hamburg for a two week tour of Germany. Keyboard and saxophone player Raiven Hansmann and lead guitarist Jedd Kossew couldn't make the trip and trumpet player Myles McDonald had to bail on a faulty passport. But remaining members Nic Gaud, Devin Jones and Miggs Auer couldn't resist the temptation and partied on regardless. Here's what Nic had to say about Germany.

So Germany, how the hell did that come together?

Well, long story short: we got on radio over there, we were approached by some guys in the music scene, we got a booking agent onboard and that was that.

How hard was it to sort out visas and work permits and so on?

Visas were okay but Myles' passport was an issue. It was only valid for three weeks after the tour and needed to be valid for six, I think. He applied for a new one but wasn’t able to get it in time. So three-piece it was

Where was the first show?

First show was in Hamburg. Cool opener!

Is Jedd not in the band anymore permanently?

Jedd's focusing on other things at the moment. He’s still playing with us, but only when possible.

After the disappointment of your cancelled American tour were you secretly expecting the German tour to fall through at the last minute as well? Not “counting your chickens” and so on?

We certainly weren’t expecting much, like you say, not counting our chickens. But we also knew we had to do this, if anything, for our own sanity. And it was well worth it.

Did you eat a hamburger in Hamburg?

No hamburgers in Hamburg but plenty of Burger King on the road.

Buy any deodorant in Cologne?

No deo in Cologne but it smells nice there… ha ha.

Wildest night out in Germany?

Jeez, had a few. Probably our gig with US band Nothington. Things got pretty out of hand. I think we all drank our body weight in beer and Jägermeister.

Coolest local band?

We played with some really cool bands. The best were Dear Lament, Just Us and Jonas and State of Martial Law.

Lamest misconception about South Africa?

That we're all white! WTF? That dude was seriously fucking ignorant.

And the beer? Everything it’s cracked up to be?

The beer’s amazing! So many varieties. It’s like being a kid in a candy store. We drank about 30 different kinds and, apparently, we didn’t even scrape the surface.

Future plans/where to next?

Well, we’ve already been booked to go back to Germany and Holland in August. We’ve signed on with a few new booking agents who’ve already got the ball rolling. So it looks like we’ll be there for another three weeks starting August 15 2010. ‘Til then, just gigging around SA. We’re hitting Jo’burg and Durban soon. Then it’s the Billabong Pro in July. Good times!

7th Son
On My Holiday
Directed by Quinton Lavery


Did you hear the one about Dr. Dre and Eminem flying Die Antwoord first class to America to discuss working with Interscope Records? How about the one where Ninja kissed Interscope chairman Jimmy "Crack Corn" Iovine on both cheeks, mafia style, then signed on the dotted line? Didn't their website take four million hits and crash like James Dean - in a smoking blaze of glory? Shit, I heard even Fred Durst and Neill Blomkamp are fans?

"This one's dedicated to all the haters out there. Jealous of us because we're better than you" - Die Antwoord.

It all started about a month and a half ago, when Die Antwoord launched Die and stuck the music video for "Enter the Ninja" up on YouTube.
A link to "Enter the Ninja" found its way to BoingBoing writer Xeni Jardin's inbox. She blogged the story, shared the link and Die Antwoord hit the mother-load, exploding "worldwide," from BoingBoing and The New York Times, to NME, Vice, Videogum, Pitchfork...

Die Antwoord
Enter the Ninja

Directed by Rob Malpage & Ninja

Shit, I remember picking up a copy of
The Sunday Times and seeing Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er on the front page. "What the fuck's going on here?" "Die Antwoord became a living meme of unprecedented velocity, propelled into global megawebstardom faster than any act I've ever seen," wrote Jardin. All of a sudden, people from all over the world were posting Die Antwoord links on their Facebook pages, blogs, Twitter accounts and websites, and Die Antwoord had the kind of viral phenomenon on their hands that record labels spend millions trying to conjure up. And they did it all on their own. Based solely on the strength of their song ("Enter the Ninja") and the striking power of their image.

Naturally, half the people logging in to comment screamed FAKE as caps-locked and indignantly as their keyboards would allow. But you know what, there's nothing fake about Die Antwoord. Especially main man Ninja, aka Watkin Tudor Jones. He's been in the game long enough for most people to have given up and limped away, their tail between their legs, defeated. But Jones just kept plugging away. Kept trying new things. Kept believing. Kept ignoring the "haters." And the first time I heard "Enter the Ninja," I knew he had something special: visually, musically and existentially.

Die Antwoord are more than just a "rap-rave," "next level hip-hop" crew. They're conceptual, satirical, visually mesmerising and most of all, fucking interesting. I suspect that, by now, Ninja is quite insane. Interviewing him (first as Max Normal, then as Max Normal.TV, then as Ninja), I've never, for one second, doubted the dude's credibility. His unfaltering belief in what he's doing, when he's doing it and who he's doing it as. From The Constructus Corporation and The Original Evergreen, right through to Die Antwoord. There's just something special about the guy. He was put on this planet for a reason. And right now, that reason is Die Antwoord. But, based on his previous track record, how long 'til he transforms again?

Another Die Antwoord mystery is the true identity of DJ Hi-Tek. No, he's not that slow, Lord of the Flies-looking kid from the "Zef Side" video. He's not the short ninja with Progeria disease from the "Enter the Ninja" video either. No one knows who DJ Hi-Tek is, really. Although I suspect it's Cape Town beat-master Justin de Nobrega, who worked with Ninja on MaxNormal.TV and also provides synths for Cape Town electronic outfit Unit.R.

"I'm not skinny like this by choice," Ninja told Jardin when she interviewed him in Hollywood, talking about Die Antwoord signing to Interscope Records, Neill Blomkamp's expressed interest in working with the band and the prospect of meeting David Lynch. "We had no money forever. Now we're flying business class to America. And look at me, I'm eating berries and granola in Hollywood."

Currently, "Enter the Ninja" has been viewed
2,371,462 times on Youtube. And Waddy Jones, aka Ninja, aka Max Normal, aka MC Totally Rad, is a bonafide enigma of the South African (and now international) music scene. One thing I want to know is, who the hell is Stewart Ridgway?

"Fuck all of you who said I wouldn't make it" - Ninja.

Die Antwoord
Zef Side
Directed by Sean Metelerkamp

Total Fuck Up
Directed by MaxNormal.TV

Die Antwoord
Wat Kyk Jy?
Taxi Jam

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Alkaline Trio
This Addiction
Heart & Skull/Epitaph

So Alkaline Trio are putting away the pianos and candelabras and going back to their three-piece, pop-punk roots. “About fucking time!” I hear you scream. 2008’s Agony & Irony took things way too far in the wrong direction. Now they’re trying to steady the ship and win back a few non-believers. They’re even releasing This Addiction on their own newly-formed label, Heart & Skull – a “joint venture” with Epitaph Records.

“This Addiction” (the song) is a perfect place for Alkaline Trio to start. It’s a classic-sounding, up-tempo Trio song with Matt Skiba comparing love to heroin addiction. Cool song, but they do hit that chorus one time too many. It sucks when it’s that blatant.

Sticking to their major-label-heroes-return-to-an-indie theme, a few song titles are classic throwbacks to horror punk: “Draculina,” “The American Scream” and “Dine, Dine My Darling,” a witty tribute to Misfits’ “Die, Die My Darling.”

“The American Scream” kicks into classic “Warbrain” mode and you can’t stop smiling. “Why don’t they just write 12 songs like that?” “Eating Me Alive” sounds like a better version of Agony & Irony. And bassist Dan Andriano singing “I’m Fine” ends This Addiction sad and broken-hearted…

Overall, This Addiction’s a lot more straightforward and personal than Agony & Irony. It’s more guitar, bass and drums (and trumpet on “Lead Poisoning”). Alkaline Trio have gone all out reconnecting with their up-tempo (but not quite as up-tempo) punk rock past. Like recording with old buddy Matt Allison at Atlas Studios back home in Chicago and starting their own label. But the best part is how light and unpretentious This Addiction feels. Where Agony & Irony drowned, This Addiction kicks around in the surf having a blast (albeit with a black heart). It’s got a pulse!


We all love Tim Burton. I know it, you know it and he knows it. The guy's a genius. The original Mad Hatter. And there's a moment in Disney's new watered-down take on Alice In Wonderland that reminds you: Tim Burton is an edgy character.

It happens when Ilosovic Stayn (Crispin Glover) crashes the Mad Hatter's tea party. Put out, Hatter's face darkens, and for a second, he looks scary and dangerous.
It's an unsettling flash of brilliance.

Unlike Johnny Depp (currently working on Pirates of the Caribbean 17), Burton didn't exactly "sellout" to Disney, did he? Burton worked as an animator for Walt in the mid '80s. His 1993 hit The Nightmare Before Christmas was actually a Disney film. But, unlike Alice In Wonderland, it didn't act like one.

When I think back to films that stand out from my childhood, it's stuff like Watership Down, It and The Invisible Man. Films that I didn't completely understand. Films that scared me. Made me feel something. Forced me to believe something
more mysterious was going on beneath the surface. But there's nothing going on beneath the surface in Burton's Alice In Wonderland. What you see is exactly what you get. And it's way too coherent.

Even the 1951 Disney cartoon version of Alice In Wonderland messes with your head more than Burton's awesome-to-look at yet resoundingly hollow, paint-by-numbers reimagining. It felt less safe, less certain and more out of its mind. More like the blazing, psychedelic acid trip of "literary nonsense" it was always meant to be.

Back then, you didn't know whose side Cheshire Cat was on. Was he good, bad or just some drugged out idiot playing mind games with Alice for the hell of it? I still remember how weird he made me feel. Stephen Fry's version's got more in common with Antonio Banderas' Puss in Boots character. In other words, this Cheshire Cat fits into a nice, neat little box (on sale now at your local Disney Store).

I suppose Burton would argue that he and Helena Bonham Carter have got kids now and he wants to make a children's film. Fair enough. It's just a pity he picked Alice In Wonderland. Because a dark, true-to-life Burton version, as hinted at briefly by the Mad Hatter, could have been something quite special. Something much more memorable (and far less predictable) than "just another Disney flick."

Besides, I’d argue that Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish and Beetlejuice are much better children’s films. Sure, they’re edgy and dark, but they’re also strangely wholesome. And they pack that quirky, oddball flavour that, I feel, makes kids more interesting. More imaginative.

The scariest part is, Burton's just signed on for a full-length re-make of his 1984 Walt Disney short-film, Frankenweenie. Once they get their hooks in they don't let go. Just ask Johnny Depp, those Disney cheques are the real deal. Even Helena Bonham Carter's getting soft in her old age - first Harry Potter, now Disney.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Photo: Dumisani Sibeko, The Star

“Having a DUI section on your Wikipedia page and serving a few days community service has almost become a right of passage in Hollywood. A badge of honour. Finally made it…”

“In the end, he got the same punishment he would have got if he had run over cattle.”

It’s Monday afternoon. It’s just gone 4pm. Working days are winding down. Things are peaceful. Suddenly, two Mini Coopers come speeding down Mdlalose Street in Protea North, Soweto. Local hip-hop star JubJub and friend Themba Tshabalala are showing off. It’s race time. Fuck everybody else.

One of the Minis speeds up to overtake the other. “Shit!” There’s a car in the oncoming lane. The only way back forces the other Mini off the road. It collides with a group of school kids on the pavement, killing four and seriously injuring two more. It rolls through the grass and lands in a heap on the side of the road.

JubJub – real name Molemo Maarohanye – and co-accused Tshabalala face “four murder charges, two attempted murder charges, one count of reckless and negligent driving and another of driving under the influence of alcohol.”

To make things worse, JubJub’s been accused of calling his insurance company before checking on the students he mowed down, aged between 16 and 19. And get this, he’s even been accused of representing a fake charity on Survivor SA: Santa Carolina AND he owes the Traffic Department almost R5000 for 10 outstanding traffic fines. What a guy!
When the police whisked JubJub and Tshabalala away, hundreds of local students skipped class to pelt the van with stones.

South African kwaito superstar Mandoza was involved in a less tragic but much more suspicious-sounding crash on February 14, also involving a Mini Cooper (and a palm tree). Bizarrely, the crash and subsequent investigation led to the arrest of several men linked to an asset fraud and identity theft syndicate – including the super sketchy-sounding alleged owner (and according to some reports, driver) of the Mini Mandoza was found in, bleeding from his head. Luckily, no one was killed... this time.

But on March 1 2008, Felix Thebe and Charles Shabalala weren’t so lucky: It’s 1:00am. Mandoza – real name Mduduzi Tshabalala – drops his wife Mpho off at home and races back along the N1, heading for the Stars of Mzanzi Awards after-party. At 1:23am, Mandoza’s Chrysler slams into the back of a VW Jetta near the 14th Avenue offramp, so hard that passengers Thebe and Shabalala die on the scene.

Accusations of drunk driving fly. Mandoza is found guilty of “culpable homicide.” Mandoza gets off, as long as he pays off Thebe and Shabalala’s families and keeps his nose clean.

Meanwhile, in America, tween stars like Lindsay Lohan, Shia LeBeouf, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie have all been accused of “driving under the influence.” Even little “I see dead people” Haley Joel Osment got in on the act, crashing his 1995 Saturn station wagon (1995?) into a brick mailbox near his house on July 20 2006. He pleaded no contest to “misdemeanor” charges of driving under the influence. Luckily for them, no one was killed and they all got off with suspended sentences (aka probation). Although Hilton did spend 23 days in prison when she violated the terms of her probation.

Of course, there’s Mel Gibson’s famous anti-Semitic 2006 rant after being arrested with an open bottle of tequila on his front seat. There’s Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora’s 2008 arrest, pulled over in his Hummer with his girlfriend and daughter Ava, from his marriage to Heather Locklear, in the car. Ava was released into Locklear’s care. Sambora was NOT charged with child endangerment. And Locklear was pulled over under the influence in 2009. After pleading no contest, charges were dropped against her.

Halle Berry escaped accusations of hit and run in 2000 with a fine and some minor community service. And cooped up in Hawaii, Lost stars Daniel Dae Kim, Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Watros were all arrested for driving under the influence. Rodriguez and Watros’ characters were later famously killed off in the season two episode “Two for the Road.” Producers claim that it wasn’t punishment and that Anna Lucia (Rodriguez) and Libby (Watros) were always going to die.

The celebrity DUI-without-any-serious-jail-time list’s pretty endless (the DUI Club): Mickey Rourke (on a Vespa), Mike Tyson, Mischa Barton, Nick Nolte, Busta Rhymes, Ty Pennington, Pete Doherty, Eve, Vivica A. Fox, Ray Liotta, Rip Torn, Tracy Morgan, Heroes’ Adrian Pasdar, Three’s Company’s Joyce DeWitt, Yasmine Bleeth etc… Hell, having a DUI section on your Wikipedia page and serving a few days community service has almost become a right of passage in Hollywood. A badge of honour. Finally made it. Still, nobody’s dying. Surely a celebrity’s preferential treatment ceases the minute they kill someone? You’d think.

In August 1987, Matthew Broderick and then girlfriend Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) were on holiday in Northern Ireland when their rented BMW somehow ended up in the wrong lane and collided head on with another vehicle. 30-year-old driver Anna Gallagher and her 63-year-old mother Margaret Doherty died instantly. Broderick was charged with careless driving and fined $175. "In the beginning, I was very angry. Did Matthew get off lightly because of who he was? In the end, he got the same punishment he would have got if he had run over cattle,” said Margaret’s son Martin in 2003.

Then there’s Mötley Crüe frontman Vince Neil’s tragic 1984 trip to the liquor store that killed his passenger and new buddy, Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley. Drunk as fuck, Neil lost control of the car and hit an oncoming vehicle head on (as they all seem to do). The drivers of the other car were seriously injured but Dingley was the only fatality. In total, Neil spent 15 days in prison.

In the end, it's a simple case of preferential treatment.
Everyone from Jacob Zuma and Schabir Shaik, to Mandoza and JubJub know it. What are you going to do? The same rules don't apply. That's why they do the crazy things they do. JubJub's crash is particularly tragic. And the most striking thing about the case is his arrogance. His blatant disregard. His meat-headed certainty that the world revolves around him and everyone else is just an expendable extra in his own version of The Truman Show. The difference between murder and culpable homicide. What a guy...


"I imagine George in a crystal castle, drinking margaritas, lying on a bed of people."
"A lot of people view George Lucas as the anti-Christ."

"Has he fulfilled his destiny or has he destroyed his legacy?" That's the question Alexandre O. Philippe, writer director of new George Lucas-flaming documentary The People vs. George Lucas, asks. The film showcases the deep-rooted love hate relationship between Star Wars fans and Lucas. "If they don't like it, why don't they just leave it alone?" you ask. They can't. The power of the Dark Side is too strong... "Coming soon to a theatre not too far, far away from you."

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Check this one out. Due out any minute now. Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse, Michael Bay sinks his claws into Freddy Kruger. The end is nigh...

It's New York-born music video specialist Samuel Bayer's film debut. Since 1991, starting with Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Bayer's been involved with some pretty iconic music videos. Working with everyone from Ozzy Osbourne, David Bowie and the Ramones, to John Lee Hooker, Blind Melon and The Smashing Pumpkins. Then he hopped on the Green Day train to MTV heavy-rotation, directing "American Idiot," "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "Holiday," "Wake Me Up When September Ends" and "Working Class Hero" along the way.

Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach from Watchmen) is playing Freddy Kruger, which I can see. But still, what's the point? You know it's gonna suck. Why not just rent the original on Blu-Ray? Way-to-go Michael Bay, another childhood memory ruined. So that's The Karate Kid, A-Team, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Tron and whatever else Rob Zombie feels like remaking. Out soon... again.


So I finally sat down and went through all the photos I've taken over the past three years. No easy task - I'm trigger happy. Here are my favourites.
Sorry about the stupid name, I just couldn't stand the idea of calling it Yusuf Laher - Photography:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


No publicity's bad publicity, right? Right. Unless you're Kevin Smith. On a February 13, Southwest Airlines flight home from Oakland to Burbank, the writer/director had his flight status upgraded from just-another-irritable-customer to a full-blown "safety concern." Flabbergasted, Smith was removed from the plane. And in response, from the cockpit of his
Twitter account, he waged war on his would-be accusers.

"I’ve had much of my humanity stripped away over the last week, as people discuss me as a concept more than a person."

The story goes: Smith buys two seats for both February 13 flights. On his way home to Burbank, he gets to the airport early and catches a standby flight. But the new return flight doesn't have two available seats next to each other. Still, Smith is offered a seat on the flight, checked in, boarded and allowed to stow his bag. But then..

According to Smith, he got into the seat just fine - no seat belt extender necessary; both arm rests down no problem. And the reason he usually buys two seats? He's anti-social (but not anti-social networking). And, again according to Smith, neither of the passengers on either side of him complained about his size. Still, soon after he sat down, a flight attendant came over and told Smith he was going to have to leave the plane. He was too fat for one seat. A super-sized safety concern. Or what Southwest Airlines like to refer to as a, "customer of size." What size?

"I'm way fat but I'm not there just yet. So if you look like me, you may be ejected from Southwest Air."

Smith didn't waste any time firing off hundreds of anti-Southwest Tweets, uploading shitloads of YouTube videos ( and telling anyone that would listen what, exactly, is wrong with Southwest Airlines.

In response, Southwest offered Smith an apology on their blog, Nuts About Southwest, sarcastically titled, 'Not So Silent Bob.' But Smith wasn't happy. On his website, My Boring Ass Life, Smith accused Southwest of lying, covering up information, not being able to own up to their mistakes and of publishing his travel preferences without his permission.

"Fuck your apologetic $100 voucher"

Opinions are divided: from shame-on-you-Southwest-Airlines-you-corporate-assholes, to "Salad, meet-Kevin-Smith. Kevin-Smith, meet-salad." Writing for Chicago's Sun-Times, Laura Washington called Smith an obscure star looking for a bit of free publicity for his new movie, Cop Out: "I had never heard of the guy. I suspect I am not alone (his obscurity is probably one motive behind his headline-hungry rants)." Now that's pushing it. Kevin Smith may have flopped lately but how can you call yourself a worthwhile member of the 21st Century and not have seen classics like Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy and
Dogma? That's just embarrassing.

Smith's response: "Free Publicity = 200 new articles declaring I'm fat. Yay me. Epic win" (Twitter).

Sure, nobody wants an obese stranger spilling over into their seat. But it's a short flight from Oakland to Burbank and besides, I've flown with dudes bigger than Kevin Smith before. Smith's problem is he whines too much anyway. Like, just look how long his response is on his website. Who's going to read all that? It doesn't matter who's wrong or right, that's just irritating. And why does he have to upload 24 videos on YouTube? Why did he appear in Daredevil? Why can't he make a decent movie anymore?

To me, it sounds like the kind of thing that happens all the time. Shit, it probably even gets Tweeted about, blogged on and YouTubed over all the time. Only by nerds without 1.6 million dedicated subscribers - that's why Southwest didn't write you an apology blog

"Someone sent me a piece from the Forbes website that said, with this whole Southwest Air thing, I’ve hurt my own brand more than theirs. So a number-cruncher at Forbes sees me as a brand, not a human being. Dude’s obviously angling for a job at Southwest" - Kevin Smith.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


“At least in South Africa we can count on stars like Francois van Coke, Inge Beckmann, Chris Chameleon and Mandoza. Oh wait…”

Imagine a world where Bono went by the name Paul David Hewson - just when you think Tom Cruise can't get any weirder, you find out his real name’s Thomas Mapother IV. That got me thinking, could The Big Bopper have got the party started as Jiles Perry Richardson? Would Elvis Costello sound as sweet as Declan MacManus? And more importantly, would anyone want to party with Iggy Pop if you had to call him James Newell Osterberg Jr. all night?

Born Clinton Eastwood Jr. in 1930, Clint Eastwood's 100% legit. Fellow outlaw John Wayne, however, wasn’t as forthcoming. His real name was Marion. Marion Mitchell Morrison.

Sometimes the change is an obvious one. John Graham Mellor wants something with a bit more zing, so he changes his name to Joe Strummer. Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg the ballet dancer wants people to stop laughing and take him seriously, so he invents Jean Claude Van Damme the action superstar. David Howell Evans wants something with a bit more mystique, so he dubs himself The Edge. And Charles Holley decides that Peggy Sue will take him seriously if he changes his name to Buddy.

Chasing that household name that sticks, aspiring stars often invent stage names to tone down their “ethnicity.” Would be icons like Farrokh Bulsara (Freddie Mercury), Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou (George Michael), Frederick Austerlitz (Fred Astaire), Allen Konigsberg (Woody Allen) and Carlos Ray (Chuck Norris). Even Herschel Krustofski, aka Krusty the Clown, knows the deal: your stage name's gotta pop.

Suggesting that, perhaps, there might be something to the notion of a catchy, more “American” sounding stage name, Ramón Gerardo Antonio Estévez changed his name to Martin Sheen. Son Carlos Irwin Estévez liked the idea and became Charlie Sheen. Sheen Sr.’s other children, Emilio, Ramón and Renée, and his brother Joe kept the family name. And when was the last time any of them got any work?

Sometimes the reality’s heartbreaking. Like finding out that Bob Dylan’s real name is Robert Zimmerman. That Billy Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan.
That Joey Ramone’s real name was Jeffry Hyman. Or that Stevie’s real surname isn’t Wonder. His first name isn't even Stevie. Mr. Wonder was born Stevland Judkins (later changed to Stevland Morris).

Often the name change is a simple case of upgrading. Switching a clumsy, nerd-in-high-school name for something with a bit more star power. A bit more zing. That’s what Israeli-born KISS bassist Chaim Witz must have thought when he changed his name to Gene Simmons. What about Elton John? Reginald Dwight was never going to be the Rocket Man, was he? Nobody was going to feed Vincent Furnier’s Frankenstein until he changed his name to Alice Cooper. And Sting was never going to walk on the moon as Gordon Sumner.

With rock stars like Slash (Saul Hudson), Sid Vicious (Simon John Ritchie) and David Bowie (David Jones), you just don’t get it. You can’t imagine anyone ever calling these larger-than-life characters anything but the names they’ve gone down in history under. They've become their stage names. And surely even Ian Fraser Kilmister’s mum called him Lemmy? Imagine if Eric Boucher had never changed his name to Jello Biafra. What if Harry Houdini had stuck with Erik Weisz? Would the world be the same? “What do you mean Robert Zombie’s real surname is Cummings?”

As far as profile-boosting name changes go, the most tragic case is obviously Norma Jeane Mortenson. Desperate to make an impact, she changed her name to Marilyn Monroe and, ultimately, sold her soul to the Devil. You see, in Hollywood, not even Michael J. Fox’s "J" is real. His real middle name's Andrew. "J" just had more of a ring to it, I guess – now that’s attention to detail. Even Henry Rollins, born Henry Garfield, isn’t being totally straight with us.

Surprising fakers: Edward Louis Severson III (Eddie Vedder); Issur Danielovitch (Kirk Douglas); Winona Horowitz (Winona Ryder). Surprising non-fakers: Prince Rogers Nelson (Prince);
Seal Henry Olusegun Olumide Adeola Samuel (Seal), Keith John Moon; Björk Guðmundsdóttir; Elvis Aaron Presley. Honourable mention: Stanley Kirk Burrell (MC Hammer); Robert Van Winkle (Vanilla Ice).

It’s a strange idea to get your head around. Actors and rock stars pretending to be other people pretending to be other people. Distancing themselves from their “normal” lives. At least in South Africa we can count on stars like Francois van Coke, Inge Beckmann, Chris Chameleon and Mandoza. Oh wait…