Fokofpolisiekar (fuck off police car) exploded on the South African music scene in 2003. At the time, most local bands were still singing in fake American accents. And the idea of an Afrikaans punk rock band was almost too ridiculous to conceive. Even the band members shielded the idea as a joke at first. Just in case they were laughed out of town. But South Africa stood up and took notice. And Fokofpolisiekar's poetic, angst-fuelled lyrics and explosive live shows spread around the country like wild fire. The band’s slick marketing and international quality music videos ignited the South African alternative music industry, raising standards, pushing boundaries and racking up awards.
But more than anything, Fokofpolisiekar’s an old-fashioned rock band. Sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. And along the way, Christians were offended, death threats were made, arms were broken.
Last Friday, Fokofpolisiekar played Clapham Grand in South London. On Saturday they played Bitterzoet in Amsterdam. Frontman Francois Van Coke and bassist Wynand Myburgh brought their new (by comparison) band Van Coke Kartel along for the ride. I caught up with the pair before Van Coke's show at Aardvark last Wednesday.
You guys are from a punk rock background, singing in English, what made you decide to start an Afrikaans punk band?
Francois: It was always a joke when we were in English bands. We were always like, “Fuck it, we’re going to start an Afrikaans band”.
Wynand: But there was definitely a real vibe behind the joke as well. It seemed ridiculous. But deep down, we wanted to do something... There was Afrikaans rock already. But there was no Afrikaans punk rock. The original idea was very pop, very Green Day, very three chords. Then it became Fokofpolisiekar.
Do you remember the first time one of you mentioned the band name?
F: Me and Wynand were driving to Somerset West one day. I was driving Wynand’s car. Someone pulled in front of us and I said, “Fok of familie motor” (fuck off family car). We thought, “Fuck, that’s a cool name”. So we called Hunter (Kennedy - guitars, lyrics) and said we’ve got a name for this band we’re gonna start. Next time we saw him he said, “What’s the band’s name again, Fokofpolisiekar?”
W: And we thought, “That sounds befok” (fucking cool).
What’s life on the road like these days? Mellower, or are you still the same hell-raising Satanists at heart?
F: We’re trying our best not to be hell-raising Satanists but every now and then...
W : Fuck, it just happens. It’s a continuous battle with our addictions. That’s what it is.
You’re also playing Amsterdam, is that just an excuse for a party or have you got quite a big following over there?
W: I think Amsterdam’s actually going to be the reason we’re here.
F: From the social media, it seems like there’s more South Africans there at the moment. The Fokof doccie was screened there. We’ve been there before So...
Van Coke Kartel’s playing as well. Is this VCK’s first international tour?
F: No, we played a show in Buenos Aires.
W: But Jason (Oosthuizen) our drummer’s never left South Africa before. Now he’s eating vetkoek (Afrikaans pastry) here at Aardvark. He’s fucked up for life.
Both your London shows are at South African venues to South African fans living in London. Weren’t you tempted to test the waters a little more? Play some London venues with London bands? Check out what the London music scene has to offer?
W: With Fokof, no. The idea was play to South Africans.
Like a safe bet?
W: Ja, with Van Coke Kartel we talked about it.
F: But nothing really happened in our favour.
What’s up with that video of your drummer Snake with a broken arm? Is it a fake?
F: I just hope everyone realises it’s fake.
W: It's some promotional clip for the new aKING (Snake's other band) video or something.
Didn’t it drag up any hectic memories, considering he actually did break his arm jumping out of the tour van once?
W: We were at the SAMAs (South African Music Awards). We saw the clip and immediately phoned Snake. But Snake would have let us know if his arm was broken. We saw Merwe (Marchand le Roux - designer/friend) in the clip. So we phoned Merwe and he said no, it’s for a music video or whatever. We also got a bit of a shock. We totally thought it was possible.
Did it look kind of like how it looked the first, real time?
F: It did actually.
W: We thought, “Shit, Snake did something fucked up again”.
You’ve just brought out a new book, what’s it all about?
W: Our documentary came out a few years ago. Then Annie (Klopper) approached us and said they want to write a biography, are we keen? So we thought, “Let’s go for it, authorised vibes”. Annie did her thesis on Afrikaans rock and Fokofpolisiekar.
F: The lyrics mostly.
What was it like putting the book together, digging through the past again for what must feel like the millionth time?
W: It was bizarre.
F: It’s quite weird. Annie knew more about our history than we did.
W: She met up with Johnny (De Ridder - guitar) and Snake. Then she would meet up with me and Frannie. Then she would meet up with Hunter by himself. So then she’d ask us a question and go, “Actually, Hunter said this...” And we were like, “Fok, ja. That’s what happened”. So she put the puzzle together like that.
Have you read the book?
F: Ja, we read it before it came out.
W: We censored it a bit. She put in a lot of stuff about drugs.
F: We just said cocaine should become drugs. Cocaine sounds offensive to my mother.
W: It just felt like she put it all in to shock a bit.
F: We’d rather say drugs and let people make up their own minds.
What if they think heroin?
W: Ah, we don’t mind what they think. We’re still alive...
So the word cocaine doesn’t appear in the book at all?
W: Not once. I said rather put in rocks or crack or something like that.
What’s the most controversial thing in the book?
W: Fuck, I don’t know.
F: I actually forgot something I said. My mom read the book. And apparently, at the first Fokof show, I told the crowd they’re better than God. I think when my mother read that it sent a shiver up her spine.
Speaking of controversy, there’s an upside down cross on your website. Does that mean you’re anti religion?
W: Tradition, religion, all of that...
Does that come from your religious backgrounds?
W: I don’t know how it happened. Now I’m a complete atheist. Don’t believe in anything. I wouldn’t even consider a 12 step program, just because the word God's in there. That’s how little I believe in anything.
F: We kind of went through that charismatic Christian phase just before we started Fokofpolisiekar.
How does the book compare to the Fly On the Wall documentary? Which one offers a better insight into the world of Fokofpolisiekar?
W: That’s why we were so eager to get involved. We had kind of a bad experience with Fly On the Wall, handing authority over to someone else like that. When the time came to change stuff, they said, “No no, you guys said we can do what we want”.
F: They said, “We’re making our movie”.
W: And that was the original agreement we had. So when Annie came around, she knew we didn’t agree with everything in the movie and how it was put together.
When was the last time either of you really offended someone?
W: Francois offended Die Antwoord. Waddy (Ninja) asked Francois, “Are you with us or against us?” And you answered...
F: I don’t know... It’s a long story.
W: Ja, but he offended Waddy. Then he offended Jason at the SAMAs.
Jason: He puked in my bed!
F: No, I didn’t do that...
W: He slapped the video camera out of my hand...
F: I was that embarrassing Francois that I become sometimes. But I don’t mean to offend...
For more on the band, check out www.fokofpolisiekar.co.za