Interview – Sonja Ruppersberg and Paul Blom Talk – Terminatryx and HorrorFest – by Nadine



What was your vision for Terminatryx when you decided to start the project?

Initially the project was going to be a fun activity for my friend Christina and I.  We wanted to be in a band, like most people, and like most people we did not realize how much went into it  🙂 Paul agreed to write some material for us and before we even knew what was happening we had material and an invitation to perform live with a touring band from Germany, Diary of Dreams.  The intention was always to get to that point at some stage, but we never thought that it would happen so fast.

At this stage my friend Christina decided to depart from the project, as she is a full time model and actress, she was a mother to be, and her schedule did not allow for the amount of work that was required at that stage to get Terminatryx off the ground.  We decided to continue with just myself as the vocalist.  All in all, the project stayed true to Paul and my initial idea.  I wanted a female fronted band with a strong female presence, a band that would represent the Alternative genre and something new and unusual.  As far as I am concerned we achieved all of the criteria I had set out to achieve and so much more.

How do you find the new digital age has affected both the marketing and the consumption of music in SA – especially the more underground genres?

The digital age is a double-edged sword.  On the one hand it has given bands the ability to gain a bigger reach and the ability to get new material out fast.  This has also allowed a lot of crap to flood the system and one has to work through a huge amount of material to get to something good.  We have seen more sales since or catalogue has been placed with on-line stores like iTunes, CD Baby and the like, and sites such as Bandcamp has been a great avenue as well.

The unfortunate thing with the digital age is the illegal downloading that is occurring.  Our latest album “Shadow” was a costly endeavour and to just break even, one has to really focus on marketing and selling.  The amount of royalties we receive dwarfs next to the amount we could have made if every person that downloaded our album illegally would have been willing to fork out a few rands/dollars/euros for the material.  This leaves a bad taste in the mouth and on a bad day can discourage any musician or artist enough to just say, “fuck it” and throw in the towel.

Aesthetics is an important part of any band’s representation these days, and you have nailed that quite well 10711694_712740112146438_413520310_nwith Terminatryx, do you sometimes feel that current bands put too much emphasis on the aesthetics and not enough on the actual music? 

On the contrary, looking at the local scene, bands do not make enough of an effort to put on a production.  When you expect people to pay to come and see you, you should put on the best performance that you can.  Unfortunately we cannot all be Rammstein with expensive pyro and elaborate costumes, but a little effort does go a long way.  Even if you cannot add anything significant to your stage show, it makes a difference just to look polished and like you made an effort.  Obviously the quality of your performance should always come first but it does make a band more memorable if they add something special or different to their stage performance.

Why do you think people are attracted to the darker side of things? 

Most people are not.  I think I am the only person in my family attracted to the dark side 🙂  The people that are made that way are passionate about it.  It is not easy and I always say that true Goths do not pick Goth, Goth picks them.  The darker side is attractive, it is forbidden and it is mysterious and sexy.  The dark side is not necessarily evil or depraved, most Goths that I know are quite straightforward and they live normal lives.  They are merely attracted to the theatrical and the drama that comes with the genre and the life style.  It is the natural route to take if you want to be different and distinguishable from the rest.  The dark side is more colourful than most people think it is.

What are your views on the current environment for bands in South Africa, particularly those of the alternative persuasion? 

The alternative scene has always been hanging on by its fingernails, and so it shall remain, to want to place the alternative in the mainstream is a contradiction in terms.  What would be great is a dedicated place for us and our music, fashion, lifestyle etc.  Regarding our “Shadow” music video, we were advised by a very big music channel that the video is good” but the song is too alternative – the song is no more alternative that Marilyn Manson or NIN which their international mother station playlists…

10695144_712739915479791_1947409630_nThere are many alternative minded people in South Africa that are not being catered for, there are many alternative people with money, willing to pay for what they want, but for some reason our South African culture is incapable of catering to this market.  That is why most things we get we ship in from abroad.  I believe that if this mind-set could change and we could create a platform, even just a small one, for our local alternative bands, we would see the scene flourish and we will see more alternative bands willing to take on this difficult genre.

Sonja, do you ever feel prejudice or judgement for being a female vocalist in the alternative scene?

No, in general the community of musicians are very comfortable with the opposite sex sharing a stage with them, and if they are not, well then it is too bad and they will have to deal with it 🙂

I have in the past received a few snide remarks here and there, but not enough to convince me that the industry is male biased.  Perhaps we as women are not always taken seriously or considered competition, but at the end of the day my experience has been good and the world is changing.

Who are some artists in any field whom you think are full of promise and/or are doing good things for the entertainment industry locally? 

In the Cape Town alternative scene I can mention bands such as Subvers and Theatre Runs Red in Durban.  In the Literary world my friend and A Murder music collaborator, Nerine Dorman is someone to watch and in the field of Photography and design, our photographer of choice Dr Benway is the man for the job.

I am also a huge supporter of Cosmesis Advanced Prosthetic Studio in Cape Town and have collaborated with them on many occasions, always with an exceptional result (like our “Virus” music video’s werewolf make-up).  Cosmesis is one of a kind in South Africa and the FX and make up studio of choice for most international film productions.

Why do you think it’s important for people to break away from what is considered “mainstream”? (and no, by that we don’t mean Hipsters)

I think people should do what they want to do and like what they like.  None of us have to justify why we like something or explain why we dress or look a certain way.  There is a place for every single one of us, even Hipsters  🙂  The only reason I would encourage people to break out of their chosen world every now and again is to experience or to discover something new, look further than the face value of a band or a person, and this goes for the alternative clan as well.

Try something new, if you don’t like it, scrap it, perhaps you discover something new.  For the masses that are connected by the hypothalamus to 5FM and the like, don’t just accept what is being shoved down your throats, don’t just like something because it is all you hear on the radio or at clubs.  Don’t accept something just because your mates accept it.  Question and challenge the norm, it will make our world a far more exciting and less sheep-like place.

PAUL BLOM10705238_712740008813115_1620594268_n

What was your vision for Terminatryx when you decided to start the project?

The alternative music genre in South Africa has always been lacking (being more  underground and enjoying less support and exposure – hence its title! – and less people pursuing it, knowing you won’t necessarily see fame & fortune), but it has been especially lacking in the female-fronted department.

There was simply no example we could site as representing local music with a harder edge featuring female lead vocals (not just supplementary).  With my history in extreme music and Sonja excited to explore something new, we created Terminatryx to shake things up.  While we respect Karen Zoid’s contribution to local music, we didn’t see her “Afrikaners Is Plesierig” as the representation of female-fronted Alternative Rock, so we started our own idea of what it could be.

How do you find the new digital age has affected both the marketing and the consumption of music in SA – especially the more underground genres?

The obvious advantage has been the accessibility of any music from anywhere at any time.  Several downsides include:
The compression of songs into smaller files which drastically reduces the original quality of the music, stripping its essence and often its soul and intention;

The easy accessibility of music and moving away from a physical product you can cherish has made it more disposable and forgettable, people focusing on single tracks rather than a full album experience – the life has been reduced or removed from it with the music delivery services more interested in pushing more product quicker, regardless of what it is, as long as it sells (a timely matured wine is always better than a quick, rushed shipment for instant consumption);

10668443_712739962146453_850945903_nPiracy has also become more ‘convenient’ and really screws the indie musicians, no matter which way you try to slice it – musicians spend their own money to produce music of a higher than mediocre standard (say you’re a car salesman, will you work an extra job to help build the cars on the floor, and then give them away for free?);

A lack of quality control with on-line music gives listeners looking for what they want a mammoth task in diving into the pool of sounds, and coming up for air with something they find to be great, meaningful and lasting can take a while and expose them to a flood of stuff they don’t want to hear at all.

You’ve both been involved in South Africa’s music and entertainment scene for quite a while – Paul how have things changed for you since the 80’s and your days with V.O.D (Voice Of Destruction)?

V.O.D started in a pre-cellphone and pre-internet age! (to an extent, even a pre-CD era with vinyl and cassettes still prominent).  Fucking hell, it’s hard to believe!  It was full-on underground DIY back then (we still do things DIY but technology has made it a bit easier – but that brings me back to the universe of acts floating in cyberspace that are vying for your attention, be it a live show, new album etc.)

We used to make and photocopy posters & flyers, try and spread it everywhere, wrote snail mail letters to home-made ‘zines, trade tapes… The same procedure bands like Metallica also drudged through. Venues have always been less friendly to Alternative bands (as they want popular acts to draw lots of people so they can sell loads of booze), but I think it has become more open.  There were some dedicated venues allocating times of the week for Alternative events, like Arties and Raffles in Cape Town, as well as dedicated clubs like The Playground, The Stage and Delirium / D’Lyzium.  In Jo’burg there was Angel Dust, The Doors, The Fridge…
V.O.D used to tour up to Johannesburg, Pretoria, Vereeneging etc. on our own steam, having to call connections, promoters, club owner from a phone booth – if they’re not in, there you sit and wait until you can reach someone(!).  It was fun but crazy and exhausting.  I don’t think people realize how intense it was.  
There was no such thing as digital home recording back then, and if you wanted a decent recording, an expensive analog 24-track studio had to be considered (some 16-track spots not always adequate).
Cell phones, digital storage, on-line connectivity and affordable digital recording options have made things much easier for bands today.

10711602_712739975479785_787707665_nAesthetics is an important part of any band’s representation these days, and you have nailed that quite well with Terminatryx, do you sometimes feel that current bands put too much emphasis on the aesthetics and not enough on the actual music?

To tell you the truth, locally I think it’s the reverse(!) Bands don’t put enough effort into the visual aspect – sure, album cover artwork can be great, but that must expand and translate to the live stage as well.  Back in the Thrash days it was cool to look like you’re one of the moshing punters, but I feel you’re in a position to present something cool, visual and removed from the everyday.  Our band wardrobe (often custom made by Wolf Clothing) links in with the mood and atmosphere of the music, and we don’t deny that for some music this will not be conducive, and not everyone wants to go through the effort and expenditure, but we are driven to always go all the way on all levels.
We also let those aesthetics flow into our music videos. For us the aesthetics of sound and the visual go hand in hand.  
Bands like Kiss, Slipknot and Behemoth put a lot into the aesthetics, but by no means slack on the music.

Why do you think people are attracted to the darker side of things?

We are instinctively drawn to the unknown, which includes darker or taboo subjects and situations.  Some try so hard to avoid the darker side, they purport to be pious and suppress their human curiosity (and far too often get caught with their pants down, literally…)
For us, the darker attraction is a part of our being, something that always intrigued us.  We accept all our abilities, capabilities and drives, but also have the moral compass to know when overstepping the line.
Darkness also encapsulates an inherent drama, something we like to explore and express with our music (and videos), set a mood.

Also, often when some people are told something should be avoided, our inquisitive minds want to know ‘why?’

You’ve both also been responsible for many local film festivals, like the HorrorFest, X-Fest and the Celludroid Sci-Fi Festival – where did your love for niche films come from?

I grew up being exposed to both music and movies, and love a wide range of both. I think that inborn Alternative slant had me gravitate more towards Horror, Sci-Fi, Extreme movies, the sometimes audacious, boundary pushing or fantasy elements (and the technical aspects in pulling it off) always fascinating me.

10711230_712740035479779_584544193_nWerner and Raymund Offner were friends of ours with some cool Betamax movies their folks brought from Europe, like Maniac and Dawn Of The Dead (both remade in recent years).  It made quite an impression and for a time I was keen to do movie special make-up FX.  While in high school I subscribed to Fangoria Magazine (for which I even ended up writing a cover feature and other articles decades later!).  
I attended film school in the early-‘90s after university, and have aspirations to make movies (which I get to do with our music videos, short films etc.)
One of these is a silent short film Sonja and I made a decade ago, titled ‘imPERFECTION’. (Naturally) it is a dark tale starring Sonja as a woman in a downward spiral, with Terminatryx music and soundscapes from my one-man project F8 (and features an early incarnation of Terminatryx performing in a club scene, and Sonja knocks off our drummer Ronnie in a pretty gruesome fashion!).

We had nowhere to screen it (and always noticing the lack of Horror film festivals), and simply took it upon ourselves to create an event for like-minded people to view and submit movies in the Horror genre – this gave birth to the South African HorrorFest (celebrating its 10th anniversary this year).  It grew exponentially with loads of submissions form around the world.  From this flowed our other film festivals.   
(The 16-minute ‘imPERFECTION’ is on our “Terminatryx / Nosferatu” DVD as an extra feature)
I’ve directed all our music videos, but with our new “Shadow” clip, Sonja devised the concept and I encouraged her to make her directorial debut alongside me for this one (it was recently officially selected to screen at the Montreal Comicon’s horror movie chapter in Canada!)

What are your views on the current environment for bands in South Africa, particularly those of the alternative persuasion?

The individuals, the drive and the talent is there when it comes to bands, but reaching a wider audience is the issue.  It doesn’t help if the sound engineer walks off with his full fee at the end of the night and the band has to pay in – there’s something fundamentally wrong with that.

10695313_712740098813106_1377758391_nWhy do you think it’s important for people to break away from what is considered “mainstream”? (and no, by that we don’t mean Hipsters)

We need people in all sectors of life to make this little revolving ball of carbon diverse and exciting.  Unfortunately to compartmentalise yourself and others into factions, groups or cliques is part of our species’ tribal instinct, with an urge to be better, different sometimes superior than others, separating yourself from them along ridiculous lines, from race, sex and age, to music taste and length of facial hair(!)

For the most part I’m not even sure exactly what a Hipster is supposed to be…  I’m a let-it-be kinda guy, and if the current fashion (or anti-fashion) appeals to you, go ahead and knock yourself out, as long as at the end of it you know who you are and remain true to yourself.  When you try to force your ideals, thoughts or aspirations onto me without my consent, that’s where we’ll run into problems… but I will mostly just ignore it as I find it of little consequence on my life, so choose not to get wound up by it.
The issue with blindly following the mainstream is that you’re disallowing yourself to discover some cool stuff out there or find who you really are.  Mainstream is a commercial construct by corporate and monetary interests that want you to be an obedient little consumer, buying the shit they peddle without question, constantly repackaging it to resell to you over and over again (sometimes even fooling you into thinking something is Alternative when in fact it is just painted black!).

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