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Interviews

Mouthful Of Flies - Deanger Smith

17/08/12  ||  Averatu

Deanger Smith mugshot

Mr Deanger Smith is a bit of a hero around these here parts, (South Africa that is). Having been a member of local rock and metal bands Ragnarok, The Blast, Odyssey, 2 Dogs Funking , Balance and Brothering, all of which achieved pretty much everything a South African band could hope to achieve without bending over and taking it from Kurt Darren, and all of this while dealing with the terrible affliction of being left handed. He’s the only person I’ve personally met who had vinyl LP’s pressed and sold in the 80/90’s with his name on it. Well I thought it was fucking cool anyway, and you are now being subjected to my opinion, so shut up and read.

Global Domination: This will be an interview about your personal journey and growth as a musician from day one up to the bag a bones you have become. We’re gonna get all touchy feely man, by the end you’re gonna need a box a tissues and a pillow to hug. You up for it mo-fo?

Deangersmith: Go for it my man, let’s hope I don’t put you to sleep in the process! I’ve done a few others for some South African publications too, one being Rolling Stone Magazine SA.

I don’t read Rolling Stone, and I don’t know anyone who does. The readers of GD would mostly be getting editions from other countries. But then I should probably pick up a copy, as we are running low on toilet paper, but I digress. Has there been a renewed interest your music and in bands from back in the day? If I remember correctly, Odyssey was active in the 80’s, was that your first band?

Yes I’ve recently had two different interviews from South Africa, fuck knows why? Maybe you can tell me? Odyssey only started in 1990 or possibly 1989, they were the 3rd band I played for, my first band was Ragnarok we started in 1986. Second band I was involved with was The Blast in 1988. But that was very brief and only did a few gigs and a recording with them.

On South African music forums there has been renewed discussion about the bands of the 80’s and 90’s. You played drums then? When did you move to guitar and has your drum background been beneficial? Do you also play drums in the sinister fashion, as in the wrong way round?

I played drums for the first 2 years in Ragnarok, myself and guitarist Serge Vercammen left for Belgium in 1988 and there wasn’t a drum kit there, only his guitars, so I strung one up left handed, (Gibson Explorer), Serge showed me some power chords so I played guitar for three months before returning to SA when my visa expired! I didn’t play drums Ian Paice style I just learned to do it on right handed kits because wherever we gigged it was too time consuming to swap the kit around and the bands we played with drummers weren’t having it either! I did play like a bit of a freak though ie: without crossing my arms like a conventional drummer but rather with my left hand on the hi-hat (open arm style). Drumming before becoming a guitar player for me was very beneficial, it taught me so much about timing and rhythms, also made drum programming a lot easier for me later on in life, when all that wonderful software started hitting the scene, back then I never would have thought it would have been possible to put some little dots onto a page on a computer and have a full blown drumkit blasting out of the speakers…..that would have been like “hey what the fuck are you smoking dude”?

A propper upside down guitar used 1988/9 in Ragnarok, Golden Banana Hillbrow

Do I remember, in times gone by, you mentioning Belgium, beer and alcohol poisoning in the same sentence? Please elaborate.

Belgium & Beer go hand in hand, they have thousands of local beers, no lies they have thousands, I was only 18 when I went there, I discovered that Duvel beer 8 .5% and also Stroh rum 80% (Austrian), both at the same time wasn’t such a great idea, great discovery by any standards, but not a good idea at the same time! (GD: We could not get Stroh rum or Duvel beer back in the bad old days due to economic sanctions)

I never heard The Blast. Any way, did Belgium teach you anything about music or life, besides playing an upside down guitar?

The Blast were a rock n roll band with punk influences, this was actually the first time I ever entered a real studio (Universal Studios in Johannesburg) with Philip Nell at the helm, and had my voice recorded onto vinyl for the a-side of their 7” single, song called Little Sister.

I saw Metallica & Queensryche live in Brussels, blew my mind and changed me forever, was the and justice for all and operation mindcrime tour, double headliners. Well first off I had never seen so many ‘metalheads’ in my life ever before, gathered in one place. It was so cool to see that ‘metalheads’ were accepted like that, in SA back in the day we were always getting beaten up or locked up or jeered at by the people in the streets, so silly really and just goes to show how behind the times SA was in those days.. In Belgium there were posters and billboards all over the place advertising metal albums and gigs. The music stores had more metal & rock records than I had ever seen in SA.
Television over there was full of metal and rock videos, not only one song at the end of the show like we had on pop shop or fast forward back in SA, but full programmes dedicated to metal & rock, I was in Metal Heaven and it felt too good to be true!

Ah, yes, Miss Ankah Nell. I did a short course in sound engineering with Inhouse at Downtown Studios 10 years after that, but only saw glimpses of the notorious tantrums. Retribution Denied went as far as stating he wiped all the master tracks of the stuff they recorded for the “Death of Africa compilation” and I can just see the tantrum. How much were you subjected to?

Well where do I begin, maybe by ‘multiplexing the triax’, this was one of his sayings I remember ahahahah. Let’s just say Odyssey had been given the shittiest record deal in history, like a half a percent to each band member and the rest to the record company snakefucks, to my knowledge the band/Brin (the composer of all the songs) still hasn’t seen a cent generated from the sales. And I believe there were at least a good few thousand sold back then, which was good going for SA standards being a metal band in a land with no tolerance for the genre.

After Odyssey split my band Ragnarok attempted a reformation and kind of signed with Inhouse too, after a few days my brother and I walked into Inhouse records and ripped up the contract due to his shit attitude in the studio and also on paper. Many years later we also got invited by him to record at SABC1 studios so he could train more people just like you ;), we had a fall out with the trainees because we moved the microphone on the bass amp, a day later we walked in on him and his little crew all having a big talk about us and how they were going to tell us this and tell us that, the look on their faces when we walked in was priceless, they didn’t know we had been standing outside for the last 10 mins listening in on them. Cut a long story short, things didn’t sound good in there. That was my last dealings with him/her in a studio. (GD: Mr Philip Nell suddenly became Miss Ankah Nell somewhere in the last decade, with all the detached bells and whistles. Each to their own.)

Brothers in arms. Which bands did you guys play in together, and was there an advantage to being in a band with your boet (South Africanism for brother)?

We played in Ragnarok & Brothering together, but we have lived in the same houses for a fair amount of time in our lives, it’s like being in a band together permanently I guess because even when we weren’t in the same bands we would be jamming together on the balcony or by the pool etc. There were always loads of guitars and drums in the house so if one of us picked one up the other would join in on the nearest instrument. One of the advantages for us is that we kind of know what the next one is thinking when writing songs, it just happens that way with us, not sure if all brothers have that? I used to jam a riff and he would turn his back to me for most of the rehearsal and always know what I was going to do next, he used to freak me out when he did that.

Name your favorite villain, cartoon or otherwise, and why would this be your fav?

I really like Speedy Gonzales, he made me laugh so much when I was a kid, I guess that has stuck with me! I love it when he plays guitar, he’s a cheeky little bugger isn’t he?

You see speedy Gonzales as a villain???

For sure, he will fucken annihilate Batman, Chuck Norris or anyone, no ones faster than speedy!

I only ever saw The Brothering live. You guys had the drummer everyone wanted, and unlike most South African bands, you guys were kitted out to the teeth with lights and PA etc. Have you got a similar setup now? Looking back, was it worth the investment, and would you advise this strategy?

It’s Brothering, not ‘the’ Brothering. The pa we had because we ran a booking agency ‘The William Morris Agency’ in South Africa for south african artists and celebrities, the lights didn’t cost a lot at all, we took old paint tins and some coffee tins too (Frisco to be exact) and wired our own lights into the tins, painted them black and they worked a treat, made up our own gel’s and and some stands, away we went, lights and all. We actually did this before we did it in Brothering, in 2 Dogs Funking, that’s where I got the original idea from, Brin Addison and myself did it for that band, it’s really not difficult to make your gigs look a bit better and put on a bit of a show, where there is a will there’s a way. I say get your hands on what ever you can to make the show look more spectacular, but remember, don’t just expect those extras to make you look and sound good, you have to be able to put on a show to, kick some ass and most of all play your parts properly, no amount of glitter and glam or expensive gear is gonna make you sound or look good if you don’t really sound or look good! People aren’t stupid….well some might be, but hey, you never know which ones will be at your gig! (GD: The Beatles, The Clash? Excuse the daylights out of me then mister Brother..)

You relocated to the UK and eventually ended up forming a band. What were the main differences and similarities to being a band in South Africa.

Being in a band anywhere in the world has the usual similarities, you know how it goes, every musician has their stories and how they go down when everyone is getting pissed at the pub, or waiting outside the band room. I found the same difficulties in the UK as I did in SA, only differences were the UK had way more venues, the patrons of the venues are exactly the same, so are the other musicians, it’s a very inbred little world the music business, for me personally it doesn’t vary much!

Mouth closed in case of flies

You ended up forming Mouthful of Flies in London, with your brother recording bass all the way in Canada. How many auditions/ bands where there before this project come about?

The order goes like this and spans from 1986-2012: Ragnarok, The Blast, Odyssey, 2 Dogs Funking, Balance, Brothering, PijinFist & Mouthful of Flies and now Brothering again, gereformeerde Broedering (GD: reformed Brothering, but its a pun on Dutch Reformed Church) hahahh, with M:o:F we had loads of auditions in the UK, for drummers and bass players, eventually we started sending files back and forth to Canada for the bass lines and programming the drums, it was taking too long to find the right guys in the UK. I flew to Canada to record the final bass tracks with my brother Robi, he played on 7 of the tracks, a friend of Dan’s, Johan (yoyo) played on 2 tracks and I did the bass on track 5 (Breeder). It took quite some time getting it all together and finally having a product in our hands.

Who are/where the main members of Mouthful of Flies?

Fuck me I can see you typing, this is like a live interview, gotta love the internet hey boet? I had written a bunch of tracks at home, I then met Dan at as party through a mutual friend, we started hanging out and collaborating. Dan played for metal band in Germany called Bloodstone, at the party I heard the cd and a few weeks later approached Dan with almost the whole album’s worth of tracks, we took it from there, so the core members were myself & Dan.

So you wrote and produced the album “Ten negative sixes” basically without a band, and then had to find people to play the stuff. Did this complicate matters much?

No it actually made the process go a lot quicker I preferred doing it that way, no drummer problems, it saved us the cost of recording drums in a studio, programming the drums also eliminated all timing problems (which a lot of the drummers we auditioned had huge issues with). I recorded most of the tracks in the flat I was living in in London, all the drums and rhythm guitar tracks, Dan recorded the solo’s and vocals at his place and sent me the files over the internet, I mixed the stuff and we produced it together, we had the disc mastered at a mastering studio in Walthamstow I can’t remember the name of the place it’s on the CD sleeve somewhere.

And then to find people to reproduce the sound live?

If you mean sound guys, that’s the same as anywhere, it’s like a lottery, some clubs had good guys who always made us sound great, some guys had wannabes who knew nothing. So always hoped for the best.

That too, but band members, drummer and bassist who can play well enough to play the stuff on the disc, on stage.

Yes very difficult, we had a really hard time finding the right guys, there were guys who could do some of the stuff and not the rest of it, I guess I am a bit too intense but I like to play exactly what is on the disc when playing it live, a lot of the guys just left stuff out and were happy with it, and told me to not take it so seriously, they were the ones that got told not to come back……..

What is a good gig like in the first world, compared to gigs on the dark continent.

Not much different bru, maybe more people and better venue’s with better PA systems. I have played some killer festivals in SA, like Oppikoppi, Rustlers Valley & Concert on The Farm, which were all amazing gigs. Venue’s like Thunderdome in Johannesburg were amazing to play in the 80’s too! I am not sure what gigs are like in SA now, it’s been 12 years since I gigged there.

Venues in SA generally suck major ass. Only standing venue in Johannesburg is the Bohemian, which is basically a toilet with a stage and a fubar PA. Gimme some insight into what you Mouthful of Flies got up to gigwise. Where you played and what the response was like.

We played all over London and greater London, one of my most memorable gigs with Mouthful of Flies was at the legendary 100 Club on Oxford Street, so many famous fuckers played on that same stage, Hendrix, Metallica, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Siouxsie & The Banshee’s to name but a few. Was a real pleasure to stand on the same stage and bang my head! We also played some good gigs a place called The Gaff that a friend of mine used to manage, cool venue, I believe it’s closed down now. The Purple Turtle in Camden Town is a great venue to play, we did a few shows there. I can’t remember all the gigs we did in UK. We had a pretty good response at most gigs.

and the prize for best hair went to the southpaw in 1993 Rockey Street at Cafe Society, 2 Dogs Funking

You recently re-re-re-located to Candanadia, land of snow, alcoholics, moose and maple syrup. You guys have reformed Brothering, less Tulsa Pittaway. What are your plans?

Don’t forget BC Bud, some of them seem to be very proud of that fact over here, there are more weed smokers than you’ll find in Amsterdam on its busiest night. Ja I have relocated here, hopefully this time for a good long while. Who knows.

We would probably have Tulsa in the band if he was here and he has expressed that he would love to play on the new album, I guess we could get it done that way by sending tracks to him but I have decided against it as it gives us more control over the final product, I would love to have Tulsa do it again as he is a world class player, we really want this record to be just how we want it, in the past we have never had full control over any of the Brothering recordings, this time everything is being done by myself and Robi. It’s sounding like a mixture of the old Ragnarok style and Brothering, I’m really excited about it, it’s our best material to date. It’s more than likely going to be a free download with artwork and so on, I am not sure if we will bother with CD’s, that seems so ‘yesterday’ to me, and besides, I still have Mouthful of Flies CD’s boxed up in the garage from 2007. So we will see how it goes. Free music for all who want it, that’s our plan as for now.

What the fuck is up with Tulsa anyway? Has the fame gone to his head? That bastard seems to walk big circles when he sees me. His bio also mentions nothing of his jaded metal past, now that he’s a serious pop artist. I used to see Brutal Awakening at Wings Beatbar, with him killing on drums, that kid Dino on guitar. (I hated that kid so much, younger than me and he could shred a guitar to pieces, my ego was bruised).

I haven’t read Tulsa’s bio, I know most of what he has done, we were bandmates and I lived with him, we had rooms at the opposite sides of his house and the living room in the middle was our band room. Was a great place. I don’t know why he would ignore you guys or walk a big circle when he sees you, sounds strange to me, I don’t have a lot of contact with him anymore, we chat sometimes on “vleisbroek” (GD: meat-pants aka facebook) but it’s been very long since I spoke to him. I see the band he plays for is kind of pop style music, all I can say is if he enjoys it then good for him, I personally can’t play that stuff and enjoy it, it’s far too tame for me and too user friendly, but hey each to his own, that’s what makes the world spin. Interesting fact about Wings Beat Bar – 2 Dogs Funking was the first band to ever play on that stage, we were the opening Band on the opening night ;), we broke that fucker in for everyone else eheheheheh \m/

Sad fact wings closed with the demise of the city center a long while ago. I was listening to the tape you handed out at your last gig at Hunters again recently.

The ‘TAPE’ you say ahahah, we couldn’t afford to press CD’s, we were always broke, as you yourself know gigging in SA does NOT PAY the rent, doesn’t even pay for the beer or petrol now does it? I am so glad I am outta there, I remember doing a gig with Odyssey once in Pretoria, (45-50km’s away from Johannesburg for those who don’t know), we drove two cars there with our gear, after the gig the owner sheepishly walked over to our table and pays us R20, what a prick! (GD: Thats about $2.50)

What bands did you like gigging with back then, or just hang out with. I remember getting quite drunk with you guys at Abelard Sanction (also gone) in about 98, mostly with Tulsa in fact, he kept asking me, what’s this chord, and what’s this chord….

We enjoyed gigging with any band who wanted to gig, gigs are great fun and besides creating music probably the best part about being in a band, for me anyway…..in the years I spent as an active live musician in SA, and between all of the bands I played in, we probably gigged with just about every band you can think of.

Way to weasel out of answering a question. Weaselling out of things is an important thing to learn, its what separates us from the animals, except the weasel .

Okay then, we gigged with loads of bands, I’ll mention the ones we had great times with (in no particular order), Band o’ Gypsys, Toxik Sox, Helter Skelter, PITT, Debauchery, Jaded Jane, Metalmorphosis, Blue Chameleon, Boo, 8 Legged Groove Machine (Now known as Wonderboom), Live Jimmy Presley, Scarrion, Stryder, Stretch, Pentagon, Iron Mask, Sacrifist, V.O.D., Urban Assault, Brutal Awakening, etc etc etc……we had some excellent parties with Band o’ Gypsys (our brothers from another mother) and Metalmorphosis (sick muthafucka’s but always great fun), and yes to weasel out of the question a second time, all the bands we jammed with were great fun, bar one or two, I am not mentioning names, they know who they are.

What upside down guitar are you torturing at present?

All my guitars are now proper left handed ones, no more tuning issues, except for one, its an old Sovereign acoustic guitar with a peace sign on the headstock, my brother gave it to me, it has f-hole cutaways on it, looks like a boss, plays like half a boss ;) I use a G&L Legacy, a Fender Telecaster, Epiphone SG and a Fender acoustic!

Mouthful of Flies in all their sweaty glory

Ja but all your guitars are still the wrong way around! A common complaint from Johannesburg bands was that there was no point in entering battle of the bands competitions around here as Brothering always won. So now a decade later, and you living on the other side of the planet, I guess it’s safe to come clean, what was your tactic? Who was hammering which judge, or did you just get them high? Did you collude with other bands? How much loot did you make off with in those days?

Okay that’s fucking hilarious, as we only ever won the Wings beat bar battle of the bands ONCE, in 1997, we only ever entered ONE battle of the band’s as Brothering, so where they get that info from I don’t know. I only ever won ONE in my whole life, and that was the one! We didn’t even enter it to win we just wanted the exposure and the gig time. We had entered so many in our previous bands when we were younger and never got anywhere that we were not expecting to win that one, just treated it as another gig. I do remember that when we won it, there were a bunch of kiddy bands around who also entered and they were all bitching about the fact that we were older etc, the judges simply told them to stop whining about it, and said that this is the level they need to aspire to and try to achieve. We were the best band on the night and so we won it. I was laughing the whole way through that speech and got some very angry looks from those little assholes. We won R5000 and some other stuff, can’t remember. Who gives a fuck man, every battle of the bands competition I entered into in previous bands when I was a kid was always won by bands with older guys in them that had way more experience than us. I have never experienced the bullshit like I did in SA in other countries, little fucken asshole wannabe musicians sniggering and talking shit behind each others backs, but when you see them face to face they are your best friend, they all do it, it shows just how amateur and pathetic they really are/were, I don’t know what it’s like nowadays as I left there a long time ago, but I didn’t enjoy it, it was like playing gigs with kiddies and wankers, somehow that sounds a bit sickening in the same sentence, but that’s how I feel about it, fuck it man, I can’t pretend to be happy about what we encountered back then.

OK, so I made that one up, but I did have a lot of guys moaning rather bitterly about how it was supposedly not fair.

You know what bru, fucken who cares, we won and we deserved it, if we didn’t deserve it then who ever did would have won it not so, eat my melting plectrums you soppy pricks (GD:bwa ha ha ha), I hope you have won a battle of the bands since then, if not….keep trying, or better yet, give it up and stick to your day job. In fact I remember this being posted on Brothering facebook page . Read that shit and weep, we only won the ‘hard’ category, so it must have been the bands who entered the ‘hard’ category who were bitching about losing……..

Them’s some bragging rights. So what can we expect from you in the near future, are you keen on doing any gigs in SA?

My brother you know I would love to gig there fore sure, who knows it might happen, if it does I hope it’s with your band, get your CD out now ffsakes! In the near future you can expect a new release from Brothering, we are busy recording that sucker right now, also some new tunes from myself, and yes, the end of the world apparently? Who knows hey it’s still going strong as far as I can see. Maybe you and I can collaborate on a tune? WTF do you say to that my bru? (GD: I will consider your offer)

Thanks for jogging my memory, you Rock dude \m/

Speak for your self!!