I believe it was the late Hunter S Thompson who said: "The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar or in Freshlyground.
Independent live music devotees, Michael MacGarry and myself, Lloyd Gedye, conceived of The Pavement Special sometime in May last year. We thought we could bring some much needed attention to independent South African musicians who battle to get any consideration from mainstream media, and have to get down on their knees to get record stores in this country to stock the albums that they spent their own time and money producing - with scant regard for the fact that the chances of making any money are slim to non-existent.
So the idea was to launch an independent magazine with accompanying compilation CD that took local musicians as seriously as they took themselves. Seven four-page features, 2000 words per band and beautiful photography that resisted falling back on rock'n'roll clichés. Rather than putting five months of time and money into creating this magazine to then battle to get it stocked in stores (like the musicians were) we decided to throw a party, get all the bands to play and charge people to get in. The magazine and CD were free, but you had to come and watch the bands play live.
Issue One featured country punks Jim Neversink, Afro-dub rockers the Blk Jks, Pretoria's post-rockers kidofdoom, Belville’s rock upstarts Foto na Dans, sex-obsessed electro-funksters Sweat X and the unclassifiable Buckfever Underground, and was launched on December 13 last year. Us Kids Know, Jim Neversink, Blk Jks and kidofdoom played to more than 250 people at The Bohemian in Richmond, Johannesburg. Yes, The Pavement Special was now a going concern.
Realising that realistically we could only manage to produce one magazine per year (we do both have day jobs), we decided to launch a series of compilation CDs throughout the year, featuring all the musicians that we could not squeeze into one magazine with seven bands. Thus we could accommodate artists like Johannesburg electro musician Jane Rademeyer, whose album I Think a Halo was only released in November 2007, while we were already putting the finishing touches to the magazine, or garage-rockers the Shadow Club, who only played their first gig near the end of 2007, but by March 2008 had already released a killer debut album.
By the end of February the album-only Issue Two was already in planning stages. Featuring unreleased tracks by Cape Town’s noise artist Righard Kapp, Pretoria's prog-rockers Isochronous and rarities in the form of a Jim Neversink outtake and a kidofdoom remix, Issue Two is a resource for local music fans and an introduction to the diversity of local artists. A booklet accompanies the CD and features photography, biographies, discographies and websites of the musicians.
Issue Two was launched on June 28, with an event that featured eight performances beginning at 2pm in the afternoon and going through to midnight. Performers included Ampersand, Jim Neversink, Isochronous, Jane Rademeyer, the Shadow Club and electro artist Jacob Israel, among others.
Plans are already under way for The Pavement Special Issue Three, another compilation CD set for launch in August, and Issue Four, the next magazine and compilation CD set for launch in late November. But see, The Pavement Special is so much more than just a CD compilation, magazine, badge or T-shirt, it is a brand, an event and a flesh-and-blood community of the best independent musicians and listeners in South Africa playing and partying, one after each other, on any given night for your entertainment. This is an open group. - Lloyd Gedye
Design analysis of pavements
The bold black-and-white design of The Pavement Special grew out of the publication's target industry and budget limitations. The intent was to let the content determine the temperament of the publication as a whole.
In the case of Issue One, there were seven features, no advertising, no editorial and no reviews - as there was nothing else we really wanted to say or distract the reader with. The usability and reader journey thus promoted that the design be as idiot-proof as possible, and as reduced and uncluttered without looking empty, uninteresting or lacking in substance. What resulted was the design that has become identifiable as The Pavement Special style, in which the graphic design and illustration work are kept latent, rather driving the visual character through photography and typographic treatments.
The logo grew out of the need to include the compilation CD on the cover of Issue One and wanting to rouse the anthropomorphic appeal of an icon-based character or "face". These overlapping dual CD eyeballs of the logo are also reminiscent of analog reel-to-reel devices used to record sound and live performances in the past. The urban, street nature of the project's title, coupled with the inherent humour in the name's slang origin, also made smashing one of the teeth out logical. This simple bar graphic also furthers the musical slant by functioning as an avatar for piano keys. The urban aspect of the project is again advanced in the beat-up, scratchy character of the title's typographic treatment.
Both publications were printed on uncoated paper throughout to emphasise the tactile, tangible and stark character of both the overall design as well as the project's intent. - Michael MacGarry
Pounding the pavement
The Shadow Club
The Shadow Club are Jacques Moolman (vocals and guitar), Alex Hing (bass) and Isaac Klawansky (drums). Formed in August 2007, the band debuted at The Bohemian in October and completed the recording of their eponymous debut album by March 2008. They sound like the Black Keys fronted by Jeff Buckley and if ballsy garage/blues rock is your thing then this is your band. Website: www.myspace.com/theshadowclub.
Jane Rademeyer sprung on to the Johannesburg music scene in 2007 with the release of her debut album I Think a Halo on Uncorp Records, but she has always been involved in music in some shape or form, whether in jazz bands, conducting symphonies for car hooters or co-writing songs with electronic wunderkind Felix Laband. I Think a Halo was one of the best South African albums released in 2007 and Rademeyer is already back at work on a follow-up.
Ampersand AKA Warren Cohen is a swampy lo-fi songwriting extraordinaire who announced his arrival last year with his great debut record This Is Not A Drill released on Righard Kapp's new label '\./#/. Wearing all its flaws on its sleeve, Ampersand's audaciously under-produced album, rife with tape hiss, heavy reverb and lo-fi fuzz was released in August 2007. Love or loathe his DIY approach, you won't argue that Ampersand's priority doesn't side with clever songwriting. Website: www.myspace.com/amprsnd
The band is Jim Neversink on guitar and lap-steel; Matthew Fink on guitar and accordion; Katherine Hunt on bass, violin and mandolin; and Warrick Poultney on drums. The Neversinkers finally finished their second album, titled Shakey is Good, in December last year. Punk-rock stompers and lo-fi ballads sit side-by-side to create one of the best albums released this year. Website: http://www.myspace.com/westernworld
Consisting of Linda Buthelezi on lead guitar and vocals, Mpumi Mcata on rhyhm guitar, Molefi Makananise on bass and Tshepang Ramoba on drums, the Blk Jks fuse a diverse range of influences into a melting pot of truly South African sound. Afro-rock, dub, reggae, metal and blues are all filtered through the creative talents of these four musicians who hail from Spruitview and Soweto, to create one of the most interesting musical sounds the country has to offer. Fresh from a tour of the United States, the band has just released their new EP titled Mystery. Website: www.myspace.com/blkjks or www.blkjks.blogspot.com.