Valiant Swart

Valiant Swart is a South African legend, I saw him so many times between 1996 and 2006 that I can’t count them.  We used to watch him at the big festivals like Wingerstok or Oppikoppie and he was always the highlight of the show.  Some of my best memories of him were the small intimate acoustic gigs where he would sit with an acoustic guitar, play his songs and tell the audience stories of dope smoking small town sheriffs in the Mississippi Delta, or playing with Mel Botha’s to Tannies with purple hair at the old age home.  He is brilliantly entertaining and simply just one of the nicest guys around.

I don’t think any of the video clips I have seen on You Tube really do Valiant justice.  You have to see him live and be at the show to really appreciate how special he is.  In this modern world of fast moving thrills Valiant sits right in the ‘not commercial enough’ middle, too rock and roll for the country guys and too Afrikaans for the rock and metal loving English guys who have a diet of UK and USA bands.  He is a South African treasure and without him I don’t think I would have got the deep understanding and love that I have for SA music today.  At one stage I was so happy with the amount of good SA rock around that I didn’t even need to listen to international bands anymore.

James Daubeney

Baby Murdered Me


Springbok Nude Girls

The Nudies were the best band in the country by a mile for a few years.  We used to watch them at places like Mercury Live or the River Club and they were fantastic….. or they weren’t.  It just depended on what happened on the night.  Sometimes they would play the most obscure stuff that they had written but no-one knew, other times you would know the words to every song.  It was a strange mix of music because of the combinations of metal guitar with keyboards and trumpet.  Without doubt Adriaan Brand’s contribution to the band was massive.  Like all really unique and brilliant bands it was an incredible mix of talents and personalities.  When they were on form they were untouchable.

‘Baby Murdered Me’ got awarded best guitar solo of 1997 in my annual ‘James’ awards and it was the highlight of this already phenomenal song.  Theo always bought their songs to life with some incredible fretwork.  He had that unique ability to put in a solo that really made a song and became part of it.  I always said that if people can sing the solo then you have got it sorted.  Waiting for a solo is one of the most pleasant experiences any true music lover can go through and this is one of those songs.  Check it out at 2:42, Theo lets it run in the most perfect demonstration of controlled out of control / borderline out of tune way and then pulls it all back into together and channels it through a master class of shred and sustain.  I have no words \m/

James Daubeney




Saron Gas came blasting out of Jo’burg in about May 1999 and it was quite obvious very quickly that they were way to big for South Africa.  They played probably their last gig under the name Saron Gas at the Whammy Bar and as documented in The Story of Rock and Roll I had a massive role in telling Shaun Morgan not to change their name from Saron Gas to Seether 🙂 Seether went on to be probably one of the most commercially successful bands the country has produced.

The thing about Seether is the song writing, a bit like Kurt Cobain, Shaun Morgan is an absolute master of finding a good riff and melody line.  It is this ability which really sets them head and shoulders above the rest of the post Nirvana pack.  The other thing is that the lyrics are so sif and dark.  How many bands get away with lines like ” I wanna waste her monthly blood, I wanna get some on my love” without a big PC outcry?  Not many and that is an art form in itself. 

James Daubeney



12th Avenue

When I met 12th Avenue they were just a bunch of lighties playing at the Whammy bar and local bars in Tableview like Breakers and that pool bar that the Uninvited got shut down for being too loud in.  Without doubt 12th Avenue were all about Mark Haze and he is one of those supremely talented guys who is just born in the wrong country.  I used to watch them blast through classic rock covers better than the originals but it was their own stuff that really caught me.  In another place and another time Mark could have fronted any major rock band from Purple to Zeppelin to Priest he just has that golden rock voice.

I was very sad when 12th Avenue broke up.  I understood why Mark had to do Idols and why they had to drop the name and focus on him but it never got better than those early years when they were just 4 supremely talented kids gigging around Cape Town and getting better and better all the time.  I remember watching them at a festival when the crowd just wanted to see Fokofpolisiekar.  I was raving to a few Stellenbosch students about just how good 12th Ave were but when they came on I could just see that these guys didn’t get it.  It’s the old SA tragedy, young hungry band gives it there all and doesn’t get discovered and all that awesome music and unique chemistry is lost 🙁 Very fucking sad. 

James Daubeney

Reconciliation day


Koos Kombuis

I first saw Koos at Wingerstok in about 1997, he played a blistering show with a full band and it was as energetic as it gets.  He ran around with an SA flag as a cape and  drank his bottle of Tassies.  He took us through a set of his own brand of South African protest music.  It was when he got close to the end of the show and had the whole field full of rabid, drunken students, drop-outs and miscellaneous hippies singing along to ‘Johnny is nie Dood Nie’ that I realised what genius we had up there on stage.

I have seen Koos many times but my best memory was when we went to watch him do an acoustic show at, I think The Klein Theatre, not sure but anyway it was a classic show.  Koos always used to get a bottle of Tassies and drink it out the bottle during the show.  When the bottle was empty the show was over.  On this particular night Koos decided that he was having so much fun a second bottle was required.  We managed to get the empty first bottle and ‘Koos’s backwash” became the weekly Canasta trophy for years. 

James Daubeney

Goeie Nag Generaal


Piet Botha and Jackhammer

Another SA legend, Piet Botha had been around in SA music for a long time, I remember being with Metalmorphosis at an album launch party at Gates when Jackhammer played in about 1995 but they had already been going since 1984.  They were great at Gates but to be honest at the time with my head in some pretty brutal metal like Pantera, Carcass, Metallica, Slayer etc. his brand of US blues rock didn’t really stand out.  It was only about 5 years later after hearing him and talking to him in the Whammy Bar that I really got into what he was all about.    Piet is the real deal, a man who has a passion for the music he loves and chose the difficult path of a professional musician singing original music in South Africa.  To me he is our own version of Lemmy, a rock ‘n’ roll lifer who is respected by everyone and who tells it like it is.  Respect \m/

Piet’s solo album’s marked a slight change of direction from what he was doing with Jack Hammer.  These albums were all in Afrikaans and they show cased his incredible ability to write lyrics that were deeply relevant to the country.  His stories of faded washouts who inhabit small town bars and who lost limbs in places like Ondangwa and still get nervous when crackers go off, or the English Lieutenant who had it all and then hung himself in a tree, touch the dark SA psyche in a very deep way.  These albums are among the best I have ever heard and they really should be considered National Treasures. 

James Daubeney




The most influential band in South Africa is how I would describe Fokofpolisiekar.  The impact they had on teenagers and specifically white Afrikaans teenagers is massive, as could be seen by the proliferation of copycat bands in the mid 2000’s .  This is well documented in the Story of Rock and Roll so I won’t go into it here but just know that you are listening to one of the finest bands the country has ever produced in terms of originality, perseverance and a fuck you we’ll do it our way attitude.

This video is one of the most original and clever things I have ever watched.  Filming a rugby match that turns into a fight in the rain is something so simple and so obvious in a South African context yet no-one had ever done it before.  If you ever played rugby at school or club level you will be smiling at this video the moment someone straps a spanner to their arm.  We have all met the ref with the snor at some stage in our school days.  Sheer fucking brilliance.  

James Daubeney

Safe As Houses



This came a bit later chronologically, as explained in The Story of Rock and Roll once we got into SA music in a big way we never stopped listening to it after that so anything coming out from Valiant onwards we would just snap up.  Aking arose from the remnants of Fokofpolisiekar when they decided to go in different directions.  We had Francois and Wynand in Van Coke Kartel, Hunter and Snake going to Aking and Johnny in ‘retirement’.  What Aking had which really made them stand out was the multi talented Laudo Liebenberg.  I watched him one night at Stones in Tableview when Francois VC was struggling a bit ( 🙂  Ja bru that Jägermeister is a bitch).  Laudo just took the whole thing on and finished the set almost singlehandedly.  He is very special one would have though that with Hunter in the band lyrics were sorted but it looked like he just took a backseat because Laudo’s own lyrics were just so incredibly good.

‘Safe As Houses’ is an amazing video, so original and so simple in concept that you just wonder why no-one thought of it before.  To me it has deep significant meaning in an SA context and I don’t want to speculate to much about the politics or get into that whole thing, watch it and judge for yourself.  What I will say is that its heart breaking watching someone trying to hold his whole kingdom together when it all just comes falling down around him and there is nothing that he can do.  All the reasons for the collapse are obvious in the video, I’d love to talk to Laudo about it one day.

James Daubeney



Van Coke Kartel

The other half of FPK started Van Coke Kartel and obviously I loved them from day one but I have to say that at the outset Aking were a more polished outfit with better songs.  In typical Francois fashion he just grafted and grafted and through sheer hard work and perseverance pulled VCK up to being one of the finest rock bands in the country.  Initially he was playing guitar which put him at a distinct disadvantage because he is one of the best front men I have ever seen and clearly he wasn’t the worlds best guitarist.  As a three piece it was even harder and I watched a very rough gig at The Doors in Edenvale where they really struggled to win the crowd over.  Once they got the world class Jedd Kossew on guitar the line-up clicked, the pressure on Francois to do all the guitaring dissipated and the songs got better and better.

‘There is a lot of good video of VCK and I nearly put ‘Sweef’ on to show you something really crazy, (go watch it anyway) but I settled for this because it shows them exactly as I think of them.  Francois and Wynand have a way of showing it as it is, Afrikaans boys on the road and on stage and all the comradery and friendship that shines through from these amazing individuals.  They are just living the life, the tom foolery and the beers, and what it takes to be big rock stars in a tiny pool.  I have maximum respect for their unique brand of rock and roll and their success is testament to the effort they have put in.  This is the real deal, no ego, no posing, they were born to do this.

James Daubeney

Pinball Map


In Flames

In Flames are known to me and my friends as ”Johnny’s Gift”, you’ll have to read The Story of Rock and Roll to find out why but when I heard these guys I went seriously nuts.  The earlier albums Whoracle and The Jester’s Race were so musically good and so interesting compared to all the Nu Metal coming out at the time that they became my new favourite band for a couple of years.  They were the first band doing Death metal vocal style that I really liked and it made me appreciate it a lot more.

Somewhere along the line In Flames lost the plot and the last couple of albums are just not what they used to be.  That’s OK, the same thing happened to Metallica and a ton of other bands.  There is always a classic line-up that really defines a band and for me it was the one that was responsible for their albums 10 years ago.  I saw them Live in Germany at Rock Im park in 2011 and that is really something else.  Fantastic Live band.

James Daubeney

Miss You, hate You


Joe Bonamassa

Joe Bonamassa is a phenomenal guitarist, he has almost single handily put the blues back on the map.  He has to one of the most prolific artists around today in terms of album releases.  You can pretty much guarantee that Joe will give you a new album every 12 to 18 months and he isn’t just rehashing the same old shit, they  are remarkably different given the genre that he is playing in.  Some will argue that there is a bit too much Bonamassa around these days he is everywhere, there is so much product out there, live shows, guest appearances etc., etc. that you could almost drown in it.  I won’t count myself amongst those who think that.

When I first heard Joe he was in a more Rock than Blues phase, he was in his early 20’s and you can see by this video shot for Miss You, Hate You that the suits had some Top 40 plans for Joe.  That shit didn’t work out and he had his own row to hoe which led him to his current shiny blues man suit and sunglasses image that he is famous for.   He has laid the groundwork for a lot of guys like Phillip Sayce and Dan Patlansky and the Blues is really popular again.  I am so happy he has had the success he has but for my money his ‘rock’ albums So It’s Like That in 2002 and Had To Cry Today  will always be my favourites. 

James Daubeney