Ruff Majik are a pinnacle band of the doom scene in South Africa, an intimate but internally respected scene that is getting attention from many quarters. While doom might be an underground species of music, this group have been spotted in the international space, recently announcing that they received funding from the Wacken Foundation to support their tours (including a tour early next year which we are keen to find out about). The band went on their first overseas tour, and first tour ever, last month, stopping in at Germany’s Freak Valley Festival. They will soon be playing at Portugal’s SonicBlast.
While South Africa has had a relationship with Wacken for several years through the Wacken Metal Battle (Cape Town-based Zombies Ate My Girlfriend won Wacken Battle in 2016), no South African band has received funding from the Foundation. This little moment of magic needed some clarification, so PureGrainAudio spoke to frontman, Johni Holiday, to find out more.
Tell us about the support you recently announced receiving from the Wacken Foundation. Johni Holiday: The support we’re receiving is due to an application we sent in earlier in this year. Wacken Foundation assists young bands looking to make an impact in the rock and metal scene by funding them for things like tours. So we ended up getting our application approved, and that’s about it!
If you need to get to know this group a little better, check out their video for “Wax Wizard”.
Is this cold, hard cash or are there other benefits, maybe ones we wouldn’t have known about? Holiday: It’s cash, but set up in two ways. A lump sum, which is a donation from them to use towards whatever, and then a loan that you can take out when you need it, which you repay a year after the initial date of the loan (perfect for covering touring expenses).
This funding comes off the back of a tour to Germany and Austria. What was that like? Holiday: Germany and Austria was absurdly cool. We met the best people, played the coolest shows, and just realized that Europe is on another level overall. There’s a thriving scene for almost every genre there, and people are really just into live music.
You almost didn’t make your set at Freak Valley Festival. Can we just say WTF!? Besides the near miss, what was the festival like for the band? Holiday: Not only did we nearly not make it, but it was also the day we met Emil Amos and Robert Lowe of OM in the flesh and nearly shat our pants about it. They picked us up from the train (which was the wrong one, and had made us nearly five hours late) and we just sat there in the van with two-thirds of OM and stank like the fucken rivers of booze which we had the previous night with Devil And The Almighty Blues guys.
They we super-nice though, and asked a lot about the South African political climate, Cape Town’s water crisis, and our art and music scenes in general. Robert even caught up with us afterwards and he told us he really enjoyed our live show (pants = shat).Other than that, the festival was ridiculous. We got to see the Candlemass set (I mean, how even?), jammed out backstage with super amazing bands and organizers, we met stacks of great fans, people offered us drugs, the booze was free - I mean, it was literal nirvana.
Ruff Majik's latest album Seasons was released independently on April 20th, 2018.
What was the moment when you thought, “we need to tour Europe”? Holiday: Basically, we knew we wanted to tour Europe when we started the band actually.
If money was no problem, what would you import into South Africa from Europe that you think the scene really needs? Holiday: The whole of Europe (laughs). The scene here needs money to treat the artists well, and more feet through the door to make that money. But, it seems like something is starting to happen here in SA, and we’re churning out more international acts every year than we ever have before - so maybe the locals are starting to realize the value of their artists.
You released your first full-length album, Seasons, in April of this year. What has been the response? Holiday: So far, the response has been great, and people seem to be really into the new tunes. We never dwell on an album though; as soon as we release one we basically start work on the next one.
As a niche genre, doom and stoner rock have somehow managed to leak into the international space - I see your Bandcamp page filled with comments from audiences all over the world and I know of some random blogs that have written up about your music. Have you attracted any weird fans or had any weird/cool experiences through this? Holiday: I don’t think anything weird has happened yet really. Nobody has sent us their ear in a box or a vile of their spit yet, one can only keep your fingers crossed though. The weirdest experience for us in Germany was that people had printed out photos of our faces and our artwork that we had to sign.
If you want to hear the new record Seasons in its entirety, check out this full stream!
So, are we allowed to ask, what is this you speak of regarding a tour next year? Holiday: You may ask, but I’ll answer cryptically. We’re going on tour again next year, and it will be to Europe. And right now that’s as much as anyone needs to know.
We see that you’re on the Krank’d Up lineup. What are you most looking forward to about the festival? Holiday: We’ve never played Krank’d Up, but we attended it before, and it’s just an all-round great vibe. We’re just excited to get on stage and do what we do, and then hang out and get smashed and see some amazing bands play live. Sikth is going to bend our brains, and we’re super excited to see them live also.
You mention in your announcement about Krank’d Up that you won’t be doing many shows this year. What is keeping you so busy? Holiday: A new album! Like I said, we always start working on the new one pretty soon after release, and for this one we’ve got big plans. Once again, I’ll keep the details to a minimum, but expect more heavy and more groovy.
Lastly, we know that your music speaks of your experiences as people - retrenchments, deaths of friends etc - and yet you came through it and your band is still intact and maybe even better for it. Now it seems that 2018 is treating you a little like gods. Do you think it’s about paying your dues or about making good decisions? What is the philosophy that drives the band and you as individuals? Holiday: I think it’s about sticking to your guns. This band should have ended like seven times already, and every time we’re just like “fuck no”. We’ve paid a lot of dues, but the world ain’t fair and there’s probably a lot more to come. So we’re enjoying the eye of the storm while we’re in it, and we’ll survive the rest of it - just like the fucken roaches that we are.