Jo Day - 2003 Interview with South African rocker Jo Day

INTERVIEW: Day, Jo (Jul 2003)
Warning Belle, from this fiery South African rocker!!
No Warning and No Mercy - Lee Bradfield finds this out as he talks with South African rocker Jo Day..

We've tracked down South African songstress and self professed 'Rock Bitch' Jo Day for some Glory Daze chatter. Of course the best place to start is the beginning, so Jo fills us in on her musical influences and tendency toward entertaining in general.

'I've always been good at singing and love entertaining people. The story goes that I was only 3 years old when I first got up to sing in front of people all by myself at church. (My family was religious) I had piano lessons for a couple years from about age 5, but I found it incredibly boring. Then I got an accoustic guitar for my 12th birthday, taught myself to play and began writing songs.'

'My influences are quite varied. Although I hardly agree with the 'message', I really dig Gospel music. I also love old-school accoustic/folk rock (eg: Crosby, Stills and Nash; America; Fleetwood Mac). Lately I've been listening to seriously heavier stuff: KoRn, Linkin Park, Saliva, etc. cool shit!'

With a kickstart like that, Jo was destined for greatness right from the early stages. That first record deal and album is surely a memorable period in a rocker's career, especially when an award comes of it. Jo takes up the bittersweet story surrounding her 1991 debut 'One Woman'.

'There weren't really any hits off 'One Woman'. The launch (and only!) single, a track called 'Tender Love', I think got to #10 on one of the regional Top 20's, or something like that. 5fm playlisted it, but it never charted. Wait - I think the video may have kinda 'charted' on that old TV show 'Pop Shop', or whatever it was called.'

'EMI did a great job though. They had me 'groomed' at a professional modelling agency, took me on a nationwide 'media tour', got me onto every TV and radio show going for interviews, hired the best stylists, PRO's, produced a fantastic video. the Full Monty!'

'The SA original music scene was really not yet happening at that stage, and the band I formed to tour the album ended up playing covers just to survive. Shit, I had to borrow bucks to buy a PA and pay my dudes sometimes!'

'I did win an OKTV (later 'FNB') award for 'Best Newcomer', which was really cool. I remember the big-knob from the sponsors coming up to me at the after-party and saying: 'You know that little trophy we just gave you is worth R3000?' It was all I could do not to ask him if I could rather have the bucks. Jeez - we were starving in those days man!'


'All in all, I'm actually glad that 'One Woman' wasn't much of a success. I was given the barest minimum artistic input - even though I had a huge back-catalogue of trax I had written: including 'Silent Movie' and 'Above My Room' - both big hits now!'

'Most of the trax chosen for 'One Woman' were written by the producers. I was even 'out-voted' on the cover design! I generally just never felt it was my work! It was also far too 'pop' for where I was ultimately heading musically, and I'd actually rather just forget about it.'

'I'm grateful to EMI for all they taught me. They're a terrific company. It was just the wrong time and the wrong sound I guess.'

After that setback Jo pretty much disappeared from the public eye for the best part of a decade. This writer clearly remembers wondering what the hell happened to her, having sold many copies of her debut in the cd bar 'Rhythm City' back in the day. Hey, I was just outta school!! However, in 2001 she was back with a big song on radio, and a new cd in 2002 on Legend Music. Jo colours in the details for us.

'Yeah. I was pretty bummed out that I'd lost the EMI deal after winning the award, and I kinda went into 'musical hibernation'. I didn't even feel like listening to music! Fortunately, my then-husband-now-producer-and-best-friend, Jon Buckley kept nagging me until I finally agreed to start writing and recording with him. The result was what I will always consider to really be my 'first' album: 'icon'!'

'Even though trax from 'icon' were already doing well on radio before Jon and I had finished writing it, I still battled to get a record deal! Label after label kept telling me it 'wasn't what they were looking for at this time,'. I shlepped around like crazy, going back again and again after we'd written more trax - only to be told the same thing.'

'One bunch strung me along for weeks, promising me a place on their next compilation, only to dump me. Eventually I got so fed-up that I actually said to one label big-knob: 'With respect, if a Top 10 hit on 5fm (SA's only national contemporary music station) is not what yer lookin for at this time - what the hell ARE ya lookin for?' I was fukken pissed off, I can tell you!'

'Gary (Legend Music) was lurking around Jon at about that time coz he was interested in a studio project Jon had with Deon DuToit called 'Toxic Shame' (who later went on to have a smash hit with that song I'd written so long ago: 'Silent Movie'), and I just said: 'Gary, I can't do this any more. If you want 'icon', it's yours'. He seemed pretty excited. (Though the bastard still made me pay the entrance fee for my new band and myself at the club where we had my signing party! Sheesh!)'.

Since that time, there've been many radio hits from the Icon album, resulting in Jo and her B.A.N.D. (Bad Ass Nocturnal Dudes !!) becoming a very popular and in-demand act on the buzzing South African live rock scene. They regularly sell out large clubs all over the place, but the real adrenalin kick is playing in front of arena / festival size crowds and getting big reaction to your hits. Not so?

'Yeah, 'icon' really did well. I still think there's a couple more hits on that album, but it was time to get another out there, I guess. Thanks to the faith Authentic Ideas (our management/agents) had in us right from the start, we've been given almost unheard-of opportunities for such a young band! (We're only a year old now!)'.

'The fourth gig we ever played was amongst the best bands in the country at The Rock Concert 2 (about 4000 kids). Then we were on in the top four bands at Woodstock 4. We've also done the Lusitoland Rock Festival, The Southern Cross Festival, The Jamaican Street Party, The oosmoot Festival,The Rock Concerts 3 and 4 (at RC4, we were in the top three bands, and launched our new album, 'No Warning'!)'.

'We're booked to do The Cullinan Culture Festival, the 'Sun to Moon' Festival and Woodstock 5 soon as well. (Interviewer's note, the Woodstock festivals are up to 30 000 kids). From 'icon', I'd say the most popular trax at our live gigs are: 'Remember' (probab our biggest hit to date), 'The Truth' (#1 for 3 weeks on TUKSfm campus radio), 'Seed' (#3 on 5fm's Modern Rock Chart), 'Real' and 'Down and Dirty' - neither of which were radio hits as such (though Barney Simon played 'em quite a lot when he had his evening show on 5fm), but both of which have become kinda 'cult hits' with our fans. We get big shit if we don't play 'em at gigs - hahaha.'

All of this paints a very rosy picture, and with creative juices flowing, not to mention confidence at dizzying levels, it was time to write and record that all important follow up album. Hopes were very high, but the South African market is tricky - it can turn on a band in a hurry. Just for us, Jo tells all about how they approached the new project with continued success in mind.

'icon' was really just Jon and myself. The drums and bass were programmed (at least they were live samples!), and Darren - my B.A.N.D. guitarist - only joined us for the writing process quite late: the last 2 - 3 trax, I think.'

'By the time we were ready to start writing 'No Warning', I'd already formed the B.A.N.D. (Bad-Ass Nocturnal Dudes), and we'd been gigging extensively. The whole band took part in the writing process - to varying degrees, and they are all actually playing on the final recording, which gives it a much heavier feel. Kewl! Another cool thing is that as the trax were written, we were able to incorporate them into our live sets and choose the ones that were going down the best at gigs for the album. I think this has given us a much more 'fan-friendly' final product.'

So what's in a name? Some bands agonise over an album name believing it could make or break the album, while others could care less, often using the numerical copout or the much loved studio name option. As you've probably gathered by now, this album naming process took on a different twist.

'The very first track we wrote for the new album was called 'Porn'. Gary just fell totally in love with it, and wanted the album to be called that. After a while, Jon and I wrote the track 'No Warning', and we thought that'd be a better title. I went to Gary and said: 'Look, why don't I have a competition in the 'zine (the internet mag we send to the fanclub) and get the fans to decide for us? After all, they're the ones who're gonna buy the album - why not give them a say?'

'Gary thought this was a cool idea, and put up 5 albums for the prize. I was overwhelmed by the response from the fans (whom we call '5th members' of the B.A.N.D.) - the votes just poured in! Eventually, they decided on 'No Warning' by something like 64%'.

Every now and then a country experiences a senseless tragedy that deeply affects it's music community. One of these happened to a talented young man (known to the interviewer in the 90's), and had a powerful emotional effect on Jo, as she explains how the title track came about.

'I received an email forwarded to me by Barney Simon from a chick who was the manager of a little-known punk band in Port Elizabeth called '4 Minute Warning'.'

In her mail she said: 'This is so hard to explain, but I guess it must be done. Somehow I've got to put this into words, ', and she went on to tell how one of the members of the band had been hijacked in Cape Town, shot and left for dead. The bastards had then taken the car, raped the two chicks who'd been with the guy, and ran away.'

'My immediate reaction was to put myself in her shoes. What if something like that were to happen in my band? I started crying and emailed her - even though I don't think she knew at the time who I was - offering my condolences. Condolences. Since when is that enough? Nothing could ever be enough.'

'I took the exact words of her email, expanded them into lyric - incorporating what each member of my own band (including myself) had been doing at the exact moment this guy was murdered. I took it to Jon, and we came up with the music and arrangement'.

'The moment it was recorded, I drove to the SABC and gave a CDR of it to Barney. He played it there and then on his show - without even giving it a 'listen through' - pretty brave, since there's plenty of swearing in it! I was grateful to him for that'.

'The guy's friends and this manager chick were listening and they mailed me to say thanks. For what? Like I say in the song: 'It won't bring him back'.

On a happier note, there's another track on the new disc that's special to Jo in a very different way. It's been decades since a South African act entered the impenetrable Billboard Top 100 album chart, and it comes in the shape of fellow South Afrian band Seether. Their success, and what it means to local South African artists like Jo was certainly a song worth writing about. it's called 'Never Die'.

'I wrote the essence of this track in the car while the band and I were driving to Cape Town on tour. The dudes were taking turns driving, and I was trying to catch a nap in the back seat (it was the middle of the night). Martin put a tape on, and it was Seether (previous known as Saron Gas).

I just lay there, listening to the tracks, thinking how lucky they were, and kinda being jealous of 'em and proud of 'em all at the same time - it was one of the weirdest combination of emotions I've ever experienced. I thought back on all the rumours and bad-mouthing I'd been hearing about them, and realised that maybe that's what everyone was feeling: jealousy and pride.'

'As soon as we got to the hotel, I whipped out my trusty dictaphone and sang in: 'At least you know you'll never die, ' - meaning that, no matter what people say, no matter how much of those rumours might well be true, at least the name Seether is known'.

'They have done the thing. They have achieved the immortality every musician craves, whether they'll admit it or not. Do they deserve their fame? Even people who are really pissed off at them will grudgingly admit that, musically, they certainly do. Does it really matter how they got there? Maybe not.'

Ever heard the cliche 'The fans come first'? In South Africa that's a requisite for mere survival in the rock scene. Giving it all every time you're on stage is obviously essential, but so is listening to what the fans really want to hear. Jo has a very 'hands on' approach to keeping her fans in the loop, and she's happy to reveal that secret and her hottest current tracks besides.

'By far, the most popular track from 'No Warning' at the moment is 'Above My Room'. It's shooting up the campus charts, and always gets the party happening at our gigs!'

'Another favourite at gigs is 'Reel God', which Barney's played a few times. 'Prey' goes down very well too, and 5fm have expressed interest in that one, as well as 'Never Die' - so we're hoping to get some good national exposure with those. 'Porn' is also a good one, as well as '(Back of) Your Car' and 'Moment'.

'As I said earlier, we consider our fanclub to be the '5th member' of the band, in the sense that the fans are every bit as important to this whole process as any of the performing members. We don't just leave it at that though.'

'We really look after our fans - they are very, very special to us! When someone has gone to the trouble to go into the website ( and fill out the form to join the fanclub, and/or send a mail to tell us that they dig our music and wanna join. how can that be taken for granted? That is fukken special man!'

'Unless we're out of town, we'll get back to that person within 24 hours and welcome them into the B.A.N.D. with a mail and the latest copy of our monthly e-zine. We follow that up with a signed pic, a laminated membership card and Jo Day sticker.'

'We encourage our fans to stay in touch with us, and just about all of 'em do! 5th members we maybe don't even hear from all that often will at least let us know when their details change, coz they wannna stay in touch with us. And we answer every single fanmail we get - no matter what.'

'These people are the B.A.N.D.! The 'zine itself is a lot of fun! Much of it's contents comes from 5th members, and each performing member has their own column too.'

'We also showcase other up-and-coming original SA rock bands, and the 'zine's gotten so popular now, we actually have a waiting list of bands to be featured!'

'We run a lot of competitions in the 'zine as well, where we give away cd's, T-shirts and other stuff. It's very important to us that the fans know how much we care about 'em, and we really want to give back to them as much as possible. They give us their loyalty man - you can't put a price on that.'


Some artists find it hard to really enjoy any current success because they're obsessed with what's around the next corner. On the new album, Jo takes the trouble to lay some philosophical advice on us in musical guise.

'I wrote a track on 'No Warning' called 'Moment' after reading a book by Eckhardt Tolle called 'The Power of NOW'. In a nutshell: the past is gone, the future does not exist. If you are not living in the NOW, then you are not alive.My own 'now' is very, very good.'

Certainly a star on the rise. but there's a big world out there beyond the South African borders. The era of this country's musicians being summarily ignored and sidelined seems to be over, as Jo draws our attention to international fans and ambitions.

'We have many international fans: Germany, The Netherlands, Australia, USA, Canada. And a 'UK branch' of the Jo Day Fanclub has sprung up, who stay in touch with each other, as well as with the B.A.N.D. and are lobbying to get us over there on tour!'

'The chairperson is Prathna: [email protected] People can go to our website:, or mail us direct at [email protected]'

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