Toxic Shame - 2002 Interview with Jon Buckley and Deon Du Toit

Lee South AfricaLee South Africa South Africa
edited December 2020 in Interviews all

Shame On You Both
In The Spotlight - Toxic Shame with Deon Du Toit and Jon Buckley.
Written by: Lee Bradfield (Apr 16, 2002)

Toxic Shame. A band whose music can best be described as hard-edged AOR for the new millennium, displaying all the melodic hallmarks of the genre, yet unafraid to incorporate high tech/modern power-pop traits into the mix.

Last year we reviewed Toxic Shame's latest album 'Full Circle', released on South Africa's Polygram label. It's not the first time they've unleashed their compelling brand of melodic rock. The result is an astonishing sonic hybrid, warranting an in-depth interview full of revelations, explanations and anecdotes to help us all understand where this memorable music is coming from.

Heart Of The Rock's Lee Bradfield was lucky enough to track them down to Sonovision Studios in Johannesburg for a face to face interview captured on video camera. For your reading pleasure, here is a transcript of that session.

Jon Buckley - lead guitars, bass, keys, backing vocals * Deon Du Toit - lead and backing vocals, guitars, bass * Lee Bradfield - Glory Daze * Gary Crause - Legend Music SA executive, cameraman.

Welcome to Heart Of The Rock guys. how did you first meet, and how long did it take before you realised you needed to be recording and working on music together, as a band?
Jon: We were talking about this earlier - I met Deon in 1991, at the time I was playing in a band with my then girlfriend / boss (now ex wife) Jo Day, who I still record with, and she still is Jo Day oddly enough! Anyway, we needed some sequencing done and Deon came in to do that, so that's how we first met. Not long after, the band folded, Deon and I kind of met again at a one-man band gig that he was doing at Miller's in Rivonia (Johannesburg), and I was on the scrounge for sequencers etc.

So I got some programs from Deon, started hanging out at his house, you know collecting tracks and stuff and we sort of became peripheral mates, nothing heavy. In 1994 I quit live work and started working at the studio, and I was always very impressed with Deon's voice and his playing on stage, so in 1995 I put this band together called 'The Colony'.

It was actually, truth be told, a brown-nosing exercise because the other guitar player was the chairman of one of my clients! Needless to say it didn't work very well. Incidentally the bass player was the guy who put Saron Gas together (now called Seether, playing Ozzfest this year), a guy called Tyrone Morris.

Gary: We've now lost the drummer I believe (surprise from Jon). The drummer's come back to South Africa!

Jon: Has he quit? Oh shit! Well, he has got a wife and 2 kids, welcome home Dave! Anyway, 'The Colony' just wasn't happening and I was nagging Deon saying, 'Come on, just come on in and write with me', and this is where Deon picks up the story,

Deon: I never got where Jon was coming from, so I was like 'I can't do this', because up until then in all the bands that I'd played in you'd write your own song and then you'd come to the band room and present your song, and then they'd all go 'Well um..', so I never really understood the concept of writing together.

So he's doing this thing with Gabby at the time, and I come in because he's offering me free mike stands!! (Laughter) Anyway, and here they are doing this stuff, and I'm saying 'Why don't we put in a riff here, hey that works great' and it's like 'I can do that', which got me all excited, so the next time we wrote this track, and then another one.

Jon: We wrote a track called 'Endgame', if you want to I will dig the DAT out later! It actually did feature in it's original form on the Reggae album (interviewers note: a tongue in cheek title, it's rock all the way!), but we'll get to that later. We walked in with nothing, Deon came in and plugged his guitar in and I said 'ok, give me a riff', so he came up with this thing (starts humming riff, soon joined by Deon!), ok and I was like 'wow, this is great', and we wrote this song together and it was amazing. We didn't have a chorus at the time, we did that the following week, (to Deon) but you played it to some mates.

Deon: Yeah, some guys that I was in a band with at the time and they went 'fuck, this is great.', so we had to do this again, and the rest as they say is history! Jon: It took a while to find our feet as a writing pair if you like, because what started happening on the first three albums was that I would write a song in it's entirety and get Deon to come in and sing it, and that's not cool!

Deon: In my defence it must be said that I was not sure where he was coming from. Because I was playing in a cover band and we were doing all this. and Jon was (I said to him just before you guys came in) investing in me long before I was investing in him, if that makes any coherent sense!

Jon: You see at the time I knew that what Deon and I had was really something special, I mean Deon's the only vocalist I've ever worked with who can actually do what I hear in my head - I can sing too but nowhere near like this! Deon just brought something to the party, though I think it was a long time before he realised what he was bringing to the party!

Deon: I'm sure you would vouch for this, but because we are where we are and this is what it is, you end up playing in bands where every time you want to go 'out there' (have a go at making it big), you get nailed for it. In other words 'who the fuck do you think you are, do you think you're Jon Anderson from Yes?'

Jon: The other thing of course is that because I actually own this studio, we have a luxury that very few songwriters have, and that is that we can record. So what we do is, and it's one of our best-kept secrets, we write and record at exactly the same time. Hence re-recording the Full Circle album, which as far as some people were concerned was actually a mistake, we shouldn't have gone that way!

Influences - be it classic or current bands, which of them have left their mark on you as you were growing up, and even newer bands of today that have made an impression on you, especially regarding the Toxic Shame sound and approach?
Deon: First and foremost, this is going to take a long time. Jon has a great influence on me (chuckles). ok, first and foremost Beatles. That's when I really found out I wanna do this, when I heard the riff to (hums Day Tripper riff), then after that the riff to 'I Feel Fine' (hums that too), I thought, 'I wanna do that.' And then somebody played me (hums riff to Rolling Stones / Satisfaction), then I knew for sure this is what I wanted to do.

So for me Beatles, Stones, The Who, Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep. he (Jon) introduced me, believe it or not, to Black Sabbath. Jon actually brought the heavier thing to me - I loved heavy music, but not the. Sabbath is kind of where the new bands got their stuff from, from where I stand.

I think I learned. I have to say this - Jon was as much an influence on me I think as everybody else that I could quote. I mean I brought Aerosmith and Kiss to the party, he brought whatever he brought and we had some common ground, but when you start to work together you get pas the first three or four albums which is Jon and Deon, then it becomes Toxic Shame.

Then when the party merges, and he's got my point and I've got his point, we don't have to discuss this anymore, it just happens. For me it's a perfect cross. I bring what I had and he brings what he had - and it crosses in the middle. Then they separate again so now he listens to this and I listen to that, but now I don't have to fight for him to believe me anymore and he doesn't have to do that either.

If Jon says, 'listen to this', I know it works because we've done all that work already, and this is really where Toxic Shame comes from.

Jon: From my side I come from the heavier bands. When I was 9 years old somebody played me the AC/DC Dirty Deeds album. From that point on - and I know a lot of people actually, who's first introduction to metal or hard rock, whatever you want to call it, was AC/DC and for me it was Dirty Deeds - Problem Child and Big Balls (sings chorus to Dirty Deeds).

I was a kid in England, so I used to buy singles all the time. I remember the singles I bought were all New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, and Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio, specifically the Neon Knights song, and I always loved that 'Heaven And Hell' album, one of the greatest rock albums of all time. I only got into the Ozzy stuff later, then Saxon, and Priest. I mean I can tell you the albums - Wheels Of Steel - Saxon, British Steel - Judas Priest, I was into a lot of that, Diamond Head and that NWOBHM stuff. Motorhead as well.

But anyway, what I was bringing to the party was the heavier end, Deon comes from the melodic end. Interestingly enough Deon says I got him into Sabbath, he got me into Aerosmith. I HATED Aerosmith, until he showed me The Making Of Pump, and I just went Whoa! and I went out the next day and bought the box set!(Laughter, then Deon takes up the reins).

Deon: Sabbath, I have to say this, I DESPISED them, I didn't wanna know! Then Jon played me Sabotage, and when you have somebody take you through it, it shows you what you've missed!

Jon: Then I'll come up with a riff and Deon will sing something over it, or Deon will come up with a riff and I'll sing something over it, and it's like that is a product of our influences. I did diligently go and buy the Led Zeppelin box set, although I have to say I haven't listened to anything other than Led Zeppelin II and In Through The Out Door. Those are the 2 albums I like out of that box set. I can't really get into Zeppelin, too weird!

Now Deon's a bit more of a Zeppelin nut - he's into Purple and Zeppelin, I'm into sort of Sabbath and Priest. No disrespect, I think I've been a bit more open minded to the newer stuff - the Megadeths, the Metallicas, the late 80's what was then called Heavy Metal, which now you hear on the classic rock channel!

But what was then called Heavy Metal, especially like Metallica's Master of Puppets / Ride The Lightning, and I got into those when they came out, I was very disappointed with Enter Sandman to be honest. So I'm bringing the big guitar riffs etc, and nowadays bands like Nickelback and even Drowning Pool to a certain extent, I'm getting into this 'new breed of hard rock' stuff, now that hard rock seems to be back in fashion which is great - kids are banging their heads again!!

Deon: Might I interject? Having said that, the new or newest band before what he just mentioned, for us was Kula Shaker (Jon agrees). But once again that comes from the British pop / rock thing which is an extension of Beatles / Stones, which is where I come from. Jon comes from the other side, and yet again it works.

Jon: Kula Shaker was probably the only new band that we've ever 100% agreed upon and gone Whoa! Listen to this! Also, when I talk about influences, in Toxic Shame I wear a whole lot of different hats being producer / engineer / songwriter /guitar player, and it depends. I mean, what influences me as a guitar player is different to what influences me as a producer, and what influences me as a songwriter, so it all depends on where you're coming from.

The Toxic Shame sound kind of happened by itself, we started out recording on an 8 track DAT machine, and we did that for the entire first album. Then I got this thing called a Q Base, which at the time was 32 tracks of digital audio. So the thing which gave us the Toxic Shame sound was getting the computer and we could actually just do whatever the fuck we wanted, there was just no limit. Time is the biggest production we did, it's on the Full Circle album. There are, in addition to the midi tracks, 48 tracks of audio on that song.

Deon: Now in '71 you could not do that, but you put two kids in a candy store with that (technology), and there you go.

Jon: Hence us getting that big sound, the other thing that was important was getting this Marshall, this is a Marshall amp simulator. And you can hear the difference between the first three albums and then the rest from there, suddenly the guitars get bigger - so a lot of the time the equipment plays a part too, whatever you've got to play with. You have to remember that Toxic Shame was never meant to be a band, it was a writing project originally.

Toxic Shame - who came up with that name, and is there any kind of symbolism / elaborate hidden meaning?
Jon: Can we talk about drugs? Ok during the recording of the Reggae Album, Deon and I were partaking of some very interesting exotic narcotics, and most of that album was actually done on coke! And it became quite interesting because back then Deon was notoriously unreliable, but when I started buying Deon cocaine every week, suddenly he was here on time every fuckin' week!

Be that as it may, I very rapidly descended into the hardcore hectic horrible world of coke addiction, and it didn't take me long to get there. But I got there, and it was pretty hardcore, and it was not a very nice place to be, and I'm grateful to say thank you God that I'm out of it. I can't say the name of the organisation on camera, but I joined a 12 step program, and in a meeting one night we heard this guy talking about 'Toxic Shame' which is a phenomenon,. A feeling of complete and utter inadequacy, the feeling of never really measuring up, the feeling of never being 'ok', you know?

Most people go through life feeling ok, and Deon and I had a discussion about it at the time, and we discovered that neither of us in our lives had found that we were ever ok. Hence doing drugs etc to feel ok. And the whole thing was that 'Toxic Shame' apart from sounding very cool, which it did, 'cos that's the first thing with a band - it's like Judas Priest, whatever it means it sounds great. Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Toxic Shame. It's got a ring to it and it sounded good and it looked good in writing. So I plagiarised this from a guy that was actually sharing about his terrible childhood in one of these 12 step meetings!

And it was halfway through the Reggae Album that we came up with the name, because toward the end of that album I'd gone into the 12 step program, I was starting to clean up my act a bit, and I heard this amazing expression the other day 'Toxic Shame'. It was a few years later that I finally figured out what it meant. Because that is what we had, and I think a lot of us in South Africa have this, 'small time syndrome'.

We believe that because it's South African, it ain't fuckin' good enough! I will never forget, in my wicked youth, when I was at school I used to work at a supermarket in the small appliance section, and people would not buy South African products, because they just immediately assumed they were crap - so it's not reserved only for the music industry.

In England it's like, you support your own economy, you buy something that is made in England. you buy Leyland cars, you buy Landrover because you believe that British is best. The Americans have the same thing, if it's got an American flag on it, fuck me it rocks! In this country we have the complete opposite thing, if it has a South African flag on it, it sucks. And I hate that!

I don't know if this is purely a musical thing, but as a white South African, by naturalisation in my case, I felt that I was never fuckin' good enough. And there's still part of me now that believes that because it's recorded here in Rivonia / Johannesburg, it's nowhere near as good as the exact same thing recorded in Los Angeles!

Deon: I have to add to this. Just imagine if you have Steven Tyler from Aerosmith, maybe Freddie Mercury, even Mick Jagger - born in the (South African) town of Zeerust, or Bredasdorp in my case, with a name like Gert Pieterse. Same talent, same guy, same looks; just never had the breaks, and a different name. I would like to see what would have happened, if you know what I'm driving at. They have affirmation all the time. Here you just get told you're not good enough, you should be playing rugby or go find work etc.

Jon: The South African schools system for instance is designed to make you feel inadequate, I don't know if it still is, but certainly then it was! It was designed to say oh, you play rock and roll, you're a fuckin' loser - pick up a rugby ball, 'when are you gonna do something with your life?'

But maybe, on the flipside of that, maybe that's what fuelled us to do what we're doing in the first place, because if we were constantly being told that we were great and wonderful and that it was worthwhile, we might've been called something like 'The Greatest'. Toxic Shame is the polar opposite of anything good, it's the worst emotion that you can have.

Deon: People still say 'you can't make a living doing that, stop that! Don't grow your hair'.

Once you'd started writing and recording together, and you can confirm this for me, about six or seven albums followed that you recorded and had printed and distributed among your close friends and possibly family as well.

Then at a point you elicited the interest of Polygram South Africa, and a deal came about to release the Full Circle album in South Africa. Now with the benefit of hindsight, how did you find the work they put into the promotion, trying to sell the album, and also the response you got from the print media, airplay on the radio stations, any kind of other support as well - or lack of it?
Jon: You have to understand, when we did the first six albums (the demo of Full Circle was the sixth album), it was still very much a personal project. We never wanted to go the record deal route or release it or anything like that, because that wasn't the vibe. We didn't want to be 'rock stars', we just wanted to write music!

Our classic example is that this is our 'poker evening' - some guys have a poker evening, some guys build model aeroplanes. Eventually we did the Full Circle demo album and I just had this feeling that something was gonna happen with it, and I happened to mention it to Deon, and that was really the turning point.

Deon: Although the real process started one album before that, when we found our sound. I have to say this - for me, the turning point was Full Circle, but we started to write together good and proper, one album before that. I think I started to bring real personal stuff to the party on the album before, I only started to bring me to Toxic Shame when I started to write about stuff that was really going on in my life.

Jon: Deon had somehow hooked up with Leon Economides at a gig, and in the meantime I'd hooked up with Rafe Levine (also a legendary South African rock dj), who gave us our first airplay - a great supporter of rock music. He was playing our stuff on SAFM, he used to have a great show called 'Totally Live And Definitely Not Unplugged', I really miss that show!

I'd blown a speaker one day, and he was working for a place called Rock Music cc, which was the supplier of that speaker brand. And he came in to bring me a replacement tweeter, and he was like 'jeez, who's this?' So I tell him it's us. He says you've gotta give me a copy of this so I can play it on the radio, and we just started feeding Rafe material, and so the Unauthorised album was pretty much written for airplay.

Anyway, Rafe was a mate of Leon's, and Leon was doing his Dinosaur Days compilation with Chris from Universal / Polygram, so we had a breakfast one day with Leon, and he asked would we mind if he gave the Full Circle demos to this guy from Polygram. We said yes go for it, then I get a call from Leon to say I've gotta phone this guy Chris, and he said yeah let's do something about it etc.


But in all fairness Universal never committed to putting a big marketing campaign behind it. I thought they would've done more, we got very little support from the radio - I don't believe that was necessarily the station's fault, the label kept resubmitting a song that was rejected for airplay, instead of immediately going back with a different track, that's when the album fell apart.

They did playlist Sittin', it didn't really do anything which I'm not really surprised about - it's not really a radio song, it's an album track, it's a live track, it's an anthem. The Night Lives In Your Eyes is the track we were pinning all our hopes on for radio airplay, and when that didn't happen I think Universal lost heart. There was also no point of sale, so those people that had heard Toxic Shame on Rafe's show a year or two before, would go into every record shop in Johannesburg looking for Toxic Shame. most of the reviews we got from the press sucked!

I certainly took a lot of that stuff personally because I'm the producer, so if the production on something sucks, it's my fault. The general criticism we got was that the stuff was 'dated', and if the stuff sounds old it's my fault. (Deon disagrees and interjects immediately).

Deon: One perspective, I have to interject because I differ on two points. Firstly I have to call a spade a shovel here, I don't think that the right amount of 'payola' was given to the right people. we all know, if you've been in this business for long enough, that you have to hand a certain amount of coke and a certain amount of cash and a certain amount of ****sucking (to the camera) have you got this?

Beacuse I mean it, if you don't do that, and Universal don't do that - they have a policy about it, which is why we never got anywhere, if you don't give them those things, you don't get your stuff played no matter how good it is. So we got dicked long before we started. that's the first point. Secondly, I think Sittin' was a perfect radio track, so I differ there as well.

Going a bit more indepth into your songwriting process - we know now that you collaborate most of the time, but how do you go about sharing the composing of lyrics, composing of melodies, and splicing those together?
Jon: First of all lyrics, generally I think there's only been a few songs where Deon has actually walked in here with a lyric written. It has happened, but few and far between. Generally what happens is that I get in the mood for writing lyrics but I haven't got a hell of a lot to say, so I will sit down and write (recites about four lines of lyrics). I'd come up with that, and just leave it at that. So the lyric writing thing and the music writing thing are 2 different headspaces.

So I'd write lyrics and I'd have about 20 or 30 stray ideas in my red file. Then at a point in the studio I'll come up with a riff and add it to the other stray riffs on my cdrom. Then there comes a point where I'm prepping for the next Toxic Shame album, start listening to the riffs and go through the lyric file, decide what works and put down a guide vocal, just the melodic idea that I had - usually a verse and a bridge. Deon comes in and either loves or hates it, and together we would write a chorus (chants a melody).

So then Deon will sit down and finish writing the lyric, and I'll sit on the computer and finish putting the back-track together. Essentially that's how a Toxic Shame song is done - I'm a great starter of things and Deon's a great finisher of things. I don't finish songs well, I start with something and get bored very quickly. So when Deon comes in what he's bringing to the party. (to Deon) what was that song? I wrote something and you interpreted it in a completely different way.

'On Parole' yes, great case in point. Now I'd written this about (recites lyrics). I was on holiday with a friend and we were talking about how it was actually ok to strip off the guards and say fuck it, I'm gonna be a tourist. It started off in the negative and I was going to resolve it in the positive and say but it's ok to do this because of whatever.

Deon: But now remember I come in cold, and I read the lyric and I hear the first 20 seconds of it, and I say this sounds like the breakup of my marriage at the time (recites lyrics). So I finish the lyric and it had little to do with tourism if anything at all! And that became the song, so this is how we do this thing. (To Jon) And that's the one thing I do envy you for - man, because he sits in this place where this is his job.

For me, my job is to go out there and go 'are you all feeling good?' (one man live gig) and they couldn't give a shit where I'm coming from, as long as I'm making a party. And I see all sorts of shit every single night, which gives me, I suppose, material to finish a lyric off with. So I come in here cold and have a different perspective, where I've seen 'that' last night, and he wrote 'this' last night - so it goes back to the X I explained earlier, but it makes a 'full circle' around the X, if you know what I'm driving at.

So ultimately Jon comes up with a riff and normally the beginning. I remember saying to him it's so difficult for me to start (lyric process), but if you ask the questions I can give you a million words about what it is that you wanna hear. But if you put me on camera and tell us to talk about ourselves, I'll just sit here (silence, then Jon interjects)

Jon: It's like finding a way into the door, it's like I open the door and Deon pushes it all the way open. It's very hard for me to finish writing songs, because I work in the jingle industry, so I'm used to working in 30 second tracks - so usually in six lines of a lyric, I've said what I wanted to say, then Deon brings his story or emotions or circumstances to the party, and then we've got a song. The cool thing is that I can relate to what he's saying too.

Deon: That's kind of how we do it. he starts it, and then I won't say I finish it - but I'll take it to it's logical conclusion I think, and we finish it off musically together.

Jon: Then the obvious arranging stuff like it needs another chorus here, or it needs a breakdown piece there etc, that we come up with together. Our philosophy has always been to ask the song what it needs - How Does It Feel for instance, that chorus is just so nice and that vocal arrangement is so nice you wanna hear it by itself.

So after the guitar solo it made sense to drop all the backing and put the drums in and put some claps in and just punch it out as it is. It made sense to do that - we don't follow a formula as such, although we do know what each other is like.

Deon: The other thing that we do, and it's a real comfortable place for me to be because I'm also a guitar player but I'm happy in my 'natural habitat' (simulates club gig vibe), there I can play. The minute I'm here and it's clinical and being listened to, I get scared.

Jon: Which is something that still to this day amazes me about Deon Du Toit, because in my opinion he's one of the fuckin' greatest guitar players this country has ever produced!

Deon: I could say the same thing here, but the cool thing for me to do is sit right there where you are and we're writing this song, but I don't have to strap on a guitar and show to him what I mean. I just go hey Jon (hums guitar line) and we go from there.

Jon: It's the same thing when Deon's in there (vocal booth) doing vocals, I just say 'octave up - go higher'.

Deon: Or like 'ok, Rob Halford. or no don't go Rob Halford - how Robert Plant would do it', but it's not like we're copying anybody, the point is he doesn't have to come and show me, I don't have to show him. which I suppose is how we fell into the natural roles in that he ends up being the main guitar player and I end up being the main singer. It's not something we planned.

Jon: Because Deon plays guitar equally well as far as I'm concerned and I can sing too but I hated singing - for me, a band has one lead vocalist.

Jon Buckley - I see a big selection of guitars on the studio wall! Could you take us through your favourite guitars to play while recording?
Jon: Ok first on the left is a really cheap piece of shit, a Court. I bought that because it looked pretty and because it has a tremelo arm and sort of gold pickups. I have a personal vendetta against Fender Strats, so I generally only use it where a whammy bar is called for, 'Book Of Love' for example, where I used that for the main riff. Also our version of Dissident Aggressor, which is a big whammy bar solo in the middle, I obviously used that one.

Next to that is a thing where I thought it was just a piece of crap that I picked up from a second hand store. It turns out to be a 1982 Ibanez Rocket, unfortunately modified, I had an extra pickup put in and changed the pickup because they had a toggle switch put in. That one has a very thin sound, so especially if I'm doing an Indian style pattern like on 'Love' (hums guitar part very similar to Kula Shaker's track 'Govinda'). That gives a very thin sound and I use ultra light gauge strings on there for that. For the heavy stuff it doesn't cut it at all!

Next to that is my main guitar. It's a 1992 Gibson Les Paul Custom. It turns out from a book I borrowed from Gary (G) that this one is quite something, because there were actually only about 200 Sunbursts made that year! I've always liked the Gibson Les Paul because it's a very classic kind of rock sound. I mean everybody that I've ever admired uses one - a lot of the early Judas Priest stuff for example was done on a Les Paul, especially the Killing Machine album. That Glenn Tipton solid bodied Gibson kind of sound. When I'm writing I'll grab that one because I'm most comfortable with it, that was the one I used to use live.

Next to that normally lives this one (picks up a guitar next to him) which came from our good friend and record company dude Gary. This is a 1998 Epiphone 'flying v'. I picked it up on special for ZAR1600.00! (plugs in and starts playing some riffage on it). I very seldom use it, but I use it for the heavy stuff that needs some balls (more riffage and verbal tomfoolery !).

That next one is a Gibson Nighthawk, it's also quite a recent one. I bought it out of sheer indulgence because it was on special for about ZAR3500.00! To the right of that is a bass - it's a Court bass. A shitty bass but I needed one because I got a bit tired of programming bass parts. Deon will demonstrate this one to you (picks up a twin neck with 12 string option and hands it to Deon).

Deon: This is a twin neck - long and scary. and because I'm dare I say a trifle older, I'm the dinosaur in this band! Rush did this, Led Zeppelin did this. It had very little to do with (sends up the grunge generation) 'I am so playing for Nirvana and I have no balls or talent, and yet I go and kill myself at the height of my career because I think my like is worth nothing'.

This to me is the embodiment of when rock became more than just a fad, when it became art, it actually became something that you could take note of and. I love real guitars. This is a real guitar, it's not a popular one but it's a real guitar. It made all the sounds that most people buy to this day. This is what Stairway To Heaven was played on, this is what the first five Rush albums were played on, you get the idea. Because I don't drink enough (!) I forgot my Les Paul which is pretty much like his, a '79 De Luxe.

The live material that I perform lends itself to double coil pickups, in other words the Gibson thing - I don't really do 'clean' stuff because that's not where I come from. All the Aerosmith records, the Kiss records, even the Who stuff, if you look at what Pete Townsend's playing, it's a butchered but serious double coil piece. (at this point Deon plugs in and they launch into a furious impromptu jam session!)

At this point you guys are close to completing the new album, and it's been well over a year since the release of Full Circle - what can fans and listeners expect in terms of progression from that last album?
Deon: Well the last album we did, we were expected to do something that nobody's heard since '75. We were not entirely comfortable with it but we did it anyway, because that was the route we were gonna go. So we did it and in retrospect I'm not sorry about it, I'm glad we put it out there. I'm sorry that we never got the exposure that it deserved because I do think it's a fine album.

Now we are kinda back in step with reality if you like. Now I don't believe we were out of step with reality for starters, but we were told to do a retro album, which we did. I think we did it well, I think we could do another 8 like that, but I also think the next 8 albums could be wherever everybody else is going. because we are not in a cocoon, we are perfectly in step with what's going on.

Our songwriting and our playing constantly evolves because of what's going on around us - it was the same for the Beatles, if they did Sgt Pepper in a vacuum you never would've heard Sgt Pepper! They were doing what was representative of the time, and things change so they changed with the times all the time. So are we, we were just dare I say put in a bubble - let's do 1975 in 1999.

Jon: On the Full Circle album, I think it's a pity a lot of people aren't going to hear the original demos, because in some cases they were better. We re-recorded virtually the whole album and we did it under extreme pressure, we did it with record company representatives sitting here (in the studio!), we did it on weekends and after hours at night.

It was a very painful process, we weren't having any fun. Whereas with this album we're actually having a lot of fun giving these tracks a modern kick up the arse and we're very happy with what's coming out so far. We're currently five tracks into it, and as of next week we might even be finished.

Deon: And I also think if you could have any band that is happening today go back and rework material from five years ago, they'd also fix it up and go 'can you believe we were doing that stuff at the time?' It could be a great thing, I think if Aerosmith could go back now to '75 and rework Toys In The Attic, you'd hear a very different Toys In The Attic right now than in 1975.

Jon: This time though we're not locked into re-recording stuff - our vibe is 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. So we're literally starting from scratch with a drum track and a bass track, add a guitar then another, add a lead vocal and there you have it. If the song works like that, great, then we keep it like that.

Deon: And we're in the privileged position to have a load of really good songs that nobody's ever heard! We're not out of material, we have nine albums worth that we can go back to - I mean they're great tunes, whether you treat them this way or that way (modern or retro), they stand.

It's like 'Stand By Me', you can do that in the 1950's, 60's, right through to now, as it was done five decades ago, a classic song surviving the test of time, it just depends on how you treat it. But a good song stands.

Jon: We are one of the few bands I think that has a genuine over 100 songs in the catalogue - it's there, we have 107 or so! Recorded, mixed, finished and on a DAT, sometimes up to four versions of each!

Deon: To get back to the very first question about why we first got together was to write songs. That is ultimately still what we do - we don't write for any market, we write a good song, and whether it's Waterloo or Please Please Me or How You Remind Me, a good song stands!

Take for example 'The Locomotion' - it's a good song. You may not like it but Grand Funk can do it, Little Eva can do it, Kylie Minogue can do it, it sells in every decade. If they record any of our songs five decades from now and it still stands, I'd be a very very happy man.

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