In anticipation of Malkop Festival in the West Coast, we talk to Gertjie Besselsen about the theatrical side of Mr Cat and the Jackal, their side projects and what bands he grew up listening to.
Years ago, I first watched you guys at The Waiting Room in a collaborative effect with Donny Truter and Inge Beckman, part of the beginning of Taleswapper. Tell us about this partnership of sounds and how it has emerged since then?
Taleswapper is still going strong. Jacques and I are the backing band for poet and songwriter Donny Truter. A jam project like that really helps developing your skills on a instruments. As far as MCATJ goes, we have always looked for different sounds and interesting textures of sound.
There is a theatrical undertone to your work. How important is storytelling and performance in your work?
It’s very important. We come from theatre. The band formed shortly after Jacques and I worked on a theatre project. I still see what we do as a form of alternative cabaret.
Who are you guys when you’re not playing? How does music play a part of your identity?
We all have different things going on…I suppose off stage we’re normal guys…I love cooking/braaing, running and gardening…difficult to say how music influences one’s identity…how does dentistry affect you as a person?
Sometimes Balkan, sometimes blues and even a progressive folk sound comes through in your music. What sounds did you grow up listening to and how did they play a role in what you play currently?
I grew up with rock music, started with punk like Green Day and Offspring and then went over to some heavy metal like Korn and Slipknot, and then settled out with Muse and Radiohead, and a bit later discovered Tom Waits and Nick Cave. Throughout this discovery of music, I was studying classical guitar, so I was looking at a lot of different things. The interest in different instruments and different sounds followed…almost organic.
Experimental in performance and in instrument usage. Tell us what a general rehearsal looks like: do you keep incorporating new methods of sound making and dabbling in new storytelling techniques?
Not exactly no, at rehearsals we work on songs. The experimentation happens before that in the writing and especially the pre-production period. We make a recording of a newly written song and figure out what other instruments and sounds the song needs, then we go into rehearsal.
What are you enjoying about local music right now? Anything standing out that you want to be involved or collaborate on?
The SA music industry is in a very strange place at the moment. There’s not a lot of support from a scene, but the industry exists through all the festivals and events happening. I think if you can’t create work for yourself at the moment you won’t make it, but it’s bound to change with a bit of time.
Any side projects we can watch out for?
Well yea, Taleswapper and The Champions Of The Sonarverse.
Are you guys quite selective in which gigs or festivals you’ll play at? What draws you in about Malkop Festival?
Not really, we’re rather adaptable. Everybody was raving about how cool Malkop was last year. I love the West coast and Lambertsbay. Can’t wait to get back there, I might stay in the hotel the week after the fest.