With elections upcoming, we interview Chris Van Der Walt of protest band PitVirus. We chat about the term supergroup, the voting system, the state of punk and progress on their upcoming debut album.
With your members being involved with such acts as Black Cat Bones, The Drift and Fuzigish, your band could be called a supergroup. What do you think of the term supergroup?
I don’t like the label Supergroup. It puts unnecessary pressure on the band and it could cause one to lose focus of what you are trying to do with your message and music. We have done our time in the SA music scene, and we have played some incredible shows with some incredible bands. We’re all just in it for the long run. I think the fact that we play in other successful bands set a certain standard, so we’ll just try to make it as good as we can with the tricks we’ve learned over the years.
You almost called your band Piss Virus. Explain to our readers how you came to the name PitVirus and what it means.
It would’ve originally been called Piss Virus, a tune from a band called Amen. Marc (Bass) spoke to Dave (Vox) and gave him the tunes. Dave fell in love with the tunes straight away. When they spoke over the phone Marc told Dave the band is called Piss Virus, but as classic SA telecommunications would have it, signal broke up and Dave heard Pit Virus. He started making designs and thinking of themes and when he got back to us with all this rad artwork it was too good to change. It’s also better for getting gigs, playlisted, publicity, etc. Its meaning has developed into: The world is a Pit, and we are the Virus.
What are the key differences between PitVirus and some of the other bands your members are involved in? Why did you feel the need to start PitVirus?
PitVirus has a strong political message. It also has a lot of fast punk/metal type grooves and generally hard riffs. I think it’s a bit heavier than Fuzigish and The Black Cat Bones, and yet not as heavy as Boargazm. It’s hard rock, and it sits nicely in between. In the other bands we don’t want to get too involved with politics and sensitive subjects, it’s more of a celebration and feel good vibe. In PitVirus we felt we needed to start addressing some of the social, political, and global issues. We have a little anarchy in all of us. Very few bands in SA seem to be doing it, and the stage is a great platform to deliver powerful messages.
Your music is social and political commentary on real issues facing South Africa currently. While it’s important make people aware, how do you hope to change awareness into action? What is the key message in your music?
We hope that by making people aware they start to question how things are run in South Africa. We all seem to “smile-and-wave” while our country diminishes every day. At the moment it feels like the governing party is trying to gain power by separating South Africans with various methods of hate and fear. Divide and conquer. If people can see what is going on, and stand together against it, we could vote them out of power and grow united as a country. When we’re fighting, they’re gaining. We’ll try to cause a bit of controversy. This might get us some attention, then we can hopefully enlighten people, and stand together against the greater enemy.
Punk bands have always been anti-establishment but it seems we don’t have a lot of punk bands in today’s divisive society. Why do you think this is the case and are there any artists who cover this issues which you listen to (especially locally)?
In South Africa the punk scene is pretty small. There’s been a couple of popular punk bands like Fuzigish, Half Price, Hog Hoggidy Hog, etc. Not a lot of underground punk. It’s growing. We’ve got some up-and-coming punks in Cape Town and Joburg. Bands that we listen to who cover some these issues locally are The Slashdogs, Jack Hammer, and Tidal Waves. Internationally it’s Rage Against The Machine, System of a Down, Amen, Ministry, etc.
Local elections are coming up soon. Have you guys registered to vote and do you believe that our democracy and voting system can effect change?
We’re registered and we’ll definitely be voting against the ANC. It seems crucial at this point that we do what we can to keep them from destroying SA. Voting seems like the way to change things. BUT “If voting changed anything it would be illegal.” I always have a feeling corporations, private investors, etc. could have the power to rig elections. Zuma owes a lot of money, his term is coming to an end, how is he going to pay? They’ll probably make him president again to settle his debt, but he’ll probably end up making more debt.
Your music is quite controversial and ‘Firepool’ specifically has some harsh words for the president of our country. Have you had any backlash from the topics you cover in your music?
Not yet, I’m sure we’re going to encounter some issues in the future. At the moment all we are getting is an enormous amount of support. People love the fact that we’re giving the president grief. He has wasted so much money and caused so much trouble that nobody likes him anymore. Maybe we won’t get backlash. People are sick and tired of all the bullshit. It seems everyone wants us to do more.
You released your State of The Nation EP in April and are currently working on a full album. How is work on the album going and what can we expect of it?
We’ve already done quite a lot of pre-production. I’ve been sitting with Dave, and laying down some vocals. We’re definitely raising the stakes on this one with the lyrical content. Taking on many issues locally and internationally. We’ll start tracking soon. It’s a similar sound. Groovy riffs, fast paced music, great melodic vocals, chaotic solo work, pounding bass lines, etc. There will be some experimental stuff too, I guess you’ll have to wait and see.