Interview: Francois van Coke tells us about performing under lockdown
Just over a year ago, South Africans felt like prison inmates, locked up inside their own homes during the very restrictive level 5 implementation of the lockdown, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Parts of the country resembled scenes from The Handmaid’s Tale. Under his eye, tjom!
Businesses took severe knocks and we’re all well aware of how the restaurant and food industry struggled and are in fact still struggling. Artists who were suddenly left with zero income tried their hands at streaming live shows on social media from their homes but it was uncharted territory for most.
Francois van Coke is one of these artists who went the DIY route and streamed his first ever live show from his house in Bellville, which turned out to be a great success – viewers were impressed by the raw honesty of the performance and really liked Francois’ live interaction with them.
In the meantime, Francois also came up with the concept of a countrywide tour, made up of music and backstories spanning his entire music career.
“During the past seventeen years, there have been countless tour buses and planes, long hours on the road to somewhere, late night parties on top of more late night parties, very early mornings, endless sleepless nights, very many known and unknown faces, old and new friendships, a lot of love, and tonnes of music that was written in many different places. The memories of the people who were there for the stories behind the tunes may differ from mine. But who will ever know whose version is correct? The details get blurry very quickly… but this is what I remember,” he said.
However, the ban on social gatherings, even during level 3 of the lockdown, made things very difficult, so Francois decided to do another live stream and aptly named it Stories Agter Die Tunes. This show was live streamed from Van Coke Studios in Cape town in July 2020 but now it is available to stream on Showmax. Francois will entertain you with the backstories of timeless classics such as Toe Vind Ek Jou, Komma, Dagdrome In Suburbia, Tot Die Son Uitkom and many more of the songs that made him famous in his 17 years as vocalist for Fokofpolisiekar, Van Coke Kartel and, more recently, as a solo artist.
We asked Frannie to indulge us with some deets surrounding this very lekker show.
You have obviously learned a lot from your very first performance, which you streamed from your home during the pandemic back in April 2020. What has this live stream taught you in preparation for the next one?
That first live stream show from my house was very scary. It was me in my spare room playing to a bed and a cot and a camera. Got a little bit of feedback from friends and fans on a computer next to me through WhatsApp messages. It was awesome, but very stressful. I think what it taught me was that I really appreciate working with more people. Because the next one, Stories Agter Die Tunes, was a lot easier with my loyal and great guitarists Jedd and Richard, it’s great to work with them and great to have more people working on the production, I love to collaborate and I think I’ve realised that again.
This Covid-19 thing f**ked up a lot of things for the entertainment industry but it also forced some sort of digital revolution or at least sped up the inevitable. You must be in two minds about this? Do you hesitantly embrace it?
It counts in your favour that you’re constantly reinventing yourself if you think in terms of Fokof, Van Coke, your solo career and the TV shows. What advice would you give newcomers to the music scene right now?
I think in the time of Covid, 2020 and 2021 is probably the worst time to start a band. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to get your project off the ground if you can’t actually go on the road and play shows. I think reinvention definitely helps through the years. I mean, in my 18-year career playing music I have had to reinvent a couple of times but in a way I also stuck to my guns. I think it’s a balance of both sticking to your guns and reinventing and adapting with the time that you’re living in.
Another band that does this very well is the Red Hot Chili Peppers – I take a page out of their book. They’re always relevant to what’s going on but they’ve always summed up the golden thread of their sound through all the years. For newcomers on the scene, I think focus on your craft. Work on your craft as much as you can at the moment and when the world comes back to some sort of normal, be as good as you can be.
Francois’s fans and newbies to his music alike are definitely in for a treat with Stories Agter Die Tunes – the minimalist stage, subtle and clever use of lighting and especially the exceptional sound quality makes for world-class entertainment. Be sure not to miss Stories Agter Die Tunes with Francois van Coke and his band members, Jedd Kossew and Richard Onraet.
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