MORE than two decades of relentlessly rocking the music world in South Africa and abroad are coming together with Wonderboom’s Best Side Story Tour – a celebration of 22 years, nine albums, multiple awards and a wealth of experiences.
The band kicked off the tour in Krugersdorp last weekend and are making their way down the coast to Cape Town, before returning for a criss-crossing of dates in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, KZN and the Free State. We caught up over coffee this week to find out more about what fans can expect at the gigs – which are always crackling with electric energy anyway, with a repertoire of songs rooted in fundamental rock as well as extending into genres ranging from funk through to punk and even afro-dance.
“The reception so far has been great. I think people are amazed at the effort we have put into the show, and the different format we’re presenting within one show,” says Cito (vocals, guitar, and a few other things).
Having known and loved Wonderboom almost since their very beginning, and seen firsthand how hard they work on their music and their live performances, I needed to know exactly what this effort is of which they speak. “First of all, we’ve got a revisited catalogue from the first album Is It up to Rising Sun, the most recent release,” says guitarist extraordinaire Martin Schofield, of the career-spanning set list. “We’re playing at least a couple of songs from every album, and they’re presented in a more intimate, unplugged and stripped way. Cito’s also doing his multi-instrumentalist bit – keys, harmonica, guitar – so we’re spreading out our little instrumental wings as well.”
Adds Cito: “Martin’s playing his slide guitar too, which is quite cool.”
Schofield says audiences are enjoying the unplugged format. “I think they feel somehow closer to us.”
Hearing the songs that haven’t been played live for a while is of course a huge bonus for long-time supporters of the band. “Because of my self-consciousness of my Afrikaans we haven’t been doing the Afrikaans numbers we used to,” says Cito. “We’ve got Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie back in the show, for example.”
The guys have heeded their fans too, by choosing songs which have been requested over the years but seldom performed in recent years; Night Falls Like A Grand Piano is one in particular we can look forward to. As much as audiences are going to get to see something fresh and exciting, it feels the same for them, says Schofield. “It’s quite challenging for us but it’s lekker.”
But wait – as they say – there’s more: It’s not only the songs, but there is storytelling as well…
“People are really digging that aspect,” says Cito. “We’re talking about certain songs and how they were written, and the motivation and journey behind them, and funny scenarios. We want people to get to know us a bit better and we think a lot of fans want this as well.”
Delivering Wonderboom’s message to everyone out there, Schofield quotes from a song by rapper Eve, titled Let Me Blow Ya Mind: “Drop your glasses, shake your asses, face screwed up like you’re having hot flashes!”
Sept 21: Barnyard Plett
Sept 22: Vinyl On Main, Knysna
Sept 23: Café Roux Noordhoek, Cape Town
Sept 28: Barnyard Rivonia, JHB
Oct 13: Barnyard Casterbridge, Whiteriver
Oct 25: Musiekskuur (Rockwood Theatre), PTA
Oct 27: Verkykerskop, FS
Nov 3: Die Ou Pastorie, Brits
Nov 10: Radium Beer Hall, JHB
Nov 16: Caversham Mill, KZN
Nov 17: Verkykerskop
November 29 – opening for Guns N’ Roses: Not In This Lifetime Tour in Johannesburg
THE MEN BEHIND THE MUSIC
For founding member, lead vocalist, songwriter and guitarist Cito (Martin Otto), music is his life. He has been involved in music industry since he was 17 and wouldn’t change it for the world. “When I’m not on stage or in studio, music continues to pulse through my heart. I love the role that music plays in this bizarre existence. Music has the power to make or break you,” he says. As for finding inspiration, he never runs short: “Sometimes it’s a groove that I hear in my head, other times it’ll be a line that someone has said, that just sticks and demands to be elaborated. It’s also wonderful to collaborate and when Martin sits in with me, we come up with the craziest ideas. Playing on new or other instruments also inspires me.”
Martin Schofield, founding member, lead guitarist, songwriter and vocalist, is a British born and African raised lover of dogs, guitars, travel, tattoos, bacon and ’50s culture. Having worked in the industry since the age of 16, he has a long list of career highlights, but cites “being in WONDERBOOM with my brothers and paying the bills from music” as his personal best. Musically, Billy Duffy, John Squire, John Fruciante and Brian Setzer have had the biggest influence on his style. Martin is currently working on several side projects with Cito. He also does studio/session work and deals in vintage and used musical instruments.
Bassist Wade Williams has also been with the band from the very beginning. He has loved music from a very young age and, while his style is akin to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea “because of my funky rock white boy thing”, it was George Michael’s special combination of production and emotion that got it all started for Wade. To him, playing live is an incredible privilege. “There are few better experiences than playing a show where you feel completely connected, as a band and with the audience. That’s what I live for.”
Drummer Jonathan Bell – who is also a qualified attorney – grew up in a musical family and has wanted to be a drummer for as long as he can remember. He started playing at the age of 12 and hasn’t stopped since. He enjoys all kinds of music, from the Beatles to Elton John, and everything in between. While he lists playing Oppikoppi 2014 in front of a massive crowd and winning gold at the Silk Road Indie Music Festival in China as career highlights, he believes the best is yet to come.
- An edited version of this story first appeared in Weekend Argus on September 15, 2018
- FEATURED IMAGE PHOTO CREDIT: ROB SCHOLTZ