This Is How We Roll(ed The Presses)

Posted in Uncategorized on May 9, 2011 by hedmekanik

The No Spectator ‘office’, April 26th, 2011 (image courtesy

You know it’s working when they fall silent. It requires their full attention, then, which is quite the compliment in its own right considering the fleeting attention span most people nowadays display, in this, the age of the electronic media blizzard. For someone to be rooted to the spot engrossed in a simple piece of paper is a beautiful thing to behold, particularly if you were party to the creation of the document in question.

It took a few weeks’ worth of figuring out the technology and the method, in order to produce The No Spectator on site at AfrikaBurn. And it should really be stated that none of it would have been possible without the help and encouragement of Rob Weinek, who provided the insight and suggestions necessary to put some flesh on the bare bones of the idea, at just the right time. Sure, we took up the challenge and rode that wave to the beach, but without the spark set off by Rob – and his advice on the use of the Roneo and Riso machines which formed the backbone of the technology that brought it all together – it would all have been that much more of an ordeal as opposed to an enjoyable crash course in extreme publishing. Fair dues must also go to Jono Hoffenberg for his enthusiasm and the use of his Roneo machine, and also to the team at the AfrikaBurn HQ at the Bijou, whose eagerness to see the creature come to life was infectious and spurred us on, and Jacque who created the templates for us.

The typing pool, hard at it (image courtesy

It’s only a simple double-sided A4 document, and only five editions were produced at the event for each of the days of 27 April – 1 May 2011, but the purpose and content make it more than a simple document. It’s a start, a vehicle and a ballistic missile, a slightly rabid, entirely kooky and somewhat razor-toothed nudge in the ribs which serves to add a new dimension to AfrikaBurn as an experience and provides a platform for putting the spotlight on a range of issues relevant to the community at large. It has now taken on a life of its own, with the first out-of-event edition planned for the next few weeks’ time, with these planned for release more or less every three months, both digitally and in hard copy.

There’s no doubt in my mind that The No Spectator will continue to serve its purpose, both during the event and in the large spaces between, when the fires smoulder in downtime and the presses are largely silent. That said, the opportunity now exists  to create the paper both within and without the context of producing a document designed for the event itself – there are more stories to be told and an audience which deserves addressing throughout the year. Fair enough – this latest incarnation builds on the previous versions created by Brad Baard, Rob Weinek and Heath Nash – and will no doubt in turn serve as a building block for greater endeavours.

For your reading pleasure, nostalgia and to spur on the participation of all who wish to make a contribution in future, the five editions of The No Spectator as produced at AfrikaBurn 2011 are now available on the facebook page as downloads:!/pages/The-No-Spectator-AfrikaBurns-Newspaper/209859259035094

Was it fun? Fuck yes, and how. An unexpected bonus was that, as we had ‘work’ to go to every day, we got good sleep each night after crawling home from one of the many rocking dancefloors. Massive respect and shouts go out to Ali B, Regan, Pierre and the other DJ’s who kept us hoofing it till late at the VuvuWagon, not to mention the VuvuCreative crew who put together a damn fine experience: Mike Hayward, Richard Bowsher, Sebastian Prinz and Graeme Allan, we salute your gypsy caravan of love and its Jellyometer lampshade groove rating scale!

Many thanks also go out to our posse of ‘paperboys’ – Nick the Mustache, Timmy, Patrick, Shawn and Ingrid – who were a great help in getting the day’s edition out when we were still waking up and heading to ‘the office’ to create the next day’s paper.

The office? Well, it’s not such a bad way to work, when you set off for the office with a six-pack of cold beer to fortify the senses, and ‘work’ is over by mid-afternoon.

Yes, I think we could get used to that kind of work…

Back Once Again For The Renegade (Spirit) Master

Posted in Uncategorized on April 9, 2011 by hedmekanik

Things have been rather frantic lately, even when they’ve been really chilled. If that makes any sense. And predictably, just as things tap off and there’s a pinhole of light at the end of the tunnel, a fresh avalanche of Shit That Needs Doing arrives with a dry cackle, unannounced. Cry me a river of Bloody Mary, and don’t forget the celery, motherfucker.

Moving on, an update – The Wife and I are once again prepping for AfrikaBurn, and as always have set ourselves mad targets of an insane amount of Things To Make And Do (to add to the other list in title case). Amongst the many things we’re making and doing is taking a crack at creating a daily ‘newspaper’ called The No Spectator. This involves having a mate (thanks, Jacque!) create the front and back page templates as digital designs which are then printed out on an inkjet, and then scanned to master and one-colour printed on the AfrikaBurn Risograph machine at the HQ here in Observatory. Our dry run print looks something like this so far:

(But bear in mind that’s a pre-print of two colours, then run through an inkjet with test copy inserted to plot space restrictions). Once we’ve cracked that, with each master in one colour and each page run through a couple times to create the pre-printed pages, we’ll then be ready for stage two, which involves a Roneo machine. Some might remember these machines from back in the day – they were the protoprinters that created copies with a purple ink, and smelled of methylated spirits. That one. Which looks like so:

Now as you can imagine, these things are as rare as hobo billionaires, as are the user manuals. Luckily for us, it turned out that our man Ranger Jono was actually in posession of just one such machine, in perfect nick too. And equally as lucky the wild world of the web has provided great help in the form of one Mr Erwin Blok of The Netherlands, a mimeograph enthusiast, who somehow had just the right info to shed some light on how the bastard machine works, and what supplies are required to make it go clickety clack. This step has involved a fair bit of scratching heads, and the import of spirit masters (which sounds like a bad name for a trance DJ duo but is in fact the waxed master page used to transfer the type or image to the final printed page) from the US.

Once we have all pre-prints loaded with front and back page mastheads, they’ll be ready for type to be inserted on site, using a Sperry Remington TenFifty (thanks, Rob!) which we’ll use to transfer type onto the spirit masters. This enables us to create a schedule of daily and nightly events and gatherings as well as daily news reports of the event, at the event, and without having to rely on finnicky electronic machinery out there in the decidedly dusty Tankwa. It also makes for a great combination of both old and new technology. Well, that’s the theory.

Next step – collating all the info, running off the pre-prints and then (once we’ve packed our van with everything required for Camp AmaDeadly v.3) heading off into the dust the dust the dust of Tankwa Karoofornia on the morning of the 26th.

And that, for now, is that.

Currying On

Posted in Uncategorized on January 17, 2011 by hedmekanik

Happiness in the half loaf

So, I’ve been slack with the blog of late. Very slack, in fact. Blame it on the festive season which has been, well, very festive. What can I say? It’s my culture.

In any case, moving on and into this new year, I think we’ll start off with a little favourite topic of mine: curry. Since arriving in Cape Town I have, as a native Durbanite, sought out the finest curries in this new city at the low-hanging point of Africa. And, well, let’s just cut to the chase with it – I am frankly disappointed. What they call a curry here in the Mother City is a beast of a different stripe than that which I’ve come to know and love up on the East Coast. Sure, there are curry dens and restaurants which offer the ‘authentic’ experience, but on the whole, when talking of curry, Capetonians are referring to a defanged, watered-down and altogether milder dish. This of course is to be expected – the communities here which cater to the Eastern experience are themselves not the same as those which provide the flaming bowls of pure Scovillean fireworks further up the coast. Fair enough. But beyond this obvious influence, the mere understanding of terms such as ‘hot’ or ‘spicy’ are well out of whack. ‘Hot’ curry in Cape Town means mild. ‘Spicy’ means, well, the kind of bland your great-aunt would call ‘just right’. Attend a 40th birthday party where the host has some catered curry on the bain-marie and he’ll proudly announce to guests that they should ‘watch out – it’s very hot!’ with some pride. Said Capetownian guests then consume said dish with much circumspection, wide eyes and panting. The wife and I, we’ll be like ‘What is this – stew?’. I won’t begin to describe some of the lamentable ‘curries’ I’ve had in my lunchtime forays in the city. Suffice to say I’ve stopped investigating wayside takeaways. There’s only so much badly-made korma one stomach can take.

Anyway, the quest is ongoing, and to date we have three candidates of a decent bunnychow – my personal curry barometer – thus far: coming in reigning champion is The Kumars at 283 Lansdowne Road. No surprises there, as the family who run this den of spiced heaven are from Durban. At R35 for a chunky quarter mutton or chicken drenched in authentic Natal Curry flavour, I am officially in love with this place. Runner-up prize goes to Spice, run by Durbanite (surprise, surprise) Dino, and available as an order-ahead-pick-up-tomorrow operation, and damn fine it is too. And then in third place, in the blue silk shorts and weighing in at about the same price as The Kumars, Eastern Bazaar, which is at 96 Longmarket Street. Good value, great selection and always crazy busy, but a trifle on the mild side. What they lack in spice, they seem to make up for in quantity, and added to that is their tendency to use tandoor sauce to make the base of their curry, which leaves a little to be desired. Oh, and they have no idea what a quarter is – at the Bazaar it’s half or nothing, which makes for a lot of bread in a bunny. Fair enough, can’t have it all. Or for that matter, if you head to Bukhara, you can’t have anything. Well, you can, but it’ll cost you, so that joint is best avoided unless you have friends from outta town who want to impress by picking up the bill. At those prices, it won’t be the rogan josh making you weep, but rather the bill.

Zed’s Dead, Baby. Zed’s Dead

Posted in Uncategorized on August 19, 2010 by hedmekanik


Zed’s Dead, baby. Zed’s dead. Some people don’t like it. Hell some positively absolutely think it’s the most boring shit they’ve ever heard. Mind you, it’s nowhere as boring as minimal techno, that’s for sure.  I’m talking about the heaviest, craziest, ghetto-fabulist music that ever blasted forth from a speaker cone. Ever. As you can tell, I like the stuff. Shit, until I heard Skream, Rusko, Bassnectar and Zeds Dead, I had all but given up hope of hearing anything that could capture the spirit and swagger of mid-90s jungle or drum ‘n bass. But lo and behold, along came Skream’s rework of La Roux’s ‘In For The Kill’ at the beginning of 2009, and I was hooked. Hooked like a motherfucker. Fletcher had been telling me about this new sound for a while now, I had been slack. There was a storm of sound brewing, and I was missing out on the unleashing. Tsk, tsk. Can’t have that.

For the uninitiated, an explanation will be necessary. Dubstep draws on deep roots – from Jamaican dancehall and dub, to the 2-step garage, dub sound system and pirate radio drum ‘n bass and jungle influences of south London. Added to these foundations are the development in the early 2000s of grime and the proliferation of sound software that has enabled the powerful sub-bass and synthesizer sounds to be replicated and manipulated into entirely new dimensions in sound. The result is a bass-heavy sound that sounds as though it plays at halftime, yet in fact generally runs between 130 and 148 BPM. Bass drops are utilized to devastating effect, with silent or near-silent pauses inevitably followed by incredibly heavy bass drops that feature progressive and frantic overlaid breakbeat passages. In addition to this, samples and breaks are often liberally used, as are MC toasts and choruses made from cut ‘n pasted samples from film, television, gaming and elsewhere. The result is nothing short of ear shattering and irresistibly danceable. A lot of people don’t like it. Fuck ‘em. Actually, let’s be clear – I love some of it. I don’t really love the more dancehall-styled dubstep; for example, some of Rusko’s stuff is a little noodly for me, a little lite, reminds me of Zion Train. But Zeds Dead and Bassnectar? Shit, that’s the business, right there.

Perhaps some of the animosity can be explained by the fact that some of the heaviest hitters in the dubstep scene right now have taken to remixing some real classics. For some, that’s just the reason it holds such interest. For example, among the hits of yesteryear that have been given the bass-heavy treatment are ‘Gimme Shelter’ by The Rolling Stones, ‘Immigrant Song’ by Led Zepellin, ‘Doin’ Time’ by Sublime and ‘Where Is My Mind’ by the Pixies. I even picked up a copy of…think what you will…’Take On Me’ by A-Ha, which had been given the mutant bass treatment. If the purists out there think that’s sacrilege, so be it. These tunes, amongst others, have defined the direction that dubstep has taken in this new decade. How it will progress, and whether it will continue to be a source of new and inspiring directions in sound, remain to be seen. One thing’s for sure – the death knell has already been sounded by scenesters who point to Mary Anne Hobbs’s endorsement and the emergence of a watered-down dubstep sound in the R&B and hip hop scenes. Hell, even Britney Spears’ last album featured a healthy serving of the dubsep flavour. Hmmm.

Fair enough. Nothing lasts forever. But I’m going to work a few cones while the going is good.

I Get My Kicks On Channel Six

Posted in Uncategorized on July 2, 2010 by hedmekanik

Contact Point, Greenpoint, Cape Town

I’m forever in awe of music’s ability to transport the listener. Given half a chance, you’ll find me with my head positioned exactly equidistant from two speakers, engrossed. Fifteen years or so ago I was in London, where I spent a lot of time doing just that, blissfully listening to a Walkman whilst traveling by train, not always legally or indeed paid in full. Hell, to be perfectly frank, it was usually travel under false pretense thanks to my natural-born, god-given and much sought-after talents as a forger. Just ask the Camberwell Police Station. Hey, I might not have escaped London unscathed but far be it from me to spurn the talents that my ancestors so generously bequeathed to me. Moving on, and getting back to the subject of music, it was on cross-London journeys both above and below ground that I spent huge amounts of time listening to music. Of all the music that accompanied me across that city, two albums stand out from the crowd, and will forever take me back every time I hear them: Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Siamese Dream’ and Underworld’s ‘dubnobasswithmyheadman’. They helped me make sense of the scale of the city, and painted the landscape with the drama and feeling so lacking in much of the industrial wastelands that passed for scenery. Lemme tell you, I traveled to and lived in some far-flung and godforsaken corners of that city, and as far as companions in a foreign city go, they were loyal, consistent and reliable.

So here I am, years later, in Cape Town. Another new city to discover and, as it happens, I have the new version of the Walkman, an iPod. OK, so it’s not the 6th generation 160GB model but rather a 2G Nano that I was given as a freebie at a press lunch, but it does the job and I ain’t complaining. Anyway. So there I am, having started a new job, down Sea Point way, right above the Sea Point Contact, a rock formation noted by Charles Darwin when he visited the spot in 1836. But I’m not looking at metamorphic rocks, no. I’m looking at the pretty damn scary left that breaks off the rock shelf, and I’m thinking that even though it’s a pretty makeable wave, only a crazy person would go out there. Then I see a bodyboarder picking his way over the razor-sharp rocks to the jump-off point. I watch the dude wait for a lull and he times his jump-off perfectly, makes it out without even getting his hair wet. Knows what he’s doing, does this local. Leaves me smiling as I take in the sea air and coastal landscape of my newly adopted home.

And then, through those little white in-ear headies comes the opening notes of ‘Dirty Epic’ by Underworld, and I don’t feel so out of place anymore. For all intents and purposes if I closed my eyes I could be disappearing down a tube hole on Farringdon Street. Fantastic.

A Weapon Of Mass Delusion

Posted in Uncategorized on May 18, 2010 by hedmekanik


Image courtesy

The stadiums have been built, the tickets are issued, the fans are positively foaming at the mouth and the world is expected any day now. And still, I could not give a toss. Why? I’ll tell you why – because the World Cup is a farce and a scam which has brought precious little to the average South African. Well, apart from stress and inconvenience. What’s that you say? ‘But what about the world-class stadia, what about the huge revenue streams, what about job creation?’ Bullshit, bullshit and thrice I tell you – bullshit.

Let’s pick it apart, shall we? For a start, the stadiums have come at an extortionate price which a developing country can ill afford. In Cape Town and Durban the stadia built specifically for this frenzy of marketing and mass consumption were unnecessary, being glamour projects which suited the Local Organising Committee, the local governments and contractors on account of being fantastic opportunities to milk it all the way to the bank. Yes, jobs were created – but what of those jobs, now that the stadia are built? And what of the three-month construction moratoria which FIFA insist on? How many jobs were lost in the process? This, in a country where the ANC’s barefaced lies of 400 000 new jobs being created  by the end of…2009. I call bullshit.

Next up, those ‘huge’ revenue streams. In case you’ve been under a rock, allow me: the initial expectation of some 483 000 fans descending upon South Africa has withered down to 373 000. This has been largely on account of Match (that would be FIFA’s hospitality division, run by none other than FIFA CEO Sepp Blatter’s nephew) charging ridiculous prices for packages which include matches, hospitality suites and hotel bookings. My anonymous source close to the action tells me that in comparison to the previous World Cup, prices are on average three times as much for this little sporting sortie to Africa. That, taken in context alongside the prevailing economic conditions worldwide, has ensured that a great number of diehard fans in Europe are simply in no position to see the action live. Moving on, let’s address the issue of revenue for South African businesses. We are all aware that FIFA’s stringent copyright, branding and merchandising restrictions are designed to guarantee that only officially accredited sponsors and suppliers benefit. This leaves a bad taste in the hundreds of thousands of local entrepreneurs who were sold the dream of making good money from the world’s biggest bullshit circus. This includes traders, previously disadvantaged or otherwise, and those in the hospitality sector (who have been dropped like the proverbial flaming hot spud by Match). Revenue streams? More like a river of broken dreams. Once again, I call a steaming pile of freshly laid bullshit.

Lastly, the ‘legacy’ issue, which bleating sycophants from the halls of government to the chambers of municipalities countrywide trot out when faced with criticism. Certainly, the cities which are hosting games have been spruced up. New pavements, new train stations, new roads, gleaming stadia – all have been frantically put in place in the lead-up to the Greatest Show On Earth.  I have personally seen my hometown, Durban, undergo a massive upheaval in preparation for the Big Event. In fact, it would be fair to say that in the 33 years I lived in Durban, I had never seen anything like the development – nor the hell-for-leather pace at which it was executed – put in place for our dearly beloved visiting football fans. Which brings me to my question: why did it take a World Cup to see our cities developed to world-class standards? Are we not good enough to have had pavements safe enough to walk on (or indeed pavements at all, in some areas) all those years?

Nay, I tell you. It’s a fucking con from stem to stern which fleeces the fans, feeds the fatcats and smells of bovine shite throughout.

On The Road Again

Posted in Uncategorized on May 4, 2010 by hedmekanik

Good morning dear readers, we are coming to you live from the bristling metropolis of Jozi, and here is the weather. Today it is fucking cold, with heavy spending and intermittent road rage. The forecast for tomorrow is much the same, as it was yesterday. Johannesburg may be the New York City of Africa, replete with opulence, extravagance and behaviour more usually associated with New York in the 80s, but have no fear, it remains steadfastly African throughout. Amongst the Bentleys and Roederer, we have fat ranting racist bastards contrasted by thin racist crazies on Prozac with French manicures. It’s a lovely city when it rains, which is when everyone stays indoors and cannot be seen. But dear God in heaven above, it’s a huge and ever-expanding amorphous conglomeration of industry and decay which knows no bounds and will swallow you up and spit you out without so much as a ‘How’s your uncle?’

I like it, in small doses, but unfortunately I have swallowed a particularly large chunk of it this past ten days.

Which is why I cannot wait to see the back of it.