In February 2012 Dead Alphabet released an EP that was recorded in two hours after two days of studio malfunctions. They managed to squeeze in some post live-recording vocals and guitar work, but the nitty-gritty work was done in just 120 minutes. “Lick Yourself Clean,” “Blood On My Fist” and “Garden of Earthly Delight” made it out of the studio session alive, and they sound… huge. The mostly live recording encapsulates their sweaty, gritty riff and kick-drum sound perfectly, not to mention the warm howling vocals.
I was surprised to learn from Hugh, their bass player, that my favourite track from the EP Blood On My Fist, was inspired by the current wave of electro music: a discussion about electro in the rehearsal room, an electro drumbeat, a mock electro bass line. Yet what it spawned is a dynamic, completely non-electro, beat ‘em up rock n’ roll sound with desperate, wailing guitars – all highlighted by a music video capturing the band running around Europe after their recent tour.
Now, three and a half years after an obsession with a certain Led Zeppelin DVD, the band returns from yet another overseas tour, this time in California. Yet local tours seem like a bigger difficulty than a stint in the UK and the rest of Europe. As much as they are a part of the flourishing South African music industry, they are also part of the dismal touring scene, or lack thereof. Local venue owners just do not understand that to have live bands, you need good live sound. And there just aren’t enough venues to begin with. Hence you have a lot of event-driven concerts, a lack of hierarchy, a lack of true critique and Jack Parow swearing at Steve Hofmeyer’s crowd.
So what is a young rock band to do when a trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town to play one or two shows just is not viable? Or when they are forced to play the same venue over and over again? They get day jobs and do it anyway; they rock the shit out of whoever’s in attendance, and go home with broken fingers and abused vocal chords. ‘Cause that’s rock n’ roll and Dead Alphabet is a rock n’ roll band.
I do wish that there were more than three tracks on their EP, Blood On My Fist is as good as anything out there, whether it be from Johannesburg, Cape Town, the UK or California. I do wish that the local music industry would look into all facets of developing its talent, and not just polish Gareth Cliff’s balls on Idols. Dead Alphabet is a SAMA nominated rock band, they work hard and play harder and here’s waiting for more.