Tuesday 21 May 2019

An Interview With Johni Holiday from RUFF MAJIK

South African Sludge/Doom/Stoner Riffsters – Ruff Majik – have been making a name for themselves over the last few years with a string of well-received EP’s, Singles and Full length albums within the Doom/Stoner Metal community.

Ruff Majik are very hard categorize as they move effortlessly from genre to the next whilst creating their own original sound.

Their latest album Tårn has just been released and it’s starting to gain some major praise for the band.

I caught up with Johni Holiday (Guitar/Vox) from Ruff Majik where we discussed the making of the album, South African Music Scene and Ruff Majik current visit to Europe.

Hi Johni. Thanks for doing this interview. How are things with you today?

Pretty great. Nursing a hangover, but the sun is out in Germany for the first time in two weeks so I’m having a smashing time.

For people not in the know can you give a brief history of how Ruff Majik came together and what the current line-up is today.

Well, we’re just 3 mates that grew up in the same small mining town in South Africa (called Lydenburg, which actually translates to “Suffering Town”). We were the only non-conservative, metalhead types in the whole town, so ya know, we started a band. And here we are! The line-up is me (Johni Holiday), as well as Jimmy Glass on bass and Ben Manchino on drums.

Where did you get the name Ruff Majik from.

Well, there was a failed pilot for a TV adaption of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Call of Cthulhu”, with the same name but a different spelling. We thought it would be a cool reference to make, and for whatever drunken reason we had that day we decided to spell it Ruff Majik instead of Rough Magic. It’s been pretty interesting so far though, hearing people try and pronounce it. We’ve heard “Roof Mayik”, “Riff Magic”, “Rough Magiiiiic” and loads more ha ha ha ha.

How would you describe your own music in your own words. As you play a very warped version of Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal which I find very hard to describe.

We used to call ourselves rubber a few years ago. I think that still kinda makes sense. But yeah, we just play whatever the hell we like really ha ha ha. Some days we feel doom, some days we feel funk, some days we feel kvlt, other days we feel punk - but as long as it’s loud, heavy, and covered in a big ‘ol cloud of reefer smoke, we’ll play it!

You have just released your new album Tarn. It’s been getting a great response from almost everyone. Has that surprised you at how well the album has been received.

A bit. I think we’re critical of ourselves, as I believe all artists should be. So, we’re always pleasantly surprised when we get a good review.

What were your original expectations for this album before it was released and have they fully been met.

Well, we’re hoping to sell out our vinyl soon! But other than that, I think everything has been going pretty much according to plan.

Was recording the new album a hard or easy experience for the band?

It’s always pretty straight forward. We recorded again with our good friend Evert Snyman from Backline Studios in Johannesburg, so it was a pretty relaxing atmosphere for us. Also, we record real quick, so we were done in 2 days.

Lay Bare Recordings are releasing your new album. How did you hook up with them. Great label releasing some fantastic albums on vinyl recently.

The owner of the label 
(Désirée) actually saw us live at Freak Valley Festival in Siegen, Germany! So Désirée contacted us to see if we’d be interested in working with them, and so it happened! 

Really cool people and a really cool label, overall it’s been a pretty rad experience.

The album cover is awesome. Who designed the cover and how much input did you have into the final design.

It was designed by Anni Buchner from Ale & Cake Illustration. She’s illustrated every album cover we’ve ever had, and we always work very closely with her on the ideas for the design. She always does magical work.

What is the song writing dynamic in the band? Is it a group collective or down to certain individuals.

Depends really. The lyrics are all down to me, and I write the riffs on guitar. But I don’t know shit about drumming, and our bass player has a genuinely unique style that I also don’t understand, so when it comes to contributing musically I think everyone does their fair share.

What comes first when writing and recording new music? Music or lyrics.

Almost always the music. It has happened on occasion that the lyrics come first, but it’s very rare

What inspires you when writing music?

I guess life in general. All the experiences we go through as a band and as people. Sometimes drunken ideas turn into beautiful songs. You know, just the usual generic answer.

You’re from South Africa. What is the Hard Rock/Metal scene currently like in South Africa. Did you have the opportunity to perform live on a regular basis in South Africa.

It’s passionate, but it’s small. The unfortunate reality is that most of our rock ‘n roll venues are closing down, and there’s a smaller fan base now than there use to be in the early 2000’s. But, the fans that are interested are dedicated, and there’s a resurgence of heavy rock/punk/metal/whatever happening which is really cool - more bands are coming out now than we’ve seen in years. And they’re all top quality. But it’s hard to get a quality tour going when everything is so far apart.

Can you recommend any other bands for people to check out from South Africa.

Bands like Caution Boy, Pollinator, Them Dirty Shrikes, Apocalypse Later, The Human Nebula, Mad God, Goat Throne, Peasant and Ma-at are absolutely killing it at the moment and it’s great to see. Some new blood includes bands like Double Sun and Psykasm who are also great live, so I’m excited for some recordings by them!

You’ve recently moved over to Europe for the time being. Why did you decide to come over to Europe and was that an easy decision to make especially with your family and friends being located back home.

Well, we realized that if we want to tour, and tour seriously, that there was just no other option. We were fortunate enough to have a few “right time, right place” types of situations, and it’s really helped us get a foot in the door.

Was it a hard decision to make? No. I gave it all for music and the free electric band.

How long will you be staying in Europe and will you be performing gigs in other countries during your stay.

Well, we’ll be here for a couple of months, having meetings, making deals, and planning a strong fall tour. Then we’ll be back in S.A. for a couple weeks to get the visas sorted, and after that we’ll make a more permanent move, probably from the fall onwards.

But yeah, it’s not all just business - we’ll be going to Poland for Smoke Over Warsaw next month, and to France to play Rock In Bourlon - and then one or two German shows in between. Got some pretty cool stuff confirmed for the coming months as well, but you’ll have to wait and see

Thanks for doing this interview. Before you go do you have any words of wisdom to say to your fans

I would never attempt to sound wise ha ha ha. But let’s have a crack at some general life advice instead:

Try to enjoy life, try to be nice to other people, and try to get rest whenever you can. You don’t have to succeed in all of these, you’re only human. But trying is easy.

Words by Steve Howe and Johni Holiday

Thanks to Warren at Plug Music Agency for arranging this interview. Thanks to Johni for taking the time out to talk to us here at the blog.

Tårn is be available to buy now on Vinyl from Lay Bare Recordings


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