Philistine interview

Can you elaborate on your individual journeys in the metal scene, from your early experiences in South Africa to your current collaboration in the UK?

MV: Dean and I met as youngsters hanging out at the few local Heavy Metal haunts in Johannesburg (Golden Banana, Irish Club), watching the ‘godfathers’ of South African Heavy Metal, e.g., Razor, Black Rose, Montreux, Lynx, Osiris et al.

Heavy Metal was “frowned upon” by the conservative government at the time, as they used to vehemently clamp down heavily on ‘louder’ bands in the 70’s, termed as ‘underground music’, with the police often raiding events, arresting long haired kids at random, dishing out liberal smacks with batons and smoke grenades being the order of the day…

It was difficult to access Heavy Metal music, per se, as there was zero airplay of Heavy Metal allowed on radio, and local pressings of vinyl by international Metal acts uncommon, apart from the well-established acts like AC/DC, Kiss, Van Halen – more hard Rock than really HEAVY. The likes of Priest and Maiden did make their way onto local pressings in time to come.

During the late 70’s and early 80’s there was major immigration of foreigners into South Africa due to a skill shortage, in particular technical skills. This brought an influx of folk from the U.K and the old Eastern Bloc, and with this their kids brought Metal from their collection across with them, which opened our ears to a whole raft of “real” Heavy Metal; the likes of Venom and Celtic Frost for example. We did manage to get overseas pressings from a smattering of record stores at extortionate prices, and of course whoever managed to buy an album, would make many, many copies onto cassette and share…

I fronted the controversial MetalMorphosis in the 90’s, often playing the same stages with Dean – we became best mates off stage.

DS: Metal has been part of my life since I was conceived so to speak lol, my mom was listening to rock and metal before I was born, so when I came along and was old enough to start understanding music, all of the records were right there by the hi-fi system, think of all the great rock and metal bands we have from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, that was my roots, our house was like a record store for rock and metal among other types of music too. I was hooked big time on the metal and rock records, when I was in my teens, I got my first drumkit and started playing along to the favourites, I was spoiled for choice. I then started my first band Ragnärok in 1986, we were a covers band but soon switched to writing originals only, we were a thrash metal band. From there I switched to guitar. I played in numerous other bands until I moved abroad and continued doing the same.

After jamming together in the early '80s and having the idea of a collaboration, what prompted the decision to finally join forces and form Philistine after all these years?

MV: When we first jammed together way back in the 80’s we made a promise that one day we would do something together…

A full collab was in the works in the early 2000’s, when we were both then living in the UK, however I relocated back to South Africa…We again churned out a slab of demos whilst both living in Canada, in the mid 2000’s, but nothing progressed beyond that.

Dean has always been working on releasing material and contacted me just before Covid asking if I would do vocals on a track for another one of his solo albums. I initially baulked at the idea, but Dean kept pushing and sent me the track he had in mind. My initial thoughts were that with these rusty pipes I would not do the track justice at all. After lots of back and forth, I stitched together some lyrics and vocal melody, and thought what’s the worst that can happen, I can totally fuck it up, and he will do the track himself. Amazingly, we clicked on the track as if we’d been jamming together for years, and after a few stiff Jack Daniel’s we thought, “fuck it, let’s do an album!”…

DS: Marq and I played in different bands in South Africa, we did gigs all over SA and many were on the same stages and tours. We collaborated on some demo’s in Canada and the UK at various times too. During the covid era is when we finally started working together and the result is Philistines first record – ‘Seranim’.

Given your extensive backgrounds in various metal acts, how have your musical influences evolved over the years, and how do they manifest in Philistine's sound?

MV: Metal has always been my religion but I listen to a variety of genres including 80’s Brit pop, South African folk music (Boeremusiek), Afro Jazz, Soul, Reggae and love 50’s ‘crooning’, 60’s Beat and of course, THE KING, Elvis! To answer your question re how the influences have evolved. I don’t believe there has been an evolving, however, appreciate and listen to many of various splintering of Metal into the too many sub-genres. Not all – some are simply shit! LOL! However, to me old school Metal is still the best school of Metal!

DS: My influences are rooted deeply in Metal & Rock, growing up in South Africa I heard all sorts of African music and Afrikaans music, it’s in me whether I like it or not. I listen to all sorts of music, if it’s good music, there’s no denying it, good music is good music. I’m a metalhead through and through and that’s where my loyalty has always been. Philistines sound comes from Heavy Metal, pure and true. Right now I am listening to the new Cirith Ungol album – Dark Parade, it’s killer. You know the drill, there’s no fans on earth like metalheads, headbangers, rockers, call us whatever you want, we are true and faithful to metal, no matter how many other genres we listen to, I’ll end that by saying – Death To False Metal haha \m/

Your music is described as "no frills, no bullshit, old-school Heavy Metal." How do you maintain the authenticity of the genre while infusing your unique energy into the sound?

MV: Without trying to sound like a cocky prick, it’s not difficult – the output I deliver in my style, lyric content, and overall feel is an expression of those old school acts that inspired me to do what I do, and in essence paying homage to them all for giving me the gift of music!

DS: I think it just comes naturally, if it sounds like metal and we like what we hear, then we play it, I consider myself fortunate to have grown up in the best times ever when it comes to Heavy Rock & Heavy Metal bands. 70’s til end of 90’s produced the best ever and forged the blue print for everyone. Hails Black Sabbath, the pioneers.

"Seranim" is your debut album. Could you take us through the creative process behind the album, from the initial concept to the final product?

MV: As alluded to above, I blame it solely on Dean for “duping me” into getting my carcass off the coach and cranking up the pipes again, after taking a music hiatus for many years. LOL!  What commenced as a potential a single track for another one of Dean’s solo albums, it evolved into the Philistine project.

As Dean and I started working on tracks for the album, Covid kicked in and we in essence cobbled the bones of the album together by dropping ideas, riffs, lyrics, vocal melody ideas back and forth on WhatsApp. Once the Covid hangover was over, we hit the studio and weaved the all the threads into what is Serinum today.

DS: It was a very fluid process for me, given our roots and influences there was no ‘deciding’ what style or genre we wanted to try and create. I play a riff and if the hairs on my arm stand up then I keep it. During covid I had lots of time to do nothing but play, I am always recording. I wrote ‘Blue Train’, second track on ‘Seranim’ and had nothing in particular planned for the song, my wife Vanessa heard it and suggested that I should work with other musicians on that song, I thought it was a great idea and sent it to Marq.

From there things escalated quickly, once I heard what he did with Blue Train, I went into riff mode and started bombarding him with all sorts of riffs. He also would send me messages out of the blue on whatsapp screaming and singing like a banshee, it really spurred me on to just let loose and jam. ‘Seranim’ is the result.

The track "Philistine" delves into the history of the ancient civilization. What drew you to this historical theme, and how do you approach incorporating historical elements into your music?

MV: As you will have heard from the album, the theme from track to track varies. Apropos the “Philistine” track, again, I “blame” Dean – he dropped me the basic foot stomping riffage via WhatsApp and as always expected me to perform some miracle re lyrics and vocal melody on the magic he churns out. So, we stitched the music together, the vibe felt like it needed an ancient type of theme… Re ‘incorporating historical elements into your music’. This is not a conscious decision at the outset – the theme that plays out depends on how the initial idea is spawned…

Marq, having fronted MetalMorphosis, a controversial band, how has your past experiences influenced your approach to Philistine, both musically and in terms of messaging?

MV: It was fantastic grounding, working with great musicians. The key difference here is the entire song writing process is only between Dean and I, as opposed to a larger collective. From a different perspective, Dean having played the same stages with his bands that we played on, and being close friends has made the writing and recording process so much easier. In addition, knowing what each of us delivered in our respective acts previously, allows us to ‘push’ each other to try something different, if we’re not happy with parts we positively agitate with zero arguing as there is simply no egos and we ‘get each other’.

How do you collaborate creatively, considering your shared history and friendship? Are there specific roles each of you plays in the songwriting and production process?

MV: Dean is the riff magician, and I come up with the lyrics and vocal medley. We both collaborate on the arrangements. The ideas are birthed by Dean either dropping me a simple riff, or I drop him one word and tell him to come up with a riff and/or a will drop a basic vocal medley with some words, and he works his magic and/or I drop him one word and a story of what I think this word can evolve into as a story. After all, we are mere story tellers.

Interestingly we have never written a song sitting jamming in the same room – it’s all been via WhatsApp adding flesh to the bones of an idea….

DS. It is a mutual 100/100 process for us, it’s has to be, we either both love it or we kick it out. I don’t want to write a song where it would be a 60/40 split so to speak, If I was only giving 40% or 60% of my energy, I would do a half arse job, I wouldn’t want to force something on Marq if he wasn’t 100% comfortable performing it or 100% enjoying the process.

What challenges have you faced in resurrecting Philistine, and conversely, what milestones are you most proud of since the band's reunion?

MV: Philistine is not a resurrection as such, but a birthing of something new!

The milestone we are most proud of is delivering on what we promised close to 40 years ago!

DS: Challenges for me would be not being able to perform live (covid) but mostly the fact that going to play down at the local pub is so been there done that for me, I am not interested in doing that. If bigger opportunities came along, and I mean BIGGER, I would consider doing that again. Milestones – The completion of our debut album, working with a fantastic engineer Theo Crous at Belville Studios, who also co-produced the album, what a pleasure that was to have him help us shape ‘Seranim’. We have a 7” single coming soon and a full vinyl in 2024. A personal milestone for me is creating this album with Marq, something that has been simmering backstage for many years.

Can you share more about the demos created during your time in Canada? How did that period contribute to the evolution of Philistine?

MV: We cut a few tracks to try a few ideas we had. We ditched the tracks, as we both felt they were simply not good enough…

DS: We were both living in Canada in 2013, I was with my brother Robi (bassist in most of the bands I have played in)  in British Columbia and Marq was on the opposite side in Toronto, I messaged them both one day and suggested the three of us doing something, they both said to me, write a song and we will do it, I jumped at it quicker than they could even have time to think about what they said, I sent them a track and before I could even say ‘Heavy Metal’ Marq arrived at the door, the project was called Mission Krokodil, my brother and I were living in Mission BC, I think that’s where the Mission part came from lol. Marq and I ended up travelling and moving back to the UK, things escalated from there. Marq can jog my memory if I am mistaken.

How have you witnessed the evolution of the metal scene from the '80s to today, and how does Philistine navigate these changes while staying true to its roots?

MV: There has been an evolution in Metal into so many subcategories, respectfully, it’s become laughable – however, each one to their own. I don’t believe we actually navigate to stay true to our roots, we simply play what feels right, knowing that we are not trying to please a record label, or feel the pressure that if our music appeals to people or not and/or if we sell any albums, our livelihood depends on it – we’re doing it for the love of the music and following through on a promise we made as metal brothers near on 40 years ago…

DS: Any self-respecting Metalhead who hasn’t witnessed the evolution of metal either died in the 90’s or is not a metalhead haha. As previously said, my roots come from the best bands Metal has and will ever produce, no offense to bands who formed after 2000, there’s a ton of good ones, but nowadays for instance if there was 10million metal bands on earth, to me it sounds like 9.8 million of them have the same singer. In Philistine we do not try to plan what style or genre of metal we want to hear and play, we just play it and if it sticks, we release it.  Heavy Metal seems to be what comes out of us. Metal Rules!

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for Philistine?

MV: Right now, releasing the 2nd album!

DS: To make more Heavy Metal albums and love doing it!

Finally, is there a specific message you'd like to convey to your fans as they embark on this musical journey with Philistine?


DS: Thanks for the support, Metal Rules!