On bands, plans and the Blues:

On bands, plans and the Blues: In conversation with Sannie Fox

In the midst of that hectic schedule I caught a few minutes with the lady herself to learn more about her background, her career to date and future plans

On bands, plans and the Blues:

Writing the songs, playing lead guitar and singing vocals is not enough for Sannie Fox. She has also organised her current tour, recruited and rehearsed her band, and is busy researching potential future venues, filling her contact book, window shopping in Denmark Street for guitars and checking out other bands at gigs and festivals.

To my surprise, Sannie grew up in London until the age of 11. Her father had relocated the family, preferring to escape the apartheid regime and to focus on his work at the London Film School. Returning to the excitement of the nascent nation exploring new freedoms, her parental initiations into music were blues, soul and rock, away from the mainstream pop charts. Learning to play the piano, then singing from 15, she did not pick up a guitar in earnest until her late teenage years.

College followed with a degree in theatre and performance, which introduced Sannie to the world of modelling, theatre performances and movie appearances, including the acclaimed SA film, Long Street.
Having played in several bands before and during university, Sannie formed the band “machineri” with Andre Geldenhuys in Cape Town. Writing, playing, and producing was not enough for them. Sannie used her skills and knowledge of the business to put together a video for “The Searchers”, an early track. Once a suitable drummer had been found, an exhaustive list of live performances followed. Homemade posters were fly-posted around town. A second video for “Machine I Am” followed, with its hypnotic chorus and eastern blues flavour.

With the band planning to release their first EP, Just Music from Johannesburg unexpectedly offered a deal on the strength of the YouTube videos alone. Their backing led machineri to headline the big festivals including Up The Creek, Big Blues Festival and Brickfields, and to ultimately release their debut eponymous album.

Sannie Fox machineri cover

The cover features photography artwork by Storm Thorgerson, known for designing the iconic gatefold of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon. His later work with Hipgnosis filled the bins of record shops worldwide for a generation.

I asked Sannie whether Cape Town has its own musical and artistic scene a la Liverpool in the sixties, swinging London, Manchester/Madchester in the eighties or the New York of David Byrne, Lou Reed and Andy Warhol. She rattled off the names of The Brother Moves On, Die Antwoord, Derek Gripper and John Wizards: then denied that there is anything special about the city or its music.

Referring to a string of examples of SA artists, such as Albert Frost, Farryll Purkiss and Jeremy Loops, we noted that tape loops are being used extensively by SA guitarists. I mentioned that just the night before, I had seen Guy Buttery, who also uses a tape loop. Sannie seemed amazed when I told her that he made extensive (and very inventive) use of the tape loop pedal. Is it a SA innovation or fashion, I asked? Neither of use knew.

Sannie is currently focused on finishing her solo album, which is due to be released late 2014. With her new list of contacts and newfound knowledge of British venues and festivals, we must hope that it is well received and that we can look forward to a return visit to these shores next year.

Watch Sannie live in Cape Town ahead of her London tour:

Catch Sannie on tour in the UK:

Monday 25 August (full band)

The Half Moon, Putney

All day event starts at 2 pm (Sannie Fox expected on stage at 9pm)

Sunday 31 August (full band)

Tooting Tram Session #1 Festival

All day event starts at 3pm (Sannie Fox expected on stage at 4pm)