When aKing first debuted in 2008, many people’s first question was about whether they’d have anything in common with Fokofpolisiekar, with whom they shared two members. But almost as soon as the “Fokof spinoff” buzz happened, aKing managed to prove themselves as a fiercly maverick, musically strong act. We asked Hennie van Halen, the group’s bass guitarist, about the band’s journey, and their upcoming show at The Good Luck Bar’s second Birthday party.
Hennie must’ve talked about this a ton of times before, but I couldn’t resist starting at the beginning, and asking about the band’s start.
“The fact that we’re always connected or compared to Fokofpolisiekar is an eventuality of us sharing members with them,” he says. “After the departure of Hunter from the band, that shared identity faded even further to where there isn’t really much of a comparison to be made besides for an almost ‘hereditary’ connection.”
“It’s always interesting to see how people draw their own conclusions about our songwriting process and how it has changed from the first album. I think the obvious springboard that the Fokof connection has afforded us is great and we’ve tried our best to enhance that relationship, that is to say, keeping Afrikaans speaking fans happy and interested in our sound. But at some point all of that becomes a bit irrelevant when we play to all English audiences.”
“We are ceaselessly obsessed with getting the right melody for a chorus, or the right riff for a verse, et cetera. Sometimes too much so. In some cases it has prevented us from finishing songs and in some it’s brought a completely new device to the table. It’s a double-edged sword, in that way.”
“I think as far as influences go, we all like interesting song-structures and fancy production techniques as much as the next guy, but the most important part of a song should shine through regardless of the way it’s performed. So take away all the instruments and rhythms and sing it over just a piano or an acoustic guitar. Is it still a good song?”
With this headstrong approach to music, we’ve seen several sides of aKing through the years: With In The Twilight, they specifically departed from what came before, but Morning After had elements reminiscent of their debut, Dutch Courage, again.
“I think it’s natural to progress as a songwriter,” Hennie comments. “Over time our tastes have changed, in some ways drifting apart and in others finding new songs and artist that we can share with each other. I wouldn’t say that changes in style or sound were deliberate in a way that was supposed to appeal to the listener or the charts either.”
“It was always more of a yearning to try and expand our abilities as musicians. Be that in what we played, or how we created, we’ve always enjoyed challenging our own status quo, with the idea that whatever emerged on the other side would be fresh to our ears. Something that we would enjoy listening to.”
But this all makes me wonder about what happened to aKing’s recording career – it’s been a while since we’ve seen an album or a single from them… should we be worried?
“The fact that Laudo and Snake got married to their fiances, as well as Fokofpolisiekar releasing their first new material in a while, contributed to aKing being slightly on the backburner for the last two years. That hasn’t stifled our drive to keep the band going though!”
“We have been busy writing some new material and a few songs are on their way. We haven’t set a deadline for ourselves yet, but it will probably be by the end of the year.”
But before that happens, you can catch aKing this weekend at The Good Luck Bar’s second birthday party.
“My favourite part [about the Good Luck Bar] is definitely the eternally adorable bromance that is [owners] Gareth Wilson and Nicol Van Den Berg.”
Lastly, what’s the most important thing to make a birthday party memorable?
“If you don’t sell booze at your birthday party, everyone will remember the whole thing the next day. Oh wait, that’s not what memorable means, right? I guess the right answer then is, book aKing to play at your birthday party!”