ANKST is a Gothic band that was formed in the second half of 2006 in South Africa.
Their first release was an EP titled, “When We Become Gods”, in 2007.
They attracted international interest and found themselves on the German Compilation, “Smoke and Spotlight Vol 2”, with their song “Better Than Me”.
I asked the band’s singer, Raymond John Ross, a number of questions so that we could get a better picture of the band, as well as to get an insight into much more than is obvious to the casual passerby.
tribe4mian: Going back to 2006 and your first release, what are your feelings ?
ANKST: The “When We Become Gods” EP was knocked out in quite a rush and was more of a demo than anything else. It was recorded by us with very limited experience of production, mixing and mastering and even more limited equipment. I think the point of the exercise was to have a tangible product out there as soon as possible and I have to admit I really do cringe when I listen back to it now, but that’s not to say I’m ashamed of the EP at all.
I see EP’s, singles and albums throughout a bands career as photographs, almost like snapshots in time which embody the band at that point and marks the band’s progress going forward. I don’t quite understand bands that re-record and re-release albums years later in order to “improve” them. So that’s it really, “When We Become Gods” embodied ANKST as a Goth band starting out on a journey, unsure of where it was heading but determined to do something and not even being sure of what that “something” was.
tribe4mian: Can you tell us a few things about the Gothic scene inSouth Africa?
ANKST: To be honest I’d rather not. I’m joking of course… Or I might not be. To understand the “scene” in South Africa, you need to understand a few things first in terms of demographics. Firstly I don’t like the word “scene” as it has way too many negative connotations and conjures up subjects like scene politics and such, which is rife within our subculture worldwide. To be honest, I prefer to refer to it as the Gothic Community as this sums up what the world wide Gothic movement is or idealistically should be.
There are two major influences on the South African Gothic community the first being the size of the country itself. There are three major cities in South Africa, Johannesburg/Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban and these are separated by extremely large distances. Just as an example, to travel to Johannesburg/Pretoria from Durban by car would take between 7-8 hrs and Cape Town would take about 18 hrs, so as you can imagine, the different organisations from the three cities rarely, if ever, work together or co-operate. Cape Town, in particular, seems to be extremely insular and keeps to themselves, and to be honest, I can’t remember them ever being involved in projects which involve collaborations between provinces.
I’ve been a part of the Gothic subculture here in South Africa for over 23 years now and all of that time I’ve lived here in Durban. Many of those years I’ve spent directly involved in contributing in some form or another to the Gothic community, whether it be running online forums, underground magazines, and various other endeavors. I spent a major part of the first decade of the new millennium as a DJ, an events organizer, in Durban, as well, but eventually due to “scene” politics and in-fighting.
The Durban“scene” eventually collapsed after I abandoned it, as I no longer wished to head up such a diseased and pointless endeavor and simply walked away from it and let it die a well-deserved death. In fact there is a track dedicated to the province of which Durban is the largest city.
You’ll find it on the ANKST “Epitaph” EP, it’s entitled “Natal” and really reflects my true feelings toward the place. It’s actually at this point where I started ANKST as a way to still contribute to the Gothic community without having to deal with the actual people. I know it sounds crazy, but it really was the way I felt at the time, but that’s the Durban Goth “scene” in a nut shell… Fucked! I know there’s been a few people who tried reviving it thereafter, but seriously, flogging a dead horse until it was rotting and splattered all over the pavement and then flogging it a bit more while the flies ate its eyeballs just to make sure, does not a Goth “scene” make.
On a more positive note, the Johannesburg, and especially the Pretoria, Gothic subculture has definitely come into its own in the past few years and is stronger than ever and still growing. I still do guest DJ slots at one of the major events in Pretoria called “Attrition” from time to time and am always surprised by the sheer number of people in attendance every time.
The other influencing demographic in South Africa is culture, and what one needs to understand is that Goth is a very European thing over here. You very rarely see other cultures or races involved in the Gothic subculture, it seems to only appeal to the white folk which make up a mere 9% of the South African population as of the last census. This number is constantly on the decline as we lose a number of our Gothic brothers and sisters to the UK, Germany, USA, Australia and New Zealand. I always have a good chuckle about the number of UK Goths who have South African partners.
tribe4mian: Were you guys playing in other bands before ANKST ?
ANKST: Yeah! Dave and I have worked on various music projects together before ANKST, one of them being a Synthpop project called Faux. Our bassist Malcolm was in cult SA Punk band Clone and ex ANKST guitarist Aiden is still with his own Metal band Theatre Runs Red as far as I know. This understandably was the reason he left ANKST in the first place. It’s very difficult these days to juggle two extremely demanding bands; it does neither band any justice in the long run.
Actually, Malcolm is playing bass for another band at the moment called The Jack Labels and I tend to do a lot of collaborations with other bands, both local and international, whenever I have the time, but we both know that ANKST always come first. I’m always open to collaborations whether it’s remixing, guest vocals, or mastering, I just really enjoy working with other hardworking and dedicated musicians within the genres I love.
After a few lineup changes, the band opened for VNV Nation, Psyche and Sheep on Drugs, and by mid 2008 the 10 track CD “Monument” was released. ANKST where also included on the compilations “A Tribute to Garden of Delight” and “Gothic Sounds of Nightbreed Vol 5”. The band also received a mention in Mick Mercer’s book “Music To Die For”.
tribe4mian: Which artists influence ANKST ?
ANKST: That’s really hard to say. I have my favorites, but as a musician I listen to so much music and obviously the influences will always show through in whatever ANKST is doing at the time.
There are certain types of music which I don’t enjoy, namely hard industrial/EBM and Metal, as there are certain criteria which need to be met before I can honestly enjoy music. Firstly, I need to be able to hear the lyrics. I don’t see any point in agonizing over lyrics if they’re never going to be heard, as with a lot of the Metal bands these days. Some of the harsher industrial bands take things to a completely different level, especially in a club environment, the typical distortion vocal effect they use I find very uncomfortable. For me it’s like having an icepick punched into my brain via my earhole.
Secondly, a song needs to have some form of structure i.e. Intro, verse, chorus, bridge etc. or I’m not particularly interested. I find some forms of EBM to be without structure, just repetitive loops, especially the stuff DJ’s spin in clubs which is essentially the remix of a remix of a track which sounded like a remix to start off with. I’m not knocking all electronic music by any means, in fact I absolutely love Synthpop/ Futurepop, but then again there’s a genre which absolutely meets my criteria.
I’m really enjoying the bands emerging from the Gothic rock genre right now, as well as some of the “Neue Deutsche Härte” stuff. So basically the influences which are most apparent in our music would probably be the likes of Fields of the Nephilim, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Garden of Delight, and Sisters of Mercy with subtle electronica undertones of the likes of Colony 5, And One, and Solar Fake.
tribe4mian: Any special moment that you would like to share with us from your gigs with any of VNV Nation, Psyche, or Sheep on Drugs?
ANKST: (laughs)… Some I’d rather not repeat, but some really funny stuff like on the Cape Town leg of the VNV tour, being “volunteered” as Ronan and Marks personal chauffeur between the venue, hotel and airport in a car which unbeknown to them had virtually no breaks. The Sheep on Drugs support gig was like something out of an episode of Scooby Doo with a total attendance of approximately 30 people (that’s Durban for you again) and Lee and Johnny staying over at my place ending with Johnny having to be rushed off to hospital in the early hours of the morning with severe sinusitis brought on by our abundant collection of pets. It’s all rock ’n roll ‘til someone loses an eye.
tribe4mian: What is the band’s current line-up?
ANKST: That’s a tough one as there’s a long and a short answer to that question. The short answer right now is that the only current member of ANKST right now is me. Whether or how things change in the future are beyond my control at this point. I’m kind of a workaholic as well as a terrible slave driver when it comes to working with others and a few months ago was made aware of a shocking trait I possess which I’ve always been completely unaware of. It’s true though! I have a bad habit of getting really excited about a new concept or project and try and drag people in as if I know what’s best for them. I never really saw it that way before and always thought people were as excited, or at least wanted them to share in the excitement of the project I was working on at the time. Shocking but true.
This has complicated things with ANKST to a certain degree, as now I have a new way of dealing with band members as well as others. What I tend to do now when I come up with an idea, concept, project or anything creative which I’d like to share with others and have others get involved in, is basically “pitch” it to them and if they get involved it’s because they’re truly personally excited or interested in the idea, but I no longer push. If they bite, they bite. If they don’t, they don’t. Even if they say, for instance, “Yeah, great! Let’s do it!”, I leave it up to them to come back and say, “Hey, when are we doing that thing we were talking about”. If nothing happens I just get someone else or do it myself. To a certain degree that’s how the “Epitaph” EP came about, by the time the EP was done; I’d done the whole thing myself.
That being said, I don’t particularly enjoy working on my own, I prefer to have someone to bounce ideas off and other people’s input is generally invaluable, especially if they’re particularly experienced at playing their choice of instrument and able to bring their individual flavor to which ever project we’re busy with at that time. I may be a “jack” of many instruments, but I’m by no means a master of any of them… Not even close!
2011 became a busy year for the band, releasing the album “Dystopia” and the EP “Epitaph” while participating for the charity song “Everyone Says Hi”.
tribe4mian: I sense that lately you’re flirting with a more electronic-oriented sound? Is this true?
ANKST: Well, ANKST has always had an electronic undertone what with the use of a drum machine and rhythmic synths. It’s just recently that Dave and I discussed increasing the synth to guitar ratio in the tracks, but was not too sure how our long-term fans would react to such a drastic change. One of the ideas was to channel this compulsion into a side project called “[sine]”, but the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of incorporating the concepts we have already come up with into a new ANKST EP. In order to branch out into a full-on Synthpop/Futurepop side project would require a vocal style which I seem to be incapable of achieving. To put it bluntly, my normal singing voice is just shit.
tribe4mian: You seem to have a nice cooperation with Trevor Bamford since he appears as a guest on one of Dystopia’s songs and you also host a show on his radio station, “Nightbreed Radio”. How come? What is your show’s name?
ANKST: That’s true, I consider Trev a very good friend of mine and we’ve worked on various projects together in the past including Nightbreed Radio. I was very impressed with what he did with the “Apocalypse Song” as I was not too sure how his vocal style would translate in this particular track. I gave Trev full control over his contribution including writing the lyrics for his part and the end result really works well. The thing about Trev is that he’s hardworking, reliable and dedicated when it comes to anything with regards to the Gothic community and I’d work with him at the drop of a hat.
The show we do for Nightbreed Radio is called The Sideshow (click here to listen to the show) and is currently in its second season, so to speak, with the first season running a full thirteen episodes. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, to be honest, being Gothic “talk radio” at its most dangerous. It’s a no-holds-barred Howard Stern meets South Park thing and we touch on a ton of taboo subjects. It’s very funny if you have that kind of humor, but I don’t recommend it for all audiences. We also promote new bands in the genre, but I think that’s just a byproduct of the show, to be honest.
tribe4mian: There is an ANKST release which looks like there is some mystery involved. “Obscure Rarities” opens with an Alphaville cover, continues with a Type O Negative cover, moves on to a Midnight Configuration cover…what is it all about?
ANKST: That’s an interesting question and an even more interesting album. It basically originated as an idea for our most dedicated fans and as a stand-alone album would not particularly interest the average listener. The original concept was realized quite a while back and distributed to select fans as a gift to thank them for their long-term support. The album is comprised of various rare, unreleased tracks, covers, live tracks, remixes I’ve done for other bands as well as odd studio outtakes and recordings of the band joking around at practices as with the Type O cover. I’m looking at adding more content and making an official ANKST release, but as I said before, it’s really a “fan thing” and won’t appeal to everyone.
tribe4mian: Are you interested in sci-fi and comics?
ANKST: Absolutely! I’m almost obsessed with Sci-Fi and Horror and used to be a huge collector of 2000AD comics. I’d go as far as to say that the ANKST post-apocalyptic viewpoint is possibly a little more Sci-Fi inspired than philosophical… Possibly.
tribe4mian: Lately you’ve been working on an “experimental” video show for Nightbreed. Can you tell us a little about it?
ANKST: That’s correct. We toyed with the idea of pushing The Sideshow into video format with Sideshow TV on Youtube. We shot the test pilot featuring New Zero God and then the first episode with Midnight Configuration, but I think we realized that Gothic talk radio did not translate very well to video so we’ve basically scrapped it. It may seem a waste of time to have done this, but I do it all the time. I think that all concepts or ideas should be at least tried. The world is full of people who “intend” to attempt something at some point and I have a lot more respect for those who attempt and fail than those who forever have plans to do something and never do. It’s actually funny how it’s the latter that always have the most to say.
tribe4mian: If you could go back to the first days of ANKST and start it all over again, would you change anything?
ANKST: Hmmm… I wouldn’t change very much, perhaps a better choice of people for the original line-up, but other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing. The time I’ve spent with ANKST and its various members has been such a wild ride so far, especially when I consider the fact that the band was never intended to get where it is today, the only thing I regret is that I never started the band fifteen years earlier.
tribe4mian: What can we expect from the members of ANKST for the future?
ANKST: For one, I’d keep an eye on Malcolm and The Jack Labels if you’re into the Alternative rock/Punk thing. I’m not sure about Dave, but rumor has it that he may be settling down and planning a family, but don’t quote me on that, I may be wrong (laughs). As for me, I’ll be around to ensure that ANKST continues into the future in whatever form it chooses to take, whether in the form of a new lineup or as a solo project. There is some talk of gigging in the UK toward the end of 2012, but we’ll see when the time comes.
tribe4mian: Thank you very much for the interview, Ray.
ANKST: It’s been an absolute pleasure. I appreciate the opportunity.
tribe4mian: We wish every success to you and the band.
If you’d like to order any ANKST releases, please click here.
ANKST official website: Here