Check in with Greg Georgiades & Ultra Natives ahead of Capital Craft
Capital Craft boasts some great artists annually and the 2017 lineup is no different. I got to speak with Greg Georgiades ahead of their gig. I’d tell you that they have an amazing African vibe to them but they seem to reject genre-ism. Either way, Greg has awesome thoughts on life, music and how to be rocknroll.
Richard Chemaly (RC): I’ve always been fascinated by the names of bands with people’s names and then some. If it’s not Ben Day and the Concrete Lions, it’s Donovan Copley’s Hot Water. I’ve seen you referred to as “Greg Georgiades & Ultra Natives” and sometimes just “Ultra Natives”. This begs the question, who is Greg and does he only perform when he feels like it?
Greg Georgiades (GG): I, Greg Georgiades, am a multi string instrument player/ singer/composer who has been at the forefront cutting edge of unique and innovative adventurous music in SA throughout my 38 year professional career. I have worked with a great number of well known wonderful musicians both in and outside South Africa, including Miriam Makeba, Steve Newman, Madala Kunene, Piet Botha, Syd Kitchen, McCoy Mrubata, Tony Cox, Black Cat Bones, Simphiwe Dana, Julian Bahula, Not My Dog, Guy Buttery, Hilton Schilder, Anna Davel, Ses Snare, Bob Brosman (USA), Rene Lacaille (Reunion), Fethi Tabet (Algeria), Erik Truffaz (France)…and many more. I have released 16 albums of my own and played on many more for other wonderful artists. AND YES! I only play when I feel like it…and I feel like it most of the time, except when the fishing is good. Then I feel like fishing!
I started the Greg Georgiades & Ultra Natives together with Jaco Mans (guitar, vocals), Jonathan Daniel Georgiades (bass) and David J Georgiades (drums), with the idea of setting ears free from the restrictions imposed by genres. We see ourselves as genre free music hooligan jollers who smuggle peoples hearts and souls over the borders of genres …and we do so with vigour, vibe, energy, good story telling and overall hot performances that take audiences to unexpected new places. The concept of Ultra Natives was born out of the idea of transcending these restrictions and becoming ’Natives From Everywhere’….Ultra Natives. We aim to connect audiences to a bigger picture that exists outside the industrial genre classifications and we use a variety of different instruments such as voice, ukulele, guitars, oud (North African fretless lute), bass and drums. Although our style has an African origin, it is able to transcend its origins and reveal new rhythms, textures and melodic possibilities. I mean..what other Ultra Natives are there?
RC: Your definitive African style is refreshing and it’s the first time I’ve heard any protest music in this style this decade. I’m talking, of course, of your eToll song. Do you find the industry has any political pressures not to write such songs?
GG: The No Etoll song was written from the heart and donated to OUTA who took it and used it for their anti e-toll campaign. There is always industry pressure to write more junk soul food that does not question the status quo too much, but causes clogging of the arteries to the soul. The musician, as an artist, should not worry about this pressure when writing or performing. The down side is that few of the major radio stations will consider playing this type of material as it does not fit into the industrialisation of music concept. (ie the industrialisation of food lead to KFC, Burger King, McDonalds….maybe tasty, but can hardly be described as good food or good for you.
RC: So…Capital Craft…to us, South Africa’s best beer fest to date, what are your beers of choice and which are you most excited to try for the first time?
GG: I love beer and I have craft favourites such as Stimela amber ale, Hazelnut ale, Pumpkin ale. I’m always excited to try any new beers that arrive on the scene and can’t wait to see what grabs me at this fest..outside of my usual choices.
RC: Will you be bringing the ukelele? We’re excited for the ukeleke! Please bring the ukelele! Okay, we know you always bring the ukelele but still, you never know when you might change your style. Have you ever replaced the ukelele for a gig? Could you maybe not do that for this one?
GG: I most certainly will be bringing both my acoustic and electric ukuleles to this show. My acoustic uke is called ‘Angry Bird’ and my electric one is called ‘Mini Me’ I never replace instruments at gigs…I just make them do different things at each gig. With a hot band, it is a cool big fun approach and highly entertaining for the audience.
RC: Question relating to hair…how do you keep your hair so spunky? 80% shampoo 20% gel or do you mix the conventional maths of spunk hair to suit your style?
GG: My hair spunky?…my mother would disagree. My secret is beer. Not to wash hair with, but to drink. Did you know that one 330ml beer = 7 slices of bread….and who the hell wants to eat 7 slices of bread when you can just drink a beer or two and have a whole loaf! I think there’s a song in there somewhere! I feel a bakery coming on!
RC: You seemed to form out of friendships and family in Pretoria (Our sources tell us Greg and Jaco are friends from long ago while Greg is also the uncle of Jonathan and David). What does this say about the adage telling us not to go into business with friends or family?
GG: With regards to my good luck in playing with great musos who are my family and friends, I can only say that even though music has a business side to it, it is still a living art form that needs to be shared with the musicians that one works with as well as the audiences that attend shows. I prefer working as a musician with friends and family. Jaco and I have been friends for a long time and he is a wonderful person and great musician with whom I have a fantastic music relationship. I’ve obviously known my nephews, Jonathan and David all their lives and it is a rare privilege to be able to play with these hugely talented guys at this point in my career.
RC: At Capital Craft, you’ll be coerced into major beer drinkage. Do you limit your intake before a performance or are you more rocknroll?
GG: I am a true hedonist … and a true hedonist knows moderation. In other words I love jolling continuously and that means I don’t do hangovers, slurring, stumbling etc as that requires a break in the jol…no thanks. Ja I get high from playing so I don’t wanna be too high to start off…just enough….and that varies from show to show. But ja…I am more rocknroll.
RC: We’re looking forward to your gig. What are the odds you will write a song detailing how beer is better than bread or something theme specific? Hint hint!
GG: Looking forward to playing this wonderful beer fest and to seeing you there!