Cape Town musician Kieron “Bam Bam” Brown discusses his solo project, his collaborations with The Wild Professors, his upcoming debut EP and what’s next for him
By Emily May
Cape Town musician Kieron “Bam Bam” Brown has had a steady presence in the South African music scene for many years, having been exposed to many genres of music as a kid that sparked his desire to become a musician himself. Having previously led the bands Feverstone and Saintfearless, he recently decided to branch out on his own and launch a solo career under the moniker of Bam Bam Brown, his goal being to use music and creativity to connect people rather then divide them. Although Brown has branched out on his own, his new project could be described as a more of a collaborative effort due to the rotating cast of backing musicians, as well as a network of who he describes as movers, shakers, doers, givers and takers that he refers to as The Wild Professors. They are anyone and everyone who collaborates with Brown. Brown has performed abroad in Europe, various South African Festivals, including the Garden State Festival that allowed him to share the stage with musicians such as Kyp Malone of TV On The Radio and Dave Depper of Death Cab For Cutie and at the Two Oceans Aquarium/Texx and The City After Dark live music concert last year with beloved South African band AKING. It was at the After Dark live music concert that Brown debuted the songs “Daylight” and “Varanasi”, odes to his Grandmother and Grandfather respectively, which gave listeners a taste of what to expect from his upcoming debut EP. You can stay up-to-date with Brown and all upcoming music and tour dates, as well as stream and purchase his music, via the following links. Check out the songs “Varanasi” and his latest single “Bathed In Gold” below.
You were exposed to music at a young age, being snuck into live venues as a toddler. Who were some of your biggest musical influences growing up and how do you feel that being exposed to music from such a young age shaped you into the artist you are today?
My father and I have been sharing music together for over 2 decades now. He would sneak me in to the local seaside bar that had an outside section for surf punks to come get Wild for the weekend. This was back around 94 when the country was just dropping its guard, so seeing the different sides of our country come together for the sake of a good time really had a resounding effect on me.
Aside from being a musician, you are also a producer. What led to your interest in producing and do you feel working in both sides of the industry has helped you over the years?
I definitely use the term loosely. I think at the start of my career I looked up to a lot more songwriters, where as nowadays I have a deep fascination with guys like Rick Rubin or Quincy Jones – really sincere producers who helped artists realize the magic in their own songs. There’s a real magic in the way these guys transcended genres and truly explored different elements of the music game. Their backlog of work is incomparable.
You were previously in the South African bands Saintfearless and Feverstone but are now focused on your solo project. You have a backing band that you call The Wild Professors which you refer to as a rotating door of crazy talents that contribute to your music and art. How do you feel that having such a diverse group of musicians backing you contributes to and enriches your sound? The Wild Professors also includes other artists such as visual artists, writers, speakers and designers. Do you feel that such a constant source of creativity and collaboration helps to keep you inspired? How do you feel that your project has fit into and influenced your local scene?
Cape Town has a really intricate, almost incest-like music scene. Being a born and raised here really helped me to map and navigate a real star studded line up of local musicians that each in turn have their own projects- each very unique in their own way. Having such an efficient access to about 10 or 11 musicians as opposed to a standard 2-5 piece band really keeps creative input flowing at a constant. Over the last year I’ve had say – 4 drummers play the same song – and each one has created a piece that has stuck into that song, making it a real team effort industry wise.
What gave you the idea to make a directory for The Wild Professors with link’s to each artist’s work?
A few years ago the local scene was feeling the effects of a suffering industry. I had just finished a trip to Berlin and spent some time with Alice Phoebe Lou. Seeing how she had managed to network a real ground team of creatives and stimulate a scene from scratch there made me realize how quickly I could mimic that in my own back yard. And now that music industry is even more accessible with the advent of online streaming and such, the local scene really has flourished into its own era.
You took a trip to the spiritual epicenter of India little while back. What led you to take the trip and how do you feel that your music and spirituality are connected? You have said that you went in blind, without a plan, knowing you would learn a lot about yourself and the world in the process. What did you learn? How do you feel the music and sounds of India affected your music?
I went to India to take a break from music, and from myself I suppose. Naively landed at the airport in Mumbai at midday and just walked into the city with no sense of direction at all. That was day 1. Two months and 6000+ kms later, I think I had a much better sense of direction than I had anticipated. But that trip is a story in its own right.
You have mentioned that perhaps musicians need to rely a little less on building an online support system and get back to finding real tangible relationships rather then building a numbers system. What kinds of relationships do you feel like you have cultivated within the South African music community and internationally? Why do you feel that so many musicians have strayed from this path?
I’m not necessarily sure there’s a “path” right now, but I can say I have seen bands that have over 100k streams online that have no rapport with a local crowd. There’s a disconnect there and live performance is still the number 1 form of income for musicians. I also think it’s a true sign of an artists selling power if they manage to get their listeners out of their homes and into local venues. That kind of pulling power speaks volumes in today’s industry.
You have said that musicians don’t have to be rockstars these days in order to be successful. How do you define success as a musician currently? How do you feel that the industry has evolved over the years in order to move away from that definition of success?
I think success is relative. If one person thinks that success means three big houses and every spot on the local charts, let it be so. Some people just want to make their parents proud, let that be their success then. My head attaches the idea of rockstar to “limo riding, private jet flying, Moet Chandon, 5 star 3ply living.” That’s not very rock and roll in my book. That might make me cheesy or self righteous or whatever but I don’t think it’s healthy to advertise excessive living in an excessive world.
You performed earlier in the year at the Two Oceans/Texx and The City After Dark Live Music Concert. What were some of the highlights for you of the experience? It looks like it was a beautiful setting!
Man, that show was out of this world. Texx & The City always has the craziest ideas for the local scene and this one was one for the ages. It was also probably only the 3rd time my grandmother had watched me play so I did my best to not be at least a little proud. I would highly advise going to one of those shows if they revisit them in 2019.
You also performed earlier in the year at the Garden State Festival, which also included artists such as Kyp Malone of TV On The Radio and Dave Depper of Death Cab For Cutie. What was that experience like for you, especially as it was your first ever big band show, and what went into creating your set for the performance? The festival was started as a way to raise funds for the reforesting of fire-ravaged areas of the Garden Route and to raise awareness of the decimation caused by the fire. How often do you take part in charitable/fund raising events? Do you have any favorite causes that you are particularly passionate about?
Again, the Garden State show was a real pivotal point for team Bam. I had spent that week out on a farm with Kyp, Dave and Laura and really got to know three really awesome, vastly special musicians, as well as get some obvious insights to the overseas markets. There’s a monumental amount of work for South Africa to do, infrastructure-wise until we catch up with overseas, but the great thing is that the talent pool is ever endless and evolving.
You took part in a Queens Of The Stone Age tribute concert a few years ago! Have you taken part in any other tribute shows recently or have plans to going forward?
Queens has been a project of mine for the last few years. I think we are going to do the final one this year and hopefully donate a portion of the proceeds to an animal welfare or something of the sort. It’s a really great chance for local musicians and their friends to come out connect over a really wonderful co-hommé-n denominator.
What can you tell me about your upcoming debut EP? What was the inspiration behind the EP? What can you tell me about the recently released singles “Daylight” and “Varanasi”?
After a few years of playing solo and live I think I’ve actually been able to nail down a sense of the sound I’d like to capture and move forward with. Daylight and Varanasi are both snapshots of this creative period and are odes to my Grandmother and Grandfather respectively.
What’s next for you? What are your plans and goals for 2019?
Release the Kraken,
Hoist the main sail
Fire at will.