Opening up NuL
By Robert Laing
NuL is the new Battery 9, it's the Afrikaans Ramstein, and its music is open source. Computer boffin frontman Adriaan Pelzer has given this Pretoria band a distinct industrial sound and helped it punch above its weight on the Internet.
A thing that distinguishes NuL from most heavy industrial rock bands is the humour in Adriaan's lyrics. OSS, for instance, is about somebody who has demonstrated such programming prowess on the Internet that governments everywhere are scrambling to hire him. Problem is his mommy won't let him skip school and orders him to wash behind his ears.
Adriaan spent two years in Singapore where cheap and fast broadband exposed him to online games like Counterstrike and other parts of the Internet hidden to us South Africans by our inefficient state telecoms monopoly.
"In Singapore, I found the Internet is ruled by young teens who have grown up with it."
A programmer who composes music, Adriaan tends to mix his jargon. For instance, he calls his reggae-groove in Swart "IP" that he kept when he sold his song Plaaspadliedjie to kykNET for use in a TV show Blikskottel. Adriaan's wife Mareli Minnaar who is also a NuL member runs a TV production company.
Though NuL has a predecessor, a band called Nothing which Adriaan and bassist Simon Kruger formed in 1998, its current incarnation started with just Adriaan and his website in Singapore. Guitarist Dawid Kahts downloaded Adriaan's music and was so impressed, he joined the band when Adriaan returned to South Africa after transferring a small software house he worked for to its new Singaporean owners.
Too young to have had to do two-years' army, Eighties khaki uniforms don't carry the bad connotation for NuL members that they have for my generation. Adriaan says he likes to shop at army surplus stores because you can get very practical industrial stuff cheap.
The effect of the khaki uniforms is accentuated in NuL's live performances by the demagogish fist-waiving Adriaan does during his Ramstein-style chanting. When I commended Adriaan on his dramatic dictatorial stage act, he said he was unaware he was doing it.
The crowd pleaser in NuL's live shows is Kokaine Kop Kosie with its catchy refrain "Twee lyne voor die braai". It's an anti-cocaine song.
One of the reasons NuL gets compared to Ramstein is both bands sing in their home language, thereby locking themselves out of the British and American mass markets. Adriaan says his choice of Afrikaans isn't a commercial or marketing decision.
"I'm a lot more comfortable working in my first language. There are nuances as a writer that I couldn't get in my lyrics in my second or third language."
I didn't get the lyrics's of NuL's Skor my a bietjie van you kulturiele bagasie until I read You magazine's attack on Bok Van Blerk. Naspers titles like You are run strictly to Lord Northcliffe's winning formula: give the masses their daily hate. And the popularity of Bok van Blerk's De La Rey song — its triple platinum status implies it has sold more copies than all other local CDs combined this year — is just the thing to poison the well of public trust in local music.
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