As a band, Philistine have zero interest in attempting to sound different to anyone else, or the same as any else for that matter. "We write and record music in any way it ‘feels right’ and along the lines of music we listen to, we buy,
and we love by other bands," explains singer and lyricist Marq Vas. When he was younger, the singer dabbled with a few projects. When he completed his military service, he decided to get something serious going.
"On another ‘sabbatical’ to Los Angeles in 1992 I was faced with a fresher, angrier and a more expressive face of music, being exposed to the likes of Pantera, Machine Head and Sepultura with the more melodic feel of Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots. On return from Los Angeles, I formed MetalMorphosis in 1993," he explains to me. "You must keep in mind, growing up in South Africa it was exceedingly difficult to get our hands on Heavy Metal from overseas, never mind seeing Metal bands live," he points out. "Our releases were well received, selling in over sixty different countries, and featuring in over two hundred publications across the world. We opened for Carcass on their South African tour in 1993," he recollects. MetalMorphosis was finally checked into ‘virtual rehab’ after several line-up changes, deaths, run in with churches, parents and police, substance abuse and general misuse, including being sued for the singer slinging a goat’s carcass into the audience in 2000.
He then relocated abroad and worked on some material with multi-instrumentalist Deangersmith on and off over the years, but really stepped out of the music business, until Deangersmith came calling again wanting Marq to vocal one of his tracks just before Covid. It went so well, that the due formed Philistine, and here they are.
(Growing up in an Afrikaans family in South Africa, Marq was exposed to an eclectic range of music, from traditional Afrikaans folk music (Boere musiek), through to Rock ‘n Roll. He discovered that one of his grandma’s was a huge Elvis fan. He was also inspired by the African roots sound which was introduced to him by the family’s gardener. In later years he became a big Reggae fan, and still he still is a fan of this genre today. "However, anything heavier edged has and always will be my drug of choice. From a specific band perspective – there are too many to mention. I’m a big Led Zep fan. W.A.S.P being my all-time favourite, of course all the usual protagonists, Van Halen, Metallica etc..." The inspiration behind 'Seranim' and its eleven songs came from the guys jamming together. "Simply put, Dean was one of the first musicians I jammed with in the early eighties, and although we never actually got to be in a band together (it did come close a good few years ago in London, but I relocated again, and it didn’t happen).
We became best mates with my band often sharing the same stage with his and swore one day we would do something together. Roll on twenty-five years odd later, we finally got our shit together," he chuckles. "It has to be said, I was done with the music business years ago, but Dean dragged my sorry arse off the couch and back into the business. I honestly did not believe I had the pipes anymore to deliver a decent vocal. Well, it seems they’re still working fine," he smiles.
As for the songs themselves, the guys made a conscious decision that they would write and record material that they themselves would typically listen to and buy. "Frankly speaking, we didn’t give a shit what anyone would think, if they liked the material or not, or were indifferent - we didn’t care. We did this for US, fulfilling a lifelong promise we made as kids and brothers in arms we would do an album together before either of us was unable to! We had no set ambitions to be signed to a label and tour and if we made a cent or two on royalties or not, irrelevant – we agreed, 'what will be will be," he urges.
Marq's interests outside of music vary. "I have a passion for South African music of all genres, and collect South African music, in particular released on the old 78 shellacs and vinyl from years gone by.
I have in excess of about 10, 000 shellacs/vinyl, eight tracks, reel to reels, etc. I have a Facebook page dedicated to featuring South African music and international acts with a South African connection from the past. I also have YouTube channel dedicated to featuring tracks by South African acts from yesteryear from my collection. Apart from that I have several business interests, love sport, in particular soccer (Liverpool fan) and rugby, being South African, part of our staple diet (Springboks fan, of course!). I work out at gym trying to keep all my working parts moving, and have two beautiful cubs (kids) and a beautiful goddess of who loves this beast," he smiles.
As far back as Deangersmith can remember if someone was awake in the house there was music on the turntable in their family when he was growing up. "If it wasn’t me dominating the turntable it was my siblings or my mother, her record collection was amazing," he smiles. The multi-instrumentalist started collecting Rock and Metal records from a very early age, and his mother bought records for us all the time and every cent he saved went to the record stores. "I have a collection of two thousand five hundred plus records," he says with pride.
One day he saw a video of AC/DC and decided from that point on that he wanted to be Angus Young. "I was mesmerised. The first time I went to a local Metal gig I knew straight away, I had to be on that stage no matter what it took. It didn’t take much convincing and soon enough my mother bought us our first instruments, we drove everyone around us crazy because we learned to play ‘Smoke On The Water,’ it’s all we played for weeks on end very badly. We plugged the guitars through my dad’s hi-fi system," he tells me. He then then formed his first band with two friends from school alongside his brother of which they called Ragnärok.
Dean is inspired by Heavy Metal and Rock music which has always been his biggest inspiration, as well as some Classical music, some Reggae, and a sparse amount of Electronic music. "Good music is good music, it doesn’t matter to me what style it is, although I am particularly biased towards all things heavy," he smiles. The inspiration for this album came from his love for heavy music, and he has been wanting to write some music with Marq since they first met in the eighties. "Both of us being involved in different bands and sharing stages across the country never allowed for that to happen. When Covid ‘blessed’ the planet, I had the opportunity to record a lot of music, when I wrote the music for ‘Blue Train,’ I sent it to Marq to see if he’d be interested in singing on the track, the result is what you hear on the album, from there everything just happened naturally as Marq said," he adds. "I’d send riffs to him, he’d send lyrics to me, we just went with the flow and the result is ‘Seranim.’ The inspiration for it all is our mutual love for Heavy Metal and fulfilling something we have been wanting to do since we first met." Outside of music Dean enjoys hanging out with his beautiful wife and daughter, spending time in nature. "In my childhood I used to race BMX and do a lot of skateboarding, I don’t anymore but I am still interested in those, I own a skateboard and a mountain bike which I should be using a lot more. I like sports but am not a follower, I prefer playing rather than watching. I’d like to get back into water skiing and would love to start snowboarding. I play football in a 7 a side team with colleagues at work once a week.
I collect musical equipment and instruments even if I don’t know how to play them. I am interested in technology but don’t make a point of keeping up to date with it. I like muscle cars and motorcycles, my father and uncle were keen builders of hot rods in the seventies and eighties, it was really cool to be around them and help out with passing the tools. I enjoy video production and editing, as well as photography."
'Seranim' started off, as Marq alluded earlier, by Dean reaching out to him just before Covid with a track that he wanted him to vocal on for another one of his fantastic solo releases. "You must check them out! I was reticent to do so, as I honestly didn’t think I would do it any justice. Dean sent me track and I chewed on it for ages, thinking there was no way I would deliver the goods (this track would ultimately become ‘Blue Train’). Dean, being Dean cattle prodded my arse to give it a go. I thought, screw it, I’ll write him some lyrics for the track," he enthuses.
While cobbling together the lyrics the singer came up with the basic vocal melody. "I remember sending him the lyrics and the basic harmony via WhatsApp. He came back saying he thought it was great. I thought, ‘what the fuck, what’s the worst that can happen? He likes the lyrics, he likes the vocal melody - if I can’t pull it off, he will within a heartbeat.’ We got together and nailed it!... And so, it began…We decided to start a second track, which became ‘Leviticus,’ again, we gelled immediately, and decided then and there, let’s do album." he smiles. The guys were working on the demos for the album, and Covid kicked in, which in a strange way actually worked in their favour. "Not being able to travel, we both had idle time on our hands, and we used WhatsApp to trade ideas, riffs, lyrics, melodies etc, and in essence stitched together the bones for several tracks, which would ultimately feature on the album. Others not."
This is their first outing as Philistine, and the main thread of the music is what Dean and Marq listen to and the styles they both love, played by the acts they both admire, grew up on and still listen to today. "We are already working on a follow up album," he chirps.
The album was recorded at DR Prophecy Studio in London UK, it was produced by Philistine and co-produced by Theo Crous who also mixed the album at Belville Studios in Cape Town, South Africa. It took two years to complete everything.
For Dean personally, the whole album is a highlight due to the incredible mix by Theo Crous. "I am enjoying every track very much, it may sound strange, but listening to the album now that it is complete is an entirely different experience for me even though we wrote it, it’s one thing writing the riffs and singing the lyrics, hearing them in their raw form for months on end, and then hearing the final product. It’s a fantastic record," he says with satisfaction. "Highlights for me would be ‘Carrion,’ ‘Slag Yster,’ ‘Black Mamba’ due to the ‘heavy’ aspects, and for the ‘rock’ side of things ‘Philistine,’ ‘Leviticus’ and ‘In the Year 2525’. The ‘Swim Song’ puts a bit of a twist in there among all the distortion, we’d like to do more of that type of thing on the next album too. The artwork is also a big highlight for me, created by Mark Williams," he points out.
The band have no intention of performing live right now. "If something fantastic presented itself to us, we would consider it," adds Dean. "The future for us, as it is for anyone, is an open book with blank pages waiting to be inked. For the next while we will be concentrating on promoting ‘Seranim,’ we have some more videos in pre-production that we will be releasing, there’s a lot of interest from PR people and labels that need our attention. We started writing new riffs and lyric ideas for our second album, so growing those into something solid is definitely a big part of the future. As per previous question, playing live is not something we plan on doing, but if that gig with Black Sabbath or Metallica presented itself, it might just be something we would put on the calendar," concludes Dean with a smile, bringing an end to our conversation.
MUSIC IS OUT THERE POWERPLAY MAGAZINE ISSUE #270