Published Jul 30, 2010Ever since the videos for "Enter the Ninja" and "Zef Side (Beat Boy)" went viral early in 2010, Die Antwoord have been plagued by one question. "Is this for real?" Even though their self-released debut $o$ has become a cult hit online, even after they were signed by Interscope, critics on the internet and elsewhere still cast doubt on the group's legitimacy. And not without reason. The idea of three Afrikaans-speaking South Africans ― including one who looks like a prepubescent pixie and another who is covered in DIY tattoos ― making bilingual ringtone techno-rap while rocking some of the more elaborate mullets and rat tails ever seen, was just too much for some people to take seriously. Add to this the fact that frontman Ninja (aka Watkin Tudor Jones) has been a fixture on the South African music scene for more than a decade, with his stage personae ranging from suit-wearing, motivational speaker/MC Max Normal to frontman of the sci-fi rap crew Constructus Corporation, and Die Antwoord start to seem a little like a hoax put on by a hip-hop chameleon.
Exclaim! had the opportunity to sit down with Ninja and hypewoman Yo-Landi Vi$$er after watching them whip a traditionally indifferent Toronto crowd into a Beatles-on-Sullivan type frenzy. If Ninja and Vi$$er are trying to pull one over people, then this is definitely a long con. If the group is a joke, then it may be one of the most elaborate pranks of all time. And if you accept that, to one extent or another, almost all musicians are playing a role while on stage, then Die Antwoord are as legit as any other act out there.
So, I've seen the show now, and people are freaking out and trying to grab you like you're Usher...
Yo-Landi Vi$$er: Usher? Like the R&B singer?
Yeah. You know how people try and rush up and grab him? People are trying to rush up and grab you, people are singing along in a language they don't understand, and you guys don't have an album out yet in this country. How big do you think this is going to get when the album drops?
Ninja: I don't really think about it. I don't care.
YV: Things are unpredictable, you know? Who knows? But the album, there will be more. We've got little surprises dropping with the album. We've got some golden tickets in the album where people can win some prizes. We've got some new music that will come with the album.
N: We've got a song called "Evil Boy," that's based on this [points to a tattoo that looks like Casper the Friendly Ghost with a massive erection.]
YV: So it just depends on how much more people connect with us.
But do you worry that... there's this thing now where bands come out and they get so big on the internet, through blogs and YouTube, and before the album even comes out, people are a little bit burned out on them. Do you worry about that?
N: No, we're different from the other guys.
YV: We've been doing this for a very long time, so it's not like an overnight thing.
N: The stuff that's out now we've done from before... there's a lot of shit that's done, we've been having to hold back a lot of shit. There's a whole second album that's done. We've just been modifying it, getting ready to have it out hopefully for next year... it's from before we blew. It's called Ten$ion, it's like this dark kind of thing.
How are people who got into you through $O$ going to like Ten$ion? How's it going to be different?
N: It's like an extension. It's like the next chapter... The $O$ album, we didn't thing of anything. It's just punk. I had no idea anything was going to happen with it... it's just like a massive release. Ten$ion gears down, it's more personal, more aggressive, more fun, more spontaneous... it's like [making a speedometer with his hand] first album, then [same movement again, but moves his finger further] second album, until we have five albums.
So you have a five-album plan?
N: Yeah, we've already mapped it out.
What happens after the five albums?
N: We disappear.
YV: We make room for new things, because there will be new, fresh acts.
N: We'll be dropping films between each of the albums, feature films... We have one we're working on for next year called The Answer. It's like the story of how Die Antwoord started. But that's like, our power, and where our energy is at right now.
How'd you guys get the idea to put together these albums with the films interspersed?
N: Well, you know. It's the most natural thing. I'm intensely energetic. It's like... I never lose sperm.
N: It's bad for you. Since I was eighteen, I've never lost sperm. I don't like it. When I was young, I used to steal comic books... And I was walking out and I saw this book with Chinese writing, and a yin-yang symbol and it said "sex" on it. So I stole this fucking book ― and I've stopped stealing now, it's not good luck ― and I was reading through looking for funky Chinese sexual positions, and it said "A man shouldn't lose sperm more than twice a month." So I thought "Lose sperm, what the fuck does that mean?" And I read it over and over again. So I studied that technique for years and years, and now that shit's never going to run out. You know how your nuts are connected to your spinal column?
N: And the fluid in your balls is connected your spinal column, and that fluid runs up and into your brain... There's this thing called the internal ejaculation, where it doesn't go out, it goes in. And so that's why we're so fucking next level, because of this incredible technique I've mastered.
And this is where the energy and the inspiration comes from?
N: From my fucking side, yeah. Yo-Landi, she's a girl. Girls are much more naturally powerful.
So who are you guys working with for the movie?
N: Ourselves. We don't work with anyone. What do you mean?
So, you're directing, writing, everything?
YV: We were thinking about having Bruce Willis starring as Ninja, maybe. And Charlize Theron as me.
N: And Steven Spielberg directing. No, I'm joking. I'm directing everything... We just need money, but that's not a problem. Actually, we don't want too much money. Everyone is giving us too much money. We don't want that much money, we want this much money.
YV: Someone once said, when a whore says she doesn't want money from you, it means she wants more.
N: Everyone is trying to give us money, and it's quite scary. Money's like energy, it comes with...
YV: Strings attached?
N: I've never had money. I don't need money, but I can use money to make more powerful shit. But we just need a little bit of money, just enough money to make [the movie] and keep our finger on the pulse. Because there's this thing called Final Cut now, and it's how we make every fucking thing. Anyone we're working with, that's the prerequisite.
So do you guys plan on doing it straight to DVD, or would you like to go theatrical?
YV: No, we want it to be the big picture.
N: We want to see it in the fucking movies with M & M's and Coke and popcorn. Why would you go straight to DVD? I want to go to the movies.
So you guys were in a lot of other musical projects in South Africa before this...
N: Not so much her, I was though. I hadn't worked out this shit yet, I was trying all these different things and I hadn't found my fucking zone yet. Then I got into this [Die Antwoord] and boom, it just fucking exploded. So we called it "The Answer." I hadn't worked it out. I was trying different shit and I hadn't entered this dimension. This was like my destination, this was like my vessel, that was going to take me to the future and beyond.
Did working with [Yo-Landi] and Hi-Tek help push you in a new direction?
N: More with her. I was working with Hi-Tek before, but when she came in it like completed that golden triangle.
What was the difference that she brought?
N: More like a punk thing. She brought the zef. You can search on the interwebs for what zef is all about. It's like our whole fucking story. I have it tattooed on my legs.
So she brought the zef?
N: Definitely. I bring that sort of power, that destruction, that storm. Then she comes in like a kick in the face.
YL: Ninja's been listening to rap music for years and years and years, and he was talking all these things and I didn't know what he's talking about. I wasn't into any of that. I was into like 2 Unlimited and all this really bad shit... then when we combined, he's got like the heavy weight of rap, but I've got like the nastiness from that rave shit.
N: She got me listening to rave and I was like "Oh fuck, the beats are amazing," but anytime anyone opens their fucking voice it's like "Jesus, these guys suck." All the rappers in rave music are like the sloppy seconds of rappers who couldn't make it. She'd be playing the rave music at her house and I'd pull into the house and start dropping some rhymes over this Hi-NRG type shit. It was a fucking sweet zone, you know? So it was like an accident, you know?
So how long have you guys actually known each other then?
N: Well, we knew each other from before, but then I went away and did my own fucking thing, and then we met up again like five years ago.
So you re-met five years ago, and then you've been at this ever since?
N: Yeah pretty much. Like, she'd grown up and shit.
How many shows have you guys done in North America now?
N: What's North America?
Canada and the United States.
N: In the last month, we've been to New York, Poland, Denmark, Serbia, Germany...
N: Yeah, L.A., San Francisco, Chicago, Vancouver...
How has the crowd response been?
YL: All slamming. All fucking slamming.
N: It's just been full-on rap-rave techno fucking mosh, like bam, bam, bam!
YL: Now we're going back home.
N: Yeah, but we're coming back here to launch our album in October.
How are the people back home responding to you blowing up overseas?
N: They fucking love it. They're so proud. They have like a big, warm light glowing in their chests.
Is there a lot of South African music or Afrikaans music that you think is going to be blowing up in North America in the next little while? Like, do you think you're the front of a wave?
N: I don't know.
YL: It's unpredictable. You know, people can do these things and it looks all fun, but do you have the weight, the skill to carry it? That's the tricky thing. But we'll see.
N: It's not just from South Africa, from the whole fucking world. We'll support anyone who's doing something fresh.
YL: Anyone who just wants to go fuck shit up.
N: As long as their doing something curious and new and fucking bold. Do something fucking new.
YL: From anywhere, and we'll support it.
N: As long as it's fresh, as long as it has balls. Give me something new, dude, stop being so scared.
Who, besides you guys, is bringing that right now?
N: Neill Blomkamp.