Michael Payne Exclusive Interview
with Shaun Welgemoed of Saron Gas

When a band manages to crack the top 10 of a chart such as the 5fm Top Forty they deserve to be noticed, and one can hardy help but to notice Saron Gas.

With the bands inception merely a year ago, this band has gone from strength to strength, playing major music festivals, and being placed as finalists in the third season of the RP Studios Emerging Sounds competition last November.

The bands most notable influences include Stone Temple Pilots, Pantera, Black Sabbath and the Counting Crows, these diverse influences have allowed Saron Gas to create there own unique composition of heavy rock, which without a doubt will forge a niche in the South African music industry.

The band consists of Skin aka Dave Cohoe on drums and backing vocals, Duke aka Dale Steward on bass and backing vocals, and Spawn aka Shaun Welgemoed on vocals and guitar.

1. We`ve heard that the name Saron Gas has received a bit of negative publicity, why did you decided to call the band Saron Gas?
Having recorded a few demo tracks, including 69 Tea, we were faced with the problem of not having a band name.
We decided to look through some CD's and find a cool track name, to name the band after.

What we found was a sound effects cd with some cool names on, so we narrowed the list down to 6 names (I think Mantra was another option) and chose one - SARON GAS.
It's as simple as that, we didn't know what the name meant at all.
"Saron" actually means "music of God", or "music of the Gods", which we only found out after some research

2. How do you go about writing a song, do you sit by yourself and write, or do you write it while jamming with the rest of the band, and where do you get inspiration from?
Each song comes about in a very different way. "69 Tea" for example, I wrote by myself about 5 years ago, so it's kind of an exception to how we usually write songs. "Tied My Hands" came about when the old bassist brought the chords into the band room and showed me how to play them. I changed them here and there and put in the melody line and lyrics, and that produced the song.
On the whole, we all go into the band room either with an idea or 2, or with nothing at all, and kinda jam our way through some stuff. Usually, the song that people hear has changed at least twice, except in some cases.
Inspiration? It gets provided by many things - either a mood, an emotion or, more obviously, a band. We tend to write heavier, darker material in the band room, though, so the ballads are usually brought into the band room to be structured after most of it has already been written.
3. The song "69Tea is currently doing very well and receiving a lot of airplay, does the fact that the song is being played during the day increase the turn-out at your live shows?
Yes, definitely! There is absolutely no doubt that airplay has affected the turn-outs at our gigs.
Having the song on the radio has been a really important step towards our getting known and getting out there, and it's kinda our signature song at the moment. When people hear the song they recognize it straight away and start singing along to the words, which really is a profound experience.

4. The song has seemed to also have caused a bit of confusion with regard to the lyrics, could you tell us a bit more about the song?
69 TEA

Lonely in this white room, there are pads everywhere
Chaffing straight jacket, I won't die in there
Save me smiling Jesus, get off that cross
Hate me screaming masses, I don't care if I'm lost
Don't tell me that you're all better, I don't care if you are
Don't tell me that you're trendsetters, I don't care if you are
Lowly with my head bowed, there are rats everywhere
Feed me bread and water, I won't die in there
Save me smiling Jesus, get off that cross
Hate me screaming masses, I don't care if I'm lost
Don't tell me that you're all better, I don't care if you are
Don't tell me that you're trendsetters, I don't care if you are
Say you will, take my pills
Say you will, faking ill
Don't tell me that you're all better, I don't care if you are
Don't tell me that you're bed wetters, I don't care if you are
Say you will, take my pills
Say you will, faking ill
┬ęSaron Gas

Basically, I wrote the song at a very vulnerable time in my life, when I felt like I had nothing left to lose and nowhere to turn for help. The lyrics reflect how I felt at the time and paint a picture of how I saw myself, at age 16.
If you read the lyrics you'll understand that I'm commenting on how I felt at home, using the old "asylum cliche" because my father had called me crazy and weird. The Jesus reference is sarcastic, as well as pleading, as it seemed the only way out - but I was being ignored. The choruses are directed at my parents, 'cause they were so worried about their image in society that they were blaming their faults on me. Finally, the break comes from when I was put on anti-depressants to "sort out my mind". I was forced to take them, so I used to drink them and play along with my parents to let them think that they were working.

5. As many bands mention, do you find that there is a lack of professionalism and commitment in the South African music industry?
It's a difficult question to answer without sounding like some whining little prat.
But yeah, there is definitely a lack of professionalism in the industry, but at all levels. We've seen this amongst bands and record companies alike, so it's a sad state of affairs. But there are changes beginning to creep in, even if they are only little ones.
For us, as a band, it's been really difficult 'cause we came out of nowhere and were suddenly in the Top40 on 5fm, and that caused a lot of jealousy amongst other bands. We've seen this increase as our popularity increases, which is just stupid. All it proves is that good songs sell a band, not the amount of time they've been together.
The main problem in this country is that bands all think they're in competition with each other, which they aren't.
One band dislikes another because of their style, or because they're not as heavy, and eventually you have all these lone bands without friends or support.
On the commitment side, I have to say that it is non existent within the record companies, so far. You see, they all rely on their international imports to pay their fat salaries, so they don't need to promote SA bands. It's too much effort.And a white rock band in South Africa is seen as a waste of money and energy, because we live in a predominantly black populated country, which buys predominantly kwaito music. Other than that there is a hugely successful afrikaans market which eats up Patricia Lewis and Bles Bridges.
Where does that leave us?
We have no choice but to remain positive and explore our options overseas.

6. I've heard that your live shows are really awesome, is there any chance that Saron Gas will be doing a tour of South Africa in the near future?
Yes, we are starting our first 3 week tour to Cape Town on the 16th of May. In this tour we will cover Grahamstown, East London, Jeffrey's-Bay, Knysna, Wilderness, George, Stellenbosch, Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Potchefstroom.
The follow up tour will cover Nelspruit, Pietermaritzburg, Durban and the East Coast.
Dates will be finalised by Monday (8th May) and will then be posted on our site at Powerzone.

7. Your material has already been featured on a compilation called Dangerzone, are you planning on releasing a album?
Obviously, we'd love to release a full length album as soon as possible, but that depends mostly on the record companies we're dealing with. We could release an E.P, which is usually self-funded, but that defeats the purpose. We'd rather release an album that gives the buyer value for money, instead of following the South African trend.
Discussions are currently looking promising, so we should have some definite progress within the next couple of weeks, as far as an album release goes.
8. Making a living out of music in this country is very difficult, do you guys have day-jobs?
Yeah, as a matter of fact. Dale, the bassist, works for his dad in an angling shop, Dave owns a small business, and I used to study Jewellery Design at Technikon Pretoria. I left due to the fact that a band needs full commitment if it is to succeed. That's what I do now. I do all the promo work, stay in touch with fans etc.
It's difficult at the moment, but we all have enough faith to believe that we will succeed.

9. When you arent rehearsing what does the band do for fun?
It depends, really. We all spend time with our families to relax and get away from work, but mostly we do pretty boring things. I tend to get all hermit-like, and stay to myself a lot, 'cause I'm probably the one in the band who is never satisfied, you know, something is gonna go wrong. Guess I'm a pessimist :)
We like to go out and have a good time too, just depends how we feel.
I use my spare time to write songs or lyrics; sometimes to paint or draw.
We also like to go Go-Kart racing, that's pretty cool, too!
Dale enjoys fishing, I think.

10. One last question is there anything you want to say to your fans?
Yeah, from my side I'd like to say thank you to everyone who believes in us - it helps me through times when I don't really believe in myself enough. But, don't worry, we will never give up playing and writing music, as long as we're touching the hearts of people. That's why I play music, to give people something to identify with, even if it is very personal for me, because we all have the same experiences and emotions.

So there you have it, the lowdown on one of South Africa`s soon to be rock giants, look out for their new single entitled "Empty", currently climbing the charts on Barney Simon`s Night Zoo, and be sure to check out Saron Gas when they hit your town.

Interview by Michael Payne