Slashdogs band members. Picture: Supplied

It was the day after Minister Pravin Gordhan delivered the budget speech and a crowd of ANC supporters gathered near Johannesburg Library to hold a demonstration and march down to Braamfontein.

Slashdogs frontman, Ryan Tarboton, was determined to capitalise on this situation by setting up for his band to perform nearby.

Slashdogs have focused their work on making socially conscious protest music and today, despite the heavy clouds overhead, the band is desperate to build on that reputation.That they even had black bags and duct tape to help protect their equipment should it rain during their performance speaks to their commitment.

A few weeks ago, the band released The Wail, a five track EP which takes on a bit different from their previous releases.

“Our guitarist and bass guitarist at the time were going through a bit of a hard time, so it was a bit more personal as there were a lot of struggles going on,” said Tarboton, as we awaited word from the overseers of the library on whether the band would be granted permission to perform near the library’s stairs. 

“So the songwriting was more informed by that. The main themes that run through this EP, and the upcoming one, is friends that have passed away, running from the police and women.”

Later in the year they will release another five track EP titled the Sirens. And then they will release a new full length LP called The Wail of the Siren, which will most likely include both EP’s and a few additional songs. 

“The point of Slashdogs at this juncture is to create a sense of unity amongst people. There’s a lot of disparity that’s continued from the apartheid regime. And it’s not necessarily just about apartheid, it’s the colonialist mindset of divide and conquer. 

The things that bother us as South Africans are the things that galvanise us against our owners and where the money is. We want to show a solidarity with people and use these songs to do that.”

Slashdogs started off as a street punk band 14 years ago. A lot of member changes have occurred along the years, and this has shifted the band’s direction and sound – “We like it we play it,” said Zam Boney, the band’s guitarist. 

The band has not only changed member, they’ve seen a lot of their family members die along the years, and some of their best work has come out of these tough times.

After the library rejected the band’s request, they found a space to perform right, in an alleyway between office buildings right next to Luthuli House. When they started setting up, a small crowd started to gather nearby. This street level performance speaks to the band’s core ideology: to be one with the people.

After just three songs, the security cut their power and told them that they were disturbing the peace. But they’d pretty much made their point in front of dozens of cheering passer-by’s. 

“It’s always fun to play to people who wouldn’t normally see us, to bring your music to people rather than waiting or expecting them to get to you.” said a breathless Boney shortly after their performance. 

“Because the truth of the matter is when you’re playing heavy music radio is not gonna play you. So how do we get our message to the person on the street? Go to the street and play for them. 

And I think to see that reaction, to see a bunch of people come out of their office space or guys walking stop by and listen, is really cool. Especially at this symbolic location.”

This was the band’s first time doing something like this, and the adrenaline was still pumping for Boney as we made our way to the parking lot. “It was extremely harrowing, I think it’s always harrowing to go into a space and try and put on a performance as quickly as you can cause you don’t know who’s gonna shut you down. 

But in the end it was worth it, because I think music isn’t about what speaker you have or how good the band sounds, it’s about the message you’re bringing and your intention. I think we nailed that today.”

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