Armed with 5 years live experience, a 9 track
EP and Y2K's debut album "Forced Disillusion", South African
Metallers P.I.T.T. quit their jobs, packed belongings and headed for
Britain. A year later, the quartet are headlining the 1st of two mini
underground Metal-fests entitled "Lodnon Nights" (sic)
The strains of death metallers Nadir tuning up for their forthcoming set emanate from the back room of a confined, bustling
West London pub. Out front, the obligatory Saturday teatime frivolities blast from a TV suspended overhead, set against a backdrop of raucous alcohol-fuelled chatter. Wondering whether my quip about the toilets being the quietest place to conduct an interview might not have been such a ludicrous idea, myself and three-quarters of P.I.T.T. - vocalist Marco Gaminara, guitarist Stefan Kutranov and drummer Kerryn Wood - head for a vacant table in the corner...
P.I.T.T. - take your pick as to the source of the acronym: 'Penis In between Two Tits'/ 'Paedophiles Inseminate Terrified Toddlers'/ 'Pissing In The Toilet' -
wield a variable yet distinctive sound. From uptempo and catchy ('Flames Of Power') to deadpan and sombre ('Chasing The Dragon') their material leans heavily on '80s-style thrash spliced with death metal vocals and the occasional nod towards doom. Was such a mixture intentional or purely the result of a wide variety of influences?
Stef: 'Well, we listen to a lot of different stuff…'
'Well I grew up on Iron Maiden…'
Cue sounds of choking on drinks…
'Well, I wouldn't wanna do something like that', counters the guitarist, as though faced with some form of indecent proposal.
'Thrash metal', states Marco, returning to the question. 'Early Metallica-
'-before the Black album!' adds Kerryn.
'…Kreator, Suicidal Tendencies, Testament, death metal, Bay Area thrash…'
'Basically anything that's fucking heavy!'
Might that scope allow the quartet greater flexibility in terms of booking gigs and attracting a wider fan base than they'd likely otherwise obtain?
'Well, I don't really know', muses Marco, 'I think here it works like that. Back home we found that, because we didn't sound like anybody people knew, they wouldn't come to gigs. They were scared of that difference, I think.'
Metal scene in South Africa, meagre as it was, has declined further during recent years, both in terms of bigger bands leaving the country - "Metallers can't be big in ZA!" - and far fewer people attending gigs. The prevailing attitude that 'local music sucks' not surprisingly left P.I.T.T. feeling extremely despondent. What kind of reaction have they had in Britain?
'It seems the people here are a lot more enthusiastic', observes the vocalist. 'People are keen to watch a live band for the sake of watching a live band… In ZA if you weren't playing with a name and it wasn't a special occasion, people wouldn't go to gigs.'
Not that South Africa features on the itinerary of many 'names'.
'No big bands go there!' asserts Stef.
'Three big international bands came over', Marco contradicts, 'Carcass, Napalm Death
in 93 and Maiden came over in '95'
'Black Sabbath came in the '60s!' pipes up Kerryn. 'And in the '80s! Black Sabbath came in '87!'
Marco has spoken on P.I.T.T.'s website of the way 'all underground bands get shafted by venues in the UK', before later adding they'd been told that wasn't actually the case…
'I was getting flack from the rest of the band for having made that statement', he explains. 'The thing is, I tend to just speak my mind on the website. I really couldn't give a fuck about getting people up in arms but at the same time there's no point shooting ourselves in the foot. When the venues read this thing they're gonna go "well, we're not gonna have this band 'cos they're just gonna complain and bitch and moan…"
'The thing is, if we'd been informed of the way it works, then cool, we'd have known.
'But in South Africa it happened regularly as well', he reasons. 'There'd be venues saying, "yeah, we'll get you guys to come in and play", then they never racked up with a PA. Eventually we bought our own PA so we could actually play gigs. Venues would promise lots of things just to get you there. You stand there going "I have a guitar", and you can't plug it into anything 'cos there's nothing there…'
Tell us about the soundman at a gig in Durban in 1999 who, in the presence of other bands, declared that 'Marco shouldn't sing - Stef should.'
'Basically the guy was being a prick', says the vocalist. 'The thing is, Stef was actually singing
clean vocals and stuff that night, and I was doing death vocals. When the guy said Stef should sing, I was like "Yeah, okay. Fine."
'Singing is there in the band but it's not the main part of it', adds Stef. 'I can't do death vocals like he can anyway, no fucking way!'
So the answer is to use dual vocals?
Marco: 'The thing is, we do need two sets of vocals, we started doing that a long time ago. We even have a ballad-type thing on the album where both of us sing, we swap lead vocals. It 's just that Stef prefers to concentrate on his guitars.'
'If the song needs it we'll put it in, but we don't write it for that' says the guitarist.
'When the opportunity came for me to start playing bass -' begins Marco, unwittingly hitting on my next question regarding the 5-string bass Stef persuaded him to buy in 1997. Having shown no evidence of playing it live, are we to assume things didn't go quite according to plan?
'I've kinda given it up out of the sense that we've always managed to find bass guitarists who were a hell of a lot better than I'll ever get to be! The thing is, a lot of bands that have vocalists/guitarists or vocalist/bass guitarists, there's like one spot where you can stand. It makes the entire band look extremely static, while you've got space to move, to be more lively.'
Had they not recruited Alex - who at this point of the interview is mysteriously AWOL - perhaps Marco may have found himself filling the vacant bass slot left by Tamlyn, severe shoulder problems having forced P.I.T.T.'s former four-stringer to remain in South Africa.
'She's got a genetic disorder called rheumatoid arthritis', explains Kerryn. 'They reckon the weight of the bass and the stress of gigging and headbanging eventually took its toll. '
'Then she was involved in a car accident' adds Stef.
Kerryn: 'The car accident didn't help… It was sad to see her go, really, really sad.'
So Marco, explain this 'morbid fascination with killing things'…
'I dunno', shrugs the vocalist, grinning, 'I s'pose it's like one of those things where you get comics, you get 'Lenore' and she gets little hamsters and squeezes them till their eyes pop out… Killing little things!'
'All this from a fucking animal rights vegan!' scoffs Stef.
So does such fodder provide lyrical inspiration for P.I.T.T.?
'The majority of my stuff is introspective', says the singer, 'I write about what I'm feeling, what I see… Things that disturb me, intrigue me… Like when it comes to killing stuff!', he adds gleefully. 'Not something I've actually experienced!'
'Besides, they can't prove it!', points out Kerryn.
Marco: 'As long as no one can actually dig something up, I don't think they'll find out...
'Introspective stuff can be a hell of a lot more cathartic', he continues on a more serious note. 'You get to speak your mind and say lots of things. Way too many people take it really seriously, which they shouldn't. Some of the more serious songs are like, actually written more in jest.'
'What the fuck does 'cathartic' mean?' ventures Kerryn.
Sniggers erupt around the table.
'Don't you know what cathartic means?!' asks the vocalist incredulously. 'Get a fucking dictionary!
'It's okay', he explains, 'he's a drummer...'
Achieving 'peace and world domination!' may prove slightly out of reach for the quartet, but being able to play 'decent gigs' where they 'don't have to carry our own shit around all the time…' ought to require just a little less time and effort…
Marco: 'We love playing live. The fact that we spend hours and hours in a band room sweating like pigs becomes inconsequential when it comes to the half an hour to 45 minutes you get to spend on stage. Even the crappiest gigs we've ever played have had some kind of buzz going for them.'
The crappiest gig being…?
'The first time Kerryn saw us play. It was our second gig, which we were roped into by our ex-lead guitarist. We were told we were headlining a benefit for a skate park and that everything was gonna be there...'
Stef: 'Yeah, "Just bring your guitars."'
Marco: 'The drum kit was a tom and a snare, no no… it was a snare and a kick drum, one cymbal, which happened to be the hi-hat-
Stef: 'Which kept falling over-'
Marco: 'The whole thing kept falling over! No PA, there was a hi-fi amplifier…'
'I swore I'd never see them again after that', says Kerryn, 'and a year later I'd joined the band! I didn't have much to do that week…'The likelihood of calamities of that magnitude occurring these days ought to be minimal… In theory, at least.
'We'll be airing one of our three new tracks tonight-' Stef begins.
Marco: 'If there's time. The way things are going… We're already an hour behind…'
'See, he's bitching already!' exclaims Kerryn.
Had they known what lay in store, the vocalist's grumbles may have been viewed less harshly. Alex's tardiness made little difference; not until less than half an hour before closing time were they finally given the go-ahead, a soundman specialising in seemingly random sounds ensuring P.I.T.T.'s pared-down, feedback-blighted set was, to say the least, something of a shambles…
'The second worst gig we've ever played', Marco later concedes, 'through no fault of our own.'
Only a short while before he had spoken of the way in which the band's attitude has of late changed for the better compared with the bleakness and despondency they felt in South Africa.
Are P.I.T.T. still feeling optimistic?!
'Well, we played crap gigs at home, so…'
A case of 'win some, lose some' then?
'Yeah, something like that…'
Let's hope their next will be a winner…