When the offer came in to interview Die Antwoord, to say I was excited would be an understatement. Also very very scared.
Like most people, I discovered their music through their strange viral videos, at first laughing at the unintentional hilarity of their apparent foreign naivety. After a while though it began to seem that it was all an elaborate hoax. Some of their lyrics suggested they were a bit more clever than you might think. As the internet began to delve into the phenomenon, it became apparent that the duo of Ninja and Yolandi had been involved in various music groups and art projects over the years. Was this a calculated effort to exploit people like me who find great entertainment in clueless overseas assimilation of American pop culture? At this point I didn’t care, as I started to actually enjoy the songs. Also Yolandi was a total freak babe.
I went to their show at 9:30 Club not knowing what to expect, and was given one of the best performances I had seen in a while. The energy on stage made up for the lack of weird ass visuals in their videos. Sure, I was still cracking up at the spectacle, and had no idea how authentic these larger than life personalities were on stage, but like Exit Through the Gift Shop or Lana Del Rey, if the product is this good who gives a shit? The quality of the put on is as good as the reality.
So here is the interview. Let me set the stage just a bit – I was dreading trying to understand these guys, the thick accents and slang were tough enough, but over a cell phone speaker on the other side of the planet it became near impossible. They were barely coming through as I was hunched over my desk with my ear as close to the phone as possible trying to follow Ninjas stream of consciousness rants while Yolandi mumbled in the background. In the end I had to disengage a bit as I simply had no idea what they were talking about, and just let them ramble on hoping for the best. Luckily the recorder was able to pick up what they said a lot clearer than my actual ear was so I got most of it down, but I’ve added some notes in brackets. The technical issues aside, it was a great interview; they were talkative, funny, and as weird as I had hoped. And again, I have no idea if they were fucking with me or not… but who cares? I love these two.
Ninja: Yo Cale, wots pumpin?
Yolandi: Yo Cale, wots pumpin?
Cale: Hey guys, not much – what are you guys doing besides interviews today?
Ninja: We are staying on our friends farm, and he’s kind of mental, he le’s us fucking draw all over his place, we’ve just been drawing all over the walls and everything, it’s kind of fucked up but we want to make a music video on his farm. And then Yolandi she found like… [just assume there is like another 20% more to every one of Ninja's answers that I couldn't quite get, and a lot more "fuck"'s and "like"'s in there too, and remember to read this in your head with that crazy thick South African accent]
Yolandi: Yeah today we went hunting, we got 3 ducks, 40 rats, and about 33 pigeons. We’re going to use them in this new music video that we’re doing.
Ninja: And I found 8 cock-a-roaches, you know those fucking huge ones that hiss, Madagascar cockroaches.
Yolandi: And two bunnies, black bunnies.
Ninja: Oh and, what’s his name, Roger’s [maybe] dog died, a German Shepard, and he had it in his refrigerator, so we asked him if we could like use the skin, so we like skinned the dog, I mean it was dead, I didn’t kill it, I’m a vegetarian, but it was dead already so we like made a thing, you know like a carpet. He’s got the best shit ever, like a whole lion skin and stuff.
Cale: [slightly horrified] Why did he keep the dog in the fridge?
Ninja: He’s mental, I told you. He really loved his dog and a snake bit it and he was upset and we told him we would make the dog live forever and we just needed to take the skin off and make a carpet and put it in the video and then it’s gonna be famous.
Cale: Nice. Do you guys have any New Year’s resolutions?
Ninja: Yeah, um, shit I forgot…
Yolandi: [intelligible pixie speak] firecrackers on new year’s, and my friend Mace he almost killed us.
Ninja: Yeah, we took all these firecrackers to our friends house who had never had firecrackers before, and they were like shooting them around and luckily no one got blinded. And this chick from the NY Times wanted to interview us so we said she could come hang out with us at our friends house and then… I think like my resolution was… um… you know what a vibrational frequency is?
Cale: Uh, sure… [no]
Ninja: Yeah, well I want to make it like about 40,000 times more intense.
Cale: Ok… [awkward silence] did you get each other Christmas presents?
Ninja: Yeah, I got Yolandi a ninja sword. And she got me a fully automatic machine gun. It’s not really legal but, yeah, that’s all, if you give too many presents it’s not as good as just one.
Cale: Right, I mean, if you get a machine gun, I think that’s a pretty solid present on it’s own.
Ninja: I haven’t got a clip for it yet, it’s missing the banana clip, but South Africa is pretty fucking freak mode, and sometimes you just need a machine gun. Not like you’re going to go and do something bad, but if something bad comes to you, then they’ve made a mistake.
Cale: As you guys have become more famous in The States, how has that changed people’s perceptions of you in South Africa?
Ninja: They like us more now.
Cale: Ok, so you don’t need the machine gun because of your new found notoriety or anything?
Ninja: The crime rate is like the most retarded crime rate in the world. It’s just recently dropped down, and everyone’s a bit happier, but it’s dropped down to only like 40 murders a day. Like every single day. But it’s like in Switzerland, every single man has a gun, a fully automatic machine gun. It’s like legal. You have to go every 6 months for training and like they never ever fucking go to war. Every single Swiss person I meet I’m like do you have a machine gun? And they’re like yeah yeah yeah.
Cale: Like Canada, everyone has guns but there are no gun murders.
Ninja: Yeah, so for me it’s like Swiss style, I just want to be prepared, but I really never want to do something fucking bad. South Africa is fucking weird. I don’t want to move for some weird reason. America is so nice, it’s like being in some fantasy world, it’s so organized and everyone is so nice to us there, we get coffee for free all the time. South Africa is like the exact opposite of that. But I don’t want to move for some reason cause I really dig the… like, I don’t know… cause it’s weird and the fucking retarded ambiance.
Cale: So you’re going to stay there for quite a while?
Ninja: Probably forever. It’s like I always wanted to break out and escape, it used to be claustrophobic here and kinda difficult, and then we went everywhere and it was really cool, like a sweet treat you know, like to see every fucking country in the whole world basically, and we just came back here and… it’s like cozy here in a weird way. Everyone is fun… but it ain’t no joke though.
Cale: Can you talk a little bit about your falling out with Interscope over the new album? [A quick bit of history - Die Antwoord's debut album $O$ was self-released on the internet, then their videos went viral, and Interscope picked them up releasing it on CD. Their sophomore album TEN$ION apparently created some tension with Interscope, and they have since left the label and will be releasing it through a new independent label of their own, ZEF RECORDZ, or so the story goes.]
Ninja: Yeah yeah yeah, I think the bottom line was that there was a lot of emotion involved and whatever and then we just weren’t creatively matched, does that make sense? Like we weren’t on the same page.
Cale: Were they trying to change something about you?
Ninja: Like trying to make us “reach out”, they kept saying “reach out”, like what the fuck does that mean? We dig pop, we’re like way into pop, but they were trying to make us do music that everyone else was doing, like stupid shit and we were like ‘no no no that’s not what we talked about in the beginning’ and then we were like ‘hang on hang on hang on this doesn’t feel right’. Then like a few things occurred that was like a revelation, like I’m on earth for just a little while and I don’t want to waste my life, this feels like I’m wasting my life. They were like here’s a million dollars and everything and we’re like actually hang on to that, I don’t really want that. Yolandi said ‘are we gonna buy ourselves something nice or are we going to do our own thing?’ The money felt a bit satanic or something. It’s like you finally get to sell your soul to the devil, and I was like oh fuck the devil is like a fantasy but if there was a devil it would be like powerful and fucking offer you sexy shit and promises and shit. And if you accepted the sexy offering, your soul and your existence would be trapped and like you’d be fucked. So we like did sell our soul in the beginning and then a time came and it wasn’t like a permanent deal and when it came time to take it to the next level we were like actually, um, we just got these really hardcore lawyers that are like more powerful than lawyers, like devil slayer lawyers, like fucking Michael Jackson’s lawyers, and we said ‘can you break us up?’, we don’t want to go out with them anymore, and they said [Ninja does a startling great American accent here] ‘Are you sure this is an incredible amount of money?’ and we were like money can’t buy you like fucking… fucking… um… fucking.. like… money can’t buy you like a nice time… well it can, but money can’t buy you like… um… mystical power and shit. We were like in a spell, and then all that money came and we didn’t know but they were trying to break the spell and we’re like ‘no no no no that’s not going to happen, sorry, bye bye, we’re gonna do our own thing now.’
Cale: I mean, it seems like the whole reason they signed you is because you guys were different, so it seems strange that they would then…
Ninja: That’s what they led us to believe.
Cale: Let’s say you stayed with them and had all your billions of dollars what would you add to your live show or add to your videos?
Ninja: It’s weird, that’s an irrelevant question, it’s like a fantasy, we’re not that into fantasies, not to be offensive, but like I mean this with all due respect but that’s like a boring thing to think about. It’s like we’re making the best fucking music video ever made right now, like all that shit Yolandi was talking about in the beginning, it’s like I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and be only a few days from shooting, like all our friends our coming. We never change, they tried to change us and we’re like uh uh that’s not gonna happen. I mean we will change but like progress and evolve and transform, not the opposite and get fat and fucking lame.
Cale: The different characters you have in your videos now, are those all people you know, like your friends and stuff?
Ninja: Yeah yeah, like the first video “Enter the Ninja” that was like all our homeboys, Leon was the only extra [Leon Botha, the South African painter and musical performer, and one of the world's oldest survivors of progeria until his death last year], and Zef Side was just our homeboys and people around the area where we stayed. Like all the videos we have, I mean sometimes we throw in a little extra something, but everything we’re doing these days is like with people we know, it’s more fun.
Cale: Do you have like some annoying friend that’s always trying to ask you to be in your next video, and you sort of like him but he’s just not that interesting?
Ninja: Um, no, we don’t really have any annoying friends… we don’t have many friends actually, we never used to, and then when we got more known we got just like a few more friends, but we only have like 12 friends.
Cale: So you guys are making toys now?
Ninja: Yeah, we’re working with this Japanese company to make the evil boy toys, that’s the first one, then we’re gonna do a whole bunch of other stuff, we’re making a video game with them which is like the best video game in the world. We’re also making a movie… there’s like three feature films we’re making… actually I’m not allowed to talk about it, I had to sign these NGA [sic] things. That’s like all coming later cause it takes a really long time to make toys and films, it’s all based on our music and our live show and that’s like the center of the universe.
Cale: Are you going to make Ninja and Yolandi action figures?
Ninja: Yeah yeah, those are the second ones. But we wanted to make a mascot first, so we made evil boy, and then the Good Smile Company, they make all these different kinds of toys, they’re like the Lamborghini of toy companies in Japan, they make the most hardcore articulate toys, I didn’t even understand how good they were and then I see these like immaculate sculptures. So the Ninja and Yolandi toys are taking a long time to develop, they take like a year or something, cause they have like 26 moving parts and they are these insane little sculptures. And we have all these ideas but first we’re trying to capture the ultimate Ninja toy and the ultimate Yolandi toy. And then we’re doing baddies, like a whole range of all our enemies.
Cale: Who are your enemies?
Ninja: You’ll see, it’s like a big surprise.
Cale: Ha, ok. If I was to come visit Cape Town as a tourist, where’s the best place to get some food?
Ninja: There’s lots of places, Cape Town has lots of good restaurants and marketplaces, even in the ghetto it’s like real sweet places. Have these things called Spanish Chow [or something] and even on the harbor it’s like the ultimate fish and chips. So many different places it’s like this big mountain and then like the city all tucked next to the mountain, and all these forests and shit, it’s like a really weird place. And there is a lot of Germans, like mad Germans, like rich mother fuckin Germans, these single German men that leave their wives and marry black chicks and they own all the best houses in Cape Town. But we’ve moved out of Cape Town, we live in Johannesburg now. Johannesburg is really shit, but we prefer living here, Cape Town makes you fucking chill out a little bit too much, like a little slice of heaven, but we prefer Jo-burg, it’s more berserk or something. Don’t come here if you’re a tourist. It’s like fucking lame. If you hang with us it will be ok. [This is said with a sincere personal tone, like if I actually go there they would be happy to hang out.] It’s just like suburbs with high walls and electric fences and ghettos and like malls. Fuck I hate malls, I can’t go to malls, but we just like it here. You know the only reason that anyone is in Johannesburg is because they discovered gold here. There was like no one staying here then they found like mad gold under the city.
Cale: A question for Yolandi, why did she turn down the role in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo?
Yolandi: Well, it’s like nothing that I ever wanted to do, it has no appeal to me, I just want to make music, and I’m like obsessed with the music we make, and that had nothing to do with anything I ever wanted to do in my life.
Cale: Have you guys turned down a lot of music collaborations or endorsements or other crazy offers?
Ninja: [Laughs] Yes, a lot, we don’t have time in the interview to start that one. My daddy told me that if you can say ‘no’ you’re doing well. And I didn’t understand what the fuck he meant, but now it’s like our most used word.
[PR person cuts in - one more question]
Cale: Any message for the kids in DC to get them excited about the upcoming show at the 9:30 Club?
Ninja: Um… ummmm… shit… I don’t know like be there or be square, I don’t know.
Cale: Good enough.
Ninja: [laughs] yeah I don’t know. [Yolandi chimes in with something] Yeah if you want to come, come, if you don’t want to come, stay at home.
[Yolandi and Ninja start chattering to each other and laughing]
Ninja: Dress sexy or don’t come.
Yolandi: We’re gonna have some specials at the bar!
Ninja: Yeah, yeah, there’s like a backstage VIP jacuzzi party if we like you enough!
Yolandi: And we’re gonna be like giving out free merchandise, all our merch is free!
Ninja: [cracking up] We’re gonna be rapping songs from Ten$ion for the first time ever. And yeah, you won’t be sorry.
[At the time the above back and forth was almost impossible to hear, I was catching a little bit and thought it was funny, but I was trying so hard to follow and not muddle up the recording with any laughter on my end that I apparently came off a bit stiff]
Cale: Sounds good.
Ninja: Are you stoned dude? What the hell? You’re like mad serious. You didn’t even giggle once, I was saying like the funniest shit and you’re like “oh good”. C’mon, you can tell us.
[At this point I think Ninja is talking to Yolandi, not realizing he was addressing me]
Ninja: Dude you got that like delayed reaction thing to everything.
Cale: Sorry I didn’t hear the last thing you said…
Ninja: [slowly] I asked you if you had been smoking marijuana.
Cale: Ha, I have not been, but I probably will need to after this interview…
Ninja: Ok, that’s cool. Are you going to come to the show dude?
Cale: Yeah I came to the last one it was really great, definitely going to come to the next one.
Ninja: What are you going to wear?
Cale: I got one of those Kigurumi costumes. Like a cat version of what you guys wear.
Ninja: [to Yolandi] Oh cool, he’s got a cat version of the Pokemon [to me] What color?
Cale: Black cat, purple belly.
Ninja: Sweet, I’m gonna be looking out for you.
Cale: I’m wearing it right now too. Just to get in the mood.
Ninja: That’s what I’m talking about.
Yolandi: Yeah, fuck it.
Cale: Ok, thanks guys!
Ninja: Be good, yeah