By Vanessa

Neil Sandilands is fast becoming a household name among South Africans. This multi-talented artist and actor not only blew us away with his performance as “General Abbot” in Sweet Tooth, but also his latest album release, “Allegaarkie vir ‘n Askeet”.

I feel so very honoured to be having an interview with someone who has graced our socials and televisions – and now also our ears – for quite some time.

I listened to “Allegaarkie vir ‘n Askeet” not once. Not twice. Several times. It’s absolutely beautiful with each song thoughtfully formatted to not only include some of the best poetry I’ve heard in years, but also an array of soundscapes which include such a variety of instrumentals and tones. Neil does not shy away from his heritage as a South African and proudly articulates the “taal” in an almost Tom Waits kind of way. The album is magical and General Abbot has blown our minds again.

STM is delighted to be able to share the interview we had with Neil.

STM: You seem to be all over the place (in a good way!). General Abbot’s face on billboards in Times Square in The Big Apple. Now you’re touring a bit with the release of “Allegaarkie vir ‘n Askeet” and what a lovely surprise that Mbombela (or Nelsparta as us locals fondly refer to this beaut of a metropolis) is on your list of places you’ll visit. Have you been to the Lowveld before and if you have, tell us about the last time you were here.

NS: I’m very fond of Nelspruit en die Laeveld. Very good friends of mine lived there for many years and I’d go visit from time to time. A little known fact, my Aunty “Annetjie” and her husband “Oom Gert” operated the Safari Haarkappers op die dorp. How’s that!? I’m very much looking forward to performing there on the 13th (The Pub) and the 14th (Christie’s at 32 on Russell).

STM: I remember reading somewhere on social media somebody pointed out that the word “Allegaarkie” is spelled incorrectly. You gave such a wonderful and concise explanation for this. Please explain it to us again – I found it absolutely poetic and would like for you to share it with our followers.

NS: You have to look at the whole title “Allegaarkie vir ’n Askeet”. You’ll spot the repeat of the A and K letters. Now, when I made this album I was 47 years old. It is also my second full length album after the SAMA nominated “Sangoma Sandilands & Jou Pa se Posse”. In my mind, it forms the abbreviation “AK47”. The Kalashnikov. The album is a very durable, hard hitting, impact type of album. And it openly states my contempt for Communism. This may seem contradictory, but so is the title. “Allegaarkie” or “Allegaartjie” means “mixed grill”. The ascetic practice is one of self-discipline and abstention from worldly excesses. Works for me. Get it? Hahaha.

STM: What inspired you to create this stunning album and how has it been received by audiences?

NS: Thank you! I’m smiling ear-to-ear. Well, the making of the first album and people’s overwhelmingly positive response to “Sangoma” gave me the impetus to create again. It was a very specific time in my life and I wasn’t fixed in one specific location. Both albums were essentially “Covid”-albums. I worked in confinement in places such as New Zealand, Mexico, the USA, and Australia and some of it was made here in South Africa. Certainly the production part. Thus far the response is exponentially superior to the first album and growing!

I love the fact people tell me they can re-listen the work and always discover something new. I attempted to make the album dense and rich in instrumentation as well as lyrical content. The other driving factor is Father Time. You know, I arrived late on the “music scene”, post 45, so I don’t have an archive covering three decades. I still need to create it. Much to look forward to. Much to learn.

STM: You’re an icon and well known – not just on African soil – but also the US… do you have Americans listening to your new album?

NS: Icon is a rather big word. I like being in Saffaland because here I can also just be “Frikkie”, in Afrikaans. As to your question, definitely yes! And other places. A fan from Estonia wrote me the most beautiful letter about listening to the album. Naturally, he discovered the album via being exposed to my acting work, but still, it’s a lovely gesture affirming the notion that music is universal. It transcends boundaries. Being able to do this in the language I love like no other, Afrikaans, gives me tremendous joy.

STM: We love Gus and Big Man. My 10-year old daughter has watched both seasons of Sweet Tooth twice. Tell us about a moment during the shooting of Sweet Tooth that really stood out for you.

NS: I loved the scene when Abbott was singing along to the tune “Shambala” by Three Dog Night. An old classic. You could see The General being playful, almost human, for a second or so, whilst having his minions perform the dirty work of killing. I “enjoyed” filming the scene. It was a super cold day, so busting a few moves whilst dancing helped somewhat to keep the core temperature up. It also put a few smiles on the crew’s faces. It’s still a pretty disturbing scene. Maybe one day I get to play a good guy.

STM: Did you do anything unique or special to get into character when you played General Abbot?

NS: Other than growing a majestic beard and shaving my head? Hahaha! I did work incredibly hard at creating a psycho-emotional matrix for Abbott. A pathology, if you will. Even though one could argue he is a psychopath and bat-shit crazy, he doesn’t think so. In fact, he fully believes he is serving “the greater good”. Everything needed to be considered, every micro-expression, the lines, the voice, the way he walks…

I approach the character, prior to filming, very objectively. Allowing many a thing to inform my thinking. It could be news events, a poem, a song, a conversation. The moment we start filming, all objectivity goes out the window. You are subjectively involved and you are building a puzzle which must make sense. If I believe Abbott in a particular moment, chances are the audience will too.

STM: Tell us about your time management: a new album and a second season of an internationally acclaimed series (with an ocean in between). How did you cope with so much on your plate?

NS: Funny thing is, I often wish I could be doing more. With COVID a beautiful fatalism settled upon me. It’s no bog deal other than being fully aware how precious life is and how lucky I am to be here. Don’t cancel, don’t delay, don’t postpone, do it. Do it now. Chances for success, whatever that may mean to you, decrease dramatically as time goes by. The act of “doing” is a powerful one.

Neil Sandilands - credit Patrick Toselli
Neil Sandilands

STM: We shouldn’t ask, but we’re going to: can we expect a third season of Sweet Tooth with or without General Abbot? You don’t have to give any spoilers!

NS: How much money do you have? Show me the money!!! (Maniacal laughter ensues….)

STM: Your recent collaborations with the likes of Albert Frost were mind-blowing! Can we see any more collaborations in the near future?  

NS: Yes! I love collaborating with other artists. The upcoming tour, case in point. Schalk Joubert (bass), Frank Freeman (electric guitar) & Ronan Skillen (percussion) will be joining me from “Kaap to Mpumalanga”. I’m very much looking forward to it.

The album, “Allegaarkie” was a massive collaborative effort. The album has brass, strings, keys, drums, percussion, isiZulu, isiXhosa, Afrikaans, English and even a musical saw & a “Trompie” or “Jewish Harp” on it. There are vocal collaborations with Tarryn Lamb, Gian Groen, Qadasi & Maqhinga and Hanna de Wet on it. You just have to listen to this album to hear for for yourself. It is LEKKER!

Naturally, I have to include Theo Crous here. Springbok Nude Girl Theo Crous. That one. He produced and engineered this album (Allegaarkie), as well as the previous full length album (Sangoma Sandilands) and the two EP’s (Die Groot Niks & Die Groot 5). We worked well together. We are like brothers.

STM: You’ve accomplished so much! I’m sure there is a welcoming hiatus looming. Will you be taking a break from it all for a bit? And if so, tell us what you’ll be doing.

Take a break? From what? Life? Thank you for the kind words. I appreciate it. Thanks to all the listeners and fans. Do listen to the albums on all major streaming platforms and here’s the tour schedule with helpful links to venues:

1 Julie: Onrus, De Wetsaal https://qkt.io/rpgIUy

2 Julie: Reed Valley, Mosselbaai https://reedvalley.com/shows/

3 Julie: ROUTE 62, Oudtshoorn https://qkt.io/cXnvos

4 Julie: Graaff-Reinet, John Rupert Teater https://qkt.io/kKyI9q

5 Julie: Burgersdorp, KREATIEF Skakel Pieter Schutte: +27723909019  

6 Julie: Fauresmith, Karoohuisteater https://qkt.io/LHKqj7

7 Julie: Bloemfontein, Aasvoëlklub https://phoenixpro.co.za/product/neil-sandilands-2/

8 Julie: Clarens, Noah’s Cheese https://qkt.io/vtR73b

9 Julie: Henneman, Whistler Rum Distillery https://qkt.io/AFiEyB

10 Julie: ONSRUSBIKI

11 Julie: Die Blou Hond, Pretoria https://www.q2b.co.za/OnlineTickets/Index/1223?singleEvent=3449

12 Julie: Hartbeestpoort, Dozi’s “Back to the Blues” https://qkt.io/lp4zOf OR: https://tickets.tixsa.co.za/event/neil-sandilands-at-dozi-back-to-the-blues-bar

13 Julie: Nelspruit, “The Pub” https://qkt.io/1YlNHr   

14 Julie: Nelspruit, Christie’s at 32 on Russell https://qkt.io/bdJNns

15 Julie: Kaapsehoop, Nagkantoor https://qkt.io/JpCREA

16 Julie: Hoedspruit, Greater Kruger Hotel School https://qkt.io/4dF5JX

17 Julie: ONSRUSBIKIWEER

18 Julie: Naboomspruit, Olifant Oasis https://qkt.io/M2yPwI

19 Julie: Tzaneen, Fairview Hotel https://qkt.io/Cs2t8s

20 Julie: Dullstroom, The Sessions Music Café https://qkt.io/Jz82G0

21 Julie: Middelburg, Rustique Boutique Hotel https://qkt.io/Gvwjl0

22 Julie: Sasolburg, Etienne Rosseau Teater http://www.ertickets.com/

Godspoed & Osbloed

Neil Joseph William Sandilands

Thank you Neil for all the insights into your busy life. I must say my very English boyfriend kissed me ever so passionately whilst listening to your album!

Don’t miss South Africa’s very own quirky, witty and super talented Neil Sandilands at a venue near you!

Vanessa is a hippy/gypsy/traveller of the world. A single mom who loves all things music and a complete festival junkie